Me and You

Me and You - Niccolò Ammaniti, Kylee Doust Lorenzo is no typical teenager, he is a sheep in wolves clothing or as he puts it a fly pretending to be a wasp. In school this tactic helps him get by but it does notmake him any friends. So he remains uninvited to the ski-trip his classmatesare planning. On a whim he tells his mother he’s going and decides to spend theentire week hiding in the cellar. A comfortable seven days awaits Lorenzo, untilhis half-sister Olivia shows up uninvited and demands shelter or she will tell on him.

This is ashort book, leading the reader along a very simple plot. Lorenzo the asocialteen hides in a cellar, “tap, tap!” on the window and “oh! There’s company”that’s it. But don’t let that fool you because in simple things often lie greatpleasures. Due to the limited staging of the novel it reads a little like aplay. With no backstory that isn’t scenic and only two ventures to the outside, Niccolo Ammaniti crafts a captivating read out of next to nothing. Characters Lorenzo and Olivia aren’t easy to relate to or understand but their story manages to stayinteresting to the very last page. What awaits the reader is a chilling twistto the story in the form an unexpected ending. This novel takes about a day toread and if you happen to have some time on your hands, enjoying a copy of thisbook will be a day well spent.

A novel that took me by surprise and now won’t let me go.

You Are My Only

You Are My Only - Beth Kephart "You are my only" is a compelling and very emotional read. I have turned page upon page in anticipation of what will happen next to main characters Emmy and Sophie. Sadly the ending is no mystery and one can clearly guess from the start how Emmy and Sophie are connected. So this novel's strength lies in its lovable characters, not so much in its plot. Still it is a treat for all readers who fancy an emotionally deep and challenging novel but can't do without a happy ending.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl - Jesse Andrews Greg isstarting senior year, to avoid the inevitable truth that high school sucks hehas come up with a plan. Greg will avoid befriending anyone so everyone willthink he is their friend and all of them will leave him alone. That plandoesn’t include Earl though, but then again Earl is more of a co-worker. Thetwo of them are remaking movies, Earl is kicking people in the face and Greg isavoiding everyone, until his mother forces him to call up Rachel from Hebrewclass that is and Greg reluctantly obeys since Rachel is dying of leukemia.

The coverand title had me fooled. I had expected a completely different novel. Afterthis kind of introduction what you would expect might be me stating that thisis ‘ the worst book ever written’ but I won’t. Instead I will tell you thatthis book is fun and funny and the fact that I had expected it to be a littlemore grown up and a little less goofy tainted my reading experience onlyoccasionally.

Greg is ahilarious narrator, sometimes bordering on weird. He himself isn’t a big fan ofthe book and more than once asks the reader to just stop reading and throw itin the garbage but I couldn’t be persuaded because it was way too entertainingto put down. This novel isn’t just a novel, it is more of a sit-com. Somechapters are written as film-remake summaries, some are written in bulletpoints, that makes reading this book never boring, never dry. Narrator Greg hasan ironic sense of humor and the way he tells the story even leukemia can makeyou laugh out loud.

Still thisnovel has a serious undercurrent. The fact that a close friend of Gregs isdying does make you stop and think every once in a while but that is it. JesseAndrews did not turn this novel into a three hundred page memorial service forthe dying girl. Leukemia is described like something that can happen to you,one of life’s curveballs, even death is treated that way. Up until the end thisbook stays light and casual, never getting sentimental, always keeping itssense of humor.

I rarely dothis but ‘Me and Earl and the dying Girl’ had me laughing out loud many moretimes than I could count. It has been a long time since I have read a book asfunny as this one. Narrator Greg seems much younger than he actually is, Iattribute that to his goofy humor, and sometimes I wanted to shout ‘Grow upalready!’ but if he had listened to me, then this book would surely be a muchmore depressing read.

I loved this book, it made me laugh all the way through, despite its more serious moments. Anyone who doesn’t mind goofy humor will have a blast reading this novel.

Brothers (and Me): A Memoir of Loving and Giving

Brothers (and Me): A Memoir of Loving and Giving - Donna Britt In hermemoir Donna Britt explores the causes of her innate giving to the men aroundher particularly the black men in her life. Being the only girl in a familyfull of sons Donna learned to feel comfortable around men early on. Childhoodpranks left her vary of the girls and women in her life. During her collegeyears tragedy struck and left her mourning for her brother Darrell, a loss shewould spend the rest of her life coming to terms with.

