March Reading Recap: In Like A Lion, Out Like A Hedgehog

They say March comes in like a lion, out like a lamb, and I guess that was sort of true when it came to my literary pursuits. Things started out strong with The Last Girlfriend on Earth and The Happiness Project (reviews here and here), petered off with a couple of duds in the middle, and then ended with a hedgehog.

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Have no idea what the hell I am talking about? Read on to find out!

“The Love Song of Johnny Valentine” by Teddy Wayne

11-year-old pop star Johnny Valentine seems to have it all: a successful music career, the admiration of tweens worldwide, a killer hairdo. But is fame really all it’s cracked up to be?

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The Love Song of Johnny Valentine attempts to answer this very question by following Johnny and his motley entourage on tour across America, tackling such hard-hitting issues as broken homes, body image and child exploitation along the way.

Think Never Say Never, but with more words.

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While The Love Song makes some good arguments about our celebrity obsessed culture and paints an excellent picture of a complicated mother/child relationship, I had a really hard time believing Johnny as narrator. I mean, I get that he was precocious and mature for his age or whatever, but I still don’t know many 11 year olds who contemplate “the meaning of it all” the way he did.

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I also wish there had been more of a storyline, rather than just a running narrative of Johnny’s tour. There was a bit thrown in there about his attempts to find his deadbeat dad, but it sort of seemed like an afterthought to give the book some semblance of a plot.

This book received a lot of great reviews (including in The New York Times) so maybe I’m missing something- but it definitely was not my favourite. I felt like it was trying too hard to be meaningful and profound, but the execution just fell short.

I give it: 2/5 Intellectual DachshundsID2

So Damn Lucky by Deborah Coonts

Lucky O’Toole has a lot on her plate: not only is she the head of customer relations at a Las Vegas hotel, she’s also trying to save a failing relationship with a rock star while at the same time fielding romantic pursuits from a sexy fraud investigator and a 5-star French Chef. The last thing she needs is to be pulled into a murder investigation. But that’s exactly what happens after a hotel magician disappears right under her nose! So Damn Lucky follows Lucky and her improbable cast of sidekicks as they chase leads all over Las Vegas- all the while being pulled deeper into the world of magic, secret societies, and of course- romance.
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Let me start by saying, I don’t know what the hell I was thinking when I bought this book. I wandered into Chapters looking for something to read on the plane to Las Vegas, and the lonely looking middle-aged sales lady recommended this book. I guess that should have been my first clue. Or, you know, the fact that the main character’s name was LUCKY FREAKING O’TOOLE.

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Anyway, this book was complete garbage. I had to bribe myself with snacks just to get through the final chapters. Too many characters, flawed plotlines, unrealistic dialogue, I could go on, but I won’t torture you with more.

I give it: 1/5 Intellectual Dachshunds:

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The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

RenΓ©e Michel seems, by all accounts, your ordinary concierge. Fat, cranky and ostensibly ordinary, the residents of her bougie Paris apartment building have no idea she harbours a secret passion for literature, classical music and Japanese culture.

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And then there’s Paloma, the 12-year-old child genius who lives upstairs from Renee. Paloma is convinced that life isn’t worth living and has decided to commit suicide and set her family’s apartment on fire on her 13th birthday. Until then she will keep a journal of “profound thoughts” documenting the last days of her life.

Thrown into the mix is a wealthy, cultured Japanese man who has recently moved into the building and takes a special interest in our unassuming concierge. The Elegance of the Hedgehog tells the story of each of these characters, and what happens when their worlds collide.

I had heard some polarizing accounts of this book from my friends; some loved it, others felt it was too pretentious and philosophical. I fell somewhere in the middle. I enjoyed reading it (so much that I read the entire thing in one sitting) and it made me reflect on a lot of issues- class, culture, hypocrisy, etc. Plus, call me a sucker, but I also found it pretty romantic.

