An intriguing (though short lived) series about a 12th century female forensic doctor who is removed from her beloved Salerno, Italy to Cambridge, UK...moreAn intriguing (though short lived) series about a 12th century female forensic doctor who is removed from her beloved Salerno, Italy to Cambridge, UK to help catch a child killer. The dead speak to her and they have a lot to say.
The plot was well developed and the characters were fully realised. Franklin does well in keeping with the time and place (12th century England) though she sometimes cheats with patrois and language, by having a character comment they could not understand what was being said between two other characters speaking the local tongue. Well, maybe cheating is not the right word but it is a clever device to get a better feel for the period.
The mystery itself was difficult enough to suss out who the killer(s) were, which is why this book endears itself to me and shows the author was skillful enough to drop hints but not so obvious as you figure out the entire thing in the first 50 pages but keeps you turning until the end.
A month or so ago, someone posted on Imgur screenshot of the cover of Bear along with photos of the racier bits and titled it, "What the actual fuck,...moreA month or so ago, someone posted on Imgur screenshot of the cover of Bear along with photos of the racier bits and titled it, "What the actual fuck, Canada?". Since the crux of the story concerned a Canadian librarian who goes into the woods to find herself, I knew I had to read it.
And so did everyone else.
Random House Canada recently wrote a blog piece that discussed not only the new spike in sales of the book based on the Imgur posting but also Bear was much more than a woman getting it on with a grizzly. It is a deep exploration of a woman wondering how she got to where she was at, a sexual awakening of sorts, and a wake-up call to take charge of her own life.
It should be said Bear was written while Engel was going through her own divorce, and while I kept pointing out to people the sex scenes in Bear were not projections, metaphors, or similes, there is an undercurrent of exploration of those things that parallel the dissolution of Engel's own marriage. The Random House piece also points out that Bear digs deep past the stereotypes of CanLit, a world that is typically imagined as rural romantics and pastoral cleverness, by really giving you the true worth of nature.
I was recently asked to compile a list of top 10s of various media that I thought made the difference to humanity, not just because I loved it or it was good, but it changed something inside. Bear is definitely on that list now -- it's brave, and weirdly wonderful; written like a prose poem rather than a story. It challenges us and by doing so, it enlightens us by giving us back our own humanity.(less)
I was introduced to Babitz recently via a recent article about her in Vanity Fair. The idea of an intellectual good-time girl intrigued me as it shoul...moreI was introduced to Babitz recently via a recent article about her in Vanity Fair. The idea of an intellectual good-time girl intrigued me as it should, and I was dismayed to find that her work is not only largely unknown but also out of print. I was able to get a first edition copy o fSex and Rage via interlibrary loan to read and boy, am I ever glad I did. Babitz is glorious as a writer, the work hums with the fastness of the era, of the good time unapologetic choices that Jacaranda makes, doing so with such easy going nature you are desperate for the drugs she’s on.
The book has several main characters, two of them cities (LA and NYC), who are plumped up in their finery to show you what they are really like. Make no mistake, this is very much a roman à cléf of Babitz’s life and I don’t think this book would have been successful any other way. The only way to capture the essence of the era and the city would have been to live it as wildly and as fully as Babitz.(less)
15 year old Anais, 50 foster homes, three name changes, and a rap sheet taller than herself is here to give you a tour. A tour of the realities of the foster care system, of treatment against the mentally ill, of how once you're locked into a system that is designed to spit you out and eat you alive, there is a shred of hope still alive for change. A world that while it may take place in Scotland, is not out of the ordinary here in the States. A reality in which only the strongest will survive, even if it means you have to become feral to do so.
Anais' story is not pretty, it's not easy to read and is not for the weak stomached. But you will fall in with love her, even as she sniffs, sucks, snorts, and fights her way around her world because Anais is the mirror being held up to our world and while we may not be 15, we may not have a penchant for Dior lipsticks and pillbox hats, there are secrets within ourselves that help us cope with our day to day lives.
Think Charles Bukowski with a dash of Hunter S. Thompson with bits of Lisbeth Salander from The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo series mixed with Irvine Walsh, and you have The Panopticon.
This is a beautifully written and actualized story that while may be hard to swallow, needs to be said. Needs to be told. Needs to be read. It's one of the best books I've read in a very long time. (less)
Apparently it's a thing to hate the output of alum from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, because as you skim through the reviews on GoodReads, the comments...moreApparently it's a thing to hate the output of alum from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, because as you skim through the reviews on GoodReads, the comments are peppered with snide remarks and tut-tutting of the decline of quality of IWW's output. Who knew?
