18 months in a 12-year old girl named Elvis' life after her mother drowns while sleepwalking. Her father copes by wearing his wife's clothes and lipstick, her sister's sleepwalking escalates. The title comes from a tradition of rabbit shaped cakes her mother baked for special occasions. Funny. Gut punch. Tender.
I like to think about whether a book is good or bad based on judging if the writing did what the writer wanted it to do (not just "did I like the story"). If Teddy Wayne wanted to completely creep me out we have a winner. This ine's unsettling. It's told from the point of view of David, an incoming freshman at Harvard. It's told in second person - that second person being the young woman on whom he has become fixated. I wanted to stop midway through but soldiered on until the end. I need a shower now.
On the surface, this is a novelization of the Manson murders, which is why I hesitated before reading it. I have enough murder and suffering in my Facebook feed. I don't need to be entertained by it. But this isn't really about that. It's really a story of a 14 year old girl lost in a disintegrating family and stormy adolescence who finds a connection with an older woman (and by older I mean, like 20) who is part of a free thinking, drug fueled group of young women led by a severely f'ed up male leader. Parts of this - the obligatory sex, the desperation for intimacy, the anger and shame- were so familiar to me as a teenager I was left wondering if I would have made some of the same decisions as the narrator. That's what works about this book (and any good book) - unfamiliar struggles of a character are drawn so that they are universal struggles recognizable to nearly every reader - in this case, every reader who grew up female. Excellent storytelling.-Jay's September Staff Pick, 2016
The Whale by Mark Beauregard is a novel based on the love between Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Kris put it in my hands and I made my way through it - a tale of frustrated love and a feverish, soul torturing inspiration in the form of a marrow deep bond between two men that inspired a masterpiece. It was a fitting parallel reading for a week where the indefinable and unanswerable question of our human souls was writ large in media in every moment in the form of circular repeating death scenes. Melville's and Hawthorne's souls were on trial at an equally feverish pitch, but the sexual tension, humor and human pace cut the old testament brimstone. In the end this story, as our story is now, is a love story where human beings love, resent and inspire each other into salvation and damnation equally. -Jay's September Staff Pick, 2016
Whether your point of reference for Carry Brownstein is her role opposite Fred Armisen (Portlandia) or her Riot Grrrl roots (Sleater –Kinney) you’ll love this memoir that gives us something celebrity memoirs usually don’t offer – a truly intelligent and fierce look into what makes a young girl looking for an identity grow through a childhood fraught with turmoil to become a formidable feminist badass. -Jay's Holiday Staff Pick, 2015
Jay's October Staff Pick, 2015
Gabriel is an ex-priest haunted by a past that is (to him) unforgivable. While rebuilding his life working his quiet job at a bookstore he meets an advertising executive who finds his uncanny ability to comfort the guilty and absolve sins marketable. Soon begins a global campaign targeted at guilty souls without faith who wish to confess and be forgiven – and Gabriel is at the center of the forgiveness revolution. This book is a satirical contemplation of the American need to both embrace and reject faith. -Jay's May Staff Pick, 2015
This is my official book recommendation for pretty much everyone except those who don't like strong female leads, excruciatingly funny coming of age stories or sharp British wit from a working class/poor girl who reinvents and sort of collages herself into a brutal rock critic at age17 circa 1990. Fast read, spot on riot grrl feminism. -Jay's pick
Rachel is a raging alcoholic. She also narrates this Hitchcockian thriller. Be ready for blank spaces in time, horrible decisions, questionable motives and behavior surrounding the murder of a woman whose life Rachel watches from seat on a commuter train. Rachel soon becomes entangled in the investigation and finds herself at the center of the danger. This is a fast, furious and fun read. Don’t expect to put it down before bedtime. -Jay's April Staff Pick, 2015
Jay's September Staff Pick, 2014
Jay's May Staff Pick, 2014
Jay's January Staff Pick, 2014
Jay's Holiday Staff Pick, 2013