Archive for the ‘Kim’ Category
The Dog Stars by Peter Heller begins after a super-flu has wiped out nearly all of the world’s population. The novel follows Hig and his dog Jasper, who have taken refuge in a small airport hanger in the mountains, and Bangley, an army-type survivalist who has set up camp with enough weapons and ammunition to stave off bands of wanderers. Hig and Jasper fly the perimeter of camp in a 1956 Cessna, providing Heller with the perfect vessel for describing a world that is both lonely and scenic. When Hig receives a strange transmission over the plane’s radio, it triggers the possibility of hope, ultimately sending Hig on a flight past the point of no return.
I could not put this book down. It’s restrained, beautiful, heartfelt, and simply fantastic. It speaks to the human condition on a number of levels, examining survival, hope, love, and friendship with a deftness that is expertly applied. The prose of the book is terse, but fluid, and mimics the world Hig finds himself in: one that is starkly populated but beautifully wild. Outdoorsmen will find a great deal to appreciate in this book, as Heller’s background as a journalist for Outside magazine and National Geographic weaves in a true sense of adventure.
The beauty of Dog Stars resonates in a number of ways, but none more profoundly than the extreme care in which it was written and in the fantastic journey it offers readers.
Highly recommended! Perfect for fall.
I picked up In Service to the Horse by Susan Nesser because I read about it on a horse blog. There you have it. My confession. I am a horse girl. However, I’m posting it here for several reasons. The first being that I tend to drift away from nonfiction. I can’t say why, and the reason isn’t rooted in any particulars, I just simply love fiction. So, when I find a truly great nonfiction read, it’s as eye-opening as it is enjoyable, and I feel myself growing as a reader… just a little bit. The second reason I decided to review this book is because it’s a fantastic glimpse into the lives of horsemen regardless of your opinions toward horses. This review also felt aptly timed. The London Olympics are just around the corner and equestrian sports are the only Olympic games where men and women compete on an equal playing field. There’s your fun fact for the day, kids. Additionally, we’ve been on the heels of some pretty interesting Triple Crown potentials in the last few years, and horsemen and sportsmen alike will agree that horse racing is one of the most timeless icons of American sport.
In Service to the Horse follows both an eventing team and a highly regarded breeding stable in Kentucky. It shines an incredible light on the lives of the grooms and horse owners as it takes place behind the scenes. I am convinced, sadly, that I will never have enough gumption or love for getting up at 4am to become a professional horseman, but the bond and love these grooms have for the horses they care for is, to put it simply, staggering. If light and fluffy isn’t for you, there is an incredible look at the history of horses and how paramount their presence was to the existence of ancient cultures. I’ll go on to say that if thrills are your game, the bravery involved within professional eventing sets an incredible standard to be met, and it’s described within this text in a beautiful way. My palms grew sweaty more than once. And lastly, if you’re in the market for a good conspiracy, show jumping and horse racing are among the top players. The book outlines one of the largest horse conspiracies of our time, an event that was well documented in Ken Englade’s true-crime book, Hot Blood, an issue that rocked the horse world and has since been cemented in history. Do you want to know why there hasn’t been a Triple Crown winner in 25 years? Well, Susan Nesser takes a pretty good crack at explaining why. What I’m saying is, people, there is something for everyone in this book.
Sadly, this book isn’t currently in print, another reason I wanted to give it a shout out. It’s only available in hardback on Amazon and I’d love to see it garner some support. This read will teach you things about an industry you will never otherwise know. I found the writing wonderfully well rounded and heart felt. If John Krakauer wrote a horse book, it would look a helluva lot like this one.
If you have an inkling for horse books, I implore you to pick this one up. It will not disappoint.
The Family Fang, by Kevin Wilson, follows the Fang family through their quirky history. It begins with Annie and Buster (Children A and B) as adults struggling to find their place in the world. Annie, an actress who was once nominated for an Oscar, faces a celebrity scandal, and Buster, a novelist, is coping with a series of low-paying freelance jobs and the fact that his books have a rather narrow audience. Early in the novel Buster is disfigured by a potato gun incident and has no choice (or money) but to return home to heal. Annie attempts to solve her problems by running away, also returning home to help her brother, and hoping that in the interim, Hollywood will forget her recent transgressions.
With the family back together Annie and Buster attempt to understand their upbringing, when their parents used them as pawns in performance art pieces, which brought the family notoriety, but also did a solid job of messing up any chance Annie and Buster had at a normal childhood. Chapters in the book oscillate between Annie and Buster as adults and vignettes of their childhood, each portrait being a different performance piece they were forced to take place in. Now, with the children home, Annie and Buster’s parents, Caleb and Camille Fang, realize that their progeny have no desire to pursue the family “art” they were once so dedicated to. What ensues is (SPOILER ALERT!!!!) the mysterious disappearance of Caleb and Camille, where Annie and Buster are left wondering if they should accept their parents’ deaths, or if their absence is another ‘performance’ in the name of art.
