The Ice Storm

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Blurb:

The year is 1973. As a freak winter storm bears down on an exclusive, affluent suburb in Connecticut, cars skid out of control, men and women swap partners, and their children experiment with sex, drugs, and even suicide. Here two families, the Hoods and the Williamses, come face-to-face with the seething emotions behind the well-clipped lawns of their lives – in a novel widely hailed as a funny, acerbic, and moving hymn to a dazed and confused era of American life.

My Take:

As the blurb states, this novel has a little of everything: sex, drugs, suicide, wife swapping, and tragedy. The 1970s were clearly a time of disappearing inhibitions. The author manages to encapsulate that wild and crazy decade into a compelling story featuring two families. Rick Moody’s brush strokes are magnificent, painting vivid images of family dysfunction. A solid piece of writing.

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The Kite Runner

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Blurb:

The unforgettable, heartbreaking story of the unlikely friendship between a wealthy boy and the son of his father’s servant, The Kite Runner is a beautifully crafted novel set in a country that is in the process of being destroyed. It is about the power of reading, the price of betrayal, and the possibility of redemption; and an exploration of the power of fathers over sons—their love, their sacrifices, their lies.

A sweeping story of family, love, and friendship told against the devastating backdrop of the history of Afghanistan over the last thirty years, The Kite Runner is an unusual and powerful novel that has become a beloved, one-of-a-kind classic.

My Take:

Another fantastic read steeped in darkness and quiet hope. Two young boys from different stations in Afghani caste society become close friends. A terrible incident pulls them apart. Years later, one of those boys—now a man—seeks to make amends for his lack of action. But is it too late? Can he really find absolution for what he sees as his own act of betrayal? A return to the country of his birth, now under Taliban rule, just might lead to his own end. Is this a chance he’s willing to take in an effort to make things right?

The storytelling here is superb. The author writes from a cultural point of view few have ever captured within the realms of a novel. If you’ve seen the film but never read the book, get this one and forget the film. A case of the-book-is-better-than-the-film!

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Jazz Baby

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Blurb:

While all of Mississippi bakes in the scorching summer of 1925, sudden orphanhood wraps its icy embrace around pretty Emily Ann “Baby” Teegarten, a young teen.

Taken in by an aunt bent on ridding herself of this unexpected burden, Baby Teegarten plots her escape using the only means at her disposal: a voice that brings church ladies to righteous tears, and makes both angels and devils take notice. “I’m going to New York City to sing jazz,” she brags to anybody who’ll listen. But the Big Apple—well, it’s an awful long way from that dry patch of earth she’d always called home.

So when the smoky stages of New Orleans speakeasies give a whistle, offering all sorts of shortcuts, Emily Ann soon learns it’s the whorehouses and opium dens that can sidetrack a girl and dim a spotlight…and knowing the wrong people can snuff it out.

Jazz Baby just wants to sing—not fight to stay alive.

My Take:

Okay. So I’ll admit to being a bit of a book snob. I rarely ever give non-traditionally published books a chance. Then along comes Jazz Baby, a stunningly beautiful indie novel, and the rules are out the window. This book is solely responsible for my new and growing affection toward independently published novels.

The story is set in 1925 Mississippi—with forays into New Orleans—where Emily “Baby” Teegarten, our young teenage protagonist, seeks her fame and fortune singing jazz upon the stages of various speakeasies scattered throughout that part of the deep south. But New York is her ultimate destination. New York is where people go to become stars. The problem is, our girl is poor, orphaned, and naive to all those nefarious characters lining up with their own agendas for Baby.

There are some dark moments in this story—a rape, a couple of murders, and drug use—but there are also some very touching moments. Our girl is young, pretty, talented, bisexual, and curious about all those appetites in life she feels she’s been kept away from for too long. There are sex scenes—though they are not gratuitous.

To claim the characters here are vividly real is a major understatement. This writer really took his time in developing even the minor players. I’ve read this one three times already—at just 224 pages, it can be finished in a day or two. I’ve also returned to various scenes numerous times just to feel those delicious words against my tongue once again. I highly recommend this one to those who enjoy great storytellers. How this novel isn’t a worldwide best seller is mind boggling.

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