Stephen King, American author best known for his enormously popular horror novels. King was the 2003 recipient of The National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. Taken at the 2007 New York Comicon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Bullets of Mini-Reviews, Pleasure Reading Edition:
The Silver Star: A Novel: Was this is as good as Jeannette Walls’ The Glass Castle: A Memoir? I’d have to say no, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t recommend this book; Walls’ literary voice is definitely present, and if you’re a fan of spunky young female protagonists or To Kill a Mockingbird, I think you’ll like it. If I were teaching middle school, I might think about it as 7th or 8th grade summer reading too.
NOS4A2: A Novel: Man, this was a scary book! Joe Hill is Stephen King’s son (might as well get that factoid right out there), and I’d put this one right up with King’s scariest work; I know I’ll never think about Christmas the same way now that I’ve met Charlie Manx and gone to Christmasland. Hill has made leaps and bounds as a writer since Heart-Shaped Box: A Novel, which I thought was okay but not that great, and I’m excited to watch his career develop. One strength of King’s that Hill has not quite acquired yet is developing a character’s inner rich personality and voice; Vic McQueen, the lead in NOS4A2 never quite comes fully alive for me, though many of the other characters did (love Lou Carmody and Maggie Leigh, was fascinated and repulsed by Bing Partridge and Manx himself). Grab it for yourself; it’s a dark thrill, even if you’re reading it poolside, like I did.
Methland: The Death and Life of an American Small Town: Picked this up as a super-cheap bargain book in my Amazon order, and while I am glad I read it, it was definitely just as depressing as you’d imagine by the title. Read it if you still need convincing that we’ve lost the war on drugs, or that our national policies and strategies just aren’t working, or if you still think our national drug crisis is an inner-city or African-American issue. Brutal.
Where’d You Go, Bernadette: A Novel: Modern, satirical, ambitious, funny: these are all great ways to describe a book comprised of letters, diary entries, emails, emergency room bills and more that manages to skewer massive American institutions like motherhood and Microsoft. I really liked this book and found her playfulness inspiring, and as a writer, I was impressed that Semple achieved so many distinct voices, as well as authentic emotions, in such a complexly structured but never trying-too-hard novel.
The Leftovers: If you are a fan of Tom Perotta, you may have read this already, but if you haven’t, you definitely should. I usually think of his work as takes on contemporary life (like the amazing Little Children: A Novel), but The Leftovers combines that strength of his with a what-if story: what if The Rapture came and took away your neighbors, your friends, your spouse, but left you behind? This novel was haunting and evocative, and for days after reading it, I couldn’t shake the feeling of loneliness and alienation Perotta achieved in its pages.
Bullets of Mini-Book Reviews, Young Adult Edition:
Wonder: My girls were assigned this as summer reading for sixth grade, and I’m so glad they were; it’s a sweet, fresh take on the trials and troubles of middle school, with an unconventional narrator who happens to have some severe facial deformities. While this has definitely inflected his transition to middle school, as well as his family and friend relationships, he also goes through what so many kids do: how do you make friends? How can you trust them or rebound once they’ve let you down? When is the right time to forgive, and how to know when to move on? Great middle school read.
The Fault in Our Stars: LOVE this book, and so thrilled that our student summer reading committee chose it as the all-Upper-School read this upcoming school year. Hazel and August have a star-crossed, epic, funny and touching love story that will make you laugh and break your heart. Can’t wait to pair this with my Catcher in the Rye unit this fall; have ideas for character-to-character letters and much more!
Bullets of Mini-Book Reviews, Rereading Chabon Edition:
Michael Chabon is one of my all-time favorite authors, but I didn’t intend to reread so much of his work this summer! I happened on the new K&C edition in a rare trip to Barnes & Noble and couldn’t resist it, which led me to reread Telegraph, and then it all followed from there…
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (with bonus content): A Novel: So if you haven’t read this book yet, stop everything you’re doing, go get it, read it and fall in love. If you have read it, and love it like you should, think seriously about picking up this new paperback edition, which has a striking new cover AND some really exciting added features like an essay by Chabon about the book as well as SEVERAL short-story-length “deleted scenes” that were so fun to read.
Summerland:: My girls and I haven’t read a bedtime book together in a long time, but we decided to give the tradition one last hurray this summer, and I picked this book, which we had tried together a few years ago but found a little tough going. Ethan Feld is eleven and terrible at baseball, but soon finds himself on a epic adventure with his best friend, Jennifer T. Rideout, a Bigfoot, a werefox, and a synthetic humanoid named Thor Wignutt along for the ride, all determined to save the world, Ethan’s father, and baseball itself. I really love this book, and judging from their giggles last night during the first chapter, I think my girls will too.
Telegraph Avenue: A Novel: What a beautiful book this is, definitely one of Chabon’s best and one of my favorites. Read it for the first time this fall when it first came out, and did not disappoint upon rereading. A story about love, birth, death, fathers and sons, funk, jazz, blues and blaxploitation, all along the fault lines of race and gender in Brokeland, where Berkeley and Oakland collide like tectonic plates.