To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris

To Rise again at a Decent Hour

To Rise Again at a Decent Hour is one of those books that is so fun to read that you don’t realize just how weighty it is until you’re turning the last few pages and find that a little bit of yourself, a tiny little cell or two, has been changed.

Main character Paul is an annoying, neurotic dentist.  Only it turns out he’s not.  He’s a dentist, anyway, but maybe not so neurotic.  He’s been through a lot in his 30-odd years, but he’s not complaining.  Instead, he’s seeking his place in the world, a sense of belonging, a family, a purpose.  He has a weakness for women with large, religious families.  First Sam, of the devoutly Catholic Santacroce family, and more recently Connie, his office manager and member of the large Jewish Plotz clan.  Paul’s longing for love, family, and purpose manifests in an obsessive fascination with his girlfriends’ religions, and he finds himself stepping over boundary lines in his quest to get just a bit closer, to understand the privilege of a religious heritage just a little better.

We first join Paul when his post-breakup pining and analyzing and mooning for Connie’s family is interrupted by his discovery that someone is impersonating him online.  Eventually his online doppelganger begins to post comments that could be construed as anti-Semitic, and Paul is aggrieved and itchy with the discomfort of knowing the Plotz’s may be attributing these comments to him.  But when fake-Paul offers real-Paul an almost irresistible chance to belong, to claim a heritage of his own, what will real-Paul do?

Much of the action here takes place in Paul’s head, or in his Manhattan office, or in his apartment.  Paul’s journey is existential, and by its end, “neurotic” Paul has revealed himself as an engaging, thoughtful, vulnerable, full fledged human being. Who just happens to be a dentist.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

We Were Liars

Cadence has spent every summer of her life on a private island off the coast of Massachusetts with her entire extended family.  Hired help does all the work while the family enjoys a life of luxury and leisure.  She missed last summer, which she spent in Europe with her father, but she is back and trying to piece together what happened two summers before.  All she knows is that she sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and now suffers memory loss and crippling headaches.  No one in the family is supposed to talk to her about it because it upsets her and then she ends up forgetting anyway — the doctors have decided it’s best if they let her recover those memories on her own.  I almost couldn’t get over the shock of what had happened when her memories finally sorted themselves out, and I was in awe of how well everything that seemed so strange finally fell into place.  This is a great summer read for people who like mysteries and don’t mind shedding a few tears.

Looking for Alaska by John Green

Looking for Alaska

It seemed a bit too clichéd to write a review for TFiOS—otherwise known as The Fault in Our Stars—as the film adaptation will be released in less than a month.  So instead, I will review Looking for Alaska, another masterpiece from the brilliant mind of John Green.  It was his debut novel, but it delivers as many brutal truths as those that followed in its wake. In this particular tale, Miles, our protagonist, leaves his Floridian home behind to attend a boarding school in Alabama… in search of “a Great Perhaps.”  Miles, you see, collects “last words.” (Foreshadowing, perhaps?)  Note Exhibit A:  “Francois Rabelais. He was a poet.  And his last words were, “I go to seek a Great Perhaps.”  That’s why I’m going.  So I don’t have to wait until I die to start seeking a Great Perhaps.” Introducing a concept such as a Great Perhaps so early in the book is part of Green’s genius.  It hooked me.  I bet it has hooked you. I bet you are already reserving your copy so that you can find out more about this Great Perhaps.  What I tell people when they ask about John Green is this:  He is the master of the one-liner.  Even if that one-liner takes a paragraph to develop… even if that one-liner is, in fact, actually a paragraph in length.  Note Exhibit B:  “I walked back to my room and collapsed on the bottom bunk, thinking that if people were rain, I was drizzle and she was a hurricane.” Miles is, of course, talking about Alaska here, but Green’s words are simultaneously so personal yet so universal that you feel you are that hurricane… or that you are the drizzle in love with the hurricane.  Or that, all weather aside, you know exactly what this guy is talking about because you have experienced it in your own life. Looking for Alaska is fearless in the way it addresses the sensitive issues young adults struggle with on a daily basis.  There is no sugarcoating here, or crunchy candy shell.  There is only The Truth… or the version(s) of The Truth as seen through the eyes and minds of Green’s thoughtful and honest characters. I’ll admit it; the feeling I had when I finished this book stayed with me for days.  And this particular quote from Looking for Alaska will stay with me for a lifetime:  “When I look at my room, I see a girl who loves books.”

 

Enchanted by Alethea Kontis

Enchanted

Sunday Woodcutter, like her six sisters, was named for a day of the week.  I assume it was the day of the week on which they were born, though I cannot honest recall at the moment.  I do remember, though, that her sisters all seemed to be the embodiment of the old nursery rhyme “Monday’s Child,” which predicts children’s characteristics based on their days of birth:

Monday’s child is fair of face,
Tuesday’s child is full of grace,
Wednesday’s child is full of woe,
Thursday’s child has far to go,
Friday’s child is loving and giving,
Saturday’s child works hard for a living,
But the child who is born on the Sabbath Day
Is bonny and blithe and good and gay.

