Friday, October 28, 2016

Eveningland by Michael Knight

Image result for eveningland michael knightSummary:

Grappling with dramas both epic and personal, from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill to the “unspeakable misgivings of contentment,” Eveningland captures with crystalline poeticism and perfect authenticity of place the ways in which ordinary life astounds us with its complexity. A teenaged girl with a taste for violence holds a burglar hostage in her house on New Year’s Eve; a middle aged couple examines the intricacies of their marriage as they prepare to throw a party; and a real estate mogul in the throes of grief buys up all the property on an island only to be accused of madness by his daughters. These stories, told with economy and precision, infused with humor and pathos, excavate brilliantly the latent desires and motivations that drive life forward.

Eveningland is a luminous collection from “a writer of the first rank.”

My take: 2 looks

I really, really wanted to like this book. An entire book of short stories from my home state was so compelling that I downloaded it immediately. The first story was engaging and I was enjoying it ... until the end. Then the second, third, fourth ... I began to see a pattern. The stories proved to be compelling and drew me in, but the endings of almost all of the stories in this collection were so abrupt as to be disappointing. There was so much more to be investigated, more story to be told, additional nuances to be explored. To be left flat at the end of each story left me feeling that the author had reached his word quota and had to end the story suddenly.

This one is not recommended. However, if you are looking for an excellent book of short stories, I recommend "The Paper Menagerie" by Ken Liu.

Many thanks to NetGalley for a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

A New High for a Jodi Picoult Fangirl

Eeeeeek! So, this happened today!

Let me start from the beginning.

I have been traveling to the Bentley headquarters office in Exton, Pennsylvania quite often lately. Exton is about 35 miles outside Philadelphia, so there are a lot of opportunities in that area that I would not normally experience in Arab, Alabama.

Jodi Picoult making an appearance to sign copies of her latest book is one of them. A book that I had just read because I got an Advance Reader's Copy (ARC) in the summer. And where was Ms. Picoult going to sign these books? Not B&N in Center City Philly. Not in some hoity-toity private home on the Main Line. No! She was going to be in MY HOTEL in Exton!!

Unfortunately, I am in meetings all day, every day. There is no way I could sneak out; and, I even dangled a little bone in front of my boss, giving him the opportunity to say, "Yes, Carmen! Sneak out at some point and take advantage of this one-in-a-lifetime opportunity." No go.

I had talked about the event with the hotel staff since I arrived, and they knew how star-struck, fangirl I was. When I returned to the hotel after dinner on the evening of the event, there was a personalized signed copy, waiting for me with my name on a sticky note on the cover.

And I return to the beginning:


Marchon is the front desk manager, and he was the one responsible for getting this signed copy for me. And he refused to let me pay him for the book.

I don't know what else to say other than I am now a fangirl of both Jodi Picoult AND Marshon at Hilton Garden Inn in Exton, Pennsylvania. Oh, and Eeeeeek!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson


Mr. and Mrs. Fang called it art.

Their children called it mischief.

Performance artists Caleb and Camille Fang dedicated themselves to making great art. But when an artist’s work lies in subverting normality, it can be difficult to raise well-adjusted children. Just ask Buster and Annie Fang. For as long as they can remember, they starred (unwillingly) in their parents’ madcap pieces. But now that they are grown up, the chaos of their childhood has made it difficult to cope with life outside the fishbowl of their parents’ strange world.

When the lives they’ve built come crashing down, brother and sister have nowhere to go but home, where they discover that Caleb and Camille are planning one last performance -– their magnum opus -– whether the kids agree to participate or not. Soon, ambition breeds conflict, bringing the Fangs to face the difficult decision about what’s ultimately more important: their family or their art.

My take: 3 looks

I am not sure at all how I feel about this book. Well, I should be clear and say the "story" ... the "subject matter" ... the "outcome". The book was well-written. It has to be well-written to elicit this much emotion from the reader.

Caleb and Camille Fang are completely committed to their art, so much so that when they have two children, they are called "A" and "B", for Annie and Buster. Unfortunately for the two children, the art in this case is performance art.

Now, I didn't know much about performance art other than the examples of an artist eating his own feces, and an artist being crucified to the back of a Volkswagen. In the book, the art is best when it is forced on an unsuspecting public, making them a part of the piece, enhancing it with their reactions.

When Annie moves away to begin her own career, and then Buster does the same, the Fangs must make due with an abbreviated team, and it's just not the same.

The main slant of this book is the relationships between family members, expectations of parents for their children, and the long term effects of making children a part of an adult world. In the end, I was hurt and hopeful, sad and angry.

It's a short book, opened my eyes to the intricacies of performance art and its purpose, spurred me to research a few real-life artists, and made me think of the story long after I read the last page. Recommended.

Monday, October 3, 2016

LibraryThing Posts new Early Reviewer Books

If you are not a member of LibraryThing, you are missing out!

They just published their list of Early Reviewer - available books. Available in both hard copy and e-book, there are over 2800 books available representing 102 titles. You can't beat that! It's first-come-first-served, but you will not be disappointed if you are chosen. Last month, The LT Early Reviewer program allowed me a copy of Jodi Picoult's latest novel great small things, set to be released October 11.

This month, I chose three books:

The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel
Vowing to discover the fate of her missing cousin, a woman returns to her family’s Kansas estate where she spent one haunting summer as a teen, and where she discovered the dark heart of the Roanoke clan that left her no choice but to run.

Feminist Perspectives on Orange Is the New Black: Thirteen Critical Essays by