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Happy 6th Birthday, SPR!

As of my "maternity leave," here are the stats of the past year: 74 books reviewed 9 guest posts 4 independent bookstores 3 d...

Friday, September 30, 2011

Imperial Bedrooms

 Imperial Bedrooms, Bret Easton Ellis's follow up to Less Than Zero, is by far more sophisticated writing than his debut more than two decades prior.  The story is clearer, the writing is sharper, and my emotional buy in was cleaner. 

The plot of Bedrooms is not incredibly intricate but highly involved; from the beginning it is clear that Clay, the first person narrator, is being followed.  By whom?  And why?  Most of all, though, why are his former classmates and (un)friends being killed in gruesome ways?

That is not an indication that this is a book version of a snuff film; well, at least not until the final few pages anyway.  It's intriguing and interesting, and if you loved the first book, give this one a shot.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

How To Write A Sentence: And How To Read One

Stanley Fish's How To Write A Sentence: And How To Read One is exactly what it sounds like--in addition to being quite divine.  You don't have to be a writer to get something out of this book, nor do you need to be a heavy reader.  You just have to want to learn to love the sentence.

The part that I most appreciated in this book is Fish's encouragement to copy sentences in order to learn to write such beauties.  It was the best advice I have heard.  Find a beautiful sentence and copy it many times using non-sensical and mundane topics; it is the best way to train your brain to find beauty in your writing.

I own it--I am a nerd.  I love books like this that push me to grow and think and improve my writing.  I love the written word, and one of the best reasons in the world to write is because you love sentences.  It's not the only reason of course, but it certainly is a great one.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Danse Macabre

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a history buff.  I love the history of just about anything that I don't already know.  "Just bring it on" is my motto.  So when I read this book a few weeks ago and it recommended Stephen King's Danse Macabre, of course I needed to pick it up.

What is particularly interesting about this book is it's original release date--30 years ago.  What this means is that King delved deep into history prior to 1981 in this book, and it was a deep history indeed.  I appreciate King's connection back to his own life and history, and I loved his insights on why we love horror.  My favorite chapters were when King was talking about his own life and love of horror.

I must also give a shout-out to all three of his introductions as well.  His intro from the first re-print was insightful and hindsightful, if you will.  It was eye-opening while still inviting.

King's most recent introduction I found to be the most interesting part of his book; I do think this was because it brought to light more recent horror films and novels.  I thank Mr. King for his film recommendation list at the end of this introduction, and I look forward to continuing to enjoy the horror genre more deeply with his insights.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Imperfectionists

The Imperfectionists, a novel by Tom Rachman, surprised me a little.  Not that it was good, as it was consistently ranked as one of the best non-fiction books of 2010, but because I wasn't expecting such emotion in the last ditty of the book.

This novel introduces you to a few key players at an international newspaper based in Rome.  Each character has a story to tell about their life at that moment, and each character is a person with a backstory and a life they are living.  Each character will break your heart in their own way.

This book was a reminder that you never know what is happening behind the scenes in someone's life.  What you see on the outside may be very different than what is happening on the inside.  You just never know.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Age of Innocence

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton is exactly what it's cracked up to be.  Now, I love the classics as much as the next person, but I think this post from the blog Better Book Titles says it all.  If you are not an avid reader of this blog, you must become one now.  It's fabulous.

In wealthy New York circa the Guilded Age, Newland Archer is engaged to marry the beautiful May Welland.  Then one day he meets her even-more-beautiful cousin Countess Ellen Olenska who has (gasp!) left her husband.  Archer falls in love with Ellen but marries May as originally planned.  Then he pines for Ellen the rest of the book and has an emotional affair when the reader he realizes the feelings are mutual.

I enjoyed this book for it's story and its harking back to old manners, but I wanted to reach into the book and smack the protagonist, Archer, most of the time.  You made your choice, buddy, and you chose to be with May.  Dude, making grown-up decisions is hard but we all have to do it.  Quit your whining.

If you haven't read it you should.  If you have read it and loved it, sorry to have offended you.  If you read it and hated it, well, this review certainly isn't going to change your mind.  But you should always read the book and judge it for yourself.  Just don't say I didn't warn you that Archer will drive you nuts.

Monday, September 19, 2011

So Much Pretty

So Much Pretty by Cara Hoffman was the perfect read to take to Europe (when I went--you don't have to go to Europe to read this).  It's the story of a missing young woman and the havoc it wreaks on a small town in upstate New York.  Two parents with the best of intentions raise a daughter too smart for her own good, and tragedy tears them apart.  What happened to the missing young woman, and what happened to our genius heroine?

Each chapter switches character perspective and it keeps you on your toes.  I appreciated the myriad of characters available to me and the different perspectives brought to the table.  I love that the end has no answer, yet it contains all of the answers in this world.  There is so much I want to tell, but if I do I will spoil the book for you.

It is so clear that Ms. Hoffman understands these characters--from the New York City expats to the born-and-bred small town folk.  Buckle up and settle in with this book--it's your only choice.  And don't plan on leaving your house once you get two-thirds in.  You will desperately need to finish.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Thieves of Manhattan

I know you are all like, "Dang, Nic, where you been?" since it's been over a week since my last review, and the answer is that I have been in Europe.  I read some books while there, but when I tried to review them early this week it came out as gobbeldy-gook. 

Ok, ok, let's get to it.  You are riding on a schooner on the ocean, and all is going well.  It's languid and peaceful and you are enjoying the ride.  Maybe even reading a good book and eating some fresh mozzarella with your Prosecco.  You are curious as to where you are going but the fun is getting there, right?  Then BAM, pirates jump on the boat and all hell breaks loose.  This is a metaphor for The Thieves of Manhattan, by Adam Langer.

Holy cow, was I speed reading through by the time I reached the third part.  (Part 1 is Fact, Part 2 is Fiction, Part 3 is Memoir.  Can you tell this is a book on books?)  This book is intriguing and supremely addicting, and when the book suddenly twists out of nowhere (see the pirates reference above, although there are no pirates in this book, per se) you feel like you were just shot in the face.  It's incredible.

I can't even begin to tell you what the plot twist is because then I would give everything away.  You will have to read it for yourself.  And you should.  It's worth it.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Prozac Nation

Prozac Nation: Young and Depressed in America by Elizabeth Wurtzel is touted as a must-read for anyone interested in the depression/drug/whatever genre.  Very much of the Nevermind mentality.  In fact, the reference to Cobain and Nirvana as representative of the not-quite-counterculture of disaffected youth in the '90's I found to be the most apt in this book.

Overall I would say "good read," and I would tell you that the 300+ pages went by pretty fast.  I do have to say though that there were times where I was frustrated by the repetitiveness of the action.  It pains me to say this because it is Wurtzel's story--and it was her depression, and I want to be sensitive to her experience.  And I do believe the turn-off is a product of 15 extra years history with depression in the media and Prozac in abundance, so I find myself more turned off to the pain than I felt a decade and a half ago.

But if I choose to look at this book as a piece of historical non-fiction in the modern world of depression that we can now treat phamacologically, it now becomes the textbook piece in a history class.  And if you know me well enough then you know I love nothing more than I love history.

So pick it up, read it, and digest it.  It's a piece of our world we can't go away, so we might as well begin to understand it.