Category: Reviews


Mental Health Monday: Hausfrau

Posted 23 March, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Mental Health Monday: HausfrauHausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum
Published by Random House Publishing Group on March 17th 2015
Genres: Contemporary Women, Fiction, Literary, Psychological
Pages: 352
Goodreads
five-stars

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange honest review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Anna Benz, an American in her late thirties, lives with her Swiss husband, Bruno—a banker—and their three young children in a postcard-perfect suburb of Zürich. Though she leads a comfortable, well-appointed life, Anna is falling apart inside. Adrift and increasingly unable to connect with the emotionally unavailable Bruno or even with her own thoughts and feelings, Anna tries to rouse herself with new experiences: German language classes, Jungian analysis, and a series of sexual affairs she enters with an ease that surprises even her.   But Anna can’t easily extract herself from these affairs. When she wants to end them, she finds it’s difficult. Tensions escalate, and her lies start to spin out of control. Having crossed a moral threshold, Anna will discover where a woman goes when there is no going back.

Dear God. Hausfrau is one of those books that hits you where it hurts. Love (or something close to love), marriage, infidelity, family, mental illness…

This book was an all around winner for me. It’s not just deep and important with plenty of things for bookclubs everywhere to argue about, it’s also beautifully written. I have a background in German so the parallels that Essbaum made between the German language and Anna’s life decisions were endlessly fascinating and relatable to me.

Despite her affairs and questionable moral behavior I liked Anna and understood her compulsions and actions (or lack thereof). Depression is not something that can be ‘fixed’ with something as easy as finding a new hobby or making new friends, and perhaps I excuse her affairs because of her long term depression.

This book is gorgeously written and tackles a number of complex and heavy topics. I highly recommend it to everyone.

Other viewpoints from:

Monika at A Lovely Bookshelf

Andi at Estella’s Revenge

Shannon at River City Reading

Melinda at The Book Musings

What about you, Reader? Can you handle a book where you find some of the protagonist’s actions morally reprehensible? Do we judge men as harshly as women when it comes to marital infidelity? And don’t forget to drop into The Socratic Salon on Wednesday where we’ll really break it down.

Signature

April @ The Steadfast Reader

6 Comments/ : , , ,

Divider

An AnnaSaurus Rex Rerun: Narcoleptic Hooker

Posted 20 March, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in guest post, Reviews

narcoleptic hooker cover

Narcoleptic Hooker. HAHAHHAAHHA – Shut up. It’s amazeballs. Well, it’s DEFINITELY got something to do with balls anyway.

Before I even got a copy of this book I wrote it off as a lame, pulp novel that was surely going to be a terrible read (hence why I was reading it). I am woman enough to admit when I was wrong. I WAS WRONG.

I enjoyed this book. Okay, it wasn’t perfect. There were too many moving parts, at times the writing left me a little lost, and it was about fifty pages too long. HOWEVER. It was well written enough that I wasn’t too distracted and could focus on the beautiful and creatively delivered message: FEMINISM. Not just for non-hookers!

Before we get too involved, here’s the rundown from Amazon:

Everyone wanted to know how a prostitute with narcolepsy eradicated crime in Las Vegas. Now the ambassador of this crimeless city in 2054, Penelope Fortunata tells the story of the life she led when her mob affiliations ran deep. There is always a beginning and this is hers.

“Welcome to the Vegas Strip. Never has the line between getting whacked and getting whacked off been so thin. This is the kind of book people hide from their spouses and parents. This is the kind of book that your closest friend will want to clear from your home, along with your vibrator and porn, before anyone else comes to liquidate your estate when you kick the bucket unexpectedly. This book is a dangerous addiction that you will not be able to tear yourself away from, teeming with corruption and sex in the City of Sin where one must embrace the gritty elegance of organized crime. It is filled with characters who are far more interesting than anyone you know and dirtier than any of them will ever admit to being. Just two things you should know: don’t judge a hooker, and there is no safe word. You have been warned.”

That official, rambling description pretty much encompasses how the entire book reads.

