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Susan K. Schoonover "Sue Yingling" RSS Feed (Boulder, CO)
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Love and Fury: A Memoir
Love and Fury: A Memoir
by Richard Hoffman
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.72
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "Made Of Coal And Steel And Violence And Trucks And Shame", May 14, 2014
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Apparently college professor and poet Richard Hoffman found success with a previous memoir HALF THE HOUSE. That book tells the story of his abuse by a sports coach and its publication even led to the arrest of the perpetrator some twenty years after the incidences with some help from Hoffman's father. In this second memoir LOVE AND FURY Richard Hoffman returns to his home town of Allentown, PA which he mines for some additional material using the diagnosis of his father's fatal illness and funeral as bookends. I haven't read HALF THE HOUSE and apparently in addition to the abuse that is revealed in that volume Hoffman discusses the debilitating illnesses and eventual deaths of two of his brothers from Duchenne muscular dystrophy. These events are alluded to but are not the focus of LOVE AND FURY. Instead in LOVE AND FURY Hoffman discusses his father's World War II experience, racism, pornography, people like his family that he deems "white trash", Catholicism and the alcoholism of both he and his son. A large portion of the book is about the father of his grandson a young man from Jamaica who is currently incarcerated due to gun and drug charges. Hoffman attempted to help this unfortunate person with not the best results. LOVE AND FURY tends to feel disjointed and the material appears stretched to its maximum length which leads me to give this short memoir/collection of essays just three stars.


Flying Shoes: A Novel
Flying Shoes: A Novel
by Lisa Howorth
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.71
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11 of 18 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Crammed With Kooky Southern Characters, May 13, 2014
This review is from: Flying Shoes: A Novel (Hardcover)
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The new novel FLYING SHOES seems to advertise itself as a book about the effect the hideous murder of a child has on a surviving family. Instead it is a self-indulgent look at the life of a quirky privileged woman and some of her friends and associates sprinkled with some generally weird characters and goings on down South particularly in the state of Mississippi.

Like the author Lisa Howorth the narrator of FLYING SHOES Mary Bird Thornton, had a stepbrother who was murdered as a child. However while the real life case has never been solved in FLYING SHOES a perpetrator has been identified some thirty years after the crime and part of the novel is about Mary Bird traveling back to her hometown of Richmond from her current home in thinly disguised Oxford, Mississippi to meet with detectives, her brothers and mother about this news. The story takes place during a week in February in which an unusual ice storm has hit Mississippi. Mary Bird travels to Virginia in a semi with a unique truck driver who is one of the novel's more memorable characters and his cargo of chickens. The reader also meet Mary Bird's maid whose own family is suddenly thrust in to a murder investigation, a homeless Black Viet Nam veteran who does odd jobs and drugs with Mary Bird, a doomed writer who has spent time in Bosnia and who wants to have an affair with Mary Bird plus some Southern Gothic regulars.

The book is heavily crammed with many observations of Ms Howorth's that she shoehorns in to Mary Bird's story. I never really connected with Mary Bird or any of her kooky cohorts or really believed in their stories so I can't give FLYING SHOES more than two stars as I did not like it.


The Gospel of Winter
The Gospel of Winter
by Brendan Kiely
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $14.21
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Aftermath Of Abuse, May 11, 2014
This review is from: The Gospel of Winter (Hardcover)
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Set in an upscale Connecticut community during the winter of 2001-2002 THE GOSPEL OF WINTER tells the story of three teenagers who were gravely affected by being sexually abused by a Catholic priest while the church turned a blind eye. The story is narrated by sixteen year old Aidan the only child of a wealthy businessman and his much younger wife a former ballet dancer.

When the narrative commences Aidan's father has recently left the family home to live permanently in Europe and his mother whose main skill is giving elaborate parties is trying to manage her own problems as a newly single woman and does not have much time for her son. Aidan, a tenth grader, has spent a lot of time at the local Catholic church parish offices under the guidance of a charismatic older priest named Father Greg. The reader at first suspects and then later learns for sure that this relationship included sexual abuse. Aidan becomes aware that another sophomore at his private day school is also reeling from the after effects of the priest's twisted attention and is becoming increasingly self destructive. Both boys try to heal their pain with substance abuse and reckless activity and the author's portrayal of this teenage behavior as well as their friendships with two female classmates are very well rendered and believable. Aidan also becomes aware that the younger boy, an eighth grader, who replaced Aidan in receiving the priest's sick affection is also experiencing severe emotional difficulties.

THE GOSPEL OF WINTER is well written and seems chillingly believable especially when we consider the news reports that document very similar real life stories. This is a quick read that will not be easily forgotten.


Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932: A Novel
Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932: A Novel
by Francine Prose
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $17.03
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ambitious Novel Based On Historical Fact, May 9, 2014
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Author Francine Prose tells her readers she was inspired to write LOVERS AT THE CHAMELEON CLUB, Paris 1932 after viewing the photograph "Lesbian Couple At Le Monocle, 1932". In that photo one of the pair is dressed as a man while the other is in a woman's traditional evening gown of the time. Prose found the cross dressing woman was in actuality Violette Morris a French athlete and race car driver who eventually collaborated with the Nazis and gave them valuable information.

In the novel inspired by this real little known piece of history Violette's name has been changed to Lou Villars and her story is told by a variety of her contemporaries with different degrees of reliability as narrators. Each of the major voices uses a different literary device to tell their observations of Villars and her life and times. The Hungarian photographer Gabor reveals his observations through letters. A biographer of Villars named Nathalie Dunois fills in a lot of her back story. American writer living in Paris Lionel Maine weighs in with acute and witty observations about the times including Villars place in them. Other narrators give various versions in their eye witness accounts.

