Noir by Christopher Moore

noirI’ll be upfront: I am a Christopher Moore fan. His book Lamb is one of the funniest and most inventive books I’ve ever read. When I saw that he had a new book out, I did a happy dance.

This is almost two books in one. One expects a bit of crazy and bizzaro from Mr. Moore’s books. The first half is (more or less) straight exposition. The story starts out with Sammy ‘Two Toes’ Tiffin tending bar at a run down gin joint in San Francisco. It’s just after the war. And as these stories tend to do, a dame walks in the bar, her name is Stilton (but Sammy calls her ‘the Cheese’).

The first part of the book is about the reader getting to know the main characters. I will say, there are many laugh out loud parts (at least for me). Just when you think this is going to be a (somewhat) traditional story…BAM. The Christopher Moore factor kicks in.

I don’t want to reveal too much – since the surprise is one of the factors of the story. I will say this, the second part of the book did not disappoint. Very funny.

The book definitely lives up to the title. It has a very noir feel to it – from the language to the scenery to the characters. You can almost smell the cigarette smoke and feel the clammy dampness of the fog rolling in.

I enjoyed this book a lot. If you are a Christopher Moore fan, or you like your fiction a bit on the absurd side, this is a book for you.

I gave it a 4/5 star rating on Goodreads.

Full disclosure: I received this eARC from Edelweiss for a fair and honest review. (Thanks Edelweiss!)

 

 

Go Ask Fannie by Elisabeth Hyde

Go Ask FannieThis is a story about the Blaire family. Murray Blaire invites his three grown children – Lizzie, Ruth and George – home for a visit. Each one of them have a reason for wanting to be there, or not to be there.

The story flips back and forth between present day and the past. Sometimes I find this annoying, but in this context it totally works.

Initially I found the siblings extremely annoying to the point of irritation. However, as the story progresses and I learned about their past their actions and attitudes made total sense.

I don’t want to go too much into the story because it would all be spoilers.

This book is about family and about secrets. The question becomes – who do you save by keeping a family secret and who will get hurt.

The matriarch of the family dies when the children are young. Part of the book is about the story is about the siblings putting together their mother’s past. The catalyst is a Fannie Farmer cookbook that she used to write notes in (that gets destroyed).

Once I got over the initial annoyance of the siblings, I got very engaged in the story and the characters. I could feel their heartbreak and sadness.

This is a great story about family and why it is important. If you want an entertaining and engaging read, this is for you!

I gave it a 4/5 star rating on Goodreads.

Full disclosure: I received this eARC from First to Read for a fair and honest review. Thanks to First to Read and Penguin Random House!

Sophia of Silicon Valley by Anna Yen

sophiaTruthfully, I picked this one because of the cover. I know, I know. You shouldn’t do that. I mean, c’mon – Starbuck’s cup, teal background and Silicon Valley. And as usual, I didn’t really read the book summary.

The story is about Sophia (duh!) and her career in Silicon Valley. She ends up working at “Treehouse” for Scott Kraft as his right hand woman. (It is interesting to note that the author worked at Pixar and with Steve Jobs.)

Sophia struggles with her traditional Chinese upbringing, and more specifically her mother.

This feels like an insider look into how Silicon Valley works, and a view into the mind and behaviour of Scott Kraft. (See note, above.)

This also asks the questions about family, marriage vs. career and how a woman fits all of that in to her life.

I really enjoyed this book. There were laugh out loud moments. (Sophia is clumsy, I can relate.)

If you want a funny and fast-paced read, this is for you. If you are at all curious about how Silicon valley operates and what happens there, this is also for you.

I gave it a 4/5 star rating on Goodreads.

Full disclosure: I received this eARC from Edelweiss for a fair and honest review. (Thanks Edelweiss!)

 

Eventide by Therese Bohman

eventideThis story focuses on Karolina Andersson. She is a (recently) single woman in her forties. She is an art history professor at Stockholm University.

I got sucked into the story early on. It is almost like you are a voyeur on Karolina’s life. The author does a great job at keeping it on simmer in terms of the reader not being sure what exactly is going to happen next. There is a feeling of tension, in a good way, in the writing.

The book is about art and life. But mostly I think it’s about examining how a 40’s career woman with no children fits in to society. Karolina struggles with this in the book. There are a lot of should have/would have thoughts rolling around in her head. Would she have been happier as a housewife and mother living in her childhood town? What is going to fulfill her in a relationship? I think these are answered (“answered”) in a realistic way. I won’t spoil it and tell you how.

The other thing that the author does well is captures the mundane-ness of every day life. Go to work. Come home. Make dinner. Sleep. Repeat. That for me is what helps make Karolina’s existential crisis more real.

I want to say that if you like psychological drama then you will like this, but that’s not quite the right description of this book. If you are looking for something that is well written, asks interesting and important questions, then this is your read. Also, as a bonus you get to learn a lot about Stockholm.

I gave it a 4/5 star rating on Goodreads.

Full disclosure: I received this eARC from NetGalley for a fair and honest review. (Thanks NetGalley!)

 

Review: The Soul of Basketball

soul of basketballThere are clearly seasons in the life of a sports fan.  You have football season, college basketball, March Madness…and then baseball kicks in along with the NBA and NHL playoffs.  (Yes, I am a book nerd and I love sports.)

So, I requested to do a preview of this book, The Soul of Basketball, which I thought would be a good way to get myself in the mood for the NBA playoffs, which also open next week.

