Scootsa1000’s #CBR5 Review 39: Lexicon by Max Barry

Unknown-4About 8 years ago, when Bunnybean wasn’t even a year old, we moved from Boston to the Washington DC area. And I went from being a working mom to a stay-at-home mom. And at first, I wasn’t very good at it. I couldn’t get Bunnybean to sleep when she was supposed to, and spent a lot of time driving around so that she would nap in her car seat. And then, randomly, one day, I saw Christa Miller (we loved her from Scrubs!) on the Ellen show talking about the book she had written the introduction to that was about helping your baby develop healthy sleep habits. I ran out to Borders the very next day and bought the book. And soon, Bunnybean was sleeping like a champ.

But I digress…because of this book, I started to pay a bit more attention to Christa Miller. I realized she was really smart and funny and watched CougarTown just because of her. She was one of the first people I followed on twitter. And she gives great book recommendations, too. She recommended Where’d You Go, Bernadette? months before I had heard of it. and so, a few weeks ago, when she said that she stayed up all night reading Lexicon, I knew I’d be reading it next.

Thanks, Christa. Another great choice.

Lexicon starts out with a man named Wil being accosted by two strange guys in an airport bathroom. They ask him a bunch of non-sensical questions and then inject a syringe into his eyeball, with no explanation. Bang — all of this in the first page or two, and the book barely lets up from there.

Told in alternating narratives and timelines, Lexicon is about a secret government agency that monitors the power of words and the persuasion that certain words have over certain people.  The bulk of the plot is centered around an ancient and powerful word that is let loose in Broken Hill, Australia, provoking the citizens of the small town to commit unspeakable acts. Who brought the word there? And why?

Max Barry brings this crazy world alive with a lot of humor and action. I haven’t enjoyed an action book like this in quite a while — I hate to compare it to The Rook (because that book really does stand on its own), but Lexicon did remind me of it several times. But all in a good way. I really enjoyed it and will look forward to reading more Barry in the future.

 You can read more of my reviews (as well as Bunnybean’s!) on my blog.
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Popcultureboy’s #CBR5 Review #70: Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple

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As you’d expect from a writer on Arrested Development, this is a super smart and brilliantly funny satire novel that also makes you care about what’s going on. That’s because Semple has given us characters where you’d normally find caricatures. Loved it. Full review is on my blog here.

Travis_J_Smith’s Review #67: Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

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I’m not generally one for peer pressure, but the sheer number of reviews and effusive praise for Where’d You Go, Bernadette convinced me that I had to read this book. I did and, as I usually am with books as acclaimed as this, was let down considerably.

Had the story ended with Bernadette’s (initial) disappearance, it would’ve moved at least one notch up to a 3 instead of a 2. But it doesn’t, and Semple’s story starts to unravel. Short of spoiling the ending, I’ll say this: from her disappearance onward, I could suspend my disbelief no longer.

My problems with Where’d You Go, Bernadette, however, started much earlier. Refreshing though it was, the format of the book itself didn’t quite work for me. At times, I bought it completely, whereas in other cases I found reason to question it. In other words, not every snippet of correspondence is created equal.

Some I felt the story could’ve done without. Others weren’t as well-written as the rest. And, in general, it all felt pretty samey. No matter who as talking, and no matter the form his or her correspondence took, the differences were negligible.

Yet, that being said, I also feel almost as if the book could’ve been improved by cutting out Bee’s input. Few will even go so far as to entertain that thought, saying it was essential to the plot, but I never connected to, or particularly liked, Bee.

Plus, a story told entirely through correspondence is much more ambitious and, thus, appeals to me more than the book as is. There would be a far greater chance for failure, but I would’ve been interested to see Semple at least try.

In short, it was a very hot-and-cold book (pun intended) for me. Disappointing, but with enough promise for me to consider giving Semple another shot.

 

Travis Smith’s blog, containing this review, as well as others, photography, and more, can be found here.

Scootsa1000’s #CBR5 Review 16: Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

faintingviolet’s #CBR5 review #7: Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria SempleSo many other Cannonballers have read this one, there isn’t much left for me to say. So I’ll keep it brief.

Bee’s mom, Bernadette, disappears under mysterious circumstances. She’s suffered for years in a city that she doesn’t love, surrounded by people that she thought she hated. She left a failed career behind her in Los Angeles and now lets her husband — a big player at Microsoft — be the star of the family.

The story is told through letters, emails, transcribed TED talks, magazine articles, interviews, and other correspondence — some directly from Bernadette, and some just about her. And young genius Bee uses this paper trail to try and find out what happened to her mother and where she could be now.

While I didn’t love the ending (really, the whole Antarctica storyline was a bit much for me), I did love pretty much every other thing about this book. I loved the hilariously nasty emails that went back and forth between the other moms at Bee’s school (this is why I don’t get too involved with the PTA at our local elementary school!), and also enjoyed the increasingly crazed emails sent from Bernadette to her “virtual assistant” in India.

Completely original and entertaining. Glad I finally got around to it. Thanks Cannonball friends!!

You can read more of my review on my blog.

Even Stevens’s #CBR5 Review #2: Where’d You Go, Bernadette

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I’ve been having a hard time sitting down to write this review because I’m not quite sure what to say. I picked this one up after hearing rave reviews from several fellow Cannonballers. Admittedly, this may have unrealistically raised my expectations about the book (a habit you would think I would have broken by now, but nope).   While it was a good book, it didn’t grab me like I had hoped it would.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette focuses on a family of three living in Seattle: Elgin, a Microsoft mogul, his wife Bernadette, a quirky and brilliant (but retired) architect and their daughter, Bee. Bernadette hates the local school moms (always referring to them as”gnats”) and they return the disdain.  This rivalry of sorts is what drives much of the book, as well as Bernadette’s offbeat personality and the situations she gets herself into.  Several events culminate into the titular event, Bernadette disappears shortly before Christmas. This novel is told mostly in epistolary form (which I normally am not a huge fan of, but it works well here) by Bee, who has compiled any and all correspondence relating to her mother and what led to her disappearance.

I did enjoy this book, Semple is a great writer and there were some truly funny and clever things going on. I think that’s my problem  – I can appreciate the content and the writing, but at the end of the day it’s a book I just liked, not loved or hated, and I think those can be the hardest to write about.   Bee is absolutely the best part of this novel; she’s smart and sweet and clever and any parts involving her were a joy to read. I had some issues with other plotlines in the novel, some are just downright outrageous (which I think is the intention), and others are more mundane but just as unbelievable.

I wish I had loved this book, but for me it’s going down in the “like” category. If we could give half stars, this one would be a 3.5.