I am in the trenches of the Sisyphean task of planning a meaningful wedding celebration where two wildly disparate families (two cultures, languages,I am in the trenches of the Sisyphean task of planning a meaningful wedding celebration where two wildly disparate families (two cultures, languages, denominational traditions) and a stranger variety of friends will actually enjoy themselves. I'd like all participants to be well fed, charmed and entertained, merrily danced, and to have pretty things to look at while not going into debt.
This book was a nice way to keep things in context, and a good reminder that many of the "must-have" traditions are just newly developed marketing schemes. After a number of chapters, the chants of "you do you" and "you don't HAVE to do anything you don't want to," got a little repetitive, but compared to the throngs of vendors trying to sell me things every time I turn on my computer, these are actually pretty nice sentiments to have repeated at me.
That said, the book is what it is. It's not a comprehensive history of wedding traditions, a how-to guide, or an etiquette primer. There are websites for all of those pressing needs. Still, it was a refreshing and useful read, given my current situation/exasperation....more
Thematically similar to "Paradise" and some of Toni Morrison's earlier books, "Ruby" is earning Cynthia Bond many flattering comparisons. "Ruby" is itThematically similar to "Paradise" and some of Toni Morrison's earlier books, "Ruby" is earning Cynthia Bond many flattering comparisons. "Ruby" is its own creature, though. Bond brings alive in a small Texas town with perfect deployment of magical realism: town residents ward off haints and spirits, trees and crows have protective powers.
The sensory prose is excellent throughout, as Bond depicts both the physical world--Ruby's decrepit house, the peaked icing on a cake, the texture of wigs--and the spiritual. Bond explores a plethora of dark themes: rape, violence motivated by both race and gender, institutional abuse, trafficking of children. The brutal, visceral prose brings the reader into Ruby's psyche. After the sheer horrors this character endures at the intersection of both racial and gender-based violence, of course she believes in literal demons. Still, the book manages to avoid melodrama or easy fixes. Bond actually shows the difficult work of healing Ruby's lingering psychological wounds: the mistrust, paranoia, and hurt that continue long after physical violence is over.
Don't let this book's status as the Oprah Book Club 2.0's newest choice turn you off. It is not an easy text or a sentimental one. Few authors have so artfully captured the horrific experience of black women in the south, or the long, difficult work of finding healing and trust. This is an excellent new work in the Southern Gothic tradition.
Surreal, action-packed, but somehow uninteresting.
VanderMeer's premise is cool, but I just never bought into the stakes. As a reader, I never felt theSurreal, action-packed, but somehow uninteresting.
VanderMeer's premise is cool, but I just never bought into the stakes. As a reader, I never felt the dire need to explore Area X, bought into this speculative version of the future, or developed any sort of concern for the biologist and her team of explorers. When you don't care what's at stake in Sci-Fi, the whole novel can just feel like exposition.
It gets worse when the writer deploys dream logic for no apparent reason. I enjoy this as a device sometimes, if there's a metaphorical parallel or a child narrator of something, but in "Annihilation" it just made the reading experience more frustrating....more
Another Tournament of Books pick. Much better in concept than execution. It seems like a lot of readers liked Ball's use of author-as-narrator and speAnother Tournament of Books pick. Much better in concept than execution. It seems like a lot of readers liked Ball's use of author-as-narrator and speculation on the nature of truth. For me, none of the characters came alive, and it just seemed like a trickier spin on (view spoiler)[Life of David Gale/The Man Who Dared (hide spoiler)]....more
I'm interested in hearing more LGBTQ thoughts on this book--I appreciate that The Toast published a generally positive review by an author who is a transwoman , and the ensuing pushback conversation in the comments section. I totally agree with the reviewer that we need for more realistic, honest depictions of LGBTQ characters in literature, and more stories about their experiences and perspectives.
