The Most Dangerous Place on Earth by Lindsey Lee Johnson

Holy-doodle, if The Most Dangerous Place on Earth isn’t a wake up call, I don’t know what is. Set in an affluent community in sunny California, this novel explores the facades of teen life on social media and the truth that lies behind those facades, and that is what makes it so compelling and horrifying. Continue reading

Clearing the Backlog

I’m so far behind in reviewing that I’m almost paralysed by it. So there’s only one solution: a mass review of books I’ve read over the last 3 months. Here goes:

You Are One of Them by Elliott Holt. I really liked this one. Coming of age against the backdrop of Communist Russia. So many good things about it, if only I could remember it more clearly.

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett. I was disappointed in this one as I am normally a fan of Ann Patchett. It gets off to a really slow start, in my opinion. It does, however, find its footing by about halfway through. If you’re an Ann Patchett fan, you’re going to read this regardless of what I say, but if you’ve not read Patchett before, I might not start here.

Peacekeeping by Mischa Berlinski. In the beginning I loved this book, but ultimately it was a little too long. Set in Haiti, it had a really interesting look at local politics and NGOs. The cover is great though, and i do plan to go back and read Feildwork, one of Berlinski’s earlier novels that I remember loving.

Dear Mr. M by Herman Koch. I really liked Koch’s two previous novels. They had a very Koch feel to them. That feel is lacking in Dear Mr M.  That doesn’t mean it’s a bad book, but if you’re looking for that distinctive Koch uncomfortableness, it isn’t so apparent here. The one thing i did like about it though, is that it’s about a writer. That always gets me.

The Book of Memory by Petina Gappah. If Orange is The New Black were set in a Zimbabwean prison, you might get this book. It is a great book and one that I highly recommend. Propulsive story, great characters, skilled writing.

So there, it’s done. Backlog cleared. Hopefully this means I can get back into the groove.

A Place We Knew Well by Susan Carol McCarthy

A Place We Knew Well by Susan Carol McCarthyI have been in a slump of epic proportions for months now. I don’t even want to read. It’s weird and crazy. And then in walks A Place We Knew Well by Susan Carol McCarthy, and it changes everything. For the first time in weeks I stayed up past my bedtime to read. Continue reading

The Mountain Story by Lori Lansens

The Mountain Story by Lori LansensI’ll be the first to admit that i was drawn to The Mountain Story because of the cover. Then, the fact that it was by Lori Lansens solidified my decision. I’ve not read many of her other books, but her reputation is solid. And, oh boy, The Mountain Story was a stunning read. Part adventure story, part a meditation on family. Continue reading

Cambridge by Susanna Kaysen

cambridgeI picked up Cambridge by Susanna Kaysen for two very good reasons. First, given the title, I assumed that it would be a university tale set either at Cambridge University in England or in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I was kind of wrong on both counts. And second, it is by Susanna Kaysen, who wrote the memoir Girl, Interrupted. Continue reading

Skim and This One Summer by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki

skimthis-one-summerIt seems that graphic novels and comics are all the rage right now. I’ll be up front with you. I don’t think I get them as an art form. My mind is so responsive to words and I think I lack the necessary visual vocabulary to properly appreciate them. Continue reading

Bellweather Rhapsody by Kate Racculia

bellweather-rhapsodyOne part The Shining, two parts Scooby-Doo equals Bellweather Rhapsody by Kate Racculia. Well, maybe not Scooby-Doo, but a mystery that is distinctly less frightening than The Shinning. Bellweather Rhapsody is a novel that is so up my alley, that it comes as now surprise that I whirled right through it.

Rabbit and Alice are twins chosen, along with about 100 other music prodigies,  to go to a statewide music festival hosted annually at the once regal Bellweather Hotel in upstate New York. For Alice this is a dream come true until her famous roommate turns up dead. For Rabbit, the weekend marks the beginning of a personal journey without Alice by his side. The teachers and chaperons of the event seem to be up to hi jinks of their own, and the weather conspires to snow them all in. Are ya with me? Continue reading

Golden Boy by Abigail Tarttelin

golden boyThere is so much I want to say about Golden Boy by Abigail Tarttelin, but I don’t want to ruin the story for you. What I can say is – go out and read it! Max is the Golden Boy of the Walker family. He is everything parents could want in a child – good looking, smart, athletic, compassionate and well behaved. And then something changes. Although Golden Boy tells the story of one boy’s teenage struggles, it is really about how a family unravels in the face of unimaginable complications.

I did not want to put Golden Boy down for the first 100 pages. Tarttelin dangles little details of the story above your head in such a way as to make it impossible for you to turn away from the book. The story unwinds as you read along. At times it is like a car crash that you can’t look away from, at other times the thoughts of the characters wrap you up and won’t let you go.

Each chapter in Golden Boy is told from a different point of view. These points of view include Max and his family, his girlfriend and a doctor. In general, I like when novels unfold in this way and Tarttelin does a fabulous job at recounting events from more than one point of view. Really getting into the head of each character is one her strengths and she presents each character’s motivations and feelings with ease. Tarttelin herself is only 25 and I thought she did a wonderful job of getting inside the heads of parents. Less convincing was her portrayal of Max and his girlfriend. In many ways they were mature and wise beyond their years. In particular, Max could explain things to his younger brother with insight and precision that few adults can achieve.

Who would like this book? So far Golden Boy has garnered a lot of comparisons to Annabel by Kathleen Winter and Middlesex by Jeff Eugenides, both of which are superb books. The reasoning behind this is that all three deal with intersex children coming of age. And for that reason this book may not be to everyone’s taste. I would put Golden Boy in the same category as The Dinner by Hermann Koch, one of my favorite books of this year, because of the way it is written and how a single issue can tear apart a family. In terms of how the story unfolds it also reminds of The Yohanlossee Riding Camp for Girls by Anton Disclafani, which I will review on Thursday.