Book Review: Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

 I took Daisy Jones & The Six with me to the beach last week, and I must say, she was amazing company! Although I could have swallowed the book whole in one day, it was fun to pick it up while at the pool, and then return to it for the last thirty minutes before I closed my eyes at night.  The format of the book, short interviews with people in and around the band during their mediocre times and meteoric rise, gives a unique portrait of each character in tiny morsels. I liked being able to put the book down and pick it up only to be right back into the character studies, and thus the action.

 One of my favorite passages from the book is not a spoiler at all, but a clear indication that the setting was California during the turbulent and expressive late ‘70’s:

EDDIE: “Just One More” was written and recorded in one day when somebody sent over a batch of grass baked into cookies.  The whole song, written mostly by Billy, with my help, seems like it shows wanting to sleep with a girl one time before you hit the road.  But it was about how we’d eaten all the grass and just wanted one more cookie.

WARREN: I took three of the cookies myself, and I hid one of ‘em for later and as Billy is writing this song about wanting one more, I thought  “__it, he knows I have one more!”

GRAHAM: It was just a great time.  We had a great time back then.

The authenticity of this book will have some readers searching for signs that the band was real. (I admit to nothing.)  The narrator’s voice appears to have crawled into the soul of each character, and indeed appears to be both omniscient and real.  You will have to read the book to discover why.

 People in touring bands have loose ties with loved ones far away and tight, almost constricting bonds with others on the road they travel daily.  Do the songs come from life, or does life come from the songs? “Daisy Jones & The Six” shows the reader just how complicated this question can be for the writers, and how a singer’s interpretation can change or intensify the meaning of a song.  

Legend and myth build to a crescendo in this engrossing tale of the rock-solid basis of love that builds and then sustains the protagonist’s to a hard knock romance that eventually leads to an imperfect, sustainable fairy tale.

I highly recommend this lovely book! Great for the beach….  

#TallPoppyBlogger #DaisyJones&theSix

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Book Review: The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls by Anissa Gray

This book had me hooked from the first line;  “You do a lot of thinking in jail.” I think Ms. Gray has a winner here, a book that is both deep and resonant, its characters both surprising, and flawed.  I enjoy books that capture the attention of the reader not with a sledge hammer, but rather a siren song that pulls you in with nuance. The beauty of these characters lies in their utter imperfection, a couple with a restaurant and a place in the community, but also with a shared secret that could either destroy or redeem them, a professional counselor who hides her own shame in a deep addiction, a sister with a secret shame of her own, and children doing their best to grow and learn with absent parents.  

 The inter-generational theme of different kinds of absences is prevalent in the story.  Children lose a beloved parent and their Reverend father travels to save other souls while his children rely on the kindness of parishioners to feed and clothe them.  A mother is absent in her very presence, unable to break through her own walls to reach out to her own daughter.

 Family is the thread that is woven and broken, tied together in redemption, and cut in the name of selfhood and the breaking of patterns of shame and secrecy. Unfolding the story of Althea and Proctor necessitates telling the tale of how she became the unwitting matriarch of her family at a young age, and how this affected her sisters, Lillian and Viola, and brother, Joe.

 Ms. Gray captures the way we hurt the ones we love, and the strength that can come from trying to face the messes we make with honesty and an open heart.

This is a uniquely American story with the power to outlive our times.  I would love to see Angela Basset cast as Althea in the movie that is sure to come out of this book. (Fingers crossed!)     

I proudly give this book 4 Stars! Bookish and Proud

Book Review: The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner

2019, 386 pages

The last year of the war  is a total diversion from the current times.  Set in the year before the end of WWII, the book draws upon the tensions present in the United States that led to the internment of individuals of both Asian and German descent and their American children in “camps.” This is the story of two of those families, one Japanese, and one German.  Elise Sontag was a natural American citizen being raised in Iowa by her German immigrant parents, The little town didn’t protect her from all of the normal angst and uncertainty of a typical rural teenager, but war was not something she worried about every day. Yes, there was a war going on, but the bucolic Iowa farm Elise was growing up on seemed to be far away from the reach of the vagaries of  destruction and death being experienced on the other side of the world. One day all of that changed in short order. Her father was accused of being a Nazi sympathizer, and he was arrested and taken away from Elise, her mother, and her brother, Tom, leaving them without the support necessary to keep them in their home. No matter that her parents had taken America into their hearts and minds as the country they were loyal to, no matter that their children were born and raised in the United States.  The country they had grown to love betrayed them, they were treated as outcasts in the only town the children knew.

