Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Some Assembly Required - Anne LaMott

This is Anne LaMott's musings on the first year of her grandson's life - and what it's like to watch her teenage son and his girlfriend raise their own child.  I read this book during my own son's first year of life - which I thought would make me relate to so much.  Instead, I found LaMott annoying and self-centered.  Perhaps, grandparents reading this book might relate better.  And perhaps parents watching a very yonug child raise their child might relate even better. But, I thought she lacked real perspective - while I know that all parents and grandparents find their children/grandchildren amazing and wonderful, her descriptions of her seemingly average grandchild were so over the top and distracting.  She seemed overly meddlesome in her son's life - though perhaps some of this stemmed from the fact that she was contributing so much to his ability to live in San Francisco as a teenage parent.  I suppose, I should have just appreciated the book for what it was - a grandmother's dotting descriptions of her grandchild, but I just expected more from such an accomplished writer. 

The Poet - Michael Connelly (Jack McEvoy #1)

In The Poet, Connelly takes a break from focusing on the perspective of homicide detective Harry Bosch, and introduces a new amateur sleuth - a journalist by the name of Jack McEvoy.  After McEvoy's twin brother dies from an alleged suicide, McEvoy's digging leads him to believe that there is a serial killer on the loose, borrowing lines from Edgar Allan Poe for his doctored suicide notes.  Stephen King wrote a bang-up endorsement of this novel for the Introduction - claiming that he couldn't stop reading, and that it was a thriller to top all murder mystery thrillers.  I'm a definite King fan, so the endorsement meant something - and maybe raised my expectations a bit too much.  I found the writing in the first few chapters a bit choppy (a bit pulp fiction-y) - and as McEvoy tries to convince folks at every turn that his brother was murdered and didn't commit suicide, I just found the telling and retelling of the evidence tedious.   But, then Connelly did hit his stride, and I thought the story unfolded well.  Unfortunately, McEvoy did a lot of jumping to (the wrong) conclusions, which I found frustrating, and the mystery was revealed a little too rushed at the end (I think in the final 10-20 pages, though I could be mistaken).  This is not the best murder mystery novel of all time, but it's entertaining, as Connelly's books usually are, and it was nice to start a new character and see where he ends up.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

A Theory of All Things - Peggy Leon

This is the second book I reviewed for the Saroyan Prize.  It's the story of the tragic Bennett family - sent in varied directions after the suicide of one of their brothers and abandonment by their mother.  As their aging father sucuumbs to Alzheimer's, each child tells their own story, and that of their family, in their own words.  The five remaining siblings range from the brilliant, but socially inept Mark, to the practical sister who stays home to care for their father, to the free-spirited hippie who finds herself unexpectedly pregnant.  While I appreciated the family aspect of this book, there were a bit too many moving pieces for me to really enjoy.  Focusing on three siblings might have made for a better story.  And, at times, it just seemed like too many bad things were happening to all these people.  Leon is experimental in her narrative - telling portions of the story through emails among the siblings.  An interesting portrait of a family, but disjointed at times.