Saturday, December 29, 2012

Can You Believe It? - Another Winner! (Plus One That's Not So Good)

I have finished my last book before the end of the year.  I've got 5 reviews that I need to post by Monday.  Here are 2 - one is in my top 11 for the year (either a 3.5 or a 4.0), and the other is one of my least favorites.  Let's do the good one 1st.

J.R. Moehringer - The Tender Bar.  The author is a pulitzer prize-winning feature writer who was working at the Los Angeles Times when he received his award.  This book is a memoir of Moehringer's childhood/adolescence/young adulthood in Manhasset, Long Island.  The book centers on a local bar with a legendary owner in a hard-drinking town.  Moehringer starts going there when he's just a child (in the daytime only) and continues to frequent it frequently through the years.  The people that inhabit the bar are true characters, and the bar is a character on its own.

You all know that non-fiction is not my favorite (I only read 3 this year), and I typically like memoirs even less.  But I'm glad I read this one.  After being a regular customer of Recycle Bookstore, in Campbell, for a couple of years now, Stacey, the store manager, handed The Tender Bar to me a little over a month ago.  She's never done that before.  She obviously strongly suspected that I would like it.  Boy, was she right.

There is so much that goes on with Moehringer growing up, that it's really hard to isolate specific incidents.  Let me just mention a few highlights from the book.

1.  The 1st time he goes into the bar is page 63.  Moehringer does a great job of building up to that, since the scenes in the bar are really the focus of the book.
2.  Page 175 is the 1st time he goes into the bar as a legal drinker.  Again, this is a big milestone.
3.  He is a very good writer.  When he is a young boy, and watching an adult league softball game, Moehringer says that one of the players has a "cummerbund of blubber."  That's good stuff.
4.  Besides being very funny, he also has a number of poignant moments.  In fact, I set a personal record.  I actually cried 3 times - on the same page!  Are you kidding me?  That's crazy.

I have one small criticism.  After he graduates from college, which is page 221 of 368, the book slows down a little bit.  It's not dramatic, but it's noticeable.  This is all that prevented me from giving it a 4.0 instead of the 3.5 that I ended up rating it.  Let's face it, a 3.5 is darn good.  If you get a chance, read this book.  It was published in 2005.  He also spent 2 years collaborating with Andre Agassi on the latter's memoir, Open, and I know that he just came out with an historical novel based on the life of the bank robber, Willie Sutton.  It's called, appropriately enough, Sutton.  I know I will read it along with  anything else he writes, fiction or non-fiction.

That's the good news.  The less than good news is a book called The Tree of Forgetfulness, by Pam Durban.  The book is based on a true story about a racist hate crime in South Carolina that took place in 1926.  The book goes back and forth between the year the crime took place and 1943, when the protagonist is in the hospital, in a coma, dying.

How did I get a hold of this book you ask (you didn't ask?)?  Actually, it was sent to me by a publicist associated with Rayme Waters.  She sent me 2 books - Tree, that was published earlier this year, and an ARC that's due out in March.  I don't really have any criticism of this one; I just didn't much care for it.  I think the publicist had the mistaken notion that I like books that are complex and intellectual, when, in fact, I prefer books that are easy to read and comprehend.

CONFESSION:  Since I never look at the flap/summary of a book before reading it, I didn't realize that The Tree of Forgetfulness is a true story until I was finished.  That might have made a little bit of a difference to me if I had known that ahead of time.

NEW PUBLISHER:  My rep from HarperCollins, Danielle Plafsky, who has been sending me ARC's for a year now, has moved on to Random House, the Knopf imprint.  So, it looks like I will now be reading ARC's from both Random House/Knopf and HarperCollins.  This is in addition to the publicist, Lizzie McQuillen, who has been sending me ARC's periodically for authors she represents; and, now, the publicist that came from Rayme.  I love this insider stuff.


  1. My mother loved The Tender Bar but I haven't read it yet. The author has a novel out now - Sutton - that I just read and enjoyed.

  2. Glad to hear about Sutton. I was planning on reading it but am glad to hear that somebody liked it.