The real highlights of this little children's novel about grief are the gorgeous illustrations. They are absolutely stunning and alone make this bookThe real highlights of this little children's novel about grief are the gorgeous illustrations. They are absolutely stunning and alone make this book worth taking a look at. The story, however, wasn't as strong. Not bad, but repetitive to a fault, the "point" already felt hammered home halfway through the book. Sweet little message, though....more
Okay, I just can't do it. I cannot go any further.
I am giving up around the halfway point - which is arguably very generous for a 600-page book - becaOkay, I just can't do it. I cannot go any further.
I am giving up around the halfway point - which is arguably very generous for a 600-page book - because I'm just getting more and more irritated. I picked up I Am Pilgrim after seeing it on Goodreads' 16 Underrated Books That Deserve Your Attention post, and thinking that it was about time I found myself a fast-paced thriller.
And it starts fairly well, I'll give it that. The novel is broken up into "parts", each dealing with a different part of Pilgrim's life - as an Intelligence agent, an assassin, a criminal investigator, etc. - and the first part is quite exciting. It opens with a grisly murder, seemingly sexual in nature, with the victim dissolving in acid in the bathtub. The scene is so lacking in evidence that it looks like we got a badass on our hands.
Come on... murder, sex, perfect crimes - who wouldn't be interested at this point?
The bestest, baddest super spy of them all - the so-called "Pilgrim" - seems a little generic and lacking in characterization beyond the repeated affirmations by everyone that he really is THE BEST at everything, but that's okay. This book has over six hundred pages; surely he will develop a personality in time.
He doesn't. The few times the author attempts to connect us with his protagonist are over the most obvious universal sentiments - by that I mean he is sad for the people who were tortured and starved during the Holocaust, and angry because of 9/11. Oh wow, so that makes him like... almost everyone else.
Also, it seems strange that his narrative "voice" changes significantly in each part, depending on whether he is being sad for the war victims or delivering a diatribe against the crazy Muslims. I felt like I was reading stories told from the perspective of different characters.
AND it's all tell, tell, tell. He is the best in the world. This super badass former Intelligence Officer who knows everything… or so we keep being told. In action, he acts like an idiot for the most part, makes stupid mistakes, is somehow allowed to publish a book about his time as a secret agent (wtf?), and then spends his life running from all the readers who want to hunt him down.
Every single woman he meets his beautiful beyond belief, and I lost count of how many times we had to hear descriptions of the various curves, boobs, legs and heels wandering around. I'm not even looking at this as a feminist critique - political issues aside, frankly, it's boring. And yes, I absolutely would feel the same way if someone was constantly describing all the gorgeous men with rippling muscles.
Yet, this didn't stop me from reading. Nope, it was something else. These things are, in fact, all minor criticisms compared to the raging Islamophobia. It honestly made me very uncomfortable. I know that author's are not their characters, but I swear I could feel Hayes' disdain for the Saudi culture and people dripping onto the pages.
Now, I'll admit it: I don't think Saudi practices should be beyond criticism. I don't agree with their laws limiting women's rights, and the government is guilty of many human rights abuses. BUT Pilgrim's self-righteous superiority as he marches through this Muslim country is embarrassing.
Despite its huge wealth, vast oil reserves, and love of high-tech American armaments, nothing really works in Saudi Arabia.
The driver thought I was crazy - but then his religion thinks stoning a woman to death for adultery is reasonable, so I figured we were about even.
This whole book is about a white American milking 9/11 as an excuse to defeat the crazy Muslims. It perpetuates the notion that Muslims hate America, and that Saudis are lecherous pervs who lust after white women.
And, by the way, that last quote there just bugs the hell out of me. I'm a British atheist and I have no religious affiliation, but someone needs to say it: the Christian Bible also thinks adulterers should be put to death!
"If a man commits adultery with another man's wife both the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death." (Leviticus 20:10)
AND, if we're being nitpicky, the Qu'ran doesn't sentence adulterers to death, it sentences them to a flogging. The Hadiths, however, is the text that sentences adulterers to death BUT it does not distinguish between male and female adulterers.
