Saturday, December 15, 2012

These Things Happen - TLC Book Review


These Things Happen by Richard Kramer
Unbridled Books, 2012

Format? Hardback

Source? The publisher via TLC Book Tours
**FTC Disclosure - The publisher provided me a complimentary copy of These Things Happen; however, my review and the opinions expressed therein are my own and offered without bias.

Why? it's family...it's NYC...it's contemporary fiction by an author whose been involved in two of my all-time favorite television series, "Thirtysomething" and "Once and Again"...there was no way I was passing up on this one...and boy, am I glad I didn't.

Title? These Things Happen is generally something a person says to dismiss an event that will soon be forgotten and for which there is no answer or explanation...that's not even close to what's happening within the covers of this book.

Cover? The Empire State Building...bc this book is as NYC as a book can get with its references to streets, the theatre district, landmarks, apartment buildings, shops, culture

What Now? this one's a keeper...to the glass bookshelves it goes.  Wow.


Golden Lines

"So how was school?" George says.
"Thrilling," I say, "when it wasn't enriching.  Donald Rumsfeld came and read to us from The Red Pony.  And Micah Kinzer saw a black person, and even got pictures, with his phone." (24)

Once again I think maybe I'll just pop my head in at the kitchen door to see if Wesley wants me to make him a nice panino in the press his mom gave me Christmas last year; he must need something, as he's fifteen and its 2:42 and he's probably in there growing. (40)

Kenny's cell phone rings.
"I thought you turned it off," I say.
"I'm not totally sure how to do that.  Just let it ring."
So we do.  But we don't do anything else, either, as each of us knows it will ring again in a moment.  Which it does.  
"You should get that, Dad."
"That's what they invented voice mail for," says Kenny.
"It's also why they invented hammers," I say.  "Because I'm going to smash that thing.  Because this place is too small for you, me, and the entire gay and bi-curious population of the whole world, all of whom have your cell number." (73)

"I'm the mother," she says.  "And I want my son." (127)

"But I'm bigger," I say, "than whoever that person who'd think that is, or say it."
"Don't be bigger. Please. The size you are is fine. Even if you're a hypocritical, racist homophobe, as has been fully proven today." (160)

"It's awesome, you know," Wesley says, using the word his mother so dislikes.
"What is? The sky?" 
Wesley laughs.  "A day.  A lot can happen in a day, I mean.  If that makes any sense."
"It does." The thin, curved moon, like the wandering element of an emoticon, is clear again. "That's what days are for." (255)

Summary

Theo and Wesley are 10th graders enrolled in a posh NYC college prep private school.  Their lives are filled with activities and lessons designed to attract Ivy Leage colleges.  These are smart kids...kids that keep you guessing what they'll say next and especially what kinds of questions they'll ask next.
Kenny is Wesley's father, a high profile lawyer who specializes in defending LGBT rights, who agrees that Wesley should live with him and his partner George for a couple of months "to get to know his father."
Kenny's partner George owns the restaurant that they live above and brings his colorful previous life as an actor into their partnership as a softening agent of sorts to Kenny's business sense and constant worklife.
Kenny's ex-wife and Wesley's mother Lola is an uptown editor and married to an opthamologist, Ben.

An act of violence brings them all to the table to figure out who they all are really and how best their lives should continue.
A touching, moving, serious and funny 24 hours in one family's life.

What I Liked

the sarcastic humor - don't try to drink your coffee while reading this book...these characters are funny and full of one liners that catch you off guard...you can almost hear the pretend accents they use as they zing the lines at one another -  this aspect reminded me of how Robin Williams always switches voices within just one character..."Mrs. Doubtfire," specifically, kept popping in my head :p

constant references to literature, movies, plays and Broadway shows

George is a cook and owns an Italian restaurant called Ecco...so there is magnificent food, food and more food throughout this story as well...but not just thrown in any way...a variety of foods, brief snippets of their origins and history, and some preparation offered purposefully as important parts of these characters' lives.

the hard questions, the unacceptable "I don't knows."
the reminders that we don't really know ourselves as well as we think we do

Every single one of these characters is flawed in some way...but there are no apologies...they are who they are.  We never know the bad guys...as a matter of fact, they are only given about 2 seconds worth of book time and are not even described (which is as it should be).  The focus is on these characters and their families and how they make sense of the world, their places in it, things they don't understand, and how truly naive they are for thinking they are in some way in control of the events in their lives.


