Wednesday, September 11, 2013
August 2013 Book Reviews
Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell
Now you know I'm a huge fan of Karen Russell. Mostly because her prose is delicious. I mean DELICIOUS. Find her short story St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves and you'll see what I mean. St. Lucy's is the first short story of Russell's that I ran across in an anthology. I said, "Who IS this person?" and I was hooked.
Russell is fearless and masterful. And young. She was thirty when she was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for her debut novel, Swamplandia!. That's right. Thirty.
And her concepts are just rad.
Okay, go read it. And when you read it, if you're a writer, try not to be too jealous.
Warnings on: language? Maybe? I can't remember.
This was actually a reread. It's a short book and since his new book was coming out, I thought I would refresh my memory as to Cusick's style. John Cusick is a very nice guy. I met him at WYFIR 2012, when he did a sit-down with me over my novel manuscript. He gave me some positive feedback and some very good advice and I came away from the meeting so grateful for his input and the time he spent, that I brought some artwork for him the next day.
Girl Parts is the story of three characters, two male, one female . . . ish. She's definitely female, but she's a robot, so she's kind of a female in training. The two boys in the narrative are dissociated, so as part of the treatment for their pathology, they are prescribed love-bots, here called Companions, that are supposed to help them learn how to make healthy connections. Only one boy accepts though, and he receives Rose. Rose goes through the expected growing pains of an A.I. coming to terms with her existence, and the pitfalls and pains of love, but the interesting thing about this robot is that she has a sexual awakening as well. Oh, and there is a definite moment at the end, where I was reminded of Jack's dissociated sensations in Fight Club. Remember when he said, "I wanted to put a bullet between the eyes of every panda that wouldn't screw to save its species. I wanted to open the dump valves on oil tankers and smother all the French beaches I'd never see. I wanted to breathe smoke. I wanted to destroy something beautiful." Great moment.
Warnings on: language, sexual situations.
So I'm late to this party, but that doesn't mean I didn't enjoy it any less. This book is epistolary (written in the form of letters) and carries with it the lovely and vulnerable voice of an intelligent and troubled adolescent boy. I cried a lot when I read this book. Some of you will know exactly why. But even without my personal experiences, this book captures something tender and terrifying. A strange dichotomy of emotion that accompanies the what the main character has gone through. I don't really want to give anything away, because it's a poignant journey to uncover for yourself.
I watched the movie after I finished the book, and I enjoyed it too. I thought it captured the spirit of the book quite well.
Warnings on: language, sexual situations, drug use.
This is Cusick's newest book. It came out yesterday and I read it yesterday. When I was thinking last night about how Cusick writes his female characters, a Jack Nicholson quote from that film As Good As It Gets came into my head: "When I write a woman, I think of a man, and I take away reason and accountability." Thinking of this quote makes me laugh, and just so you know, this isn't Cusick's technique. Well, as far as I know. But the title character of Cherry Money Baby seems a little more complex than that. As I wrote in my Amazon review, Cherry is a small town girl living in a small town world. (And now I strangely have the Pet Shop Boys in my head.) Cherry loves her life and she loves her town. Maybe she doesn't exactly love her life, but she's content with it, and has no desire to change. This is unusual because she is poor. She works at Burrito Barn. She lives in a trailer park. Usually, as a reader, I want the protagonist to achieve a big dream, become something so much more. But with Cherry, I was swept up in her desire to just maintain. To be okay with being someone who is really of no consequence to anyone but herself and her man. That's refreshing. Cherry is refreshingly flawed, profane, and unpredictable, and since she has no desire to change, when she starts to, I found myself resistant to it. Well done on that score, Cusick.
Cherry Money Baby has a lot of plot twists, and I like being surprised. As a writer, I find myself knowing what will happen at the end quite often, but this book went in a direction I didn't expect. Maybe because I didn't read any of the synopses or try to find out anything ahead of time. It's the roller coaster ride of a girl who attempts to navigate a world that grows bigger all the time. After everything, I still hope that Cherry will go to college and do some traveling. And that's the best part, because in my opinion, getting you to care about a character is the most important thing an author can do.
Warnings on: language, sexual situations, drug use.
Okay, Shar recommended this to me and it took me a long time to read it, which I am kicking myself for.
You want a new fairy tale? You want a strong heroine who takes action? You want vivid prose? You want humor as well as a look into the profound?
Read this book.
As a woman who runs her own business in a creative industry, I really appreciated this book. It's all about the phenomenon of virality and how to manipulate the market to your advantage.