We get many, many books sent to the Weekly HQ, and most of the time, what winds up on my shelf is a mixed bag of fun diversions, crap, interesting concepts and more crap. But of the six books I read this month, there was no crap. It's like Christmas! With better presents!
The standard blurbosity:
Luncheon of the Boating Party by Susan Vreeland: Renoir's painting of the same name was the inspiration here, and Ms. Vreeland deftly deposits the reader in 1880s France. The story follows the broke Impressionist as he struggles to create a new style. The results (both book and painting) are quite beautiful.
(Not That You Asked) by Steve Almond: A book of essays by the former Miami New Times reporter. Much sex, drugs, rock N roll, and Vonnegut. Funny and smart—even the parts about sports. Perfect gift for your editor. Hey, Ted . . .
Switchcraft by Mary Castillo: A strange choice to follow Steve Almond, to be sure. Did you ever see Freaky Friday? Same concept, only with best friends. A good book to share with your best friend whose life you've always wanted.
The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold: I'm not spoiling anything by telling you the main character kills her mom. It's on the first page. What follows is a journey through the life of nude-model Helen as well as what happens after she kills her senile, agoraphobic mother. Helen gets a bit oh-pity-me, but I expected nothing less from her. The bluntness of Sebold's The Lovely Bones is here, but not the sweetness.
The End of Mr. Y by Scarlett Thomas: Remember how in The Lovely Bones, the main character could see what was going on in the lives of those she left behind? What if you could see what was going on in the lives of the people and . . . creatures around you, through their eyes, while you're still alive? Trippy. Ms. Thomas' book is filled with enough philosophical and literary references and concepts to make your head spin. In a good way.
Last Seen Leaving by Kelly Braffet: What if you left your life and started a new one? And you didn't tell anyone where you went? Would anyone look for you? If your mother were the widow of a flying-for-the-“government” pilot, one who died under mysterious circumstances, well, she would look for you—while forming several conspiracy theories. And if you were a daughter like Miranda, even though you wouldn't know she's looking for you, well, you'd be mighty grateful. Wonderful mysteries abound!
Patrice Marsters started at OC Weekly as an intern, just before the first issue was published. She is now the associate editor of the paper, serves on the board of the Orange County Press Club, and mentors aspiring writers and editors at Newport Harbor High School. In her spare time, Ms. Marsters co-leads a multi-level Girl Scout troop, creates baked goods, and rants at inanimate objects (including her computer) about her grammatical and writing pet peeves.