Let’s really push our fingers in, shall we? First and foremost we have our title hooker, Penelope. She’s tall, mid-30s and describes herself as:

…an independent, thick—but I called it juicy—Italian-American woman who had old-school mobsters by the balls, sometimes quite literally. I had and still have a sleep disorder…and in case the world missed it, I was a prostitute. A real life narcoleptic hooker…

Sassy, sexy, mob-affiliated hooker with a sleeping disorder? Yes please! Surely this cannot be improved upon. HAHAHAHA HOOKER YOU CRAZY. Of course it can! Her BFFL, roomie, and occasional shower/fuck buddy is: “KICHI THE JAP WHORE.” (I put that in quotes because that is – HAND TO GOD — the name of one of the chapters.)

Kichi is a fellow hooker: she’s crude, foul and generally fabulous. Part of the fem-positive spin in this book involves how much Penelope and Kichi are gross. Lots of farting, talk of fluids, etc. It turns out that women are just like you. Amazing.

So we have our two WERKIN protagonists, but what about The Bad Guy? Why, that would be Old Man Tucker the Fucker of course! He’s a granddaddy of the mafia with an iron cock and the stamina of a thoroughbred champion horse (As an aside, if someone wants to buy a horse and name it Old Man Tucker the Fucker, I would totally be into that.). For plot reasons, he has a nefarious and elaborate plan to get what he wants. And ain’t nobody, I said nobody, gonna stand in his way. Or whatever. Point is, he’s got it in for, and – at one point – ACTUALLY IN, Penelope. “GASP!” you say?! Trust me, it’s a long story.

Of course, this entire novel would be incomplete without a romantic B story. Isn’t romance where our true humanity lies, afterall? Lucky for us, humanity turns out to be a gorgeous black lumberjack of a man named Zeke. He’s charming, respectful and already knows Penelope’s dad (who also has an elaborate back story). One noted FAIL: We do NOT get a sex scene between Penelope and Zeke. No vanilla and chocolate swirl here! Sad face. After meeting in a massage parlor (yup) the two hit it off and etc etc. Fill in generic construction-worker-dating-a-hooker plot line here. Wasn’t that the basis for Magic Mike? Anyway.

There are a myriad of other characters that I don’t have the time to go into and you, dear ADHD reader, certainly don’t have the patience to read about. I will give an honorable mention to the crazy, ancient Japanese neighbor who gets high with The Hookers and has a graphic story about banging a dude while training for the 1932 Olympics. Because OBVIOUSLY. She also hypnotizes Penelope to dig out repressed kidnapping memories and has a full back tattoo of a dragon. Yeah, I want Ms. Su to be my friend in real life.

“But Annasaurus,” you demand, “what about the narcoleptic part?!?!?!” Well, it did play a role, albeit a small one. The only part worth mentioning is one of the opening scenes, where Penelope wakes up from an episode with a dick in her mouth. For ONCE the liquid coming out of her mouth was drool, know what I’m sayin’?! (Okay, that was too much, even for me. TOO FAR ANNA! Too. Far.)

“But Annasaurus,” you demand, “WHAT ABOUT THE HOOKER PART?!?!?!” Well, I don’t read and tell soooo…wait, yes I do! There are blow jobs (including, but not limited to, a priest in a church), strap on anal with a married Jew, doggy style and good ol’ fashioned missionary. Old, young, family friend or regular client, this hooker does it all! I don’t hesitate to say it — BIBLE — Emma Janson can write the hell out of a sex scene.

As previously mentioned, I started out a skeptic, but ended up a fan. The biggest reason for my reverse cowgirl-ing (that’s what that means, right?) was the Hooker herself. Throughout the story, Penelope calls out racism, beauty culture, and most of all, sexism. It doesn’t come across as preachy, it’s just how things are in this NarpHo’s version of Las Vegas. For example:

This is exactly why I don’t have a steady dick to ride that is reserved just for me. If a guy knows my occupation, apparently I’m on the clock.

