Tuesday, June 30, 2015

This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper

A week of sitting shiva for his deceased, lapsed-Jew father isn't what Judd Foxman wants to do right now. It's going to get ugly if the four grown Foxman siblings have to all live under the same roof for a full week. But there isn't really any choice.

Not that Judd's really got anything better to do - he's separated from his wife after he found her in bed with his boss. Oh, and for that same reason, he's now jobless and living in a basement apartment.

So maybe a week in his mom's basement might not be that bad.

The book's funny, and the sibling love-hate relationships are very realistic. They're each comfortable in their consigned sibling roles, and yet also dying to be something else altogether.

PS: I've seen the 2014 movie version of this (same title, starring Jason Bateman as Judd) and it stayed pretty close to the book, with a few notable exceptions and the usual simplification of the storylines. It should probably tell you something that I sought out the book after enjoying the movie. Additionally, I laughed out loud when Judd in the book remembers his Mom working out in the 80's and trying to get a butt like Jane Fonda's - because in the film Jane Fonda plays the mom.

Monday, June 29, 2015

None of the Above by I. W. Gregorio

Kristin's the kind of teenager who thinks going for a run with her boyfriend is romantic and can't wait to go to college next year on a track scholarship. Things have been rough since her mom died from cancer, but she and her dad are getting along all right.

And then sex happens (or doesn't) and when Kristin goes to the doctor to figure out why she's still in such pain her whole identity comes crashing down around her. In an effort to understand her new diagnosis, she confides in her two lifelong best friends - but suddenly EVERYONE at school is shunning her and calling her names, including her now-ex-boyfriend. How did they find out? And how can they be so mean and wrong?

I loved this book because it's not about the more common LGBTQ issues, but about a genetic anomaly that brings similar self-doubt and personal identity concerns. (Not that we'll ever hear too many "common" LGBTQ stories.)

Additionally, the book deals with bullying and cyberbullying, with trying to curl up and disappear rather than face another day of school, and of dreaming about moving far, far away and starting over fresh in a place where no one knows you. While Kristin's situation is less-than-common, her struggles and story will ring true for anyone who is or has ever survived the high school rumor mill.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Hold Me Closer: The Tiny Cooper Story (a musical novel) by David Levithan

This musical-on-paper is presented as a companion piece to the teen novel Will Grayson, Will Grayson by David Levithan and John Green. You don't have to have read that book to understand this one, but seriously: GO READ THAT BOOK!

Tiny Cooper is a gay, larger-than-life high school student. He loves musical theater, screwball romantic comedy, and football. In telling his life's love story as musical theater, Tiny gets to analyze, satirize, and then pulverize every guy who's ever stomped on his heart (intentionally or not).

The book is written as a play, although Tiny gets more voice in the "stage directions" than would be strictly necessary for a production piece. Additionally, there are lyrics and stage directions but no music provided - I read in an article that Levithan was excited to see the crowd-sourcing fans would do with the parameters provided.

It's funny - really funny. But you probably have to already have loved Tiny to truly love this. Have I mentioned you really NEED to go read "Will Grayson, Will Grayson"?!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Interstellar Cinderella

by Deborah Underwood

Cinderella lives in space and she's a mechanic.  This book is cool, and even boys will sit still for it.  The twists on a familiar story are just enough to make everyone in the audience sit up and take notice.  My favorite part is how the heroine handles the inevitable offer from her galactic prince at the story's end.  Like any good Cinderella, she's gracious while showing readers she's got a mind of her own and solid goals she hopes to accomplish.  

I Don't Have a Happy Place: Cheerful Stories of Despondency and Gloom by Kim Korson

Kim Korson's not really depressed - she's just got a pessimistic (she'd say realistic) kind of look at the events of the world around her. In this memoir, we get a glimpse at her life as a mother and wife, but also as a daughter growing up and dating before she met Buzz.

It's funny, in a dark way. Everybody knows someone like Kim - the one with a perpetual slightly-cloudly look at life, rather than a full-out rain cloud over their head. (Some of us may even BE that person.)

And you'll enjoy her humorous anecdotes and stories as they're presented here. But it's not a gut-busting funny book, and Kim doesn't really find resolution or a message to bring the experience to a close. I felt ready-to-be-done but missed feeling a sense of completion at the book's end.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Strata by Terry Pratchett

It's hard to surprise or shock a person when they've lived more than 200 years; they've really seen and heard it all. But Kin Arad is intrigued by the invisible man who appears suddenly in her office and his news of a flat planet's existence.

This was one of Pratchett's earliest books, and he's setting up the cosmology that his later Discworld books are built upon. It's captivating and imaginative. But also a challenge.

This book moves very quickly and presents some extremely foreign concepts: So much so, in fact, that I concurrently read a paper copy of the book (in the house) and listened to the audiobook (in the car). I have never used this dual approach before, and I found I really enjoyed it. With the audio I got characterization and pronunciation while the book allowed me to take a moment sometimes to reabsorb and wrap my head around a new and complex philosophy.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Fleabrain Loves Franny by Joanne Rocklin

I tried, and as much as it hurts me to admit it - I just couldn't do it.

Actually, I really liked Franny, the 1950s girl recovering from polio in Pittsburgh. She's restless and bored because she should be running around with all her friends instead of cooped up doing exercises with her wicked nurse.

But she strikes up a friendship with one of her dog's fleas: a single flea who has survived repeated fumigation attempts and as a result has gained incredible intelligence, super strength, communication skills ... and an annoying pompous attitude that I COULD NOT STAND.

I gave up. I made it halfway, and decided I had better ways to spend my time.

No love from me.