I read this when I wasn't really in a good mindset for serious reading, but I still enjoyed it. I think Ebershoff was most successful in the passagesI read this when I wasn't really in a good mindset for serious reading, but I still enjoyed it. I think Ebershoff was most successful in the passages describing Einar's internal conflict, which were accompanied by feelings of heartbreak and anxiety on his behalf. Ironically, the non-transitioning Greta was less relatable to me as a reader. The narrative was often disjointed, which works in some stories but here frustrated me a bit in my quest to understand Einar/Lili, Greta, and the men in their circle. I was also disappointed in reading the author's note to find that this is inspired by, rather than based on, their real lives. The raw material of this story is phenomenal, and for once I expect the movie will be better than the book. Can't wait to see what Eddie Redmayne does with Lili!...more
I saw that Christine d'Abo had this new MM romance coming out, so I decided to give it a try. Firstly because I loved 30 Days, and secondly because I'I saw that Christine d'Abo had this new MM romance coming out, so I decided to give it a try. Firstly because I loved 30 Days, and secondly because I've never tried an MM before. (Obviously I've read tons of heteromance due to my own interest and a decent number of lesbian romances due to some book club friends' interests.) So I don't know if the complete lack of women influenced my enjoyment, but there were lots of problems with this book. The dialogue and other writing wasn't as engaging as 30 Days, and I found the characters frustrating. The plot concept is ridiculous, but in a light, fluffy, enjoyable kind of way. The sex scenes were... enlightening, to say the least, but I do wonder at their accuracy, as well as the accuracy of the men's relationship in general. It's not that I think women are incapable of writing believable men, straight folks are incapable of writing gay characters, etc., but at the same time I've never read a lesbian romance written by a man. I feel like I would have enjoyed this one more if it was written by a man - because I gather that the intended audience here is really women who like to read about men together, whereas I just like realistic love stories with good characters, no matter the gender. I dunno, maybe MM romance just isn't me.
The fine print: received ARC from NetGalley....more
You could not make this stuff up - a bisexual Frenchwoman, master fencer, opera star, and even sometime nun. And that's enough review. What, not enougYou could not make this stuff up - a bisexual Frenchwoman, master fencer, opera star, and even sometime nun. And that's enough review. What, not enough to convince you?
Gardiner puts the words in Julie d'Aubigny's own mouth more than once - you really couldn't make up her story. Reading this novel is worth it just to learn about a real historical figure who didn't bend to convention or sacrifice her individuality at all. I think it's safe to say that she was one of a kind and that the world will never see anyone quite like her again. I would recommend this just on the merits of the historical inspiration alone.
A bit about the style, which is almost as unique as the subject matter - Gardiner has styled the novel as if Julie is looking back on her life and telling the story to a priest as a final confession (though she makes it clear she doesn't feel the need to atone for her sins to God). The story is in 5 "acts" like an opera, with different scenes in the form of duets, minuets, recitatives, etc. Even if you're not familiar with opera, you'll quickly be able to anticipate the style of the chapter based on the type of scene. (Duets are about romantic dalliances, minuets often involve the viewpoint of the public, recitatives are Julie "confessing" to the priest...) Seriously, A+ to Gardiner for originality of idea and execution as well. The one thing that I foresee voyeuristic readers complaining about is lack of detail, though it fits perfectly with the format she chose. Because Julie is telling her own story, she doesn't need to describe her sexual encounters, duels, and other life events with the level of detail you'd normally expect from historical fiction. Even the little detail she does provide often ends with her interrupting herself to tell the priest to stop blushing. She doesn't linger on the details because she knows them - she's working out what she needs to atone for as she approaches her death. I've seen several reviews that suggest Julie is self-centered and very "me me me," but really, that's the point of a deathbed confession, isn't it?
Totally unique heroine, totally unique narrative format. Great easy read for the literary reader.
