Monday, March 30, 2020

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is hosted by Kathryn at Reading Date.

Books I completed over the past week are:

P.S. Your Cat Is Dead by James Kirkwood
Fifteen Dogs by Andre Alexis

Bookmarks are still living in the middle of:

Yellow Earth by John Sayles
A Woman Is No Man by Etaf Rum
Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart

Reviews posted this week:

The Shape of Family by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

Books still needing to have reviews written (as opposed to the ones that are simply awaiting posting):

Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe by Heather Webber
Beginning with Cannonballs by Jill McCroskey Coupe
The Right Sort of Man by Allison Montclair
Faces: Profiles of Dogs by Vita Sackville-West
The Authenticity Project by Clare Pooley
The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott
Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan
Oona Out of Order by Margarita Montimore
Holding on to Nothing by Elizabeth Chiles Shelburne
Difficult Light by Tomas Gonzalez
Adults and Other Children by Miriam Cohen
Grief's Country by Gail Griffin
Moments of Glad Grace by Alison Wearing
Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss
The Library Book by Susan Orlean
Misconduct of the Heart by Cordelia Strube
Search Heartache by Carla Malden
What the Lady Wants by Renee Rosen
The Other Americans by Laila Lalami
The Book Keeper by Julia McKenzie Munemo
The Postmistress by Sarah Blake
Slice Harvester by Colin Atrophy Hagendorf
P.S. Your Cat Is Dead by James Kirkwood
Fifteen Dogs by Andre Alexis

Friday, March 27, 2020

Review: Slice Harvester by Colin Atrophy Hagendorf

When I went off to college a hundred thousand years ago, there was a pizza chain near the school that sold two small pizzas for $5. It was a college student's dream, cheap, fast, filling, and delivered very late at night. Except the pizza was disgusting. It came as a surprise to no one that they closed the summer after my freshman year because of health code violations. Before coming across Speedy's, I never would have guessed that pizza could be gross. Mediocre, yes. Disappointing, yes. Sublime, rare but yes. Disgusting? Who knew? Apparently Colin Atrophy Hagendorf knew. Slice Harvester is his memoir of eating his way across Manhattan, one pizza slice at a time, what was going on in his life as he ate all of that pizza, and his nostalgia for the punk scene of an earlier time.

Hagendorf was a NYC bike messenger, occasional punk rocker, and full time partier when he came up with the drunken idea to try all of the pizza in Manhattan on a quest for the best. Somehow, despite his level of intoxication when the plan hatched, he managed to not only remember the plan, but to set about doing it and to chronicle his attempt via 'zine and blog. Taking more than two years to eat one plain slice from each and every one of the more than 400 pizza places in Manhattan, Hagendorf does more than taste pizza. He reminisces about growing up outside of the City, joining the punk community, and lets the reader into his life and his relationships. This is not really about all the pizza he eats, it is about Hagendorf and how he became who he is. He chronicles partying that is out of control, the way that his alcoholism almost derailed his budding relationship, and his quest to really figure out who he is and who he wants to be.

In addition to his tales of his own life, Hagendorf introduces the reader briefly to some of the people important in his life, to random (and occasionally famous) people who eat with him along his quest, and to at least one pizza parlor owner's family journey to making pizza in Manhattan. He includes the punk community he's long been a part of, not only in the person of his fellow diners but also in terms of their culture. And this is the first place this memoir breaks down for a reader who is not punk. If you miss the cultural references because you have different touchpoints, you won't understand (or frankly, care about) many of his comparisons, missing a lot.  Each chapter of this "memoir in pizza" starts with a drawing and review from his blog or 'zine.  This is the second place this failed for me.  If I had read the blog before getting the book, I doubt I would have bought this as his reviews sound like nothing so much as a high schooler who thinks he's being clever.  Instead the descriptions are overwrought and reaching.  Over all, his narrative style is meandering and hearing about his excesses and his morning puke got old pretty quickly. He clearly wanted to assert his bona fides as counter culture and punk here but I'm not sure that a stunt memoir was the way to go about it, unless the stunt was something less prosaic than eating pizza. Actually, a straight memoir about being punk, rather than interleaving living that life with his "slice harvesting," might have been more unusual and interesting than this half in, half out memoir ended up being. Perhaps I'm too old and too conventional to be the right audience for this one but I would have thought that pizza, good and bad, both actual and as a metaphor for life, should have been for everyone.  Well, except for Speedy's pizza.  Because that stuff was gross.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Waiting on Wednesday

This meme was hosted by Breaking the Spine and is meant to highlight some great pre-publication books we all can't wait to get our grubby little mitts on. I'm choosing to continue the tradition even though she has stopped.

