Michael Frayn
© 2012

Last year, when the Man Booker Prize longlist was announced, book snobs were up in arms (“Skios by Michael Frayn is quite insubstantial in comparison to a book like ‘Bring Up the Bodies’. It is a pleasant divertisement, but an award winner? Not for me,” sneered  reader Lindy on the Man Booker Prize website.).  Skios was too silly.  It was not serious literature. It was not Man Booker Prize material.

They needn’t have worried.  It didn’t win the prize.  But did it deserve to be long-listed?

Well, it’s definitely silly.  And it’s decidedly not serious.  But that’s kind of the point.

Skios is a satire and a farce.  It is a tale of mix-ups, screw-ups, dumb-asses, mistaken identity, and cons. Continue reading

A Note to People Who Don’t Read (Like My Husband)

My husband and I had dinner with a good friend the other night.  Our friend is an ER doctor who works crazy hours, but he only works about twelve shifts per month.  He was telling us that he needs to find something to do with his days when he’s not working . . . aside from watching Netflix all day long.

This guy reads good books occasionally.  He’s smart.  He has good ideas.  He’s insightful and interesting.

So, I suggested a book club.  Couldn’t we get a group of people together to commit to reading one book a month?

My husband scoffed.  “No,” he said.  “No one wants to be in a book club.”

“He’s right.  No one reads anymore; they watch television.  How about a Breaking Bad club?” our friend replied.  “We’ll do dinners and watch Breaking Bad and discuss.”


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Bobcat and Other Stories

Bobcat and Other Stories
Rebecca Lee
© 2013

My brother likes to say that academia is the family business.  My dad is a professor, my mom is a professor, my stepfather is a professor, my uncle is a professor, my grandfather was a professor.  You get the point.  I, of course, am not a professor, but it’s in the blood (lying in wait?).

UnknownBobcat and Other Stories has gotten some good press, and some of the blurbs I read about it noted that there was an academic undercurrent to the collection, so I was intrigued.  Author Rebecca Lee is a professor of creative writing at University of North Carolina Wilmington, and college life (from the faculty perspective here, from the student prospective there) is present in most of her stories.

Despite the fact that the stories are often set on campuses and the characters are professors and students, the take-away of this book for me was not that she writes about academia.  Instead, the driving force of her stories is a pretty intense feeling of malaise.  Her characters, vividly drawn for such short works, are largely very unhappy, dissatisfied people.  Continue reading

The Universe Versus Alex Woods


The Universe Versus Alex Woods
Gavin Extence
© 2013

Author Gavin Extence is younger than I am. He is a national chess champion, holds a Ph.D. in film studies, and has written a novel that has gotten many rave reviews. He makes me feel old and unaccomplished.

Here is the multi-talented whipper-snapper briefly describing this, his debut, novel:

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Buzzfeed’s List of Books to Read before They Hit the Big Screen

(An Excuse to Rave about The Fault in Our Stars)

A few weeks ago, Buzzfeed posted this list of books to read before the movies come out.  For easy reference, here’s the list (the purple ones are the books I’ve read):

  1. Divergent by Veronica Roth
  2. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
  3. The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
  4. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
  5. The Maze Runner by James Dashner
  6. The Wolf of Wall Street by Jordan Belfort
  7. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  8. The Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel
  9. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  10. Serena by Ron Rash
  11. Horns by Joe Hill
  12. If I Stay by Gayle Forman
  13. The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp
  14. Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight

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The Ocean at the End of the Lane

The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Neil Gaiman
© 2013

Before I read this book, I had never heard of Neil Gaiman.  But then, while I was writing this review, I discovered that he wrote Coraline, the book on which this movie was based:

Coraline should give you a good idea of this guy’s style.  Think: creepy parallel universes and kids having to overcome scary and dangerous situations.  It’s fantastical and a little scary.  In a good way.  If you liked Coraline (or wanted to like Coraline, even if the movie didn’t live up to your expectations), chances are, you’ll like this.

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The Interestings

The Interestings
Meg Wolitzer
© 2013

Imagine a book that tracks the members of the Breakfast Club after that fateful Saturday in detention  (if you need a refresher, here you go).  They have spent a day together getting to know themselves and each other.  Unlikely couplings have occurred.  And now they are going back to their normal lives.  What will happen?  Will they remain friends?  Will they drift apart?  What will they end up doing and becoming?  The Interestings is basically that book (except, of course, that it follows “the Interestings” rather than the Breakfast Club).

The Interestings are a group of teenagers who meet at Spirit-in-the-Woods, an artsy-fartsy, hippie-dippy summer camp.  There are six of them:

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The Light Between Oceans


The Light Between Oceans
M.L. Stedman
© 2012

Chocolate is not my favorite thing.  When I taste good chocolate, I can appreciate that it’s good chocolate. I just don’t have the kind of visceral, emotional reaction to it that a chocolate lover would have.  Instead, I think, “Oh, my mom would love this.”

For me, this debut novel by M.L. Stedman is a lot like chocolate.  The book is pretty well written, has interesting characters, and raises some tough moral questions.  It has been a long-time best-seller, and I can understand why people love it.  It just doesn’t resonate with me personally in the same way, and  I think that is due in large part to the fact that I don’t have kids.

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Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk


Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk
David Sedaris
Illustrations by Ian Falconer (author and illustrator of the Olivia books)
© 2010

First of all, I know that David Sedaris has a new book out.  I haven’t read that one. Why did I  read his three-year-old book instead?  Here’s the deal: I’m supposed to be reading something in a good friend’s wedding in September.  So, I’ve been looking for something short and lovely but not trite.  The other day, someone suggested there might something good in a Sedaris book.   She specifically suggested Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk, because the stories are so short.  Well, happy day!  A couple of years ago, I had given the book as a stocking stuffer to someone who adores all things critter-related, so it was conveniently sitting (unread) on our bookshelf.  And there you have it.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I must divulge that I’m a little over David Sedaris.  I’ve read most of his books over the years.  Some of his stories are delightful and funny (as I recall, there are some true gems in Holidays on Ice).  Others are just boring (like most of When You Are Engulfed in Flames).  He’s a little inconsistent, but mostly he’s just past his prime.   Let’s face it, as people get older, they stop being as funny as they once were (Exhibit A).

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Crazy Rich Asians


Crazy Rich Asians
Kevin Kwan
© 2013

Lest you be confused, this is not a book about crazy [comma] rich Asians.  This is a book about crazy rich Asians.  As in, stupidly, stupidly wealthy gazillionaire Asians. I had read this excerpt in Vogue, and it seemed like it might be good, fun summer reading, filled with fashion and snobbery and such.  I am a lover and regular devourer of US Weekly, who loathes the fact that I do not come from a ton of old money, so this seemed right up my alley.

When I got the e-book, however, I knew immediately that I’d been swindled.  Before I had even begun reading, the book had two strikes against it:

Strike 1: it starts with a family tree, and
Strike 2: it has endnotes.

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