The Galway Girl - Ken Bruen
Morbid curiosity drew me to The Galway Girl. I just wanted to see if Bruen had, once again, mailed it in. His last few books have been embarrassingly thrown together. Cluttered messes with about as much writerly attention to detail as a hyperactive four-year-old's splatter painting. But the absolute brilliance of the early books in the Jack Taylor series has kept me hoping (pleading with Bruen, really) that he still has a literary gem or two to share. You know, something that his home grown bibliophile and literary critic Jack Taylor might consider worthy. The Galway Girl is the best in years, but ironically still not quite worthy of Taylor's praise. Sure, Bruen can still bend the English language to his will in amusing and impressive ways. There are the snarky send ups of posh pretenders and the usual cast of dopey local eejits. We are also treated to Taylor’s wise, if cynical, commentary on the news of today’s certifiably insane world. Not to mention his reviews of current pop culture offerings.... musical and dramatic. But what passes for plot is little more than a pub crawl through Galway. Throw in a few terse encounters with the uniformly psychopathic lunatics who seem drawn into Taylor’s gravitational field and you have the essence of a now familiar Bruen wandering narrative. Taylor takes a short break from his perpetual tailspin to put a few things right and to dispense some justice, but these important developments are treated almost as sidebars. Oh well... Better, maybe much better, but not quite flashing the flickering brilliance of his early work.
Submitted by Ned
The Martian - Andy Weirs
To infinity and beyond! … Ok, Buzz Lightyear was not in Andy Weir’s novel The Martian; however, after over 500 Sols on Mars (one Sol is greater than one earth day!) it’s understandable as to why Andy Weir’s character Mark Watney might feel a bit like Buzz Lightyear. Mark Watney, a Botanist/Astronaut is left stranded on Mars after his crew is forced to leave him there during a dangerous sandstorm. While stranded on Mars Mr. Watney is faced with a variety of challenges that range from creating a sustainable food source to establishing communication with NASA. This novel does a tremendous job of taking you through the character’s thought process (and at times in a very witty/sarcastic manner) as he races against the clock to survive and find a way back home!
If you are a person with an analytical mindset or have a deep love for space, this book would be a great read! From my standpoint, I was very impressed with the level of research and knowledge that Andy Weir demonstrated through each of his characters, as well as the level of thought that went into articulating each problem (and their respective solution) that his main Character Mark Watney had to deal with. As a reformed nerd (or maybe not reformed) I was amazed with the level of detail that went into this novel and am giving it a 5 out of 5 stars! Must read!!
Submitted by Greg C.
The Overstory - Richard Powers
Leap head first into The Overstory if you enjoy prose with the soaring emotional grip of an aria. Or, characters so completely authentic you'd have tons to discuss if you bumped into them in real life. Above all take this leap if you love trees, or even find them the least bit intriguing. I learned a ton from this wonderful book and not a word of it would I think of as preachy or pedantic. Author Powers' precise prose also gifted me some wonderful new words. For example, frass, (the powdery refuse produced by boring insects), and, pleaching, (interweaving of branches of adjacent trees and shrubs strengthening the collective - as a hedge does).
Pleaching also suggests the intertwining of the ethereal tentacles of humans and trees author Powers so eloquently describes in The Overstory. This is just great writing.
Comparisons to Wallace Stegner, or, Larry McMurtry are easy to make, but Powers clearly has his own voice.
This is one of those books that comfortably burrows into your brain and takes up residence for a good long stay... extending well beyond the turning of the last page. I welcome such intellectual and psychic invasions as a measure of the greatness of a book. Sure It’s a long read but I never once wished it were shorter. It’s a confusing narrative at times but I never once wished it were more tightly organized. It’s a melancholy story with a depressing ending but I never once wished for Disney. It’s just perfect as it is.
Submitted by Ned
Doxology - Nell Zink
I know I’m supposed to say something bitingly clever about this satirical novel by trending satirist and social commentator Nell Zink, but I can’t bring myself to do it. I liked Zink's breezy Aaron Sorkin style narration. I, mostly, became attached to her characters, although their self-defeating life strategies were tiresome at times, and Joe can be really annoying but we're not supposed to say that because he has something called Williams Syndrome. So I take that back. Williams Syndrome is the opposite of autism. So you can imagine, this guy is out there socially, and a non-stop high wire act. Lotta lotta impulsive manic behavior, and not just in Joe's orbit.
Colorful fringe characters abound in this satirical and subversive family history of the last 30 years of NY/DC-centric life. It’s perspectives expand and contract geographically as the decades roll and 9/11 disturbs everyone’s life trajectory with its seismic reorientation of American life.
Doxology has a coherent, character-driven narrative, but at its soul it’s a zinger fest.
Hilarious, at times astonishing, social commentary. Sometimes just this side of glib.
If something observed has been popping up on your radar but you haven’t been able to articulate its essence, Nell Zink tosses the perfectly thrown dart. It’s a little like meeting someone for the first time and really connecting. This Nell Zink really knows me and what I’m thinking. A lot of readers will appreciate the vitality of her writing. Dare I say it... this is an important voice. She has an almost god-like societal acumen not to mention, by the way, being a mind meld of the best rock critics of the last two decades. Her characters are witty people. Smart, quick on their feet. Self-contemplative without self-pity. Good people, with few exceptions, but complicated as we all are. Treat yourself.
Submitted by Ned
House on Fire - Joseph Finder
Weather - Jenny Offill
Long Range - C.J. Box
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