October might have not been a very extensive literary month, but I did manage to get a few good page turns in.
Grendel’s Guide to Love and War – A.E. Kaplan
I saw this cover and immediately chuckled. Not going to lie, I definitely will pick up a book based on its cover.
Tom Grendel lives a quiet life with his veteran father in a senior citizen community. At least, it’s quiet until the new next door neighbors decide to throw wild parties sans parental supervision every night. There’s Rex, the obnoxious jock, Wolf, the older brother ‘supposedly’ in charge, and their sister Willow, who’s not Tom’s manic-pixie-dream-girl. But the parties trigger Tom’s father’s crippling PTSD, forcing him to take a job in Florida while Tom’s left to put an end to all this madness.
When they refuse to shut down the parties, a prank war ensues. Like a hoard of smelly pigs, commandeered stereos, a gang of elderly women armed with walkers, and an exploding volcano in the middle of Virginia prank war.
Kaplan’s story is charming and amazingly witty, while also being real and memorably heartbreaking. It’s actually a modern twist on the classic Beowulf – you know, that epic you had to read in high school about sinewy monsters and the guy with the sword. But don’t worry, this one will definitely not put you to sleep. The book itself takes place over the course of just a few weeks, so it’s perfectly paced for readers who may not enjoy dragged out plot lines.
“An outstanding YA novel balancing comedy with substantial themes of love, death, and healing.” —SLJ, starred review
I laughed while reading this book in public. Like, really loud.
Hemingway vs. Fitzgerald – Scott Donaldson
I thought I’d change it up a bit and dive into some nonfiction this month. While I’ve read, and enjoyed, a lot of their work, I knew little about the authors themselves or about their friendship – a friendship fueled by admiration, jealousy, and too much liquor.
Donaldson does a wonderful job getting down into the gritty bits of their lives like Fitzgerald’s alcoholic addiction, Hemingway’s depression, Zelda’s deteriorating mental health, and Fitzgerald and Hemingway’s somewhat toxic relationship. Society likes to romanticize both of their lives when, in fact, there was nothing really remotely “romantic” about them. Both writers had their vices, though whether they lead to pure literary genius or their deaths (or both) is up to opinion.