I loved how well-developed the minor characters were, the loving critiques of activist communities, the fun personal and political dialogues. Schrag did a great job at setting the scene and showing the great diversity and disagreements within a well-meaning community. That's why the narrative decision to tell this particular story, a story about a straight white cis male teenager in a complicated circle of young queer activists in NYC seemed so strange to me. If you look at all of the plots between and involving minor characters, there are probably several dozen stories and narrative perspectives that I would rather see fleshed out than what we got.
Because the story is told through Adam, the first fifth of the book is establishing that he's a typical insecure, straight, homophobic high school boy. So, lots of sitting through his internal misogynistic, homophobic, and transphobic thoughts. As he learns more and becomes more compassionate toward his sister and her friends, we're sitting through gender theory 101 with him. At this point, I was getting a little bored as Adam-as-narrator is explaining the differences between sex, gender identity, and sexuality. It's really not a good sign when an author has you sitting beside a character as they research things online. Still, I was thinking that maybe this book could serve as a good YA novel, a fun, accessible entry point to gender theory for teens.
Then, Adam meets Gillian. [Spoilers ahead]: I absolutely can't get past the disregard for consent in the last half of this book. And the fact that there are no serious repercussions for Adam's dishonesty and manipulation.
I'm all for unlikeable characters and narrators, but it really felt jarring in this book. Schrag is great at writing dialogue, developing complex friendships and relationships (Casey and June!), and depicting the internal arguments and inconsistencies of communities (I loved the dialogue between Hazel and "boy-Casey" at the rally). Still, I can't help but think about how much better this book would be written from Gillian's perspective. Or Casey's. Or June's. Or Ethan--one of the book's more interesting characters whose storyline had the least satisfying conclusion.
Fresh and lively, Felix has an exciting narrative voice.
"Nochita" follows a young woman's unconventional upbringing. She echoes her mother Kaia's, a nFresh and lively, Felix has an exciting narrative voice.
"Nochita" follows a young woman's unconventional upbringing. She echoes her mother Kaia's, a new age guru, pronouncements at retreats and conventions, cultivating and unearned authority from her mother's followers. She befriends pigs and unsuccessfully integrates into her father's cowboy life with his new fiance. Finally, as a runaway, she explores the seedy side of the counterculture, bouncing between homes and loves.
Felix uses wild imagery and first person narrative to show Nochita's strong imagination and tenuous hold on any of her homes, makeshift families, even reality. I found the first half more compelling, following Nochita's pursuit of family, in this stylistic vein. In the runaway years, the secondary characters were more transient, popping in and out of Nochita's life, thus less fleshed out. ...more
Slow and quiet, but unnervingly deep. The sheer amount of theology talk was surprising for a novel (and may be off-putting for readers who aren't wellSlow and quiet, but unnervingly deep. The sheer amount of theology talk was surprising for a novel (and may be off-putting for readers who aren't well-versed), but these conversations brought the characters to life. A pastor in rural Iowa contemplates his life as it nears its end--the warring ideologies (violent abolitionism and Pacifism) of his father and grandfather, inheriting their vocation and legacy, what knowledge and provision he will leave behind for his wife and young son.
I enjoyed learning the history of this small town: depression-addled, the waves of travelers and immigrants. Robinson's most poignant writing here was the narrator's unique insight on life in the pulpit: things people will not discuss with you, the burden of balancing the parish's needs with those of his family, the burden of keeping secrets.
I look forward to reading "Lila" and spending even more time in the town of Gilead.
I don't spend much time with either mysteries or crime dramas, but Tana French is fun. In "The Secret Place," she introduces an intriguing mystery, anI don't spend much time with either mysteries or crime dramas, but Tana French is fun. In "The Secret Place," she introduces an intriguing mystery, and a complex set of characters at an all-girls boarding school. I liked her deep exploration of the changing dynamics of a teen girl friend group. Considering the genre and the rapidly changing plotlines, I was impressed that French was able to create such a large number of well-drawn characters.