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At the same time, sometimes the philosophical/existential prose was a bit much for me. I mean, an entire chapter devoted to rain? Phenomenology?

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To borrow a line from another review I read: “if this novel were a piece of furniture, it would be an ikea bestseller: popular, but not likely to be passed down the generations”. And that’s why I give it:

3/5 Intellectual Daschunds

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Question of the Day: Have you read any of these books? What have you read lately?

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19 thoughts on “March Reading Recap: In Like A Lion, Out Like A Hedgehog

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  1. I’ve been very UNintellectual in that I haven’t read anything lately. (I hate admitting that, it’s like telling someone you haven’t brushed your teeth in a while.) But I do want to read Gone Girl–that’s probably next on my list.

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  2. March was Nigeria month for me.
    -“419” a novel by Will Ferguson, about Nigerian internet scams – won Giller Prize last year.
    -“There Was A Country: A Personal History of Biafra”, Chinua Achebe’s (RIP to this wonderful man) memoir of the Nigerian Civil War and his role in the short-lived state of Biafra.
    -“Open City” by Nigerian author Teju Cole.

    Of these Cole’s was the best. A short, somewhat plotless novel about walking around post-colonial, post-911 New York. The main character is something of a flaueur, who gets into conversations with strangers, and reflects on architecture, classical music, the state of the world and his childhood in Nigeria.

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    1. Is 419 funny? It sounds serious but I’ve only read funny books by Will Ferguson (I.e. Canadian Pie). The Open City one sounds cool- mostly cause I too fancy myself a bit of a flaneur. Do you read books about a different country each month, or are you just on a Nigeria kick?

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  3. 419 is not funny at all. Definitely serious.

    Was just a coincidence. Had them all sitting around my house as Christmas gifts, so decided to read back-to-back-to-back.

    DZ and I had a flaneur afternoon yesterday in Leslieville. Spring is definitely flauer-season. You should come next time.

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  4. Thanks for the reviews breezy! I did a masters research project on phenomenology and I really got into it!! I think is like the hedgehog book…
    Feel free to mail it to me πŸ™‚
    …since you own it already and we’re related..

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    1. Lol I actually borrowed it from a coworker and had to give it back… But I do know a certain someone whose bday is coming up! You’ll have to give me a crash course in phenomenology next time I’m home

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  5. Oh my. I am very surprised you managed to finish the second one. Just from the plotline, I’m thinking, “….how????” I think you are a very brave soul.

    The third one sounds really interesting, I probably want to add that to my to be read list. And the hedgehog at the top of your post is adorable. He has the cutest little ears!

    I was hitting a rut with both of my books I was reading so bought and read two short fiction compilations by Chris F. Holm. “8 Pounds” was fantastic, and I am still reading “Dead Letters”. They’re both 100 pages or less and go quickly, but are quite fantastic. Would definitely recommend them both. Plus, they’re both super cheap on the Kindle store. There’s a fantastic review of them here: http://insatiablebooksluts.com/2013/04/03/reviews-8-pounds-and-dead-letters-by-chris-f-holm/

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  6. I know it’s wrong to judge a book by its cover, but So Damn Lucky’s cover should have been enough of a hint. I’m as happy as your dachshund that you chose to give the book 1 out of 5 instead of the .25 that it probably deserved

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  7. I haven’t read any of your selections, and I’ve been to busy to read anything worth mentioning, but your reviews were awesome, dear lady, so my literary quota has been filled!
    Thank you.

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  8. I got to read a whole book (not written for kids) called What the Body Remembers by Shauna Singh Baldwin set in 1940s India as the British prepare to leave. It focuses on two women, a first & second wife, their struggles as a result of their position, gender, nature, culture, and religion…I couldn’t put it down and I missed the characters. for days!

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  9. I LOVED “The Elegance of the Hedgehog”, but that’s probably because I am pretentious AND philosophical. One of my best friends hated it and couldn’t finish it. Sadly (?), I judge her for it. πŸ˜‰

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