Queen of the Owls by Barbara Linn Probst.

The book is being released by She Writes Press on April 7, 2020.

The book's jacket copy says: A chance meeting with a charismatic photographer will forever change Elizabeth's life.

Until she met Richard, Elizabeth's relationship with Georgia O'Keeffe and her little-known Hawaii paintings was purely academic. Now it's personal. Richard tells Elizabeth that the only way she can truly understand O'Keeffe isn't with her mind--it's by getting into O'Keeffe's skin and reenacting her famous nude photos.

In the intimacy of Richard's studio, Elizabeth experiences a new, intoxicating abandon and fullness. It never occurs to her that the photographs might be made public, especially without her consent. Desperate to avoid exposure--she's a rising star in the academic world and the mother of young children--Elizabeth demands that Richard dismantle the exhibit. But he refuses. The pictures are his art. His property, not hers.

As word of the photos spreads, Elizabeth unwittingly becomes a feminist heroine to her students, who misunderstand her motives in posing. To the university, however, her actions are a public scandal. To her husband, they're a public humiliation. Yet Richard has reawakened an awareness that's haunted Elizabeth since she was a child--the truth that cerebral knowledge will never be enough.

Now she must face the question: How much is she willing to risk to be truly seen and known?

Monday, March 23, 2020

Review: The Shape of Family by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

Everyone handles grief differently. Some people want to bury it, some to shout it from the rooftops. Some people need to talk it through with others while some look for solace in a higher being. Holding onto grief and internalizing it without embracing or accepting it can tear apart the closest families, severing bonds once thought unbreakable. This is the case with the Olander family in Shilpi Somaya Gowda's newest novel, The Shape of Family, about a family disintegrating in the wake of a terrible tragedy, one that each member carries forward, shaping their futures in ways so unlike their pasts.

Keith, a successful investment banker from a financially insecure background, meets and marries Jaya, who works in international relations and grew up living all over the world as the cultured daughter of an Indian diplomat. The two of them settle in California and start to raise their family, daughter Karina, in eighth grade when the novel opens, fully cognizant that her mixed race heritage keeps her from feeling like she fits in anywhere, and mischievous, sweet eight year old son Prem. Their lives are not perfect but they are mostly happy with the balance they've struck. And then a terrible tragedy hits this small, self-contained family, and everything spirals out of control. They are cracked wide open in the wake of the devastation wrought by this sudden, unexpected, and unimaginable catastrophe, each character retreating away from the others, facing their guilt and the grief on their own, connections to each other stretching and tearing. In their individual, isolated spirals, they each try to move forward and forge a new life, without fully coming to terms with their loss and Prem, once an integral piece that held them together, is now helpless to stop the familial disintegration.

The novel's narration moves among the four Olander family members, with Karina being the biggest focus. The story is heartbreaking and the characters' grief is palpable as each withdraws into themselves and away from their once strong connections to each other. There are a lot of issues explored here beyond grief and what the shape of a family is: divorce, cutting, cults, the obsessive pursuit of money, complete immersion in religion, self-worth as defined by a job, love and relationship, and morality, as well as the suggestion of both rape and suicide. Perhaps there are a few too many topics. The first third of the book is quite grief heavy but it has a stronger focus than the last two thirds, mirroring the weaker bonds between the family members the further they get from the tragedy but also loaded with more and more issues. The ending here is hopeful, which is welcome after such an intensely sad story but it moves quite heavily into explanatory writing rather than allowing the hope to be revealed organically. There's so much pain in this novel but, in the end, what matters is that love remains and it will always be included in the forever changed shape of the family. Readers who enjoy novels of families facing adversity and sorrow and seeing the characters' subsequent responses to tragedy will enjoy immersing themselves in this novel.

For more information about Shilpi Somaya Gowda and the book, check our her author site, follow her on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, look at the book's Goodreads page, follow the rest of the blog tour, or look at the reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.

