Monday, December 28, 2015

Waltzing the Cat

By Pam Houston

A story of a young woman who can't seem to find peace and love in her life. She goes white-water rafting in extreme conditions, sailing around the world in the midst of a storm, and has a very close encounter with a grand cayman in the Amazon river. But to find peace in her future, she needs to accept her past.
Lucy's story is written as independent short stories, each an adventure or misadventure with men, or both. I started reading the book twice. The first time, I couldn't get into it, for some reason, and had to put it down and finish a few other books. But the second read flowed easily. The writing is beautiful, and there were many places where I laughed, even out loud, despite certain sadness throughout. [288 pp.]

Book link

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Last Last Chance

By Fiona Maazel

I went to a reading by Fiona in Riverside Park, and was very impressed with her beautiful writing and rich imagination. She seemed to have a tendency to tackle a bunch of important and not necessarily related issues, and she does it in a way that makes you smile and laugh out loud even when you're sad. So I checked out her debut novel, and was not disappointed. I chuckled frequently and enjoyed the perspective of a drug addict of a world in crisis - attacked by a superplague. I was a bit thrown off by occasional voices of reincarnated souls, which were not always easy to follow. But on the whole, I really enjoyed the book. [337 pp.]

[Book link]

Monday, November 2, 2015

The War of the Worlds

By H.G. Wells

I might have seen the movie, ages ago, but I don't remember much. The book is written in the first person voice. A man who witnesses a great deal of the Martian invasion, complemented by details of his brother's experiences. It is very sound logically, as far as I could tell, which is nice. [285 pp.]

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Shalosh Komot (Three Floors) [Hebrew]

By Eshkol Nevo

This book was interesting and a quick read. I felt it was missing in subtext, even though it dealt with some serious issues. It's nice to be fed with a spoon every now and then, but sometimes I'd like to dig in myself. In the end, I did not feel the same exhilaration I felt when I read another of Nevo's books, Neuland. 
[272 pp.]

Book link

This Year in Jerusalem

By Jeffrey F. Barken

A collection of stories, a few set in the US, others in various parts of Israel. Some of the stories are connected. It's interesting to read about Israel from the point of view of an American who had volunteered to work in a Kibbutz. [129 pp.]

Book link

Fantasy & Science Fiction - February 1993

Interesting stories, for the most part. I had a bit of trouble with From Our Point of View We Had Moved to the Left, but the other ones were pretty good. The Grass is Always Greener was particularly fun. And it was very interesting to read about the Internet (in the Science section) as it was viewed back in 1992.
[160 pp.]

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Brave New World

By Aldous Huxley

A book published in 1932 with an outlook to a future, that is, unfortunately, not too different from our times. Perhaps not biologically, though the advances mentioned in the book in regard to that technology are no doubt here. But the consumerism aspect is spot on. Clothes that fall apart so you'd buy new ones all the time? A drug to make you happy without side effects? (well, we're still working on that). I liked the idea of worshipping Ford and his factory mentality. I didn't find this book to be beautifully written, or that I could easilly get lost or immersed in the new world, but it did offer some insights and made me laugh at times. 

Link to book.

Monday, August 3, 2015

The Art of Racing in the Rain

By Garth Stein

A story about an amateur car racer and his struggles to keep his family intact, told from the perspective of his dog, who has aspirations to become a human in his next incarnation. The book is very readable and though at time it felt a bit too new-agey, it wasn't too bad. I guess when the new-agey individual is a dog, it's okay. I expected the dog to be more egocentric, but I guess, he was so selfless because he was a dog, not a cat. Same could be said of his admiration of his owner. Overall, a pleasant read, and at times tear-jerking. [321 pp.]

Link to book.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Fiction Gallery

By Gotham Writers Workshop

A collection of excellent short stories to learn from or simply enjoy. They are arranged in sections, based on connecting themes, and each section is briefly introduced, bringing out important aspects of each story. [357 pp.]

Link to book.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Through the Safety Net

By Charles Baxter

A collection of short stories. I fairly enjoyed most of them. They are well written and do seem to have a point, or at least a story to tell. With the exception of the last story, which I found dragging. [216 pp.]

Link to book.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Flight Behavior

By Barbara Kingsolver

A book about entomology! Well, not only. Mostly about what we do when we face problems (deny them), and where that leads us (not good places), both on a personal and on a societal level. [436 pp.]

