Ghost World

Ghost World
Daniel Clowes
© 1998
80 pages (paperback)

Before she got engaged to some rich French guy and got pregnant, before she starred in Her and The Avengers and Vicky Cristina Barcelona and Lost in Translation, before she was named “Sexiest Woman Alive,” before she dabbled as a musician/singer, and before her marriage to and divorce from Ryan Reynolds, Scarlett Johansson was a plain-ish looking teenage girl who appeared alongside Steve Buscemi and Thora Birch in a quirky gem of a movie called Ghost World: Continue reading

Where Things Come Back

Where Things Come Back
John Corey Whaley
© 2011
228 pages (hardcover)

Several months ago, my stepmother, Tina, pointed out that I have a tendency to give higher ratings to YA books than books of other genres. I hadn’t thought about it before, but I think she may be right. The only book to which I’ve given a 5/5 since starting this blog is a YA book (The Fault in Our Stars). And, of the ten books to which I have given a 4/5 thus far, two are YA books (The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and The Spectacular Now).

Tina had been giving my affection for YA books some thought, and she came up with a possible theory for why I might think that many YA books are more enjoyable than your average adult novel. She posed this question: Are YA authors more focused on/in-tune with their audience? Are they, unlike authors of adult fiction, writing more for their audience than adult-fiction authors?

My brother, who is a children’s book editor, chimed in with a resounding yes. He pointed out that a YA author has to be cognizant and respectful of his/her audience in ways that authors of adult fiction do not. A YA author has to be aware of things like vocabulary, reading level, and emotional maturity.

And, let’s face it: adult fictions writers’ work is often borderline masturbatory. Some (the bad ones) don’t care a lick about their audience. They think they have an incredibly fascinating story to tell and an even more fascinating manner in which to relay it. Unfortunately, their story is often not as interesting or creative as they think it is. And, to top it off, it’s often poorly written or too long-winded or too convoluted. Perhaps adult-fiction authors are not thinking enough about the best way to deliver their message to their audience.

Continue reading

Young God

UnknownYoung God
Katherine Faw Morris
© 2014
208 pages (e-book)

If you’ve heard of this new, debut novel, chances are you’ve heard words like “gritty,” “raw,” and “bare” attached to it. The style, the characters, and their realities are all no-holds-barred and in your face. You want candy-coating and flowers? Better look elsewhere.

Here’s how it opens (for a larger taste, you can read a longer excerpt here):

NIKKI IS ALL TO HELL. A boy jumps off the cliff in front of her. She peers over the edge, watching him go.

“Nikki.”

She clenches her toes. The river is druggy and yellow and slugs next to the bottom road for miles before suddenly whipping itself into rapids and dumping, white and frothy, over the edge of this cliff. Continue reading

Frog Music

203426_1295384.jpg.775x1200_q95_crop-smart_upscaleFrog Music
Emma Donoghue
© 2014
405 pages (hardcover—including 30 pages of afterword, song notes, and French glossary)

A cross-dressing female frog-catcher, a couple of evil trapeze artists, a hard-drinking prostitute, a baby farm, a smallpox epidemic, and an unsolved murder. Now, this sounds like the recipe for a page-turner!

Even the book trailer (and if you’ve seen any book trailers, you know they are notoriously bad, cheap, and unintentionally hilarious) makes you want to read the book: Continue reading

The Last Days of California

The Last Days of California
Mary Miller
© 2014
233 pages (hardcover)

The End Times. The Day of the Lord’s Wrath. The Great Tribulation. Judgment Day. The Rapture. The day when the good, saved people will fly away to Heaven, and the heathens will be left in a Hell on Earth (“Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” 1 Thessalonians 4:17).

Some, like the late Harold Camping (a Christian radio broadcaster, evangelist, and author), have predicted its date proper. Unfortunately, these predictions aren’t terribly scientific and haven’t yet hit the mark (Camping originally said the Rapture would occur on September 6, 1994. He then revised his prediction to May 21, 2011 . . . and then to October 21, 2011.).

But that just means there is more time to prepare! And, thankfully, helpful information abounds. Entire websites are dedicated to Rapture preparedness (like www.raptureready.com), and there are some very helpful YouTube videos (like this 25-minute masterpiece). Continue reading

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

DISCLOSURE: I received an advance reading copy of this book from NetGalley and Algonquin Books in exchange for an honest review. 

21445677The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
Gabrielle Zevin
© 2014
258 pages (ARC e-book)

About twenty years ago, big-box bookstores started popping up all over. Barnes & Noble and Borders were as ubiquitous (and as large) as Whole Foods or Target. They were places to meet up for blind dates (Starbucks in a wide-open, brightly lit public place? Yep, that will work.), to read magazines for hours on end (without purchasing them, of course), to browse cookbooks and travel books, and to buy all of your hardcover bestsellers for 20% off the list price.

Independent booksellers shook with fright . . . and for good reason. Surely you remember the (mediocre) movie about the evil, corporate, big-box bookstore taking over the little guys: Continue reading