Sunday, September 28, 2014

Book Review: Watch

A little over a year ago, I wrote a review for Cass McMain's first book, Sunflower. Her second book, Watch, seems like a departure, plot-wise. It certainly is a bit darker. But, readers will be treated to the relatable characters and amazing dialogue that are McMain's specialty. She is even able to write interesting conversations between children, without ever making it feel like you're reading YA.

Watch opens on a realistic family drama: Corky visits her dying uncle who is sharing family secrets before he goes. It's hard for her to make sense of his ramblings, which she first dismisses as a product of dementia. After his death, she reads his journal and is forced to confront what seems impossible: he believed her father was a vampire. Was he simply mentally ill or could there be some shred of truth there?

As Corky delves deeper into this mystery, she encounters an underground society of "Sanguinarians" who appear to be normal human beings whose fascination with vampires leads them to act out a sort of vampire culture. In an attempt to make sense of her family history, Corky is exposed to a part of the world she never knew existed and she learns that it's impossible to know a person's secrets by looking at them from the outside.

The ending felt a bit abrupt to me, but as the writer says: "it's all going in circles, so there is no end really."

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Book Review: The Storied Life of A.J Fikry

This book was loaned to me by a friend. I never would have picked it up myself- the hokey title, the old fashioned cover that makes it look like a children's book - but I loved it. In retrospect, I wonder why my friend was not more confident in her pitch. This book is a book nerd's dream.

Each chapter starts with the main character giving his take on a well known short story. He owns a book store so the conversations in the novel are naturally bookish. They discuss literary technique and debate whether e-readers signal the ruin of publishing. In a writing class, one character complains about stories written in omniscient, present tense- like this book is. It could have come off as annoyingly self-conscious; I thought it was charming.

The characters talk about the value of ambiguous endings, how to build to a plot twist, and the age old advice that when there's a gun in the first act, it had better go off by the third. These ideas are played out within the story, which could have been simplistic lesson teaching, but was so much deeper because the story itself is lovely.

A.J. starts the story as a widower in his thirties who thinks his life is over. The next fifteen years prove him wrong.

Here's my favorite bit of bookish dialogue:

"'Show, don't tell' is a complete crock of shit," Daniel lectures her. "It comes from Syd Field's screenplay books, but it doesn't have a thing to do with novel writing. Novels are all tell. The best ones at least. Novels aren't meant to be imitation screenplays."

Now, if you have an opinion about that, you're a book nerd. Or a writer. Either way, read this book.