I wasn't super hopping crazy for Beukes's The Shining Girls, but with Broken Monsters this woman has now got my full attention. I'm here to tell you t I wasn't super hopping crazy for Beukes's The Shining Girls, but with Broken Monsters this woman has now got my full attention. I'm here to tell you the lady's got mad skills.
It helped a lot I think that I picked this book up at the exact right time. I was ready. I was primed if you will. That kind of timing doesn't always work out. But I'd just come off my binge listening, over analyzing obsession with Sarah Koenig's Serial podcast where I lost countless hours pondering motives, cell phone logs, cell tower pings and an anti-Glee cast of Baltimore teens. I was in an arm-chair detective frame of mind. I was already down in the rabbit hole before the first page was turned. The exact right place to be for where Beukes was going to take me.
And where was that exactly? Broken Monsters is unique and surreal and dark and weird, but there's some lingering familiarity of remembrances past that give the story texture and resonance. And what the hell do I mean by that?
Well, think of the gritty procedural elements to be found in True Detective, Seven or Silence of the Lambs. That's a start. There's a substantive case here and a seasoned kick-ass woman detective chasing down clues and following a trail that's twisted (and broken!) and could run cold at any moment. There's pacing and reveals. Tension and release.
Then there's the atmosphere, mood and vivid -- vivid! -- descriptions of crime scenes, urban decay, and violence that bleed across the page -- an artistic fusion of destruction with creation -- visual feasts in the mind's eye both terrible and beautiful.
The following images may be offensive to some so I shall hide them behind a spoiler tag. However, fans of True Detective and NBC's Hannibal should click (because you know you want to).
I mention these two television shows not just for the obvious authentic procedural similarities found in Broken Monsters, but for each show's masterful artistic vision and gobsmacking cinematography. Whatever inky black well these kinds of hellish tableaux originate from, Beukes has a bucket of her own and is drinking her fill to bursting.
Something else she's mastered with Broken Monsters is a rich cast of characters whose stories intertwine and crash together then rip apart again. She is a maestro here -- a mad puppet master -- creating a symphony of action and reaction. I surely do not want to be Job when this woman is God.
With so many characters running around you really have to sit up and pay attention as a reader. Beukes is not slacking so we can't either. It's easy to get a bit lost and confused in the early stages getting to know everyone and their back stories. It wasn't a smooth transition for me -- I had to go back and re-read a few sections just to orient myself before I read on. But that's okay. With that kind of investment comes huge reward.
I can't say I was completely satisfied with the crashing cacophony that was the book's climax. In some ways it was effing brilliant -- in others it was a hot mess (get on board the Lindsey Lohan/Charlie Sheen train to hell!!!!) Still, as Charlie would say: WINNING!
I agree Charlie. This is definitely a check mark in the win column for Lauren Beukes. I'll be coming back for more.
(Sorry, but nobody puts Charlie in a corner under a spoiler tag. Deal with it people) ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
3) Last but not least, the author's blog post entitled: God Bless Librarians. In case you didn't know, flattery will get you everywhere, and it just might make me read your book (joking! I'm really not that shallow or vain, I promise; I just thought it was a nice post).
This is a beautiful book that hits a lot of my kinks: small towns, seeecrets, family drama, and coming-of-age. Krueger's storytelling style was reminiscent for me of some of Stephen King's best work (when he's not trying to scare the bejesus out of us that is). Krueger's two main protagonists are young brothers -- Frank (13) and Jake (10).
Frank is hitting adolescence hard with a penchant for doing things he's not supposed to and an even worse habit for eavesdropping. Jake is his quiet sidekick who likes to listen and observe more than run his mouth because he is plagued by an awful stutter. As they run around small town 1961 Minnesota all the best elements of King's novella "The Body" are present. It will be a summer of tragedy and innocence lost.
Where it missed that fifth star I will put under a spoiler tag:
(view spoiler)[I saw the ending/twist coming a mile away, and it's not like me to "figure these things out" which probably means the author was not trying to hide it, but rather have the readers be in the know and sweat it out. I appreciate that, but I felt to have the jealous, mentally challenged sister kill in a moment of blind rage was too predictable in a very Gothic "woman in the attic" way.
It was interesting to introduce the element of racism as it applied to Native Americans in Minnesota in 1961, but I felt at times the reading came too close to mimicking To Kill a Mockingbird in that one respect and that Frank's dad was very Atticus Finch in a preacher's garb rather than a lawyer's suit. (hide spoiler)]
But these are VERY small quibbles in what is a gripping story, wonderfully told. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Magical realism and I have a very standoffish, disinterested relationship. We have never gotten along, and we tend to avoid each other like the plague Magical realism and I have a very standoffish, disinterested relationship. We have never gotten along, and we tend to avoid each other like the plague at parties. So despite some very beautiful five star reviews I knew this book probably wasn't going to resonate with me the way it has for others. And it didn't.
