Book Review | The King is Always Above the People: Stories by Daniel Alarcón

king is always above the people coverSet to be released this halloween, The King is Always Above the People is a well-written collection of ten short stories. They introduce the reader to various characters dealing with some sort of problem. One piece describes a man inheriting the house of his blind uncle upon his death from walking off a bridge. Another follows a boy who gets a job as a blind beggar’s assistant. A gang member is the focus of another story.

Alarcón’s voice and writing style are very appealing. Coupled with stories that flowed at a decent pace, they provided a readable book. On the other hand, I found some of the stories and/or characters to be somewhat average, flat and/or unmemorable. This said, I would certainly read more of Alarcón’s works because the writing itself was such a draw. The physical volume is also nice, with a smooth jacket and pages that stay open for you. Watch for this book to come out at a library near you!

I received an advance copy of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway.

*If you’ve enjoyed reading The King is Always Above the People, you may be interested in Mexico: Stories by Josh Barkan (2017).


Book Review | Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke

bluebird cover.jpgTwo dead bodies in a small eastern Texas town bring Ranger Darren looking for answers. Dealing with a drinking problem and separation from his wife, Darren finds several similarities between the black male victim and himself. As he tries to determine if there is a connection between the two bodies, both found by the bayou, race and small town politics come into play. 

Bluebird, Bluebird deals with the very timely topic of racial injustice from law enforcement. It is tastefully written in a manner that readers will find digestible, without being overly graphic. The story progresses in a mostly linear fashion, albeit at a sometimes slow pace. The scenes and characters are described adequately to make them imaginable, but none are particularly likeable. This book will appeal to fans of noir crime novels and those interested in reading about racial issues. Check for this book at your local library, it’s set to be released September 12, 2017.

I received an advance reading copy of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway.

*If you’ve enjoyed reading Bluebird, Bluebird, you may be interested in Leopard at the Door by Jennifer McVeigh (2017).

Book Reviw | The One-Eyed Man by Ron Currie Jr.

one eyed man cover.jpegPublished last month, Currie’s newest novel, The One-Eyed Man, introduces 39 year old protagonist K. After the death of his wife, K’s life rapidly changes course. In attempts to find truth in language, he fully engages strangers in belabored conversations that set them on edge, ready to react with physical violence to K’s words. Consequently, K is offered his own reality TV show by a hopeful producer. With a sassy redhead in tow, K’s show blows up and he steps on loads of toes, rendering enemies in multiple spheres.

After really enjoying Currie’s previous novel, Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles, I was excited for this book’s release. I read this book entirely of my own volition with no review requests. I found the first half thoroughly enjoyable! I was often laughing out loud, or reacting facially to Currie’s words. Specifically, I appreciated how the narrative focused on people’s use of language and their speech inaccuracies and the focus on philosophical issues. However, as the story continued and refocused on a more active plot, I found myself losing interest. I wish the book had ended halfway through the story. This said, I highly praise the writing style and tone used here, and would try another Currie book in the future. Positively can be compared to, and enjoyed by fans of, Tom Robbins or Kurt Vonnegut. See what you think, check it out from a library near you.

*If you’ve enjoyed reading The One-Eyed Man, you’ll likely enjoy Lexicon by Max Barry (2013). 

Book Review | The Mountains of Parnassus by Czeslaw Milosz

mountains of parnassus.jpegPublished in Polish in 2012, The Mountains of Parnassus was completed by Nobel Prize winner Milosz in the early 1970’s. Though the novel is classified as science fiction, it is dystopian fiction and currently quite applicable. The book is broken into seven sections and introduces the reader to four distinct characters: an astronaut, a cardinal, an exiled man and a struggling man. Each character has a very different story, which allows for wider reader appeal.

The quality of the writing in this book is excellent. Milosz has set some feelings in words in a very touching way. Some of the characters were easier to relate to than others, and their stories combined well to form the novel. It is a quick read, more of a novella that can be read in a few hours. The text is thought provoking and considering when it was originally written, brings to mind the foresight seen in the writing of Ira Levin. This English translation is expected to be published on January 10, 2017.

I received an advance uncorrected proof of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the translator/publisher for participating in the giveaway.

Book Review | The Room : a novel by Jonas Karlsson

the room book coverUnder less than perfect circumstances, Björn transfers to a new job at the Authority in Stockholm. He sees himself as a man of the future who is destined for greatness, though his coworkers think he’s quite a jerk. Björn thinks he is better than the lot of them and plots his rise to management. When his colleagues report him for improper behavior, he is forced to examine his own mental state and choose a new path to the top – and balance the time he spends in a special room at work that the others claim doesn’t exist.

Karlsson has penned a winner with The Room. Although Björn is an unlikable protagonist, he serves as an entertaining narrator. This quick read starts strong and keeps the pages turning. The direct writing style clearly depicts scenes and settings. The book takes place in Sweden, but could easily have occurred elsewhere, as the cultural references are limited. The Room is an enjoyable office fiction read and would work quite well for book clubs or to spark a dialogue about workplace ethics. Check out this new release from a library near you.

Book Review | A Hologram for the King : a novel by Dave Eggers

book cover A Hologram for the King : a novel by Dave EggersRecently, when searching for films by director Tom Tykwer, I found out that the book A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers is being turned into a film staring Tom Hanks, with a release scheduled for late 2015. Since I enjoyed Eggers’ book The Circle so much, I figured it was a good time to try another.

Middle-aged, divorced and broke, Alan has been sent to Saudi Arabia to broker a deal with King Abdullah for his IT firm. Details Alan receives as he and his team prepare for the royal meeting are fuzzy and it’s a mystery if or when the King may actually arrive. The story focuses on Alan’s relationships with his driver, his doctor, his daughter, a diplomat and the unexpected adventures that ensue with each of them.

The book is entertaining from the beginning and easy to read and follow. The story is mostly told chronologically with connections made along the way. Though Alan himself is not a very interesting character, the people he becomes involved with allow him to experience events beyond the daily scope of average. For a quick trip to Saudi Arabia, check it out at a library near you.

Book Review | Notes from the Internet Apocalypse by Wayne Gladstone

book cover Notes from the Internet Apocalypse by Wayne GladstoneAfter reading the synopsis, I was pretty anxious for this book to come out. The premise is great, but the execution is lacking. Notes from the Internet Apocalypse chronicles the “adventures” of a late 30’s Jameson drinking single male in New York City when the internet goes down, indefinitely. First his cyber blogger friend arrives at his doorstep from the West Coast. As they hunt for the internet (as if it will be hidden in a closet somewhere) they make friends with a 24 year old Australian punk chic in Central Park. The mismatched threesome’s bonds are tested as they combat the terrors of the new age – a psychic librarian, a totalitarian police regime, and Christians against the proclaimed Internet Messiah.

This book is pretty easy to get into and the story flows fairly well, but it’s overly coincidental and focuses on the wrong plot points. For example, a major storyline is pornography and how people go about getting their fix since the disappearance of the net. (I did not want to read about this). I thought something was going to happen eventually, but nothing really did. More than a start to end story, it was a rambling journal from the main character about what he encountered daily. The biggest cop-out was the ending. I’m sure other readers may have differing opinions, but I’d say this one’s not really worth your time. I picked this book because I enjoyed Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore and Ready Player One, but it’s not in the same league. Maybe Gladstone should stick with magazine pieces – no offense.