This bookisn’t just a memoir it is a search. Donna Britt is sifting through her pastremembering the good times and the bad always looking for the source of her addictionto giving her time, her money, her all and everything to her brothers, herlovers, her sons. Interwoven with said memories are her thoughts onemancipation of both black and white women reminiscent of her struggle forappreciation by men and giving to herself once in a while.

In hernarrative Donna Britt is honest and self-critical. Her soul-searching inspiredmany a similar thought from me while I was reading about her childhood, youthand path to finding and cutting herself a break every now and then. Ithoroughly enjoyed reading this book as a way of checking on feminism'spracticality. Donna Britt looks at herself and asks, how far have we come sincethe 50s? Does having it all mean juggling a career AND a household? And mostimportant, if the men in our lives are not willing to chip in – where does thatleave us?

In herruminations Donna Britt tells the reader many a personal detail and afterreading her book I feel that I have gotten to know an extraordinary woman. Shehas opened my eyes to the difficulties that American women face, the underlyingsexism many of them struggle against in their daily lives and the particulargravity that sexism and racism hold for black females in America who not onlysuffer for themselves but also for the men in their lives.

This memoir is a compelling, honest and charming read. A book that will inspireand empower black and white women alike.

Entangled: A Chronicle of Late Love

Entangled: A Chronicle of Late Love - Don Asher;Lois Goodwill Don and Sarah are in the November of their lives. The divorcees have been dating forthe past twenty years. Together they have overcome Don’s prostate cancer. Donthinks their relationship is made to last but then Sarah meets Vernon an ex-Jesuitpriest who proposes her for more than friendship.

I lovedthis memoir. It is told from both sides of the relationship. Don writes acharming narrative about how he didn’t see it coming and when the damage isdone does his best to cope with what he has left. Sarah contributes withentries from her diary, both before and during the affair. So two of them leaveno questions open by giving the reader the answers to both ‘What happened?’ and‘What was she thinking?’.

I am aboutfifty years younger than the protagonists but have enjoyed reading their storynonetheless. I liked the late Don much better than Sarah but have still admiredthe honesty with which she has bared her innermost thoughts to the reader inthis memoir. I am glad the two of them decided to tell their story about latelove for the benefit of both young and youthful readers alike.

If you askme, this is a gem of a memoir. If you are still south of the big 5-0 you mightwant to wait reading it though, unless like me you’d like to sneak a peek atwhat might await you on the other side. I am now eager to read other books byauthor Don Asher, there are nine of them so I’ll have my pick.

This book will make a great gift to parents, grandparents, older aunts and uncles alike.

People Live Still in Cashtown Corners

People Live Still in Cashtown Corners - Tony Burgess, Erik Mohr I am lost for words in the face of such an extreme piece of literature. Burgess novel retells the story of massmurderer Bob Clark, the only inhabitant of Cashtown Corners, from the killers perspective. It's what makes this novel so compelling, aside from its true background, the reader can dive into the killer's mind. It's not always pretty, actually Bob Clark's narrative is erratic and becomes even delusional towards the end, but that is what I imagine a massmurderer's thoughts sound like. Tony Burgess did a fantastic job at giving the reader this unusual inside scoop on a true crime.

Very entertaining, but also believable in its description of the Cashtown Corners massmurder. This novel dares to emphathize without any tiring attemps at explaining a horror that cannot be explained.

A River So Long

A River So Long - Vallie Lynn Watson Veronica isworking in a job that requires her to travel a lot. She tries to make the bestof it by keeping in touch with friends while away. But her long absences take atoll on her marriage and ultimately on her own well-being.

I wassurprised when I did so well on summarizing this novel, because honestly itseemed very obscure to me. So obscure in fact that I couldn’t even remotelymake out the plot until I was more than half way through the book. The firstfew chapters seem to have no connection to each other whatsoever apart fromtheir protagonist Veronica. This made the beginning of the book a slow andoften tiring read. Only in the end does Vallie Lynn Watson connect the fragments to each other, new chapters begin where old ones leave off and that managed to capture myinterest and attention but for the book as a whole I felt it was too little toolate and so I would not recommend this novel to other readers.