It is quite the provocative, unusual, sensory read. Yes. This book engages the senses. All of them. And it is terribly sad. Incredibly violent. Unforgettably dark. There's the soul crushing awareness of grief and love and love lost. For all of that, I should have been hugely emotionally invested but I remained rather detached through the whole experience. Maybe that says more about me than the book, that my heart responds more to realism than it does to magic. Maybe at a different time, this would have been the exact right book.
This wasn't that time.
It should also be said, this isn't a book for sensitive readers. There are two distinctly disturbing scenes, the second of which I was not prepared to encounter at all. In fact, it sideswiped me utterly and I felt that nothing that had come before it hinted at this destination. A part of me admires the author for such a bold choice; another part of me feels a bit exploited.
I do feel I was given an uplifting ending however, and after the ordeal of the journey, this was much appreciated by this reader bumping The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender from two stars to a very respectable three.
It puzzles me -- and sometimes frustrates me to no end -- how or why some books get categorized/released as Young Adult. These days it seems the label It puzzles me -- and sometimes frustrates me to no end -- how or why some books get categorized/released as Young Adult. These days it seems the label has become so loosey-goosey all that's required is that there be a teen protagonist. Content, language, themes -- all of the meatier, important elements of any book are blithely ignored in the rush to market and movie deals.
There are definitely books that walk the hinterland -- the very, very outer reaches of YA and upon reading them you realize that there's way more 'Adult' in the pages than 'Young'. On any given Sunday it shouldn't really matter ....except for when it does. In the case of Scowler it makes me think about how many people will ignore it and miss out turned off by its YA label, and then it makes me think about the young teen readers who will lack the emotional maturity and mental resilience to process such a dark and disturbing tale.
Yes, it's that good and that dark. Patriarch Marvin Burke is as chilling and disturbing a villain as any I've encountered and belongs in the pages of a Frank Bill novel. The language is vibrant and pulsing -- a living, breathing thing:
The cracks in the dirt now yawned to proportions slutty with thirst...
There it was. A miracle, really, finding this speck of bone in a world of dust. There was a brown spot of blood on the tooth's root, and to Ry it seemed the encapsulation of the bum deal of life: a once-perfect thing plucked and bloodied and tossed to the dirt.
I had originally shelved this as 'horror' but am now removing it because while Scowler is horrific in parts, it has much more in common with realistic, gritty fiction that has a psychological underbelly.
I could really tear this book a new one if I wanted to, seeing as how it is plagued by incredulous plot twists and nonsensical melodramatic c 2.5 stars
I could really tear this book a new one if I wanted to, seeing as how it is plagued by incredulous plot twists and nonsensical melodramatic character motivations that at times positively scream daytime soap opera antics.
Despite these maddening shortcomings, I was able to overlook most of them most of the time as the novel fairly hums along with just enough speed and tension to keep you turning the pages. It's a beach read in the sense that if you are sun stoned and feeling epically lazy, this one has just enough salacious bite to keep you conscious and wondering just what the hell did happen to Amelia that day on the roof: did she jump? or was she pushed?
I liked how the author uses various bits of social media (texts, Facebook, emails, etc) to "reconstruct" a young woman's life and state of mind proving how much can be found there and yet how inadequate all that "sharing" can turn out to be when your goal is to really understand someone. But in the end, it just felt hollow and gimmicky anyway.
I was just expecting so much more here with such a fantastic premise fueling its engine. In the hands of Gillian Flynn and Megan Abbott, I'm certain I would have gotten exactly what I was looking for. Not here though. Not this time.
One thing that really bugged me:
(view spoiler)[when Amelia's case is reopened, why would Kate as her mother be allowed to become so involved in the investigation -- going on interview calls and asking questions. It seems to me, it would have been her job to sit tight and wait to hear the results, not chase them down side by side with the Detective assigned to the case. That took me out of the story every time. If Kate had hired a PI, and was going about this on her own without police involvement, that would have made sense. But to be working with the police and be so immediately included in the investigation in this way drove me mental. Because that would never happen. Especially once foul play was suspected. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Sexual debut. Sometimes it seemed to Deenie that high school was like a long game of And Then There Were None. Every Monday, another girl's debut. --T
Sexual debut. Sometimes it seemed to Deenie that high school was like a long game of And Then There Were None. Every Monday, another girl's debut. --The Fever, Megan Abbott
Nobody (and I mean nobody) writes the dark and secretive interiors of a teenage girl's psyche better than Megan Abbott. But make no mistake: while she is writing about teenagers, she is not writing Young Adult. Her books are so far removed from YA Lit it's not only a different country, but another planet. So if you haven't had the shocking and titillating pleasure to read her yet and have Ms. Abbott shelved as Young Adult, get her off there post-haste please -- asap -- I mean immediately.