Prose definitely succeeds in painting a vivid picture of one slice of the city of Paris between the world wars that was made up mainly of artists, freethinkers and expats. Her portrait of Villars and her motives unfortunately remains opaque for the most part.


Fallout: A Novel
Fallout: A Novel
by Sadie Jones
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.92
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly Boring, May 9, 2014
This review is from: Fallout: A Novel (Hardcover)
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Set mostly in London between the years 1961 and 1975 the novel FALLOUT focuses on playwright Luke Kanowski and the highs and lows of his emotional life. The London theater setting and the time frame covered are appealing to me but I still found this book a slow tedious read. It is a straight forward book and the writing is understandable but FALLOUT and its characters and themes just never fully captured my interest and I can't recommend it.


Hangman: A Novel
Hangman: A Novel
by Stephan Talty
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.90
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3.0 out of 5 stars Second Installment In Abbie Kearney Series, May 9, 2014
This review is from: Hangman: A Novel (Hardcover)
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HANGMAN is author Stephen Talty's followup to his first novel in the Abbie Kearney series BLACK IRISH. Series star Abbie is a native of the city of Buffalo, New York who now works there as a homicide detective. Abbie grew up in the heavily Irish South Buffalo and the portrayal of the neighborhood and its colorful customs and characters are among the best features of BLACK IRISH. HANGMAN does not rely so much on the Irish tradition in the city but instead focuses on the hunt for "The Hangman" a presumed serial killer of young girls who escapes from custody while being transported between prisons.

For the sophomore effort in a projected series HANGMAN is a decent police procedural. I found the twist ending a bit tough to believe in and overall it is not as good as its predecessor. I have to give it an OK rating but I still hope to follow Stephan Talty and his likable and original detective Abbie in her beleaguered city that still has plenty of character and interesting stories.


Cambridge
Cambridge
by Susanna Kaysen
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.23
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Novelization Of Author's Own Childhood, May 9, 2014
This review is from: Cambridge (Hardcover)
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Susanna Kaysen is best known for her memoir GIRL INTERRUPTED. That book which is in the non fiction category centers on her almost two year stay at the famous McLean Psychiatric Hospital in the 1960's where she was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. Her new book CAMBRIDGE is classed as fiction but seems confusingly like a memoir.

The protagonist of CAMBRIDGE like the author is named Susanna and again like Kaysen is the daughter of a prominent academic whose home base is Cambridge (the one in Massachusetts) but who with his young family spends time living in Europe. The "fictional" Susanna is a precocious and observant child and the novel follows her from ages seven - twelve. The book is not particularly well structured which is perhaps to intentionally copy the form of many memoirs. Though well enough written this short book sometimes seems a bit padded and pointless.


Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class
Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class
by Ian Haney López
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.23
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Emotionally Charged Topic, May 8, 2014
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I finished reading DOG WHISTLE POLITICS a couple of weeks ago but hesitated to review it as the topic elicits such strong emotions for many. Author Ian Haney Lopez has written extensively about the issues surrounding constitutional law and race so he certainly has the credentials to tackle this topic. The book includes impressive notes as well as a comprehensive index. Lopez is a very able writer who certainly knows his subject but I was not totally convinced by all of his assertions.


The Book of You: A Novel
The Book of You: A Novel
by Claire Kendal
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $16.43
89 used & new from $6.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Above Average Woman In Peril Novel, May 8, 2014
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THE BOOK OF YOU is the story of Clarissa woman who is stalked by a man with whom she unwisely engaged in a one night encounter. The book is set in England and a criminal trial for which Clarissa is a member of the jury is a major component. Clarissa at almost forty and divorced is refreshingly older and more experienced than many heroines of this type of novel. THE BOOK OF YOU is well paced for ultimate suspense and Clarissa's journal entries are well used to break up the exposition. This is author Clare Kendal's first published novel and it is a promising debut.


The Orphans of Race Point: A Novel
The Orphans of Race Point: A Novel
by Patry Francis
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.33
62 used & new from $7.22

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well Told Story, May 8, 2014
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THE ORPHANS OF RACE POINT is set in a Portuguese community on Cape Cod and covers the time frame from 1978 when the three major players are children to 2011. Hallie is the daughter of the community's general practitioner and she is an orphan of sorts as her mother was killed in a tragic car crash when she was just a baby. Her friend Gus becomes an orphan in an especially hideous way as his abusive father kills his mother while Gus is hiding in the same house. Gus is selectively mute for a while after that trauma until his friend Hallie brings him back with patience and the novel DAVID COPPERFIELD. The two become fast friends and are often in the company of their sidekick Neil an aspiring actor. Unfortunately the trauma Gus suffered as a child is never far from the surface of his personality. A shocking act of violence is committed by him on the night of the friends' high school prom.

The years go by and Hallie becomes a physician like her father while Gus becomes a Catholic priest. Gus becomes involved in trying to help a woman and a child with an abusive past and tragically this leads to a false murder conviction for him. But Hallie is there to help her old friend and all is resolved in a surprising way by the end.

I think THE ORPHANS OF RACE POINT is a bit too long and would be a better novel with some streamlining. The plot and writing are often too overwrought for the book to qualify as literature and this best falls in the genre of popular fiction.


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