To me, this calls out the way women are perceived as only existing for a man’s pleasure.  BULLSHIT, SON. Here’s a radical idea: Women are complete beings, separate from men! WILD.

The hair shifted as he yelled, “You talk too fucking much! If I wasn’t babysitting you for the geezer, I’d show you what a real man is!”

 

As quickly as Jackson shuffled into Kichi’s space, she abruptly yet smugly said, “You still have spit on your face, asshole.” She lifted her knee into his groin so hard and so fast that I partly laughed at his pain and partly laughed at the ninja-like whipping movement that stunned us both.

BAM! Misogyny used to a lady’s advantage. Get in Kichi’s face with that much Haterade and she’ll kick your dick into your anus. You’ve been warned!

I tilted my head and pulled a pin from within a pile of hair at the back of my head. My hair cascaded down, then I shook it loose. Some of my dark brown locks fell onto my chest. I gently pushed them behind my neck. The power shifted from him to yours truly. As he stood proud, the shift presented a humbled man standing before a very powerful woman. The dynamic change in the room was so evident you could almost cut through it.

BLAMO. I would like to note that this scene ends with the guy on his knees, agreeing to everything Penelope wants. NAILED IT.

Okay, so I feel like we all get the vibe. It’s the best hooker book I’ve ever read. But if you know me, you know I can’t just leave it at that! On page 74 of the e-book I wrote a note to myself:

Okay, now officially on board for this to be made into a movie a la 50 Shades of Grey. Feminist, real woman. Who will play the cast?!

 So glad you asked, past self! SO glad. After much deep thought, consideration, and a few gin and tonics I came to the conclusion that the only cast that could do this campy book any justice would be the drag queens from RuPaul’s Drag Race. Ladies, get your lace front wigs READY.

Note: If you don’t know the glory that is Mama Ru and her Drag Race, then you, my unenlightened friend, are in for the best week of your life. Finish this article, share it with everyone you know, then jump on the interwebs and binge watch ALL of RuPaul’s Drag Race. After you’re done GAGGING on the ELEGANZA, come back here to re-read this with some context!

Without further ado, I present the initial cast list for Narcoleptic Hooker, The Movie:

Penelope – Bianca Del Rio – No one does no-nonsense wit better. Heart of gold, tongue like a whip. And grrrrl, she can WERK.

bianca del rio

 

Kichi – Manila Luzon – If there was ever a character that Manila could play, it’s Kichi. She would bring the crazy-eyed REALNESS that is necessary for this hooker.

manila luzon

 Ms. Su – Jujubee – This bitch is fierce, funny and her real name is Airline. I’m pretty sure that’s a trump card in 28 states and the United Nations.

jujubee

I know, I know, the cast is terribly incomplete! But don’t fret sweet readers! As I mentioned before, there are a SHIT TON of characters, so I know we can find roles for all the quuens! Of course, there are some male roles, notable Tucker the Fucker and Zeke. Also, all those guys Penelope bangs. Ohhhh Pit Crew! 

Oh Pit Crew

I’d also be willing to consider Santino Rice as one of the guys paying for sex. Surely that’s not much of a stretch.

 

The story ends on a cliffhanger, leaving room for many sexy sequels. Will I read them? Maybe. Am I glad they’re being written? HELLS YEAH! Seriously, Google this author, her backstory (and autobiography) alone are a good enough reason to pick up these books.

Overall, I give Narcoleptic Hooker four out of five female orgasms. Male orgasms are easy, but you gotta WERK for the ladies.

So, my dear readers, after all that, I will leave you with this one last question: Which one of these quotes from Narcoleptic Hooker should be my next tattoo?

A person can wish in one hand and shit in the other; which hand will get full first?

 I checked myself out from every possible angle and smacked my ass firmly while shouting, “Damn girl, you are fucking sexy! I want the juice…You can’t handle the juice!”

annasaur.png

April @ The Steadfast Reader

2 Comments/ :

Divider

Mid-Week Mini Reviews: Where I am Underwhelmed

Posted 18 March, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

the girl on the train by paula hawkins  The Girl on the Train by: Paula Hawkins

Brief summary: Sad girl rides a train every day to work. Drinks something magical called gin and tonic in a can. Has blackouts. How much is she involved in the lives of her fellow lead characters? How much is she responsible for their misery?

