Pre-Tournament Prep: 2010 TOB Reviews

The following is a non-comprehensive list of reviews you may (or may not) want to consult in anticipation of the 2010 Tournament of Books. Details of the upcoming contest will be released Friday or Saturday. Entries will close at Midnight (EST), Saturday March 5th, 2010. I will update the following as I finish books on the list. Please feel free to add links in the comments.

1. The Year of the Flood, by Margaret Atwood

HW: None.

MG: “I don’t like it when an author who knows better presents that faux literature as something profound.”

DGR: “[T]hough The Year of the Flood is not my absolute favourite of the fourteen [Atwood novels] that I’ve read it quickly became a page-turner.”

STI: “At times this skewering can feel heavy-handed, as if the storytelling has taken a backseat to environmental and corporate whistle-blowing, but even so, no one can deny that Atwood’s message remains chilling, timely and necessary.”

2. The Anthologist, by Nicholson Baker

HW: “Nicholson Baker…writes with rare perspicacity; he writes with attention to psychological, aesthetic, and literary detail. He is an author who takes his art seriously.”

MFB: “Poetry lovers rejoice! Here comes a book for those who exult in word play and delight in the beauty of phrases that trip off the tongue. Here is a volume that savors and celebrates verse as a many-splendored thing.”

3. Fever Chart, by Bill Cotter

HW: None.

HTML: “It’s a dark book. Funny, sure—Jerome has episodes where he hallucinates thought balloons filled with Scrabble tiles telling him what to do—but dark.”

UCW: “Interestingly enough, considering the weight of the subject matter and Cotter’s fecund writing style, it is an easy read. Each sentence depicts its meaning fluidly. Each situation is delineated with an ease of clarity.”

4. Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth, by Apostolos Doxiadis

HW: “…a very smart comic book and a very successful one.”

SS: “an ambitious and highly original graphic novel on the heroic quest to make the foundations of Mathematics exact, consistent, and complete”

CSL: “The writing itself is crisp and assured. Each of the layers uses a different tone and voice, one that is suitable for the story it is telling….The art is perfect — clear and clean yet very expressive….Buy this book. Buy one for yourself, buy one for your library. ” [Added 3/3/2010]

5. The Book of Night Women, by Marlon James

HW: “[T]he plot deviates too much from the point for the novel to be an artistically convincing argument.”

BS: “The Book of Night Women does what good fiction is uniquely situated to do — it revisits and reinvents the past in order to expose and indict inhumanity and hypocrisy. James also manages to be equally attentive in his nuanced renderings of compassion and hope.”

6. The Lacuna, by Barbara Kingsolver

HW: Abandoned 3/4 through – “I found Kingsolver’s The Lacuna tedious and too earnest. I did not like the narrator and was not intrigued by the plot.”

BSb: “It was reliable. It was nice. Perfectly pleasant, even. And that, my friends, is what we call in my family ‘damned by faint praise’.”

MFB: “The book is as demanding as it is captivating. The form sometimes leaves a distance (yes, a gap) between the reader and the protagonist, which can be exasperating. And Kingsolver’s left-leaning politics are almost shrill in their insistence on outrage.”

7. Big Machine, by Victor La Valle

HW: “…one of the most seductive openings among the 2010 Tournament of Books contenders…”

STI: “Hysterical yet heartbreaking, playful yet pensive, bleak yet hopeful, Victor LaValle’s novel masterfully blends these contrasting elements to produce a rich and rewarding literary experience.”

MFB: “…a genre-busting romp through the fields of good and evil. Part mystery, part science fiction, part philosophy, and part theology…”

8. Let the Great World Spin, by Colum McCann

HW: “It is nice. It is enjoyable. It is not a book for the ages.”

KFC: “…a valuable addition to the list of fine novels that have been written about [New York]…”

RM: “…there was something about this book that didn’t gel with me…”

MFB: “…a masterpiece of seemingly disparate stories set together into one beautiful whole…”

9. Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel

HW: “I am so impressed with the work….There is a great deal…to love about this book… I found the prose always excellent and sometimes delightful…”

KFC: “…an impressive piece of work…”

TA: “Mantel makes the reader work but does not withhold rewards…”

DGR: “There is word alchemy and rare sleight of pen afoot here because it’s beyond me to describe how it’s done, but to make a reader feel like a participant in this emerging social world, a world still trying to find its feet and know its direction, feels like true writerly, spell-weaving magic to me.”

WG: “…an exquisite – though large! – novel…”

MTB: “…ambitious, long, convoluted, by turns annoying and confusing, but with deep and interesting insights and speculations…”

ANZ: “It is a masterpiece.”

TBW: “I would have preferred a little focus, some unifying point to the whole thing. King Henry may have had some fine rugs on the floor, but I really don’t need details about the weave.”

10. A Gate at the Stairs, by Lorrie Moore

HW: “I was impressed by Moore’s sense of humor, her seeming ease in crafting a sentence, her vivid portrayals of people young and old, and even her many puns.”

