My Year of Meats | by Ruth Ozeki

My Year of Meats

My Year of Meats by Ruth Ozeki
(Penguin, 1991, 361 pages)

I read another Ozeki novel earlier this year, All Over Creation, and really enjoyed it so I was eager to check out My Year of Meats – her debut novel. While parts of it were hard to read (due to content) it was really well-written and kept me engaged.

Jane Takagi-Little is a documentarian living in New York City. She receives a call from one of her connections asking if she’d be interested in producing a show for Japanese TV that revolves around Americans and their meat consumption. Sponsored by Beef-Ex, the show would be a series of glorified advertisements showing American housewives and their families enjoying this staple in their diets – the goal is to get the Japanese population to eat more meat. As filming is underway we can see there’s a disconnect between the true “American” experience Jane wants to show and the “America” that the Japanese executives are looking for. We also delve a little deeper into Jane’s personal life and the those of a few other women whose lives she enters in some way or another.

As filming continues Jane starts picking up on some things about the meat industry that are on the “unsavory” side. She starts struggling with the idea that she’s responsible for promoting a product that can result in serious side effects.

I’m ready for my next Ozeki title, I’m definitely a fan of her work and the way she can work in relevant social issues without disrupting the rhythm of the story.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children | by Ransom Riggs

Miss-Peregrines-Home-for-Peculiar-Children

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
(Quirk Books, 2011, 352 pages)

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is the next title up for discussion at SCC’s Between the Covers book club and it had been on my “to read” list for ages. Jacob has always been close to his grandfather – he grew up hearing about his grandfather’s experience living in a group home for children during WWII but his stories always seemed just a little far-fetched. Tragedy strikes Jacob’s family and he has a hard time getting over it so when the opportunity comes to travel abroad and see the home his grandfather grew up in he’s encouraged to go. Jacob and his fatherset off for a small island off the coast of Wales and people seem to be hesitant to show Jacob where the group home is…

As Jacob wanders the island he meets a number of “peculiar” individuals – they all have special qualities that it’s hard to believe are real. But what’s really strange is that the people he’s meeting are the same people he remembers his grandfather talking about. How could that be possible?

This was a unique read with an enhanced experience provided through photographs incorporated into the text. I’ll be curious to hear people’s thoughts at the next book club discussion (10/29 at 2:30). It definitely ends in a way that has you curious to see where Riggs is going to go with the rest of the series. Fortunately book 2 (Hollow City) is already out :)

You can also check out reviews of this title from Theresa and Kelly.

Arts and Entertainments | by Christopher Beha

Arts and Entertainments

Arts & Entertainments by Christopher Beha
(Ecco, 2014, 288 pages)

Eddie used to have it all with his beautiful girlfriend, Martha, and both had acting careers that were on the rise. Suddenly Martha’s career shoots in front of his and she dumps him before he has the chance to move out to L.A. with her. Now Eddie is a drama teacher and his marriage is falling apart because his wife, Susan, wants children but they don’t have the money to get the help they need to conceive a child. After the suggestion of one of his friends, Eddie sells a certain tape that he kept of him and Martha and suddenly he has the money he needs and the attention he wasn’t asking for.

This was an ok read for me. It’s strange to see the characters get so warped by the temptation of fame and money. Plus the character I was most interested in, Susan, I never feel like a got a good handle on her. But that is probably the author’s intention with his look on realty TV stars in our culture right now. It was a pretty easy read but it was hard to really get into without a character I could cheer for.

Station Eleven | by Emily St. John Mandel

Station Eleven

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
(Knopf, 2014, 333 pages)

When a famous Hollywood actor suddenly has a heart attack on stage during a performance of King Lear, everyone thought that is what they would be talking about for days to come. Little did they know that a few hours later, the Georgia Flu had started wiping out a majority of the world’s population. Only 1% of the world survives and twenty years later the world is a much different place. One of the child actors who was one stage during King Lear has joined the Traveling Symphony who travel from town to town doing performances of seldom heard music and plays. The symphony deals with the trials of this new everyday life but none has tested them like the strange occurrences that start to happen when they pass through a town and meet the self-proclaimed prophet.

