Wednesday, February 27, 2013


(Psst - enter the giveaway below for a chance to win a SIGNED COPY of Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles by Ron Currie, Jr!)

I couldn't get enough of Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles in the very beginning... and the second half. I am required to admit: There were moments during which I did not enjoy this novel... for a few bits in the the first half. In the end, I loved it, but it was definitely touch and go until Mr. Currie killed himself. Er, his character did. Er, attempted to kill himself.

I'm not spoiling anything, I swear; the impending suicide is laid out in first few pages. Why touch and go? Perhaps the very distinct maleness of the downward spiral, the violence of the sex (a little hard to stomach if you know my background), the one-that-got-away-ness (do all of you boys have a girl (or boy) that got away because you were a moron?) were all less than appealing to me, but then, I wasn't reading as fast as I should have. Had I been, I would have had the beginning's discussion of truth vs fiction fresh in my mind, the play on reality and perception, the relationship of narrator to writer to reader. I mean, the book begins with a comment on the audacity of epigraphs - how can you not end up liking it?

The novel is a continuous commentary on perception vs reality, fiction vs truth, and even the Singularity.(FLPM is actually the second book I've read in the past few months that mentions the singularity, and that mentions Garry Kasparov's defeat by a computer...is that eerie? Or just a normal case of synchronicity?) Anyway, to sum up:

Read this if:
  • You have a penchant for the absurd.
  • You like novels that play with form - this one is told in a series of short segments - a page or two, or sometimes only a paragraph, instead of in traditional chapters.
  • You delight in fiction that takes stock of itself - that explores deeper philosophical questions - the thin veils between truth and fiction and perception, for example. Even between honesty and truth.
  • Your favorite song is I Can See Clearly Now.
  • You, too, suffer from the-one-that-got-away-ness; maybe your favorite song is actually Pictures of You.
Don't read this if:
  • You take yourself very seriously.
  • Yours is a shadeless world of black and white.
  • You are not in a very good place right now. This may not be the best read for you until you emerge from your Very Dark Place, at least a little.
  • Your favorite genre is "chick lit" and you don't mind that it's called "chick lit."
  • You can't stand (or can't follow) novels that jump around in time and place.

Also! I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Currie in person last week, and he graciously signed my copies of the book - and now I have one to share with you, courtesy of Penguin (who also sent me this book in exchange for my honest review). See that book staged oh-so-cleverly above? That could be your copy! Just enter below by the time you go to bed on Monday, March 4. Don't worry; Rafflecopter only asks for a name and email so that I can contact you if you win! No password or anything. Winners to be announced next Wednesday, March 6. (Only open to US residents.)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Fake Bookish Neurosis: Plotjà Vu

It would seem that Tana French brings out the lit lunacy in me.

When I was last suffering from a fake bookish ailment, I thought I was a cop tripping over the edge in In The Woods. Some flicker of unintentional method acting gone bad. This time, I can't shake the feeling that I've read a book that I'm 98% positive that I haven't read: The Secret History by Donna Tartt, a sort of plotjà vu. For some reason, that novel has been hugging the shadows of my books-I-should-read periphery for a while now, and I can't figure out why. And there's no movie (yet), I checked, so that's not why the synopsis is hauntingly familiar.

I had the same feeling of overfamiliarity while reading/listening to French's The Likeness. I knew those weirdo overintellectual graduate students. Somehow. Well, not really, but the story had happened across my consciousness before, in some other form. But when? How?  Maybe I sleepwalked joined a crazy clan of snobby outcasts in college?

And thus, plotjà vu, suffering from a sense that you've already seen the plot before, somewhere else. I'm not talking about derivative plots, or authors/books that have obviously influenced the author in the current novel you're reading, but more of that not-quite-identifiable sense that you've seen something very similar before. Almost as if you've dreamed the plot, and now you're reading it. But in that ever ethereal slipping away of dreams, you can't quite remember when or where or even quite what happens. Mostly, it's the atmosphere that remains, that lingers on the edges of a current read.

And now I'm reading/listening to Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl, and I've just been introduced to this novel's cliquish crew of pseudo-intellectuals. Seriously? What strange set of coincidences has set this reading sequence in motion? Don't answer that.

But do help me out: Is Donna Tartt's novel the source of this weird plot framework? Group of 4-5 odd but strangely close smartypantsy philosophizing youngins somehow accepts an outsider into their fold; bad shit happens. Usually, someone dies. I can't seem to trace back to the source of origin in my own psyche/reading history/movie history.  (I'm pretty sure) this isn't some bizarre mythology seeping into our Jungian collective subconscious. It must have originated from somewhere. Maybe I read/saw something else with the same plot elements. Or perhaps you did and can solve my little mystery?

Maybe I just need to (re?)read The Secret History to figure out my own secret history. (I know, I know, I just couldn't resist. Punning is my Achilles heel.)

Monday, February 4, 2013

ME BEFORE YOU by Jojo Moyes: Read this if

I normally wouldn't give a novel like this a second glance. The story of an aimless, accidental caretaker and a cranky, young quadriplegic told by an author of romance novels? Probably not the best tea for my cup, and yet, some intangible thing about this one compelled me to give it a go. And good thing! 

I thoroughly enjoyed this tale, tinged with much more sweet than bitter, giving glimpses into the lives of the very well off and the not so well off, which can differ drastically whether you're talking about wealth of finances or wealth of spirit or circumstance. Admittedly, Lou's emoting and Will's stubbornness were occasionally trying, but overall the novel delivered a touching story, with fully drawn-out characters and a thought-provoking take on euthanasia without even hinting at preachy.

You should consider reading this too if:
  • You are looking for a surprisingly light, funny, heartwarming, fast read with some substance too it.
  • Obsessive marathoners drive you crazy. 
  • You've never thought about life as a quadriplegic.
  • You used to wait, standing outside a broken phone booth with money in your hand.
  • You're well acquainted with sibling rivalry.
  • Character development turns you on.
Don't read this if:
  • Disabled people make you queasy.
  • Feelings make you queasy.
  • You can't handle books that don't defy gender stereotypes.
  • You are a die-hard pessimist (but you think of yourself as a realist).
  • You're in a Stephen King kind of mood.
  • You believe all questions have one right answer.
*I received this book from Penguin in exchange for my honest review. Be sure to check out this book club kit for a recipe for what sounds like a refreshing tea cocktail (I'm not kidding) and lemon cream tart, a Q & A with the author, and some more information about the book, in case you're still on the fence.
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