Thanks to Trish from TLC Book Tours and publisher William Morrow for sending me a copy of this book to review.

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Not a very good week at all! Here's hoping this coming week is better. This meme is hosted by Kathryn at Reading Date.

Books I completed over the past week are:

The Road to Delano by John DeSimone
The Book Keeper by Julia McKenzie Munemo
The Postmistress by Sarah Blake
Slice Harvester by Colin Atrophy Hagendorf
The Shape of Family by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

Bookmarks are still living in the middle of:

Yellow Earth by John Sayles

Reviews posted this week:

The Road to Delano by John DeSimone

Books still needing to have reviews written (as opposed to the ones that are simply awaiting posting):

Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe by Heather Webber
Beginning with Cannonballs by Jill McCroskey Coupe
The Right Sort of Man by Allison Montclair
Faces: Profiles of Dogs by Vita Sackville-West
The Authenticity Project by Clare Pooley
The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott
Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan
Oona Out of Order by Margarita Montimore
Holding on to Nothing by Elizabeth Chiles Shelburne
Difficult Light by Tomas Gonzalez
Adults and Other Children by Miriam Cohen
Grief's Country by Gail Griffin
Moments of Glad Grace by Alison Wearing
Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss
The Library Book by Susan Orlean
Misconduct of the Heart by Cordelia Strube
Search Heartache by Carla Malden
What the Lady Wants by Renee Rosen
The Other Americans by Laila Lalami
The Book Keeper by Julia McKenzie Munemo
The Postmistress by Sarah Blake
Slice Harvester by Colin Atrophy Hagendorf
The Shape of Family by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

Monday Mailbox

This past week's mailbox arrivals:

Life From Scratch by Melissa Ford came from me for myself.

Yes, I have a thing for food books. What of it? This story of a woman who starts a food blog to teach herself to cook, to vent her unhappiness, and to share her life sounds like yummy fun.

Her Last Flight by Beatriz Williams came from William Morrow and LibraryThing.

I have enjoyed Beatriz Williams' books before so I am looking forward to this one about a photographer and war correspondent researching a lost aviation pioneer and the woman she hires to help her, a woman who might have once been the disappeared aviator's student.

Something to Talk About by Meryl Wilsner came from Berkley.

Hollywood and rumors, what could be more delicious and escapist?

Stet by Diana Athill came from me for myself.

Athill is a beautiful writer and learning about her life as an editor should be amazing.

If you want to see the marvelous goodies in other people's mailboxes, make sure to visit Mailbox Monday and have fun seeing how we are all doing our part to keep the USPS and delivery services viable.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Waiting on Wednesday

This meme was hosted by Breaking the Spine and is meant to highlight some great pre-publication books we all can't wait to get our grubby little mitts on. I'm choosing to continue the tradition even though she has stopped.

The Last Summer of Ada Bloom by Martine Murphy.

The book is being released by Tin House Books on April 7, 2020.

The book's jacket copy says: A big-hearted story of a family filled with secrets, and the ways they grow up—and apart—over the course of a single, life-altering summer.

In a small country town during one long, hot summer, the Bloom family is beginning to unravel. Martha is straining against the confines of her life, lost in regret for what might have been, when an old flame shows up. In turn, her husband Mike becomes frustrated with his increasingly distant wife. Marital secrets, new and long-hidden, start to surface—with devastating effect. And while teenagers Tilly and Ben are about to step out into the world, nine-year-old Ada is holding onto a childhood that might soon be lost to her.

When Ada discovers an abandoned well beneath a rusting windmill, she is drawn to its darkness and danger. And when she witnesses a shocking and confusing event, the well’s foreboding looms large in her mind—a driving force, pushing the family to the brink of tragedy. For each family member, it’s a summer of searching—in books and trees, at parties, in relationships new and old—for the answer to one of life’s most difficult questions: how to grow up?

The Last Summer of Ada Bloom is an honest and tender accounting of what it means to come of age as a teen, or as an adult. With a keen eye for summer’s languor and danger, and a sharp ear for the wonder, doubt, and longing in each of her characters’ voices, Martine Murray has written a beguiling story about the fragility of family relationships, about the secrets we keep, the power they hold to shape our lives, and about the power of love to somehow hold it all together.

Popular Posts