Tampa by Alissa Nutting – Book Review

Tampa by Alissa Nutting
Published by Ecco Books, an imprint of HarperCollins

Celeste is embarking on a new career as a middle school teacher, something she has been looking forward to for some time. She isn’t looking forward to teaching for the reason that most people do, though, she is looking forward to it for the access to young boys. Celeste would do just about anything to avoid sex with her husband because, in his early 30s, he is more than fifteen years too old for her. Fourteen year old boys, now they interest her, and as an eighth grade teacher she has all the access she could want to intriguing young men.

Tampa is an insanely disturbing book. I knew from the description that there was a whole reverse-Lolita thing going on and that was disturbing enough in and of itself. However, the first 20 pages in particular of Tampa are ever so much more disgusting and horrific than I ever imagined. Somehow I kept reading and once I got past the intense shock value early on, I began to see the genius of Nutting’s writing. She never tries to make Celeste likeable or make the reader identify with her, but somehow she still sucks you into Celeste’s sexually sick and psychopathic mind.

What really worked for me in reading Tampa was to think of it as a horror novel. A horror novel can be intensely graphic and disturbing and still have a brilliance in the writing and plotting, and that is exactly the case with Tampa. That being said, Tampa, like any horror novel, is certainly not for everyone. How you will feel about the book depends largely on your capacity for disturbing in pursuit of amazing, but really, it is sort of amazingly brilliant.

For more on this book, please see the publisher’s page.
Source: Publisher.

 

Digiprove sealCopyright protected by Digiprove © 2013

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple – Audiobook Review

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple, narrated by Kathleen Wilhoite
Published in audio by Hachette Audio, published in print by Little, Brown and Company

Synopsis:

From the publisher:

Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she’s a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she’s a disgrace; to design mavens, she’s a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom.

Then Bernadette disappears. It began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette’s intensifying allergy to Seattle – and people in general – has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. A trip to the end of the earth is problematic.

To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence – creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter’s role in an absurd world.

Thoughts on the story:

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? is charmingly told, the story of a young girl and her missing mother. There is a series of improbable events that seem like they should be ridiculous, but which instead become a lovely story that will captivate readers. 

Thoughts on the audio production:

I may be the only one who feels this way, but I don’t totally love Kathleen Wilhoite as a narrator. She is talented and does pull off the voice of a young girl well, but – in a totally nitpicky way – I find her voice almost TOO little girl-like here, and it sorts of grates on my nerves. This is a totally subjective thing, objectively she’s good, but there’s just some quality in her voice that doesn’t thrill me.

Overall:

A good production and a wonderful book, but I didn’t love the audio as much as some others do.

For more information on this book, check out the publisher’s page.
Source: Publisher

Sound Bytes is a meme that occurs every Friday! I encourage you to review your audiobooks on Fridays and include the link here. If you have reviewed an audiobook earlier in the week, please feel free to link that review as well. Thanks to Pam for creating the button.

 

Mister Linky’s Magical Widgets

This plugin requires intervention by this site’s administrator.

To display the widget for this post, please click here.

Digiprove sealCopyright protected by Digiprove © 2013

The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan – Book Review

The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan
Published by Knopf, an imprint of Random House

In 1947, Frances Gerety needs just one more thing for the advertising campaign she’s working on. Just a signature line for the De Beers account. Hastily, in the middle of the night and desperate for sleep, Frances jots down a short phrase: A Diamond is Forever. Gerety’s story, that of a woman who is single by choice and helps create the “tradition” of the diamond engagement ring is set against the story of three different families with three very different relationships.

The Engagements is a beautifully written exploration of love, marriage, and the association diamonds now have with both of those things. All four sets of lives – Gerety and the three families – feel incredibly realistic, showcasing many of the difficulties of marriage, as well as the unique nature of any individual marriage.

I loved The Engagements. Loved it! I started reading it at a time when I only had a few minutes to read it each day and that made it a little difficult to get into, what with the four rotating story lines. Once I cleared some time and sat down with The Engagements, I flew through it and didn’t want to put it down for anything. When you take time with it, the characters come alive, their stories and their joys and pains engulf you.

The Engagements is absolutely wonderful. Very highly recommended.

For more information, please see the publisher’s page.
Source: Publisher.

 

Digiprove sealCopyright protected by Digiprove © 2013

The Smart One by Jennifer Close – Book Review

The Smart One by Jennifer Close
Published by Knopf, an imprint of Random House

Okay, so, I love Jennifer Close’s The Smart One. In fact, it was my Bloggers Recommend pick for April. First, a little about the book (from the publisher):

Weezy Coffey’s parents had always told her she was the smart one, while her sister was the pretty one. “Maureen will marry well,” their mother said, but instead it was Weezy who married well, to a kind man and good father. Weezy often wonders if she did this on purpose—thwarting expectations just to prove her parents wrong.