The fine print: received ARC from Edelweiss....more
Selznick does it again. It's been a long time since I read his other books, but I think I would say this one falls between The Invention of Hugo CabreSelznick does it again. It's been a long time since I read his other books, but I think I would say this one falls between The Invention of Hugo Cabret and Wonderstruck in my esteem. Then again, maybe it was even better than Hugo but didn't make as much impact because the format was no longer a novelty to me. It's hard to discuss the impact of this book without giving the twists away. Selznick's use of illustrations to tell one story and then text to tell the other story was as effective as always, and it was interesting that he didn't intersperse them here, instead relying on one medium for each half of the story. This choice really worked for the plot. I enjoyed getting to know British theater history through the fascinating fictional Marvel family, and in the modern tale there are many thoughtful themes, from truth and storytelling to family and self-identity. Another home run for Selznick....more
This just wasn't the book I thought it was going to be. From the title and the cover, I thought it was going to fall more on the whimsical, magical reThis just wasn't the book I thought it was going to be. From the title and the cover, I thought it was going to fall more on the whimsical, magical realism side of the spectrum, and it ended up being almost... cerebral? Definitely with more violence and plot confusion than I was looking for. It was a very interesting concept, and I liked the characters, but something about the execution was just too convoluted and the mechanics of the door were described somewhat vaguely and somewhat technically. (Perhaps if I hadn't also read The Fold this year, I wouldn't have felt that way.) This is also a good description of the rest of the book, where I felt like I knew both too much and too little. Despite a lot of good ideas and writing, this just seemed to take me forever, and I almost abandoned it. (Of course to be fair, part of that could be because the ARC formatting was such that I had to read in tiny print, which made it infinitely harder.) I'm glad I finished it, but I still have very mixed feelings. And questions - mostly "why?"
The fine print: received ARC from NetGalley....more
This was a really interesting story about growing up lesbian in the very religious Nigerian community. Okparanta's writing is lovely, and I loved IjeoThis was a really interesting story about growing up lesbian in the very religious Nigerian community. Okparanta's writing is lovely, and I loved Ijeoma as a character. I think what I found disappointing (if that's the right word) was that Ijeoma's life is bookended by the Nigerian-Biafran war of 1967-1970 and Goodluck Jonathan's signing of the law that criminalized homosexuality in 2014. The former leaves Ijeoma fatherless and changes the course of her life, so it serves more as a plot device than anything else. The latter isn't even mentioned until the author's note, despite the fact that the epilogue takes place the same month the law was signed. Of course, this does serve to make the story much more personal, as Ijeoma's experiences as a lesbian are largely centered on her mother's reaction. She does have one horrific experience with the wider community, though it somehow felt a bit removed from reality.
A few other issues - as an Igbo with a Hausa friend, she doesn't experience the level of censure one would expect, particularly in the late '60s and early '70s. Or maybe I just don't know what I'm talking about - although characters do suggest that it is practically forbidden and then let the Hausa girl join the household anyway. Then there was the matter of Ijeoma's male childhood friend who reappears in her adult life and seems to undergo a dramatic shift in personality, some of which can be accounted for by circumstance but that didn't feel entirely natural to me. Cultural norms that are outside of my understanding could account for this, I suppose.
I sound terribly critical, I know, but I don't mean to. This was really a great coming of age / coming out story, one that would be of particular interest to gay Christians trying to reconcile their lives with the Bible. Ijeoma does a lot of thinking about the Bible and unpicks the verses traditionally used as weapons against gays, looking for their real meaning and trying to understand whether a loving God would condone such hate. Really my criticism is largely unwarranted, because I want this short novel to be something it's not - a larger historic picture of GLBT life in Nigeria. I guess I'm just irritated that my natural curiosity was piqued and not fully satisfied! Perhaps I just failed as a reader because I'm a straight, white, modern North American and wanted elaboration that a lesbian, or a Nigerian, or someone who came of ages in the '70s (or all three) wouldn't need.
So despite the 3-star rating, I really would strongly recommend this book to all kinds of readers.
(Oh, and after Okparanta's many mentions of the classic novel, I think I might need to go reread Things Fall Apart!)