Maincharacter Veronica appears to be easily figured out by the reader but then theauthor presents me with unexpected, sometimes contradictory, information abouther and I have to rearrange my perception of her. All supporting charactersremain slightly out of focus and even the frequency with which their names arementioned throughout the novel does not bring the reader closer to them. Infact I found that the manner of fact style Vallie Lynn Watson adopts in her narration kept bothcharacters and plot at a distance from the reader which I was unhappy withthroughout the novel. Vallie Lynn Watson didn’t give her characters enough room to develop andrather strings plotpoint to plotpoint by chasing her characters through variouscities and hotels.

Often thisnovel reminded me of “True things about me” by Deborah Kay Davies. The authorsshare a dry narrative unmoved by the, sometimes horrific, things that happen totheir characters. But where Davies narrative works up to a climax Vallie Lynn Watson's writingbeats around the bush without release or clear ending.

I was a little disappointed bythis novel. The characters appear undeveloped and the plot seems to have no point.

Trespasses: A Memoir (Sightline Books)

Trespasses: A Memoir - Lacy M. Johnson Writer Lacy M. Johnson has conducted a series of interviews with her family and is drawing a portraitof her home state Missouri through the years.

This bookfelt a little too removed from mainstream non-fiction than I could enjoy. Thefragmented style in which it is told proved difficult to read and only on thelast few pages did a coherent storyline emerge. Before reading this book I hadbeen eager to learn more about the state of Missouri but after reading it Ifeel none the wiser. The authors writing style has lost touch with the reader andwhile the writer in me can appreciate the creative effort behind this memoir,my reader self is wearing a big question mark on her forehead in addition to adisappointed look.

Whenever Icould make out a little coherence in the narratives I did enjoy learning moreabout the author, about how metropolitan America reacts to people from theSouth-West. Also I enjoyed learning about another writer at work. Those momentswere rare and far between though, most on the last few pages. Sadly that wasall I enjoyed about the book. In my opinion a straight forward memoir wouldhave been the more reader-friendly choice in the case of this book.

The fragmented style makes this book a challenge to read, if you’reup to it go ahead though.

A Tinfoil Sky

A Tinfoil Sky - Cyndi Sand-Eveland Mel and hermother Cecily flee their home from boyfriend Craig and seek shelter inRiverview with grand-mother Gladys. When their return isn’t welcomed asexpected they have no choice but to sleep in their car. Soon after Cecily getsarrested for shoplifting and while serving her jail sentence the court ordersMel to live with Gladys. A decision both are less than happy about.

This novelwas a lovely read, nothing special but I enjoyed the time I spent with it. Thecharacters have little time to develop and thus don’t remain in the reader’smind for long. That’s a bit sad but I don’t think the author could have drawnout the story any longer. It seems well rounded and over when it is over.Although I will probably wonder about how the lives of Mel, Cecily and Gladysgo on. A charming little tale that speaks to young readers, but can just aswell be enjoyed by those long past puberty.

The storyis but a glimpse into the lives and hardships of this family but it manages tosufficiently portray the complications of having a drug addict for a parent.What I especially loved was Mel’s relationship with books and eagerness to goto the library. I always take pleasure in characters who like to read as muchas I do. And despite the grave beginning to the story it takes an upliftingturn about mid-way through that is sure to delight any reader.

This book won’t change your lifebut it might make for a lovely afternoon for both young and youthful readersalike.

A Greyhound of a Girl

A Greyhound of a Girl - Roddy Doyle Twelve yearold Mary meets a woman named Tansyn on her way home from school. When she tellsher mother Scarlett about it she learns that her great-grandmother’s name was Tansyn,too. It occurs to Mary that her Tansyn and Scarlett’s Tansyn might be one andthe same. An impossible thought since Tansyn died of the flu when Mary’sgrandmother Emer was only three.

I had funreading this book but it was definitely more of a fleeting pleasure. Still I’drecommend it to anyone looking for an engaging read. I especially liked themagical realism and how Roddy Doyle fit it effortlessly into a story about a familysaying their goodbyes to a dying grandmother. I often felt that the authorcould have gotten into the story more, told it with more layers and colours.Instead the tale stays mostly on the surface, which is sad but it is a worthreading none the less.

