The Yugo: The Rise and Fall of the Worst Car in History by Jason Vuic (8:57) (2010) (nf) (on goodreads) — There are so many more reasons that this venture failed than I could have imagined. There’s not only marketing, branding, and sales, as one would expect, but a lot of sociology and history. This is a surprisingly good book to read for a concentrated introduction to the mess that was Yugoslavia’s war among competing tribes.
Things I Want to Punch in the Face by Jennifer Worick (2013) (nf)
— A series of short, unmemorable rants and so much distracting profanity it demonstrates a sadly deficient creative use of language for such a popular writer. Thus is a casualty of taking a collection of blog posts and binding them for reading in one sitting: What may be tolerable in small doses at irregular intervals becomes a honking annoyance in big chunks. To be fair, I checked out the blog the book is based on and some other essays on her personal blog. All I want to do is edit her into better writing. Despite having a common ability if not tendency to complain about the most mundane matters and take umbrage to innocuous slights, I don’t think we’d be pals. At least it was short. A waste of time that I want to punch in the face. (on goodreads.com)
The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes (2011) (on goodreads.com)
— The suicide of a college mate sends Tony in to not so much a tailspin but more a slowly spinning inner tube naval gazing while drifting down a lazy river. Although any age can be an age of reflection, at Tony’s age, one expects to have all reflecting accomplished and life explained in an orderly fashion. Indeed, Tony sets about tidying up his affairs and day to day as a gift to those he will leave behind. What a thoughtful guy. But, dear reader, he’s telling his own story, and as new realizations beget historic revisions, further realizations arise. … It’s the job of a decent copywriter to pique interest, but the promises attached to this book are so overblown they make me wonder how well-read or drunk the copywriters were. I liked getting to know the characters, finding meaning, and being led along. At the story’s abrupt end, I was left with a ‘meh’ instead of the intended needle scratch. At least it was short.
The Good Nurse: A True Story of Medicine, Madness, and Murder by Charles Graeber (2013) (nf) (on goodreads.com)
— So, you’re a nurse. And these detectives come to see you and tell you that the guy you have the most fun with during a medical crisis on shift is a sick bastard who kills patients for kicks. And they want you to keep hanging out with him and help them put him away. Just another day. … The most prolific serial killer of our time was convicted of 40-odd, but is thought to have dispatched 10 times that many. Yikes. He’s not eloquent, but he does have the routine serial killer insight on his motivations to be noticed and up the ante, even at the risk of being caught. … Much of the story and narrative rests on the investigation. It’s pretty cunning of him to not actually say much beyond trailing off to ‘um’, ‘yeah’, ‘so’ and other filler words that mean nothing. … Learned some things about some meds and physiology, and how to sneak meds out of an accessory to murder dumb software-to-hardware system that hasn’t been tested well enough.
White Bread: A Social History of the Store-Bought Loaf by Aaron Bobrow-Strain (2012) (nf) (on goodreads.com)
— Our national totem has a more interesting history than one might think. Loses steam when it addresses the contemporary “real food” movement. Or maybe I’ve just heard that discussed so much that I didn’t find it engaging. A must for post-industrial sociology nerds.
NYPD Red by James Patterson and Marshall Karp (2012) (on goodreads.com)
— A disgruntled extra terrorizes and/or murders visiting Hollywood, chagrins Hizzoner, and gives ex-lovers, now-partners (natch) something to verbally spar over. Too much pining for the most beautiful woman in the world, but the writing and the story kept me at it. The souffle sinks a little at the end, but an overal fun procedural.
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson (1988) (on goodreads.com)
— The least cultured, worst behaved, and most Jesus ignorant children in town put a lock on all of the important pageant roles. Watch out. Short, cute, and young.
Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir by Jenny Lawson (2012) (nf) (on goodreads.com)
— Really rough start as this one strains under its overestimation of its own cleverness. And what the hell is it with the town crier striving for irony but coming off sad singing of each chapter title? Light moments all, and forgettable most. Having a Facebook friend direct me to one of her posts gone viral is the most time I am willing to invest in The Blogess henceforth. Read by the author.
Robopocalypse: A Novel by Daniel H. Wilson (2011) (on goodreads.com)
— I don’t plan to see the movie, so I read this before everyone spoils the story for me. The robots are coming — wait, they’re already here. They’re already *everywhere*. Oh, folly. Terrible things are happening. Are all of the machiney things out to get us? Some dreadful scenarios. A glut of superfluous romance. Good sci-fi.
The Little Friend by Donna Tartt (2011) (on goodreads.com)
— Amazon says: “The second novel by the bestselling author of ‘The Goldfinch’, Donna Tartt’s ‘The Little Friend’ is a grandly ambitious and utterly riveting novel of childhood, innocence and evil.” Well, it tries to be. It struggles under its own weight and is seldom gripping. Inconsistently compelling, it does capture the frustrating boredom of childhood, punctuated by heinous acts and terror of consequence. Out of 20 parts, I resolved at Part 11 to carry on, but, as with most fiction, I powered through on pure Obsessive-Compulsive Must Finish Book Disorder. No way am I picking up “The Goldfinch” after this. The long, hot summer buildup didn’t pay off. Warning: Lots of racism (hello, Mississippi!) and some nasty dog abuse.
Night Film: A Novel by Marisha Pessl (2013) (on goodreads.com)
— A woman With It All and a Bright Future Ahead kills herself by stepping into an elevator shaft. Or does she? As the circumstances of the suicide/murder story become increasingly more preposterous and devil-worshipy, it’s tempting to bail. I’m glad I didn’t so that I could see how the twist, like a good rug, brought everything together. Read by Jake Weber, pablum significant other of Medium, and unconvincing cult leader of The Following.
Profanity Hill by Irene Burns Miller (nf) (on goodreads.com)
— A memoir by the woman in the unenviable position of displacing the residents of Seattle’s sagging slum to make way for shiny, new low-income housing with a commanding view, Yesler Terrace, that would go on to be razed similarly years later. Very quick read.
The Magician’s Assistant by Anne Patchett (1997) (on goodreads.com)
— Man, I wish I hadn’t bothered. One of many unsatisfying works of fiction that leave me irritated for not having the spent the time learning something instead.
Too Bright to Hear Too Loud to See by Juliann Garey (2002) (on goodreads.com)
— A story about bipolar before bipolar was cool and everyone rushed out to see Bradley Cooper jog in a Hefty bag. At least this guy doesn’t have the bi so bad he thinks he has tiger blood. Pretty plausible story of what happens when his chemicals begin to betray him more than he can continue to compensate for.
Escape from Camp 14: One Man’s Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West by Blaine Harden (2012) (nf) (on goodreads.com)
— A must read. This would be the most unsettling post-apocolyptic dystopian sci-fi if it weren’t completely true. A guy escapes this camp. That is a Huge Deal with Massive Consequences for his family. It’s a work camp, where people are sent to slowly be killed by hard labor, disease, malnutrition, illness. It’s a concentration of people who are thought to betray the totalitarian regime, or are unlucky enough to have the same poison blood as someone thought to. Oh, and it doesn’t exist. Move along, people, nothing to see here. Children are manufactured, and they live and die in the camp. I can’t imagine living in North Korea as an average citizen on a good day surrounded by privation and ignorance and mindfuckery. Being put in a death camp on top of it is diabolical.
The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston and Mario Spetzi (2008) (nf) (on goodreads.com)
— Someone is doing horrible things to people and then dumping them in fields just outside Firenze. A lot of people. They didn’t include this in the tour guide. I read one Pendergast novel. It was more than enough. Preston’s writing is more sticky, balanced, and just plain better in this nonfiction account. Better editor? Better genre? It wasn’t better money.