‘Naturally Tan’ by Tan France

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Television personality and fashionista Tan France of Netflix’s Queer Eye has written his first book, Naturally Tan.

France covers hot topics such as race, sexuality, and depression while also getting in-depth on some of lighter topics like (unsurprisingly) fashion, dating, and shoes. What makes the book so unique and inspiring is France himself. His tone of voice, his compassion, and his blunt attitude make the reader feel like she’s a friend or at least an interviewee.

France, an Englishman with a heritage in Pakistan, is one of the first openly gay Muslim men on television right now. Throughout Naturally Tan, he talks about his struggles with being himself in a society that looks down on a lot of what makes him who he is. Above and beyond his heritage and sexuality, though, France makes the book more about providing the inspiration to be who you are than it is about glorifying himself for being who he is.

The book, like its title and author, is full of smart and witty phrases, anecdotes, and advice (both fashion and life) from France. While it can often read like a stream of consciousness, or even a one-way conversation, Naturally Tanhas the intrigue and momentum to keep you reading.

France is a voice we don’t often hear from, even in our more modern (and we hope) progressive age, but it’s one we need to hear more of.

Slated for release from St. Martin’s Press on May 14, 2019, you can preorder a copy of Naturally Tan by Tan France at your local bookstore.

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FTC Disclaimer: This book was given to me in return for a fair and honest review of the text.

‘Bowlaway’ by Elizabeth McCracken

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Bowlaway by Elizabeth McCracken is the acclaimed author’s latest release. This multigenerational novel explores themes of love, connection, and imperfection all within the setting of a bowling alley.

McCracken starts the novel off with the finding of a body in a cemetery. The body though is alive, and its keeper, Bertha Truitt comes to wholly change the town of Salford, Massachusetts. Against all odds and all societal norms, Bertha, a white woman, marries an African American doctor when segregation is still very much alive and opens a candlepin bowling alley where women of the town come to bowl and show their worth as more than just housewives.

Over the span of the novel, characters die, leave, and keep coming back. Through a series of mysteries and missed connections, the bowling alley sees a number of new owners with new agendas as Bertha’s family, both blood and not, try to unravel their inherited mysteries and find their own place in the world.

While the story is intriguing, I often found myself unable to be fully pulled into Bowlaway. Much of the novel is told as summary as we are whisked through time to new places and new periods where the characters are often unfamiliar and unknowable because of the constant shifting. Further, while the plot of the novel has unbounding potential for interest, the stakes for the characters in many of the scenes feel distant or not wholly there.

A quick read with an element of humor and remorse, Bolwawayis slated to be released by HarperCollins on February 5, 2019. You can preorder a copy of Bowlawayby Elizabeth McCracken at your local bookstore.

Read more fiction book reviews at Centered on Books.

FTC Disclaimer: This book was given to me in return for a fair and honest review of the text.

‘The Island of Always’ by Stephen Evans

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Stephen Evan’s the The Island of Always is the continuation of his acclaimed novel The Marriage of True Minds originally published in 2008.

The books’ protagonists, Lena and Nick, are partners? Lovers? Enemies? Divorced? Even that’s a question. The two it seems are constantly trying to figure out what they are to each other. All they know is that they love each other, most of the time, and they can’t seem to live without each other, except when they are driving each other literally or metaphorically insane. Both are environmental attorneys who once owned a law practice together fighting the injustices of Minneapolis’ less enlightened. Then they got divorced, and either before or after the divorce, Nick might have developed a mental illness.

At the outset of The Marriage of True Minds (which is also included in this edition of The Island of Always), Nick is committed to a mental institution after relocating 144 lobsters to the mayor of Minneapolis’ personal pool. This kicks off a new chapter in Nick and Lena’s romantic comedy as they realize that despite their short comings, they may still love each other.

An echo to Cervantes’ Don Quixote in more than one way, The Island of Always, while comedic and lighthearted in most of its telling, does explore some deeper themes. Evan’s seems to suggest that the definition of insanity may be fluid, indefinable really, man-made definitely. Similarly, love is equally indefinable, always illusive, and never perfect, normal, or what you expected.

Evan’s brings his experience as a playwright into the novel with his descriptive and vivid sentences. The reader can always see the character: exactly what she’s doing and the emotions crossing her face. A fun and utterly enjoyable read, The Island of Always is the perfect feel-good book to boost your spirits and make you think a little differently about your life, even if only for a moment.

Slated for release by Time Being Media, LLC in January of 2019, you can preorder a copy of The Island of Always from your local bookstore.

Read more fiction book reviews at Centered on Books.

FTC Disclaimer: This book was given to me in return for a fair and honest review of the text.

‘If Cats Disappeared from the World’ by Genki Kawamura

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If Cats Disappeared from the World by Genki Kawamura is a fun and unusual novel. Originally published in Japan, the international bestseller, translated by Eric Selland, is being released in the United States in 2019.

The narrator of Kawamura’s story is a postman who opens the novel by telling the reader that he has just been diagnosed with brain cancer. Suddenly, in the throes of contemplation about what to do with the little time he has left on Earth, the postman is visited by the devil. The devil offers him a deal: one day in exchange for one thing gone from the world. The narrator weighs his options: give up the material things of the world or give up his life. Day One, he decides, he can give up phones: the devil’s first price.

