One Long Diatribe

18401347The Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew Quick
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

I should have written Richard Gere more letters. Heck, I should have written him one letter. One long diatribe where I offered up all of my feelings and emotions, thoughts on the Chinese government and Tibet, and all the women who have entered my life and then exited en masse, telling my story in a series of letters over a period of months or maybe it was years (I forgot), but if my source of inspiration for writing said letters is rifling through my mom’s underwear drawer, I’m glad I completely missed that memo.

If you like quirky characters that have a penchant for four-letter words, a woman who may be emotionally available through the aid of multiple therapy sessions, and a man who at thirty-eight years of age has no idea how to live without his mother, then sister have I got the story for you. You may want to sit down for this one, and read it while under the influence of prescription medication, otherwise you might smile at inopportune moments, like your neighbor’s funeral, or the sendoff of your favorite goldfish.

If Matthew Quick in any way resembles his characters, then he has more than a few quirks, and from my previous experience with playing in my own sandbox, there’s nothing wrong with a few idiosyncrasies. In fact, life hands you a Benjamin Franklin every time you come up with wonderfully original ones. If you don’t believe me, just ask Bartholomew Neil, or maybe you’re better off speaking with Matthew Quick. Either way, just make sure you wash your hands first.

THE GOOD LUCK OF RIGHT NOW had me galloping toward the finish with my hands up in the air. Without too much effort, I can safely say my enjoyment reached both hands, and then my brain, as I waited with bated breath for what I might discover within the confines of the next letter. If I were to dangle out on a limb in the middle of a windstorm, I might even call it inspiring. But that’s the kind of deduction you should make on your own, while not under the influence of prescription medication.

Sharpen My Pencil

18142427Life Drawing by Robin Black
My Rating: 2/5 Stars

Clearly, I must have read a different novel than my compatriots. I swear to you I didn’t do it on purpose. NetGalley must have sent me the wrong book via cyberspace; I downloaded it to my Kindle, and then remained entirely detached throughout most of this tale. Which as I write this puts me in the minority, and not just any minority, mind you, a minority that currently hovers at 6%. I pride myself on being different, but my sandbox must be on another planet, and I sure as shit hope it’s not Pluto, otherwise I’m bound to run out of oxygen before I even make it out of the earth’s atmosphere.

Normally, I avoid quoting the book’s synopsis, but I draw your attention to these two sentences: With lyrical precision and taut, suspenseful storytelling, Black steadily draws us deeper into a world filled with joys and darkness, love and sorrows, a world that becomes as real as our own. Life Drawing is a novel as beautiful and unsparing as the human heart. What could have possibly gone wrong, you might ask? Every damn thing. I don’t question Robin Black’s talent as a writer, and there might have even been lyrical precision contained within the 256 pages, but I felt no suspense, no real connection to this world, or the characters.

Instead of characters with heart and beauty, I was dealt Gus and Owen, both of whom had massive sticks stuffed up their bums, and frankly, Alison and Nora weren’t much better. I did begin to question whether or not I’d actually make it to the end, which did add a layer of suspense, but I don’t believe it’s what the author or publisher intended. I wouldn’t call the story beautiful, but it did contain an element of narcissistic realism, and therefore, could just as easily have taken place on reality television with a couple of hopeful supermodels and wanna-be actors blanketed in the wonderful utopia otherwise known as LA.

Maybe it was the wrong book at the wrong time, or maybe I just missed the point (wouldn’t be the first time), or maybe I have the IQ of a slug. Whatever it is, I shall slink back in my shell, change my clocks, sharpen my pencil, and set my sights elsewhere.

I received this book for free through NetGalley.

Turn To Amy Bloom

untitledLucky Us: A Novel by Amy Bloom
My Rating: 3/5 Stars

If I want to learn how to turn a phrase, and fill my life with words and sentences that will make your world spin, I shall to turn to Amy Bloom. If I want to fill my world with characters like Iris and Eva, who may not be the most likeable characters on the block, and yet still get you to continue reading, continue your evaluation of a novel all the way to the end, I shall turn to Amy Bloom. If I want to find a historical novel during the period of the Holocaust, where the world was filled with despair and hate, and yet find some token of goodness to keep your spirits up, I shall turn to Amy Bloom.

If I want to hold onto hope even as I turn my head away, and find myself somehow lost along the road that never ends, I shall turn to Amy Bloom. If I want to think about a story after I have finished a novel, where worlds have collided, and my feelings have not subsided, I shall turn to Amy Bloom. If I want to hear phrases that speak and words that sing in a compact tale of less than 260 pages, I shall turn to Amy Bloom. If I want rich characters, filled with thought, and dialogue that’s both realistic and possibly experimental, I shall turn to Amy Bloom. If I want to call myself lucky, or maybe refer to ourselves as LUCKY US, I shall turn to Amy Bloom.

And if you want to read a familial saga told over a period of years with strong women and even stronger prose, maybe you should too.

I received this book for free through NetGalley.

