A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

Book Review

 


A Visit from the Goon SquadBook Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Audiobook

Book Series: N/A

Released: 6/8/2010 by Knopf

Pages: 288 Price:$14.95 Paperback

Links:  Goodreads, Author’s Site

Source: I borrowed the audiobook from the library.

 

 

Book Synopsis:

Jennifer Egan’s spellbinding interlocking narratives circle the lives of Bennie Salazar, an aging former punk rocker and record executive, and Sasha, the passionate, troubled young woman he employs. Although Bennie and Sasha never discover each other’s pasts, the reader does, in intimate detail, along with the secret lives of a host of other characters whose paths intersect with theirs, over many years, in locales as varied as New York, San Francisco, Naples, and Africa.

We first meet Sasha in her mid-thirties, on her therapist’s couch in New York City, confronting her long-standing compulsion to steal. Later, we learn the genesis of her turmoil when we see her as the child of a violent marriage, then as a runaway living in Naples, then as a college student trying to avert the suicidal impulses of her best friend. We plunge into the hidden yearnings and disappointments of her uncle, an art historian stuck in a dead marriage, who travels to Naples to extract Sasha from the city’s demimonde and experiences an epiphany of his own while staring at a sculpture of Orpheus and Eurydice in the Museo Nazionale. We meet Bennie Salazar at the melancholy nadir of his adult life—divorced, struggling to connect with his nine-year-old son, listening to a washed-up band in the basement of a suburban house—and then revisit him in 1979, at the height of his youth, shy and tender, reveling in San Francisco’s punk scene as he discovers his ardor for rock and roll and his gift for spotting talent. We learn what became of his high school gang—who thrived and who faltered—and we encounter Lou Kline, Bennie’s catastrophically careless mentor, along with the lovers and children left behind in the wake of Lou’s far-flung sexual conquests and meteoric rise and fall. 

A Visit from the Goon Squad is a book about the interplay of time and music, about survival, about the stirrings and transformations set inexorably in motion by even the most passing conjunction of our fates. In a breathtaking array of styles and tones ranging from tragedy to satire to PowerPoint, Egan captures the undertow of self-destruction that we all must either master or succumb to; the basic human hunger for redemption; and the universal tendency to reach for both—and escape the merciless progress of time—in the transporting realms of art and music. Sly, startling, exhilarating work from one of our boldest writers.

My Review:

I was in charge of selecting the two Book Talk books for June and July at the library where I work.  Wanting to tie into our Summer Reading Program, which is open to all patrons this year (adults for the first time).  I sought out books that would work well with the theme which is Library’s Rock.  After finishing this book I feel that it works well but am a bit nervous about what the ladies in our reading group will think of it.  A couple of them will love the Rock n’ Roll theme of the book but a few might have issues with the sex, drugs, and swearing in the novel.  The books arrived today so I guess there is no turning back…

Now, onto what I thought of the book.  I’m not sure exactly, the book lost me a little in the middle as I tried to listen to it during a time I couldn’t concentrate.  I didn’t hate it but I don’t think I got it either.  Being told from a new POV each chapter giving a slightly different perspective on different events over the span of years this book follows meant if I didn’t care for a character I only needed to suffer through them for one chapter.  While that was nice in some instances you also have the problem of not being able to become attached and invested in any one character either.  So you need to either be really excited about the overall picture the book is trying to paint or wander through the book wondering what the point of it all is.  I think I fell into the latter group.  I think I get the message the author was trying to give me but by the end, I didn’t really care.

I did like how the story came full circle at the end but listening to the audiobook left me out of the loop for the chapter told in PowerPoint slide as I don’t think it had the same effect being read to you instead of seeing them in person.  I do plan to check out that chapter before the book talk.  I also found the chapter dealing with the concept of evolving language over the years.  How words are adapted over time by each generation that uses them.  This is something that I have noticed working in the library.  The conflict between an older generation that thinks their ownership of language and communication should not be challenged and a younger group that could care less about what they think.

While I’m nervous about the book talk I’m also looking forward to seeing what others in my community think of the book.  Perhaps they will help me see what I missed.  Without further input, however, I’m going to shrug my shoulders and say eh.  I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it either and never found myself excited to listen to it.