What I Didn't Like

Lola - I don't blame Lola for anything, so don't get me wrong here.  Lola is very much the scapegoat character...her biggest "flaw" is one that even the most progressive minded people in the world have as well. I have this picture in my head of her swooping in and out of her family with the clicking heels and long trench coat...expecting everyone around her to jump.

Overall Recommendation

I want everybody to read this.  I don't know nor do I care if everyone likes it.   Just read it.  If you walk away with even just 5 minutes worth of questions or a  re-examination of who you are based on your pre-conceived notions and stereotypes, then it's been worth it.

The Author

Richard Kramer



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Other Stops on the Tour


Tuesday, November 6th: What She Read …
Thursday, November 8th: The 3 R’s: Reading, ‘Riting, and Randomness
Friday, November 9th: A Patchwork of Books
Monday, November 12th: Wordsmithonia
Tuesday, November 13th: Kritters Ramblings
Wednesday, November 14th: Lectus
Monday, November 19th: Hopelessly Devoted Bibliophile
Monday, November 19th: Books, Thoughts, And a Few Adventures
Wednesday, November 21st: Sara’s Organized Chaos
Monday, November 26th: Veronica MD
Tuesday, November 27th: In the Next Room
Wednesday, November 28th: Chaotic Compendiums
Monday, December 3rd: Bewitched Bookworms
Tuesday, December 4th: A Reader of Fictions
Wednesday, December 5th: Dreaming in Books
Thursday, December 6th: Shooting Stars Mag
Thursday, December 13th: Beth Fish Reads (guest post)
Friday, December 14th: Peppermint PhD
TBD: Bonjour, Cass!
TBD: Books ‘n Crannies












Wednesday, December 12, 2012

TLC Book Review - The Round House


The Round House by Louise Erdrich
Harper Collins, 2012

Format? Oversized paperback-ARC

Why?  I've always been interested in Native American culture...in our area the Choctaw Indians are still in existence and seem to live somewhat successful lives, especially in and around Neshoba County, Mississippi. 
However, a cultural disconnect and stereotypes still abound as the Mississippi Band of Choctaws still struggles to find its place within modern culture and somehow hold on to its own spirit and stories.

Cover? My copy is an ARC and is different from the final copy...my cover is the outside of an old building, with peeling paint...obviously a literal representation of the round house itself which is the center of this story more symbolically than literally.

Title? Again, while some events do happen in and around the literal round house, I think there's a much more symbolic weight to the representation of the spiritual place where modern law collides with tribal law.

What Now? Oh man, you have no idea how my brain is spinning and how much more I want to read, Erdrich's work and others.  


Golden Lines

Where is your mother? (3)

She doesn't know who the man was, Joe.
But will we find him? I asked in that same hushed voice.
We will find him, my father said. (11)

My father had become convinced that somewhere within his bench briefs, memos, summaries, and decisions lay the identity of the man whose act had nearly severed my mother's spirit from her body.  With all that we did, we were trying to coax the soul back into her.  But I could feel it tug away from us like a kite on a string.  I was afraid that string would break and she'd careen off, vanish into the dark. (45)

I don't want your kidney.  I have an aversion to ugly people. I don't want a piece of you inside of me. I'd rather get on a list. Frankly, you're kind of a disgusting woman.  I mean, I'm sorry, but you've probably heard this before. (125)

I won't get caught, he said.  I've been boning up on the law. Funny. Laugh. He nudged me with his shoe.  I know as much law as a judge.  Know any judges? (161)

On what land? Was it tribal land? fee land? white property? state? We can't prosecute if we don't know which laws apply. (197)

She was wearing my father's robe.  I checked that night to see if she was wearing his robe on purpose, and sure enough she got into bed wearing it. (245)