Seriously, do it.
I'll wait for you.
One of the things I've come to love about Abbott the most is that even when I think I've figured out how the story is going to go, she always manages to surprise me. And she never cheats. Here, she not only surprised me, she creeped the hell out of me, something I wasn't expecting at all. The Fever isn't a horror story, but Jesus damn, there are aspects of the story that are extremely unsettling and creeeeepy. I was reading this into the wee hours of the morning last night, and got to this one part and the little hairs on the back of my neck stood to attention:
She started clearing her throat, and once she started it was like she couldn't stop. "But most of all it's here," she said, clawing at her neck. "It feels like there's something in my throat. And it's getting bigger."
I've been fangirling for Megan Abbott for awhile now, but with this she's made me her slave. And she's so pixie-cute petite you can fit her in your pocket. Looking at her mischievous, Mona Lisa smile you'd never expect her to so eloquently and ruthlessly explore the twisted, perilous, coming-of-age waters of teenage girls, waters that run black and deep. There are monsters that swim in that water, monsters that bite, scar and maim for life.
My only sadness and regret is that I'm finished, and this book isn't even coming out until June, which means I've got a bit of a wait before I get my next Megan Abbott fix. I'm jonesing already. What can I say: she's made me her junkie bitch.
A free copy was provided by the publishers through Netgalley for an honest review.
First five star book of 2014 and I don't begrudge a single star (I must be getting soft in my old age). Eleanor & Park achieves epically sweet, em First five star book of 2014 and I don't begrudge a single star (I must be getting soft in my old age). Eleanor & Park achieves epically sweet, emotionally complex and infinitely satisfying without ever once spinning off into maudlin or melodramatic (which is an amazing achievement when your two protagonists are teenagers in the grips of love's first rush).
Speaking of: Eleanor and Park are wonderful. It's always such a treat when you get characters this fully realized that you can swear you've met them, that you actually know them. Their story is sweet but not saccharine, and as uplifting as it is perilous and nerve wracking. It's tough being a teenager, forced to navigate a capricious world known for its wanton cruelty; where life, as Eleanor so eloquently puts it, "is a bastard."
Isn't it though?
This is a book about how music is its own language that can be used to speak to someone when words fail us. It's a book about family: how much it can save us, and how much it can devastate us. It's a book about two misfits finding each other and discovering what it is in each of them that's worth falling in love with.
“I feel sorry for you, and I'm going to be your friend." "I don't want to be your friend," Cath said as sternly as she could. "I like that we're not fr
“I feel sorry for you, and I'm going to be your friend." "I don't want to be your friend," Cath said as sternly as she could. "I like that we're not friends." "Me, too. I'm sorry you ruined it by being so pathetic.”
“There are other people on the Internet. It's awesome. You get all the benefits of 'other people' without the body odor and the eye contact.”
At first glance, Fangirl positions itself to be a silly, fluffy piece about identical twin sisters and their freshman year at college, and how one sister in particular must navigate her way through this perilous and confusing time, all while trying to churn out chapter after chapter of fanfiction to her adoring online readers. And it is that book, sweetly refreshing, never taking itself too seriously, but it also manages to be so much more -- about mental illness, friendship, sisters, mothers, living as an introvert in an extrovert's world, and falling in love, safely and sensibly with someone who deserves it (no creepy pouty vampires here ladies and gentleman! and no love triangles! hooray!)
I really related to Cath and her introverted, super anxious in social situations ways. I got her Simon Snow obsession and her need to escape into that world rather than dealing with real life. A lot of times, that is why we're reading in the first place, isn't it? To escape? To fall down the rabbit hole and be somewhere else, be someone else?
The compulsion to create fanfiction is just taking it one step further, so in love are you with a particular world and characters, that you are willing to write your own stories about them just to keep the magic from ever ending, and keep the reality wolves away from your front door for just one more day.
I love what the author has to say about the act of writing, its highs and lows, obsessions and doubts, how telling the story can be as profoundly transformative an act as reading it. When you stop to think about it, the synergy between author and reader is a gobsmackingly powerful, beautiful thing. Neither can exist without the other.
