Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Book Review Club (January 2010)

HAPPY NEW YEAR! Welcome to the first meeting of The Book Review Club of 2010! Our resolution this year? To absolutely 100% TOPPLE your to-be-read pile. So grab a mug of java and a handful of cookies. Or water and carrot sticks, if you've made THOSE kinds of resolutions! Pull up a chair and join us as we usher in the new year with a bunch of book reviews.

You remember KELLY HAYES, one of my Denny's Chicks critique partners? OUT OF THE GOODNESS OF HER HEART, Kelly is reviewing a book for us this month. Why? Because she loves me. And she knows I'm on deadline for Sherry's fourth mystery adventure. Kelly INSISTED on getting me off the hook by taking over this month. INSISTED.

Note from Kelly: Barrie is holding some of my chapters hostage until I produce a book review for her. Few know that under her sweet, funny persona, there’s a ruthless streak. I try not to cross it. So here goes. (Barrie's reply: Uh, Kelly, I believe I said a review per chapter you want critiqued! So, get reviewing, Missy!)

Nick Hornby’s latest, Juliet Naked is a novel about deep-seated obsession of the worst kind: the music fan. And in Hornby’s deft hands, it’s hilarious. Duncan is a rabid English fan of Tucker Crowe, a reclusive American singer-songwriter who is barely living off his brief career in the mid-80s. Duncan, a “Crowologist”, considers himself the foremost authority on all things Tucker Crowe. So when Crowe releases the demo version of his only hit album, Juliet, Duncan is the first to give it a glowing online review.

Annie, Duncan’s live-in girlfriend of fifteen years, disagrees with his effusive assessment of the album and publishes her own, more realistic review, which captures the attention of Tucker Crowe himself. Thus begins an online relationship that quickly elevates to a face-to-face one for Annie and Tucker. Of course, all of this causes Annie to reevaluate the last fifteen years of her life, spent with a man obsessed with someone he’s never met. “It had always been hopeless. It was an unsuitable internet date with an inadequate, unexciting man that had lasted for years and years and years. “Annie realizes the only way forward is to kick Duncan out.

This is where it becomes more Annie’s book than anyone else’s. Annie is a woman approaching middle age who never had children because Duncan, caught up in his narrow self-absorbed world, never wanted any. Now she’s wondering how to live her life for herself and on her own terms. Deep down she’s a nurturer who feels this part of her has been wasted on clueless Duncan. In Tucker, she finds a man more worthy of her generous nature.

It’s also Tucker’s book. I found it fascinating to get a glimpse into the inner workings of a one-time rock hero whose continuing fame (obscure though it may be) is due solely to the internet and the sense of community it offers to obsessed fans. Tucker is a reluctant hero: sober, clean-cut, bookish. In short, nothing like the image his fans have created. The scene where Duncan finally meets his hero and refuses to believe it’s him, is a comic moment not to be missed.

Tucker and Annie’s budding relationship feels real because the characters are fully-fleshed people who we can root for. Neither of them are larger-than-life hero types. They’re just ordinary people doing real things, making bad choices and some good ones too. Even Duncan evokes our sympathy because he’s what we could turn into if we’re not careful. One of Nick Hornby’s biggest talents is in creating characters that live and breathe because they’re flawed. He sees the humor and depth in people who haven’t figured things out yet. And he makes us all feel it. We can inhabit his characters because they’re a lot like us, no matter what country they live in or what music they listen to.

Thank you, Kelly. That was wonderful. You should review every month! ;) And now...onto amazing reviews by amazing reviewers!


Sarah Laurence: DARKLIGHT and WONDROUS STRANGE by Lesley Livingston (paranormal, young adult) (Reviews of 2 books + Author Interview)

Alyssa Goodnight of the Writers' Road Less Traveled: THE REVOLUTION OF CALPURNIA TATE by Jacqueline Kelly (Middle Grade)

Keri Mikulski: PRADA AND PREJUDICE by Mandy Hubbard (young adult)

Stacy Nyikos: THE OLD COUNTRY by Mordecai Gerstein (middle grade)


Staci of Life in the Thumb: LA'S ORCHESTRA SAVES THE WORLD by Alexander McCall Smith (historical fiction WWII)

Ellen Booraem of Freelance Ne'er-do-well: HER FEARFUL SYMMETRY by Audrey Niffenegger

Jenn Jilks of My Reflections: 13 1/2 by Nevada Barr (mystery)

Sarahlynn of Yeah, but Houdini didn't have these hips: THE GATHERING STORM by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson (fantasy)

Beth Yarnall: VISION IN WHITE by Nora Roberts (romance)

Kaye of the Book Review Forum: THE CHRISTMAS TRAIN by David Baldacci


Scott Parker: THE TRIAL OF SHERLOCK HOLMES by Leah Moore and John Reppion


Linda McLaughlin: TAROT FOR WRITERS by Corrine Kenner



Reviewers: You know the scoop. If I've left you off the list, just leave a comment or email me, and I'll rectify the situation asap.