The fine print: received ARC from Edelweiss....more
Another perfect example of how not every book is meant for every person, despite appearances. This one got a starred review in Booklist. It had a neatAnother perfect example of how not every book is meant for every person, despite appearances. This one got a starred review in Booklist. It had a neat fantasy concept(without too much world-building for my taste), a circus, interesting social commentary, personal drama... It had a lot going for it, but it just didn't click for me. I'm not sure why. The writing wasn't bad (some have called it "lyrical," though that wouldn't be my word of choice). I think overall I just felt the characters felt flat to me one or two plot points felt forced. (view spoiler)[Namely, why would North be impregnated by a mysterious stranger (presumably a man) when very clear hints suggest a lesbian romance? (hide spoiler)] Subject matter aside, in some ways the writing reminded me of Neverhome--just a bit too forced for me to buy it. But that's me. Perhaps I just wasn't in the mood. As other reviews have shown, obviously others will love it.
The fine print: received ARC from NetGalley.["br"]>["br"]>...more
How many books have I read by Picoult? Three? I'm already sensing a pattern - family drama/tragedy leading to estrangement and a court case, and we alHow many books have I read by Picoult? Three? I'm already sensing a pattern - family drama/tragedy leading to estrangement and a court case, and we all live judiciously ever after. That's not to say this (and the other books I've read by Picoult) weren't good, it's just that they're already feeling formulaic.
That being said and on the other hand, she does really bring some interesting issues to light and leave her reader with a lot of food for thought. In this case, the idea of who has the authority to make end-of-life decisions for a man in a coma, which was about as complicated as such a situation could get. The son had reached the age of majority and previously had a specific conversation about his father's end-of-life wishes, but they had since fallen out and not spoken for years. The daughter was a minor and hadn't had a specific conversation with him on the subject, but they'd lived alone together for years so she knew him best. Add to that the medical reality versus hope for survival, and you've got one complex situation. Oh yeah, and the stepfather is a lawyer who gets involved in the case too.
I was a bit frustrated because I related much more to one point of view than the other, perhaps partially because I found one of the siblings to be more sympathetic than the other. Of course, this could be a chicken/egg scenario where I was more sympathetic to said sibling because I related more to their point of view. Either way, it felt inevitable and not balanced to me. But I think that's the nature of the subject matter, and Picoult does a good job (in this and other books) with illustrating both sides as fairly as she can.
In an interesting twist, she made Luke, the coma patient, a sort of wolf-cultural anthropologist. He observes them, he lives among them, and he learns how their society works. Picoult obviously did a lot of research, and it gave her a great jumping off point to explore what it means to be wolf and what it means to be human. How much of the wild is in a human being? Is a wolf's way more natural? Are we the same or different? Which way is better?
So, as always, a thought-provoking, educational, and entertaining read from Picoult....more
I went back and forth on this one. I leaned more toward 3 stars, just because a lot of parts were just too vulgar or grim for me, but that's the naturI went back and forth on this one. I leaned more toward 3 stars, just because a lot of parts were just too vulgar or grim for me, but that's the nature of the people she was telling a story about so...
As usual, Donoghue did a brilliant job of weaving her tale together. The title is perfect because it works on many different levels, and teasing out those bits was a pleasure. Her writing was beautiful as always, and I spent a lot of time thinking about meanings and big ideas in between chapters, sort of like I did with Astray. The historical setting was well done, as was the mystery, as were the characterizations. I was a little hesitant about some forced-feeling GLBT issues, and I found it hard to like the cast of pimps and prostitutes, but I did really like Jenny Bonnet.
Bottom line, if you can get past the vulgarity, you have no choice but to appreciate another masterful work from Donoghue.
The fine print: received ARC from Edelweiss....more
Yet another book I would never have read except for my book club. I think I have to give it 4 stars because it's my favorite lesbian book of the onesYet another book I would never have read except for my book club. I think I have to give it 4 stars because it's my favorite lesbian book of the ones I've read. I liked the characters, I liked the various things going on in their lives, I liked the story. Sure it was simple, but it was sweet and a quick read. Of course given the choice I would pick a straight romance to read, but I don't think this one would have worked with a man involved and I enjoyed it for itself. However, it did make me want to pig out on some chocolate chip cookies!...more