2007 Books 21 - 30

21. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole - Funny, off the wall characters ( caricatures in some cases) cross paths in 1980's New Orleans. The story is a series of situations that come together (rather predictably, I think) around Ignatius Reilly, a truly original American invention. If you can ignore the repetition of actions and dialog, and written dialect, it's an enjoyable read.

22. Glove Puppet by Neal Drinnan - A seven year old boy is kidnapped at the scene of his prostitute junkie mother's death in London. That's good news, because the man who takes him doesn't mean to harm the boy, he does it because he believes he can give the boy a better life. And he does, to a point. To give the boy a fresh start, though, he must pretend to be the man's recently deceased son, and considering that the boy considered himself "counsel estate white trash" and now he is the son of a very wealthy man who loves him so much he can't see the harm in what he's doing, it's not hard to understand why the boy goes along with the deception. Things go bad (very bad, seriously....very bad...and very sad) when the boy reaches adolescence and the experience of living with a junkie prostitute for the first seven years of his life starts to manifest itself in the young man's inability to understand the difference between love and sex.

23. Alternatives To Sex by Stephen McCauley - William Collins, single, 43, Boston real esate agent, and addicted to tricking via the internet decides that that last thing might be a bad thing. His attempt to go cold-turkey is a massive failure, but one of the alternatives he tries to distract himself with leads him to discover that, like Dorothy, his heart's desire was always within reach. That aspect of the story is sweet and fun. However, the novel uses the events of 9/11 and how everyone said it made them realize how fragile life was and then went right back to being what they always were, and to a point that's a nice jumping off point for what's basically a RomCom. But when it belabors the point, trying to be a deeper story than it needs to be, the story becomes tedious.

24. A Feast For Crows by George R.R. Martin - The fourth book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, and the worst battles are over and now it's time to start putting the kingdom back together. However, not every would-be-king has been vanquished and family lines are in some dire need of untangling, and therein lies the bulk of what happens in this volume. The sense of place and time is better in this book than any of the others - Martin must be one hell of a researcher. There's an author's note at the end of the book that I think would have been better served at the beginning, to let the reader know what they were (and weren't) getting into. I'm still enjoying this series, looking forward to the next book, and the only change I'd like to see is that Martin would will become more evenhanded with his representations of his character's private lives.

25. The Deaf-Mute Boy by Joseph Geraci - A college professor attends a seminar in Tunisia and while he's dismissive of how the country is changing to take advantage of tourism, he finds once he meets a young deaf-mute boy, he doesn't want to leave. The characters in this book are terribly under-developed, and this has to be one of the best example of how not to write journal entries for your fictional characters. The descriptions of the location are the one truly good part of this book.

26. Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates - This riveting book is about dissatisfaction. Dissatisfaction with one's self, dissatisfaction with the American Dream, dissatisfaction with dissatisfaction, if that is possible. Set in the late 1950s, this is the story of April and Frank, a couple who fell in love because they wanted to, married because they had to, and now, ten years and two children later are wondering what happened to their dreams. April decides that it's not too late for either of them and makes plans to take them in a new direction at about the same time Frank is figuring out he's willing to try a new dream, but not necessarily the one April has in mind. Despite the cross purposes, a happy ending seems almost in reach, and then history repeats itself. This book isn't called an "American Tragedy" for nothing.

27. The Whistling Song by Stephen Beachy - Matt is orphaned as a young boy when his parents are brutally murdered while he's out running his paper route. That might be the single clear plot point in this novel. The rest of the book is Matt's journey to find the woman who baby-sat him before his parents were killed, the woman he believes will make everything all right. Told in a not quite linear form, we go through Matt's two terms in the same orphanage; his time living on the streets with Jimmy, a boy he will do anything for to keep in his life; and all kinds of interesting folks that pick him up as he hitchhikes alone across the United States. At times very surreal, at other times very earthy, it's a different kind of "journey is the destination" story. It's almost always funny, though, because despite what he's exposed to, Matt tries to remain optimistic.

28. Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill - A semi-retired death metal rocker buys a suit that is supposed to be haunted to add to his collection of creepy objects. He discovers that sometimes, there is truth in advertising. In an attempt to give the book a feeling of reality, there are a LOT of pop references - so many they seemed forced. But once the characters are forced out of their safety zone, the book is original and spooky.

29. Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman - Possibly the best book I've read this year. It's the story of a young man falling in love for the first time, with all the pain and passion and joy that can only happen that first time, when everything seems possible.

30. Affinity by Sarah Waters - Set in 1870s London, Margaret Prior faces the death of her father, the loss of the woman she loved to her brother, and the crushing restrictions of being a single female in Victorian times. Looking for something to distract her from her own darkness, she volunteers as a "Lady Visitor" at Millbank Gael and meets a medium imprisoned for harming one of her clients during a seance. The two form a bond in what seems to be a gothic romance. But Sarah Waters is too good of a writer to be confined to one genre per book, and this turns into a fantastically well researched historical mystery.

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