But now that Weezy’s own children are adults, they haven’t exactly been meeting her expectations either. Her oldest child, Martha, is thirty and living in her childhood bedroom after a spectacular career flameout. Martha now works at J.Crew, folding pants with whales embroidered on them and complaining bitterly about it. Weezy’s middle child, Claire, has broken up with her fiancé, canceled her wedding, and locked herself in her New York apartment—leaving Weezy to deal with the caterer and florist. And her youngest, Max, is dating a college classmate named Cleo, a girl so beautiful and confident she wears her swimsuit to family dinner, leaving other members of the Coffey household blushing and stammering into their plates.

As the Coffey children’s various missteps drive them back to their childhood home, Weezy suddenly finds her empty nest crowded and her children in full-scale regression. Martha is moping like a teenager, Claire is stumbling home drunk in the wee hours, and Max and Cleo are skulking around the basement, guarding a secret of their own. With radiant style and a generous spirit, The Smart One is a story about the ways in which we never really grow up, and the place where we return when things go drastically awry: home.

And here’s what I had to say about it:

Weezy’s parents always said that she was “the smart one,” but it is hard to feel brilliant when all three of your adult children have returned to live at home. In her sophomore novel, Jennifer Close creates a vivid and realistic portrait of a not always functional, but still loving, family and explores both the parent–child relationship and adult sibling rivalries.
Jennifer Karsbaek, Devourer of Books
Pre-order now: Indiebound | Amazon

Editor’s Pick – I just love Close’s ability to insert laugh-out-loud moments in a book otherwise filled with some very serious life events. It is this balance that makes her work truly special. – Jen

A few additional thoughts:

  • As someone who also loved Close’s debut novel, Girls in White Dresses, one of the appeals of The Smart One for me was that it seemed to be the next step in adulthood. In Girls, everyone was pretty much young and single and out on her own. In The Smart One, Claire starts in this place, but ends up taking a step that many would consider backwards: moving back in with her parents.
  • Weezy’s mother is wonderful and horrible at the same time. She says some pretty terrible things, but she is totally the elderly relative that you either have in your own family or have met at a friend’s family dinners. She is so life-like that you can’t help but laugh in recognition.
  • If you read Girls in White Dresses, know that this is a bit more of a conventional style. The point of view switches from character to character, but in a more traditional way, less jumping around.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Publisher.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

Digiprove sealCopyright protected by Digiprove © 2013

Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight – Audiobook Review

Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight, narrated by Kristine Hvam
Published in audio by Harper Audio, published in print by Harper Books, both imprints of HarperCollins

Synopsis:

In the middle of a hugely important client meeting, Kate gets a call about her daughter. Amelia, always an exceptional student and a good kid, has been accused of cheating on an English paper and is being suspended. By the time Kate arrives at the school an hour later, there are emergency vehicles everywhere and Amelia is dead after ostensibly jumping off the roof. Kate is bereft at losing her daughter and finds herself overwhelmed by her grief, until she receives an anonymous text claiming that Amelia did not jump. As Kate begins to investigate her daughters life, she realizes just how much Amelia had been keeping secret from her, and becomes increasingly sure her daughter did not commit suicide.

Thoughts on the story:

Reconstructing Amelia alternates between Kate’s point of view after Amelia’s death and Amelia’s leading up to her death. Amelia’s sections in particularly are heartbreaking because she is a great, funny girl with some serious problems that are really not her fault and knowing that her story is going to end with her tragic death is often very difficult. I actually found myself hoping she had committed suicide or that she had fallen off the roof by accident because I just couldn’t bear the thought of anyone killing her. The way this whole thing is plotted worked very well for me. Kate’s discoveries often connect with what Amelia is going through in the alternate chapters, but not so much that anything feels redundant. It is overall a very well put together story.

Thoughts on the audio production:

This is the first time I’ve listened to Kristine Hvam in a full-length production and I was very impressed. She introduces slight variations in her voice to differentiate between Kate and Amelia, so that even if you miss the chapter tag of the character and date you can still figure out easily which character’s point of view you are in (even without the fairly obvious context clues). About the dates in the chapter titles, though… That was the one thing that didn’t work for me as well consuming this as an audiobook versus a print book. I did not pay enough attention to the dates when I heard them that by the next time around I could remember what they were, and audio of course makes it more difficult to go back and check. Luckily both story lines progress in a linear fashion, so the only real issue was not knowing quite how much time elapsed over the course of the story.

Overall:

Loved! This is a good one if you want to cause some obsessive listening. The book is well put together and the narration is top-notch. Highly recommended.

Buy this book from:
Powells: Audio*
Indiebound: Audio*
Downpour Audio

Source: Publisher.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

Sound Bytes is a meme that occurs every Friday! I encourage you to review your audiobooks on Fridays and include the link here. If you have reviewed an audiobook earlier in the week, please feel free to link that review as well. Thanks to Pam for creating the button.

Mister Linky’s Magical Widgets

This plugin requires intervention by this site’s administrator.

To display the widget for this post, please click here.

Digiprove sealCopyright protected by Digiprove © 2013