I'm home today with a horrible cold and this was the perfect book to help me escape the realities of my bodily suffering. Fangirl is a complete rabbit hole, and down I went. I was going to use this review to confess to some of my own fangirl proclivities, but I think I'll save that for another time. ...more
Deciding to tell a story about a physically disfigured child who lusts after his biological mother while living out their lives in the long, judgmenta Deciding to tell a story about a physically disfigured child who lusts after his biological mother while living out their lives in the long, judgmental, crucifying shadow of the Catholic Church in 1950's St. John's Newfoundland ... is ... curious at best. But also weird and ... questionable.
I'm not sure what kind of a book Johnston thought he was writing. At first it seems humorous and whimsical, a slice of Frank McCourt meets a heaping portion of John Irving. There's poverty, a dysfunctional family, religion, sexual awakening, and some odd occurrences that make you laugh just for their very oddness and inappropriateness.
But as the book progresses, the oddities start to fall flat onto the very shoulders of uninteresting and boring. If Son of a Certain Woman is meant to be Johnston's indictment of the corrupt and nasty hold the Catholic Church at one time held over the historic and capital city of St. John's it really doesn't succeed, neither as a parable, or tongue-in-cheek satire (if that's what you're looking for, get Codco on DVD).
Where it really fails is as a meaningful and emotional coming-of-age story. I didn't fall in love with anybody and did not feel as if there were any stakes worth cheering for. (view spoiler)[Despite Percy's precociousness and precarious place in the world, I could not open my mind wide enough to hope that his gob-smackingly, sensual mother finally lays him. (hide spoiler)]
My disappointment here is heartfelt. I love Johnston's writing and his unerring ability to capture the layered realities and eccentricities of my home and my people. I did enjoy some of his descriptions of the 1950's streets of St. John's, but sometimes, in an effort to paint that portrait, the brush strokes felt a little heavy-handed and clumsy, like a travel book or described video.
While it pains me to do it, I am recommending a pass on this one.
A copy of this book was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review.
There's a buzz book for the summer - you might have heard of it already -- The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes. Featuring a time traveling serial kille There's a buzz book for the summer - you might have heard of it already -- The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes. Featuring a time traveling serial killer, it has huge potential for a beach read thriller, but I don't know. Despite enjoying the main character, I felt it was missing something and my overall reaction after reading it was lukewarm.
This book on the other hand is much more to my liking. Probably closer to three and a half stars, it's an easy four in my books because it features all the elements I adore -- suburban New England setting, family secrets and lies, prepubescent girls doing naughty things with tragic consequence. It's an "all grown up and looking back" story as the adult tries to untangle the mysterious events of a dark childhood summer. It's a dual narrative that flips back and forth in time -- from the summer of 1979 to the summer of 2003. There's mood and atmosphere and dread and intrigue. It's a voyeuristic look into the oft-twisted and inappropriate shenanigans of life in the 'burbs.
Sadie is a pushy, bratty kid, with razor sharp smarts and a vivid imagination that's only going to get her into trouble. Her mother is a domineering, manic depressive drunk who isn't going to be there for Sadie when she needs her the most. Out of boredom and as an act of rebellion, Sadie hatches an elaborate ruse to amuse herself and her best friend. It's the summer of 1979 and her victim is the neighborhood outcast, a young girl with a miserable home life. The consequences of this cruel prank will have a tragic ripple effect.
Sadie grows up. The memory of that time is locked away in a deep, dark corner of her mind. She has a husband and two beautiful children. But sorrow has found Sadie. She is grieving her miscarriage and in this vulnerable state, back walks the boy she crushed on as a young girl. He's all grown up and stirring up more than the overwhelming sexual attraction she feels for him. Sadie begins to think about that summer long ago, seeking truth to all the unanswered questions she's lived with her entire life.
For a debut novel, The Longings of Wayward Girls (great title) shows a lot of promise. In the best ways, I was reminded of Megan Abbott's The End of Everything, and Gillian Flynn's Sharp Objects. Author Karen Brown is on my radar now and I will definitely be seeking out more of her writing.
Winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Congratulations, Ms. Tartt on such a stunning return.
The Goldfinch is a doorstopper, weighing in at oveWinner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Congratulations, Ms. Tartt on such a stunning return.
