I’ve started writing individual thoughts for books to read per week in my Weekly Updates posts. Look at those to stay on top of what I’m reading. At the end of the month, I’ll list all the books read here with a mini-review of each.
A Highly Unlikely Scenario, or a Neetsa Pizza Employee’s Guide to Saving the World: A Novel by Rachel Cantor
This is Cantor’s first novel. There is some serious potential here and I hope she continues writing. I am looking forward to what she comes up with next. With that said, there is definite room for improvement with story development.
The writing style and pacing is fantastic! But the plot device and elements were rather weak for me. Part of this is personal preference that I just can’t get into Jewish mysticism stories. Remember how much I disliked Yiddish Police Men’s Union?
At it’s heart, this is a fun, wacky time travel book. The main characters are kids but it’s not kid oriented. Cantor creates a world that could be very interesting but doesn’t develop it enough to really pull us in. I would have loved to know the actual reasons for the different factions and all the fighting. I kept waiting for an explanation but it never came.
The story also did this strange thing where it solved a problem that never existed. As is possible with time travel books but it was strange to put in. One of the characters “saved the world” before we saw that it ever needed saving.
I do recommend this book as a light, fun read. But mainly suggest you keep an eye out for Rachel Cantor in the future.
Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut
As an enjoyer of Vonnegut’s novels, I was looking forward to finally reading this one. His satire, as always, is on point. I loved how it was written in a “Welcome to the Western World” handbook style. However, towards the end of the book this grew tiresome. The illustrations also started out hilarious then just grew overboard. Yes, I understand that’s the point and Vonnegut does it well.
The humor never stops but I did find myself getting bored of the whole thing about three-quarters way through. The plot was too open, the characters too wacky, the satire too strong. Maybe this just wasn’t quite the Vonnegut book for me.
I did love that the plot revolves around a writer going to a festival. His works were mainly published in dirty magazines as filler. The descriptions of his stories were wonderful. I liked what should have been the plot. But then things unraveled pretty quickly toward the end and I just couldn’t keep up. So it goes.
The Scar Boys by Len Vlahos
Also reviewed in my Weekly Updates.
Trust me, don’t let the words “coming of age” or “young adult” scare you. I loved this book. I read it in a day.
The beginning involves the main character being tied to a tree (kids!) then struck by lightning and practically burned to death. We get an insight into how difficult his life was afterwards, as he was literally scarred from the incident.
Then he makes a friend and they create “the greatest punk rock band you’ve never heard of”. This part of the story is predictable. The bassist is a girl, someone in the band sleeps with her (this isn’t a spoiler). There is some tension. Friendships end. Friendships rekindle. It’s typical and original all at the same time.
It’s setting was interesting for me, Westchester; suburbs of NYC. Since it is set in the 1970’s/1980’s time period, there were fun descriptions of the NYC punk scene during that time. The band, of course, goes to CBGB’s. They get their van illegally inspected in the Bronx. That stuff was fun for me.
The ending isn’t completely predictable but things do come full circle. Everyone grows but without a sappy, sentimental ending. It doesn’t quite end happy, but it ends as it should.
Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld
This is not a book I would typically read. But one of my favorite friends said it described motherhood very well, so I was curious. I actually enjoyed the depictions of a SAHM of two. It was subtle but weaved into the story well. As someone childless myself, I haven’t thought about how shopping for clothes would be different with a child with you.
Unfortunately, some of this made the main character come off as stuck up. Pretentious. Condescending. A downright bitch. Reading Sisterland reminded me a lot of reading Big Brother by Lionel Shriver . Both novels revolve around sibling tension. Both main characters have a sibling who is doing nothing with their life, though has lots of potential. This sibling is childless, single, selfish; essentially a train wreck. Oh, and of course both siblings are fat. Because, you know, if you’re fat then you definitely can’t have anything skinny people can have.
To be fair, the end of Sisterland puts a sort of balance to the fat shaming. But it wasn’t enough for me.
The plot device is the psychic powers the sisters have and their prediction of a major earthquake. It at least kept me interested in the story. However, it really is only a device because the story is essentially about the lives of these two sisters. The main character is just a terrible person all the way through. I mean, she’s supposed to be, but it made it a bit of a drab read.
I started but did not finish Art of Happiness by Dalai Llama & Howard C. Cutler and Double Feature by Owen King. As I previously mentioned, these two just weren’t worth the time.
Art of Happiness is more of a memoir from an American psychiatrist. It’s mostly about his therapy, his life stories, and some case studies. With bits and pieces of his discussions with the Dalai Lama thrown in there for good measure.
My only caveat with Double Feature was it’s formatting. Also, I’m not a filmmaker. Much how Cormac McCarthy’s lack of quotation marks defines his style. Owen King’s style is defined by the lack of paragraph breaks; especially after dialogue. Maybe okay in theory, but in practice this creates large walls of text on every page. I just couldn’t do it.