Was Seating Arrangements a tour de force and innovative? No. Was it sloppy and a bit amateurish at times? Absolutely. Was the language overwrought? At times. But is this a bad story? The short answer is no. It's clunky, some of the plot points felt like they were thrown in at the last minute, and some of the characters were definitely there to fill a quota but there is something here. You just have to be patient as you dig through the muck and Shipstead can turn a beautiful phrase more often than not. I could be a bit biased -- I have a weakness for anything relating to farces surrounding blue bloods and their world. And this felt like someone had done their research and wrote as if they knew this particular world without ever having stepped into it. So think of this as if Whit Stillman and Bret Easton Ellis were high on acid, conceived Shipstead as their prodigal daughter in their ultra preppy way and you'll have encompassed the writer completely.(less)
Marian Keyes has long been one of my favorite authors, one who can encapsulate a horrible event (abuse, addiction, recovery) in a story that at first...moreMarian Keyes has long been one of my favorite authors, one who can encapsulate a horrible event (abuse, addiction, recovery) in a story that at first glance, seems like some kind of fluff until you dig deeper and get to the heart of the story.
Keyes, however, has failed with this book. Terribly.
At first glance through the reviews, I am apparently the only one who caught the not so very subtle racism against Arabs/Muslims peppered throughout the book. Snide comments about "towel heads," "arabic-y looking wording," and the often slights against one of the secondary characters who is Muslim and an Arab. Then once you pick up on the racism, you realise either Marian, or Marian using Helen's voice, is a bigot against fat people, the mentally ill, and anyone who doesn't fit into her little world.
Now you're probably thinking, "But Marian has chronicled her severe depression -- how can she be bigoted against the mentally ill?" And you know, I totally get you on that, because I was floored at first. But with Helen's voice, and point of view, you notice how Helen starts being dismissive against any and all attempts of trying to work on her depression. She rejects drugs (at first), she's dismissive against any alternative methods, and the constant comments about how she was special with her depression because it wasn't like anyone elses in terms of symptoms and effects. Okay, we get it, you're a special snowflake.
This book was a hot mess. Between the bigotry, the lead up to through the mystery, explanation of her past relationship, the foundation of her current one, and really? How she and her BFF ever broke up and why was incredibly weak. Coupled with her depression and the utter lack development for most of the characters, why was this book even published?(less)
I need to admit I am a huge fan of Maureen Johnson's Twitter, but had not, until this point, read any of her books. When this came along as a freebie...moreI need to admit I am a huge fan of Maureen Johnson's Twitter, but had not, until this point, read any of her books. When this came along as a freebie on Kindle as a promotion to reel you in for one of her newer titles, I grabbed it. I admittedly rarely dip into YA, so this seemed like a good gateway drug.
Not terribly sure what I read but I'm having a hard time reconciling the erudite, witty, and hilarious MJ could write such a bland book. There is no character development, no setting, no plot movement - it's just all action. Ginger follows these steps to get to this point. The problem is the underlying premise of the book is about the growth of Ginger when her favorite aunt dies, because who else would push her to developing into something that was not just a dependable, reliable old hag. But you don't really see any growth going on with Ginger as she flits about Europe chasing after her dead aunt.
A couple of other reviewers pointed out some major flaws of the book, such as the Mysterious Parents who apparently had zero problem letting Ging flitter her way across Europe with not a single contact to them. In fact, we never even meet the parents The second criticism has to do with the money spent by Ginger, given to her by her Aunt, which was such an exact number, £1826, that the travelling she does, even on the cheap, is not necessarily going to cover it all. Even more importantly when she has to give £500 away and ends up being charged £500 for a weeks room / board while in Amsterdam. She's apparently crossed EU several times, via plane and train, ate, and got rooming for under £800? There is suspending belief and there is being so fucking arbitrary it's kind of ridiculous.
I'll give ole MJ another go a later time, but overall the only positive thing about this book is that I finished it in 1.5 hours. (less)
At first glance, it's easy to dismiss THRONE OF THE CRESCENT MOON as a typical sword and sorcery novel with not one, but many reluctant heroes in the...moreAt first glance, it's easy to dismiss THRONE OF THE CRESCENT MOON as a typical sword and sorcery novel with not one, but many reluctant heroes in the guise of being presented by multiple points of view. But from the very first chapter, you realise you're in the presence of something much larger, grander, and more indepth than previous versions of this motif. You could read the story for what it is, a tale of an old man and his young charges righting the wrongs of the world, but you'd be missing out on much of what Saladin has to say.
And boy does he have a lot say - THRONE OF THE CRESCENT MOON is an allegorical tale using Saladin's world as the mirror to our own and through his work, he is critiquing the problems that exist in our world. He underscores some of the larger and complex concepts with a very subtle humour that at first read through you miss until you realise what he's getting at -- very Dickensian. His voice is very passionate, very authentic, and very real.
