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"The Immortalists" by Chloe Benjamin

I wasn’t sure how many stars to give The Immortalists on Good Reads. I liked the book – it was, actually, a good read (see what I did there?). But I didn’t love it. Oddly, I kept thinking that maybe it was over-edited. Sometimes you read a book and think, this really could have used another pass by an editor. This time, I wondered if too much was cut.
The book begins with the four Gold children, Varya, Daniel, Klara and Simon (oldest to youngest), visiting a fortuneteller. She gives each of them the date of his or her death. Fast forward (maybe 10 years?) and their father, Saul, dies. Saul’s death provides the catalyst for Klara and Simon to leave New York together and begin living out their destinies. (Klara is 18, but Simon is underage and considered a runaway.) Spoilers ahead.
And here I came to my first problem – one that continued throughout the book. Every child talks about missing Saul, yet as readers we hardly knew him. Why was Saul’s death needed to propel Klara and Simon t…
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"The Story of Arthur Truluv" by Elizabeth Berg

I have a confession to make: You know that book Wonder by R.J. Palacio about the boy with facial deformities who attends public school for the first time and it's difficult for everyone involved, but in the end everyone's heart grows at least four sizes and we all feel good?
I didn't love it. It's OK. And the movie was probably OK too. But as far as plot, character development, the style of the writing... I thought it was just OK.
That's how I feel about The Story of Arthur Truluv, which is really all the things the various blurbs about the book says it is -- heartwarming, moving and sweet. You may even cry a little. But, unfortunately, it's like a much-watered-down version of A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman. Which is a far better book. Arthur is too good. And Maddy's story is somewhat unbelievable (Why is she bullied? How does she get into the situation she gets into?) and too cliche (goth teen going to art school?). Lucille's story se…

"Landscape With Invisible Hand," by M.T. Anderson

"Nightblind" by Ragnar Jonasson

A List of My Own

"Beartown" by Fredrik Backman

I’m about to be overly effusive: I loved Beartown by Fredrik Backman and I think it is one of the best books I’ve ever read. (See Tangent 1.)

Backman lured us into his Swedish world of curmudgeons and the neighbors who love them with A Man Called Ove and his other novellas. But this isn’t A Man Called Ove. This book has a much larger scope. This feels like the book Backman has always wanted to write but had to wait to give to us until he developed an audience. You got it, bro. I will read whatever else you write in the future. This book more deeply develops his ideas about communities. It is also about parenthood and all the responsibilities that go along with it. It’s about family and best friends who are like family. It’s about belonging. It’s about sorrow and happiness. And there’s some hockey. (Tangent 2.)
You will hate some of the parents (Kevin’s, William’s). You will love some of the teens (Amat, Maya, Ana, Benji, Bobo, Leo...). Be prepared to feel emotions. The characters – a…

Some Writer! and Other Non-Fiction

I've read more non-fiction during the first few months of this year than I usually do. I'm not sure how that happened. Usually I "get acquainted" with some non-fiction titles so I can recommend them, do a little speed reading of a chapter or two, and leave it at that. But I dove deeper earlier this year and feel smarter for it (kidding). Here, in the order of preference (most liked to least), are the books I read cover to cover:

Some Writer! The Story of E.B. White by Melissa Sweet
I loved this book. It's a children's biography of noted writer and style guide producer E.B. White, and it's so well done. Interspersed with the narration are examples from White's writings, personal papers, anecdotes and much more. The layout is gorgeous. Every bit of text is interesting. And White's life is worth reading about.

Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries by Kory Stamper
After reading Stamper's book, I now know that I am not careful enough to beco…