Thursday, May 17, 2018


Sometimes, as much as you might think a book is smack in the middle of your wheelhouse, straight hard cheese down the middle of the plate, you swing and miss. The titles below are three I recently whiffed on, sending me back to the dugout with my head hung and bat dragging behind me, alone in the reading minority. (Warning: The baseball metaphors don't end in the introduction.)

H is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald

In hindsight, I probably should have known better about this one. While I was all in for the forging of a connection between the author and her goshawk, I blinded myself to the downside: Mabel was bred in captivity to kill for a master. I finished, but the upside of being able to dispatch an injured rabbit because of the need for the skill (so Mabel didn't eat her quarry alive) kind of took the glow off. I found parts of the book fascinating and educational, just not for me. Strike one. (Even though, very little known fact, I dated a guy in college who was a falconer. Super cute and funny=I overlooked the dead chicks in the freezer for as long as I could. Spoiler alert - not long.)

The Hearts of Men, by Nickolas Butler

Since I loved Shotgun Lovesongs and Beneath the Bonfire with the heat of 1,000 suns, Butler became an author I would read without knowing anything about his latest work. That just bit me in the ass, though I would have picked up Hearts even after reading the summary. It *sounded* great, but the execution didn't work for me. I loved (yet hated, because mean kids suck) the first section and was engrossed in the premise of seeing how Nelson would respond, what his life would become, after camp. But then I got a looping curveball that took me off to visit other characters I really didn't enjoy reading about. It all came back around, but by that time I was just going through the motions and the ultimate shocking event seemed contrived and more than a bit eye-rolling. I'll still go back for Butler's next offering, but right now I'm sitting on an 0-2 count.

Our Kind of Cruelty, by Araminta Hall

I was so in for this one. I admit it, the Gillian Flynn blurb got me. I'm not even sure where/when I saw it, because I am not a blurb-reader. Weird as it may seem, I love spending time in the mind of a well-written narcissistic sociopath. [Deleted great line about the biggest one in my life]. I found Mike Hayes fascinating and was impressed with the job Hall did writing from his head. Here's the gist: Mike and his ex-girlfriend V played a game called Crave. They would go out, super attractive V would sit by herself until someone hit on her, at which time Mike would intercede and they would go off to have hot sex somewhere nearby. When V breaks up with Mike and becomes engaged to another man, he is certain she has just taken the game to the next level and he continues to play. It's a fantastic concept and for the first half of the book I was transfixed. But by 3/4 of the way through it felt a bit old and the twist I was hoping for never really twisted. The ultimate question of "Was she playing or wasn't she?" aside, it felt like it went off into a statement on victim-shaming that didn't really fit for me. Strike three, I'm out.

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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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