Sunday, April 12, 2015

Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell

Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell

I've lived in Florida for thirty five years, so I'm a huge fan of Karen Russell.  I love her quirky Florida tales.  Swamplandia! is one of my all time favorites.  St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves was one of my early blog posts.  I've been anxious to read Vampires in the Lemon Grove simply because it's written by Karen Russell.

Clyde, the vampire now lives in an Italian lemon grove having discovered that sucking on lemons can take the place of his need for human blood. Young girls in Japan are sold, given a pill and then sent to the silk factory.  They spin silk from their fingertips.  American presidents find themselves reincarnated as horses.  A young boy crosses the prairie carrying a window that is passed among neighbors when the inspector makes his rounds.  In order to certify ownership of the homestead, their sod homes must have a window. 

Let's just say all the stories in this book are extremely creative and imaginative.  I might even say they are bordering on the bizarre except for the fact all deal with the human condition. When that is the center, anything is possible. 

My only disappointment is that none of these stories are set in Florida. The tales in Vampires in the Lemon Grove span the globe and are not for the faint of heart.  But if you can let your imagination flow, you are in for one wild and incredible ride. 

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Lila by Marilynne Robinson

Lila by Marilynne Robinson

I'm on a roll lately, and it's not the good kind.  I've read a slew of books in the past few months that I haven't really enjoyed much.  Reading a good book is what keeps me going.  Needless to say I'm feeling a bit sluggish. 

Every newspaper and magazine I opened had rave reviews for Lila.  Since I'd been in a slump, Lila seemed to be the answer to breaking the chain of disappointment.  I had no prior knowledge of Ms. Robinson's other titles, or that one of them had won the Pulitzer Prize. 

I don't even want to give you a recap of the plot, there was so little of it.  This book has no chapters and I'm a reader who likes to have those nice breaking points since I mainly read before going to bed.  Frankly, Lila seemed to me like one big run on sentence.  But what disturbed me the most was that I couldn't understand Lila's place in time.  I kept picturing her in a bonnet and a long dress with lace up shoes circa the late 19th century and then she was eating a tuna fish sandwich.  She belonged to a group of wanderers who went from town to town looking for work. And then she got a ride in a car. Toward the end, Lila went to the movies and saw To Have and Have Not placing her squarely in the 1940's. I'm confused.

I couldn't join Lila on her journey. I couldn't picture in my mind's eye how she looked, the clothes she wore or much of anything about her surroundings.  When I finished the book, I read some more reviews to try to uncover what I missed.  That is how I found out she was in Iowa, and that the story had begun in the 1920's.  A reader shouldn't have to research a story to understand what's been read.  A reader should be fully immersed in the surroundings and the passion of its characters, walking in their shoes, step by step.  Lila will continue to remain a mystery to me.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Autumn Balloon by Kenny Porpora

The Autumn Balloon by Kenny Porpora

I happen to love a good memoir because real life can be so much more interesting than fiction.  When I saw a 4 star review for The Autumn Balloon, I thought I was in for a real treat. 

Kenny is a kid who wants to fit in, but how can he, when he's shuffled from one alcoholic, drug addicted parent to the other.  He's often homeless, living in the backseat of his mother's car.  When she loses custody, Kenny and his brother end up in their father's filthy basement with a pig and a pedophile living upstairs.  When the custody battle heats up again, the boys return to their mother in Arizona.  I don't want to forget to mention, that every other word out of their mother's mouth begins with an "F".  Donna Reed, she is certainly not. 

That Kenny was able to lift himself out of this situation is nothing short of a miraculous.  He graduated from Columbia with a master's degree in journalism.  I admire him for that.  But did I feel this book was worthy of a top review?  No. 

The Autumn Balloon is filled with heartache and emotion.  It paints a powerful picture of poverty and addiction in our country, which often go hand in hand.  As a writer myself, I felt however, the story construction was too simple, unpolished and paced too quickly.  I raced through it, unable to linger in the pain as well as the joy.  The Autumn Balloon tells a story of life that should be told.  I didn't however, find that it was written in a way that merits the glowing reviews that initially caught my eye.

City of Thieves by David Benioff

City of Thieves by David Benioff It's World War II in Leningrad, Russia.  17 year old Lev elected to stay behind in the city when h...