Abbreviated Review: Permanent Obscurity (Perez)

August 4, 2010

*ARC Alert*

Permanent Obscurity: Or, a Cautionary Tale of Two Girls and Their Misadventures with Drugs, Pornography, and Death by Richard Perez was released on April 1st, 2010 by Ludlow Press (Trade Paperback, $15.95, 464 pages; also available in Kindle format).

Dolores and Serena are two best friends living a life of drugs and art in New York City, dealing with boyfriends and trying to make ends meet. This gets harder and harder as the girls discover that they’re heavily in debt to a lot of people, some of them threatening. Then Serena hits on the perfect plan: they plan to take back control of their lives– and their wallets– by making a femdom/fetish film. This is not an erotica, despite what the cover and the premise might say. There is sex, BDSM, some homosexual activity, all sorts of stuff, but none of that is the point of the book. Just so everyone is forewarned.

I enjoyed the premise of this book, and the dynamic between Dolores and Serena, but felt that it took too long to hit its stride. The first 350 pages were basically rising action which could have been halved in length and would have then served the plot better. After that point Perez picked up speed and ratcheted the tension up quickly. From there it almost went too quickly, so a shift of length might have been in order there, to make it more balanced. Other than that, no complaints. Three stars.

This book contains explicit sexual content.


Book Review: Proust’s Overcoat (Foschini)

July 11, 2010

*ARC alert*

Proust’s Overcoat by Lorenza Foschini will be released on August 3, 2010 by Ecco, a division of HarperCollins (Hardcover, $19.99, 144 pages with black-and-white photographs throughout).

This is a toughie for me, because I’ve never read anything by Proust or taken a particular interest in him. Thus, I can’t honestly say that Proust’s Overcoat: The True Story of One Man’s Passion for All Things Proust held much for me. So just as a heads-up, my lukewarm response in this case is not necessarily because the book is bad; we’re just incompatible. I’ll try to be fair.

Proust’s Overcoat is just as the subtitle suggests– a true story detailing Jacques Guerin’s quest to collect and preserve the worldly possessions of his favorite writer years after the man’s death. Among these is Marcel Proust’s famed overcoat, which he used as a blanket while he wrote in bed. Somewhat surprisingly, Guerin’s quest is necessitated and made more difficult by Proust’s own family, who seem ashamed of their deceased son and brother and actively seek to destroy his mementos, especially his handwritten notes, letters, and creative works. Guerin is introduced into the family and the story by Robert Proust, Marcel’s brother, by sheer coincidence– R. Proust, a doctor, is called to Guerin’s bedside and operates to save him from appendicitis. From there Guerin is on a steep learning curve when it comes to Proust and his surviving relations. Apparently the fact that Proust was gay, a shared trait which made him all the more interesting to Guerin, was a large part of his bourgeoisie family’s determination to limit his legacy. Another possible factor is that he was an eccentric writer in a family of doctors. Regardless, Guerin pursues Proust’s memory in spite of the family disapproval, the culmination of his collecting efforts being the overcoat.

From the spare, factual prose to the littering of relevant photographs throughout the book, Foschini shows her beginnings as a journalist (relatively unknown here in America, living in Italy as she does). She nevertheless shows a passion for her literary investigation and for Guerin’s story, and the obvious respect with which she handled a somewhat fanatic man’s life work is touching. Though Proust’s Overcoat is short, it is a work which brings to light a good deal of little-known information about Proust himself and the man responsible for the survival of his physical memory. I wouldn’t recommend it to those who aren’t fans of Proust, but if you do like his work this could be an interesting trip into his life and his impact.


May 28, 2010

It’s just come to my attention that reviewers are supposed to disclose when they have received a free copy of a book/payment for a review, to avoid conflicts of interest and such. I have not and do not intend to ever get paid for reviewing books, since that would indebt me to the author or publishing company. No one is exempt from bias.

I do, however, receive ARCs all the time. As soon as I’ve hit publish on this post I’m going to go back and edit all prior posts to note when my copy of a book was free, and will keep up this practice in the future. I do not believe that I am influenced to give a book a better review just because it was free, but I do think that my readers have a right to know.

Book Review: The Animal Review (Lentz, Nash)

May 5, 2010

*ARC alert*

Throughout history, humans have been studying their fellow animals and judging them in various ways- these are good to eat, we kill those, this one makes a good pet. But Jacob Lentz and Steve Nash, operators of the Animal Review blog, had another question- are these animals even any good?

The answers are in in this 144-page gem that serves as a report card for some of Earth’s most beloved and reviled species. It mixes hilarity with fact to provide a learning experience you’ll never forget- personally, I think that their analogy between sea cucumbers and people will remain burned into my brain until the day I day. This book will make you reexamine your opinions on every animal it lists- yes, pandas are going extinct, but have you ever considered that they might deserve it? And are hippos, which make adorable stuffed animals, really the serial kilers of the animal kingdom?

The Animal Review is especially perfect for reluctant readers who might need a little help in biology, or anyone who is bored on a rainy day. It’s a brief read packed with laughs that also manages to educate- and a surprising number of the jokes turn out to be scientifically accurate. If you’re still not sure, check out the blog link above for a free taste of what these two biology wizards can do.

Book Review: It All Changed in an Instant: More Six-Word Memoirs by Authors Famous &Obscure (SMITH Magazine)

February 19, 2010

So Harper Collins sent me a free uncorrected proof/advance-copy-that-wasn’t-an-advance-copy-because-this-book-came-out-in-January a few weeks ago, and I read it, and now I’m reviewing it because I can only assume that that’s what they wanted. A hearty thank-you to you, Harper Collins; I’m a big fan of the six-word memoir books. I have no idea why you sent me this, since it’s doubtful that you mistook me for a high-profile book reviewer. But thanks.

But anyway, the book. It’s fantastic. I bought myself a copy of the first one, Not Quite What I Was Planning, after hearing about it online, and loved it, then took it around and showed it to everyone I knew, then took it around again and annoyed them all with how much I loved it. But the first time they loved it, too.

The premise of the books is obviously to write your own life story in just six words (see more here), a practice inspired by a famous legend about Ernest Hemingway. He was challenged, it’s said, to write a novel in six words. His response? “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” Also according to the legend, he once called it his best work. It certainly hit me harder than The Old Man and the Sea.

The best thing about these books, though (there are currently four of them out) is that the writers actually are “famous & obscure.” In It All Changed in an Instant, you’ll see memoirs attributed to Somebodies likeĀ  Michael Moore and Isabel Allende right next to ones by people you’ve never heard of. Even better than the best part, these people-you-have-never-heard-of write the best ones! Anyone, literally anyone, can submit a memoir to SMITH for consideration. I myself have done a few. Just head on over to the link I supplied above and give it a go. As The New Yorker said in their six-word review, “You could spend a lifetime brainstorming.” Five stars.

P.S.- it is my advice to take these a few at a time for best effect. After a while, as with all little-this-and-that books, they tend to blend together if you read too many. And seriously, take your copy around and share it. People will love you more.

EDIT: Mystery solved. LibraryThing sent it as a part of the early reviewer program that I signed up for. I was merely confused because right there on my homepage, it said I hadn’t received any books from them yet. If you click on that, though, you can see that by “no books” they mean “this book.” Oh, LibraryThing. Love ya.