Review: I’m in the minority in that I really didn’t particularly care for this book. I felt bad for Rachel, but I didn’t pity her. The rest of the characters were… meh. I also guessed the twist about 1/3 of the way through the book. If you’re going to write a book like this, you better be good about hiding your twists. (2.5/5 stars)

 

burial rites by hannah kent

Burial Rites by: Hannah Kent

Brief Summary: A family in 1820’s Iceland is forced to house a convicted murderess while she is awaiting her execution.

Review: This was another one of those books that was apparently written by a talented author that failed to live up to its hype or really connect with me. The problem is admittedly, probably me, as I am not a fan of historical fiction for the most part. I felt empathy for Agnes and did enjoy watching the evolution of the attitudes that the family had about her. Hoever, in the end I found the overall story just okay. (3/5 stars)

 

 

Is everyone hanging out without me?

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by: Mindy Kaling

Synopsis: Mindy Kaling wrote a memoir.

Review: I like Kaling okay as an actress, though admittedly that’s limited to her performance in the American version of The Office. Though I would like to pick up The Mindy Project sometime soon. But the book – I’ve seen a lot of people compare this memoir to Fey’s Bossypants or Lawson’s Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, but I have to disagree. Kaling lacks both their talent for writing and their talent as comedians. I found most of the memoir to be pretty lackluster and not all that funny. Sorry Mindy. (2/5 stars)

 

What about you, Reader? What are some books lately that just haven’t lived up to the hype for you? What do you think about my assessment of these popular titles?

Signature

April @ The Steadfast Reader

24 Comments/ : , , , ,

Divider

Guest Post: Tovi the Penguin Goes Camping vs. Vicki Goes Camping

Posted 10 March, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in guest post, Reviews

The moon, garbage trucks, and books. These are a few of my 2-year-old son’s favorite things. The French poet in him will babble on about the moon and the stars all night long. The rough and tumble kid in him will play with garbage trucks for eleventy million years before getting sick of them.
 

Lucky for me, he still likes to settle down with a good book, giving me a few moments of peace. When he’s not eating zombie books, one series he loves is Tovi the Penguin. Full disclosure: I’m friends with the author. While my toddler can navigate computers surprisingly well (check my YouTube history for a sample), I doubt he’d be able to find this wonderful collection of books without Mommy’s help.

 
Just like April doesn’t fancy herself a writer (even though she wrote a story for my anthology, That’s Paris!), I don’t fancy myself a book reviewer. So instead I figured I’d do a little comparison: Tovi the Penguin Goes Camping vs. Vicki Goes Camping.


Right off the bat, Tovi gets points for actually going camping. I’ve only ever gone camping against my will, usually on family vacations. The only exception was during my hippie phase, where I’d camp out after a Phish show and hang out with people who partied often and bathed rarely. So Tovi wins for actually packing up and heading into the wilderness. Then again, he’s a penguin so I’m guessing being outdoors doesn’t bother him as much as it bothers this city girl. Round #1: Tovi: 1, Vicki: 0.


 

Next, they set up camp and eat marshmallows. Again, Tovi wins this round. I love me some marshmallows, but not when I’m camping. You want me to pick up a STICK that’s been on the GROUND and then eat off of it? And the thing you want me to eat is mushy and sticky and there’s not a sink around? No thanks. Round #2: Tovi: 2, Vicki: 0.

Then, Tovi and his friends think they see a bear. A BEAR? See, this is why I don’t go camping. One time I went camping in upstate New York with my dad and brother. The rangers handed us a pamphlet warning us to keep the food locked in the trunk of the car, as opposed to our tent, so the bears couldn’t get it. So let me get this straight: I’m OUTSIDE, with NO FOOD, and a VERY STRONG POSSIBILITY of seeing a bear, and I’m somehow supposed to think this is enjoyable? Points to Tovi on this one, too, for toughing out the night and not trying to steal his dad’s car and drive back to civilization (not that I know anything about that). Round #3: Tovi: 3, Vicki: 0.