KFC: “[Moore] has an exceptional eye for telling little details and she loves a good gag.”

MFB: “Moore’s writing is simply spectacular and is certainly the star of this wonderful novel.”

11. Miles from Nowhere, by Nami Mun

HW: “The book is enjoyable and worth reading, but never coalesces into a fully accomplished work of art.”

RM: “…beautifully written…an impressive debut, with some great characterisation…”

MFB: “…has that succinct, in-your-face style of writing that is both riveting and painful at the same time…”

12. That Old Cape Magic, by Richard Russo

HW: “My sense of humor and Russo’s do not quite mesh.”

KFC: “…the first 70 pages are so good, there is absolutely no way the rest of the book can stand up to them.”

MFB: “The concluding pages are a bit too busy; Russo goes off in too many directions as he frantically tries to wrap up his story. Fortunately, he manages to come up with a conclusion that is both satisfying and entertaining.”

13. Burnt Shadows, by Kamila Shamsie

HW: “There is so much to appreciate about this novel, the shortcomings are forgivable.”

KFC: “[Shamsie] introduces enough interesting people and circumstances that she deserves some critical slack.”

MG: “…quick-moving, ambitious…”

DGR: “a brave and exquisitely crafted novel, beautifully written and a clever book too because Kamila Shamsie takes as her over-arching theme sixty years of history but begins in the here and now”

14. The Help, by Kathryn Stockett

HW: “[T]he book does not demand much from the reader other than a tolerance for, or oblivion to, mediocre writing and poor editing.”

15. Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned, by Wells Tower

HW: “You can do worse, much, much worse, than pick up this nice little package. The stories are not uplifting. You won’t feel good about yourself and humanity after reading them. But, they just might show you something about the world you had not noticed before.”

BBK: “…the sort of book that makes you want to track down the stray stories not collected here…”

GD: “The writing is spare and sharp, the characters easy to know, the humor dark and fleeting. If you’re looking for a brief, beautifully written collection of ugly stories, this is for you.”

16. Lowboy, by John Wray

HW: “Lowboy is not flawless, but there are no crippling deficiencies. Wray’s prose is efficiently pleasing and manages to capture both humor and emotion in crisp, but not showy, language.”

MFB: “It is rare that I read a book that thrills me. This one has.”

AG: “And it is madness here—sweet, fragile, intense, erotic, underground madness that we are witness to in this novel, a film-noir tableau of harried insanity that becomes a kind of auto-erotic rush.”

HW – Hungry Like the Woolf

WG – Whispering Gums
UCW – Up & Coming Writers
TBW – Tony’s Book World
TA – The Asylum
SS – Stochastix
RM – Reading Matters
MTB – A Momentary Taste of Being
MG – The Mookse and The Gripes
MFB – Mostly Fiction Book Reviews
KFC – Kevin From Canada
DGR – Dovegrey Reader
BBK – Biblioklept
BS – Bookslut
BSb – Book Snob
ANZ – ANZ LitLovers LitBlog

10 Responses to Pre-Tournament Prep: 2010 TOB Reviews

  1. kimbofo says:

    A wonderful round-up. Thanks for including me.

  2. Lija says:

    Cool idea – it’s handy (and easy on the eyes!) to get all of this info in quick bites.

  3. Wilson Knut says:

    This list pretty much makes me feel illiterate. Not only have I not read them, I don’t even have them in a to-be-read stack. I must do better. I must meet your standards. You have set the bar high, my friend.

  4. Thanks too Hungry! I do hope to read the McCann soon. Anyhow, love this roundup and I appreciate the link back. (I think though you’ve missed me in your little key to codes at the end!)

  5. Kerry says:

    Thanks everyone!

    And, Whispering Gums, you are now included in the key codes in the end (which I reverse-alphabetized). Sorry about the omission in the first place.

    • LOL, reverse alphabetisation! Now that’s a treat! My real name is near the end of the alphabet too and rarely did anyone in my youth treat me with reverse alphabetisation. I thank you!! 🙂

  6. […] For links to reviews to help you make your picks, please click here. […]

  7. Judi Clark says:

    Great round up… and great idea to do this. I’m pleased that you included one of our reviews in your round up. Thank you!

    If you need more, we have also reviewed: The Anthologist, by Nicholson Baker (loved it, top pick); The Lacuna, by Barbara Kingsolver; Big Machine, by Victor La Valle; Let the Great World Spin, by Colum McCann (top pick by many of reviewers); A Gate at the Stairs, by Lorrie Moore (another top pick!); That Old Cape Magic, by Richard Russo; Miles from Nowhere, by Nami Mun.

    Judi, Editor

  8. Kerry says:

    Thanks, Judi.

    This is the spur I need to finish updating this with my own reviews. I will put in links to the MostlyFiction reviews you have identified too.

    Thank you!


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