Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Reason You're Alive by Matthew Quick

David Granger wakes up from brain surgery muttering a name - but not Hank (his son), Ella (his beloved granddaughter), or even Laura (his deceased wife). No, it's the name of an arch enemy from his Vietnam War days, and the time has come for him to make things right.

Hank doesn't understand David, but their living together during David's convalescence will be good for them all (if nobody dies). Soon Hank learns you have to go deeper than David's words to find out who he really is.

I adore everything Matthew Quick writes, and this is no exception. It's a tough book sometimes - David is a crabby old bastard - but like Hank we see there's much more going on that first glance suggests.

David's friends are a diverse and interesting bunch, and he loves them as if they were blood. They're a fun bunch to meet, and they keep the story moving as they aid and support David's quest. The book's title is a bit of a surprise: a story from Laura that's not fully explained until the very end.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Moo by Sharon Creech

Reena's not sure what to expect when her family packs up and moves to Maine, but somehow she hadn't even considered befriending a cow.

Zora the cow comes with an elderly lady, Mrs. Falala, who owns her. Reena's parents volunteer their kids to "help out" at the neighbors, which is a learning experience for all involved.

The book is mainly told in prose, with some well-placed poetic pieces and graphic presentation. Reena's 12 years old, but I think the book could be read younger, too. It's sweet and funny, a little sad and very, very good.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

In a near-distant future, life on earth sucks. So everybody lives full, rich lives inside "the OASIS" - a virtual reality computer world; you can live, love, work, and play all in the OASIS, only rarely venturing to reality for food or other personal needs.

When the guy who invented the OASIS dies, he reveals he's left an "easter egg" inside, and the first to find it and solve its puzzles will be his heir. Everybody loses their minds, looking for it.

We follow from the perspective of one teen, scraping by and mostly homeless in the real world, and also searching for the egg and attending high school in the virtual world.

I loved, loved, loved this book and I can't stop talking about it! Everybody in the future is obsessed with the 1980s, so the book is futuristic and sci-fi while also reveling in John Hughes movies, electro pop music, and Atari games. There are these parallels of future and past, while also the parallels of real and virtual. It's a lot to keep sorted, and it's done sooo well.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Gulp: Adventures On the Alimentary Canal by Mary Roach

A humorous, informative book about the science and false beliefs about the internal system that runs from your mouth through your stomach and out your butt.

Roach has become famous for her snarky, hilarious approach to often icky nonfiction subjects. This one's got a lot of ick in it - spit, farts, poop, digestion, and more - but she makes it worth the time by dispelling falsehoods, researching history, and interviewing scientists on the cutting edge.

I picked this for book discussion and we circulated a LOT of copies, so I'll be interested to see if anybody shows up to talk about it. For me, the chapter on Elvis made the whole book worthwhile.

Incidentally, I listened to the audiobook, read by Emily Woo Zeller, which was awesome. She helped convey the tongue-in-cheek way the book is written and the glee with which Roach often imparts her research.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende

Passion is at the heart of this historical novel, where a young woman chases her lover from Chile to San Francisco during the Gold Rush of 1849.

Eliza has led a pleasant but sheltered youth, an orphan taken in by a spinster British woman and her businessman brother in Valparaiso, Chile. When she falls in love with a company clerk, her future as a society lady quickly evaporates: He leaves in the madness to find California gold, and she disappears to follow in a delusion of love and lust.

Her amazing adventure is quite a story. She falls in with the wrong people - who end up being the right people - and finds a family away from home. She meets people from all countries and all walks of life, living out a journey she never could have imagined: becoming an assistant to a Chinese healer, impersonating a man, playing piano in a brothel and more. It's only when she gives up her quest that she finds that happiness has been building all along.

Monday, August 21, 2017

My Brother's Husband (Volume 1) by Gengoroh Tagame

A Japanese father is forced to deal with his emotions about his twin brother when a large Canadian man arrives at his door, introducing himself as the now-deceased brother's husband.

This was a quick, fun book that dealt lightly with some heavy emotions. Through his young daughter's enthusiasm for life, Yaichi gradually comes to terms with his memories of Ryoji's coming out and his feelings about his gay brother-in-law Mike. 

Traditional Japanese social rigidity limits any adult show of emotion, and Ryoji is sometimes jealous of Mike's ability to hug Kana at will and to openly cry and express his grief. Kana's buoyant excitement in discovering she has an uncle to introduce to her friends and show around town acts as a catalyst for the two men's friendship.

There's obviously more to the story, and I'll be interested to read more about these complex characters. 

Monday, August 14, 2017

Three Junes by Julia Glass

Readers check in with a family's members three times (in the month of June) to learn about their relationships and loves. We meet recently widowed Paul as he vacations in Greece and ponders his new life and the condition of his family. Then we meet his sons, years later, as they gather for Paul's funeral. Further on, we meet up with prodigal son Fenno when his dog - his last link to his mother - dies and is buried.

We read this for book discussion. I was only halfway through by our discussion date, and decided I was going to continue because - unlike everyone else - I was enjoying the story.

A lot of the book centers around Fenno and his life off in New York. He moves across the world, graduates college, begins a business, comes to terms with his sexuality, deals with the impact of AIDS on his circle of friends, and makes visits back to Scotland to see his family. What he doesn't do is fall in love. Which makes him a slightly tragic figure.

I liked the book - it's rather quiet, without big drama. Just people trying to do the best they can, and sometimes failing.