Tuesday, March 29, 2016


Below are a few (somewhat) brief, $.02 opinions about several books I've read (or listened to) recently but don't and won't have time to review in full. Their appearance here has nothing to do with merit, many I enjoyed as much or even more than those that got the full-court press. I hope you'll consider one or two for your own TBR stack.

This is Where it Ends by Marieke Nijkamp

This YA work centered on a school shooting told in real time was heralded as the next great thing, both on a diversity and school shooting front. I was left a bit cold by it, to be honest. I thought the characters were fairly flat and the "villain" lacked nuance and layers. It's an ambitious work, told from the perspective of several of the teens involved (both those held captive and those trying to help from the outside), it just didn't pan out, and the final act was a bit ridiculous. Overall, I never found anything to invest in here. If you want to read a great book about school shootings, go the non-fiction route and pick up Dave Cullen's Columbine.

Like Family by Paolo Giordano

Unfortunately, this is another one I was looking forward to that bummed me out. The unnamed narrator and his wife hire Mrs. A when faced with a tough pregnancy. She ends up staying on for years afterward to help care for their son, Emanuele. When Mrs. A ultimately leaves, the void in the family reveals cracks in their fabric. A short novella, really, this study of a marriage and family was somewhat interesting, but again, I found nothing to invest in. Except Mrs. A, who was the most interesting character, yet not the focus of the novel. I ended up feeling like the characters, our narrator in particular, were simply narcissistic aholes who certainly didn't treat Mrs. A like family. I like reading about aholes, they're generally interesting, but I'd give this one a pass.

A Full  Life: Reflections at  Ninety by Jimmy Carter

I'm more depressed by politics than interested in them, but I'm fascinated by people, some of whom end up as politicians. I respect former President Jimmy Carter immensely and listening to this book on audio was a real treat. A Full Life is basically a summary of President Carter's life from birth to present, so if it's a general overview of the man, where he came from, and what makes up his fabric you're after, this book is for you. Carter has some odd speech patterns that make listening...not a challenge, exactly, just not as smooth as a professional narration. Yet I wouldn't have it any other way. There is something comforting and homey about President Carter's voice that made this audio all the more special. Highly recommend it.

Missoula by Jon Krakauer

Jon Krakauer has the ability to write an engaging non-fiction work seemingly regardless of subject matter, and Missoula is no different. I listened to this on audio, and it was a great listen. Maddening, enlightening, and powerful, Krakauer presents detailed and well-researched accounts of a series of sexual assaults at the University of Montana. This book should really be a must-read (or listen), as it's not just about UofM, but concerns a problem, a system of injustice, that plagues us nationwide. In fact, my only real "gripe" is about the title of the book. This is not an issue unique to Missoula, Montana, or the University of Montana. To title the book as such seems to both minimize the scope of the issues and almost unfairly paint Missoula and Montana as their epicenter. Reading the book should dispel those notions, but I was curious about the title from the get-go. All that being said, this is a powerful work that I highly recommend.

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About Malcolm Avenue Review

I was lucky enough to be born and raised in a nifty, oak-shaded ranch house on Malcolm Avenue, a wide-laned residential street with little through traffic, located amid the foothills of Northern California. It was on that street and in that house I learned most of my adolescent life lessons, and many grown-up ones to boot. Malcolm Avenue was "home" for more than thirty years.

It was on Malcolm Avenue, through and with my family and the other families that made up our neighborhood of characters, that I first learned about and gained an appreciation for the things I continue to love the most to this day: music, animals, photography, sports, television/movies and, of course, books.

I owe a debt of gratitude to that life on Malcolm Avenue. It gave me a sense of community and friendship, support and adventure. For better and worse, life on that street likely had the biggest impact on the person I've become. So this blog, and the things I write here, are all, at their base level, a little bit of a love letter to Malcolm Avenue.


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