Tag Archives: fiction

There’s No Crying in …Reading!

20th September 2011

I have read – count it – three (3!) books in the last two weeks that made me cry. And, boy howdy, I fought against it. I hate crying. It makes my eyes puffy, makes my contacts dry, and makes me feel like a dope.

It’s not that I inherently have something against crying. It’s just that nine times out of ten, I think tears are a waste of time. Plus, if I cry while reading a book, I become really suspicious: what was that author doing that made me cry? Huh? Were they, heaven forbid, manipulating me??

I use the word manipulate like some use four-letter words. I believe this fear of manipulation stems from a lot of writing and literature classes I had where the profs loved to talk about manipulative writers (check it, this may mean writers who made more than the profs), so I have an abhorrence of sad books, and to be honest – ditto for sad movies. I ain’t watching The Notebook, no way no how. Don’t even go there.

So after I read those three crazy books that made me first, get a lump in my throat, and second, grudgingly admit that the wet stuff on my face was saline dripping from my eyes, I had to stop and think: Are these writers bad writers because they made me cry?

In a couple of instances, the material itself was simply sad: dead children, a soldier leaving for war never to come home. I don’t ordinarily read these types of books, and by types, I mean material guaranteed to make you do the ugly cry. For one of them, Alice Bliss, I was forewarned. Elyse over at Pop Culture Nerd warned it was a tearjerker, and it was. I don’t think that makes it a bad book, partly because it was well balanced. There was enough humor that I didn’t feel overly emotional.

However, this other book (which shall remain nameless) starts out sad, goes to gut-wrenching, and leaves you, wasted and spent with tear tracks down your face. In other words, I hated it. Is that just my taste? Probably. Am I being harsh? Possibly.

Maybe I just don’t want to borrow grief. I’m the girl who, in elementary school, cried about the plight of the manatees. I can become maudlin at the drop of a hat. Books that have sadness or grief in them don’t trouble me; however, books whose entire schtick is sadness and grief? No, thank you.

You can probably tell I’m torn on this, so I’m asking you guys: What do you think? What constitutes manipulation in a book? And is that a bad thing?

The Funny Man by John Warner

29th August 2011

*I received an e-galley of this book through NetGalley from Soho Press. Publication date is 09/06/11. Preorder from Indiebound here. I wrote this review immediately after reading it about a month ago.

The funny man has always been funny enough. As a kid, he didn’t know the word for someone who makes people laugh, but he asked. Comic. At first the laughs come in small clubs late at night while his wife and baby wait for him at home, his wife exhausted from her waitressing job.

One day, his stay-at-home-dad routine pays off. The kid sticks his hand in his mouth and makes a noise, laughing, and the funny guy repeats the gag, complete with impressions of celebrities, for an agent, and then to bigger audiences for larger amounts of money and then on the film screen for obscene amounts of money, until the funny man is no longer amused by sticking his fist in his own mouth. Yet sticking his fist in his mouth and talking is the only way people pay him. The funny man begins breaking under the pressure, using different arrays of pills to numb his physical and psychological pain, until he loses his wife and child, his adoring fans, and eventually his freedom, after he shoots a man who tries to mug him.

I just – not ten minutes ago – finished this book, and though I usually like to sit with my thoughts after I finish a book, this was the sort that made me realize I had to write off the cuff, getting my initial impressions down immediately. When I saw this book offered on NetGalley, I was expecting a graphic novel. Why? Apparently  because I can be a real dumbass when I judge books only by their covers. What I found was a true American novel – one that has its pulse on our sometimes-ridiculous, oft-ludicrous, more-often-than-not sad culture (am I allowed to use that many hyphens?).

Told from the funny man’s unreliable perspective (dude is on all sorts of drugs), his mind drifts in jail and during his trial to the sets of circumstances leading up to his incarceration, all while planning an escape to be with a young tennis player he watches obsessively on DVR.

In turns funny, brutally honest, and downright depressing, The Funny Man holds a mirror up to celebrity and comes away with a bleak reflection tinged with a dark humor. Though not unkind, Warner also criticizes the masses who so willingly seek out and drive the insanity of the rich and famous. (If you doubt me, turn on the TV or walk past a newsstand and try NOT to learn about Kim Kardashian’s wedding.)

This is the kind of book that will:

-make you stay up all night reading and blinking rapidly in disbelief at the lives of the rich and famous.

-make you wish you were independently wealthy so you can stay home and read.

