Around the Year Reading Challenge Item #50: A book originally written in a language other than English
Yes, this is a deeply unsettling book.
The artworAround the Year Reading Challenge Item #50: A book originally written in a language other than English
Yes, this is a deeply unsettling book.
The artwork is garish and creepy, nightmare-like, really. There is far more going on than either the cluttered, overlapping images or the text will say. There are no easy answers, and ultimately I gave this book four stars instead of five because I was left with a few TOO MANY questions. (view spoiler)[ Like, was panther an imaginary friend Christine used to work through past or present trauma? Was he a psychotic break, her own psyche setting out to harm her, a brush with schizophrenia? Or was he really a being from another world come to seduce and molest her (along with his creepy friends)? I also had the uncomfortable fear that Panther was really her father coming to visit her in the night, and that she "coped" by imagining him as an actual predator -- a panther -- or that he coaxed her into thinking of him that way. This is the interpretation I like least, and I wish I could shake it, because I really want to believe that Christine has SOMEONE safe she can turn to. (hide spoiler)]
This is a book best read in the light of day, although that won't be enough to keep you from filling icky. There's just a better chance you'll be able to shake it off by bedtime. ...more
Around the Year Reading Challenge Item #38: A book about an anti-hero
This was a light read, but not shallow. It had just enough heart and smart culturAround the Year Reading Challenge Item #38: A book about an anti-hero
This was a light read, but not shallow. It had just enough heart and smart cultural commentary to be substantive despite its sometimes breezy tone. The relationship between Blackheart and Nimona was super sweet, and any potential weirdness in the adult male/teenage girl dynamic evaporated when (view spoiler)[ it became clear that Blackheart was gay. (hide spoiler)] I also liked the shameless meshing of traditional fairy tale elements - kings, knights, market days - with modern communication like news alerts and video chats. And the question of who is really the villain in any given system is always worth examining - Blackheart had a sense of "honor" and a personal ethics that belied his moniker.
I would have liked to have known more about Nimona's actual backstory; the gist of it was there but the edges remained a little blurry. The ending felt a bit abrupt to me as well, although the epilogue took the edge off. ...more
Around the Year Reading Challenge Item #49: A Book with a Great Opening Line
This book has intrigued me since it first came across my desk when I was aAround the Year Reading Challenge Item #49: A Book with a Great Opening Line
This book has intrigued me since it first came across my desk when I was a teen services librarian -- I remember my intern taking it home the day it was processed and reading it all in one night. But I put off reading it until I could no longer put it off (my book club was reading it.)
So, why the resistance to a book that caught my attention right away? I was afraid that it would be "gimmicky," that the actual story would never live up to the stories promised in the creepy vintage photographs scattered throughout. Within the first few pages, I was pleased to find that I was wrong -- the prose is actually very good, and the storyline is strong enough to stand on its own. The photographs become a delightful perk, pushing the book into the realm of "experimental" or "mixed media" rather than the sole reason for the book's existence. There were times when the usage of photos felt a little incongruous -- places where they were used as "illustrations" without any explanation of why a photograph of that thing would exist were a little off-putting to me.
I liked the first half of this book better than the second. The beginning section is so atmospheric, with the descriptions of the bombed out, empty house, the rainy island, the creepy mummy in the tiny museum. Some people may find this slow to start, but I wanted the anticipation to go on and on. I liked the mystery more than its resolution.
The second half of the story doesn't take a nosedive or anything. It just gets a little jumbled, with a bunch of characters bursting into what has been mostly a solitary journey for Jacob, a somewhat questionable romance, some skewed parental interactions, and a lot of different plot points jammed together into a mostly coherent puzzle.
I haven't seen the movie yet, but I have a feeling it will focus on the "peculiar" children and rush through the opening, which would be a shame. It also makes me somewhat less inclined to read the follow-up novels, since they'll probably more closely resemble the second half of the book than the first. I invite those who have read them to make a case for or against continuing the series!...more
Read Harder Challenge Item: Read a book about politics
My library had this book shelved with "bios," so I thought I was getting another biography of HiRead Harder Challenge Item: Read a book about politics
My library had this book shelved with "bios," so I thought I was getting another biography of Hills (I already read A Woman in Charge: The Life of Hillary Rodham Clinton) that was published later and therefore covered her post-Senate years and her time as Secretary of State.
This isn't actually a biography -- it pretty much picked up where the last Clinton book I read left off, beginning with her first presidential run, focusing on her tenure as Secretary of State, and wrapping up with questions about a 2016 run.
Although I followed Clinton's 2008 campaign (and voted for her), I have to admit that I paid absolutely no attention to her time as Secretary of State -- I wasn't really a news junkie, and she no longer held the position by the time I started working for a news organization. So this book filled in the gaps nicely, although similarly to "A Woman in Charge," there was a certain sense of "distance" in the narrative. Although I got a better idea of the workings of Obama's administration, some interesting character insight into our current president, and a few noteworthy stories about Clinton, I still felt held at arm's length. I haven't ready Hillary Clinton's memoirs (Living History or Hard Choices), but I feel skeptical about them because I know they are part of her political persona, written to present herself in the best light. Yet these journalistic, more "objective" takes always leave me a little unsatisfied, ultimately still feeling that she is an enigma. I often come away feeling as if I've learned more about the people around her -- Bill Clinton, Obama, etc. -- than I have about her. I think what I'm really itching for is Huma Abadin's tell-all up-close memoir.
