Out of the Blue still has the telenovela plot that I was hoping for with quite a few stalker types running around and a mystery to be solved, but it i...moreOut of the Blue still has the telenovela plot that I was hoping for with quite a few stalker types running around and a mystery to be solved, but it is more confusing and not as carefully written or proofread as the first in the series, the free Kindle book To Be With You that I gushed about here. It's also funnier than To Be With You, but (view spoiler)[when it's revealed that the main stalker is the gay member of Club Blue, the goofiness went a little too over the top, and I felt kind of offended. (hide spoiler)](less)
I now understand the love for The Fault in Our Stars: It’s charming, imaginative, and self-deprecating about its own pretentiousness. It totally reads...moreI now understand the love for The Fault in Our Stars: It’s charming, imaginative, and self-deprecating about its own pretentiousness. It totally reads like something that was started in a creative writing class, which I liked. Also I have to say that John Green, a man in his thirties, does a creepily good job of writing from the perspective of a teenaged girl. When I didn’t overthink it, I was really impressed and not creeped out by this feat.
Other times, I kind of was tho. Another thing that kept taking me out of the world was that Hazel, Augustus, and even Peter Van Houten have very similar voices and the same linguistic tendencies. For example, the speech of all three characters is filled with British English, and I was surprised when Augustus complimented Hazel for making adjectival forms of nouns since he does it a lot himself (as does Van Houten, though I guess that Hazel could’ve picked it up from him, her favorite writer). As a result, when they would praise one another for their wit and intellect, it was a little weird, and even moreso when I thought about John Green writing all of this and how he was basically praising himself, which killed his self-deprecation game a little bit. And if this book were a Word document I would CTRL+F and delete every instance of "vague"/"vaguely" because they seriously have to go OMG!
Voice/style aside, I was also unsettled by Isaac, who seemed to serve as comic relief until the last quarter of the novel, when he stopped being a caricature and became a character to be taken seriously. While I thought that the dark or irreverent humor was often used well, when it was used in relation to Isaac, I could not help but feel uncomfortable. I liked him and wished that he wasn’t the sidekick whom we were supposed to pity because he went blind from eye cancer (view spoiler)[and was dumped by his girlfriend (hide spoiler)]. The way that Green treated Isaac kind of counteracted his message about not pitying kids with cancer. In short, John Green needs to be nicer to his sidekicks.
The beginning of the novel was stronger than the middle, and the middle was stronger than the ending, which was probably the corniest part of them all. In general I have no problem with corniness but felt that Green owed it to us readers to be more authentic at the end. What Augustus would call “metaphorically resonant” existential lines increased in frequency, and then it was over.
But I feel like I am being too negative in this review. Overall, I did enjoy The Fault in Our Stars. It may have weirded me out in a few different ways and used a few too many clichés, it may have been too self-conscious for its own good and misstepped in its tragicomedy, but there was a lot to like. I admire the heart that John Green put into this project, even as the product is not without its issues. And it would be interesting to see what he writes next.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Still curious about self-published books and the romance genre, I decided to select another free Kindle book for bedtime reading. This turned out to b...moreStill curious about self-published books and the romance genre, I decided to select another free Kindle book for bedtime reading. This turned out to be one of the best decisions of my Kindle life.
1) It was like a telenovela in book form, which is to say that it was all my dreams come true. I could not stop reading. Sometimes you just have to suspend disbelief RE: implausible situations and go with the flow, and it is 100% worth it.
2) Nicole deals with the trauma of abuse, which I did not expect, and I found that narrative to be very moving.
3) It was totally an interracial romance. When I started reading, I assumed that the protagonists were white, but then the narrator said that Nicole was black, and Sean was some kind of mixed child(?).
4) There were no sex scenes, so my prudish self was spared!
5) Villain A+!
The ending was a little rushed, but overall this was a quality piece of romance literature with a big heart and healing & redemption narrative. So, I have already purchased the second book in the series YOLO(less)
This was a cliche and occasionally-rated-R story that, out of curiosity, I chose from among Kindle's many free self-published romance novels. Though I...moreThis was a cliche and occasionally-rated-R story that, out of curiosity, I chose from among Kindle's many free self-published romance novels. Though I didn't end up liking it, you can tell that the author had a lot of fun writing it, so I say, More power to her! My favorite line is
"He could smell the traces of vanilla shampoo blended with a sweet floral perfume that reminded him of springtime and his grandmother's lilacs. Only the lilacs never filled him with this kind of longing."(less)
The premise and world-building is interesting though derivative, and not at all plausible. The narrative is awkward and full of deus ex machina. The c...moreThe premise and world-building is interesting though derivative, and not at all plausible. The narrative is awkward and full of deus ex machina. The characters are substantial enough for an action-driven story. And the writing is bad.
Prime examples (of many):
"I know I haven’t been in this part of the woods before, there were no sizable rocks like the one I’m sheltering against on my earlier travels."
"even more strongly than at home, I feel my impotence."
"When I open my eyes, the world looks slightly fractured, and it takes a minute to realize that the sun must be well up and the glasses fragmenting my vision."
"This girl...is unrecognizable. Her features eradicated, her limbs three times their normal size."
The necessary violence made you stop and think. I liked the issues (wealth & ethics; TV & desensitization; survival vs. compassion, etc.) and my favorite thing was the extreme dual philosophies as embodied by straightforward idealist effeminate Peeta and calculating practical manly Katniss. But this reversal, too, was ultimately disturbing as it depended on these very notions of gender roles.
And is it bad that I just wouldn't even want my kids reading books with sentences like "Today I'll have to be scrupulously careful" and "We look well [i.e. 'good'] together"?!
