The Furious Gazelle

Literary as hell.

Category: Review (page 2 of 3)

Book Review: Searching for Someday by Jennifer Probst

Review by Tess Tabak

Searching for Someday is like a lollipop. You unwrap it, excited. I shouldn’t be reading this, you think. It has no real sustenance. But then you do read it, and you think, ugh, this is too sweet. And the prose is horrible. Did I ever use to like these? But it goes down quick before you really have a chance to think about it.

As a bodice-ripper, this book sort of succeeds. I’m saying “sort of” because it was page-turning and somewhat engrossing, which is really the only thing one asks for in books like this. I finished it in about three days. But the cringe factor is very high. I’ll leave aside the ridiculous nature of the premise – Kate runs a matchmaking agency called Kinnections, where she uses a combination of her supernatural ability to detect compatibility and real world dating advice to create lasting connections for her clients. She is also cursed to find one true soul mate in life. No one else will do it for her. OK, that part is fine.

Where the book starts to fall apart is when Slade enters the picture. A no-nonsense, super hot divorce lawyer, he becomes Kate’s client as a way of keeping tabs on his sister, who’s recently signed up for Kinnections. No. No no no no. Kate and her friends frequently cite Slade’s “protectiveness about his family” as a plus, but really? His behavior toward his sister is controlling, obsessive, unhealthy. Continue reading

Book Review: Dead Spider, by Victoria Houston

Review by Tess Tabak

 

In Dead Spider, the 17th installment in Victoria Houston’s Loon Lake mystery series, Charles Pfeiffer, the wealthiest man in town is murdered. It’s up to police chief Lewellyn Ferris and her deputy coroner Paul Osborne to find his killer. Dead Spider is a standalone story, and Houston briefly tells you anything you need to know about the characters in the first few pages so you don’t need to read any of the other books in the series before picking this one up.

A fast moving story, Dead Spider is a good beach read. It’s a light, airy page turner with a well-crafted mystery. The book relies on some mystery tropes (the murdered man has a bitchy daughter-in-law and a gold-digging wife, for example), but colored with Houston’s charming cast of small town characters, and the active fly fishing economy, it feels fresh. Loon Lake is based on the small Wisconsin town where Houston grew up, and you can tell she has a deep love for the area. Continue reading

Book Review: Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao

Review by Tess Tabak

 

This debut novel by Julie Dao is the first book in the Rise of the Empress series. The series explores the imagined youth of Snow White’s Evil Queen in an East Asian-inspired fantasy setting. Xifeng, the protagonist, is a strong, complex young woman struggling to choose between a path of light and dark. She knows the right thing to do, but a voice inside of her urges her on towards evil.

There’s a lot to praise about this novel: Xifeng, our heroine, is strong and powerful, but at the same time she is not immune to the culture and mores of her time. She has to be careful to seem humble and ladylike as she forges her way towards becoming the next Empress of Feng Lu. At the same time, she is more spirited than the women in classic fairy tales. She propels herself by her own choices, not quietly accepting what the world throws at her. Another divergence from the norms: following her destiny for greatness means leaving behind Wei, Xifeng’s handsome boyfriend who longs to marry her and live a quiet life together. We are told that Wei is meant to play some role in Xifeng’s fate, but it’s clear that Xifeng’s journey will be more about realizing her destiny than finding her one true love. Continue reading

Book Review: Royal City, volume 1

Review by Tess Tabak

 

In Royal City volume 1: Next of Kin, a new graphic novel by Jeff Lemire, a family grapples with the ghost of their dead son. Tommy died in 1993, but he left an indelible presence on the Pikes.

Royal City starts when Patrick Pike comes home to visit his father, who’s just had a stroke. It slowly becomes clear that each character is seeing a different version of Tommy’s ghost. Patrick grapples with guilt about using his dead brother as the inspiration for so much of his writing. Patrick’s mother sees him as the priest he could have grown up to be. His sister sees him as the child she desperately wants to have. In this volume, Lemire doesn’t cover much ground in plot. He’s laying the latticework for future volumes, developing a rich family history and taking his time to set up the mystery of what happened to Tommy in 1993. Lemire is known for his literary, quietly plotted graphic novels, such as the award-winning Essex County. Continue reading

Holiday Gifts For Book Lovers

You love books. They’re the perfect present, obviously. We’ve put together a selection to help you find the perfect gift for every person on your list this holiday season.

