Beautiful, poetic, and full of vivid and intensely evocative imagery. I'm sure that in the hands of a lesser writer, I would find the scattered styleBeautiful, poetic, and full of vivid and intensely evocative imagery. I'm sure that in the hands of a lesser writer, I would find the scattered style deeply annoying -- chapters full of often loosely connected paragraphs, almost little prose poems -- but Woodson has the skill to pull it off. Still, I'm enough of a traditionalist to long for a little more cohesion. ...more
Harry Houdini was a larger than life figure; his marriage to Bess Houdini has always been, in my mind, one of history's great tragic romances. Yet somHarry Houdini was a larger than life figure; his marriage to Bess Houdini has always been, in my mind, one of history's great tragic romances. Yet somehow Victoria Kelly has managed to make both seem petty and small. Now, I'm no expert on the Houdinis -- unless reading Wikipedia, listening to that super epic Kate Bush song, and being literally the only person to watch the show Houdini and Doyle grants one expertise. Nevertheless, Kelly's depiction of the couple felt wildly out of character to me: the way she writes them, neither Harry nor Bess even seems clever. They are pedestrian at best, awkward and gullible at worst. I didn't buy Kelly's characterization, so this book was never going to work for me.
It might have worked better, however, if the tone she was going for was gritty realism. Instead, this book attempts a spiritualist solution that even Arthur Conan Doyle would have found dopey. I strongly believe that this book, properly done, would have left me in tears (Kate Bush's song has made me a little sniffly from time to time); instead, I felt nothing the whole way through, except an urge to roll my eyes. There's no spark to the romance, no verve to the characters, and the ending is so cheesy it's likely to cause lactose intolerance. Where was the magic?...more
"Mature" is not a word one would usually apply to Lydia Bennet, but this was a surprisingly mature and imaginative take on Lydia's part of Pride and P"Mature" is not a word one would usually apply to Lydia Bennet, but this was a surprisingly mature and imaginative take on Lydia's part of Pride and Prejudice. That Farrant manages to accomplish this while staying true to the original story and creating her own lively, engaging narrative voice is truly impressive -- I picked this up while ordering, intending to do my due diligence by reading a few pages, and found I couldn't stop. Farrant finds depth in Lydia while still acknowledging her childishness and silliness. It helps to be a modern reader, aware that Lydia is a teenage girl who's likely extremely bored, but I don't think Farrant hammers in that point, or any other, too harshly. This book doesn't exactly provide Lydia with the happy ending one might want, nor does it (view spoiler)[fully redeem Wickham, much to my relief -- I'm not sure there would be a way to do that without going deeply OOC or soppy (hide spoiler)]. But this is a more positive spin on her fate, and her character. Plus: it's fun....more
Reminiscent of one of my favorite books, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks (right down to the coincidence of the main characters havingReminiscent of one of my favorite books, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks (right down to the coincidence of the main characters having the same first name!), but not nearly as good -- at least not for me. I loved all the female friendships, but I didn't find the romance convincing at all, and for whatever reason the familial relationships didn't quite ring true to me either. A parent's depression is a worthy topic for a young adult book, but something about the way it was handled here seemed too simplistic to me -- Mia's work is amazingly understanding and she doesn't get fired even though she doesn't go in for months; there's an "explanation" for the depression instead of it just being, you know, depression. And so forth. Also this book felt weirdly dated: I would have sworn it was written in the '90s, not in 2003, because Francesca's friends' references were all to '90s movies, music, and TV and there's rarely even mention of a computer. Maybe the '90s only reached Australia in the early aughts? (I grew up in Vermont, where for much of the '90s it was still the '80s, so I sympathize.)
Still: female friendships! I can't be too mad at a book that's delivering so well in that department....more
Lively middle grade historical fiction, set during the Great Depression on Key West. I never knew that the New Deal was responsible for making Key WesLively middle grade historical fiction, set during the Great Depression on Key West. I never knew that the New Deal was responsible for making Key West the tourist destination/artists' colony it is today, so there's some fascinating and unusual history at play here. Beans, the main character, has an engaging and quirky voice, but Holm introduces a lot of characters and plot threads, and some don't go anywhere, while others are resolved a bit too abruptly. But I think kids will be pulled along by this story, as happy as babies in a wagon. (It's a thing: just ask Beans.)...more
I work in a bookstore in an affluent neighborhood. Today, the following conversation occurred:
Customer: I want to return this book! (plunks SweetbitteI work in a bookstore in an affluent neighborhood. Today, the following conversation occurred:
Customer: I want to return this book! (plunks Sweetbitter down on the counter)
Me: Okay, what was wrong with it?
Customer: It was stupid!
Me: Oh, I really liked it! But I could see how someone could find it kind of pretentious.
Customer: Yeah, all those waiters going around quoting Kant and Fitzgerald. It was ridiculous!
Me:(surprised, as this had not been what I'd meant at all) Oh...
Customer: A whole book about someone wanting to become a good waitress. I mean, who cares? What does it matter?
Me:(After a few beats of dead silence that stretch a little too long) Why don't you go ahead and pick out something else?
What I wanted to say, but couldn't -- because like the main character in Sweetbitter (you know, the waitress) I am in a service position that requires me to hold my tongue even when someone insults me to my face -- is that I thought Danler's depiction of her protagonist's aspirations and growth were gracefully handled. The style is indeed a little pretentious -- with short passages of all dialogue and other experimental stunts -- but for me it created an almost dreamlike quality that meshed beautifully with the main character's whirlwind of new experiences. This is a book about a young woman finding herself in a big, strange city, and starting her career, and gaining life experience. And yes, she does all of those things as a waitress. (You condescending bitch.)
I would hate to see how this customer tips....more
What pretentious garbage. I've yet to tackle Wolf Hall, but this short story collection makes me think that I should permanently let myself off the hoWhat pretentious garbage. I've yet to tackle Wolf Hall, but this short story collection makes me think that I should permanently let myself off the hook, because if they're anything to go by, Mantel is desperately overrated. ...more
A restaurant novel with a terrific narrative voice, or really three: the main storyteller is a wannabe writer/newbie chef with an English lit degree,A restaurant novel with a terrific narrative voice, or really three: the main storyteller is a wannabe writer/newbie chef with an English lit degree, nicknamed "Monocle"; his somewhat pretentious (but not entirely un-self-aware) reminiscences are joined by commentary from his fellow chefs, Racist Dave and Ramilov. I feel like I would love to sit in these guys' after-work pub and listen to them shoot the shit (as long as I got to escape at the end of the night). The kitchen detail is all great, the pacing bouncy and lively, but the plot didn't entirely hang together for me. (I was also uncomfortable with the novel's embodiment of evil being a character who's described only as The Fat Man.) Still, Wroe is clearly a talented writer, and I'll be looking forward to seeing what he does next....more