Thursday, December 31, 2009
Coupland excels at creating memorably quirky outlines of characters, but he seldom manages to dig deep enough to make us really believe that they are flesh and blood or to get us to really care about them*. In GENERATION A, he introduces 5 20-somethings from around the globe who are all stung by bees, years after bees were thought to be extinct. However, with the exception of Harj, an amusingly clever call center employee from Sri Lanka (and my favorite character by far), all of them speak in a near identical “Coupland” voice: witty, emotionally distant, and very self-aware.
Coupland is also known for his outlandish plots, liberal use of pop-culture references, and willingness to experiment with structure. This one strikes me as a mix of GIRLFRIEND IN A COMA (for the post-apocalyptic elements) and GENERATION X (for the inclusion of a bunch of loosely related short stories a la The Decameron in the second half). It comes together (sort of) in the end, and we learn how these seemingly random individuals are related and what it means for the future of the human race.
Ultimately, I enjoyed reading it - though once again, I didn’t love it. I’m still waiting on that elusive perfect Coupland novel…
GENERATION A is available in hardcover now. Find out more about it at the author's website.
*I most cared about Susan Colgate in MISS WYOMING and Cheryl, Jason and Heather in HEY NOSTRADAMUS! which is why those two are probably my favorite of Coupland's works.
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
The fictional tale is told in alternating chapters - some from the point of view of 12 year old Lindy who lives off the grid with her PTSD-plagued father and some following police officer Jessica Villareal, a grandmother already at 38 who is estranged from her 19 year old daughter, as she responds to the call that a transient preteen has been seen in the woods.
Lindy’s chapters are spare yet haunting as she describes her life in the forest as well as her “capture” and subsequent ordeal. In some ways, Lindy is mature beyond her years, in others, completely naïve and Shortridge absolutely pulls off the voice. That Jessica’s chapters feel so completely different – down to earth yet pulsating with that mix of frustration and compassion that adulthood brings – is a testament to Shortridge’s skill.
Oddly, though Lindy’s chapters are first person and Jessica’s are third, I felt I got to know Jessica much better. Lindy remains a bit elusive, much like the blue herons she so loved to catch a glimpse of.
I enjoyed this one immensely and highly recommend it to those who like modern day stories with fully fleshed characters and a compelling storyline.
WHEN SHE FLEW is available in paperback now. Find out more about it on the author’s website.
This review is part of the TLC blog tour for WHEN SHE FLEW. See other stops on the tour at the TLC website.
I have one signed copy of the book up for grabs - to enter for it, simply tell me what news story you think would make a good jumping off point for a novel. Since it's coming directly from the author, this one is US and Canada only and I'll keep it open until 11:59 PM CST on January 11th.
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Monday, December 28, 2009
Saturday, December 26, 2009
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
They are back at home now getting visitors several times a day and night! They need lots of cuddles after all.
Monday, December 21, 2009
Saturday, December 19, 2009
Friday, December 18, 2009
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
She's staying at friends of ours and they are taking great pics so I'll have one of those for you next week.
So where am I? Easter Island!
Ha, ha... just kidding. That was taken in DC at the Museum of Natural History (setting of Night at the Museum 2). My friend Kelly and I thought a bit of photoshop trickery would be fun.
So yeah, I was in DC for a few days visiting friends, and now I am in LA for a few days visiting friends (had a lovely meeting with My Friend Amy on Sunday). Yesterday we drove to Joshua Tree National Park and the Salten Sea and today we are going to visit Daniel's alma mater Art Center in Pasadena and then go to Santa Monica.
I'll be in Kansas on Thursday, and I can't wait to see if I've gotten my Secret Santa gift from the book bloggers holiday swap yet!
Friday, December 11, 2009
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Monday, December 7, 2009
I’d been meaning to read this one forever. I loved THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV and NOTES FROM THE UNDERGROUND back when I read them a decade ago. I actually thought, for some reason, that this one was much more about someone serving a sentence in Siberia, so I was surprised when the novel just went on and on with Rasky trying not to incriminate himself, his mental breakdowns, and his long (looooong) conversations with various people including his mother, his sister, the nasty man his sister is engaged to, his best friend, a random drunk he meets in a bar, random drunk’s daughter, and a handful of policemen. Not that all that wasn’t interesting… it was. It just wasn’t what I expected.