Tovi and his friends tough out the night, and decide to leave first thing in the morning. Finally a decision I can get on board with! Round #4: Tovi: 0, Vicki: 0.

So if the question was “Who’s a better camper?” the answer is: Tovi wins 3-0 compared to me.

 

If the question is, “Which children’s book does Vicki enjoy reading to her kids?” the answer is: Tovi the Penguin! Though I think I might have more in common with Tovi the Penguin Goes to London or Tovi the Penguin Goes Away for Christmas.

 
Links:
 
 



About Vicki Lesage: An American author, living in Paris
A midwest native, I currently live in Paris, where I indulge in wine when I’m not busy working or having babies. IT Director by day, I squeeze in writing wherever I can, from blog posts to books. My common theme is complaining about France but as an equal opportunist I complain about plenty of other things as well. I love fondue, wine, math, and zombies. Everything’s better with zombies.

April @ The Steadfast Reader

8 Comments/ :

Divider

Tournament of Books Thursday: Teeny Tiny Review-lettes

Posted 5 March, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

 

I promised you reviews of these two books this week – but holy cow. This is the second week of my full time employment and trying to ‘have it all’ is freaking exhausting. But no matter! The book blogosphere is full of amazing people who write amazing things. So without further ado, I’m going to present my (very) brief review-lettes as well as some amazing reviews of these books from others in the community.

Everything I Never Told You by: Celeste Ng
Super-short synopsis: A mixed race family in 1970’s Ohio must face the unexplained death of their daughter/sister who had the seemingly perfect life…
Personal thoughts: I liked this book well enough – but it lacked the wow factor that I felt like many reviewers gave it. The mystery behind Lydia’s death along with the family dynamics make this an extremely readable and compelling book.
As far as The Tournament goes: Check the brackets.
Other full and fabulous reviews:
Shannon at River City Reading
Sarah at Sarah’s Book Shelves
Allison at The Book Wheel
Catherine at The Gilmore Guide
New Century Reading

The Bone Clocks by: David Mitchell
Super-short synopsis: Cradle to grave story of Holly Sykes. Explores many characters relating to Holly’s life as well as supernatural occurrences.
Personal thoughts: I’m a sucker for good character heavy stories as well as cradle to grave stories. The extra supernatural element was a little extraneous for me — but still fit in most excellently.
As far as The Tournament goes: Check the brackets. Also I think that The Bone Clocks has the ability to win it all!!!
Other full and fabulous reviews:
Catherine at The Gilmore Guide
Katie at Bookish Tendencies
New Century Reading
Amber at Shelf Notes
Wendy at Wensend

Have you read either of these reader? Have you read Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell? What do you think? 

 

April @ The Steadfast Reader

18 Comments/ : ,

Divider

Release Day Review: The Bookseller

Posted 3 March, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Release Day Review: The BooksellerThe Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson
Published by Harper Collins on March 3rd 2015
Genres: Contemporary Women, Fiction
Pages: 352
Goodreads
three-stars

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange honest review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

A mesmerizingly powerful debut novel about the ways in which past choices can irrevocably define the present—and the bittersweet confrontation of what might have been1962: It may be the Swinging Sixties in New York, but in Denver it's different: being a single gal over thirty in this city is almost bohemian. Still, thirty-eight-year-old Kitty Miller has come to terms with her unconventional single life. She was involved, once—with a doctor named Kevin—but when things didn't work out the way she had hoped, she decided to chart her own path. Now she dedicates herself to the bookstore she runs with her best friend, Frieda, returning home each evening to her cozy apartment. Without a husband expecting dinner, she can enjoy last-minute drinks after work with her friends; without children who need to get ready for school, she can stay up all night reading with her beloved cat, Aslan, by her side.Then the dreams begin.1963: Katharyn Andersson is married to Lars, the love of her life. They live in a picture-perfect home in a suburban area of Denver, close to their circle of friends. It's the ideal place in which to raise their children. Katharyn's world is exactly what Kitty once believed she wanted . . . but it exists only when she sleeps.At first, Kitty enjoys her nighttime forays into this alternate world. Even though there is no Frieda, no bookstore, no other familiar face, Kitty becomes increasingly reluctant to open her eyes and abandon Katharyn's alluring life.But with each visit to her dreamworld, it grows more real. As the lines between the two worlds begin to blur, Kitty faces an uncertain future. What price must she pay to stay? What is the cost of letting go?

