Seven by Anthony Bruno. The cover says this book is written from the screenplay, and I could tell. It was very matter-of-fact, with clear images. There was a lot of emotional distance, and at times I found it hard to keep the characters separate, since the cops referred to everyone by their last names. It's pretty disturbing, because the vivid imagery doesn't stop when the cops reach the crime scene. A serial killer is out to show the evils of the seven sins, and commits murders by forcing a man to eat until he "pops" (gluttony), cutting off a beautiful woman's nose and giving her the option to live and be ugly, or kill herself with pills (pride), etc. It's very interesting, and the ending was a surprise to me, despite vaguely remembering seeing the movie years ago. Definitely an entertaining read.
Liner Notes by Emily Franklin. I first read this book after high school graduation, when I was determined to road trip around the country for a year (or forever). It seemed like a good time to read it again before passing it along to a new owner.
Laney has graduated from her master's program in California and is about to start a job on the east coast. She opts to forgo the easy out of flying home, and decides to road trip across the country, listening to mix tapes from her past. In a change of plans, her mother decides to come along. Once her mother spots the box of tapes, she won't let up until Laney shares her history with her mother. We're along for the ride, which is mostly told in past stories via the tapes (the book includes the playlists). The "now" of the book isn't as present, but it's not as important. I feel like the end is a little rushed, but at the same time I like seeing how everything plays out, and a fast forward is necessary to keep the book concise.
Small Steps by Louis Sachar. Armpit is an African-American teenager who has a criminal record due to a misunderstanding. Despite having spent time in a detention facility, he's a good kid trying to get back on the right track by taking summer school classes in order to graduate on time and working for a landscaping company. His only friend is Ginny, his white, ten-year-old neighbor who has cerebral palsy. When X-Ray, a friend from juvie, comes to Armpit with a money-making scheme, he finds himself agreeing even though he doesn't want to. This gets him involved with scalping, counterfeit tickets, and the affection of the current big pop star. I always appreciate Sachar's dry humor, and this book definitely delivers.
Also - I didn't realize this was the 2nd part of Holes, which I haven't read, so I think credit should be given for this book being able to stand alone!
The Average American Male by Chad Kultgen. Read on the nook. A coworker recommended this book after declaring I was "screwed up, in a good way." This book is definitely screwed up. I'm not sure I'd recommend it to anyone unless I really knew their personality - even guys! Overall it reminded me of a book by Tucker Max, except realistic and not told by a cocky narrator.
Kultgen's writing style blew my mind. It's so straight-forward and plain, but it worked perfectly with the plotline and really stood out as unique. The book is exactly what the title presents - an average man, his thoughts and daily actions. There were many funny parts that made me actually laugh out loud. I always love a book that doesn't have a happy ending, and this one definitely didn't because it was very realistic. The ending made me a little depressed, but the whole book was so honest that any other ending would have been a cop-out.
It was interesting to read because I felt like I related to a lot of what was said. I identify with males more than females, usually, and most of my short stories have a male point of view, so it was cool to read this and realize I wasn't far off the mark. At the same time, it was a little depressing to learn that the "average" male actually thinks the way I thought he did, haha. Though the narrator was unnamed, I kept referring to him in my head by one of my male friend's name! I guess I'll recommend the book to him...
The Lie by Chad Kultgen. Read on the nook. I didn't like this as much as The Average American Male. While TAAM seemed honest and somewhat innovative, I felt like Kultgen was just trying to push the limit in The Lie. I liked that it was told from the points of view of three characters, and each one had a distinctly different voice, so I was never confused about who was narrating. However, the entire plot line seemed a little over the top. It took a long time to get to the point, and I suppose the backstory was necessary to give the ending more punch, but after the concise writing in TAAM, it seemed a bit long-winded. There wasn't as much humor in this book as TAAM, it was based more on anger. Like TAAM, the ending was depressingly real.
While I did honestly think the writing and story of TAAM was higher..."quality" isn't exactly the word to use here, considering the subject matter, but it was better, I think what I disliked the most about The Lie was the fact that people like Heather, Brett, and Kyle actually exist and these things happen to them. So I didn't like reading it as much as Kultgen's debut, but overall I disliked it because it was real. I'm not sure if that will make sense to anyone who hasn't read the book, but I'm trying to stress that it was the subject matter more than the book itself, I suppose.
Cranberry Queen by Kathleen DeMarco. This book starts with a family tragedy changing Diana's life, and, like Diana herself, it doesn't recover. After being unable to cope with her newly fragmented life, Diana leaves home without knowing where she's going. She finds herself in a beautiful landscape with strangers who are willing to take her in. There are many opportunities for a great story to evolve, but instead too many characters are introduced that cannot be kept straight, and everyone's lives and problems are only dealt with in a superficial manner. As a result, I can't really remember the point of the story, or the resolution, which was given to the reader in a jumbled chapter that made it hard to discern how much time had passed.
Men, Women & Children by Chad Kultgen. A loaner from a coworker. Started on my lunch break, finished after work. The characters were more developed in this book, and I feel like I got to know them instead of just their strange quirks. Initially, there were too many characters to keep track of, but some stopped having their own narrative sections, and as I got to know them, they were fairly easy to keep apart. Kultgen continued to use first and last names well into the novel though, as well as clarifying when people were related, so I think he realized there would be a problem juggling so many characters. This book definitely had more going for it story-wise, instead of just playing for the shock value. I thought the ending was pretty abrupt, with no real resolution wrapping everything up like he did in his previous two novels. However, I can't really summarize the story, because it was more of a glimpse into a handful of people's lives. I have to say I liked this more than The Lie, yet not as much as The Average American Male.