Month: September 2012

2012 Book #23: Where Things Come Back

where-things-come-backWhere Things Come Back has been on my radar since it was published because it received so much local attention. The author, John Corey Whaley, is from Springhill, a tiny town an hour or so from Shreveport. I’ve been there several times, mostly because my childhood best friend’s mother grew up there, and I was always with my best friend.

I don’t usually review local books (or read them) because most of them are a new kind of terrible. Seriously, y’all, some of this stuff might make your head implode. On example will suffice: Charlaine Harris. (Okay, I’m kidding. Everything she writes is terrible, but lots of people like her. I’m really talking about the mostly self-published crap that flies around this town.) I should note that some of it is good. Chris Jay wrote a fabulous collection of short stories, and William O. Cook wrote a great memoir called Honeysuckle, Creosote, and Trainsmoke. That said, I’m not well-versed in local writing simply because I’ve come to assume that I’ll hate it. That’s not a good attitude, but I don’t like wasting my time on bad writing, and I’ve read lots of it from around here. I won’t give names.

Anyway, back to Where Things Come Back. It’s an exception to the rule around here. It’s actually a pretty good book – I enjoyed reading it, and I think I gave it three stars on Goodreads, mainly because I think the end is kind of dumb. Don’t worry, I won’t spoil it.

Where Things Come Back is about a 17-year-old kid named Cullen Witter, whose brother, Gabriel, disappears, and how Cullen copes with that disappearance and gets through life as a teenager. It’s also about the search for the Lazarus Woodpecker (referring to the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker?), which is thought to be extinct. (Aside: When I was in fourth and fifth grade, I had a teacher who seemed a bit obsessed with this bird. She showed us John James Audubon’s painting. I still think about it sometimes.) And that’s it for my summary.

This novel is definitely worth a read. It’s a YA book, but there’s no reason an adult wouldn’t enjoy it, too. An added perk is that it’s a local (for me, anyway) book from northwest Louisiana that isn’t embarrassing. Don’t get me wrong: it’s not great literature, but it’s an enjoyable read and totally worth your time.

2012 Book #22: Lionel Asbo

lionel asbo.jpgHere’s another one I can’t review for the library. At the very beginning, we learn that our protagonist is having an affair with his very own grandmother. “WAIT,” you say, “last I heard, Martin Amis wrote this book. He’s respectable, right?” Yes, he is. The only other novel of his that I’ve read is very respectable: Time’s Arrow is a masterpiece. (You should read it: it’s written backwards, sentence by sentence, so you don’t know what started it all until the end. And the text still flows well, so you don’t end up confused.)

Lionel Asbo is awesome, too, though it’s so different. I know that all of Amis’s books aren’t the same (he’s no DeLillo!), but I wasn’t expecting such a huge departure. But I really liked it! I enjoyed the experience of reading it. Is it another Time’s Arrow? Of course not. It’s lighter and more fun. “But the incest!” you say. Yeah, just read it.

The plot is complicated, so I’ll just give the briefest of summaries. There are two main characters, Lionel Asbo and his nephew, Desmond Pepperdine. Lionel is a chronic criminal, constantly in and out of jail for fighting and generally causing trouble. Desmond, who is 15 at the novel’s beginning, lives with him. He gets by doing the opposite of what Lionel says – he’s a good kid. Except, of course, that he’s tupping his own grandmother, Lionel’s mother. Lionel has issues about his mother having sex with anyone: since her husband died, Lionel has insisted that she remain celibate. He threatens and even harms people he finds sleeping with her. She’s only 39, by the way. Anyway, Lionel goes to jail again, and while he’s there, he finds out that he’s won £240 million in the lottery. And that’s as far as I’m going with this one.

Lionel Asbo is a super-fun book. I found myself giggling a lot. It’s also very English. I missed so many cultural references, and times I had issues with the dialect (which is not, by the way, as annoying as Dickens or Lawrence can be). But that doesn’t matter. After this one, I’m definitely looking into Amis’s other books. I had no idea.

2012 Book #21: The Fellowship of the Ring

fellowship-of-the-ring.jpgSo this isn’t my first time reading The Fellowship of the Ring, though, surprisingly, it’s only my second time finishing it. I tried the first time when I was eleven or twelve. I remember it clearly: My mom and I were in the Waldenbooks in Pierre Bossier Mall (do they still make Waldenbooks?), and I pulled it off the shelf. I’m not sure whether I knew what I was looking for, or not, or even whether I had heard of Tolkien, though I don’t see why I’d choose that one if I hadn’t. I was about the right age to discover those novels, but without the internet or friends who read for fun, it’s kind of doubtful. Anyway, I think I might have gotten a tenth of the way through it (I wasn’t particularly fond of or good at finishing long books), and I quit. I don’t think Frodo even made it out of the Shire.

Five, or so, years ago, I decided to read The Lord of the Rings as a challenge. I’m pretty sure that if you count all three novels as one (which I do), it’s still the longest book I’ve ever read. It took me about three months, and I was so proud of myself for finishing it. I liked it even more than I thought I would.

It seems strange to write a summary of The Fellowship of the Ring because I think that everyone I know has read it or has at least seen the movie, but here goes. It begins fifty or sixty years after the events of The Hobbit. Frodo, a hobbit and Bilbo Baggins’s nephew, inherits Bilbo’s magic ring that makes its wearer invisible. Turns out, though, that the ring has a more sinister purpose and is trying to make it back to its evil master, Sauron, who wants to rule all of Middle Earth. So Frodo and his friends must take the ring to the one place it can be destroyed, the fires of Mount Doom, which happens to be in Sauron’s domain. The Fellowship of the Ring chronicles the first part of that journey.

If you haven’t read The Lord of the Rings, get yourself a copy. The novels are so much better and more detailed than the movies. There’s a great part in The Fellowship of the Ring that’s totally left out of the movie, and it’s definitely worth a read. This novel is great for just about any age: it’s not a kids’ novel, but any kid around 12 or older will probably love it. I’m pretty sure I didn’t finish it more because of my short book attention span rather than boredom, and I really wish I would have stuck with it for no other reason than having read the books before seeing the movies. So, even if you’ve read it before, pick up a copy and get to readin’!

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