 Just when Elise was unsure that her fragile mother could bear the separation much longer, the family had a reunification plan.  Sent to Crystal City, Texas to live with her father, Elise and her brother join her mother for the long and dismal train ride to the camp.  Although I had never heard about the German-Americans being sent to the camps along with Japanese families,I was quickly absorbed by the story of this family being forced to stay somewhere completely foreign to them, the unrelenting heat being the first hint that they were no longer in Iowa. The camp was set up with very basic necessities of living, including cheap furniture and no walls between the parents and children’s sleeping quarters.  The author does a wonderful job of describing what camp life was like, both positive and negative. One of the positives was that the children were able to attend school, and it is at school that Elise becomes acquainted with a Japanese girl from California, Mariko Inhoue. The Sontag and Inhoue families become more familiar with each other, however the friendship between the two girls, immediate and lasting, becomes the focus of Elise’s time at the camp.  This book seemed almost like a love story, the kismet between the girls is so strong, and by the time the book was over, I knew this was exactly what it was. The love the two girls had for each other was deep and strong, the connection of soul mates meant to be in one another’s lives, not in a filial way, but in a deep and abiding friendship. Also like a love story, the girls make plans for the future which does not go exactly the way they plan. After only a few letters from Mariko over several years, Elise has to take stock of her life and make adult decisions at a very young age.

 The themes of paranoia, prejudice, and destiny are woven into the book without the words ever being written.  The reader is transported to different settings that make perfect sense within the context of war and the space of having no control over events that shape and define the lives of the two families.  It was heartbreaking to me that the patriarchs of the two families developed very different approaches to both their confinement, and eventual expulsion from the country they chose to call home. Their decisions end up by being the very same despite their differences.  The theme of “Home,” and what home comes to mean to Elise is at the very core of this story, a love story, a story about the heart and the home, which, in the end, may very well be the same thing.

I proudly give this novel 4 / 4 Stars!

Book Review: The Curiosities by Susan Gloss

2019, 341 pages

“The Curiosities” is a novel divided into chapters that are told from the point of view of the individual characters living and working in an artist colony in Madison, Wisconsin. Nell Parker, who lives in Madison and has a PhD in art history, is the somewhat reluctant director of the colony, which was created at the behest of Betsy Barrett, the former resident of the mansion that houses the colony. After the recent loss of her preterm baby, Nell and her husband, Josh, an attorney, have been floundering while undertaking a round of infertility treatments. (The true cost of which Nell keeps to herself.) Nell took the job as a respite from the reoccurring thoughts of her tragedy, and because she simply needs the money. Chosen for her degree and not her managerial savvy, she is thrust into her role when the executor of Betsy’s will slaps the keys of a huge, old mansion on the edge of Madison into her hand and drives off.

Nell and the residents of the colony, (Including deceased benefactor Betsy Barrett) all have their stories revealed in their chapters. There is Paige, the offbeat recent art-school grad, Annie, an older artist of some past renown, and Odin, a young metal sculptor with his own tragic loss looming over his work. The first round of residents were chosen by Betsy before she died, and Nell’s job is essentially to keep them happily ensconced in the mansion while also tending to a myriad of other duties.

While Nell finds herself busily consumed with the activities at the newly minted “Mansion Hill Artists’ Colony,” her marriage continues its’ downward slide until fate, in the form of an arrest at the mansion, allows her to see her buttoned-up husband in a new light.

The story flows quite naturally around the characters in the book, and although I liked the arc of the novel, for some reason Betsy’s’ first chapter not being introduced until the fifth chapter threw me off. I liked that the background and history could be established with this character, however I would have preferred it happened earlier in the book, maybe as part of the Prologue. That is just my opinion, of course, and I quickly moved on from the thought as the story progressed.

The title caught my eye with this book. I think it could have derived from the descriptions of items cataloged by Nell that she found in mansion, but could easily apply to the characters, a curious mix of ages and personalities that blend to provide a satisfying and charming read. I’m proud to give this novel 3.5/4 stars.

Bookish and Proud

Sweet and satisfying!