We aimed for a wide range, and to choose books a little bit off the beaten path. If you pick a book from this list, the odds are pretty good they don’t already have it – either because it just came out so they haven’t gotten a chance, or because it’s not on their radar.

Most of the books on our list are available on Amazon Prime – so no matter what holiday you celebrate, there’s a perfect last-minute gift for you in here somewhere.

 

Literary fiction:

New: Manhattan Beach, by Jennifer Egan (2017)

The Visit from the Goon Squad author is back with a gripping thriller about a woman who worked at the Brooklyn Navy Yard during World War II.

 

Middle-ish: A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki (2013)

As far as we’re concerned not enough people have read this book. This novel is narrated by two fully realized characters– a teenaged Japanese-American girl (Nao) keeping a diary while living in Tokyo, and a Japanese-American writer (Ruth) living on an island off the coast of British Columbia who finds that diary sometime after the 2011 tsunami that devastated Japan. This book goes to some dark places. 16-year-old Nao wants to commit suicide but not before she finishes writing about the life of her 100+-year-old old Buddhist nun grandmother. In doing so she captures much of her own story. Ruth, who finds the diary well after it was written, forms a connection with Nao even while her ultimate fate is unknown. The novel deals with everything from time, spirituality, physics, and placemaking. Fun fact: Ozeki became the first practicing Zen Buddhist priest to be shortlisted for the Man Booker with this book.

Continue reading

Book Review: The Gypsies of New Rochelle by Ivan Jenson

Review by Tess Tabak

 

The Gypsies of New Rochelle is a charming new novel by Ivan Jenson. It follows the Aldridges, an eccentric family, as they attempt to launch the music career of their talented daughter Nora and make it big in New York.

Set in 1980, Gypsies shows us a grittier version of New York City than exists today. The Aldridges call themselves gypsies because they move around so often, rootless and always looking for the next adventure. Shawn, the youngest child of the family, narrates the book. Family is at the heart of Gypsies. The book trafficks mostly in the day-to-day life of the Aldridges, a small caravan of well-drawn out characters. Jenson revels in the small dramas of the Aldridges: pranks played, petty squabbles between siblings, and their dealings with Carey Casey, the exasperated producer who has to answer their questions.

Jenson captures a unique large family dynamic, something which is hard to do well. Shawn’s family is full of odd, vibrant characters, each with their own shtick: his overbearing parents, who pressure sister Nora to become a concert violinist.  A cousin, Pito, is brainwashed by hippies in Manhattan and must be rescued.  Shawn is catapulted to momentary fame when his brother Jarrett, builds a flying contraption and dares Shawn to get on. Each character has their own arc, all weaving together beautifully to create a blended picture of family life. Continue reading

Book Review: Tool of War by Paolo Bacigalupi

Review by Tess Tabak

 

Tool of War is the third book in Paolo Bacigalupi’s Ship Breaker trilogy. A fast-moving dystopian YA novel, Tool of War picks up where Drowned Cities left off. Tool has broken away from his masters and is preparing for all out war against the people who created him.

As much as war, this book is about survival. Bacigalupi gives us insight into his characters’ emotional journeys. How do they cope with the horrifying world they live in? Tool grapples with the “monster” he was designed to be, an augment halfway between man and animal, kept genetically chained to his master for most of his life. Mahlia, a young healer who hates violence, faces the idea that she might need to hurt others to defend herself at some point in the near future. There is a rotating cast of main characters, but they all feel distinct and unique in their own way. This makes his dystopian world all the more horrifying: this isn’t happening in some abstract way; the terrible things are happening to these people. Continue reading

Book Review: Artemis by Andy Weir

Review by E. Kirshe

 

Artemis is the latest novel by the bestselling author of The Martian, Andy Weir. Named after the novel’s location, Artemis is a sci-fi adventure that takes place on the first and only city on the moon.

 

Artemis is somewhat less heavy than The Martian in terms of scientific facts offered up but Weir does not disappoint in making the moon city seem believable. Everything from the actual layout of the city, physical construction, safety protocols specific to life on the moon (e.g. air closets in case of a breach, all flammable materials being highly controlled), and varied neighborhood details- make Artemis distinct. However, creating the novel’s physical landscape is where Weir’s creativity ends.

