Book Lovers

golden-lit, Italian village built into the Mediterranean coast
Beautiful Ruins
Jess Walter

The newest novel from Walter, whose previous book The Financial Lives of Poets, was a riot is a little more subdued, at times, but still a funny, even romantic look at the past and current life of how movies are made in Hollywood. It is not the story of one or even two characters but nearly ten, that Walters does a great job of keeping separate through alternating chapters and alternating settings (Rome, Hollywood, London, Idaho). Just when you think, "Oh no, not another new character", Walter offers up a spin you don't see coming and you're sucked right back in to the new thread. I ate this book up- and think you will, too.

Feb 2, 2013
Nim Chimpsky
Nim Chimpsky: The Chimp Who Would be Human
Elizabeth Hess

This is the story of Nim Chimpsky who was chosen for an experiment designed by Dr. Herbert S. Terrace to see how well a chimpanzee could aquire language (using American Sign Language) if he was raised in a human home. Hess follows Nim from home to home through the recollections of his caretakers as they learn that taking care of a growing chimpanzee was a lot more work than they thought it would be.  After the experiment is over, Nim gets sent to a "chimp farm" in Oklahoma, but when their funding dries up all of Nim's fans have to help him find a permanent home.  This interesting account really makes you think about the plight of animals used for experiments and how often their long-term well being is not considered.

Jan 24, 2013
My Soul to Take
Yrsa Sigurdardottir

Thora's client believes his new age hotel is haunted and wants to sue the previous owners.  When Thora arrives to investigate, the hotel's architect is found murdered.  Are there really ghosts or is there something much more sinister going on?

Jan 16, 2013
This Is How You Lose Her
Junot Diaz

This Is How You Lose Her is, you guessed it, a set of short stories about a dude, Yunior,  who lost his girl- and how he came to be the guy that would lose her, the one. It takes lots of girlfriends, as it turns out, some more important to him than others, some teaching more important lessons, and some older and more experienced in the ways love works, especially among Dominican-American men (as the main character also is). This book is an extension of author Junot Diaz’s first short story collection, Drown, which came out in 1997 and was lauded by critics, as this one was, too. Most of the stories are set in New Jersey and revolve just as much around Yunior’s relationship with his mom, brother, and, in a far-back memory story, his dad. The language is often hip and young, and the stories are quite readable, making good use of their mostly urban environments. This is more of a "guy read" as most of the stories are told from Yunior’s often frustrated perspective, but are well worth the ride.

Jan 3, 2013
My Heart Is an Idiot
Davy Rothbart

Davy Rothbart comes off as both likeable and unlikeable in this collection of essays.  Telling of his kinda-hard-to-believe adventures traveling near and far, he proves to be reckless and human.  Sometimes breaking hearts, other times having his heart broken, Rothbart shows how easy it is to find meaning in the ordinary as well as the extraordinary as long as you keep yourself open and willing.

Jan 3, 2013
Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo and Me
Ellen Forney

Right before turning 30, artist Ellen Forney was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.  Fearing she would lose her creative edge if she took medication, Forney struggled for years trying to maintain a balance.  Graphic novels lend themselves beautifully to telling deeply moving and personal memoirs and Marbles is another perfect example of how engaging they can be.

Dec 20, 2012
Daniel H. Wilson

Imagine a world where medical conditions like epilepsy, or autism, or fetal alcohol syndrome could be cured by an implant in a human brain. What if that technology was used not only medically, but voluntarily to increase intelligence or make better soldiers? That is just what happens in Amped. As you can imagine, regular people, or “reggies” might become intimidated and afraid of the “amps,” which is just what happens in this action-packed science fiction book that calls to question what it means to be human.

Dec 14, 2012
Gone Girl
Gillian Flynn

On her fifth wedding anniversary, Amy Dunne disappears from the Missouri mansion she shares with her husband, Nick. From the outside looking in, Amy and Nick's marriage is perfect: Amy is clever and ambitious, while Nick could be considered for Husband-of-the-Year. But now that Amy is missing, who is responsible? Could Nick be guilty of murdering his perfect wife? Alternating between Nick and Amy's perspectives, Flynn reveals that what existed beneath the pretty exterior of the Dunne marriage was a toxic, unhealthy relationship, with both parties to blame.

Dec 13, 2012
You & Me
Padgett Powell

This short and strange offering from fiction experimentalist, Padget Powell, is quite simple in premise: two older guys sitting on a porch are conversing about life. That's it. But in the fashion of absurdist, postmodern fiction (and Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett), these guys are also a bit lost and don't know where they're going. The chapters are pretty short and contain nothing but dialogue between the two, but touch on some fairly heavy philosophical subjects (life/death/love) as well as some down-to-earth yet occassionally surreal subjects (what to do with people talking on cell phones in traffic). Sometimes they make up a word and go on a kind of riff; sometimes it's a phrase that sets them off in new dialogic directions. Worth a look if you like books without easy answers told in a playful, if sometimes mind-boggling fashion.

Dec 11, 2012
Detroit City Is the Place to Be
Mark Binelli

Since about 2009, journalists from all over the world have been flooding in to Detroit to try to document the (hopeful) renaissance of the once great city.  Some focused on the "ruin porn", some focused on urban gardening, some focused on the transformation of the main industry (from automotive to technology or something else), some focused on the artists (saying Detroit is the next Berlin or the next Brooklyn).  The reports have been overwhelming, but mostly positive, focusing on the bright future of Detroit.   In Detroit City is the Place to Be, writer Mark Binelli took a magazine assignment profiling the city and turned it into a realistic look at the possibilities of where Detroit is heading and what it will look like.  He manages to avoid jumping on either extreme - there's no utopian idealism and no complete pessimism of the death of this city.

Dec 1, 2012

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