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review 2017-03-18 19:14
"Los veraneantes", de Emma Straub. Todo muy bonito.
Los veraneantes - Emma Straub

Novelita sobre las vacaciones de una familia americana, que decide pasar el periodo estival en Mallorca. Todos se van allí con problemas de diversa índole, y oye, mano de santo, vuelven con todos los asuntos resueltos y en orden.

Es entretenido, pero sin más.

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review 2016-07-19 00:00
Modern Lovers
Modern Lovers - Emma Straub Please note that I gave this book 1.5 stars and rounded it up to 2 stars on Goodreads.

Something nice: I liked the cover and the first few chapters of the book actually flowed together okay. That said, this book was too all over the place for me to ever get a handle on while reading.

I am going to try to quickly summarize and apologize in advance if nothing makes any sense. Three longtime friends (Elizabeth, Andrew, and Zoe) all were part of a college band that wrote a hit song that their now dead friend (Lydia) is famous for she still gets kudos for even though Elizabeth was the one who wrote it.

Now in their 40s (I assume, I refuse to look up people's ages) the trio is asked about signing away their rights in order for a movie to be made about Lydia's life.

While that plot plays out, we also have Zoe unhappy with her decades long marriage to her wife Jane and is struggling with what to do next. Zoe's wife Jane is a chef who is primarily focused on work and jealous of anyone that Zoe pays attention to for more than 5 minutes.

Although Elizabeth is happy in her marriage, she is going through a case of what if's right now. Andrew is in the middle of a mid-life crisis that he is trying to cure by going to the most fake yoga teacher ever. Then we have Elizabeth and Andrew's son who has a long simmering crush on Jane and Zoe's daughter, Ruby.

So there are six people in this book and it was so not fun to have to read through six separate POVs. All of characters felt like they were in a different book.

Elizabeth was apparently a great songwriter, but the only clue readers are given is that she writes a song that keeps repeating the words "I am calm, calm, calm" and that's all we get. I mean if you are going to make a character a great songwriter, maybe have an actual song for readers to read.

Also we kept hearing about how the song Lydia is known for Mistress of Myself was great too, and once again, we don't see any lyrics to that song either. There was a lot of "tell" going on in this book and not enough show.

Zoe and Jane are barely in this book. Zoe apparently hasn't really loved her wife since their daughter was born. Since Ruby is now 18, that means she has stayed married to someone for almost 18 years she doesn't really care for at all. Jane is jealous and cooks. That's all I got about her character. The character of Harry was interesting, but seriously naive and gullible as anything. Ruby was almost an ass through the whole book. In the end, she seems to be the only one with any sense in this book.

The writing was just okay. Each chapter was pretty short. The overall plot about Lydia's song and movie didn't fit in this book at all. At one point I wondered why Emma Straub just didn't include Lydia's POV since everyone else was in here.

The flow was terrible. Trying to juggle six different character POVs just didn't work at all. The book was all over the place. Reading about two couples going through some hipster nonsense was not an engaging read. Reading about two teenagers wasn't interesting either. None of these people really had anything to complain about in their lives.

The setting of Brooklyn has never been so unappealing to me in my life. Nothing about Brooklyn comes alive in this book. Most of the action takes place in people's homes, a restaurant, or Harry and Zoe's SAT course. I needed something to make the story jump out at me. Instead everything falls flat.

The ending of this book wraps things up via newspaper articles and no, just no. I have a hard time believing any of these things since we don't seen an inking for the set-up to these stories except for Jane and Zoe.
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review 2016-07-01 20:15
The Vacationers: A Novel - Emma Straub

I read this book yesterday and it was an odd little venture. If you like portraitures of family life that don't really go anywhere, this is one of those stories. I feel like it was neither good nor bad. I listened on audiobook and had one uncomfortable moment where I was at a stop light when an extremely unexpected sex scene cropped up. Yikes! Sorry, surrounding motorists!

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review 2016-06-13 02:57
The book presents an interesting perspective on responsible parenting and marriage across a wide spectrum of characters.
Modern Lovers - Emma Straub