My Rating: 2 Stars

Advertisements

A Christmas Blizzard by Garrison Keillor

Book Review

 


A Christmas Blizzard: A NovelBook Genre: Fiction, Holiday, Humor

Book Series: N/A

Released: 10/25/11 by Penguin Books 

Pages: 181 Price: $14.00 Paperback

Links:  Goodreads, Author’s Site

Buy the Book: Amazon A Christmas Blizzard: A Novel

Source: I borrowed this book from my library

 

 

Book Synopsis:

The inimitable Garrison Keillor spins “a Christmas tale that makes Dickens seem unimaginative by comparison” (Charlotte Creative Loafing) Snow is falling all across the Midwest as James Sparrow, a country- bumpkin-turned-energy-drink-tycoon, and his wife awaken in their sky- rise apartment overlooking Chicago. Even down with the stomach bug, Mrs. Sparrow yearns to see The Nutcracker while James yearns only to escape-the faux-cheer, the bitter cold, the whole Christmas season. An urgent phone call from his hometown of Looseleaf, North Dakota, sends James into the midst of his lunatic relatives and a historic blizzard. As he hunkers weather the storm, the electricity goes out and James is visited by a parade of figures who deliver him an epiphany worthy of the season, just in time to receive Mrs. Sparrow’s wonderful Christmas gift. Garrison Keillor’s holiday farce is the perfect gift for the millions of fans who tune into A Prairie Home Companion every week.

My Review:

It took me a week to get through this 181-page story that should be enough to tell you what I thought of it.  This was a book that was selected for a book talk at the library where I work so please know that I did not select this title on my own.  If I had I would have DNF it after 20 pages and you would not have this review.  But I did read it and feel that has earned me the right to criticize it.

This story sucked.  Majorly.  It started off coherent and then took a nose dive into strangeville about half-way through.  The characters were all over the place and I struggled to find one that I even liked.  Lots of stereotypes that were meant to be funny but did not come off that way to me, more offensive in my opinion.  There is actually supposed to be a lot of humor in this story but I don’t think that I laughed once. There was also too much talking about politics for a Christmas story for me.  The ending fit the book in that it came totally out of left field and did not make sense.  The book is just trying too hard to be a Christmas miracle and come off as weird or stupid.

The only redeeming quality that this book held for me is that it was short but somehow I still ended up wasting a week on it.  I’m not a fan of Christmas.  I’m not a fan of folksy humor.  This is simply not a book for me and I don’t think I will be picking up anything else by this author.

My Rating: 1 Star

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

Book Review

 


The Rosie Project (Don Tillman, #1)Book Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Humor

Book Series: Don Tillman #1

Released: 10/1/2013

Pages:297  Price$24.00 Hardcover

Links:  Goodreads, Author’s Site

Buy the Book: The Rosie Project: A Novel

Source: I borrowed the audiobook from my library

 

 

Book Synopsis:

An international sensation, this hilarious, feel-good novel is narrated by an oddly charming and socially challenged genetics professor on an unusual quest: to find out if he is capable of true love.

Don Tillman, professor of genetics, has never been on a second date. He is a man who can count all his friends on the fingers of one hand, whose lifelong difficulty with social rituals has convinced him that he is simply not wired for romance. So when an acquaintance informs him that he would make a “wonderful” husband, his first reaction is shock. Yet he must concede to the statistical probability that there is someone for everyone, and he embarks upon The Wife Project. In the orderly, evidence-based manner with which he approaches all things, Don sets out to find the perfect partner. She will be punctual and logical—most definitely not a barmaid, a smoker, a drinker, or a late-arriver.

Yet Rosie Jarman is all these things. She is also beguiling, fiery, intelligent—and on a quest of her own. She is looking for her biological father, a search that a certain DNA expert might be able to help her with. Don’s Wife Project takes a back burner to the Father Project and an unlikely relationship blooms, forcing the scientifically minded geneticist to confront the spontaneous whirlwind that is Rosie—and the realization that love is not always what looks good on paper.

The Rosie Project is a moving and hilarious novel for anyone who has ever tenaciously gone after life or love in the face of overwhelming challenges.

My Review:

This is my second reading of this book if you wish to see the original review it is linked here.

My library is reading this book for a book talk and I decided to listen to the story this time instead of reading it. It was just as enjoyable the second time around as it was the first. After rereading my earlier review I do not see any changes I would make and stand by my earlier assessment. As to listening to the book vs reading it. The fact that the narrator speaks with an Aussie accent does add a fair bit of charm to the story but might be a bit of a struggle to those who have difficulty understanding accents, my husband for example. If that isn’t an issue for you then I recommend either version as both are enjoyable. Cute story.