Overall, this book was a bit too much about political machinations for my taste, and either it was published prior to or demurred from mentioning the email scandals, so I felt like it was somewhat incomplete. But I'm a little bit more informed than I was before I read it, and this is an election season in which it's especially important to be well armed. ...more
Around the Year Reading Challenge Item #24: A "Between-the-Numbers" book of a series
This was pretty much what you'd come to expect in a J.D. Robb bookAround the Year Reading Challenge Item #24: A "Between-the-Numbers" book of a series
This was pretty much what you'd come to expect in a J.D. Robb book, except shorter. There is no who-dun-it because Eve knows who the killer is -- an escaped convict that she put behind bars three years ago. The tension instead comes from the fact that Eve as well as a close friend are both on his "hit list" and she must find him before he kills the others on the list and without losing her own life.
The book was fine -- prose, pacing, plot pretty much on par with the full-length novels. I was annoyed that a book so short still had to waste pages on sex scenes that did nothing to advance plot or character, but mostly I rated this book three stars because it followed the J.D. Robb formula TOO well. I was hoping the shorter form might give her the opportunity to try something a little different, but this is just a miniature version of what she's been doing all along. ...more
I've put off writing this review for weeks because this is one of those books that it is hard for me to be articulate about.
The experience of readingI've put off writing this review for weeks because this is one of those books that it is hard for me to be articulate about.
The experience of reading this book is claustrophobic at times; this is an interesting juxtaposition with the fact that its central characters are immortal or nearly so,which seems like it should lend itself to a feeling of "expansiveness." Instead, despite her immortality and her incredible shape-shifting and healing abilities, Anyanwu spends much of the book "trapped" by Doro due to her reluctance to put her children in danger or subject them to his manipulations.
Despite her entrapment, Anyanwu never feels totally "powerless" -- even as a prisoner, she loves those around her even when they appear abhorrent or unlovable. She's an almost Christlike figure and embodies the idea of "feminine strength" that persists no matter how much the world tries to control or break her down.
I really hated Doro.
Other references I read to this book made it sound like a love story between Doro and Anyanwu. It's more of a "love-hate" story. There's a whiff of Beauty & the Beast in the idea that perhaps Ayanwu's strength and goodness can save or change Doro throughout the centuries. I feel conflicted about their relationship and the book in general. It is not an easy book to read because it offers no easy answers to subjects of consent, dominion, sex, or history. The historical details are vivid, which is not really pleasant in colonial, slave-driven America. I wish the questions this book wrestles with were not still so relevant today. ...more
Around the Year Reading Challenge Item #39: A book set in a place you'd like to visit
After discussing some of the book's flaws with my book club lastAround the Year Reading Challenge Item #39: A book set in a place you'd like to visit
After discussing some of the book's flaws with my book club last week, I realize I may have been a bit generous in awarding it the elusive five stars. But despite its weaknesses, while I was reading this book I did not want it to end -- this happens rarely even when I am enjoying a book, and that tends to be what bumps it into five-star territory.
While I agree that Rosie is a bit of a manic-pixie-dream-girl, and while I do think she's a bit on the self-centered side, and while I had such a hard time picturing her even though she WAS described, she didn't really get on my nerves or interfere with my enjoyment of the book. The most fun aspect of this book for me was Don's "voice" -- I loved the unusual way he saw the world and the various adventures and misunderstandings that arose from this. Not only is the book a sympathetic portrayal of someone who is on the autism spectrum, but it also underscores the ways that neurotypicals and those with different brain types are very much alike. All of us have certain ideas that we are unwilling to be flexible about, and all of us feel pretty clueless when it comes to understanding love.
Overall, this is a "feel-good" book that would make a delightful romantic comedy -- and this coming from someone who isn't a huge fan of romantic comedies. What I liked about this as a romance is that the misunderstandings and tensions that arise in Don and Rosie's relationships are not manufactured for the sake of plot -- instead, they arise naturally from the way that their minds work differently. Thus, it's not one of those books where all the tension would be dissipated if the characters would just TALK TO EACH OTHER ALREADY. Talking to each other, with their differing communication styles, is often part of the problem.
I like that Don's relationship with Rosie made him more "open" to new experiences and "flexible" in the way he lived his life, but I think the criticism that he was expected to change "too much" is valid. Rosie probably could have learned a thing or two about being organized and methodical, too!...more
Around the Year Reading Challenge Item #25: A Book Whose Main Character is in a Profession that Interests You
This feels like two different books smashAround the Year Reading Challenge Item #25: A Book Whose Main Character is in a Profession that Interests You
This feels like two different books smashed into one: the first half is something of a memoir of Cutie's experience in the priesthood, while the second half is essentially his rant about all the things that are wrong with the Catholic church, which he mostly attributes to the celibacy requirement for clergy.