And there was something else in this tale that I couldn't put my finger on until I read it on another review: Saladin's work has soul and a heart. A lot of fantasy I've read, and in the larger scope of my canon is actually much less than most, tends to have a hollowness to the world and characters - they seem to be missing their "humaness" about them we often need to make that connection within ourselves. There is certainly nothing wrong with that, not every novel needs to be a treatise on the human condition. But you don't realise how much you miss having a full bodied story until you get your hands on one again.(less)
Disjointed and slow moving, author relies too much on metaphors and similes for much of the story. So much so, that the characters seem to be parodies...moreDisjointed and slow moving, author relies too much on metaphors and similes for much of the story. So much so, that the characters seem to be parodies of themselves rather then of the supposed period. When not dressed in comparison, language often felt flat and forced. It's pretty clear this is to be a homage to Fitzgerald and a love letter to the period and city, but it feels like it's written by someone whose discovered Fitzgerald and just went to New York for the first time ever!, which does the book a huge disservice. I don't find the period, language of the period, or the gender of the protagonist to be particularly faithful. This is not to say a woman couldn't be Katey in the late '30s but it does feel like Towels took Peggy from MAD MEN and deposited her 25 years earlier. (less)
Atkinson is a thinking persons writer, who is also not caught up in using big words to discuss big concepts. This is extremely difficult to pull off,...moreAtkinson is a thinking persons writer, who is also not caught up in using big words to discuss big concepts. This is extremely difficult to pull off, as many authors try to either dumb down their ideas to fit a certain reading genre or they inflate their work with self-importance. Atkinson digs deep into the human psyche and weaves tales upon themselves and over again, and everything in her books is connected. There is a reason for everything she does and everything falls into place, one by one, as the story unfolds.
She's also an economical writer, one who will use the right word or phrase at the right now. She doesn't skimp: everything is well placed and thought out. Reading Atkinson is always a great reminder why I love to read: To be placed in the story, to witness the characters successes and triumphs, and to feel as though you are not a voyeur, but an eyewitness to the story's tale.
After a long personal hiatus with reading, diving back in with STARTED EARLY, TOOK MY DOG was a joy. Atkinson reaffirms my faith modern literature and makes me hungry for more. (less)
**spoiler alert** You're going to read this book and know at least one thing: That the end won't end happily or tied up in a big pink bow and that tis...more**spoiler alert** You're going to read this book and know at least one thing: That the end won't end happily or tied up in a big pink bow and that tissues will be needed.
This is David Nicholls we are talking about here, where his endings are never simple nor do they tie together at the end to make the reader happy. No, the book is about the author and the challenge to the reader to believe - whether or not a story of a friendship between man/woman over 20 years can make it without sounding like a rip off of "When Harry Met Sally" or some other derivative, trite plot line.
The story is gorgeous and IT IS believable. You can feel Emma's frustration in her letter writing, the pooling of the grease on her nose and Dexter's legendary trim backside and feel the heat of his hand on your ass. Nicholls knows how to capture that fine line of realism without being overtly descriptive and to not use the description as mere filler for the novel. The plot, the snapshot one day every year into the lives of these two people, is also incredibly clever. Watching Dex and Em (Em and Dex, together forever), grow up, fall in love and struggle with that idea of love over the course of 20 years is painful, hilarious and heartbreaking all at the same time.
Nicholls has a way with prose that you cannot put the damned book done - it's like they injected heroine or crack into the binding of the book. I was so desperate to finish the book that I stayed in a black car in 95F heat while my aged mother was shopping because being 2 hours away from the book was painful. The night before, I was up to 4am because I couldn't imagine falling asleep while there was more Dex + Em to get through. I finished the book in less than two days, reading at diners, coffee shops, parking lots and until my eyes were bleeding from lack of sleep.
The reviewers who said this was chick-lit are wrong, it's not even lad-lit. There is no happy ending and no moral or tale or lesson to take from it. The guy does not, for the sake of argument, get the girl. It's, simply the snapshot of the lives of two very ordinary people and their extraordinary relationship. And it is also one of the better written books in the last few years.
THIS, that feeling of having to finish the book before anything else was to take place is the feeling that all writers should aspire their readers to want to feel whilst reading their book. Writing in the last few decades has become almost unbearable dreck with a few jewels thrown in - particular in American writing. If you're not writing some fake existentialistic-esque material with a vaguely catchy title, then you won't be read. And that's a shame because Nicholls, being a Brit, will be mostly ignored by the American audience who will attempt to liken him to Nick Hornby which is like comparing Jane Austen to a Bronte: There are similarities, yes, but they are vastly different.