My Rating: 4 Stars

Reincarnation Blues by Michael Poore

Book Review

 


Reincarnation BluesBook Genre: Fantasy, Fiction, Humor

Book Series: N/A

Released: 8/22/17 by Del Rey Books

Pages: 384 Price: $27.00 Hardcover

Links:  Goodreads,

Buy the Book: Amazon  Reincarnation Blues: A Novel

Source: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

 

Book Synopsis:

A magically inspiring tale of a man who is reincarnated through many lifetimes so that he can be with his one true love: Death herself.

What if you could live forever—but without your one true love? Reincarnation Blues is the story of a man who has been reincarnated nearly 10,000 times, in search of the secret to immortality so that he can be with his beloved, the incarnation of Death. Neil Gaiman meets Kurt Vonnegut in this darkly whimsical, hilariously profound, and wildly imaginative comedy of the secrets of life and love. Transporting us from ancient India to outer space to Renaissance Italy to the present day, is a journey through time, space, and the human heart.

My Review:

I absolutely loved this book.  Completely.  I actually believe in reincarnation, much like what was described in this book.  My belief is that we come back to Earth time and time again in order to experience every part of humanity and evolve as a soul.  I also believe we plan each life, to some extent, in order to reach our goals so while this is a great story of human nature and love there was also the added bonus, for me, that so much of the plot fed into my belief system of life and death and reincarnation.  Score!

Okay putting that aside for those of you who don’t share my beliefs this is still an amazingly good book.  The story is entertaining, the characters not taking themselves too seriously, willing to poke fun at themselves.  They were also full of depth, complex and unique.  Some of their quirks had me laughing but the author also knew how to set the fun aside and get serious for a chapter or two.  There were such profound moments in this book that it made my heart wrench for the characters.  The author did an excellent job of showing the human race for what we are, blemishes and all.  He also showed us the potential for what we could become, though.  That in each of us we have the potential to do great things and some pretty crappy things too.  Of course, then there is karma which will get us in the end and rewards us for our actions be them good or bad.

The synopsis leads one to believe this is a story about love and it is but it is also so much more.  I would have to say that the love plot line almost took a back burner for me.  Oh sure I wanted to see those two crazy kids get together and have their H.E.A (e standing for eternity here) but it isn’t what kept me engaged in the story.  The observations on humanity are what kept me turning the page.  The jumping back and forth in time, done well by the way and not confusing at all, to observe how the human race evolved over time and how one small act can ripple through out time and change the course of humanity for years to come.

This is simply a great read done by a talented author who can weave a complex and fresh story that not only entertains but makes one stop and think for a moment.  It is one of those books that I’m better for having read it and you will be too.

My Rating: 5 Stars

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald

Book Review

 


The Readers of Broken Wheel RecommendBook Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Romance

Book Series: N/A

Released: 1/19/16 by Sourcebooks Landmark

Pages:394  Price:$16.99 by Paperback

Links:  Goodreads, Author’s Site

Buy the Book: Amazon The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend

Source: I received a copy from the publisher for an honest review.

 

 

Book Synopsis:

Once you let a book into your life, the most unexpected things can happen…

Broken Wheel, Iowa, has never seen anyone like Sara, who traveled all the way from Sweden just to meet her pen pal, Amy. When she arrives, however, she finds that Amy’s funeral has just ended. Luckily, the townspeople are happy to look after their bewildered tourist—even if they don’t understand her peculiar need for books. Marooned in a farm town that’s almost beyond repair, Sara starts a bookstore in honor of her friend’s memory.

All she wants is to share the books she loves with the citizens of Broken Wheel and to convince them that reading is one of the great joys of life. But she makes some unconventional choices that could force a lot of secrets into the open and change things for everyone in town. Reminiscent of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, this is a warm, witty book about friendship, stories, and love.

My Review:

This was such a charming little read.  I wish life had not gotten in the way and I could have read it without interruption.  I picked this book up at BEA last May although it was already on my radar.  We had it at the library where I work and I was already planning on reading it.  When I had the opportunity to meet the author and get a personalized copy I simply could not pass it up.  I’m so glad I did because this book has earned a permanent spot on my shelves.

