Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Last Summer of the Camperdowns

by Elizabeth Kelly
Aug 20-Sept 9, 2013

Alas, my last book of the summer was appropriately titled. I hate the end of summer. I'm probably the only person on the planet who loathes the fall. Darker, quieter mornings sans chirping birds; cooler, earlier nights when socks are required. Awful. Not for me. Time to start hibernating.

When I finished this book a few weeks ago, I had so many thoughts and a lot to say for this post. But I quickly dismissed this book and apparently my opinions along with it. What I do remember is feeling that Kelly tried to cram too many side stories into the book instead of focusing on the one or two that could have really been better developed. But I also have nothing but praise for her crisp, smart dialog and her ability to transport the reader to a better place with her metaphors:

"His voice sounded like a graham cracker tastes."

Doesn't that sentence just make you sigh? I love it. Sentences like that are what kept me going through to the end, even when I felt the book had lost its way. I read a review someone wrote that said the momentum of the book couldn't hold up after the first few chapters, and I couldn't agree more.

Starting out in present day, Riddle Camperdown, runs into the elusive Harry Devlin at a party, having gone 20 years since last seeing him. He proceeds to walk past her and out the door without a word, and thus the tone is set. The reader is then whisked back to 1972, when Riddle is 13. For the most part we remain here, but then suddenly we're drawn into WWII while the author tries to make parallels with Riddle and her father, Camp. The whole time I wanted to rejoin present day and find out why Harry walked out the door. This gets wrapped up in the last 50 pages of the book, and that's what disappointed me. The relationship between Harry and Riddle never felt fully fleshed out to me. Or maybe I just wanted more? Or really what I don't like is trying to mix mystery, drama, romance and coming-of-age all in one book? And don't even get me started on how much I detested Riddle's mother, Greer. Kudos to Kelly for evoking such strong emotions.

No regrets on this one, just a wish for something more.

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Monday, September 2, 2013

The Family Fang

by Kevin Wilson
June-August 2013

I'm not completely sure what to say about this book. It left me feeling very uncomfortable, I know that. But I was immediately drawn to the premise: Two performance artists will do anything to create a strange and memorable piece. Their desired results always include their two children, who have been part of the "act" their whole lives. Annie and Buster, better known as Child A and Child B, now grown, have realized that being these "characters" has f*cked up their lives. The Fang's final work is one that leaves the reader squirming and wondering at what cost do we sacrifice family for art?

I have to say the author did a great job building the story. I never could have guessed where it was going. My predictions made me worry the book would lose its way, or jump the shark, but luckily I was wrong (I am a really bad predictor). I was literally shaking my head and clicking my tongue at these two crazy artists/parents.

I struggled in the beginning to get into the story, but it eventually picked up speed. Maybe it would have been easier to read it as opposed to the audio version? While the flashback sequences to the younger years of Buster and Annie's involvement in the performances were quite interesting, their current lives and story lines had me zoning out if I wasn't careful. But maybe that was the author's intention; to really illustrate what life can become when you are your parent's pawn for so long.

Quirky and fun, but only mildly recommended.

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