Mini Reviews of Recent Reads

Hello darlings! I don’t know about you, but I have been reading up a STORM. And most of the books I’ve read lately have been really, incredibly good. Now, I haven’t had time to write full reviews of everything I’ve read in the last few months, so I’d like to share a few mini book reviews!

mini reiews 1

Sleep Donation by Karen Russell
Atavist Books; March 25, 2014
(Purchased)

In the future, thousands of Americans have lost the ability to sleep, and the crisis grows into an epidemic. The Slumber Corps is founded to combat the illness by accepting sleep donations from healthy dreamers. These sleep donations work much the same as blood transfusions, and even an hour of healthy sleep can save an insomniac from death; a full eight hours can cure him/her.

Our protagonist, Trish, whose sister was one of the first to die from insomnia, works as a recruiter for the Slumber Corps. Although she is one of the Corps’ most effective recruiters, her faith in the organization is shaken when the first universal donor is discovered in “Baby A.” Despite Baby A’s parents’ hesitation, the Corps is intent on continually mining the baby for her perfect sleep, regardless of her best interests.

Although the premise of this novella is classic Russell, it wasn’t one of my favorite stories of her’s, although I couldn’t quite put my finger on why.

Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill
Knopf; Jan 1, 2014
(Purchased)

This wonderful little novel is the fragmented musings of a woman as she goes through her marriage, dealing with everything from a colicky baby to bedbugs to infidelity. It’s a difficult book to describe because it doesn’t really have a plot; it’s more a series of lyrical, beautiful vignettes about marriage and motherhood, with all of their ups and downs.

The format of this novel is unusual, but it makes this book really special. It can easily be read in one sitting, but it has stuck with me since I read it two months ago. It’s starkly, sparsely, achingly beautiful.

Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
Back Bay Books; June 5, 2001
(Purchased)

I’ve had two Sedaris books sitting on my bookshelf for about two years, picked up at a library sale and a used bookstore, and I figured it was finally time to read one and see what all the fuss is about!

This collection of personal essays reads almost like a memoir, as Sedaris describes his childhood in North Carolina, where he had to undergo speech therapy for his lisp (instead of fixing his impediment, he just stopped saying words with the letter “s” in them), his years doing drugs and trying to be a performance artist (without any talent to back him up), and the time he spent living with his boyfriend in Paris (where he tried to learn butchered French at a language school).

I know a lot of people really love Sedaris, but I didn’t really think this book was all that special. It was a fun, quick read, but the essays are a bit formulaic, and this isn’t a book that’s going to stick with me.

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Best Backlist Books of 2013

best backlist banner I read some pretty awesome books that were published this year (list to come once I finish The Goldfinch — ha!), but I also read a lot of fantastic backlist books, too. I love dipping into older titles, whether they’re classics that I want to read as part of my literary self-education or more recent books that people are still talking about years after their publication. It’s actually one of my resolutions for 2014 to accept fewer books for review and take more time to read older titles; they’re really piling up on my bookshelf!

Withouth further ado, my favorite backlist books of 2013! Continue reading

Quotable Friday: from St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves

“It’s still dark out, the palest smattering of stars in the sky. I swing along the trapeze ropes of the docked boats, dizzy with sleep, the only human awake for miles. Swamp dawns feel like bearing witness to a quiet apocalypse. Infinity comes lapping over, concentric circles on still water. It’s otherworldly, a river of grass, and a red needle of light on the horizon.”

– St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell

Book Review: Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell

Book Review: Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell
VAMPIRES IN THE LEMON GROVE
by Karen Russell

Fiction: Short stories
Knopf, Feb. 2013
Hardcover, 243 pages
Source: Library

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Karen Russell. I freaked the F out over Swamplandia! last spring, and I fell in love with Russell’s charming debut short story collection St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves a few weeks ago. In Vampires in the Lemon Grove, her brand new release, Russell amps up the weirdness, and it is delightful.

Continue reading

Quotable Friday: from St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves

“My older sister has entire kingdoms inside of her, and some of them are only accessible at certain seasons, in certain kinds of weather. One such melting occurs in summer rain, at midnight, during the vine-green breathing time right before sleep. You have to ask the right question, throw the right rope bridge, to get there — and then bolt across the chasm between you, before your bridge collapses.”

– St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell

Book Review: St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell

Book Review: St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell
ST. LUCY’S HOME FOR GIRLS RAISED BY WOLVES
by Karen Russell

Fiction: Short stories
Knopf, Sept. 2006
Hardcover, 246 pages
Source: Library

Karen Russell’s debut is a stunning, imaginative collection of ten short stories, including the piece that grew to become Swamplandia!, a finalist for the 2011 Pulitzer Prize.

Similarly to Swamplandia!, the stories in this collection have a whimsical feel and touches of magical realism. In the title story, a pack of girls are taken from their werewolf parents to be re-educated and become proper, civilized young women. Other stories feature an over-night camp for children with sleep disorders, where campers are subject to a social hierarchy in which sleep apneics and somnambulists are at the top and narcoleptics and incontinents are at the bottom; a young pioneer on the wagon train westward, whose minotaur father pulls the family’s wagon; and a reluctant member of the Waitiki Valley Boys Choir, who becomes the victim of disaster while flying up to a glacier to sing the snows down. Continue reading

Book Review: Swamplandia! by Karen Russell

Book Review: Swamplandia by Karen RussellSWAMPLANDIA!
by Karen Russell

Fiction
Vintage, February 2011
Paperback, 397 pages

Karen Russell’s debut novel welcomes the reader to Swamplandia!, the premier gator-themed amusement park in the Florida Everglades, where tourists flock from around the world to watch alligator wrestling and to witness Hilola Bigtree’s famous “Swimming with the Seths” routine (all of the alligators are named Seth).

That is, until Hilola tragically dies, leaving her husband and three children to pick up the pieces. Without the park’s main attraction, Swamplandia! begins to fail as the family struggles to keep afloat on their secluded island home. Hilola’s husband, Chief Bigtree, withdraws from his children and moves to the mainland to find work, and Kiwi, the eldest child and the only son, defects to a new, rival park on the mainland in the hope of raising money to help pay his family’s ever-mounting debts. The two daughters, Osceola (aka Ossie) and Ava are left to their own devices on the island. Continue reading