The premise behind this novel is wonderfully creative and it’s an enjoyable read throughout. The format of the varying chapters begins to tire, perhaps because Caleb and Camille’s devotion toward art is difficult to understand and thus their varying performances become tiresome as well. At times the book lacks depth and its themes tend to run a little shallow, but overall it’s a great book to keep on your bedside table and is a perfect summertime read. For fans of Wes Anderson’s The Royal Tennenbaums, it’s a wonderful supplement to his eccentric style and loveable, yet flawed families.
Reviewed by: Kim
Author: Kevin Wilson
Read: March 2012
Anne Lamott’s Hard Laughter follows narrator Jessica as she deals with her father’s diagnosis with cancer. The novel encompasses, quite beautifully, Jessica’s tumultuous personal life, her struggles to become a writer, and an apartment and psyche that are in various states of disarray.
This book was given to me by a friend who thought I’d like it and my only complaint was that I thought the voice was too wise for a twenty-something narrator. My friend smiled and said, “But Anne Lamott wrote it when she was in her twenties.” I will forever bow down to Anne Lamott. The prose is fantastic and funny and wise beyond its years. It does an impeccable job of examining how a family deals with the tragedy of cancer and the millions of small victories and losses throughout. Everything about this novel felt real, probably because it’s largely based off her own father’s struggle with cancer. It made me wonder about that ever-elusive line between fiction and nonfiction and left me desperately wondering how much–or how little–of herself Lamott left on the page.
There are writers who are special because of the way they see the world and others who are excellent in how they depict it. Anne Lamott is a true talent of both. Enjoy!
Reviewed by: Kim
Title: Hard Laughter
Read: April 2012
Modelland, which comes out in September, is the first novel penned by Tyra Banks. Though it is likely the success of this book will determine if we’ll see more Modelliterature from Tyra, the book will see strong distribution and predictably decent sales its first week.
Barnes and Noble posted a sample chapter from the novel, providing eager readers with a glimpse of what’s to come. Though it’s difficult to make sense of the world from this single chapter (it’s worth nothing this isn’t the book’s first chapter) you can get a sense of style and prose. So while this review is somewhat of a stunted “pre-review” we thought we’d opine on what America’s Next Top Author (yes, debatable) has to offer the world of books.
The novel follows Tookie De La Crème as she enters the world of Modelland. In the chapter posted by B&N, Tookie attends a runway walk-off/audition to support her sister Myrracle (yes, that’s Myrracle) only to end up being chosen herself. What, exactly, is she chosen for? Although based on the book’s overview and fairly chaotic chapter it’s difficult to tell, it seems each model is hoping to become an Intoxibella: a superstar model that is worshiped by society, ushered into the limelight, and arguable magical. The preview chapter hints that the book does have some fantastic elements and the overview predicts some sinister plot developments, all which could be promising. That does, however, depend on whether or not you can get through the writing, that while unique in style, has some distracting tendencies.
The jury is still out on whether or not we’ll review the book in full when it comes out, but we welcome comments on the preview chapter. For those of you brave enough to read the full text, please, let us know what you think.
Click here for the sample chapter!
We really can’t take credit for this post since we snaked it from Full Stop, a new and very cool book site that everyone should bookmark and adore. But with that said, we’re posting it anyway, primarily because their take on demystifying book review terms was, well, hilarious. And since we sort of have a book review site… well, here we are.
As far as we can tell we’ve never used any of the following terms, which puts us leaps and bounds ahead of Jonathan Franzen, who was pretty much called out for what seems to be his inability to review a book without using the words “consistent” or “upsetting”. (As a quick aside, that link takes you to a wonderful page on Flavorwire.)
So here they are! Some of our favorites from Full Stop’s list of cliche book review terms and what reviewers really mean when typing them:
ambitious: I did not finish this book.
dazzling: the writer has an MFA from a top 100 program.
deft: the writer has an MFA from a top 20 program.
disappointing: the author slept with my spouse before we were married.
epic in scope: the author needs a better editor.
flawed: this book is similar to the book I was planning to write.
fully realized: there is a paragraph devoted to a piece of furniture, probably made of mahogany.
gripping: I read this book on the toilet.
in the tradition of ___: I finally read War & Peace, and I want everyone to know.
masculine: the author isn’t misogynistic–the characters are!
our greatest living prose stylist: the review is of a so-so book by an old author, or it is appearing in the New York Times.
puts a magnifying glass to contemporary society: the book mentions Twitter or terrorism.
unputdownable: I ride the subway.
For Portlanders, the word Wildwood will probably conjure up images of the popular restaurant in Northwest Portland. But for everyone else, it is the title of a three-book series written by Decemberists lead singer and songwriter, Colin Meloy and his wife (and illustrator) Carson Ellis.