 

Based on the caricatures running across the moon it’s possible that Andy Weir has never met a person. Main character Jazz Bashara is a porter with a side job as a smuggler who has lived in Artemis since she was 6 years old. Jazz isn’t like other girls, she’s a Cool Girl. She’s good looking but really doesn’t work at it you know? She’s incredibly intelligent but doesn’t make a thing of it. That’s maybe the one trait she has- smart. But she tells us she doesn’t want to work at anything, despite working very hard at hustling. Continue reading

Book Review: Paper Girls volume 1 by Brian K. Vaughn

Review by Tess Tabak

 

Paper Girls, a new graphic novel by Brian K. Vaughn, is an enchanting read for all ages. Set in 1988, four paper girls band together for protection from thugs on Halloween night. However, the girls discover bigger problems afoot when a mysterious invasion threatens to tear apart their quiet suburban world.

Penned by the masterful Brian K. Vaughn, author of graphic novels like Runaways and Saga, Paper Girls is a gripping, fast-moving tale full of suburban nostalgia and mysterious intrigue. We follow Erin, Mackenzie, KJ and Tiffany as they struggle to figure out what’s happening to their town, and to find an adult who can help them. But when they find most of the other people in their town have vanished, they quickly realize that they’re on their own.

Most refreshingly of all, the heroines of Paper Girls are not one-dimensional tomboys. As this is the beginning of a series, we don’t know much about the girls yet, but the characterizing details Vaughn provides makes it clear that each of them is different: Mackenzie is the bravest of the group, becoming the first paper girl in the neighborhood. Erin is thoughtful, connecting details. When one of the “aliens” drops a chip with the Apple logo, Erin recognizes the logo from one of the computers at her school, and wonders if the “aliens” are actually visitors from the future. Continue reading

Book Review: “The Therapy Journal” by Steve Wineman

Therapy Journal

Review by Tess Tabak

 

When therapist Becky discovers an unexpected pregnancy, it stirs something deep inside of her. She finds herself thinking back to the life of one of her patients, Lathsamy, who was sex trafficked as a child. Lathsamy is Becky’s foil as she comes to terms with her own childhood pain, which she ignored for so many years.

The Therapy Journal, a novel by Steven Wineman, revels in introspection. Wineman uses Becky’s journey to explore the power of memory and the damage of childhood sexual assault. He breaks Rebecca’s character into several parts: there’s Becky Therapist, who quizzes and soothes her. There’s 8-year-old-Becky, the part of herself that was cordoned off and abandoned after an unsettling childhood incident. And then there’s Rebecca herself. Rebecca’s narration is fairly self-involved, and completely unfiltered. She is wrapped up in her pain, unable to see her situation clearly: to her, her mother is a total narcissist, her father is incompetent and uncaring, and even her best friend is too “self-involved” for Rebecca’s taste. As a reader, it can be frustrating to be stuck inside of Becky’s limited perspective, watching her push away everyone close to her over minor incidents, but Wineman paints an accurate picture of a person in psychic pain.

Reading Becky examine her life and her own shortcomings in such full detail mimics the frustration of a therapist dealing with annoying patient. In one of Becky’s dialogues with herself as therapist, she says, “I mean here I am, mouthing off and acting like a petulant little girl and if you’re good with that, well, great but how is that helping me make this decision?”

However, that indecision is the point of this novel. It feels a bit like listening in on someone’s actual therapy appointments: a little bit uncomfortable, and slow-paced at times, but also morbidly fascinating in a voyeuristic sense. The author puts his background in mental health work to good use, making the problems Becky faces as she struggles to come to terms with her past, feel realistic. Some parts of the novel are more compelling than others (8-year-old Becky sounds more like a sarcastic teenager than the voice of a child), but on the whole it hangs together as the psychological exploration of a troubled character. Anyone interested in seeing an adult woman come to terms with repressed memories and childhood sexual abuse would enjoy reading this book.

 

 

The Therapy Journal will be released October 22, 2017 from Golden Antelope. For more information visit http://goldenantelope.com/index.php/news/41-steven-wineman-s-the-therapy-journal-is-coming-soon

 

 

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