ARC Review: Bream Gives Me Hiccups by Jesse Eisenberg

Bream Gives Me Hiccups by Jesse EisenbergAuthor:  Jesse Eisenberg
Genre: Short stories, humor
Publisher: Grove Press
Publication Date: September 8, 2015
256 pages, hardcover

Check out the full synopsis on Goodreads.

NOTE: I was provided with an e-ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Grove Atlantic for letting me read this!

I don’t know about you, but anytime I see that an actor or musician or whatever has written a book, I’m pretty skeptical. I’ve read a lot of books by “famous” people that really should’ve stayed on that person’s computer. But I loved Jesse Eisenberg in Zombieland, Adventureland, and Now You See Me, and I researched him a bit and saw that he’s actually a playwright as well as an actor. So he had me intrigued, as did the summary of Bream Gives Me Hiccups. I thought, “Why not? I’m probably not going to get approved for this one anyway.” And then I did. And then I read the book. And now I need more from Jesse Eisenberg.

Okay, no, it’s not the greatest short story collection I’ve ever read, but I’m seriously impressed with Jesse Eisenberg’s writing ability. He’s obviously talented, and his stories are intelligent, funny, and well-written. I updated my Goodreads status after almost every story with my immediate and initial thoughts upon finishing each one.

Bream Gives Me Hiccups updates

Note that I used words like “hilarious” with almost every single update. My absolute favorite story was the very first one, “Restaurant Reviews from a Privileged Nine-Year-Old”. It was dry, emotional, and got me so pumped to read the rest of the collection. I do think they did a bit of a disservice by beginning the collection with what is obviously the strongest story, but I don’t even care. I loved this one.

Another favorite was “If I Was Fluent In…” I literally laughed out loud SO hard and loudly that a patron at the library asked me if I was okay. HA! (Not a spoiler, but if you do read, watch out for the Indian section of this story – LOL!) When I read short story collections, I tend to read a story here and there but not straight through. NOT with this one! I didn’t want to stop.

The bottom line: I’ve got to mention that there were a few stories that I honestly wouldn’t have missed had they not been included, but overall, Eisenberg’s collection is seriously funny, honest, intelligent, and engrossing. He’s obviously talented, and I’m looking forward to what’s next from him.

Rating: 7.5 – between pretty good and freaking fantastic

Waiting on Wednesday: Bream Gives Me Hiccups by Jesse Eisenberg

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine in which we share a book that we are eagerly anticipating!

Bream Gives Me Hiccups by Jesse EisenbergPublisher: Grove Press

Author: Jesse Eisenberg

Release date: September 8, 2015

Synopsis from Goodreads: Bream Gives Me Hiccups: And Other Stories is the whip-smart fiction debut of Academy Award-nominated actor Jesse Eisenberg. Known for his iconic film roles but also for his regular pieces in the New Yorker and his two critically acclaimed plays, Eisenberg is an emerging voice in fiction.

Taking its title from a group of stories that begin the book, Bream Gives Me Hiccups moves from contemporary L.A. to the dormrooms of an American college to ancient Pompeii, throwing the reader into a universe of social misfits, reimagined scenes from history, and ridiculous overreactions. In one piece, a tense email exchange between a young man and his girlfriend is taken over by the man’s sister, who is obsessed with the Bosnian genocide (The situation reminds me of a little historical blip called the Karadordevo agreement); in another, a college freshman forced to live with a roommate is stunned when one of her ramen packets goes missing (she didn’t have “one” of my ramens. She had a chicken ramen); in another piece, Alexander Graham Bell has teething problems with his invention (I’ve been calling Mabel all day, she doesn’t pick up! Yes, of course I dialed the right number – 2!).

United by Eisenberg’s gift for humor and character, and grouped into chapters that each open with an illustration by award-winning cartoonist Jean Jullien, the witty pieces collected in Bream Gives Me Hiccups explore the various insanities of the modern world, and mark the arrival of a fantastically funny, self-ironic, and original voice.

Why I’m excited: I haven’t seen Jesse Eisenberg’s most famous movies like The Social Network, but I LOVED him in Zombieland and Adventureland. I can’t say I know much about his writing, but this collection of short stories sounds really wonderful – funny, smart, and interesting. I’m always hesitant to read books written by actors/famous people because a lot of the time they’re just given book deals because they’ll sell books, but Eisenberg is actually an experienced author, and I’m really looking forward to trying this one.