The Goldfinch is a doorstopper, weighing in at over 700 densely written pages. Yet, I found myself tearing through it as if I couldn't read it fast enough. I don't know what the secret is to Ms. Tartt's prose, but I dig it. I dig it a lot. Maybe it's due to sheer deprivation (absence making the heart grow fonder and all that jazz), because this lady, while her talent goes undisputed, has only managed to pen three novels in three decades -- the very antithesis of James Patterson (whom I wish would just go away -- how many trees have to die for you, Jim? HOW MANY?)
I can be a real sucker for a sense of place. Tartt writes New York in such a way that I was able to feel the thrum of traffic and smell the bakeries (and the sewers). Taxis, doormen, park benches, museums, lunch counters -- all swirling together in a portrait that's as carefully rendered as any artist's painting. When she transplants readers to the parched and desolate Las Vegas suburbs, I became just as enthralled by the startling contrast between bustling city and dry desert.
There's really not much to say here other than I became totally immersed in this book while I was reading it. It's a character-driven piece in the sense that it's without an intricate plot, or Big Reveals. But oh, what characters! All the feels! It was just such a heartening experience to get to know them all and watch them hurl through life together, for better and for worse. It's the characters from which we draw the tension and the pace of the story and it's all so deftly handled by Ms. Tartt that I'm actually left floundering for ways to adequately describe it.
So I won't. Let her take you on this journey and I'll get the hell out of the way. ...more
Finally finished listening to this as an audio. Meh. I have my problems with it. I may or may not review it, we'll see.
Alright, I've given it someFinally finished listening to this as an audio. Meh. I have my problems with it. I may or may not review it, we'll see.
Alright, I've given it some thought and feel that I should try to capture some of what this book made me feel (and didn't feel as it were). This memoir is essentially two stories that sometimes intersect with each other but more often than not run parallel. One story is Cheryl's 90+ day 1100 mile solo hike of the Pacific Crest Trail when she was 26 years old. The other story is of the tragic death of Cheryl's mother from lung cancer four years previously. That story is one of all-consuming grief, anger, and a downward spiral into dangerous and self-destructive behaviors.
Even though it was the death of her mother which precipitated Cheryl's decision to solo hike the PCT, I felt like the two stories are so very different from each other that it just doesn't work to have both accounts in the same book. I found it jarring each time Cheryl flashbacks to a moment in her pre-PCT life.
Don't get me wrong, both stories interested me. I was eager to read about a crazy girl taking on this extreme physical challenge. I adore man vs. nature tales. And although I found it difficult and somewhat emotionally draining, I also wanted to read about the particulars of Cheryl's grief and the details surrounding her mother's death. I lost my own mother to cancer in July 2010 and I find myself inexplicably hungering for the accounts of other people's experience of such profound tragedy.
The problem I have with the book overall I guess, is that the two stories do not complement each other very well. Some sections in which Cheryl describes the horror of helping her mother die and the depth of the grief which followed are beautifully and honestly written. The scene involving her mother's horse is seared upon my memory.
These sections are at odds however, with Cheryl's account of her selfish, self-destructive behavior after her mother's death. We all grieve differently, and there is no right way. Cheryl's chronic infidelities, drug abuse, and finally her decision to hike the PCT totally inexperienced and extremely ill-equipped I did not find interesting. In fact, it pushed me away rather than drew me in. I felt turned off. It's one thing to do something wholeheartedly rash and stupid and dangerous when you are 26 years old, but to try and wax poetic about it in hindsight in your 40s is not cool. I felt like Cheryl romanticized her hike waaaaaay too much, a reminiscence with rose-colored glasses. Sure she talks about the blisters and the patches of dry skin, the weight loss, the hunger, the thirst, the heat. But she downplays the imminent very real dangers for a happy story that all worked out in the end.
Her PCT hike could have -- should have -- ended quite disastrously. She went about it very naively, with little or no real knowledge or hiking experience. Her mistakes were massive and at times ridiculous. You can choose to laugh about them in retrospect, but the message really should be: kids, don't try this at home. I felt like grown-up Cheryl should have been apologizing for her reckless stunt rather than almost ... bragging about it. Yes, there is a definite tone of bragging and conceit (that can't all be attributed to the audiobook's reader). Maybe that's what turned me off the most, and that is certainly a very subjective, personal response I know.
If you like reading about dysfunctional people as their lives spiral out of control this book may appeal to you. If you like to read about people doing crazy ass stunts then by all means, take on the story of this young woman as she haphazardly and with zealous abandon hikes into the woods with a mammoth pack on her back and boots that are one size too small.
