It's official - summer has begun with a bang: a clap of thunder and a barrage of hailstones.
School's out, the livin' is easy, and it's complaining time (see: outside your window all afternoon if you're local ). Too hot. Not hot. Road works. Traffic. Smog. Air con. And the list goes on. To go away or stay put isn't the question but rather, can you afford it? And do you need to? Or should you just wait for winter?
TV of course is a non-issue - nothing's on. I don't know about the rest of you but, soundtrack aside, Swingtown ain't doin' it for me. Movies are a crap-shoot: ie. most are crap. Unless you're in the 13-19 boy demo. And I am not. Before y'all get up in arms, I know there are exceptions, but the traditional summer blockbuster usually sucks. Unless you're in cottage country or at a drive-in, in which case it matters not what you see - only that you're seeing something at all.
Which is why every mag, paper and website puts out its annual summer reading list. And MOAM is no exception (erm...except that it's not annual...)
And so, without further ado, I bring you the Mother of All Mavens All-Season Book Club: reviews short 'n sweet of some books that deserve it. (In no particular order)
THEN WE CAME TO THE END by Joshua Ferris. This book is hi-larious. Especially if you've ever worked in an office - and who hasn't at one point or another? It's not the most brilliantly plotted novel, but it's one of the most brilliantly observed. You'll laugh out loud. A lot. The it's-true-it's-funny-cuz-it's-true laughs. Are there any better kind?
THE EVERY BOY by Dana Shapiro. Author is a film guy so no suprise that this baby's coming soon to a theatre near you. Or at least that's the plan. This one's a black comedy about 15-yr old Henry. And his many issues. You know the type - thinks he's a freaky geek, but is actually just smart 'n funny. In a dark and ultimately tragic way. Ok, his life's more than little f&cked up. But look where he comes from... Grab this one quick - it's sure to be better than the movie, as good books almost always are. And it's short too.
Speaking of short, ON CHESIL BEACH by Ian McEwan is a one-dayer. Seriously. A weekend, max. I am a huge Ian McEwan fan and will read anything he writes, so I have to include this. Is it his best? Erm...no. Does it come close? Maybe not. But it's Ian McEwan. And you can read it in one sitting, so why not?
RUN by Ann Patchett. Did anyone read The Magician's Assistant? And Bel Canto? If not - lucky you, you can read 'em now. They're awesome. If you have, then this book may already be on your radar. While not quite as good as Bel Canto, I still rank it. Family drama, secrets kept and exposed....And no, it's not at all cheesy. It's a fast and furious read, appropos of its title. The fact that I happened to buy it in large print by mistake made it an even faster read but still...
A SHORT HISTORY OF TRACTORS IN UKRAINIAN by Marina Lewycka. Strange title, strange book. Oddly compelling. Elderly widower falls for big-boobed gold-digger from the old country. Daughters can't deal. Q-u-i-r-k-y. Loved it.
ARLINGTON PARK by Rachel Cusk. Set in an affluent suburb of London, where the smart, capable, men go to work and the smart capable women.... Well, let's just say some of us may have over identified with some of these characters. Not me, of course. At least not with all of them anyway... (And if you like this one, you may also like THE TORONTONIANS by Phyllis Brett Young. Published in 1960, set in the 50's. Not quite as good, but resonant and modern, with a lot more smoking.)
THE BOOK THIEF - by Markus Zusak. This is one of my favourites of the faves. It's WW II. Death is everywhere. It's even the narrator. It is. The story of a young girl and her family - the ones that were lost, the ones that were found, and the ones that found her. Sad, smart, funny - it's even got doodles. What more could you ask for?
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE BRIDGE by Mary Lawson. Again, if you haven't read her first book, Crow Lake, you should. And if you did, you'll like this one too. A little bleak, a little depressing, a little tragic. Totally compelling. Canadiana to be sure, but in the best possible way.
THE ABSTINENCE TEACHER - Tom Perrotta. Funny + timely+ clever, clever, clever? It's gotta be Tom Perrotta. And it is - very Tom Perrotta. Whatever he's writing about, he gets it. he just does. So who wouldn't want to come along for the ride?
So there you have it. No plot outlines, no spoilers, no hard covers. Just some damn good reads. Winter, spring, summer, or fall.