This is one of those books that I had a hard time defining.
I know it’s not popular to like labels or categories, but I feel better when I can categorize a book.


I liked this book. But…. butbutbut…  I wanted it to be more. To be deeper and more important. Of course as a book blogger I love books about booksellers and people who love books, but this novel seemed to deteriorate into something else, into (dare I say it…) chick lit. Which is fine. But I wanted more. 

Regardless, this book is still a fun read — I can’t really complain about it as a genre novel. I loved the pull and push between Katharyn and Kitty, I loved the idea of multi-verses (which while not really explored, is what it felt like to this nerd). 

This is a hard book for me. I liked how there was tension between Kitty’s dream world and Katharyn’s real world. It turns pretty predictable rather quickly – but that didn’t stop me from enjoying the read. This is a good genre novel that is fun and compelling. You definitely could do worse on a plane. 

Recommendation: If you find it in an airport bookstore with nothing else to read but trashy magazines… buy it. If you like chick-lit as a rule… buy it. If you’re randomly bored and you find it at the library… check it out.

A happier review comes from Jennine at My Life in Books.

Let’s talk about genres, Reader. What makes a book ‘chick lit’ to you? What makes a book ‘genre’ to you?

April @ The Steadfast Reader

12 Comments/ : , ,

Divider

Feminist Friday: The Paying Guests (A Tournament of Books Selection)

Posted 27 February, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Feminist Friday: The Paying Guests (A Tournament of Books Selection)The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters
Published by Penguin on September 16th 2014
Genres: Fiction, General, Historical, Literary
Pages: 576
Goodreads
three-stars

It is 1922, and London is tense. Ex-servicemen are disillusioned; the out-of-work and the hungry are demanding change. And in South London, in a genteel Camberwell villa—a large, silent house now bereft of brothers, husband, and even servants—life is about to be transformed as impoverished widow Mrs. Wray and her spinster daughter, Frances, are obliged to take in lodgers.With the arrival of Lilian and Leonard Barber, a modern young couple of the “clerk class,” the routines of the house will be shaken up in unexpected ways. Little do the Wrays know just how profoundly their new tenants will alter the course of Frances’s life—or, as passions mount and frustration gathers, how far-reaching, and how devastating, the disturbances will be.

What I liked about this book was the way it shook up gender roles within the narrative of historical fiction. I liked that Frances wanted to be independent and live on her own and have a real career outside of being a housewife. I liked that the first ‘friend’ Frances had actually realized that vision. 

What I can’t say is if this gives an accurate portrayal of post WWI English life, the NYT says that it does, so maybe my issue is that I’m not a hard-core historical fiction fan, nor am I a fan of romance. I’d categorize The Paying Guests under both of these labels, with a little murder/mayhem thrown in.

Look. This book is a perfect example of a well written book that just wasn’t for me. I only picked it up because of the Tournament of Books and even then was hesitant to do so because I knew enough about the novel to feel like it wasn’t in my usual wheelhouse. (This is not to say that the reading made me uncomfortable in any way, just that it’s not on my interest radar.) 

So. If you’re a historical fiction buff with a penchant for a little romance on this side, this might be for you. 

How will this fare in the Tournament? I think that it’s a close call with it paired up against A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall – but I think that ultimately A Brave Man will prevail out of the first round. We shall see.