Cheryl's story may inspire you. It did not have that effect on me. ...more
I don't want my three-star rating to give you the wrong impression of this book which is pure, magical loveliness. Emily does an amazing job3.5 stars
I don't want my three-star rating to give you the wrong impression of this book which is pure, magical loveliness. Emily does an amazing job in her review capturing the nature of that loveliness, more than I could ever do here. What I can say is that this is a character-driven story where not a lot happens, yet the story always feels pregnant with melancholy and a distracted expectation that something is going to happen, any minute now, right around the corner.
I thoroughly enjoyed the sweet-natured people that populate the book's remote 1920s Alaskan setting. I was never bored reading about their humble, honest, hardworking lives. Or their heartache. Because in any life, there is always going to be some of that. Despite the prevailing melancholy that runs through the narrative, there is humor too, and I found myself chuckling a few times which is always nice.
And I guess that's why I'm not going to rate this book any higher than 3.5. It's a nice story in every way, but not once did I ever feel shaken or swept along -- and the ending completely underwhelmed me and left me with a "huh?" feeling, as in "really? that's it?"
Still, I'm glad to have read it and I am recommending it. For its loveliness and beautiful prose. For its calming simplicity and charming whimsy. ...more
Wow, freaking wow. I had no idea I would be sucked into this novel the way I was -- I couldn't put it down! I know that phrase is overused, but seriou Wow, freaking wow. I had no idea I would be sucked into this novel the way I was -- I couldn't put it down! I know that phrase is overused, but seriously, I couldn't put it down! And when I did have to abandon it for life and work, I couldn't wait to get back to it. This is so different than Cain's other noir novels where sex and violence, scheming, backstabbing and a dead body feature so prominently. Unlike Double Indemnity or The Postman Always Rings Twice, Mildred Pierce is a full-length novel that takes its time delving deep into character and focusing on the minutiae of one woman's epic financial rise during the Great Depression (and her extremely damaging and twisted relationship with her eldest daughter Veda).
Veda -- what a vile and loathsome (and brilliant) literary creation. Don't get me wrong; I had my problems with Mildred too, but Veda just takes the cake. I've never wanted to scream and slap someone across the face so badly as I wanted to with her. (view spoiler)[When Mildred FINALLY loses her cool and starts to choke her, I'm actually cheering her on! Yes! Choke on that, you witch! (hide spoiler)]
There's something very Shakespearean tragic about the entire Pierce clan -- such flaws and blatant hubris marking their unraveling. Cain isn't writing a love story or a novel of redemption. He shines a light on greed and pride in such a way that you must look, even though it's so ugly, so distasteful. Cain is a master in this, capturing 1930's California and a woman's place in it. Without ever losing the propulsive thread of his tawdry, daytime drama narrative, Cain is able to show the sneering side of class consciousness, the brute realities of gender roles, and the poisonous type of love that can bring a family to its knees.
Veda may be a villain, and easy to despise, but I became so frustrated with Mildred's choices and blind (not to mention unhealthy) devotion to her daughter that I came to despise her a little too. Can we say that by the end of all this mess everyone gets what they deserve? Well, this is Cain, so I'll let you figure it out.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I've put off writing a review for this book because I always struggle with the great ones and Woodrell's Winter's Bone is one of those (with a capitalI've put off writing a review for this book because I always struggle with the great ones and Woodrell's Winter's Bone is one of those (with a capital G). It's craft and heart and drama and beauty. It's poetry and grit, entangled in an embrace of love and hatred.
Woodrell offers up a stinging portrait of impoverished life in the Ozarks, where kin saves as often as it condemns. The hill people of Ree's world live by their own laws separate from that of the state -- of paramount importance, don't be a snitch and mind your own business. Bad things happen to anyone who talks too much or asks too many questions. Unfortunately, sixteen year old Ree has a lot of questions that need answering with only her to ask them. Left on her own to protect a shattered mother and two helpless kid brothers, Ree is desperate to uncover the whereabouts of her meth-making father. She must venture into the cold and ice and pass over hostile thresholds where she is neither invited nor wanted.
Ree’s fierceness and courage stole my heart. She ranks as one of my favorite literary characters OF ALL TIME. Her stubbornness and smart mouth made me smile as much as it made me fear for her safety. Ree has her own set of rules to live by that include, stepping in to do for her brothers where her parents have failed and “Never. Never ask for what ought to be offered.” Ree is an old soul, mature beyond her years, forced to grow up fast and smart in a world that has teeth and a taste for blood.
This is a harsh story, one where the author pulls no punches. Woodrell is not out to romanticize this hill life or the hardscrabble characters living it. He wants us to see the ugly, to feel it in our bones, but for all of that there is tremendous beauty here as well, not just in the prose that SINGS but in the simplicity of a proud people who do what they must to survive in an environment that does not forgive weakness or stupidity lightly.