Thecharacters the reader meets in this novel are as unique and inventive as theycome. I especially liked the snappy dialogue, very Irish and laced with irony.This makes it both a bit bizarre and a joy to read. More than once I laughedout loud at the characters’ surreal conversations and I have memorized quite afew catchphrases as well. In short I must say ‘it was grand.’

This is a charm of a book, which you will enjoy most if you lovemagical realism just as much as I do.

Under the Mesquite

Under the Mesquite - Guadalupe Garcia McCall Lupita is a mexican-american girl growing up in the state of Texas with her parents and her seven siblings. One day she eavesdrops on a conversation between her parentsand finds out that her mother suffers from cancer. While Lupita struggles with the ever occurring changes that make up the teenage years, her family is struggling to cope with her mother’s illness.

I’m quitefond of this novel, the way its sentences are beautifully crafted around a tragic topic. How it follows the story of its main character without much ado.Under the mesquite will charm you just as it has charmed me. The warmth of the narration in addition to the glimpse at the life of the narrator and her family business makes for a well-loved read. I couldn’t help equating the author with her narrator a fault of mine I consider forgivable. But even if I am mistaken,given that this is a work of fiction, I felt I got an impression of a youth as a Mexican American. This is why I read to take part in stories I would normally never experience.

As tragic as this story I couldn’t help feeling good reading it. The versed sentences make it a quick read, the pages flew by and I have earmarked it for re-reading sometime later already. Now I am writing to coax you into taking part in my delight for this book by reading it yourself, the rest this novel will no doubt do on its own. And even though short books may be challenging to review they can be a joy to read. If you are eager to experience that effect, have a go atthis novel and enjoy.

A gem of a book, that’s all that needs saying.

Fall of the Birds (A Short Story)

Fall of the Birds - Bradford Morrow The narrator is a surveyor working for an insurance company. He has recently lost his wife and is now a single parent caring for his step-daughter Caitlin. Bothof them share a passion for ornithology that is aggravated when a series of mass bird-deaths occurs throughout the north east of America.

I found this short novel a tiny bit obscure but then again not too obscure to enjoy. Ihave a feeling that I have not yet grasped the full extent of what the author is trying to tell his readers through this book. The dying birds seem to symbolize something that stays hidden to those whose thoughts on the book stay superficial. If read purely for short-term enjoyment the reader might end up feeling unsatisfied because he waits for the other shoe to drop and that just doesn’t happen. The novel runs its course and the author never lets on about his motives and much too soon it all ends, leaving the reader with a lot of questions. Too many? That is for each individual reader to find out.

The narrator and protagonist of this novel stays nameless but gives the reader anarray of thoughts, insights and speculations as a basis for getting to know and to understand him and daughter Caitlin. For me personally a couple hundred pages are not enough to befriend a character deeply enough so he’ll stay with you beyond the pages of a book. So for me this novel was about story, an extended short story of sorts that kept me company for a little while but then left me unchanged. The story itself feels unfinished and felt like the beginning of something bigger. The author could have kept writing and turned this short book into an epic but chose not to.

This book is an entertaining read but the story doesn’t quite manage to reach its full potential.

Every Other Day

Every Other Day - Jennifer Lynn Barnes Kali is a normal teenager with normal worries about school and her absent father, but only every other day. On the days in between she is an invincible demon fighter. This part of her life she keeps hidden from her classmates and friends until one day a girl in her school shows a tell-tale demon bite. Now Kali must reveal her secret in order to rescue the girl.
My thoughts on the book…
This book with its take no prisoners heroine reminds me a little of Buffy. A series I loved but whose strong female lead was soon replaced by school girls pining for vampires. Barnes turns this sad development on its head and gives us reading girls a strong female, almost a super hero, to accompany on her quest against the world of demons. A quest that I have enjoyed throughout the entire novel, filled with fight and heart-ache and nail-biting tension up until the last page.
Still Barnes gives the reader not only the action but also the love-story, she lets Kali find her soulmate only to tear him from her and the reader drops from seventh heaven down below ground-level. This story has it all and gets the reader invested in its characters. As a girl I loved the combination of adventure and romance, and I also loved that it was putting equal weight on both counts. Kali is not a character waiting to be rescued by her big bad vampire boyfriend but one who does the rescuing herself and that makes for an exciting read.
Any girl who enjoys reading young adult fantasy novels, will love this book. It is inspiring and gripping, holding the reader prisoner until the very last page. At the same time this novel works up to the more that is to come and I am very excited about possible sequels and can’t wait to see how the story about Kali and Skylar will pan out in the future. Do read this book if you are looking for a fun and thrilling way to pass your time, and if you are sick of Twilight-esque sob-stories, where girls might tell the story but the guys always take the lead.
In a nutshell… A fun and exciting read for any fantasy girl out there.

