Tag: must read monday


Must Read Monday: Look Who’s Back

Posted 14 December, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Must Read Monday: Look Who’s BackLook Who's Back by Timur Vermes
Published by MacLehose Press on April 3rd 2014
Genres: Germany, Literary, Satire, Social Issues
Pages: 352
five-stars

Berlin, Summer 2011. Adolf Hitler wakes up on a patch of open ground, alive and well. Things have changed – no Eva Braun, no Nazi party, no war. Hitler barely recognises his beloved Fatherland, filled with immigrants and run by a woman.

People certainly recognise him, albeit as a flawless impersonator who refuses to break character. The unthinkable, the inevitable happens, and the ranting Hitler goes viral, becomes a YouTube star, gets his own T.V. show, and people begin to listen. But the Führer has another programme with even greater ambition – to set the country he finds a shambles back to rights.

Guys, stick with me. I know you’ve just read the synopsis for Look Who’s Back and are thinking, ‘What in the ever-loving hell…’. Let us begin at… the beginning. I didn’t know this little gem of a book existed until The Morning News put out their longlist for the 2016 Tournament of Books. I read the synopsis there and became really intrigued and Oh. Em. Gee… you guys.

Look Who’s Back might be the best satire that I’ve seen since Catch-22… and I mean that since Catch-22 was published. After reading the first quarter of the book I started to describe it to a co-worker, he asked me if it was a treacly  book about Hitler learning how wrong he was about his views. I can assure you mein Reader, it is not. Vermes packs so much punch into a relatively short book. Since it was originally published in German, one can assume that Look Who’s Back was intended as a commentary on modern Germany, but let me assure you, the commentary fits just as well for modern America and probably modern western culture.

I found it especially astute and chilling in the wake of Donald Trump’s seemingly never-ending successes within the national polls… and some of the commentary he’s made. As chilling and on point as the satire is, the book is also hysterical in its execution (as all good satire should be). The use of the first person narrative (from Hitler’s point of view) is often a source of giggles, this device, oft used in many a tale about displaced time travelers, seems all the more potent because… well… it’s Hitler.

There is very little world building (how did Hitler just wake up in a field in 2011? Why not the rest of his retinue? Why doesn’t he remember his suicide?) and as much as a fan of world building that I am – I think it was a stroke of genius for Vermes to omit that and have Hitler himself gloss over it – for more important matters.

I don’t believe that any blogs that I read on the regular have reviewed this book. In fact it wasn’t even in Creative Whim’s Ultimate Book Blogger Plugin. Regardless. I found a much more eloquent review over at 1streading’s blog.

This should change now. I know it sounds a little off, maybe a little distasteful, but just trust me on this one.

Readers! Who has read this one? Has anyone read it in the original German? Do I sound insane? 

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Must Read Monday: Boo

Posted 11 May, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Must Read Monday: BooBoo by Neil Smith
on May 19, 2015
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.

It is the first week of school in 1979, and Oliver "Boo" Dalrymple—ghostly pale eighth-grader, aspiring scientist, social pariah—is standing next to his locker, reciting the periodic table. The next thing he knows, he is finds himself lying in a strange bed in a strange land. He is a new resident of Town—an afterlife exclusively for thirteen-year-olds. Soon Boo is joined by Johnny Henzel, a fellow classmate, who brings with him a piece of surprising news about the circumstances of the boys' death.

In Town, there are no trees or animals, just endless rows of redbrick dormitories surrounded by unscalable walls. No one grows or ages, but everyone arrives just slightly altered from who he or she was before. To Boo's great surprise, the qualities that made him an outcast at home win him friends, and he finds himself capable of a joy he has never experienced. But there is a darker side to life after death—and as Boo and Johnny attempt to learn what happened that fateful day, they discover and disturbing truth that will have profound repercussions for both of them.

Every part of this book just charmed the pants off of me. From the unique idea that there is a heaven that is populated completely of 13 year-old Americans. To the characters of Boo and Johnny and the repercussions that their quest to find their killer has on them – and the Town itself. While no one ever physically ages in the town, for the fifty years in which they are allowed to stay there the characters age emotionally. It was a stroke of genius for Smith to call ‘heaven’ The Town rather than heaven – because clearly in the novel it’s not.

I know that a book full of dead kids doesn’t exactly sound charming or appealing, but you’re going to have to trust me that as weird as this premise sounds, Smith makes it work. There are many twists in this book that I saw coming, there were a few that I didn’t. The surprising tenderness of the prose along with the affability and friendship of the main characters leaves the reader thinking about this book long after finishing it. 

Despite being about a ‘heaven’ populated by thirteen year olds – this novel is on no level a YA book. Perhaps it could be an appropriate read for kids of upper ages, but I really feel like the tone, style, and themes make this a book that easily fits into the literary fiction category. 

Smith should feel proud of his debut novel, it’s unique, funny, tender, and absolutely enthralling. Go read it, trust me.