I cannot recommend this book enough. I am also going to recommend Kemper’s review here, because he does such a wonderful job capturing the book’s honesty and intensity. If I haven’t convinced you to read Winter’s Bone, he will.
***A note on the audio version: Outstanding! Emma Galvin captures Ree’s strength and vulnerability perfectly. Woodrell’s prose is so gorgeous it soars when read aloud.
Love and hate hold hands always so it made natural sense that they'd get confused by upset married folk in the wee hours once in a while and a nosebleed or bruised breast might result. But it just seemed proof that a great foulness was afoot in the world when a no-strings roll in the hay with a stranger led to chipped teeth or cigarette burns on the wrist. `Winter's Bone
My TBR pile has grown ridiculously huge of late (my house is hoarding half my public library's precious cargo). Despite this ever-increasing mountainMy TBR pile has grown ridiculously huge of late (my house is hoarding half my public library's precious cargo). Despite this ever-increasing mountain of unread promises, my reading pace has proportionately slowed. At a time when I should be blazing through the pages of every book I pick up, I find myself smelling the proverbial roses. The faster I burn through a book, the more quickly I am to forget it anyway, even the real gems. Plus, life just gets in the way sometimes and it's been doing a darn good job of pulling me away from the last few books I've picked up.
This one I was more than happy to spend a whole week with, sneaking short sweet moments with it every chance I got. Nothing really happens in this book, but it hums along at a wonderful pace. How could I not be pulled into a story about sisters and the dynamics of small town life, that celebrates books, the Bard, and new beginnings. As Rose, Bean and Cordy show us, no matter how much a life seems utterly derailed, it's never too late to start over. Quite often only through complete failure can we find our way to where we're supposed to be.
If that all sounds a little too touchy-feely, hippy-do for you, I won't lie -- it is touchy-feely, hippy-do -- but it's a touchy-feely, hippy-do that's wrapped in staggeringly gorgeous prose and turns of phrase. I nearly drove my boyfriend crazy following him around the house to recite certain passages. I just couldn't resist, Brown uses language that's meant to be read aloud.
The novel could have easily descended into an Oprah/Hallmark co-production of the week but it is saved from that nausea-inducing fate by carefully crafted and lovable sisters and language that flows like sparkling water out of a mountain spring (too much? yeah, I should have quit while I was ahead).
I'm a zombie-loving girl who needed a break from bleak dystopias and nerve-jangling apocalypses. This book totally fit the bill.
If ever "a sweet and wonderful story" was ever written, this is it folks. It totally enchanted me with its sparkle and sincerity. The book tackles somIf ever "a sweet and wonderful story" was ever written, this is it folks. It totally enchanted me with its sparkle and sincerity. The book tackles some pretty serious issues yet it never becomes bogged down or begins to feel preachy. It soars and flows from beginning to end.
Frankie's voice rings true as the soon to be 12-yr-old plagued by pernicious worry and stalked by his hypochondria. His fears are many and the only person who stands a chance at soothing them is his loving Ma. That is until he meets Sydney -- a precocious, lovable, forthright girl who asks all the questions Frankie burns to ask but doesn't dare. Sydney has jumped into her life with both feet and with a ferocity that both terrifies and enthralls Frankie. They bond instantly, but Sydney has some huge problems of her own that threaten to shake Frankie's world to its very foundations.
I love Frankie's crazy family -- his troubled Ma, his eccentric father (known only as Uncle George), his scheming older brother Louie always on the lookout for the next "get rich quick" scheme, his sarcastic and dramatic older sister Gordana, and last but not least his smoking, drinking, prattling great Aunts who surround Frankie's family like meddlesome magpies, their presence huge, their love and commitment infinite.
I don't read a lot of contemporary literature just because stories dealing with "real life" ups and downs often bum me out and leave me less than inspI don't read a lot of contemporary literature just because stories dealing with "real life" ups and downs often bum me out and leave me less than inspired or excited. I read to escape from life for the most part and want to be shocked, thrilled, titillated, consumed -- and at the best of times -- overcome with wonder and emotion.
Some contemporary novels are very rich in language and character development, and while not a lot happens, they still succeed at moving the reader. Those are the novels that make us think and along the way reveal some universal truth about the human condition. Those are the novels that stand the test of time. The Year We Left Home is not that novel.
