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books

Sep 15 2013

No Kidding: Women Writers on Bypassing Parenthood

author: 
Mantel, Henriette, editor

You know how I'm always complaining about the uneven writing in anthologies, especially Seal Press anthologies? Well that's not a problem in No Kidding. As promised in the subtitle, the contributors are all writers, most of them currently writing professionally. If anything, I felt that the stories were too even, too alike. Basically, the childfree/childless contributors love their nieces, nephews, dogs, cats and careers.

reviewdate: 
Sep 14 2013
isn: 
978-1-58005-443-0
Sep 15 2013

Eleanor & Park

author: 
Rowell, Rainbow

Why on earth is it stepmothers who have the epic bad rep, when it's stepfathers who are known to be dangerous, especially to girls? Eleanor and Park is a story of teen love where the main thing getting in the way of the kids' bliss is one of the partner's shitty home life. Eleanor lives with her mother, stepfather and four siblings, sharing a bedroom with all four of the sibs.

reviewdate: 
Sep 10 2013
isn: 
978-1-250-01257-9
Sep 08 2013

Heavy Hangs the Head

author: 
Hipp, Taryn

The intro to Taryn Hipp's "memoir novella" begins, "The first time I decided to write my story of sobriety, I was somewhere around two years sober. I put my story down on paper, copied it and shared it with strangers and friends, even my family." I love that "even my family." It's such a zinester thing to say and feel. I also love that she writes toward the end of the intro "I am a zine maker, not a book writer, and this is a perfect bound zine as much as it is a book." Heavy Hangs the Head does read like an extended-play zine, rather than like a short memoir/memoirvella, but the package is for sure a full-fledged book. Sage of Sweet Candy did a beautiful job with the production and publishing.

reviewdate: 
Sep 6 2013
isn: 
978-0-9897098-0-4
Sep 08 2013

Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls, the

author: 
DiSclafani, Anton

Oh, I don't know, I guess I liked this book okay. The depression-era protagonist has been sent to a girls' camp that turns out also to be a boarding school after doing a bad thing. We slowly find out what the bad thing is. As we begin to realize that 15-year-old Thea wasn't really responsible for the bad thing she gets involved with another bad thing, but with more agency this time.

reviewdate: 
Sep 5 2013
isn: 
978-1-101-61628-4
Aug 31 2013

Dancer Daughter Traitor Spy

author: 
Kiem, Elizabeth

What a disappointment this book is. Great title, great elements--a clairvoyant teenage dancer from the USSR relocated to Brighton Beach--and there's not enough dance, the psychic moments are easy to miss, you don't care about the characters, and the whole spy/traitor thing--whatever. The one good part of the story is 1982-83 Brighton Beach. Also the cover is attractive.

reviewdate: 
Aug 31 2013
isn: 
978-1-61695-263-1
Aug 31 2013

One Flight Up

author: 
Fales-Hill, Susan

Even though this tale of four women in their late thirties is strictly an extra sexed-up romance novel that's not particularly compelling and has some weird quasi-feminist politics, I stuck with it because I like stories about people who are different from me. One of the characters is Jewish, but of the other three, two are Black and one is Colombian, but what makes their lives even more noticeably different than mine is that they're all filthy rich.

Quotations: 

Six years later, she no longer dated snakes; she accessorized with them. She had a brilliant career, her dignity, and a closet full of reptile purses--the spoils of her victory over herself.

reviewdate: 
Aug 28 2013
isn: 
978-1-4391-2490-1
Aug 26 2013

Blue Nights

author: 
Didion, Joan

Joan Didion's writing is always elegant, haunting and clever, which is true, as ever in Blue Nights. Even so, this memoir about her daughter's death is no Year of Magical Thinking (Didion's memoir about losing her husband, around the same time).

reviewdate: 
Aug 24 2013
isn: 
978-0-307-26767-2
Aug 26 2013

Sisterland

author: 
Sittenfeld, Curtis

It's a testament to good writing when I enjoy a book despite not caring for its main characters. Identical twins Kate and Violet are an anxious stay-at-home-mom and a thoughtless free spirit, respectively. In addition to looking alike, they also share what they call "senses" or ESP. Married sister Kate has renounced hers, but Violet has gone pro with her gift and publicly predicts an earthquake will hit St. Louis (where they live).

reviewdate: 
Aug 21 2013
isn: 
978-1-4000-6831-9
Aug 17 2013

Lost Synagogues of Manhattan, Including Shuls from Staten Island and Governors Island, the

author: 
Levitt, Ellen

The third in Ms. Levitt's series of "lost" synagogues of New York's five boroughs focuses quite a bit on buildings in my neighborhood that formerly housed Jewish congregations. I've lived in three Manhattan zip codes (and one in Brooklyn, if you're curious, 11222). My current 10002 has 22, the one I lived in the longest, 10009 has 14, and the other, 10003 has 4. Levitt covers 32 others, as well, but to me, the book is primarily a Lower East Side party. Most of the buildings she describes in my neighborhoods are familiar, though I wouldn't have guessed that many of them had once been shuls.

reviewdate: 
Aug 16 2013
isn: 
978-0-9836975-2-7
Aug 16 2013

Among Others

author: 
Walton, Jo

Though it starts off a little slowly, I eventually became entranced in this story of adolescence. There's magic and a love of literature, especially science fiction, but mostly what compels is the lonely, isolated, grief-stricken narrator. Mori has recently lost her twin sister in some sort of battle with their witchy mother.

reviewdate: 
Aug 13 2013
isn: 
978-0-7653-2153-4