And if you don't love it, then you are simply Un-American.
**spoiler alert** Several years ago, while working at $corporate_bookstore, I came across Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler w...more**spoiler alert** Several years ago, while working at $corporate_bookstore, I came across Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler which promised a fresh perspective in the Jane Austen paraliterature canon. I had been burned before by authors who use Austenmania as the foundation for their work, usually bogging themselves down by trying too hard to emulate Austen instead of just using her or her work as inspiration. What I really adored about Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict was that it didn't seem to fall into the same tangles and missteps as other Austenesque inspired novels - the writing was contemporary and not fake-Georgian/Regency era, the story was well paced, the background was well researched, the comedic errors were indeed funny and above all else, I really liked the heroine Courtney Stone.
I could also, which is hugely important when writing chick-lit, relate to the heroine's experiences and I could identify with her. This is really where Rigler excelled: She wrote chick-lit without making the heroine vacuous or implausible and she stayed (more or less) true to Austenesque style, which is where 90% of Austen regenerators fail.
One of the advantages of working in a bookstore is that you usually have your finger on what is going in the world of books and publishing much sooner then the general public, which was fantastic for me since I could keep atop on my Austenesque paraliterature better than the Austen blogging world. But not having worked at $corporate_bookstore since January of 2009, I've not been as diligent as finding new authors and books as I used to, in any genre. Thus when finding out Rigler had written a parallel novel, Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict, to tell Jane Fairfax's side of the story, I was intrigued and hopeful: If Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict was fabulous, how much more awesome would be Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict?
The answer is: Not so much.
If you haven't read Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, here is a quick recap: Courtney Stone, 21st century Angeleno, finds out her fiance is cheating on her and breaks up with him. Stone's passion is everything Austen (natch) and after days of obsessive reading/watching/listening, she smacks her head while drunk in a pool and wakes up in Georgian era England (Austen's period) in the body of Jane Fairfax. Courtney has her own personality/memories, she also must contend with the memories of Jane Fairfax. Hilarity, anachronisms, misunderstandings and love ensues (obvs). While Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict concentrated on 21st Courtney's story, Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict would tell of 19th century Jane Fairfax in the wilds of L.A. The premise then, is that while Courtney fixes Jane's "life," Jane too must fix Courtney's "life."
Supposedly hilarity, anachronisms, missteps and love ensues. Everyone goes home happy.
While I liked the idea and the concept, the executiion was not as well done as Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict. Rigler tries too hard to bridge the misunderstandings of a 19th century girl in a 21st century, but the whole thing fell apart for me.
I thought Rigler could have had a lot of fun with this, but the situations and problems she throws Jane in seem to be too conceptualized and trite. (Jane stumbling about as she learns about electricity/modern living for. everything. little. thing was stifling at best.) What I wanted, and what the premise foreshadowed, was a young woman who had been oppressed for years, finds her own voice and freedom. Instead, she falls into the same trap as every other damned heroine in chick-lit in the end; SHE MARRIES THE FUCKING MAN! What would have worked is having Jane/Courtney come into her own, find her own footing, become a 21st century woman, make her passion (drawing) into a career. She doesn't - she flounders for a few weeks, has everything taken care of for her by a man (just as in her past "life") and learns nothing about freedom or independence. Wasn't the point for Jane to fix Courtney's life, thus by ensuring "Courtney's" ability to stand on her own two feet and becoming her own person?
I was also confused as to what moral message Rigler was attempting to give here, because surely if she is attempting to project that Jane/Courtney is understand that things are different in the 21st century (as such Courtney/Jane discovers about 19th century in the first book), so are the mores of women. But Rigler doesn't do that, instead she just throws in some proto-feminist crap, makes weak arguments for/to about the sexual life of today's woman and then drops it. What the hell?
I adored Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict because of all the reasons I stated at the beginning of this review, but the Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict was nothing more than a huge mess. Rigler could have a had a lot of fun with this book by using Jane/Courtney to give a fresh perspective of 21st century life via a 19th century set of eyes and instead, it's a muddled piece of vacuousness with unbelievable and creepy characters1. Also, the leading man? Wes? Man has no balls or spine. But he DOES come from money, so obviously this fixes everything.
1. Deepa creeped me out -- I didn't find her to be "helpful" or "guiding" Jane towards the answers, for surely, that is what she was supposed to have been doing. Again, another character whose life was made simpler by a divorce from a man with money - how fitting. Rigler seems to be saying here, then, that the only way to true happiness is to marry a man with money. Because obviously, our sister suffragettes struggle for over 200 years means shit.