Reality Avenue

20566182Real Happy Family: A Novel by Caeli Wolfson Widger
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

Danger Will Robinson. I’m about to get nostalgic on your asses, and I really hope you’ll indulge me for just a minute. If you’re looking for my review, it’ll begin in the next paragraph. But I honestly can’t think of another way to do this. What I’d like to do is take this opportunity to say thank you. I started on Goodreads to improve my social media footprint and get my name out there via another avenue, and maybe discover another book or two, but it’s become so much more than that. It’s become a community. A family. My wife has said, “You’re pretty lucky.” But I’d go above and beyond that, and say that I’m damn lucky.

If you’re looking for that other type of family—you know the ones that snort drugs and bomb out on reality television and drift away from their respective husbands and wives and might not behave like true parents and veer off script more often than they stay on it and just happen to come in all various shapes and sizes—then REAL HAPPY FAMILY is for you. This novel takes Speidi and Bennifer to the brink of extinction with the proverbial train wreck waiting on every corner and maybe twice on Reality Avenue.

Sure, it’d be easy to call this novel a disaster, and then hang my head in shame, as I run for the nearest restroom to get a little bump to go along with my steak tartare and Pinot Grigio. But I was proud to discover this find, even if it reminded me of the rubberneckers on 95 or the 405. With characters that proved somewhat simple in nature and constantly choosing the wrong door, I was happy that I only temporarily occupied the stark raving universe otherwise inhabited by Colleen, Darren, Carl, Lorelei, and Robin and a handful of other misfits and oddballs and eccentrics and cranks.

The story followed a non-linear construct, so if straight lines and moving in order from A to B to C are your modus operandi, you might find yourself scratching your head a time or two. But the pace moved along at a reasonable clip, and I found myself a little sad to reach the end, even if it took me a few pages to find myself fully immersed in this tale.

I received this book for free through NetGalley.

Soap Opera Monday

18046526 by
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

Claudia Silver may be in her twenties, but she hasn’t left her teen years firmly behind. She has about as much sense as a love-struck fifteen-year-old left on the subway overnight and who might be prone to hallucinations on more than a few occasions. But I loved her anyway. That’s fucked up, right? Yeah, I thought so, too.

But like all teenage fantasies it wasn’t a perfect match, nor was it even a near perfect one. In fact, I abhorred her and loved her in nearly equal parts. There were occasions where I wanted to give her a hug, and there were plenty of occasions where I wanted to slap my forehead, scream, and run in the opposite direction. By the end, I might have had a nice semi-permanent red spot along with a decent amount of brain damage, and possibly finished my cardio for the entire month of March.

So what gives? I might have reached a new level of softness around my middle, or I might have just discovered a hidden gem in the midst of a woodpile before the entire stack of debris was doused in kerosene and set ablaze. I’m still processing and evaluating all the inputs, but I’ll go with the hidden gem option for two hundred Alex.

I was more than a little entertained, even if I wasn’t exactly rescued. CLAUDIA SILVER TO THE RESCUE reminded me of a soap opera, so it wasn’t all that surprising when this little tidbit was actually discussed in a bit of depth in the novel, and it reminded me on more than one occasion of how lucky I am with my family and my relationships and my job situation, because I really don’t endeavor to find out how much worse it could get for myself, but I have no problem reading about somebody else’s problems over the course of 259 pages or so.

One Hot Mess

13426081 by
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

One hot mess. That’s the first thought that comes to mind. The story was told out of sequence; the characters proved unlikeable and sometimes odious; the entire family managed to engage in conversations without ever really talking about anything meaningful; relationships died faster than a daisy in the middle of a blizzard; the voice was quirky, at times eccentric, and it filled me up with about as much hope as a five car pile-up. But I enjoyed the hell out of it anyway. I can’t adequately explain it, but it spoke to me like a ghost with two heads, or a blue lizard with his mouth open and eyes wide, telling me meaningful and profound thoughts with a slight upturn of his head.

I went into WE ONLY KNOW SO MUCH without any predispositions or inclinations, and I was glad I had my eyes open wide, and just went along for the ride. Because this story took me to some dark places, down some lonely roads, and I didn’t particularly like myself at all parts of this journey, but it was an exploratory endeavor that was as discombobulated and confusing and complicated as life itself. Had I not been a bit eccentric, I might have been less than thrilled with this ride, but I often look at myself (and I say this with complete sincerity) as one hot mess. So I connected with the material on a deep, meaningful level, even though it took me a while to reach the level of full emersion.

This novel breaks the major rule of writing: Show, don’t tell. Told from the perspective of an omniscient narrator, it single-handedly proves that with good writing there are no rules. Because I loved the fact that the narrator talks directly to the audience with a bit of dialogue, exposition, and backstory thrown in to move the story along. Even when it moves a bit tangentially (again, I’m often prone to making random connections in the universe), I was giddy with Elizabeth Crane’s storytelling ability. It was like snuggling up in a warm blanket, even if that blanket may turn around and occasionally bite you on the ass.