I was always there, said Cappy.  Every morning.  I always had your back. (291)

Even I didn't want to know what I knew.  The best thing for me to do was forget.  And then for the rest of  my life to try and not think how different things would have gone if, in the first place, I'd just followed Bugger's dream. (310)

They'd built that place to keep their people together and to ask for mercy from the Creator, since justice was so sketchily applied on earth. (315)


Summary

A terrible crime is committed against Joe's mother.  To make matters worse, because of complications between tribal law and state laws, the man who is responsible may never be punished.  With the help of his friends Cappy, Angus and Jake, Joe maneuvers between a boy's world and the adult world to help his father find and prosecute the man who attacked his mother...His father, a judge, must carefully navigate a legal system that does not honor Indian laws on the reservation and has failed time and time again through deep and twisted loopholes that go back hundreds of years to bring justice for his people.  
A story of honor, love, loyalty and survival.

What I Liked

The Indian spirit world interwoven within the story and the history of the Ojibwe.

The stories of the older generation...still honored...still listened to by the younger generation...even as they walked their daily lives in a modern white man's culture. 

Grandma Thunder, Grandma Ignatia and Mooshum - just when things would get too intense, the lives of the older generation would resurface...either with a visit from the boys or Mooshum's dreams.  What lives they led!  Some may think parts of their stories are harsh or even TMI at times, but I think the old stories have to be comprehended from the perspective of the storytellers and how they interacted with one another and survived some of the worst days their tribe had ever experienced.  These are the stories that a person could sit and listen to for hours.

Linda Wishkob - The Round House is full of tough as nails women...who somehow survive some of the worst trauma and treatment imaginable...Linda's life is one that was on track to be snuffed out early, but she believed her spirit was saved for a reason.  I do too.

Joe's parents, Bazil and Geraldine - he was her strength and then she was his.  Nuff said.

What I Didn't Like

Father Travis - creepy Catholic priest...I won't even give him the pleasure of writing about him any more.

no quotation marks...I've seen this format several times this year, but it didn't bother me as much in The Round House - I don't ever remember being confused as I read even though I did have to backtrack a couple of times to make sure who was saying what...and if anyone was really saying something or not.  

The sadness that sometimes life can't be made right again.  The loss and the pain stay with the victims forever...and change them...the greatest challenge is surviving.
What a story.

Overall Recommendation

Anyone remotely interested in Native American stories will eat this one up.  The Round House will stay with me for a while.


The Author


Louise Erdrich

Harper Collins site

Other Stops on the Tour

Monday, October 22nd: Unabridged Chick
Wednesday, October 24th: Oh! Paper Pages
Monday, October 29th: West Metro Mommy
Thursday, November 1st: The Feminist Texican [Reads]
Tuesday, November 6th: Conceptual Reception
Wednesday, November 7th: Sweet Tidbits
Thursday, November 8th: Olduvai Reads
Tuesday, November 13th: In the Next Room
Monday, November 19th: The Betty and Boo Chronicles
Monday, November 26th: Lisa’s Yarns
Tuesday, December 4th: Book Dilettante
Wednesday, December 5th: Books, Thoughts and a Few Adventures
Thursday, December 6th: Veronica MD
Tuesday, December 11th: Book Chatter
Wednesday, December 12th: Peppermint PhD
Thursday, December 13th: Broken Teepee
Friday, December 14th: Seaside Book Corner
Monday, December 17th: World’s Strongest Librarian

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Historical Holiday Blog Hop


Amy at Passages to the Past is hosting her first Historical Holiday Blog Hop this year :) 
I'm in Dallas and completely forgot to post this yesterday :/

Because of my tardiness I'm offering two winners 1 book each (up to $15 each) shipped directly from Amazon.com.  Your selections should be historical fiction of course and preferably something published this year or to be published in early 2013.  

All you have to do to enter is comment on this post, leaving your name, blog name and email address so I can contact you if you win.  Please also tell me your favorite historical fiction from this year and the selection you'd like if you are one of the two winners :)

That's it!:) 

Don't forget, of course, to hop around the other blogs to see what they have to offer as well!!
Happy Hopping!