Monday, March 02, 2015

Lucky Alan and Other Stories by Jonathan Lethem

Lucky Alan: And Other StoriesLucky Alan: And Other Stories by Jonathan Lethem

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Lucky Alan and Other Stories is a collection of short stories in which Lethem explores the mundane and their often times self-defeating pursuits. Although all the stories seem to share the same tone and I suppose you can say theme (tragically mundane lives of people who inhabit Lethem’s world) they are all slightly different in structure. Their mere presence on the page can be intrigue the reader, even if they never really read the words written. Each story has an ending that will confuse the reader and sometimes shock them. Many lack in their beginnings. More often than not they do not have strong beginnings that draw the reader in, which is critical in a short story, because unlike a novel you have to win the reader right-away, else they might abandon the narrative sooner than they might a novel.

Rather than go into detail about each of the stories found in this collection I will simply give you a brief outline of one of the better stories in the collection. “Traveler Home” the third story in the collection is about a man who, during a snowstorm, walks his dog out into the woods to discover seven wolves who deliver to him a basket inside which lies a baby boy. Taking the boy home, they make it through the night planning on setting out in the morning once the roads have been plowed for supplies. When morning comes Traveler finds that the roads are plowed so with baby in tow sets out only to encounter a road block of seven women, the daughter of the Plowman. Rifle in hand they question him and eventually take the baby. Traveler seems undisturbed by the encounter; although at some point we do sense slight disappointment that he lost the baby. The most interesting point in the story is when Traveler asks one of the women if the find was “Wolf’s wrong delivery” and she states that yes you could say that.
The structure was interesting in this story with its short, abrupt sentences. There are no names ever mentioned or any in depth descriptions of anyone or anyplace. The oddness of it makes it feel like this could be any small town with any people while at the same time not really.

The whole collection was just a little to, for lack of a better word, odd. It was not as compelling as I hoped it would be based on the jacket and advance praise. I do have to say this, if a reader wanted to dissect a story or the whole collection they would more than likely have a great time doing so. From structure to illusions and metaphors I am sure an erudite reader would be able to produce an excellent study. For this reader though, it was too much and yet not enough.

Note: I received this book from the publisher. In no way did that fact effect my opinions stated in this review.

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Saturday, February 28, 2015

Process by Sarah Stodola

Process: The Writing Lives of Great AuthorsProcess: The Writing Lives of Great Authors by Sarah Stodola

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Process by Sarah Stodola is an interesting collections of mini biographies on famous writers such as Franz Kafka, Virginia Woolf and Ernest Hemingway. If you are looking for small snippets about various authors pick up this book. The narratives on each author are enjoyable but at the same time the reader gets the feeling that they are incomplete, which of course is a problem with such a book.

Note: I received this book to read and review from the publisher. In no way did that effect my opinions stated here.

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New Fiction to Look For 2015

Many publishers have a fantastic selection of new fiction that readers should be adding to their TBR lists this year. Every Saturday I bring you a few that I think are noteworthy from various publishers. This week I found four books that sound promising and will definitely be placed on my TBR 2015 list. Here are my choices this week: (ordered by publication date)

The Dream Lover by Elizabeth Berg
Publication Date: March 31, 2015
Publisher: Random House
Genre: Literature/Fiction
Book Description: (From Net Galley)
New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Berg has written a lush historical novel based on the sensuous Parisian life of the nineteenth-century writer George Sand—which is perfect for readers of Nancy Horan and Elizabeth Gilbert.

At the beginning of this powerful novel, we meet Aurore Dupin as she is leaving her estranged husband, a loveless marriage, and her family’s estate in the French countryside to start a new life in Paris. There, she gives herself a new name—George Sand—and pursues her dream of becoming a writer, embracing an unconventional and even scandalous lifestyle.

Paris in the nineteenth-century comes vividly alive, illuminated by the story of the loves, passions, and fierce struggles of a woman who defied the confines of society. Sand’s many lovers and friends include Frédéric Chopin, Gustave Flaubert, Franz Liszt, Eugène Delacroix, Victor Hugo, Marie Dorval, and Alfred de Musset. As Sand welcomes fame and friendship, she fights to overcome heartbreak and prejudice, failure and loss. Though considered the most gifted genius of her time, she works to reconcile the pain of her childhood, of disturbing relationships with her mother and daughter, and of her intimacies with women and men. Will the life she longs for always be just out of reach—a dream?

Brilliantly written in luminous prose, and with remarkable insights into the heart and mind of a literary force, The Dream Lover tells the unforgettable story of a courageous, irresistible woman.

Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

Publication Date: May 5, 2015
Publisher: Penguin (Viking Juvenile)
Genre: Teens/YA
Book Description: (from NetGalley)
Peyton, Sydney's charismatic older brother, has always been the star of the family, receiving the lion's share of their parents' attention and lately concern. When Peyton's increasingly reckless behavior culminates in an accident, a drunk driving conviction, and a jail sentence, Sydney is cast adrift, searching for her place in the family and the world. When everyone else is so worried about Peyton, is she the only one concerned about the victim of the accident?

Enter the Chathams, a warm, chaotic family who run a pizza parlor, play bluegrass on weekends, and pitch in to care for their mother, who has multiple sclerosis. Here Sydney experiences unquestioning acceptance. And here she meets Mac, gentle, watchful, and protective, who makes Sydney feel seen, really seen, for the first time.