Committed: A Love Story

Committed: A Love Story - Elizabeth Gilbert The story of Elizabeth and Felipe continues. Since Felipe has been denied access to the US the two of them are now planning a wedding. This sounds romantic but for the two divorcees the decision was not an easy one.
After I had read EAT, PRAY, LOVE I have been fooled a little by this sequel. I thought Gilbert had written yet another funny and inspiring autobiography, about her happy ever after with Felipe. But this book is a standard non-fiction work about marriage. If you are interested in just that you will have a well-written, engaging as well as informative book on your hands. Gilbert talks about the history of marriage, marriage and divorce in America and the rest of the world, as well as women and marriage. I personally do not plan to get married any time soon, so I was a bit bored reading about it for the length of this book, especially with the charming narration of EAT, PRAY, LOVE still in my mind.
I like Elizabeth and Felipe a lot, they make a lovely couple ever since Gilbert's memoir. So in this book I missed them a little. You get the occaisonal scene with them and this did reinforce my opinion about them every time but through most of the book the two of them stay in the background.
What makes you travel through Laos when you can easily wait out your visa in Australia is a question only the author can answer. But the couple's choice of bumpy busrides and bull-frog dinners over relaxing beach days makes for an intriguing scenery that kindly continues the adventures of EAT, PRAY, LOVE. Even though some of their travels don't sound at all desireable to me.
I have been a fan of Gilbert's narrative ever since her memoir. She is honest to the point of making the reader cringe a little, but also blush because she is in fact like us despite her unusual lifestyle. Reading her gives me the impression of chatting to an old friend, so the autobiographical parts of this book have been very welcome to me as I presume they will be to any other reader.
If you are looking for another EAT, PRAY, LOVE you will be disappointed. But anyone who likes a good non-fiction topic-centered read will surely be delighted by this well-written charm of a pro and con list about marriage.

True Things About Me: A Novel

True Things About Me: A Novel - Deborah Kay Davies One of the memorable debuts of 2010 comes from Welsh writer Deborah Davies. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this relatively short novel, though it also chilled me to the bone.

Davies doesn't make it easy for the reader to get to know her characters. Both her narrator and the man she loves and loathes stay unnamed throughout the book. This reminds me vaguely of reading "Fight Club" by Chuck Palahniuk. Just as Palahniuk does, Davies leads the reader down a flight of stairs, into a dark area and to the edge of the abyss. An abyss her main character willingly jumps into head-first.

And just as in Palahniuk's works the reader is taken on the narrator's dark journey towards self-distruction. A journey that will end in a vivid description of murder that no doubt only a few people would consider desirable prose.

This is an intense story, of love, loneliness, submission and maybe even masochism of the mind - the willingness to surrender the very core of your being to another person. And so it ought to be read with due care. Only the reader that can take the descent, shall take this journey.

A journey without a beginning or an end. Leaving the reader to dwell in the momentum between, as Davies never lets up on why the narrator might crave to destroy herself or whether the horrifying end of the novel has any consequence for her.

The novels climax is also the end to the reader's short acquintance with Davies' characters. An end that she slowly works up to. An end that the reader can almost feel coming but dares not to believe in or hope for. An end that the reader had no way of guessing would come true on the first page of the novel.

My Recommendation:
I can only give a restricted recommendation. This novel is too extreme, to raw to recommend it to any and everyone.
But if you are looking for something that is out of the ordinary. If you are looking for a novel that will change you. If you, like me, want something new and fresh and aren't afraid of the dark side of the human mind. This is the perfect book to read and never forget.

So do read it but at your own risk...

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