**Exceptional previous reviews are only a click away.**


fairyhedgehog said...

I loved Juliet Naked. It was Nick Hornby at his brilliant and funny best.

I enjoyed the review but I'm glad I read the book first as otherwise there would have been spoilers for me.

Sarah Laurence said...

Barrie, thanks for hosting the book review club during you busy book release month. Are numbers are really down this month, I guess it’s the holidays. I hope everyone adds posting more book reviews to their New Year’s resolutions.

I ended up reviewing Wondrous Strange along with Darklight since the second book in the trilogy must be read after the first one. Actually, I drafted my daughter to do the Wondrous Strange review for me.

Kelly, great review of a book I now want to read all the more. I’ll have to wait until my husband finishes it first because it was one of my X-mas gifts to him. He’s a big Hornby fan and recently read and enjoyed Slam, Hornby’s YA. High Fidelity was our favorite. I love the cover on this one and the repeat tie into music sounds promising. You really capture what it is that I love about Hornby’s writing:

“One of Nick Hornby’s biggest talents is in creating characters that live and breathe because they’re flawed. He sees the humor and depth in people who haven’t figured things out yet. And he makes us all feel it.”

Keri Mikulski said...

Sounds like a goodie.. :) Thanks for the review, Kelly!

Barrie said...

Fairyhedghog: good point. I'll add something about spoilers to the top of the post. Just let me get my kids to school and then I'll be on the computer in earnest. ;)

fairyhedgehog said...

Thanks! I was worried I was being too negative as it is a very good review.

kaye said...

sounds like a good read--I guess my email didn't get to you.

I'm reviewing The Christmas Train by David Baldacci. Kaye—the road goes ever ever on

Rose said...

Kelly, Thanks for an excellent review! Sounds like an interesting book--one I will add to my ever-growing "must read" list. And don't worry about the spoilers for me--by the time I get around to reading the book, I will certainly have forgotten the ending:)

By the way, the book I reviewed was "The Geo...of BLISS"--I probably sent a typo to Barrie:)

kelly hayes said...

Sorry. I tried not to reveal too much of the plot. I didn't include much info that wasn't alluded to in the book's synopsis. But then, I have the English version of the book that I bought when we were there in Oct, so maybe they include more info in the cover copy. Hope it doesn't spoil it for anyone else.


Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

This sounds fun...and music is always in good hands when Nick Hornby writes about it.

Linda McLaughlin said...

This sounds like a really fun read. Thanks for the review, Kelly.

Anonymous said...

Oh that sound wonderful!! BTW, when I saw "Denny's Chicks" I read it as "Disney Chicks." lol! Maybe I should rename my blog that. ha!

Alyssa Goodnight said...

Great review! And I love the cover!! Didn't really get why it's called Juliet, Naked though...obviously I'm missing something...

Sarahlynn said...

Yay, Nick Hornby! Thanks for the review. :-)

Ellen Booraem said...

I'm ashamed to say I've never read Nick Hornby, and this sounds wonderful.

*TBR stack teeters.*

Thanks for a great review!

Barrie said...

Ellen, I am very jealous of you! I wish I had all of Nick Hornby's books to look forward to. I especially LOVED The Long Way Down. I haven't ready Juliet Naked yet, although I own it. It's my prize for when I finish writing my current project. :)

Kelly Hayes said...

Alyssa, the title comes from the name of the demo tracks of Tucker Crowe's only hit album, Juliet. It's called Juliet, Naked because the demo tracks are accoustic and without the backing band. But of course, the word 'naked' also alludes to much more--one of the reasons I love Nick Hornby!

Erika said...

This is quite a list of reviews. Thanks for gathering it.

Barrie said...

Erika, you're very welcome. You'll enjoy reading them, I think. :)

Sami said...

This book really caught my attention with the cover. Very sneaky book publishers there.

Anonymous said...

nice post. thanks.

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