Friday, April 24, 2015
I'd never heard of Postcards from a Dead Girl (P.S.) when I stumbled on it in the stacks at Powell's. I liked the cover, and how it started...
"The postcard is everything, but looks like nothing. An inconsequential sheet of pressed pulp decorated with a few drops of ink, it barely exists in the physical realm. But this one has got hold of something inside me that feels like forever. I follow the looping lines that make up Zoe's penmanship, the soaring arcs and inky swirls. I try to understand the true implications of her words, the hidden message behind the surface one. What a ridiculous phrase: wish you were here."
Sid is receiving postcards in the mail from his dead girlfriend, Zoe. The postcards arrive from all over the world, and come months after she died. Sid alternately loves getting them, and is confused and frustrated by them. How is it that he is even receiving them?
He has no idea. Sid spends time, the goodwill of friends and relatives, and money - money he doesn't have - trying to find out.
We start out with Sid and the postcards. As we read on, we find out that he's a guy with a job at Wanderlust, a call center selling travel packages. He is a bit of a hypochondriac. He has a dog named Zero. He talks to his dead mother in a wine bottle.
I love how Sid sees the world, notwithstanding the dead mother in the wine bottle and the postcards from the dead girlfriend. Here he is at the doctor having one of his hypochondriac fantasies explored...
"The doctor searches my eyes back and forth, back and forth, like the manic expressions of soap opera actors on Univision just before they shed tears. He talks softly then, but forcefully, 'Let's not worry about anything until we see what we've got, okay? It might be nothing at all.' His face changes then, possibly into what he feels is a compassionate smile, but it comes off as slight dental discomfort."
And I knew exactly what kind of expression was on the doctor's face.
I really liked Sid. I wanted him to figure out his life and stop making bad decisions. He's likable, but no one in his world knows it because he's being kind of a jerk. Because he misses Zoe. Which, even when he's making bad decisions, is endearing. Will Sid figure it out? You should read it and see.
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Friday, April 17, 2015
I just now realized that one of my favorite holidays is almost here! April 23 is St. George's Day. On this day in Catalonia, Spain, lovers exchange books and roses. Did you get that? THERE IS A HOLIDAY FOR GIVING BOOKS.
You can read my first blog post about this wonderful day here: http://notthenewyorktimesbookreview.blogspot.com/2010/04/my-new-favorite-holiday.html
I first heard about this several years ago when I received an Advance Reader's Copy of The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. The accompanying letter from the publisher talked about St. George's Day, which I'd never heard of. I eagerly shared this holiday information with my co-workers at Barnes and Noble. We wondered together why Barnes and Noble wasn't all over this. A holiday FOR GIVING BOOKS? It seemed like a no-brainer. (Not that I am always in favor of companies finding yet another reason to sell stuff to people, but this is BOOKS.)
My partner and I are both avid readers, and we have enjoyed celebrating St. George's Day together. There have been years we've missed it (maybe just one year) when she was traveling for work. But I think it's a pretty great thing. It kind of seems like a holiday just for us.
Will you be celebrating St. George's Day?
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Saturday, April 11, 2015
Nine year old Eli Roebuck lives on the border of Idaho and Washington with his parents, Greg and Agnes. One day his father goes to work and his mother brings home a guest, a Mr. Krantz. At the end of the visit to the Roebuck home, Mr. Krantz, a huge, hairy creature wearing a pinstripe suit, walks into the woods with Eli's mother, leaving Eli behind. She does not come back.
Thus begins The Sasquatch Hunter's Almanac.
We follow Eli as he struggles with being abandoned by his mother - Why did she leave him? Did she really leave him for Mr. Krantz? Was Mr. Krantz Sasquatch? These are urgent questions for Eli, and he spends his life trying to find the answers, becoming a world renowned expert on Sasquatch.
The Sasquatch Hunter's Almanac is at once fantastic and normal. Eli and the people in his life are believable and their personal struggles are relatable, even if there are extraordinary elements. Shields seamlessly weaves the pedestrian in with the peculiar, delivering a good read. Well done!
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Wednesday, April 8, 2015
Who doesn't love a delicious psychological thriller?
The copy I have of this book has a different cover than the one pictured here. I like the tagline on my cover..."You don't remember her, but she remembers you..."
Nina starts out narrating. Nina is a successful painter, living with her second husband and teenage daughter, Sophie. Emma had a brilliant career, but is staying home with her small children and her husband, Ben, and is struggling with the overwhelmingness of being a parent.
Nina sees Emma in her neighborhood and realizes that she knows Emma from her past. Nina inserts herself into Emma's life, wondering if Emma will remember her. Emma and Nina alternate narration as they each describe their interactions from their own point of view. How do they know each other? What is going on in this relationship?
Compared in a blurb to What Was She Thinking?: Notes on a Scandal: A Novel (which I loved), this is similar in that both women tell the story from their perspective, and we don't know the magnitude of their impact on each other until the end.
Her kept me guessing, the suspense and tension vivid until the last page. So fun!
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Wednesday, April 1, 2015
Kinder Than Solitude by Yiyun Li
There's been a death. Shaoai has finally died of poisoning, after surviving a compromised existence for over 20 years. Boyang, Ruyu, and Moran were younger than Shaoai, but lived in the same quadrangle in Beijing at the time she was poisoned. Told alternately through their eyes, when they were teenagers and also as adults, Li's skillful weaving of their lives and how they were affected by Shaoai, the poisoning, and each other, is brilliantly done. I love the title.
The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara
Norton Perina is a scientist who, because of lack of direction, agrees to a stint in Micronesia exploring an unknown tribe. Narrated by Perina, with detailed footnotes by his supporter and protege, Perina describes the day to day life of this tribe as well as the startling discovery that many of the members of the tribe live incredibly long lifespans. Though traveling with other scientists, Perina is the one who discovers why. After his return to the U.S., Perina ends up adopting dozens of native children, rescuing them from a life of destitution. Perina's narration of his work, and his life with the children has a dark and creepy slant. This was a good, dense, and somewhat disturbing, read.
Orphan Train: Novel by Christina Baker Kline
Molly is a teenager assigned to perform community service instead of serving time in juvenile hall. Her assignment is to help an older woman, Vivian, sort through her things so her family doesn't have to after she dies. Vivan and Molly have a tenuous relationship at first, Molly doesn't want to be there, and Vivian doesn't seem to want her there. As they sort through Vivian's things, and Vivian's story is revealed - how she came from Ireland to New York and then to the Midwest on the Orphan Train - their relationship changes and grows. I didn't know anything about the actual Orphan Train before I read Kline's book. Illuminating and a good read!
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