The whole time I tried to imagine how I would've responded to this book if I were 13. And I just don't know. Would I have been engaged by its tensions and themes, by its narrator who has a heart but buries it so deep that she even righteously guilt-trips clinically-depressed loved ones? Would I really believe in her contrived internal melodrama and become immersed in her telling of the story?
When I reread other YA coming-of-age books, I don't feel that they're simplistic in any way. But when I read THE HUNGER GAMES now, and the narrator is explaining things excessively and smacking me over the head with the fact that these aren't normal circumstances since they have to fight to the death, etc. etc., my mind just goes totally numb. And I feel that we should give teen readers more credit than that.
Which is why I feel that an Ursula LeGuin dystopia would be healthier than this.
That said, I can't wait for the HUNGER GAMES movie.
Barnes's novel is innovative, pretentious, anti-Semitic, strangely sentimental, and seemingly driven by hardcore hallucinatory drugs. There are precis...moreBarnes's novel is innovative, pretentious, anti-Semitic, strangely sentimental, and seemingly driven by hardcore hallucinatory drugs. There are precise poetic moments, and then there is the other 90% of the text, which is bizarre, scatter-brained language that hopes to communicate something but doesn't, at least for me. Barnes should have written a long poem instead. These are the kind of books that make me wonder why I am an English major.(less)
Last summer I had the wonderful chance to hear Deanna Fei read from her debut novel A Thread of Sky, about Chinese American women traveling to China....moreLast summer I had the wonderful chance to hear Deanna Fei read from her debut novel A Thread of Sky, about Chinese American women traveling to China.
This summer, I came across Ann Mah's Kitchen Chinese.
Something interesting: Both Fei and Mah published their respective novels in 2010 and wrote as they were living in Beijing. Yet Fei's is a contemporary fiction offering, while Mah's is straight-up chic lit. After several pages of cliches and cheesy writing that made it feel like CHEETAH GIRLS 2/EAT PRAY LOVE Asian-American style, I decided to go with the flow.
AND GOT HOOKEDDDDD
I loved how the narrative was arranged by region/food and included Taiwan and Hong Kong. I GOT SO HUNGRY WITH THE FOOD DESCRIPTIONS! And thought that Jeff Zhu the Mandopop star and love interest was hilarious. I enjoyed being immersed in the Beijing expat community. (If anybody is interested in that, Kaiser Kuo (Ich in Ein Beijinger), like Ann Mah, worked at the expat magazine the Beijinger!) It was super fascinating to have that world fleshed out in fiction, and despite the frame of cliches, it was creative and entertaining.
It also made me happy to be able to identify with many of Isabelle's experiences as an ABC in China; like Iz, I will never forget how accomplished and cool I felt when the taxi driver didn't ask, "Where are you from?"/"Ni shi na guo ren?" for the first time!
Sometimes we all need to read a cutesy, alternately lame and funny romantic comedy, and if you are in the mood for one of those (along with some Chinese food and healthy culture clash), then I would definitely recommend KITCHEN CHINESE. It made me smile a lot.
Notes: There were like 2 pinyin errors and some other minor typos--step it up, HarperCollins!
Many of the opening chapters quoted from Swallowing Clouds by A. Zee, which I now also want to find~(less)
We plan to meet tonight at a nearby Thai restaurant, all the while under the amazed gaze of the woman behind the desk, and I leave, forgetting about Kelmscott and Chaucer and floating down the marble stairs, through the lobby and out into the October Chicago sun, running across the park scattering small dogs and squirrels, whooping and rejoicing.
Clare is wearing a wine-colored velvet dress and pearls. She looks like a Botticelli by way of John Graham: huge gray eyes, long nose, tiny delicate mouth like a geisha. She has long red hair that covers her shoulders and falls to the middle of her back. Clare is so pale she looks like a waxwork in the candlelight. I thrust the roses at her. "For you."
*cringing cringing CRINGE CRINGE*
My favorite part is "tiny delicate mouth like a geisha." SO CRINGE-LICIOUS(less)
When I read The Blind Assassin last summer I decided to give it 3 stars because I had been impressed by the world of it. But looking back I think that...moreWhen I read The Blind Assassin last summer I decided to give it 3 stars because I had been impressed by the world of it. But looking back I think that that period setting may have been its most successful element, at least for me. The story within a story within a story was working at first, but over time this structure and its narration grew tedious instead of building tension toward the final twist, which was revealed to us long before Iris explicitly said anything about it. By the time that she did, I was just tired because the novel had been too long with too many metaphors. (Though initially in awe of the metaphor factory of Atwood's mind, I soon began to wonder why there was no editor to cut out these 39849384934 distracting flourishes. (view spoiler)[Moreover it was not hard to guess that Iris was the secret author of Laura's novel given that the novel was written in the same style and metaphor-laden prose as Iris's journal. (hide spoiler)]) I read every word anyway, and it did not pay off.
Maybe it didn't help that I had not become emotionally invested in Iris or in the affair with the creepy guy who always made up a creepy sci-fi story post-coitally. But I think the biggest problem was that the relentless one-dimensional cynicism did not offer much emotionally. Like, mortality is depressing; God is a fiction; people are disgusting and selfish; people are lustful animals, woe unto the earth! I honestly could have gotten the same insights into the human experience from a 15-year old boy on atheistforums.org. Instead I got them from a 500-page novel narrated by an arrogant aging Canadian woman i.e. Iris.
I chose The Blind Assassin to be my introduction to Atwood because one of my high school literature teachers had told us that The Blind Assassin was Atwood's masterpiece. Intricate as it is, I kind of regret reading it and do not know that I have the motivation to begin The Handmaid's Tale. If I do read another Atwood novel, though, it is next on my list because I have heard great things about it.