The number seven always seems to hold some magical and mystical powers in fantasy stories, and this story is no exception.  Being the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter has set Sunday up to be especially magical.  She loves writing, but is hesitant to do so because what she writes often comes true.  After meeting a talking frog, and telling him about her stories, Sunday finds that she finally has a friend to confide in.  He disappears, of course, when Sunday bestows a kiss on the his little froggy head — turning back into Prince Rumbold, whom her family despises.  Prince Rumbold is certain he can make Sunday fall in love with him, though, if only he can get a chance to talk to her and explain…

Being Henry David by Cal Armistead

Being Henry David

Imagine being 17 years old and randomly waking up on the floor at Penn Station with no memory — not even your own name.  “Hank” awoke with only the clothes on his back, $10 in his pocket, and a paperback book.  I put Hank in quotes because it wasn’t his real name; it was just a name he assumed because he needed to think of a name quickly and the book he carried was Walden by Henry David Thoreau.  When the police came over to settle a scuffle between Hank and a mentally ill man who was trying to eat his book, he told them his name was Henry David… I mean, it would probably have been a little awkward to try and explain to the police that he didn’t know who he was — and Hank wasn’t sure whether it would be good or bad to be figured out and sent back home.  I’ve always been intrigued by the concept of amnesia, and I needed to know who Hank really was and why he lost his memory, so I was hooked from the start.  Although it was frustrating to experience things from Hank’s side, not knowing what had happened, it helped me to get into Hank’s head and to better appreciate his heartbreak as his memories began to return.  I thought this was a brilliant story about personal discovery and self-forgiveness.

I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga

I Hunt Killers

I have always been intrigued by serial killers.  I am so utterly fascinated, in fact, that I  scared a student worker at my college library during my freshman year.  I used to go during my breaks to watch A&E Biography videos about serial killers like Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy, and David “Son of Sam” Berkowitz in the media lab.  One week, he asked what class I was studying for.  When I replied that it was “just for fun,” he practically threw the video at me before running and hiding in the back office!  Luckily, I happened to meet him at a later time and was able to set his mind at ease.  Until I had the chance to explain myself, he called me “the creepy serial killer girl” and worried that I was studying up so I wouldn’t get caught!  Though I no longer frequent the library to watch videos about serial killers, I have watched enough of them (and reality-based shows like Crossing Jordan, Law & Order, Castle, and Criminal Minds) that I have a frighteningly thorough knowledge of serial killer pathology and the methods of the law enforcement officials who try to catch them.  When one of my teens told me about this book, I knew I had to read it.

Though he is pretty average and a fairly nice guy, most people in town wouldn’t be surprised if Jasper Dent was secretly a serial killer.  Why?  Because his dad, Billy Dent, killed into the triple digits by the time he was caught. Everyone seems to be afraid that Jasper is a killing spree just waiting to happen; well, everyone except his best friend, Howie, and girlfriend, Connie.  So, after a dead body shows up in Lobo’s Nod, Jasper is determined to help the police.  Even though Sheriff G. William Tanner does his best to dissuade him,  Jasper keeps insisting that he needs to help — because he’s sure it’s a serial killer (even though the police don’t think so), because he knows how serial killers think, and because he wants to clear his own name.

I was enjoying this audiobook so much that I jokingly told my husband I was going to make him listen to it when I was done.  He agreed that it sounded good, so we decided to actually start it over (even though I was at 96%!) and listen to it together on our weekend roadtrip without the kids. We finished all but half an hour by the time we got home and we couldn’t imagine leaving it for later… So, we listened while we unpacked our bags and sorted laundry!  Since then, I have read the prequel (an e-novella) and downloaded the second audiobook from OverDrive.com. The third book comes out in September on the day after my birthday.  Coincidence? I think not! 😉

Fosse by Sam Wasson

Fosse

Anyone who knows about “Jazz Hands” needs to read this book!  Sam Wasson writes an absolutely fabulous biography about Bob Fosse.  Besides being a brilliant choreographer, he was also one of the only people to win Oscar, Emmy, and Tony Awards.  He started as a dancer, but was never really able to parlay that talent as far as he wanted to because he was so short, so choreography it was.  His life was an amazing tangle of people and places and experiences as well as excesses.  He had quite a few demons that plagued him his whole life.  If you love the theater, or the movies or dance and music, then this is the book for you.

NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

NOS4A2

This book is what I like to call “Scary, creepy good!”  It was written by Joe Hill, who is one of Stephen King’s sons.  Boy, did this kid pay attention to Dad!  I took a break a long time ago from Stephen King and was ready to jump back in, but didn’t find anything of his I wanted to read. Then I found this book and boy, I was not disappointed.  It follows the story of a 140-year-old Vampire named Charlie Manx and a young girl who figures out his secret.  Her name is Victoria and her character is so well drawn you will be hooked from page one.  Joe Hill is a writer to read for sure!

The Martian: A Novel by Andy Weir

Mark Watney is left for dead on Mars.  Knocked unconscious, he is lucky enough to be alive, but how much longer will his luck hold out?  He has no contact with Earth and few supplies.  Wounded and alone, he must use all his knowledge, cunning, and bravery to stay alive long enough to contact someone for help.  Will he survive long enough for a crew to come back and save him?  If they can!  With its sharp sense of humor and scientific savvy, his struggle is engrossing.  A bit heavy with mathematical and scientific explanation, Mark’s story is still a mesmerizing adventure.