Category Archives: family

tell it slant

In the Forest of Forgetting by Theodora Goss 2007 (284 pgs)

Magical realism at it’s best: witches, flying cities, talking bears and all of it oh-so-real-seeming. Enjoyable author, with an old-world flavor updated by modern fantasy sensibilites.

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song sung blue

The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway 2008 (235 pgs)

During the siege of Sarajevo, a man watches from his window as 22 of his friends and neighbors are killed by a single shell while waiting in line for bread. He quietly puts on his tux, picks up his cello, and plays in the wreckage for 22 days. From there, the narrative shifts between three other survivors in the war zone, one of them a sniper charged with keeping the cellist alive during his “concerts.” A moving novel without veering towards maudlin or sappy. It’s a haunting look at how hope sustains people during war and how sometimes survival means creating your own hope.

emotional shrapnel

The Hour I First Believedby Wally Lamb 2008 (740 pgs)

A heartbreaking book of broad scope, The Hour I First Believed takes a look at the reverberations of tragedy. While Caelem’s back East planning his aunt’s funeral, his wife Maureen becomes a close witness to the Columbine shootings. While not physically  injured, the psychic damage spins her off into a years long bout with PTSD, depression, and addiction. Unable to recover from the shootings and searching for some measure of peace, they head off to the family farm in Connecticut. Once there Caelem also stumbles upon secrets from his family’s past that begin to affect him just as strongly as his wife’s ordeal.

Lamb writes tragedy beautifully, his characters real and realistically fallible. Fans of his previous book I Know This Much Is True will not be disappointed.

forget to remember to forget

The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary Pearson 2008 (266 pgs)

When Jenna wakes up, she can quote the entire text of Walden Pond, but she can’t remember her best friend’s name. Or even if she has a best friend. The parents she doesn’t remember tell her she’s been in a coma following an accident. As Jenna comes to terms with the disturbing holes in her memory, she finds that there’s more to her past than her family wants to tell her.

Good balance- enjoyable to read, while also tackling larger issues of medical ethics and the nature of identity. Made for a fun afternoon read.

number one with a silver bullet

Kitty and the Silver Bullet by Carrie Vaughan (#4 in the Kitty Norville series) 2008 (326 pgs)

When her mom calls with a cancer scare, werewolf DJ Kitty breaks her banishment from Denver and risks the wrath of her former Alpha to rush to her mom’s side. And then things get complicated. Kitty finds herself smack dab in the middle of not just a werewolf power struggle, but a vampire one as well. Kitty has to figure out who’s pulling the strings; how to keep from becoming anyone’s pawn; and keep herself, her boyfriend, and her family alive in the process.

you can check in any time you like…

Secret Rendezvous by Kobo Abe, 1977-Japan, 1979-English translation (179 pgs)

It begins with an un-summoned ambulance in the middle of the night. They insist on taking away their patient, although she insists there’s nothing wrong and it must be a mistake. When her husband tries to track her down in the morning, she has disappeared into a bizarre labyrinthine underground hospital. The man is soon subsumed by the convoluted bureaucracy of the hospital, where every employee is also a patient and no one ever seems to get cured. Soon the man’s search ceases to matter. He ends up not even noticing that he’s not seeking his wife anymore, or really heading much of anywhere.  It’s as if he’s fallen down the rabbit hole into something resembling a David Lynch film.

Compelling, but I’m not sure I liked it- during or after. I kept feeling like I was missing something, like if I understood the Japanese cultural landscape of the 1970s there would be a deeper metaphor contained in the book that I just didn’t catch.

possession is nine tenths of the law

The Host by Stephenie Meyer 2008 (619 pgs)

When the world’s population gets body-snatched by invading aliens, a few rebel humans are forced into hiding, struggling to remain whole. A newly installed alien named Wanderer finds herself in a body whose former owner hasn’t quite vacated. What should be an effortless takeover instead becomes a battle of wills as Melanie refuses to disappear. At first biding her time, waiting for Melanie to surrender, Wanderer instead finds herself coming to an understanding and eventual affection for the human trapped in her mind. As they share memories and experiences, Wanderer even comes to love those who Melanie loves. Together they break away from the alien occupied civilization to track down Melanie’s loved ones.

I was pleasantly impressed with Meyer’s much more refined and challenging writing. This in no Twilight novel; it surpasses that series in character realism and evolution, its exploration of humankind’s capacity for cruelty and kindness, and the nature of selfhood and emotion. Billed as “the first love triangle involving only two bodies,” what could easily have become a cheesy sci-fi or sappy romance is instead a surprisingly deft exploration of identity and humanity.