Naked by David Sedaris
I enjoyed this collection of essays about Sedaris’s childhood and early adult years. Though I would recommend it, I would also suggest that no one approach this book in a bad mood. He wasn’t always such a nice kid, and his family definitely classified as dysfunctional, so it’s no wonder that some of the essays, though funny, are also a little dark and sad. Just to give you an idea of the type of humor to expect, in “Cyclops” Sedaris tells us that his father used to spin tall tales about mutilations caused by everyday items like garbage disposals and lawn mowers. In “Next of Kin,” Sedaris talks about the porno novel he found in the woods, how it ended up being read by everyone in his family, including his younger siblings and his mother, and how it was typos that finally ruined its charm for him.
I wrestled with the grade, going back and forth between a B+ and an A-, but ultimately gave it the higher grade because so many of the stories reminded me of my own youth. He captured some of the essence of childhood and growing up, and that makes it worth reading.
Basilisk by N.M. Browne
I became interested in this book while reading online reviews and when the price hit $1.66, I decided to pick it up as part of a larger order. Frankly, I’m not sure I got my money’s worth.
The story is about Rej, who dreams of dragons in flight but who lives below ground and has never seen the sky, and Donna, who lives above ground in a city of war and oppression yet has the same dream. Circumstances bring them together and together they search for the meaning of their shared dream.
The author spent far too much time on the thoughts and fears of the main characters. Rej and Donna seemed to spend the whole novel worrying over one threat or another, which was tedious, and so my reading experience was one of tense boredom. The world of Basilisk was menacing, gloomy, violent, even disgusting in some ways, and totally inappropriate for the marketed age group. The last things teenagers need to dwell upon are drug use, murder, rape, and torture.
Death in Berlin by M.M. Kaye
Okay, I probably should have given up on Kaye’s “Death in . . .” series by now, but I already own several of them, so why not give them a chance? This one isn’t great, but it’s not bad. It is, after all, a mystery romance, and you just can’t expect a lot from one of those. It proceeds exactly as you’d expect: a young woman travels to Berlin, finds herself involved in a series of murders, and nearly gets herself killed, but don’t worry because the mystery is solved just in time for her to fall in love and have a happily-ever-after. The real star of the story is Berlin, just after the end of WWII, all rubble and ruin. So if you like a mystery romance with an interesting setting, this might be worth your while, but don’t for a second believe that Kaye’s mysteries are comparable to Christie’s, no matter what anyone says, because they’re nothing alike. Apples and oranges, etc.