Category Archives: strange

Lydia Netzer — How to Tell Toledo From the Night Sky

nightsky

Ms. Netzer is an author with a unique twist to her storytelling. I don’t know how to classify this book. The genre could be science fiction, fantasy, romance, humor…take your pick. Whatever you call it, the book is enchanting.

The story revolves around two people who have much in common (both astronomers, born at the same time in the same place) but whose personalities are polar opposites. Irene is all about facts and science, doesn’t believe in love, and is creating black holes. George is a dreamer, mixing astronomy and astrology, trying to prove the gods exist. They are drawn together like magnets, but neither realizes that their mothers were best friends who plotted and planned their children’s lives.

The fabric of the story is woven with family and friendship, sex and love, science and fantasy, romance and loneliness, humor and heart.

The author’s previous novel Shine, Shine, Shine was also a delightful tale combining science fiction, fantasy, romance, and humor.

Jenny Offill — Dept. of Speculation

This is a very different novel. It’s a collage of thoughts pasted together to paint a picture of a marriage and family. The reader lives inside the mind of “the wife,” as the main character is referred to in the novel. She jumps around through unrelated thoughts, times, and events. The story is loving, sad, funny, angry… It keeps you reading.

One strange thing the author does is to use first person in the first half of the book and a strange sort of third person in the second half, which feels like first person with the main character referring to herself as the wife, as if she is on the outside watching her life. She doesn’t use names — “the husband” she adores, hates, loves; “the daughter” she would die for but who can be difficult and more than frustrating; “the sister” who gives advice; and “the philosopher,” “the old boyfriend,” etc.

This is a literary novel. I know I’ve said before that I don’t like literary novels and mostly that’s true. But I keep finding exceptions. Dept. of Speculation is a good read. I will look for an earlier novel by Jenny Offill.

Laline Paull — The Bees

A delightful story. So much imagination. The author obviously did extensive research about bees, but the story is humanized. There are many underlying themes—worship of royalty, class division, environmental issues, and more. Flora is an unusual bee, working her way up the hierarchy of hive society.

Who would have thought that a novel about bees would have a good plot, action and suspense, complex characters, family connections, love…and a very realistic setting. Thumbs up for an excellent first novel from Laline Paull.

Juliann Garey – Too Bright to Hear Too Loud to See

Juliann Garey wrote a dark novel into the mind of a manic-depressive, Too Bright to Hear Too Loud to See. The title is what made me pick it up and take it home. I kept reading because of my fascination with bipolar disorder. The main character in my novel, The Janus Code, is bipolar but not nearly as tormented as Greyson Todd in this novel. The novel takes us down the deteriorating cycle of an anguished mind. Don’t read this book if you are looking for “happy endings.” This is a first novel for Ms. Garey. I hope she writes more.

David Levithan – The Lover’s Dictionary

I just finished a very strange novel – The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan. The first thing about it that is strange is the name, since in his book he says he hates the word lover. To quote Levithan, lover has “…the tint and taint of illicit, illegitimate affections.”

The format of the book is like a dictionary. It’s difficult at first to think of it as a novel, but it tells a story. He takes words from A to Z, most are not words we would normally associate with love, and tells what they mean to him in vignettes – one line, a few words, two or three paragraphs, or even some very short stories. These are not in the order that they happen, but plucked from within the relationship at various points. Yet the reader (at least this one) can see a distinct picture of the teller’s life with the woman he loves.

The author has a delightful way with words. You can feel the love – the connections, the disconnections, the joys, the frustrations, the uncertainties, and the certainties of love. The book is very difficult to describe, but very easy to read. Thumbs up!