This book is set in Iowa, and if a blog post I read about it is correct the town that the town it is based upon is two towns over from where I live!  I have to say for someone who had never been to Iowa before writing this book she captured small town Iowa pretty damn accurately.  I could totally picture this story playing out upon the streets of that small town.  Ms. Bivald also did an excellent job of recreating characters you might find in a small Iowa town.  Oh sure, there were some missing, but overall well done.

Much of this story is a fun fluffy tale about a woman from afar coming to a strange town and falling in love.  Another side, however, is a peek into the reality of a small dying Iowa town.  I am sorry to say that she also portrayed this side of Iowa pretty accurately as well.  The author also delved into topics like homosexuality and racism which should challenge some readers like it challenged the citizens of Broken Wheel, and I for one think that’s a good thing.

Then there are the books.  It was such a delight to see the literary world become almost a supporting character in this story.  And to be portrayed so accurately.  After all is not the truest purpose of a book none other than to bring people together like it did for the people of Broken Wheel?

Great read that I look forward to recommending to many of my patrons.

My Rating:5 Stars

Monday Morning Question: Fiction vs Non-Fiction

13829744482f96a

 

Good Monday morning everyone.  I hope you all had a productive weekend of reading and are ready to face a new week.  I am writing this on a Sunday night, hence the still chipper attitude, hopefully planning ahead will lead to sleeping in tomorrow.  As long as the bladder or a cat don’t wake me I should be good.  Most likely it will be the cat using the bladder as her own personal water bed that will wake me…  Anyway.  This weekend I managed to finish up two books I was reading, one fiction and one non-fiction(review coming).  I had about the same number of pages to finish up in both, but I noticed the non-fiction took me significantly longer to finish.  Like several hours longer, in fact I still have 15 pages to go as I write this.  It also take me longer to get into the book. With the absence of a scene and characters to build in my mind I had time to wander and plan a thorough cleaning of the shed and a revamping of a spare bedroom into an art studio.  Eventually I was able to start focusing on what I was reading, but it just took longer.   The funny thing is I actually enjoyed the non-fiction book more, but it still took longer to read.  So this morning I ask you:  Does Non-Fiction take longer for you to read?  Or does Fiction take longer for you?  Or no difference?

 

OMG! My new obsession, The Martian by Andy Weir

The Martian

Don’t wait for my review.  Go get yourself a copy of  The Martian by Andy Weir and READ. THIS. BOOK!  If the first 61 pages are any indication this is going to be an amazing read.  The humor is outrageous, a dry witty gallows humor, it is a compelling thriller/survival story about an astronaut stranded on Mars with only 30 days worth of food, no communication and nobody expected to return to the planet for 4 years.  There is quite a bit of science involved, but the author does a good job of writing it  for us who are not so inclined(bright).  Someday Hollywood is going take this book and ruin it with a movie.  Read it first!    Sorry couldn’t wait I had to share…

The Here and Now by Ann Brashares – 4 Stars

 

The Here and Now

Click on the cover to visit this book’s Goodread page

I own this book

Plot Synopsis from Goodreads:

An unforgettable epic romantic thriller about a girl from the future who might be able to save the world . . . if she lets go of the one thing she’s found to hold on to.

Follow the rules. Remember what happened. Never fall in love.

This is the story of seventeen-year-old Prenna James, who immigrated to New York when she was twelve. Except Prenna didn’t come from a different country. She came from a different time—a future where a mosquito-borne illness has mutated into a pandemic, killing millions and leaving the world in ruins. 

Prenna and the others who escaped to the present day must follow a strict set of rules: never reveal where they’re from, never interfere with history, and never, ever be intimate with anyone outside their community. Prenna does as she’s told, believing she can help prevent the plague that will one day ravage the earth. 

But everything changes when Prenna falls for Ethan Jarves. 

From Ann Brashares, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, The Here and Now is thrilling, exhilarating, haunting, and heartbreaking—and a must-read novel of the year.

Wow, after finishing up this book last night I spent some time going through the different reviews and was surprised to see so many haters (2 star and under).  Not just negative reviews, but people who are just flat out insulting or offensive.  If you don’t like a book, fine that is your right, but be an adult about it. State your reasons why and be polite.  Personally I will not respect any review that resorts to name calling, gratuitous swearing, or is insulting in any way.  Shame on you to some of the other reviewers of this book.