Does this book sound too weird for you, Reader? (It’s not, just trust me and go get it.) What do you have this lovely Monday that I must read?

 

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Must Read Monday: Four Books for Four Different Palates

Posted 1 December, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Bellweather Rhapsody by: Kate Racculia
Genre: Suspense/Coming of age

Why I picked it up? Rory’s at Fourth Street Review review.

Quick synopsis: (Goodreads!) A high school music festival goes awry when a young prodigy disappears from a hotel room that was the site of a famous murder/suicide fifteen years earlier, in a whip-smart novel sparkling with the dark and giddy pop culture pleasures of The Shining, Agatha Christie, and Glee.

Thoughts: I found this book to be utterly delightful. Partially because I was one of those All-State band kids all four years of high-school, partially because I love haunted house stories. But do not fret my scaredy cat friends! While this book is suspenseful (and I know referencing The Shining is scaring you away) there’s lots of humor, mystery, and a beautiful coming of age novel that takes Bellweather Rhapsody out of the ‘horror’ genre and makes it something else entirely. Definitely worth the read for everyone, but people who grew up in and around the music all-state scene will find it especially nostalgic. 

Dear Committee Members by: Julie Schumacher
Genre: Epistolary fiction

Why I picked it up?  Recommended by a <gasp!> non-blogging friend.

Quick Synopsis: A curmudgeonly, yet lovable English professor at a second rate school tries to save his department as demonstrated through a series of letters of recommendations.

Thoughts: This book is funny, witty, and sharp and while Professor Jason Fitger can come off as bit of a passive aggressive ass, I found him to be lovable. There are moments of laugh out loud absurdity in this novel such as when Fitger battles technology to give letters of recommendation in e-format that won’t allow him to use his usual style of meandering on and off the topic of the person he is actually recommending. I also particularly enjoyed the letters on non-recommendation that he sent out. This is an epistolary novel that flew far too far underneath the radar this year and probably should have its own review. Again, everyone can enjoy this novel, but those working in college academia or in a position where they are called upon to provide endless references or letters of recommendation absolutely must read it.  

The Hundred Year House by: Rebecca Makkai
Genre: Literary fiction

Why I picked it up?  I heard Makkai speak on a panel at The Decatur Book festival (so I had to get a signed copy) and it came highly recommended by Shannon at River City Reading (among others).

Quick Synopsis: A generational saga, told in reverse that covers the lives of the Devorhs. Zee of the current generation (set in the nineties) living in the carriage house of a huge estate owned by her mother, Gracie, to the house being an in residence artist’s colony and  finally the story of her great-grandmother, Viola, who was rumored to have met some sort of untimely end.

Thoughts: An absolutely brilliant book. The format at the style make it something that is completely unique and worth reading. Makkai uses this backwards format skillfully and in the hands of a lesser author the book would have been a train wreck. Instead the device pushes the momentum forward (or backwards, if you prefer) leaving the reader desiring to uncover just one more secret before she puts it down. While the characters in the novel never get the whole story, you, lucky reader do – and it’s phenomenal. Read it.

Lock In by: John Scalzi
Genre: Near-future speculative fiction

Why I picked it up: Again, I heard Scalzi speak on a panel at The Decatur Book Festival and Michelle at Reader’s Respite told me I’d be totally missing out if I didn’t see him speak. She was right.

Quick Synopsis: A virus has swept the globe, leaving 1% of the population ‘locked in’ to their own bodies, awake and aware but unable to move, speak, or respond to stimulus. But then two new technologies emerge, a virtual-reality environment in which the locked-in can interact with other humans, both locked-in and not, and the invention of ‘threeps’ robots that can be controlled by those ‘locked in’ to interact and participate in the outside world. Plus. A murder.

Thoughts: This book sounded like a fluffy speculative fiction murder mystery when I picked it up, which admittedly is right up my alley. But Scalzi does more with this book than just that. He explores what it means to be human, the deeper prejudices that we harbor and why. I totally enjoyed every part of this book, the world building was well fleshed out and believable enough. The characters were interesting and complex enough to keep up with the higher ideals that Scalzi seemed to be aiming for. Plus. Murder mystery is always fun. It should also be said that this is my first Scalzi novel, which I have heard is quite different from the rest of his body of work. I intend to read Redshirts next. People who enjoy speculative fiction are going to enjoy this most, but I think there’s something for everyone here.

All of these books were purchased by me for the express purpose of free-range reading.

Annabel asked me last time I used the ‘Must Read Monday’ title if this was new meme. It’s not really, but what the hell. If you have a book that you need to share your feelings about with the world, go ahead and link it up! We’ll see how it goes (and probably watch our TBRs grow exponentially).

Anything here look tempting, Reader? Have you read any of these? Do you have any must – reads for me? Link them up! 


April @ The Steadfast Reader

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