This has a bit more of a "celebrity memoir" feel to it than I usually like, and the writing in the first half feels a little labored, clunky, and obligatory. I didn't realize that Cutie was such a public figure, so his need to tell "his" side of the story and his many references to how the media and those around him perceived him felt a little bit overly defensive to me. If you're looking for a love story, you will be disappointed -- he goes into very little detail about the relationship that was ultimately the last straw in his decision to leave the Catholic church, probably out of respect for his wife, whom he characterizes as a "private" and "shy" person.
The book picked up steam (and interest) for me after Cutie stopped acting as an apologist for why he remained in the Church for so long and instead dissects all that he sees to be wrong with it. There is nothing incredibly new here, although there are a few interesting insights, such as his belief that the Catholic church has been so silent in speaking out against dictatorial governments because it is itself a dictatorship. The idea that all of the Church's problems stem from the celibacy requirement is a bit of a stretch, but he makes a compelling argument for it nonetheless. I liked having the "insider look" behind the veil that is the Catholic hierarchy and appreciated that Cutie's role as an outsider allowed him greater than priests still within the system are afforded. I felt a bit uncomfortable with how Cutie seemed ready to give priests accused of sex abuse the "benefit of the doubt" as well as his conflation of homosexuality and predatory sexual preferences, even though he claims to be an ally to the GLBTQ community.
As a memoir it's a little stiff and wooden, and it's not the greatest treatise on the failings of the Catholic church. But I'm still glad to welcome Cutie among the chorus of dissenters calling for change in an institution that too often does more harm than good to its adherents. ...more
Book Riot Read Harder Challenge Item: A book set in the Middle East
This is a first novel, and it feels like one. The prose is overwritten and tends toBook Riot Read Harder Challenge Item: A book set in the Middle East
This is a first novel, and it feels like one. The prose is overwritten and tends toward the purple, and it resorts to using the same descriptions far too often. Like, we don't need to know that Jalid has "tiger eyes" each time he looks at Sherzhad, do we? Or that Sherzhad has luscious, waist-length hair? There also seemed to be something weird going on with transitions, because I often had to backtrack to figure out how we got from one scene to another, or from one point of view to another, etc.
It's hard to redeem the caliph who murders a new bride every night, and this book puts forth a valiant effort. But in doing so, it sort of lets him off the hook for his crimes, which is a little off-putting. The tumultuous love story between Jalid and Sherzhad probably would have captured my interest if I read this as a teenager, but as an adult it felt a bit on the melodramatic side. Plus, whenever I started to get into it, there was, "Oh yeah, but this guy has killed a bunch of women," and that sort of killed the mood for me.
The world-building is pretty shaky and doesn't seem to be firmly rooted in Middle Eastern history or in a new, magical world. It ends up being a sort of mashup of the two, but the magic plays such a tangential part in the story that it feels a little out of place. There are curses and random powers inserted mostly for the sake of convenience and without feeling as though they are truly woven into the fabric of this time and place. And, like, why was there a magic carpet that never even did anything? I could have done without the half-baked love triangle, too.
I gave the book three stars, so obviously it wasn't all bad. It held my interest well enough even if it annoyed me at times, and there are far too few retellings of fairy tales outside the European canon. It ends on a little bit of ambiguity/cliffhanger which seems to set it up for a sequel, in which the love triangle is destined to take center stage. I don't think I will be reading it. ...more
Around the Year Reading Challenge Item #21: A book from the Goodreads recommendations page
The philosophy behind this book is pretty much the same as tAround the Year Reading Challenge Item #21: A book from the Goodreads recommendations page
The philosophy behind this book is pretty much the same as that powering Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within, but I found this book to be a lot more enjoyable. Goldberg's tone is a bit less pretentious and her advice, overall, feels more grounded and less self-involved. The writing prompts vary from the whimsical to the thoughtful to the practical, and I felt a little smug to see her recommending several practices that I already incorporate. The book is full of analogies to the writing life to make it seem a little less mystical, and it includes a healthy dose of author humility. While less exuberant than "Bones," the advice in this book is both inspiring and sustainable.
A couple things did bug me about the book. I felt that Goldberg included far more examples of her own writing than were needed to convey the sense of what she was advising; these felt self-indulgent. I also can't help notice that in many of these, "free yourself and write" advice books, the authors do not have traditional employment -- either they are supporting themselves with their writing, or they have some mysterious source of income squirreled away somewhere, and the advice about letting writing permeate every part of your life can feel unattainable when you are squeezing it in around the rest of your life. Goldberg does address this in several places, but there's a sense that she doesn't feel it down in her bones when she writes about quitting her one-day-a-week paid gig because it interferes with her writing mojo. Yup, jobs are hella inconvenient. ...more