I absolutely loved this read. It was strange and perfectly on trend but with such a fresh idea on post-apocalyptic life that I flew through the book in no time. The twists and turns were weird but fell perfectly in place at the end. The book shifts back and forth between before the flu outbreak and the famous actor who played King Lear to years after epidemic and the child actor who shared the stage with him. It’s such an interesting story and another finalist for the National Book Award this year.

Redeployment | by Phil Klay

Redeployment

Redeployment by Phil Klay
(Penguin Press, 2014, 291 pages)

Redeployment is a collection of short stories that center around the soldiers in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The stories range from soldiers readjusting to civilian life after they come home from war to life while they are deployed to the aftereffects on soldiers years after they leave the war zone. Usually for short story reviews I try to pick out one or two stories that especially stood out to me but every story from Redeployment stands out to me. Each story has a haunting character that has stayed with me since I finished the read. I picked this up because it is a finalist for the National Book Award but I will remember it for a long time because it exposed me to a world I, shamefully, know very little about.

Big Little Lies | by Liane Moriarty

Big Little Lies

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
(Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam, 2014, 480 pages)

Overview:

A murder . . . a tragic accident . . . or just parents behaving badly?  

What’s indisputable is that someone is dead.  

But who did what?

Big Little Lies follows three women, each at a crossroads:

Madeline is a force to be reckoned with. She’s funny and biting, passionate, she remembers everything and forgives no one. Her ex-husband and his yogi new wife have moved into her beloved beachside community, and their daughter is in the same kindergarten class as Madeline’s youngest (how is this possible?). And to top it all off, Madeline’s teenage daughter seems to be choosing Madeline’s ex-husband over her. (How. Is. This. Possible?).

Celeste is the kind of beautiful woman who makes the world stop and stare. While she may seem a bit flustered at times, who wouldn’t be, with those rambunctious twin boys? Now that the boys are starting school, Celeste and her husband look set to become the king and queen of the school parent body. But royalty often comes at a price, and Celeste is grappling with how much more she is willing to pay.

New to town, single mom Jane is so young that another mother mistakes her for the nanny. Jane is sad beyond her years and harbors secret doubts about her son. But why? While Madeline and Celeste soon take Jane under their wing, none of them realizes how the arrival of Jane and her inscrutable little boy will affect them all.

Big Little Lies is a brilliant take on ex-husbands and second wives, mothers and daughters, schoolyard scandal, and the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves just to survive.

I really enjoy Liane Moriarty’s writing. She can write about a group of people in such a way that all of them are easy to relate to and memorable. I am impressed with her style of writing. I can say that I really ended up enjoying this one just as I enjoyed reading The Husband’s Secret. After reading The Husband’s Secret I knew I wanted to read more of her books. It is a superb read that you won’t be able to put down. It had humor, twists, and lots of suspense throughout the book. It truly grasped my interest and left me just wanting to keep reading it. The humor side of it was just the right amount without taking the seriousness of the subject matter away. Moriarty strikes again with a gripping story that insists you take a closer look at all relationships. It has an ending you will never guess and the characters are so alive. I enjoyed every minute of it :)

You can also check out Julia’s review.

The Silkworm |by Robert Galbraith

The Silkworm

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling)
(Mulholland Books, 2014, 455 pages)

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith is the second Cormoran Strike novel. As has already been mentioned in Sadie’s review Private Investigator, Cormoran Strike, accepts an assignment to find the missing author, Owen Quine. Quine disappears on a regular basis, but his wife needs Quine home and hires Strike to find him. Strike and his assistant, Robin, must deal with unique characters and grotesque manuscripts to solve this mystery.

The Silkworm does feature some nauseating scenes, especially the circumstances surrounding the death of the victim. This novel is much darker than the first Cormoran Strike novel, The Cuckoo’s Calling. But I think this novel also has more well-defined characters. Even with all the grotesque circumstances of the death, I continued to read because I really wanted to know “who dun it”.

Robert Galbraith is the pseudonym of J.K. Rowling. With the Cormoran Strike novels, Rowling is proving that her writing skills were not limited to Harry Potter. While I do prefer the Harry Potter novels, I will continue to read the Cormoran Strike novels. Strike is an interesting character and I’m not sure that we know all there is to know about him yet.