Monday, April 20, 2015

Review: Bone Gap


Bone Gap
Bone Gap by Laura Ruby

My rating: 5 of 5 stars



Hard to describe this book without spoilers aside from the setup (which you can read above). Here’s the thing: this is the kind of book that, as a writer, I love because it takes risks but not at the expense of clarity. There are things that will have you wonder what’s real and what’s not, but never (I’d argue) to the point where you forget what you’re supposed to care about. The tricky nature of love both sexual and not gets a pretty substantial exploration here and the reveals are not shock-value variety rather the kind of “wow” moments that are really smart, fascinating, and satisfying.

A great novel about place and siblings and the power of storytelling.



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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Review: Bluebeard


Bluebeard
Bluebeard by Kurt Vonnegut

My rating: 5 of 5 stars



An unbelievably sly book that manages to tie things together quite well. The final description of the mystery in the barn (no spoilers!) is fantastic and so satisfying. Like most Vonnegut, this book meanders but it seems much more in control (perhaps because it’s a late-career work?) than, say, BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS.

A wonderful book and one that would fit quite nicely as a follow up read to SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE, if you’re someone who has just discovered KV. MOTHER NIGHT is another great read but I’d rank this one a bit higher in terms of enjoyability. Funny, smart, merges art and WWII and self-pity and all sorts of great stuff.



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Thursday, February 12, 2015

Review: Mother Night


Mother Night
Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut

My rating: 5 of 5 stars



Yowza. The kind of book you want to read in one sitting. Tragic, funny -- all the normal Vonnegut adjectives apply here, though I’d say there’s less randomness than in some of his other work (looking at you BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS).

Can’t say too much except that the main character’s status as a double-agent in WWII who’s disavowed by the US only to be put on trial by Israel -- ugh. It’s a moral quagmire with a profoundly satisfying ending.



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Review: Reservation Blues


Reservation Blues
Reservation Blues by Sherman Alexie

My rating: 5 of 5 stars



Thomas-Builds-a-Fire is one of the greatest characters in 20th century literature. Period.

What a fantastic novel. Stronger than Alexie’s debut collection, RESERVATION BLUES explores similar territory with an even greater scope as he takes his compelling, hilarious, and tragic characters (Thomas-Builds-a-Fire, Victor, and Junior) off of the reservation while also bringing outsiders onto it. The result is a convincing portrayal of the complex status his characters find themselves in: eroded connections to family (often fathers), white culture’s simultaneous fetishizing and dismissing of Native American culture, the fine line between advancing the status of the nation and causing problems, as well as some great, subtle, connections linking the experience of Africans and Native Americans.

Overall, this novel should be the one people suggest when recommending Alexie to those who prefer novels (THE LONE RANGER AND TONTO FISTFIGHT IN HEAVEN is a great book but might not be as cohesive for people who already bristle at short stories, even though there’s plenty of character overlap).




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Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Review: American Indian Myths and Legends


American Indian Myths and Legends
American Indian Myths and Legends by Richard Erdoes

My rating: 5 of 5 stars



A great collection and worthwhile starting place for those interested in Myths and Legends of the Native Peoples of North America. Broken up into topics with the only limitation being the one imposed by history: many of these tales were written down post-European contact (often by Europeans) so you can see Christian influence. Still, it’s imperative to know these stories in the best forms available and this book surely is one of the best.



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Review: From Totems to Hip-Hop: A Multicultural Anthology of Poetry Across America


From Totems to Hip-Hop: A Multicultural Anthology of Poetry Across America
From Totems to Hip-Hop: A Multicultural Anthology of Poetry Across America by Ishmael Reed

My rating: 5 of 5 stars



An amazing anthology for anyone who loves poetry, not simply meant as a textbook (though it works quite well for college or HS classrooms as well). So many names that were new to me and shouldn’t have been. I look forward to re-reading it many times.



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Review: The Great Abraham Lincoln Pocket Watch Conspiracy


The Great Abraham Lincoln Pocket Watch Conspiracy
The Great Abraham Lincoln Pocket Watch Conspiracy by Jacopo della Quercia

My rating: 5 of 5 stars



Smart, funny, crazy, and fast paced. A mixture of fantasy and historical reality with a fantastic cast of characters, President Taft and all his heft at the center. I can’t even explain all the wonderful elements at work here because some things would be considered spoilers. Here’s a few early tidbits that should get you engaged enough to snag a copy of this book:

--Taft’s first appearance is in an underground boxing club.
--Taft and his entourage fly around in a zeppelin that’s supposed to be top secret but he flies it to a baseball game so he can throw out the first pitch.
--an automaton goes crazy in the White House
--Lots of insults tossed at Thomas Edison; Nikola Tesla is one of the presidents supporters and supplies him with a variety of gadgets that gives this novel its steam-punk-isn flair.
--Great time period offers up plenty of cool “I didn’t know that” facts (many footnoted). The stuff that’s fiction is, of course, most fun, but the reality of some of the politics of Taft’s presidency and the pre-WWI era are fun (JP Morgan, Russian relations, Roosevelt, and more).
--Robert Todd Lincoln as the brooding sidekick to Taft is a really interesting pairing.
--plenty of intrigue, and a few twists but nothing that will make you say “Oh, COME ON!”

I honestly found this book to be so much fun and so smart and funny that I want everyone to read it just so we can talk about how it could be an amazing movie.



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