When an unmarried male commits adultery with an unmarried female, they should receive one hundred lashes and banishment for one year. And in case of married male committing adultery with a married female, they shall receive one hundred lashes and be stoned to death. — Sahih Muslim, 17:4191
I read on for another couple hundred pages after the Islamophobia started because I wanted to give the book a chance to redeem itself. But it didn't. The story literally is about an amazing American agent defeating the Muslims. It's cringy.
I love it when historical fiction manages to be both informative about a time and place I knew nothing about, and emotionally crushing. Oh, okay, thatI love it when historical fiction manages to be both informative about a time and place I knew nothing about, and emotionally crushing. Oh, okay, that may be a bit dramatic - it's not that much of a depressing book. But still, Rachel's story made me cry :(...more
The difference between this and every other depressing and horrific account of World War II is the very personal focus on Louis Zamperini. The tellingThe difference between this and every other depressing and horrific account of World War II is the very personal focus on Louis Zamperini. The telling of his life from a troubled yet spirited young boy, to a famous athlete, to a soldier on the brink of death, to a prisoner in a Japanese POW camp, takes you very deep inside this dark time of history. The horrors feel closer, more real, and the pages demand to be turned.
Unlike Michelangelo, I may not have church ceilings and museum walls to hang art on, to show what I need the world to see. But I do have lockers. And
Unlike Michelangelo, I may not have church ceilings and museum walls to hang art on, to show what I need the world to see. But I do have lockers. And I have the Internet.
Draw the Line is my definition of great Contemporary YA: a serious look at hard-hitting social issues, with a warm fuzzy tingle of hope to wrap it up.
Overall, I've had a bit of a disappointing 2016 when it comes to LGBT fiction. Compared to 2015, which brought the hilarious Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, the dark and sad More Happy Than Not, and the quietly powerful middle-grade trans novel - George, this year just hasn't brought anything that exciting or memorable. Well, until now, that is.
For the first approx. 100 pages (which sounds like a lot but includes many illustrations), Draw the Line was just a good book. I enjoyed Adrian Piper's voice and I loved how the author got creative, weaving story with artwork to tell a tale about a teen who lives a secret life as a comic artist. He escapes reality by drawing a gay superhero called "Graphite", evidently based on himself.
It's also funny, nerdy, and diverse in a way that feels natural and unforced. Anyone can work through a diversity checklist of token characters, but the black, white, Jewish, gay, straight, asexual, plus-size and skinny characters in this book all feel created with love and sensitivity.
But it's after the first 20%-ish when this book becomes really great.
That's when shit goes down and the issues at the centre of this book are tackled head on. When Adrian Piper intervenes to stop a hate crime against a fellow gay student, the spotlight is turned on him. My fury rose with his as he discovered how few people in his small Texas town - even the adults and teachers he should have been able to turn to - were willing to speak up in defense of a gay kid.
Everywhere he turns, people don't want to rock the boat and make the bullies angry. But what about his anger? The anger he feels at watching others commit a hate crime and simply get away with it?
Blaming some deity for your own hate seems pretty messed up to me.
So Adrian fashions his own kind of weapon: art.
His subversionary tactics have consequences, of course. And they bring to light many issues affecting those around Adrian - especially issues of masculinity and the pressure teenage boys feel to behave in a "manly" way or face the wrath of their peers.
It's a powerful book about superheroes, and the quietly subversive heroes that live among us. And yet, despite the serious issues, it is far from dark. It brings light, creativity, geeky references and gay romance to the table. Most likely, it will make you angry. But it will make you happy too.
You have to understand that this flies in the face of everything we know about American civilizations.
Sleeping Giants is being compared to the bestseller and now successful Matt Damon film - The Martian - which is misleading, if not entirely inaccurate.
The two books' stories, narrative styles, characters and overall tones are actually very different. Almost all the details about this book do not resemble The Martian at all. However, they do share a key similarity.