Fabulous differing perspectives found from:
Michael at Literary Exploration
Catherine at Gilmore Guide to Books
Andi at Estella’s Revenge

How did you feel about The Paying Guests, Reader? When was the last time you read outside of your genre wheelhouse?

 

April @ The Steadfast Reader

6 Comments/ : , , , , ,

Divider

A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall (A Tournament of Books Selection)

Posted 25 February, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall (A Tournament of Books Selection)A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall by Will Chancellor
Published by Harper Collins on July 8th 2014
Genres: Coming of Age, Fiction, Literary, Sagas
Pages: 384
Goodreads
three-stars

A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall is an exuberant literary debut--a novel of real ideas and a playful examination of our in-between world, one that explores the nature of family, identity, art, and belief while also marking the introduction of an original new voice in contemporary fiction.Owen Burr is the six-foot-eight, Olympics-bound senior captain of the Stanford University water polo team. In his final collegiate match, however, he suffers a catastrophic injury that destroys his hopes and dreams, flattening his entire world into two dimensions. His identity as an athlete erased but his ambition indelible, he defies his father, a classics professor who lives in a "cave" of his own making, and moves to Berlin with naive plans to make conceptual art. Then he disappears.Without a single clue as to his son's location, Dr. Burr embarks upon a tour of public lectures from Greece to Germany to Iceland in an attempt to draw out his endangered son. Instead, he foments a violent uprising.

This book was a sleeper for me. I didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did – but the truth is I found it extremely enjoyable. Honestly, between you and me, I saw ‘athlete’ in the description and stopped reading the description. I’m such an anti-sports snob. I know. Get over myself.

The writing was excellent, the characters were strong and well developed. I found Owen’s living in Berlin without a penny to his name to be a little unbelievable, but this didn’t trouble me enough to ruin the enjoyment of the book. Owen was also a bit of a little shit, but I think he grew throughout the novel. 

As far as Prof. Burr (Owen’s dad) went – his story was quite the wild ride as well, despite the two narratives being vastly different worked well to compliment each other Prof. Burr’s disastrous speech in Athens (all undertaken to help him look for Owen) and Owen’s disastrous ‘debut’ into the art world parallel nicely.   

This book is a commentary on the intersection of art and life, which made it very compelling to me. I also loved the commentary on modern art and what drives the prices of it. I’ve always been a big fan of modern art museums, if for nothing else than finding the absurdity in them. Tate Modern in London is by far my favorite – probably because during one visit there I found a display of a hermetically sealed can in which the artist had preserved his feces. (If anyone knows the artist or the name of the piece, hit me up because I’ve long since forgotten it.) But, I’d also be remiss if I didn’t share my love for The Centre Pompidou in Paris too. 

Owen and Prof. Burr’s journey into Iceland was a bit surreal as well – but again – I felt like it fit with the book and I really enjoyed the atmosphere and descriptions of Iceland. It actually inspired me to finally read Burial Rites. Absolutely a fabulous debut.

Art! What a glorious thing. What about you, Reader? Do you have a penchant for modern art? Or any other visual art styles?

 

April @ The Steadfast Reader

14 Comments/ : , , ,

Divider

Must Read Monday: Our Endless Numbered Days

Posted 23 February, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Must Read Monday: Our Endless Numbered DaysOur Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller
Published by Penguin Books Limited on February 26th 2015
Genres: Fiction, General
Pages: 368
Goodreads
five-stars

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange honest review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

1976: Peggy Hillcoat is eight. She spends her summer camping with her father, playing her beloved record of The Railway Children and listening to her mother's grand piano, but her pretty life is about to change. Her survivalist father, who has been stockpiling provisions for the end which is surely coming soon, takes her from London to a cabin in a remote European forest. There he tells Peggy the rest of the world has disappeared. Her life is reduced to a piano which makes music but no sound, a forest where all that grows is a means of survival. And a tiny wooden hut that is Everything.

I can’t say that Our Endless Numbered Days is a book that I would have necessarily picked up on my own, but Allison from The Book Wheel more or less pushed it into my hands and insisted it was going to be the next big thing.