I expected a lot more from veteran author Jean Thompson. This is a woman who should now be at the pinnacle of her craft, and while all the literary tricks are present to appease the critics, the novel lacks heart and left me sorely wanting. This despite the fact she delivers in excruciating detail, an up-close look at the minutiae of one family's failures and triumphs over the course of thirty years.
But the drama is very typical, very representative of the average American life, and so help me God it bored me. The petty grievances and singular moments of disappointment and depression we all feel if we live long enough are not something I want to read about frankly. I didn't fall in love with any of these people -- their choices and "middle America" lives put me in a cold, coma of apathy.
(view spoiler)[ Torrie's story arc is the only one that intrigued me and we don't get enough of it nor do we ever get the rest of her story from her point of view. Reader's get the rest of her story third-hand, not from Torrie whose voice I really wanted to hear again. (hide spoiler)]
I didn't hate this one, but there just wasn't enough in it for me to recommend it either. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I thought I would be ga-ga over the moon for this book. It has all the ingredients I’m usually such a sucker for – coming-of-age; first-person narratoI thought I would be ga-ga over the moon for this book. It has all the ingredients I’m usually such a sucker for – coming-of-age; first-person narrator; dysfunctional family; humor; the mother and daughter relationship; it’s even set in Canada during a time period that should make me feel nostalgic. I really liked it, parts of it work amazingly well, but overall I’m left feeling empty and a little cheated. It’s like I was promised a real, live, bloody beating heart and then after being led down the garden path a few times I was handed a cut-out of a black and white diagram from a 1960s biology textbook. Or remember this ad from a few years ago? The expression on that kid’s face perfectly sums up how I’m feeling right now (a little cheated, a little mistreated).
The structure of this novel is impressive; Kirshner’s control of language is enviable and she is obviously a talented writer (hence the 3 stars). But here’s the thing: even though all the technical aspects of the novel are firmly in place – plotting, pacing, characterization, metaphors, analogies, foreshadowing, the works – most readers are searching for more than technical proficiency when they sit down and open a book. I don’t like to feel manipulated by literary devices and tricks of the trade. I want to be swept away goddamn it, and be pulled out of my own life for awhile. I want to live and breathe a story and totally believe in the characters I’m reading about. I want to feel their pain and cheer for their success. There is just something a little too contrived and … I don’t know … kitschy about the struggles in this one.
The first 1/3 of the book sort of reminded me of Running with Scissors – the dysfunction is such that it reaches almost the level of parody. Surely the narrator is taking liberties with memory and exaggeration. In the case of Where We Have to Go, I found myself struggling with the way Lucy’s parents related to her and spoke with her. Things are said that left me scratching my head thinking: “would parents really talk to their 11 year old kid like that? Even an only child?” As for Lucy, her precociousness is so over-the-top, her insights so keen, I could never really buy her as “just a kid”. Her “beyond her years” wisdom is jarring and unconvincing when we also consider she’s prancing around in ALF merchandise (not even realizing it’s long off the air and she’s watching it in syndication).
Other things that left me unsatisfied: (view spoiler)[Lucy’s mom and her friend trying to set Lucy up with a boy when she’s TWELVE YEARS OLD. Huh??? Really? I know young girls are growing up faster than ever these days, but do you really need your mother pimping you out? I also felt the “anorexia” bit kind of a throwaway part of the novel; it lagged and didn’t ring true for me. It felt like forced drama attempting to add “depth” to Lucy’s coming-of-age trials. I also did not appreciate the quick death of Lucy’s mother at the end. I felt emotionally manipulated. There’s nothing more tragic or devastating than dying mothers battling cancer. It felt like a cheap ploy and made me angry. (hide spoiler)]
Overall, while the novel is technically proficient and reads very strong in places, I find myself not able to recommend it. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
The monster showed up just after midnight. As they do.
If I could get the whole world to read just one book it would be A Monster Calls. I could listThe monster showed up just after midnight. As they do.
If I could get the whole world to read just one book it would be A Monster Calls. I could list here a whole ream of adjectives to try and describe it -- beautiful, haunting, heartbreaking, lyrical -- but none do it justice. I would need to invent adjectives, and even then I would come up short.
I can tell you A Monster Calls is the warmest hug, the hug that makes you feel the most safe, when you are at your most frightened. The world can be a terrible place, Fate a cruel and capricious bitch. But we humans persevere, it's what we do even when we're certain we cannot.
This story is such an intimate experience; it holds you in its jagged grip, unrelenting in its task, merciless in its final destination. It is the human heart personified, all the love we are capable of feeling contained in its pages.
I implore you -- Read. This. Book. Don't wait a moment longer. ...more