[Book Review] My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff

My Salinger YearWhile on vacation, I dipped into Joanna Rakoff’s My Salinger Year, because every time I opened Good Reads and blog posts, I’d see a review for this book. Of course it wasn’t too heard to twist my arm when I read the description of this book.

Poignant, keenly observed, and irresistibly funny: a memoir about literary New York in the late nineties, a pre-digital world on the cusp of vanishing, where a young woman finds herself entangled with one of the last great figures of the century… J.D. Salinger.

In the late 90’s computers were just starting to make their debut and although many were keen to be a part of this new wave of technology, some were very hesitant, including Rakoff’s boss at ‘The Agency’. Forced to use carbon paper, dictaphones and typewriters, Joanna works as an assistant taking calls, reading some good and not so good manuscripts and typing. It doesn’t take long for her to realize that one of the Agencies best known clients is the literary icon J.D. Salinger, or as he’s often referred to in this memoir, Jerry. When people call to speak with Jerry, Joanna is asked to deflect the call and if the man himself calls, she’s told that she’s not to speak to him and send the call directly to her boss. Of course, there are times her boss is unavailable and she has to speak to Salinger who is described as a charming and kind man.

One of her other duties is to respond to the massive amount of fan mail that gets delivered daily for Salinger. Because there’s an extreme amount of mail coming in, an automatic response is created. But after a few uses, Joanna feels like the response is stale and insincere so she takes it upon herself to create heartfelt and thoughtful responses. Some of her responses are appreciated, some… not so much.

Joanna’s story doesn’t just take place at the Agency, it jumps back and force to her personal life where she’s socializing, living in a Joanna Rakoffcrappy Williamsburg apartment and trying to justify her relationship with the socialist Don. Don was the one part of her story that I didn’t enjoy. I found him to be an arrogant person that didn’t bring much joy into Joanna’s life. But as many of us know, some relationships aren’t the best fit.

Salinger has become a literary phenomenon, because most of his work is read during our years of adolescence and many find his work relatable. This is  a memoir about self discovery, so it only makes sense that Joanna was able to identify with the books he’d written and understand the man who called the agency once a month. As someone who started their professional career becoming close friends with the photo copy machine and directing phone calls to people, I found Joanna’s memoir entertaining. If you’re fascinated with J.D. Salinger, the 90’s, New York and/or publishing, you’ll love My Salinger Year.

[Book Review] The Vacationers by Emma Straub

Here’s a tip to those heading on vacation this summer, pick up a copy of The ImageVacationers by Emma Straub to read while you’re on holiday. The cover and the title were enough to convince me that this would be the perfect book to kick off my 10 day holiday to Nova Scotia. While I’m fairly positive that the characters in this book would love a visit to the beautiful East Coast of Canada, their vacation took them to a very different location. A family of four (two parents, two grown children) from Manhattan, NY pack up and head to Mallorca, an island in the Mediterranean Sea for two weeks. What they hope will be an escape from reality, turns into a vacation full of truth bombs.

Franny and Jim are celebrating their thirty-fifth wedding anniversary, but both are carrying a deep, dark secret. Their daughter, Sylvia, has graduated from high 9781594631573Hschool, but hasn’t had many experiences to date and is determined to create some on this trip. Their son, Bobby, lives in Miami selling real estate and lives with his much older girlfriend that no one really likes. They’re also traveling with family friends who are biting their nails waiting to hear if they’ll be approved to adopt a child. So as you can see, they are with some physical and metaphorical baggage.

This book is literally the definition of a beach read. I know at this time of year, the term “beach read” gets tossed around a lot, but you really will want to read this fun, light read while sitting on the beach or while you vacation at your childhood home (case in point). In full disclosure, you will be left with some unanswered questions, but you’re going to be able to create your own conclusions as to what you think happens. It’s an enjoyable, quick read that will have you handing it off to one of your friends to read, hopefully with sand on the pages.

What are some of the books you plan on reading on the beach this summer? 

[Book Review] After I Do by Taylor Jenkins Reid

After i doBack in February, I got this book in the mail and instead of putting it on the back burner while I prepped for Fall conference like a responsible adult, I jumped right in. If you’re a frequent visitor of my blog, you’ll know that I’m a fan of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s work and her newest book, After I Do delivers!