I think she’s right. 

Peggy’s dad is a survivalist in England before survivalism was cool. The narration takes the reader back and forth between the nine years that Peggy spent in the woods with her father beginning in about 1976 to her attempt to re-acclimate with general society in 1985. The narrative style is done flawlessly and makes an excellent point/counterpoint between Peggy’s life in isolation and what it means to try and come back to a society that you hardly remember. 

Our Endless Numbered Days does everything and it does it very well. There’s action, the characters are complex and flawed, they grow and change as the story progresses, there are themes on family and marriage, and the tension that runs between family and career – not just in 1976, but today as well. 

This is a fantastic and clever book that will appeal to many readers because of the breadth of the themes that Fuller explores within the pages. 

What about you, Reader? How do you feel about survivalists? Could you live in the woods with only one companion and few supplies for nine years? 

 

April @ The Steadfast Reader

1 Comment/ : , , , ,

Divider

Silent Saturday: Silence Once Begun (A Tournament of Books Selection)

Posted 21 February, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Silent Saturday: Silence Once Begun (A Tournament of Books Selection)Silence Once Begun by Jesse Ball
Published by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group on January 28th 2014
Genres: Crime, Fiction, Historical, Literary
Pages: 224
Goodreads
three-stars

Jesse Ball’s Silence Once Begun is an astonishing novel of unjust conviction, lost love, and a journalist’s obsession. Over the course of several months, eight people vanish from their homes in the same Japanese town, a single playing card found on each door. Known as the “Narito Disappearances,” the crime has authorities baffled—until a confession appears on the police’s doorstep, signed by Oda Sotatsu, a thread salesman. Sotatsu is arrested, jailed, and interrogated—but he refuses to speak. Even as his parents, brother, and sister come to visit him, even as his execution looms, and even as a young woman named Jito Joo enters his cell, he maintains his vow of silence. Our narrator, a journalist named Jesse Ball, is grappling with mysteries of his own when he becomes fascinated by the case. Why did Sotatsu confess? Why won’t he speak? Who is Jito Joo? As Ball interviews Sotatsu’s family, friends, and jailers, he uncovers a complex story of heartbreak, deceit, honor, and chance.

I think I might be an outlier on my feelings about this book. While I appreciate the structure and style of this novel I have a thing about gimmicks. The gimmick here is that journalist “Jesse Ball” is obsessed with the “true story” of Oda Sotatsu. So I’m irritated right off the bat – what’s true? What’s imagined? Is this historical fiction or straight up fiction? 

That being said, the writing is quite lovely in this novel and the structure is unique. Told (mostly) in a series of interviews with people connected with Sotatsu, it felt a little like Solomon the Peacemaker (which you almost definitely have not read, but totally should). Outside the gimmick the story itself is compelling enough until you get to the end. Here I’m going to put a big fat…




Kind of Spoiler Alert
 
I’m sorry kids, but the ending was flat out lifted from that awful Kevin Spacey movie The Life of David Gale, or maybe David Gale‘s ending was lifted from the maybe real-life occurrences outlined in Ball’s novel – either way – all I could think of was that movie. Unfortunately the motivation and execution of the characters in the movie were a lot more plausible than that of those in Ball’s novel. 
 
Done Possibly Ruining Your Reading Experience
 
 
 
 
 
As far as the Tournament goes, this is pitted against Redeployment in the first round – which is interesting because Redeployment reads as stories that should be true (and probably are in spirit) while Silence Once Begun is claimed to be a true story (maybe it somewhat is, I haven’t researched it) as sort of a gimmick, but otherwise fails to really reflect reality. What’s interesting about the two novels is that they are both protest literature of sorts. Obviously I’m rooting for Redeployment and I feel like it will probably win the first round over this – but you never know what those crazy judges are going to do. 
 
Have you read this one, Reader? Do you know what I mean by ‘protest literature’? Do you have any examples? 
 
 

April @ The Steadfast Reader

0 Comments/ : , , ,

Divider