I enjoy basketball a lot and have followed the NBA for my entire life.  When I was 10 to 12 years old, I followed the Cleveland Cavaliers VERY closely.  We didn’t get the games on TV and I spent my evenings listening to Joe Tait (normally when I was supposed to be in bed) call the Cavs during the Miracle at Richfield season.  (The Cavs had a Bowling Green (Ohio) connection, both through their owner Nick Mileti and their backup center Nate Thurmond…and their Coach Bill Fitch).

The Soul of Basketball is about the 2010-11 season, which is the first year after The Decision.  It is an excellent book and anyone who is interested in the NBA would find it a great read.  In fact, it’s a great character study of people responding to the highest level of competitive pressure and would be interesting as a study to anyone interested in that slice of life.

The book is written by Ian Thomsen, who is a writer for Sports Illustrated.  SI was known is the highest level of sports magazine writing.  What appeared on those pages was of the highest literary quality.  My high school teachers encouraged us to read SI when we were learning to write.

This is what I would consider classic SI writing.  First, there’s incredible access…long interviews with important people in this story, including Pat Reilly, Doc Rivers, Dirk Nowitzki, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant…the list goes on.

Next, there’s a commitment to telling a story about people, not sports.  What the reader leaves with is an essential understanding of the humanity of the people involved.  Their upbringing, their fears, their motivations, their biases, their strength.  And Thomsen shows us the humanity of players (stars and subs), yes, but also of coaches, referees, owners, scouts…everyone involved in the making of the 2010-11 edition of the annual NBA drama.

There’s also an angle to the book that places all of what is happening in a historical context.  The NBA was trying to find its way in the post-Jordan era and LeBron was supposed to be that guy, but he had just botched The Decision.  You also have the influx of AAU-influenced players and a lot of questions about how the league is going to succeed. (For more on what the AAU is and what’s wrong with it, check here or here.)

There were a couple parts that really stood out to me.  I found the Gregg Popovich sections especially interesting.  He’s a guy I admire and I admire how his teams play.  Turns out, he built the concept by focusing on foreign players who had not been infected by AAU mentality.

I also really enjoyed the stuff with Kobe Bryant and didn’t expect to.  I have often heard people say that a certain team doesn’t “know what it takes to win.”  I always kind of scoffed at that, but the way NBA basketball is played, a star player has to be able to shoulder the burden in key moments and the team has to be really tough to win a title, not just good.

Anyway, this is an outstanding book.  It is not great sportswriting, it is great writing and will make a great companion for the NBA playoffs, when the league really puts on its best show.

Full disclosure: I received this book from NetGalley for a fair and honest review. (Thanks NetGalley!)

The Little Perfume Shop Off The Champs-Élysées by Rebecca Raisin

perfume shopI have a bit of a love affair with anything Paris related. So when I saw this book I wanted to read it. I thought it would be a cute read. I wasn’t wrong. But it was more than that.

The story is about Del who travels to Paris from her home in Michigan to compete in a perfume competition (similar to Survivor, but with perfume). There is a mysterious man she bumps into on the first day in Paris – and I am like, yeah, I know where this is going. I was setting it up to be your typical romance-y type of book. There is not anything wrong with that.

As I got further into the book, there was more depth to the story than I had anticipated. Not to give the story away, (because you should be able to discover it when you read it), but it was about independence, and about Del finding herself and her self-confidence. I got swept up in the narrative and was rooting for Del the whole time. And, (in my head) I was yelling at her to stop making silly assumptions.

The descriptions of Paris, to me, were spot on. I felt like I was back there. My feet sympathy hurt with Del while she was walking all over the city. And I had a hankering for a chocolate croissant and a coffee. Then I started googling flights to Paris (I kid).

The characters seemed well rounded and believable. The romance part of the story (I won’t spill the beans on that!) for me, was well thought out and executed. It made sense to me (I wasn’t sitting there rolling my eyes at it).

The upside to the book is that I learned a lot about perfume and how it’s made. That was pretty cool.

This is the third book in the ‘Little Paris Collection’. I hadn’t read any other books by this author before, but I am definitely going to keep her in mind! And I totally want to read the other two books in the series.

Overall this was a delightful read, I highly recommend it.

I gave it a 4/5 star rating on Goodreads.

Full disclosure: I received this eARC from NetGalley for a fair and honest review. (Thanks NetGalley!)

 

Tangerine by Christine Mangan

TangerineThis is the story of Alice Shipley and her relationship with Lucy Mason that spans over many years. I would put it in the mystery/psychological thriller genre of novel.

Overall, this was a good book. I looked and this is the author’s debut novel, which is very impressive.

The book is set in Tangier, Morocco. And the author does an excellent job of describing the scene and relaying the feeling of being there – the oppressive heat, the crowds, the mystery of it – in both the words and how she paces them. You really feel like you are there.

I mentioned in my March preview of this book that it was a slow burn of a read. And that is true. It feels very film noir-ish. It reminds me of the film Casablanca in terms of the pacing and the imagery, I guess because both are set in Morocco. But they have a similar style.

I struggled with the pacing of the story itself, the back-and-forth through time and the alternating Lucy/Alice chapters, that I found detracted from the flow of the story. I felt like I really wanted to get lost in the story and I wasn’t able to.

I have seen the book compared to Gone Girl, and I don’t think that is accurate. I think it’s more of a Talented Mr. Ripley (although, truth be told, on that one I have only seen the film and not read the book).

I wavered on what to rate this – between a 3 and 4 stars. I landed on 3, but if Goodreads allowed half stars, it would have been a 3.5.

Full disclosure: I received this eARC from Edelweiss for a fair and honest review. (Thanks Edelweiss!)