Alright now for my review.  I guess I am going to go against the curve for this one because I really liked the book.  Didn’t love it,  it did take me 7 days to get into the first 50 pages after all.  But I was just 5 pages away from putting this one back on the shelf when it grabbed me and I finished the remaining 200 pages in a day.  Now I do see some of the points other reviewers have made for their reasons for not liking the book, no matter how poorly made.  But you know what none of that bothered me.  There was one concept that kept me reading and made the book for me.  It all revolved around a little insect, the mosquito.

You see I am a firm believer that global climate change is a very real threat and I loved the political side/lesson this story had to tell.  I also desperately hope that it teaches some of the YA readers to think about their environment and the damage that we are doing to it.  I loved the part where Prenna tells Ethan about how in the future they thought we all in this time must not have realized what we were doing, that we did not know the implications of our actions.  She was right most of us know, but like she said we are unwilling to make any real changes to stop what could be coming our way.  We all want someone else to be inconvenienced, much like the characters from this story.  We want to hide our head in the sand and hope things work out.

The climate change elements of this story still have me thinking this morning.  What will the future be like.  There are going to be consequences for our actions and way of life right now in the not so distant future.  I don’t want to go into too many details, have already deleted one paragraph because it gave too much away, but I could totally see the motivation for the bad guy in this story.

Now for other parts of the story,  the romance was alright, but not the greatest like others have mentioned.  I don’t think it was so much forced, but never really leaves the crush stage for these two.  Sure they think they are in love, but really what people this age really are in true love.  It is a crush, and I enjoyed the bitter sweetness of it in this story.  I think I would have had a bigger problem if it had ended differently.

Probably what bothered me the most in the story is the role of the bad time travelers or councilors.  I don’t think Prenna would have gotten away with her mouthing off at the end.  They were beaten back just a little too easily for me.  I think if we followed this story further in to the future we would see the plot they are surely thinking up to bring Prenna back down.

Well there you have it.  I hope you give the book a shot, don’t let all the haters stop you from reading this one if it looks interesting to you.  It is like what I tell my husband as he picks apart my Star Trek movies.  Stop it.  It is just a story, let everything go and just enjoy.


I did notice after posting this review that I got the lead female’s name mixed up with the last book I read.  Sorry to anyone who was wondering who the heck Grace was.  This is what happens when you read too fast, you can’t keep your stories straight…

 

Little Wolves by Thomas Maltman – 4 Stars

 

This book on Goodreads.

Finally an All Iowa Reads (AIR) book I enjoyed. Thank you for this year’s selection Iowa Center for the Book.

Every year the library I work for participates in the AIR program and I always dread having to read the book they select. It’s not that they are bad books, but just something I would never select or be interested in. In fact I have noticed that quite often they are books that not many of our patrons enjoy. I think the committee needs a little fresh blood in it to mix things up a bit. This year, however, I think they did a fine job of picking something that is going to appeal to most people. The book moved at a nice pace, has plenty of action, some mystery and a setting that most people in Iowa are going to identify with (even if it doesn’t take place in Iowa).

To me this book is about loss and death; how people come to terms with tragic situations, find closure and move on. It is also about small towns and the grudges, prejudices and traditions they so love to hold onto. How they can protect the monsters that live within their communities to the detriment of those that live there and how small town cliques can be worse than any high school in America. Small town have long memories and in the end, if they don’t want to die out, they need to learn to let things go and not hold the past against future generations.

This story was told from two perspectives, Grizz and Clara’s, both outcasts in the community in which they live. Grizz because of who his family is and Clara because she is a newcomer. They are both linked by a tragedy, an awful murder and suicide committed by Grizz’s son Seth. We spend the book learning the events leading up the the event and what caused him to do something so horrible. We also learn more of these two character’s past and what all connects them. I really enjoyed getting to know Grizz and Clara, but wish it could have been under better circumstances. They are both strong good people and it was nice to see them triumph over the events in the book to find some sort of peace in the end.

The people of the town upset me, even though I think they are pretty accurate representations of people who have lived in a small mid-west community for generations. It upsets me that there are still people like this in the world and that they get away with bullying people, that they feel free to intimidate and harass people who they deem less then in the community. Perhaps it isn’t such a bad thing that small town life is dying out. Maybe there will be fewer monsters in the world.

The ending was fitting and action packed. Even though this is a dark book in places there is peace and justice to be had in the end. It is a good book and I’m glad I read it.