Modern Lovers, Emma Straub, author; Jen Tullock, narrator
This book is aptly titled. It covers heterosexual love, homosexual love and teenage love in the modern world of today where the rules governing basic values, morality and ethics have definitely morphed into a different species. It is a world that is more accommodating and accepting of different lifestyles and behaviors.
Three college friends who were once in a band called Kitty’s Mustache, are now 40 somethings living near each other in the modest Brooklyn neighborhood called Ditmas Park. Elizabeth and Andrew Marx are married. They are an interfaith couple. They have one child named Harry. Elizabeth is a realtor, but once she was the singer/songwriter of the group and Andrew was the bass player. Zoe Bennett and Jane Kahn are married and they have one child named Ruby Kahn-Bennett, a year older than Harry. Together they operate a restaurant called Hyacinth. They are an interracial, lesbian couple. Zoe was a member of the band who could play the piano and guitar.
Ruby and Harry are teenagers and close friends. Their relationship deepens as they struggle to discover who they are and who they want to become as adults. Some of the adults seem to be stuck in their own childhoods or in the need to return to that time of life as they grapple with their own aging and growing pains..
While in college, Elizabeth wrote a song made famous by a fourth member of their band, Lydia Greenbaum, who was the drummer and singer. The song, “Mistress of Myself” catapulted Lydia to fame, but like so many young famous entertainers, her life ended too soon. There is a movie being made about Lydia’s life, but Andrew and Elizabeth have not yet agreed to allow the song, a vital part of the movie, to be used in the film. Andrew doesn't want to have either his wife's past or his past behavior exposed on the screen for all the world to see, including his son and, perhaps, even Elizabeth. As secrets are revealed, they discover they may not know each other as well as they thought they did.
Zoe and Jane are not sure they want to remain together. Their daughter Ruby is a free spirit with purple hair and very little ambition for further education. They are very progressive parents who do very little regarding discipline, allowing Ruby a great deal of freedom, trusting her judgment which seems to leave a lot to be desired, but they are busy running the restaurant. They nurture her, but are very busy working and are rarely home. She is left pretty much To her own devices. She often stretches the rules to suit herself.
Ruby and Harry are friends, but Harry is a bit of a nerd. He usually follows the rules, but as his relationship with Ruby develops and he struggles to be less ordinary and predictable, he begins to break some pretty serious ones. All of the characters seem to be grappling with aging and growing pains with the adults yearning for the gaiety and freedom of the past and the teens yearning for the freedom of their future. Each, in his/her own way, begins to behave deceptively as a voice is given to the disappointment and misgivings they feel about the way their lives are turning out.
Although they all face major bumps in the road, the consequences for the misbehavior and poor choices do not seem to fit the circumstances or feel particularly realistic. In addition, the author created characters that seemed immature and overly preoccupied with sex, above all else. I thought the narrator overdid it a bit, at times, so that I felt as if she became more important than the character she portrayed.
On a positive note, the book was set in my old stomping grounds, in Brooklyn, so it brought back many memories of my own growing up and personal life crises, however, when I grew up, there were far more rules and regulations concerning appropriate behavior. We couldn’t think about running away to find ourselves. We had to face life a bit more responsibly and get a job to support ourselves. No one would think of turning to their parents for support. Rather we tried to help them, if we could.
The book made me wonder if the pendulum has not swung too far to the left, since all of the characters, young and old, seemed to be unhappy and unable to face life as adults or soon to be adults, unable to deal with life's problems without some kind of radical, sometimes thoughtless, sometimes illegal, sometimes inappropriately naive and most often selfish solutions. Perhaps too much freedom, with too little thought for the consequences, is really not a good long-term solution for all problems. Selfishness, self-satisfaction and self-interest seemed to be the reigning theme in the novel as young and old struggled with coming of age.

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review 2016-06-06 01:03
Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures - Emma Straub

SynopsisIn 1920, Elsa Emerson is born to the owners of the Cherry County Playhouse in Door County, Wisconsin. Elsa relishes appearing onstage, where she soaks up the approval of her father and the embrace of the audience. But when tragedy strikes her family, her acting becomes more than a child’s game of pretend. While still in her teens, Elsa marries and flees to Los Angeles. There she is discovered by Hollywood mogul Irving Green, who refashions her as an exotic brunette screen siren and renames her Laura Lamont. But fame has its costs, and while Laura tries to balance career, family, and personal happiness, she realizes that Elsa Emerson might not be gone completely. Ambitious and richly imagined, Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures is as intimate—and as bigger-than-life—as the great films of the golden age of Hollywood.



In many ways this is a story we all know: small-town girl aspires to be famous, runs away to Hollywood, changes her name, and actually beats the odds by becoming a star . . . for a while, at least. It's a story that borders on cliché, so rarely told well anymore that I almost never read novels like this. However, I was thoroughly impressed with Emma Straub's story collection, Other People We Married, that I decided to give her novels a try — starting with her debut, Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures. The synopsis (which can be seen above) didn't immediately grab me, but I figured Straub's writing would make up for it.


Boy, does it — not that the writing has to make up for anything, because once the reader gets into the meat of the story (beyond the description on the jacket), he or she will be totally and completely engrossed. No question. Straub truly brings the character of Laura Lamont to life, making this tale of a small town girl's search for fame — and the bumps in the road she must get over before, during, and after — one of the most fascinating stories I've ever had the privilege of experiencing.


Perhaps what is most striking about Straub's work is how she says so much in so little time — this is very much Laura Lamont's (or Elsa, as she's known in her pre-Hollywood years) coming-of-age tale, fully-fleshed in 300 pages. The reader follows her from her early years in life to late middle age. Her marriages, her kids, the films she makes, successes, failures. It's all so vivid — I felt as though I was living life in Hollywood circa 1943 right alongside Laura, Irving, and all the rest. Lamont is one of the most realistic characters I've read about in a long time, and that's refreshing. When she hurt, I felt hurt. When she felt she was on the cusp of greatness, success, bliss . . . Why, I felt optimistic about what the future held too.


I really can't recommend this novel highly enough. Emma Straub is a young author writing well beyond her years, and I'm eager to read more of her work.

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