I feel like the lone person who didn't love love love this book. But it's true, I didn't. I liked it fine and was interested in the storyline, but cer...moreI feel like the lone person who didn't love love love this book. But it's true, I didn't. I liked it fine and was interested in the storyline, but certain things lost me. The philosophical musings seemed...cloying? Is that the right word? There was plenty of dialog that did come across as realistic to me, but so much seemed over-the-top and put there specifically for the reader, to bate them into thinking it was better than it was. Of course, it's entirely possible that I thought this because I am completely cynical. I will admit that much.
Is it weird that Isaac was my favorite part? I loved that guy, and his friendship with Gus. What a good example of bro love.
Anyway, my rating is more like 3.5 than 3, but I couldn't round up this time.(less)
My rating is more like a 3.5 stars, but I rounded to 4 because so much of the book kept me engaged and flying through it. The slight downgrade from 4...moreMy rating is more like a 3.5 stars, but I rounded to 4 because so much of the book kept me engaged and flying through it. The slight downgrade from 4 stars is because I'm a little disappointed that after it started so strong, I got lost a bit in the ending. I found myself skimming through the last pages, just wanting to be done. I think it became a little too meta for me or something. But that's really only the last 50 pages or so, and up until then, the book is pretty strong.(less)
I was kind of wavering between whether to give this four or five stars, and here's why I went with the latter. For me to give a book five stars, somet...moreI was kind of wavering between whether to give this four or five stars, and here's why I went with the latter. For me to give a book five stars, something has to stick with me long after I turn that last page, and I think this book will do that. I finished the last 60 pages at Starbucks, got up, stopped next door to buy the author's first short story collection, and then continued walking down the street listening to music, all the while Ava's naive, 13-year-old voice lingered in my head.
The story centers around the Bigtrees, an alligator wrestling "tribe" in Florida that owns and performs in a tourist attraction called Swamplandia! After their mother—the park's main draw—dies of cancer, each of the Bigtrees withdraws in different ways, while Ava, the youngest, tries to hold the center together. She sees herself as an alligator wrestler through and through, and attempts to maintain whatever sense of normalcy and strength she can while her world crumbles around her: tourists stop coming, her father leaves on a long trip to try to save the park, and her sister Osceola retreats into an obsessive relationship with a teenage ghost. At the same time, her brother Kiwi tries to prove that he is the genius he always thought he was by leaving for school and to earn money to save his family's home. (These sections of the narrative alternate with Ava's and are told in third person. I liked them, but thought Ava's story/voice was stronger.)
I would say one thing that actually annoyed me was a very minor structure problem. Early-ish in the book she mentions a place called Last Ditch, and then later explains it as if mentioning it for the first time. The same thing happened when describing the Four Pilots of the Apocalypse and their maleleuca-seed destruction.
There were several passages I really liked:
“Stars slid away like rain, she was gone so long."
“But she shook her head sharply and I felt pained now, too, like I was the one hurting her. Ossie's hurt was an airborne virus, it could travel at you fast as a sneeze.”
“…somehow I wasn't adding up right anymore. My parts weren't summing into myself.”
“When you are a kid, you don't know yet that a secret, like an animal, can evolve. Like an animal, a secret can develop a self-preserving intelligence. Shaglike, mute and thick, a knowledge with a fur: your secret.”
“But until we are old ladies—a cypress age, a Sawtooth age—I will continue to link arms with her, in public, in private, in a panic of love.”