This is the story of Lauren and Ryan’s marriage. Sadly, today’s divorce rate is higher than successful marriages and like many, Lauren and Ryan are headed for the higher statistic. Arguing over petty, silly things, they are both able to recognize that there are some major cracks in their matrimony. Rather than jumping the gun, they decide to make one more attempt to fix things by agreeing to take a year off from their marriage. Their hope is that by taking a year away from one another, they’ll find a way to remember the good times and somehow find a way to fall in love with one another again. The one catch, they can’t contact the other. Both, Lauren and Ryan agree that this break from one another is the only way to take a step back and look at the big picture.

After I Do is told entirely from the perspective of Lauren and in a recent interview I conducted with TJR I asked her,

When you originally came up with the premise of After I Do, did you know that the narration would only be told from the point of Lauren?

It took me a long time to figure out how to make this a book about both Ryan and Lauren without using two narrators. I wasn’t entirely opposed to the idea of two narrators but I just felt that two narrators would turn this into too much of a He Said/She Said — a dynamic I’m actually quite fond of but one that I didn’t think worked for this. So I settled on seeing the world through one of their eyes, and Lauren seemed the most natural fit. Luckily, I found a way for Ryan to speak up throughout the book.

Ryan is well represented through this story from the eyes of Lauren’s family, who are quietly rooting for them to make it work. His voice is also well represented in a unique and creative way that I don’t want to spoil, because it adds so much depth that giving it away might spoil it for you. I do want to add, that you’ll come to fall in love with Lauren’s entire family. You don’t just scratch the surface with these characters, each and every one of them make an impression on you in the best way possible.

Mesmerizing and heart breaking at the same time, this is an unconventional love story that I’d compare to titles written by Emily Giffin and Sophie Kinsella. It has the readability factor that catches you by surprise, because you want to know, you need to know how this modern marriage experiment will play out in the end.

I’m so excited that now all of you can read it and then we can discuss the ending. This book will be available on July 1st.

Thanks to Carly Watters from the PS Literacy Agency for sending me an advanced reading copy.


[Book Review] Lazy Days by Erlend Loe

Loe - Lazy DaysYou know how you’re not supposed to judge a book by it’s cover? Well I broke that rule when I saw the cover of Erlend Loe’s Lazy Days. Then I read the description on the back of this beautiful package of a book and I knew I was hooked. It reads,

From the bestselling author of Doppler, a wry and very funny look at the pitfalls of human existence . . . and the charms of celebrity chef Nigella Lawson.

Aspiring playwright Bror Telemann loves all things British. His wife, Nina, loves everything German. So a family holiday at the foot of the Alps, south of Munich — which Bror believes to be the birthplace of Nazism — is bound to cause tension. Especially when Bror spends the whole time virtually stalking (and constantly fantasizing about) his greatest obsession, British chef Nigella Lawson.

Can Telemann continue to bear the pressure of his empty existence? Or will his long-suffering family be the first to snap?

We’re all different people when on vacation. We let our guards down, stress goes out the windows and sometimes you do things a bit out of character. Lazy Days is the story of a Norwegian family’s holiday to Germany. Telemann isn’t a fan of Germany, his wife, Nina is a big fan. This obviously creates a lot of tension, but tension hits an all time max when you mix in an extreme crush on Nigella Lawson. Using his love and passion for theatre as an excuse to have alone time to “think”, takes the reader on a strange and sometimes hilarious journey. 

While reading Lazy Days, I was reminded of the movie, ‘This is 40’, starring Leslie Mann and Paul Rudd. You know at the end of the day they love one another, but you’re pretty sure that they can’t stand each other. I remember seeing this movie in theatres and thinking that it was funny, but kind of sad at the same time. That two people have disconnected in such a way that they end up resenting one another. The same premise applies in this book, you know that they have love for one another, but it’s very obvious to the reader that they’ve become disconnected, in an obvious and sad way. At one point, Nina whole-heartingly believes that she’s allergic to Telemann.

Reading this book was an interesting experience, because I found myself enjoying the writing, but not loving the characters all that much. I think that’s okay though, I think sometimes we’re not supposed to connect with the characters, so that we can learn something new and possibly look at things a little differently. Charming, smart and witty; Lazy Days is a great Saturday afternoon read.