Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Do This For Me: A Book Review

Sometimes you need to indulge in a bon-bon of a book, and DO THIS FOR ME will satisfy that craving for something sweet.

The story of Raney Moore, prestigious attorney, is filled with clever wit, making an unappealing sort of woman quite sympathetic to the reader. While you might fear that a character who tends to crush underlings beneath her powerful foot would be unlikeable, the author has written Raney with enough humility to soften the hard edges and have you root for her as she discovers that her neatly compartmentalized world has crumbled.

Like any good researcher, Raney sets off to uncover the source of the flaw that led to infidelity, and the quest makes for some very funny reading. She undergoes a satisfying transformation as she learns about life and herself, with the author engaging in standard women's fiction arcs, but who cares as long as you the reader have some fun on a weekend with some light reading?

This is definitely a book for adults, however, with lengthy passages about sex as Raney explores different sex partners in a most random, tomcat sort of fashion. Unleash the libido!

This is a carefree bit of prose, something to pick up for a beach read or holiday.

Thanks to Penguin Random House for the review copy.

Monday, April 23, 2018

The Mirage Factory: A Book Review

Los Angeles is an interesting bit of sprawl, and to read THE MIRAGE FACTORY is to come to an understanding on how that urban oasis came to be, in a most unlikely of spots.

Gary Krist does a fine job of presenting three separate narratives that describe well the events that shaped LA and guided the city towards significance. He begins with the story of Mr. Mulholland, the man who stole water from other areas so that LA could grow. Intertwined with the water saga is the brief history of D.W. Griffith, the star film director who was prominent in the film business that would define the area. Finally, the author introduces the reader to Aimee Semple McPherson, a character in her own right, and the sort of resident you'd expect to find in a city that has its own culture.

While the three key players were familiar to me, there was a great deal that was not, and I found this book to be a page-turner as Mulholland pushed ahead with his scheme to irrigate LA while D.W. Griffith cranked out film after film and became a force in the movie business. And how did the evangelist get her start before drifting into scandal? It's in THE MIRAGE FACTORY.

I thoroughly enjoyed this treatment of LA in the early decades of the Twentieth Century, when the city grew so fast that the water supply system couldn't keep up. The book is packed with fascinating details and anecdotes, and would be better than any guide book if you're planning a trip out west. Or have ever enjoyed a film or wondered about those mega-churches that draw enormous crowds.

Thanks to Penguin Random House for the advanced copy. This was one of the best I've seen.

Monday, April 16, 2018

House of Nutter: A Book Review

Fashion underwent a tremendous revolution in the 1960s and 1970s, and Tommy Nutter was one of that revolution's leaders.

This biography of the noted fashion designer was fascinating. A man from humble beginnings set the men's fashion world on its head with his bold designs and use of color at a time when the world was still very much a grey place. Add to that kind of bold thinking the fact that Mr. Nutter was gay when the gay world was still in the closet, and you have the makings of an intriguing read.

The writer brings us into the world of Savile Row tailoring and gay nightlife in swinging London, and he does it well. He places us in the disco era, among the stars in Tommy Nutter bespoke suits, all glitz and glamour and tragedy when the AIDS virus began to spread.

Not to be forgotten is Tommy's brother David, the noted photographer, who also features prominently in the tale. He was a groundbreaking artist in his own right, and the story of two gay brothers in creative fields, blazing new trails, makes for a very enjoyable read.

The younger generation, those who did not grow up in the bland 1950s and think the 1960s was all about protesting will find this treatment of those days interesting. There was a revolution, pushed on by the post-war babies, and the protests took on many forms, including wide lapels and colors beyond the grey/navy pallet.

Thanks to Penguin Random House for access to a book that I highly recommend.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018


At it's heart, the novel is an examination of love, and how many love stories one might have. Doesn't sound like much? Ah, but Julian Barnes has a way of sneaking up on you, drawing you in to a novel that soon has your full attention.

THE ONLY STORY is a coming of age, in a way, as protagonist Paul and all his late-teen lust falls in love with a neighbor much older than himself. He is the narrator, telling the story as he looks back at a romance that shaped his adult life, for better or worse.

It's difficult to write a review without spoilers because so much pops up, events sprinkled throughout the narrative that prompt page turning, but what becomes of Paul is told so well that I can only recommend the book.