I'm officially a Karen Russell fan now, after recently finishing her latest short story collection, as well. I'm excited to read her first one and her new novella soon!(less)
Okay, my rating is really more like 4.5 stars. Dang, Karen Russell is one fantastic writer, and it's weird to me how polarizing her work appears to be...moreOkay, my rating is really more like 4.5 stars. Dang, Karen Russell is one fantastic writer, and it's weird to me how polarizing her work appears to be. Yes, the stories are quirky, (I mean, one is about a barn full of horses with the consciousnesses of former U.S. presidents), but she pulls them off, and they're completely engrossing. The last two stories weren't as good--in my opinion, anyway--but it is still a great collection, overall. I had been unsure about reading Swamplandia! due to seeing very mixed reviews, but I'm definitely going to give it a try based on my experience with this.(less)
It can be very hard for me to choose a book for vacation reading. I don't won't to read complete fluff, but I also don't want to read anything super h...more It can be very hard for me to choose a book for vacation reading. I don't won't to read complete fluff, but I also don't want to read anything super heavy or demanding. The Martian had been on my to-read list for a few weeks, and it turned out to be exactly what I wanted for reading with my feet in the pool and a beer (or several) in my hand. Now, that's not to say The Martian is light, but it is suspenseful and I flew through it. The premise, essentially, is that Mark Watney is an astronaut on a mission to Mars when his team encounters a strong storm and evacuates. He is injured during the course of events and left for dead. But he wasn't dead, and now he's stranded with no communications, trying to figure out how to survive and get the hell back to Earth. Of course, astronauts are smart people, and Watney is no exception. A mechanical engineer and botanist, he has the skills and knowledge to extend his survival odds. It's a hugely imaginative novel, but at the same time incredibly logical. Told primarily through a series of logs, there's a lot of science involved, but also so much humor, such as:
“Things are finally going my way. In fact, they’re going great! I have a chance to live after all!” immediately followed by a log entry beginning, “I’m fucked, and I’m gonna die!"
“Plastic might not burn, but anyone who’s played with a balloon know it’s great at building up static charge. Once I do that, I should be able to make a spark just by touching a metal tool. Fun fact: This is exactly how the Apollo 1 crew died. Wish me luck!"
I had no idea what was going to happen to Watney, and had to find out. Whenever the story cut to one of the peripheral characters, I just wanted it to switch back to Watney’s point of view, with his witty quips and foreign—and yet totally human—predicament. There’s a lot of nerdy math and science (he is an engineer, after all), but you just have to run with it and see what happens. I definitely recommend this to anyone looking for something unique, quick and completely entertaining.(less)
I'm not completely sure what I thought of this one. It took me longer to read than it should have, maybe because of the Latin slang. Or maybe because...moreI'm not completely sure what I thought of this one. It took me longer to read than it should have, maybe because of the Latin slang. Or maybe because it seemed like most of the stories were about the same people, like it could have been a novel if they'd been rearranged. It was well-written and all, but just wasn't my favorite.(less)
A very quick read, given that I finished it in a day (even after reading 150 pages of a different book). Some stories I really liked (Standard Lonelin...moreA very quick read, given that I finished it in a day (even after reading 150 pages of a different book). Some stories I really liked (Standard Loneliness Package, Open), while some I had a harder time following (The Book of Categories, Note to Self). Overall, it was quirky and had some good, insightful moments.(less)
Whoa, soooooo twisted. And so utterly and completely engrossing. I liked this a lot more than Gone Girl, and I think I'll start her next book very, ve...moreWhoa, soooooo twisted. And so utterly and completely engrossing. I liked this a lot more than Gone Girl, and I think I'll start her next book very, very soon (now?).(less)
I wanted to love this book, but some things that happened starting from about 2/3rds in prevented that. I just didn't like the direction the book took...moreI wanted to love this book, but some things that happened starting from about 2/3rds in prevented that. I just didn't like the direction the book took from there. I still really enjoyed it as a whole, but might have even more if things had been a little different. (I won't get too specific, for people who haven't read it yet.)
One reason I really liked it in general is probably because I identified a lot with the main character, Ursula. We spinsters must stick together! (You can be a spinster at 27, right?) When I read this part, I just thought, "Yes! She is me!"
"She worked for a big importing company and sometimes when Ursula listened to the girls in the office chatting about what they’d been doing and with whom, she found herself wondering how on earth they met all these people, these Gordons, Charlies, Dicks, Mildreds, Eileens and Veras—a gay, restless flock with whom they frequented variety palaces and cinemas, went skating, swam in lidos and baths and drove out to Epping Forest and Eastbourne. Ursula did none of these things."(less)