Wednesday, May 31, 2017

you can do better

City Mouse by Stacey Lender
Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)
Genre: fiction
Review: I'm so glad that Stacey Lender finally admitted near the end of this book that there might possibly be good people living in the suburbs, because I was starting to feel very discouraged.  Actually, I was starting to feel very grateful for my own suburban mom-friends, because Lender's characters, besides being mostly interchangeable, are also all mean and petty, not to mention serial adulterers.

Our heroine Jessica finds that out the hard way when she and her family move to Suffern from Manhattan, looking for more space and a yard.  Thinking she's hit the mom-friend jackpot when it turns out that right next door is a mom with a daughter the same age as her own daughter, Jessica gets pulled into the competitive sport of volunteering and car-pool.  Jessica and her husband both enjoy the social scene at first, but when Jessica is invited to join a mom's-only beach weekend, she starts to really figure out who these new friends are.

Lender is a skilled writer and this book kept me turning the pages, even though the subject matter is nothing new.  I look forward to seeing what she writes next, and hope that she chooses material that better showcases her talents.

FTC Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for this review.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Dear Julie

Nuclear Family: A Tragicomic Novel in Letters by Susanna Fogel
Rating: 4.5 stars (out of 5)
Genre: fiction
Review: This book is so clever/funny/witty, I don't even know how to review it.  But I'll try, for the sake of getting more people to read it.

First of all, poor Julie.  Her family is crazy.  I mean, everyone's family is crazy in their own way, right?  I think most families have one or two "normal" people in them, but not Julie's.  Or at least, those relatives never wrote her any letters.  But she gets letters (e-mails in later years) from a wide assortment of other relatives, as well as from her boyfriend's dog, her dead grandfather and great-great-great grandmother, and her own IUD.  These last are perhaps the funniest of the book.  I was afraid these antics would get tired as the book went on, but they definitely don't.  Fogel holds the book tightly together almost right up until the very end (which is part of the reason I only give this book 4.5 stars - the last few letters pierce the fourth wall too much).

But who is Julie?  Well, we never really find out.  And that's the other reason I give 4.5 stars.  I kind of wanted to hear Julie's own voice, although I couldn't decide whether I wanted to hear her give her own explanations, or just hear her losing it with some of the nonsense her family comes up with.  To do so would have totally destroyed the wonderfulness of this book, though, so I actually give Fogel credit for not giving us an easy way out of this book.  But if a book ever cried out for a contiguous sequel, it's this one.  Susanna Fogel - please write more!  Please write from Julie's perspective.  Or at least give us another compilation of letters from her family so we can know what happens next.

FTC Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for this review.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

not funny

Let There Be Laughter: A Treasury of Great Jewish Humor and What It All Means by Michael Krasny
Rating: 1.5 stars (out of 5)
Genre: non-fiction, humor
Review: Krasny could have saved his own time and effort, and better served his readers, by just giving us a compilation of Jewish jokes, without the so-called analysis in between.  His writing is very choppy, moving from one thought to another without much in the way of connectivity, and his analysis is shallow.  We all understand that humor is in the eye of the beholder, and that the same ethnic joke when told by a non-(insert ethnic group here) is, or can be seen as, racist, but might be considered hilarious when told by a member of that ethnic group, especially if being told to another member.  That certainly doesn't need to be repeated at least half a dozen times in the space of 300 pages.  But that's what most of the analysis seems to boil down to, whether he's talking about Jews as outsiders, Jewish stereotypes, or even the way Jews experience joy.

Overall, Krasny seems more interested in name-dropping (he told so-and-so a joke when he interviewed him on his radio program, his close friend so-and-so, etc.) than giving us any new or interesting material.