Link to book

Monday, May 18, 2015

High Lonesome: New and Selected Stories 1966-2006

By Joyce Carol Oates

A huge collection of stories, arranged mostly chronically. I liked the newer ones best. The collection starts with the newest ones, and the first three left tremendous impression on me. But I found the older ones too obsessed with rape and murder, which was quite disturbing. Some stories seemed to go on and on forever and never end (My Warszawa: 1980). Then there are some from the 1990's with a quality similar to that of the first three stories, which impressed me so much. [662 pp.]

Link to book

Saturday, May 16, 2015

The Feast of Love

By Charles Baxter

Multiple stories about love, or the feast it could become. Often funny, sometimes sad, usually fascinating. There are some great word combinations, especially when Chloé tells her stories, though not only. [308 pp.]

Link to book

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Lacuna

By Barbara Kingsolver

As always, Kingsolver does not disappoint. It took me a bit to get into the story, but then I was totally immersed. I love all that extra historical knowledge you can get by reading her books. It's never just a story, though the story part is strong indeed. [507 pp.]

Link to book.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Twilight of the Superheroes

By Deborah Eisenberg

Although I found the stories interesting and well written, it still felt like something was missing. I know the author is considered as someone who has mastered the art of short fiction, but a lot of the stories, to me, seemed more like epxressed opinions (with which I do agree) than actual storytelling. I guess lack of plot was the most prominent. The ideas were there, and they were good. The protagonists had desires and wishes. But it didn't seem like they were going anywhere with them. Some stories were more like that than others. Revenge of the Dinosaurs was the hardest for me to follow, probably because it didn't follow the usual dialog conventions, and it wasn't always clear when the narrator was saying something or simply narrating. [225 pp.]

Link to book.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Fantasy & Science Fiction - Oct/Nov 1991

This does not belong in my regular to-read list, but I needed a book, and it was available. Turns out it's not that far from my kind of readings... I was surprised that it didn't contain much of specific sci-fi/fantasy jargon that was unfamiliar to me. Some stories did have some fantastical aspect to them, especially the first one, The Honeycrafters, by Carolyn Ives Gilman, and the last one, Gasoline Lake, by Marc Laidlaw. Still, they were easily readable to a non-sci-fi reader such as myself. I liked most of the stories. Even the one that was pretty intense, by Bradley Denton - Rerun Roy, Donna, and the Freak. [240 pp.]

Link to book.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Tin House 34

Volume 9, Number 2

Favorites: Uncertainty, by Joshua Ferris, Going to Estonia, by Caitlin Horrocks, and Shawn Vestal's The First Several Hundred Years Following My Death. Also need to check out Charle's Baxter's The Soul Thief, as the excerpt is quite intriguing.

Link to website.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Sandscript Vol. 22 (2014)

Loaded with great stories, poems and visual art. (165 pp.)

Link to publication

Tin House - 56

Volume 14, Number 4

Has a number of nice short stories and a wonderful essay (by Robert Boswell) on characterization. (224 pp.)

Link to publication

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Dressmaker of Khair Khana

By Gayle Tzemach Lemmon

This is the story of a real person, Kamila Sidiqi, who, with the rise of the Taliban and along with all other Kabul girls, was forced out of school and into taking care of their family. Without leaving the house, mind you. Not an easy task. Life during those 5-6 years of Taliban rule was not easy, but this girl and her sisters were extremely resourceful. It was nice reading a book that is not fiction, but which has such an amazing character and scene descriptions. Makes me think that I should also take a non-fiction writing class.

Link to book.

Dewey: The Small Town Library Cat Who Touched the World

By Vicki Myron with Bret Witter

This book was much better than I expected. I love cats, but somehow, when I first saw the book in My Little Library (those neighborhood boxes where you can exchanged books), I thought "Wow, this looks interesting, and a little corny." It turned out to be quite good. I was especially impressed by the introduction, which I read long before I actually started the book. But as I kept reading, I fell more and more in love with the cat. He is simply adorable. Eventually I felt like I didn't want to reach the end, because that means Dewey dies. Yes, he indeed died, but it still is a wonderful story. Sometimes it felt like Vicki talks more about her life than Dewey, but somehow it still seemed appropriate. And Dewey (perhaps conciously, to avoid criticism such as this) was always brought back again when it felt like he's been out of the picture for a tad too long. My favorite Dewey picture is the one at the head of Chapter 17: Dewey and the Modern World. He's sitting on top of a computer monitor and the expression on his face is simply priceless.

Link to book
Link to a video about Dewey and Tom (another Iowa cat)

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Winesburg, Ohio

By Sherwood Anderson

A collection of short stories that form a sort of a novel. The stories are somewhat connected by one of the characters, but mostly they are connected by themes. Some of them are very nice, others I found a bit lacking.

book link here