The book has instant appeal, largely in part to the authors’ strong following in other media, so we thought we’d review the first four chapters (now available online) to see what this “middle-grade fantasy adventure novel” had in store.
Wildwood tells the story of Prue, a slightly unlucky big sister, who loses her little brother to a murder of crows when the birds pluck him off her Radio Flyer wagon and retreat into the Impassible Woods. Trying to avoid trouble, Prue is able to conceal the event from her parents just long enough to come up with a plan: to enter the Impassible Woods and do the impossible—come back out alive… and with her little brother.
The book has an element of instant likability and the sense of environment is very Portland. The first four chapters introduce the reader to Prue just enough so that we’re completely invested in her plight. I thought the cut off for the initial excerpt was well planned, ending with a cliff hanger that serves as the reader’s first glimpse into the fantastic (and possibly terrible) elements of the Impassible Woods. There were some areas that seemed predictable in terms of plot, but overwhelmingly enjoyable and fun to read.
To read the first four chapters yourself, click on the link below. The book is available August 30, 2011.
Wildwood Chapters 1-4 Excerpt <– Click here for the download!
Jennifer Egan is no stranger to book awards or press, especially with her latest Pulitzer Prize win in Fiction for A Visit From the Goon Squad earlier this year. Look At Me, is yet another of her award-winning books, a literary fiction novel that garnered critical acclaim and earned Egan a National Book Award nomination in 2001. Naturally, I had high expectations.
Look At Me begins with the story of super model Charlotte Swenson. Swenson endures a car accident, that renders her unrecognizable, but luckily, still beautiful. Upon her return to New York she’s forced to deal with reintegration into a society where youth and beauty are paramount. The book goes to great lengths to examine identity and Egan emphasizes this point by weaving in other character perspectives, which include the daughter of Charlotte’s childhood friend, a private detective, and a strange new teacher, to contribute to the novel’s greater goal. The narratives change back and forth as each character deals with different veils of identity and the search for how identity is defined, both within ourselves and within society.
Not surprisingly, the novel is expertly written and Egan’s prose is flawless. I felt some of the elements surrounding the mysterious characters came to an inevitable crossroads and the first person perspective of Charlotte felt in contrast, sometimes too much so, to the third person narratives of the other characters. All in all the book is a layered and intriguing read and is more than deserving of its positive press.
Reviewed by: Kim
Title: Look At Me
Author: Jennifer Egan
Read: July 2011
Source: Powell’s Books
The fourth installment of the Parasol Protectorate series might be my favorite thus far. Alexia’s world is well developed, and the story gets off to a fast and funny start. Eight-months pregnant Alexia taking on the world of werewolves, vampires, ghosts, and Victorian society? Perfect.
When a crazy ghost (because in this world, ghosts slowly devolve into poltergeists as the longer they exist since death) contacts Alexia about a plot on the queen, the soulless one has to dive into action. It doesn’t help that vampires are trying to assassinate Alexia and her unborn child, and they’re not afraid to use demonic hedgehogs and exploding gravy boats.
The storyline is fun, and sheds light into the back-stories of several characters, including Alexia’s father. The resolution makes sense, and it’s a fun journey to get to the end. The novel sets up the fifth and final installment “Timeless” well, since Alexia’s baby isn’t necessarily what everyone expected.
The Parasol Protectorate series is great those who like supernatural novels with a mix of comedy and romance. It’s a great guilty pleasure read, and don’t be surprised if you find yourself craving strong cups of English Breakfast tea while reading this novel.
Read by: Kelly
Author: Gail Carriger
Source: Powell’s Books
Date read: July 2011
Okay, so last time I posted about narrative nonfiction it was in reference to The Other Wes Moore. A great book and one I think a lot of people would enjoy. However, the narrative voice he used seemed pretty jarring in comparison to his expository writing so I was trying to think of an example of successful narrative nonfiction and boom: In Cold Blood.
To do a review on Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood is almost a little redundant. It’s an American Classic, it’s incredibly well known, and pretty much everyone I know who has read it, loved it. It’s one of his most highly acclaimed books and simply put, it’s just fabulous. It is also a great example of narrative nonfiction done correctly. It tells a story in a way that comes across as fiction, but provides a true account of events. It’s the result of endless interviews, tireless research, and fantastic writing. Kelly pointed out to me that Harper Lee helped Capote a great deal with the research and the two were close childhood friends. (A fun little tid bit for the post.)
If you haven’t read In Cold Blood, I suggest you do. It’s the haunting story of how the Clutter family was murdered in their Kansas home. The book essentially starts with the death of the Clutters, and follows the investigation into the minds of the killers, and eventually, leads to their capture. It’s flawlessly done and very entertaining.
Title: In Cold Blood
Author: Truman Capote
Source: Powell’s Books
Read: May 2011