It’s worth a read just for Dostoevsky’s keen insight into human nature and his masterful use of language that makes you feel like you yourself have entered Rasky’s mind to feel the same nervousness and fear he does. Not for the impatient reader, but for those who long to be intellectually engaged.
Sunday, December 6, 2009
This is the kind of book I NEVER read. I generally don’t care for romance, and if you throw in some precocious kids (this novel has 3 main ones, including a set of twins whose dialogue I had to skim it annoyed me so) - I am really outta there.
The colorful cast of characters and whole range of dramatic situations make me think this could be made into a successful romantic comedy film, so if that’s your thing, you might really like this novel. It veers just enough off formula to make it interesting, but sticks with genre conventions enough to be cozy and heartwarming.
As for me, I did enjoy Mina’s experiences with callers at her job at least. There are certainly some hilariously clueless people out there…
CROSSED WIRES doesn’t seem to be available in the US, but it is out now in paperback in the UK. If you are in the US and want to read this one, let me know in the comments. The first to claim it, gets it!
Saturday, December 5, 2009
BOYOLOGY is billed as a teen girl’s crash course in all things boy, but it’s really a crash course in dating. The tone and format is not unlike that of a teen magazine, with the advantage that it is able to go more in depth, but with the disadvantage that it is dated (especially in its references to pop culture) pretty much immediately.
Chronicle always has great art direction and the book is fun to browse through. There are quizzes and graphics, song lists for romancing your boy (point being: don’t play him girly music), and a list of movies to watch when you break up. Some of the content seems flippant (like a section that stereotypes boys into 8 “breeds”) but other content, like the chapter on setting sexual boundaries and preventing rape, is very, very serious (and important).
BOYOLOGY is out in paperback now. Find out more about it on the author’s website.
Friday, December 4, 2009
Nobody but Rachel and her mother, who went to live there after Rachel’s dad died in the last war. It’s a safe, quiet life. Until Rachel finds a mysterious recorded message that can only have come from Away. The voice is asking for help.
Who sent the message? Why is her mother so protective? And to what lengths is Rachel willing to go in order to do what she thinks is right?
Hilarious, poignant, and deeply insightful, John Green and David Levithan’s collaborative novel is brimming with a double helping of the heart and humor that have won both them legions of faithful fans.
When Tessa’s own boyfriend shows up on the List, she turns her sleuthing skills on him. Is Aiden just as naughty as all the rest, or will Tessa’s sneaky ways end in catastrophe?
I am willing to send these books internationally, so that means anyone can enter!
Thursday, December 3, 2009
By now, most bloggers are well aware of the ample charms of this engaging novel. I was one who was initially put off by the sheer length of the book - at 450 pages, it qualifies for the Chunkster Challenge. But I am here to tell you ... I wish this could have been TWICE as long - I enjoyed the main characters that much (Minny was my favorite) - and I'd have loved to have gotten more about a lot of the side characters, especially Celia Foote, Constantine, Sugar and Kindra.
Not having spent much time in the American deep south, I can't say how accurate the portrayals of the maids' daily lives were, but the injustices they had to bear certainly sound likely for what I know about the time. While race relations have thankfully improved in this part of the world (thanks to brave men and women like the ones in this novel), there IS still a general attitude of superiority in many parts of the world and I definitely noticed a “colonial mentality” while in Kenya last month (where I read this).
I overheard conversations where expats complained about finding a decent maid since “all Kenyans are lazy”. There were complaints about theft, and even about maids using the house toilet instead of going behind a bush (hey, they should be used to it right?). Seriously!
THE HELP doesn’t come out in paperback until the end of May, but it’s one it is worth getting in hardcover. Find out more about it at the author’s website.
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
As soon as Nicole heard I was going to Kenya, she generously offered to send me this novel and I was excited to have the opportunity to read it while I was there (thanks Nicole!). It is set in the late 1970s, but there was still much familiar about the country described, especially in regards to the high level of crime, the recreational activities, and the divide between expats and Kenyans. But although everything that had to do with the setting was incredibly engaging, the story itself meandered about with a bit of tragedy here, a bit of temptation to cheat there, but no real identifiable arc.
I was puzzled why Margaret would find Patrick attractive – he seemed like a self-absorbed jerk to me most of the time. The ending made sense though, and showed how much Margaret had grown over the course of the narrative.
A CHANGE IN ALTITUDE is available in hardcover now. Find out more about it at the author's website.