-make you wonder what’s for dinner.

-make you wonder what’s on TV.

-make you want to smack someone, usually the characters.

 

32 Candles by Ernessa T. Carter

7th July 2011

*This book was sent to me via the publisher Amistad, an imprint of Harper Collins. You can purchase the paperback from Indiebound here.

One of the questions I get asked most frequently by my female African-American students is why it is so difficult for them to find books about African-American girls their age, today, who aren’t being raped and victimized at every turn. Not that those stories shouldn’t be told. But where are the great modern, everyday-girl kind of stories about women of color? Because sometimes that’s just what the doctor ordered and that’s what many of my students (African-American or otherwise) want to read.

Ernessa T. Carter’s first novel 32 Candles is exactly what they, and I, are looking for, though the main character Davidia Jones is far from happy as a child. She lives in Mississippi with her abusive mother who brings home a different man every night. She doesn’t know her daddy, and she doesn’t speak. To anyone. She goes to school with classmates who call her Monkey Night. It isn’t a great existence until James Farrell enters the picture. Smooth, wealthy, and kind, James is a dreamboat, and Davidia is crazy for him. Her only real source of pleasure is watching 16 Candles with Molly Ringwald, and Davidia is sure she and James (her Jake Ryan) will have a happy ending. But it’s high school, and James’s icy sister Veronica knows something that is eating her up inside, and she takes it out on Davidia.

This isn’t a young adult novel, though. The true story lies in Davidia’s bravery in stepping away from her toxic past and falling into a future she never knew she wanted – as a lounge singer. At least that’s what Ernessa T. Carter and Davie want you to think. Because let me tell you – this book has a twist, a fun, fantastic, cringe-worthy twist that will have you cheering for Davie and shaking your head at her at the same time.

32 Candles was a fun read, but it wasn’t a cookie-cutter romance. Davie is independent. She grows up much too quickly, which I think accounts for some of her more immature and vindictive actions, but all in all, she changes and grows with the help of Nicky, the night-club-owner-turned-surrogate father and Mama Jane, the lesbian truck driver who takes Davie under her wing. I loved the characters because they loved Davie, in a way her real family never could.

Here’s my favorite quote, in a moment where Davidia becomes “Davie”:

She was Little Davidia, the girl that I had been before Cora knocked her out of me.

And man, could she sing.

I mean, she was killing this song. She was taking it home to its rightful maker and showing it off in heaven. She was letting people know that she had risen from the dead and that she was back.

Little Davidia finished the song on a long note — not because she was showing off, but because she did not want it to end.

If you’re looking for an entertaining read with a bit of romance and a mean streak a mile wide, 32 Candles is a sure thing. Plus, as a product of the 80s, the pop culture references didn’t hurt either. 🙂

read this: by the pool/at home in bed/anywhere (as long as you can read uninterrupted…)

jenn aka the picky girl

P.S. Check out Ernessa T. Carter’s blog.

P.P.S. Don’t take my word for it: Check out the other reviews on the tour stop here.

#fridayreads take me away

30th June 2011

#fridayreads take me away is a weekly meme to celebrate the start of the weekend and the glorious day of reading whatever the heck you want. I’d love for you to join!

What is Friday Reads/#fridayreads? Readers around the world join together in community to support one another and celebrate the simple joys of reading. Readers can win prizes for participating commenting on the Friday Reads blog, the Facebook page, or tweeting your book with the #fridayreads hashtag.

What is #fridayreadstake me away? It is a new meme for readers/bloggers. I have noticed different readers/ bloggers apologize for a certain book or phase of reading. I say, read. Period. Whether it’s a magazine you’ve saved up for Friday afternoon or evening or a mystery, romance novel, sci-fi, bodice ripper, or New York Times bestseller, Friday is about doing what we love most: reading.

How does it work?

-Figure out what your Friday/weekend read will be

-Blog about why it’s perfect weekend reading and why you recommend it

-Grab my button and add it to your post

-Come back and add your URL to the Simply Linked URL box

-Visit participating blogs to see what they recommend

-Enjoy your weekend

What if I don’t have a blog?

Tell me what you’re reading anyway. Let me know if you need a great suggestion. I’m full of them, and I’m bossy, as are a lot of other people around these parts. 🙂

 

**psst – tell your friends about #fridayreads take me away. if we can get enough participants, i plan on doing a giveaway. a hint: it’s something simple…