The prose is the sort that feels effortless, as if the author just sat down and let the words flow. A few spots got somewhat draggy, as can happen in a book filled with internal dialogue and pondering, but it passes. And it's a fairly short novel, perfect for a quiet weekend's read when you want to delve into a study of a fascinating character.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

The Girl Who Never Read Noam Chomsky: A Book Review

They fill the offices in New York city publishing houses, twenty-somethings who majored in creative writing. They fill the acquisitions department with treacle that resonates with them, so sure that the rest of the reading world will also vibrate to the buzz of a twenty-something creative writing student facing so many taxing problems. Like if she's fat. If her submission to the prestigious literary rag will be accepted. If she should buy a bagel or a jelly donut.

We've been here before, haven't we, with THE LIGHT WE LOST.

And like that earlier incarnation, I have given up, but well before page 145.

"What do we have but yet another young New Yorker examining the lint in her navel and imagining that it is fascinating for us all" I said back then, and it's still true in THE GIRL WHO NEVER READ NOAM CHOMSKY. The problems are the same small, petty, insignificant dross. This novel is the bleating of an elitist who has not experienced life. It makes for a boring tale.

Again, the prose is lovely. And again, it's the fecking story. There isn't much there.

To repeat: "Sure there are those who enjoy a soap opera, or those who are twenty-something elitists in New York who believe their problems have deep relevance to the world. I am not one of them. This is not a book for me. Sorry, Penguin Random House. You gave me the book for a review, but I can't finish it. I wouldn't inflict this on anyone I know because they like good books with substance. If you're wondering why book sales are down, well, you can start here."

It still holds true for this particular presentation of elitist problems.

Friday, March 09, 2018

The Italian Teacher: A Book Review

He has a way with words, author Tom Rachman, a lyrical quality that entices a reader to suspend disbelief and enter the world of Pinch Bavinsky, the solitary hero of THE ITALIAN TEACHER.

The protagonist is the son of a Jewish bundle of neuroses who hates her mother (a requisite character trait these days, it seems) and a narcissistic artist whose time comes and goes over the course of the novel. Religion does indeed figure in this novel, however, but it is Pinch who is the true believer, worshipping his ne'er-do-well father. It is a faith that forms the son and guides his choices, for good or ill.

Pinch grows up in the shadow of the famous man who is too busy bedding women to take much heed of his son, although they do form a rather tight bond, the origins not discovered until later. Such is the stuff that drives a narrative that is quite compelling, as the reader goes along for a rather sad ride through the life of Pinch, with all its misery and inability to form relationships.

His is the solitary life, his focus centered on getting his father's attention while trying to avoid his somewhat unstable mother's smothering. A young man full of enthusiasm for art ends up as a language teacher, his life's course plotted by a father whose motivations are unclear until you reach the end - but it's that kind of tension that keeps you turning the page.

The prose is so lovely that you'll despair of ever being able to write nearly as well, and the story at times so far-fetched that you almost can't believe the path it has taken, but it's a delight all the same. The conclusion is a tribute to true love and the tight bonds of friendship, the sort of ending that you'd hoped for as you discover more about Pinch, his father, and his mother.

This was one of those rare books that I stayed up well past bedtime to finish, a pleasure to read.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Enchantress Of Numbers: A Book Review

History has forgotten so many women, and author Jennifer Chiaverini brings them back to life. In her newest work of historical fiction she presents the life of Ada Byron King, daughter of the poet Byron, a woman now considered the mother of computer coding.

ENCHANTRESS OF NUMBERS is well researched, and the nuggets of information that pop up in the narrative are never intrusive. Ms. Chiaverini paints a subtle picture of life at the end of the Georgian Era when Ada, daughter of a peer, was being raised by a mother who wished to create a rational, non-imaginative child.

Readers might be a bit skeptical about the early chapters, where Ada relates her infancy as if she was recalling incidents, but read on and the clunky opening fades away as the heart of the story is revealed. Through a difficult and most un-ordinary childhood, a woman with a penchant for complex mathematics arises, and much of the middle section revolves around her efforts to pursue advanced studies while the world expects her to take her rightful place as wife and mother.

A woman's mind was considered a delicate vessel in those days, and too much study was thought to be physically debilitating. It is just one of many issues that Ada had to beat back with guile and clever turns of phrases to reach her goals.

Ada struggles, she perseveres, and in the end she trimphs, although you might have a feeling that her marriage was not so happy as the author depicts it. This is fiction, however, and Ada faces more than enough difficulties to drive the narrative to a positive conclusion. The opening chapters that cover her mother's miserable union with Lord Byron are more than enough dysfunction for one book.

You will most likely have an urge to study Byron's poetry after reading ENCHANTRESS OF NUMBERS, to see Ada through her father's eyes and gain a little insight into his view of his failed marriage and the mother of his only legitimate child. The novel focuses largely on Ada's mother's images, and her determination to keep Ada from every becoming like her father.

Fans of historical fiction will enjoy this one.