Month: March 2010

Review: I Thought You Were Dead by Pete Nelson

Odd title, yes? But I Thought You Were Dead by Pete Nelson isn’t a horror story. It refers to what Stella the dog thinks whenever her owner leaves for the day. Until Paul returns, she thinks he’s dead. She does more than think this, though. Stella talks. Yes, a talking dog. You’d think this would make for a stupid book, but somehow, it works. Paul is a writer for the Morons books – a fictional version of “for Dummies” or “Complete Idiot’s” guide series. He’s painted himself into a corner: he doesn’t make much money, doesn’t seem thrilled with his job. He’s divorced, and his favorite bar is a dive where the locals hang out to get drunk together. He’s dating a woman who splits her time between him and another boyfriend. Then his dad has a stroke. He’s a sad sack, and his one constant respite is Stella the…

Read More

Review: The Island by Elin Hilderbrand

Summer’s coming – must be time for a new Elin Hilderbrand novel. Full disclosure: a few years back, I wrote an article about Hilderbrand. She’s lovely, writes the first drafts of her novels in long hand, loves Bruce Springsteen and Philadelphia. Part of that interview is blurbed on one of her book jackets. Small thrill since I like and her books so much. But I didn’t jump to read The Island: A Novel when I got a preview copy in the mail (or three – yes, they sent me three). Why? I’m a little tired of reading about Nantucket, which is where Hilderbrand bases her novels. I had a “can you hear my eyes rolling from all the way over here” moment. It sounds like a great place, but really? Another one? Turns out I was wrong. Sort of. The book doesn’t take place on Nantucket proper but on Tuckernut,…

Read More

Review: Simply from Scratch by Alicia Bessette

I don’t even know where to start on this one. I have been stunned by Alicia Bessette‘s debut novel, Simply from Scratch, for a few reasons, and that’s as good a place to start as any: 1. I know Alicia. I wrote about her husband, Matthew Quick, when HIS debut novel came out. They live in my town, both ran in the Collingswood Library Book Run that I also did, and I sometimes see Alicia out walking the couple’s grayhound. She says she’s seen me running around town, too. We had a lengthy discussion about my bright red arm sleeves, which are like long sleeves for running but without being attached to a shirt. Where she ever found the ability to write about a recently widowed woman, I do not know. I’ve never been widowed or lost someone close to me who was not a grandparent, but she manages to…

Read More

Book Notes: The Animal Review

This is a stupid book. But I mean that in the best way. It’s stupid like Wren & Stimpy are stupid. It’s stupid like Beevis & Butthead are stupid. But the authors, Jacob Lentz and Steve Nash, are real people. In The Animal Review, they look at animals and grade them. A king cobra, for example, gets an A+. An alpaca, which I admit is a funny creature that I love in part because it looks odd, gets an F. They use some science, and exaggerate a lot. I read a few entries and it made me laugh. I won’t read it straight through. Instead, it’ll go into my second “office.” And you know what I mean. You can read more on their book blog. One note: the cover you see here, which I pulled from bn.com, gives the alpaca a D- while the book I have on my desk…

Read More

Review: Mr. Rosenblum Dreams in English

Oh my, what a beautiful book. Lovely would work too. It sounds more English. Mr. Rosenblum Dreams in English: A Novelby Natasha Solomons is a novel about Jack and Sadie Rosenblum, two Jewish Germans who immigrated to England before World War II. Because they left, they were both spared – but Sadie’s family was not. Her sadness is a character in the book, it is that strong, and she fights to remember that family and her way of life before she was forced to leave. Jack, though, doesn’t try to remember. When the couple immigrated to England, he was given a pamphlet on how to be English. Not only does he follow every suggestion to the letter, but he adds onto the list as he sets up a business and becomes successful. One thing that he can’t cross off the list? Being a member of a golf club. He’s rejected…

Read More