These are reviews originally posted to Amazon as customer reviews. They're intended for entertainment and informational purposes only. (Apologies for any typos, bad grammar, or offensive language.) This isn't sponsored by Amazon or represent them in any way, although they do have a very nice site and I recommend checking it out for your next book purchase. Feel free to comment on the books if you've read them or tell me how much my reviews suck or whatever.
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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Cypress Lake

Cypress Lake
by Joe Basara
(4/5 stars)

I had this book on my To Read list for a while on Goodreads thanks to Ethan Cooper's marvelous review. Finally I decimated the virtual To Be Read pile on my Kindle enough that I decided to buy this. In part because it's less than a dollar and most big publisher books are eight to twelve times that much. I can at least say I got my dollar's worth.

Since the author likes to reference old TV shows, I find it appropriate to reference an old TV show, in this case "Scrubs" which ended only a couple years ago, so it isn't that old. Like that show this book takes place largely in a hospital and features a twentysomething main character who likes to daydream a lot and lust after his coworkers. Only Basara's book is a lot less wacky and sadly does not feature anyone as hilariously grumpy as Dr. Cox.

Though since this book takes place in 1977 a M*A*S*H reference might have been more appropriate. Actually I think that's one series the author doesn't manage to directly reference in the book. Anyway, Owen Cloud moves back to his old stomping grounds in rural Florida to work as an orderly at a hospital. He almost right away falls head over heels for one of his coworkers, but eventually moves on to another and then to what I'd call the "consolation prize" girl, the one who's been there all along but only at the end does Owen realize is available. (This is incidentally a trope I've used a number of times. Like this book for example: Virgin Territory)

Along the way Owen spends a lot of time daydreaming and philosophizing. The almost constant bombardment of literary quotes and TV/song references from the 50s-70s become irritating after a little while. They give the narrative an ADHD feel, as if the author can't focus on one scene so he keeps jumping from one tangent to another.

If you look past those there's a well-written book about small town life, coming of age, and finding love. Since it's apparently a debut effort it's not bad. If a little more focus were devoted to developing the story and characters and less to quotes and references, it would have the gritty small-town feel of a Richard Russo novel like Empire Falls.

Still for a buck you can do a lot worse.

That is all.        

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