The uber-popular Sarah Dessen explores her signature themes of family, self-discovery, and change in her twelfth novel, sure to delight her legions of fans.

Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll

Publication Date: May 12 2015
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Genre: Women's Fiction
Book Description: (from NetGalley)
In a riveting debut novel that reads like Prep meets Gone Girl, a young woman is determined to create the perfect life—husband, home, and career—until a violent incident from her past threatens to unravel everything and expose her most shocking secret of all.

Twenty-eight-year-old New Yorker Ani FaNelli seems to have it all: she’s a rising star at The Women’s Magazine, impossibly fit, perfectly groomed, and about to marry Luke Harrison, a handsome blueblood. But behind that veneer of perfection lies a vulnerability that Ani holds close and buries deep—a very violent and public trauma from her past that has left her constantly trying to reinvent herself. And only she knows how far she would go to keep her secrets safe.

When a documentary producer invites Ani to tell her side of the chilling incident that took place when she was a teenager at the prestigious Bradley School, she hopes it will be an opportunity for public vindication. Armed with the trappings of success—expensive clothes, high-powered byline, a massive engagement ring—she is determined to silence the whispers of suspicion and blame from her past, and prove once and for all how far she’s come since Bradley. She’ll even let them film her lavish wedding on Nantucket, the final step in her transformation. 

But perfection doesn’t come without cost. As the wedding and filming converge, Ani’s meticulously crafted facade begins to buckle and crack—until an explosive revelation offers her a final chance at redemption, even as it rocks her picture-perfect world.

Equal parts glitz and darkness, and with a singular voice and twisting plot, Luckiest Girl Alivereads like Sex & the City—if Carrie Bradshaw had a closet full of skeletons instead of shoes. In Ani FaNelli, Jessica Knoll has created a complex and vulnerable heroine who you’ll be rooting for to the very last page.

The Little Paris Bookshop: A Novel by Nina George

Publication Date: June 23, 2015
Publisher: Crown Publishing
Genre: Literature/Fiction
Book Description: (from NetGalley)

“There are books that are suitable for a million people, others for only a hundred. There are even remedies—I mean books—that were written for one person only…A book is both medic and medicine at once. It makes a diagnosis as well as offering therapy. Putting the right novels to the appropriate ailments: that's how I sell books.”
Monsieur Perdu calls himself a literary apothecary. From his floating bookstore in a barge on the Seine, he prescribes novels for the hardships of life. Using his intuitive feel for the exact book a reader needs, Perdu mends broken hearts and souls. The only person he can't seem to heal through literature is himself; he's still haunted by heartbreak after his great love disappeared. She left him with only a letter, which he has never opened.

After Perdu is finally tempted to read the letter, he hauls anchor and departs on a mission to the south of France, hoping to make peace with his loss and discover the end of the story. Joined by a bestselling but blocked author and a lovelorn Italian chef, Perdu travels along the country's rivers, dispensing his wisdom and his books, showing that the literary world can take the human soul on a journey to heal itself.

Internationally bestselling and filled with warmth and adventure, The Little Paris Bookshop is a love letter to books, meant for anyone who believes in the power of stories to shape people's lives.

Friday, February 27, 2015

The Last Bookaneer by Matthew Pearl

The Last Bookaneer: A NovelThe Last Bookaneer: A Novel by Matthew Pearl

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fans of Matthew Pearl "The Last Dickens" will be fond of his latest book "The Last BookaneerBookaneer" set to come out from Penguin Press April 28 2015. Briefly, in The Last Dickens we are introduced to a mysterious group of folks called bookaneers. These literary pirates risk life and fortune for the glory of capturing a prized manuscript from the most sought after authors. In the latest from award-winning Matthew Pearl, we see the last of the bookaneers battle it out in Samoa over the greatest treasure they have ever sought, the last novel from dying Robert Louis Stevenson.

Like all of Pearl's work, The Last Bookaneer, is a literary thrill. From the first page to last I was riveted by the tale our narrators Mr. Fergins and Mr. Clover spun for the readers. We are taken to exotic places, meet influential authors and of course are given loving descriptions of literature and its effect on readers. Our characters are clever and well read. The plot has twists and turns that can surprise even the most rigorous of readers. And one can only imagine the amount of research that went into this novel. Every chapter is not only entertaining but also a lesson in literary and publishing history.

This novel is a must read for several types of readers; fans of Pearl, literary fiction, publishing history, Stevenson and the novel Frankenstein to name just a few. For this reader it is a volume that will be read many times and treasured as if it was the last manuscript seized by the last bookaneer.

Note: I received this book from the publisher to read and review. In no way did that effect the opinions in this review.

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Thursday, February 12, 2015

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor & ParkEleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Elenanor Park by Rainbow Rowell is a novel about two teenagers who feel out of place and alone until they meet each other. Over the course of a school they come to realize how important they are to each other. Even though they both know that their love probably will not last they desperately hang onto the idea that ... It is possible.

This book is devastatingly beautiful. Rowell really knows how to create characters you feel for, those you just want to have happy endings because they deserved it. But they never seem to get the happy ending you hope. Their ending is real, somewhat satisfying to the reader but always they characters come out better in the end. Read this book, but be warned emotional turmoil lies in these pages. Once you start this book you will not want to say goodbye, not even with those last three words.

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