Wednesday, September 12, 2018

The Shakespeare Requirement

Slapstick. The wit in Julie Schumacher’s novel titled, The Shakespeare Requirement, tickled all my funny bones. Who knew that a university could be the ideal location for real slapstick humor? Any reader whose patience in meetings becomes strained will feel connected to parts of this book. The thankless role of a department chair falls to protagonist Jason Fitger, and the eccentric colleagues in the English department come alive on these pages. The buzzwords and antics of the administration and the successful Economics department kept me smiling, and what better name could Schumacher have chosen for the institution: Payne University? Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase The Shakespeare Requirement from amazon.com.

My Year of Rest and Relaxation

Sleep. Most psychiatrists would propose engagement with others as a way to deal with alienation, and many patients would consider that path. The young female protagonist of Ottessa Moshfegh’s novel titled, My Year of Rest and Relaxation, chooses another way to deal with her situation: sleep. I laughed at the ways in which she gets her very strange psychiatrist to prescribe loads of pills to help her sleep. The prose is so finely written and the narrative so perfectly crafted that despite the sleeping, there is a high energy maintained throughout the novel. When there are just a handful of pages left to read, we are snapped out of our own drugged state as Moshfegh delivers a perfect ending. Rating: Five-star (I love it) Click here to purchase My Year of Rest and Relaxation from amazon.com.

The Shortest Way Home

Sweet. The protagonist of Miriam Parker’s debut novel titled, The Shortest Way Home, is ready to complete her MBA in California and move to New York to take a great job for which she beat many worthy competitors. While Hannah is spending a weekend in Sonoma a new dream displaces the old one. Most young adults veer a bit on the path to finding one’s place in the world. Hannah pulls a full about face. However improbable her story, Hannah is a sweet character and Parker encourages readers to laugh with the consequences of Hannah’s actions and root for her dream to come true. Rating: Three-star (It’s ok) Click here to purchase The Shortest Way Home from amazon.com.

The Middleman

Disaffected. Fans of thrillers and plot turns are those readers most likely to enjoy Olen Steinhauer’s novel titled, The Middleman. A pied piper to the disaffected, Martin Bishop, taps into what those people want, and he bands them together into a movement called the Massive Brigade. The FBI, especially agent Rachel Proulx, is on the case, and Steinhauer uses her to dig deeply no matter where the trail leads. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase The Middleman from amazon.com.

Away with Words: An Irreverent Tour Through the World of Pun Competitions

Punderdome. I expected more puns in the book by Joe Berkowitz titled, Away with Words: An Irreverent Tour Through the World of Pun Competitions. The subtitle should have warned me that the content had more than just puns. I enjoyed spending time with Berkowitz on his journey to events like Punderdome. While I appreciate a good pun, I had no idea that pun competitions were even a thing. Berkowitz makes his own excursion into this world fun to read, and his descriptions of the major punners were a delight to read. Did I really reach the end of my brief review without making a pun? Rating: Three-star (It’s ok) Click here to purchase Away with Words from amazon.com.

Our Kind of Cruelty

Games. Fans of dark psychological fiction are those readers most likely to enjoy reading Araminta Hall’s novel titled, Our Kind of Cruelty. V and Mike have a relationship built around a game involving desire and an irregular line between a made-up sex game and reality. After V marries Angus, Mike believes this is a sham wedding and part of the extended game, so he remains in love with V and tries to suss the next move in the game. Hall draws readers into Mike’s troubled mind as the story grows ever darker. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Our Kind of Cruelty from amazon.com.

A Kind of Freedom

Suffering. Margaret Wilkerson Sexton’s finely written debut novel titled, A Kind of Freedom, is set in New Orleans from World War II until after Hurricane Katrina. Sexton presents the story through three well-developed characters: Evelyn, her daughter, Jackie, and Jackie’s son, T.C. Each generation suffers, sometimes in similar ways. Using fewer than three hundred pages, Sexton develops setting, character and story with great skill and insight. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase A Kind of Freedom from amazon.com.