Review: The Lady and the Fox by Kelly Link (My True Love Gave to Me)

Yesterday I told you that I’ll be reviewing one story a day from My True Love Gave to Me until Christmas, sort of like my own “twelve days of Christmas.” I thought it’d also be fun to review one story a day as well. I reviewed Rainbow Rowell’s “Midnights” yesterday.

Today I’m reviewing Kelly Link’s story, “The Lady and the Fox.”

My True Love Gave to Me     IMG_20141214_172749

This one was weird, you guys. Probably two pages in I wrote this note: “Writing style might kill me.” I’ve never read anything by Kelly Link – I don’t think I’d actually heard of her until I saw her name in the book, so I didn’t know what to expect. Let me give you an example of the writing style:

The room is full of adult Honeywells talking about the things that Honeywells always talk about, which is to say everything, horses and houses and God and grouting, tanning salons and – of course – theater. Always theater. Honeywells like to talk. When Honeywells have no lines to speak, they improvise. All the world’s a stage. – page 24

The reason it bothered me is it’s a mix of super long sentences and really, really short ones. It was strange to read and took a while to get used to, but by the end, I didn’t even notice it anymore.

On the other hand, there were some descriptions I really liked, such as “Unnaturally natural” (page 25), which is just really fun to say, and “Snow is predicted, snow falls” (page 27), which is simple and straightforward.

The story is also strange, but in a good way. Miranda is the goddaughter of Elspeth Honeywell, and as her mother is in jail, she spends every Christmas with Elspeth and her son Daniel. The Christmas they are both 11, they see a man standing outside the window, watching. Through the years, Miranda continues to meet with the man – Fenny – but only when it snows and only on Christmas. He never ages, and she finds out that he’s stuck with “the Lady.” I’m sure you can predict what happens – which wasn’t nearly as annoying as you’d think. I enjoyed the story and was as charmed by Fenny as Miranda was.

I wasn’t expecting the fantasy aspect to the story, but I just really loved the magical bits. The scene near the end when everything comes to a head was really cool. So: somewhat annoying writing style but really cool story.

Review: Midnights by Rainbow Rowell (My True Love Gave to Me)

When I bought My True Love Gave to Me (edited by Stephanie Perkins and including short stories by wonderful authors like Rainbow Rowell, Holly Black, and Stephanie herself), I knew I wanted to read one of the twelve stories each day until Christmas. You know, have my own “twelve days of Christmas.” 🙂 Then I thought you guys might enjoy mini reviews of each of the stories, instead of one review of the whole book, which might exclude some of the stories. At least, I hope you’ll enjoy that. Because that’s what I’m going to do. That’s what I’m doing. Yeah… I hope you’ll stick around and read all twelve – one a day until Christmas.

My True Love Gave to Me     IMG_20141214_163141

The first story in My True Love Gave to Me is by Rainbow Rowell. It’s called “Midnights” and it documents several New Year’s Eves at “almost midnight” between Mags and Noel – from the beginning in 2014 when Mags is apparently hiding from Noel, back to when the met in 2011, and then through the New Year’s Eve parties for the next two years until we find ourselves back in 2014.

This story is very evidently by Rainbow Rowell. Okay, I’ve only read one book by her (Attachments, which I loved), but the writing was Rowell – hope that makes sense. She’s got wonderful descriptions that I just love, like this one:

He looked like his teeth were too wide for his mouth, and his mouth was too wide for his face. – page 4

Maybe it isn’t super beautiful or anything, but I can just picture Noel perfectly. In my opinion, that’s the mark of a great writer. The story is also funny in Rowell’s somewhat dry and not overly obvious way. An example:

Mags felt it when Noel walked in. (He came in through the back door, and a bunch of cold air came in with him.) – page 13

My only complaint with this story is that it was too short. Because of that, it felt rushed in parts and it was harder to see the growth that occurred in the characters. Mostly, I just really wanted this to be a much longer story – you know, a book. I could’ve read a lot more about these characters.

Check back tomorrow when I’ll be reviewing the second story in the book, Kelly Link’s “The Lady and the Fox.”