Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Delicious Foods

Delicious Foods by James Hannaham
(Little, Brown & Company, 2015)
Format: Audio CD (narrated by the author)

From Goodreads: "Darlene, a young widow and mother devastated by the death of her husband, turns to drugs to erase the trauma. In this fog of grief, she is lured with the promise of a great job to a mysterious farm run by a shady company, with disastrous consequences for both her and her eleven-year-old son, Eddie--left behind in a panic-stricken search for her.

DELICIOUS FOODS tells the gripping story of three unforgettable characters: a mother, her son, and the drug that threatens to destroy them. In Darlene's haunted struggle to reunite with Eddie, and in the efforts of both to triumph over those who would enslave them, Hannaham's daring and shape-shifting prose not only infuses their desperate circumstances with grace and humor, but also wrestles with timeless questions of love and freedom."

Did I know what to expect? Nope.

Did I get way more than I was expecting? Oh, heck yeah.

Our prime players here are Darlene, Eddie, and Scotty. Darlene is Eddie's mom. Scotty is...I'll let Scotty be a surprise. You will be surprised. And maybe a little fascinated and terrified.

And you'll laugh. And then Hannaham will stab you right through your sternum while you laugh. With something jagged and rusty.

There is a section of the novel during which young Eddie searches the summer streets of Houston for his missing mother. He starts near the center of my hometown, biking further and further each night, befriending all manner of hookers and night shift workers and random souls offering him mom-hunting advice. Those pawn shops and diners and strip malls are the same ones I've passed, ignoring pedestrians and bike riders and people seeking the shade of bus shelters while I pilot my air conditioned car, listening to audiobooks about eleven year olds networking with people named Giggles and Fat Back.

See? Jagged and rusty.

But don't worry, you don't have come pre-equipped with visuals of the gritty, hot Houston pavement to be stabbed yourself. Just read this book, then go buy a watermelon or a couple of carrots. Or, hey, turn on the news. And don't say I didn't warn you.

Hannaham is a trickster author, and bonus: a great narrator. I loved the way he modulated his voice according to which of his characters was in charge of the story. Scotty's energy, Eddie's dry young tone, and Darlene's love and loss. I originally planned on reading this instead of listening (author-narrators aren't always this strong), but June is Audiobook Month, so I gave the audio a try, and it was the right choice.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Reading Challenges

I am a competitive person. Blame my parents for having 4 kids in the space of 5 years. Epic Connect Four and UNO battles. (Um, also, Happy Father's Day, Dad! I don't blame you for my worst traits, I promise.)

I am also bonkers about reading.

Now, one might think that competitiveness and a solitary activity like reading are incompatible. But oh, no, my friends! Let me tell you about reading challenges.

The bookish website BookRiot first introduced me to the Seasonal Reading Challenge on Goodreads, which led me to a spreadsheet that occupies too much of my time. And then they developed the #ReadHarder challenge of their own, which challenges participants to pick titles from a wide range of categories in their 2015 reading. (Works in translation, different genres, authors old and young and hailing from across the globe, etc.)

With Euphoria, I completed the 24th & final task. Which means two things:

  1. I'm done! 
  2. I have to convince myself that it's not a good idea to repeat the challenge with the books I read in the second half of 2015.

Are you participating in any reading challenges? Do you want to tell me about them? 

Warning: if you do, I'm more than likely going to join in. (Especially if you happen to be one of my siblings.)

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Euphoria: A Book, and How I Feel About Audiobook Month

Euphoria, by Lily King
(2014, Atlantic Monthly Press / Blackstone Audio)
Format: audio download (read by Simon Vance and Xe Sands)

From Goodreads: "From New England Book Award winner Lily King comes a breathtaking novel about three young anthropologists of the '30s caught in a passionate love triangle that threatens their bonds, their careers, and, ultimately, their lives.

English anthropologist Andrew Bankson has been alone in the field for several years, studying the Kiona river tribe in the Territory of New Guinea. Haunted by the memory of his brothers’ deaths and increasingly frustrated and isolated by his research, Bankson is on the verge of suicide when a chance encounter with colleagues, the controversial Nell Stone and her wry and mercurial Australian husband Fen, pulls him back from the brink. Nell and Fen have just fled the bloodthirsty Mumbanyo and, in spite of Nell’s poor health, are hungry for a new discovery. When Bankson finds them a new tribe nearby, the artistic, female-dominated Tam, he ignites an intellectual and romantic firestorm between the three of them that burns out of anyone’s control."

June is Audiobook Month! Which means, really, that June is yet another chance for me to tell you people that you should listen to audiobooks, because they are The Best. Case in point: Euphoria.

Back in my college days, I studied a bit of anthropology, and learned a bit about Margaret Mead, but nothing in particular about her personal life. King's novel plays closely with that life, but Nell, Fen, and Bankson are wholly independent of their real-life inspirations. Nell is magnetic, both to the men in her life and to the people she works with - and definitely for the reader. Her voice is broken and strong and intriguing and true. And the vision of her we get through Bankson's eyes highlights her fascinating nature.

Oh, to be an anthropologist studying an anthropologist like her!

The narrative team of Vance and Sands is a dream. I may or may not have raved extensively about them both (okay, I have), and to have them together on this project was magic for me. No wonder this book won the Audie for Literary Fiction last month! It's a gorgeous production. I'm so glad it found its way into my ears.