In a day without phones, the postman discovers that maybe he would’ve been better off without phones all along. He meets up with the woman he once loved and reminisces about the time they spent together as college students: mostly on the phone. After the day, which isn’t all bad, he decides to try round two with the devil. This goes on as the narrator grapples with what it means to lose the objects of his life and his life itself. He travels back in his memory to times that were happy, times he wished had never happened, and he begins to pull apart what it means to regret, to have joy, and to be alive.

Meant to be a feel-good exploration of life and our purpose in living, Kawamura’s If Cats Disappeared from the World accomplishes just that. While at times the novel can feel overly moralizing, it is nonetheless a silly and deeply introspective book that leaves the reader asking questions about the value of a life.

Slated for release from Flatiron Books in March 2019, If Cats Disappeared from the World by Genki Kawamura is available for preorder at your local bookstore.

Read more fiction book reviews at Centered on Books.

FTC Disclaimer: This book was given to me in return for a fair and honest review of the text.

 

‘How to Behave in a Crowd’ by Camille Bordas

how-to-behave-in-a-crowd-bordasA novel where everything and nothing is said all at once without the slightest regard for conformity, How to Behave in a Crowd is both a hilarious and gloomy collection of pages.

Author Camille Bordas follows the life of a family in France over the course of a very short time during which a very lot happens. From realized dreams to actualized death, the Mazal family finds its way lost in a tangle of happiness and despair without often being able to distinguish between the two. Told from the perspective of the youngest of six siblings, Isidore, How to Behave in a Crowd is a novel about so much more than the words let on.

Told in a stark and rather dry tone, Isidore takes on the persona of someone who, despite what the title suggests, often does not know how to behave in a crowd. His thoughts are based in pure reason without much emotion, yet his actions, more often than not take into account the people around him. He, unlike his brothers and sisters, is not a child prodigy working towards a first or second PhD after skipping years of schooling. Instead, Isidore is the odd one out. The one who does infuse compassion into his encounters with others (unlike his siblings), the one who takes everything literally, including the advice given to him by homeless people who are clearly taking advantage of him.

Over the course of the novel, Isidore, sees people he loves achieve their dreams, lose their passion, and sometimes even die. Throughout his experiences, he is always looking at others, always trying to determine their thoughts, always trying to impress them without ever realizing that he has something to offer.

In the end, we can only infer what Isidore has learned from his experiences, as always he won’t really tell us what’s going on in his mind, or maybe he doesn’t know what’s going on beneath the literal thoughts that fill his head, but we know he’s learned something important. Bordas does a beautiful job of portraying the very real experiences of the human condition through the literal though never static view of Isidore.

Published by Tim Duggan Books in 2017, How to Behave in a Crowd is available for purchase at your local bookstore.

Read more fiction book reviews at Centered on Books.

FTC Disclaimer: This book was given to me in return for a fair and honest review of the text.

‘Extraordinary Adventures’ by Daniel Wallace

extraordinary-adventures-wallaceExtraordinary Adventures is the forthcoming novel from Daniel Wallace, author of Big Fish. Wallace brings all the wit, humor, and superb writing style from his former works to Extraordinary Adventures.

Wallace’s main character, Edsel Bronfman is a thirty-four-year-old recluse of sorts. Bronfman has a job, sure, and an apartment of his own, but he has virtually no friends besides his ailing mother. When Bronfman wins a trip to Destin, Florida, though, he begins to make a change, or at least to want to. The thing is that in order to cash in on his trip to Florida, he needs to bring a companion, a romantic companion.

Suddenly, extraordinary things begin happening to Bronfman: he speaks to a woman at the reception desk at his work, his house gets robbed and who appears but yet another woman, a police officer no less. Such out of the ordinary things continue to happen, and Bronfman sees them mostly as acts of destiny, not his own freewill.

The book continues in this manner weaving unforgettable characters in and out of the story. There’s Bronfman’s mother who is suffering from dementia, and who is perhaps the most spectacular character of all. She is a strong willed, oddity of a mother to say the least, her biggest concern always being that her son has fun, messes around with women, and lives his life. There’s also Thomas Edison, Bronfman’s criminal, next-door neighbor, and his cohort of vagabonds and drug addicts. Among them is Coco, a young Japanese girl who Bronfman befriends though he’s sure the woman and has stolen his hat. He’s seen her wear it.

Bronfman himself is often a loveable, pitiful character who the reader cheers for throughout. However, there are aspects of “typical” male behavior that detract from Bronfman’s appeal, especially because they seem so out of character for the kind and caring man. Things like instantly falling for any woman who is pretty. Things like his constant attraction to women even while dating someone else. Though these aspects of Bronfman can be frustrating, if you take a step back and realize the man has never had a serious relationship and thinks every new feeling of lust is love, it’s a bit easier to understand his thoughts and actions.

In sum, Extraordinary Adventures is a fun, fast-paced, and extremely well-written novel.

Slated for release by St. Martin’s Press in May of 2017, you can pre-order your copy of Extraordinary Adventures by Daniel Wallace at your local bookstore.

Read more fiction book reviews at Centered on Books.

FTC Disclaimer: This book was given to me in return for a fair and honest review of the text.