For me, The Martian is not a great book because of the humour, detailed science, or its focus on survival against the odds - it's a great book because it makes you feel tiny. It's a breathtakingly extraordinary concept that we are forced to imagine: being stranded hundreds of thousands of miles away from anyone else. Trapped on a distant planet where pretty much everything can kill you. Putting myself in Mark Watney's shoes was overwhelming, feeling all alone in the vast expanse of space. Having no clue how this situation could possibly end in survival.
Sleeping Giants gave me a similar feeling. A feeling of wide-eyed wonder at the suggestion of this possibility: the discovery of giant metal body parts deep underground; giant body parts that predate the human technology necessary to create them. The implication being - if humans couldn't possibly have made this giant, who did?
The story is told through a series of interviews with a nameless interviewer, as well as the occasional journal entry and news article. Unlike The Martian, this isn't propelled by a single character's humourous narrative, but instead allows us a look at all the people involved in this project - in uncovering the body parts, finding out how they work, what it all means, and trying to keep their sanity as the world becomes more and more insane.
What I am is very much a function of what I am not. If the “other” is the Muslim world, then I am the Judeo-Christian world. If the other is from thousands of light-years away, I am simply human. Redefine alterity and you can erase boundaries.
We see how this discovery and the subsequent revelations affect the world. Imagine what this means for humanity. It is the suggestion that we are not alone and are not the most advanced creatures in the universe. What were these giant body parts created for? Are they a message or a weapon? What does this mean for religions? Is someone out there waiting for us?
It is perhaps not as "warm" a sci-fi novel as The Martian. It feels darker, more frightening, giving us less reason to believe the author owes us a happy ending. The ending is haunting and unexpected, paving the way for a sequel that should be equally thought-provoking. I, for one, really want to know what happens next.
Right up until that moment it was sweet and funny. Odd couple that they were, they had a real connection. Then he tugged her boot off and kissed the
Right up until that moment it was sweet and funny. Odd couple that they were, they had a real connection. Then he tugged her boot off and kissed the bottom of her bare foot. I could see him doing that kind of thing to his own kid, but she wasn’t. She was somebody else’s little girl.
This book destroyed me. I have never read anything like it. If you know the basic premise - that this is a so-called "love story" between an adult man and a female child - you might be thinking Lolita! But nah, All the Ugly and Wonderful Things is a completely different beast.
Ugly and wonderful really are great descriptors for this story. The best thing about it is the completely unsentimental storytelling that, with its constant switching between perspectives, as well as alternating first and third person, beautifully presents a dark tale of childhood, family and abuse.
It's so... not manipulative. The author narrates a series of events, using gorgeous writing, but it's a fantastic example of how showing works so much better than telling. We are never told how to feel. We are allowed to be disgusted, sad and angry on our own terms, and we are allowed to draw our own conclusions about the relationship this book portrays.
I came to the end of the novel with my mind reeling, my emotions scattered, and completely unsure exactly what I did feel about it... but one thing is certain: I felt. Oh hell, I felt.
She nodded against my arm and after that, we were quiet. We didn’t need to talk. We just laid there watching falling stars go streaking white through all that darkness.
The story is about a girl called Wavy and it is a tale that spans around fifteen years. Through the perspectives of Wavy's cousin, brother, teachers and friends, as well as Wavy herself, the story of her childhood emerges as one filled with physical and emotional abuse. Her mother is a drug addict, her father is violent, and her mother's issues with eating and germs manifest in Wavy's behaviour, which, in turn, earns frustration from her teachers and fellow pupils.
Then a motorcycle accident brings Kellen into her life. Kellen is a big guy with his own history of abuse at the hands of his father. Called a "fat slob" and generally thought of as a waste of space his whole life, there is an instant connection between these two outsiders.
While uncomfortable, disgusting and often graphic, it is so emotionally confusing because Kellen is not another Humbert. His motivations in his relationship with Wavy are loneliness and compassion, and he is not driven by sexual agenda. In fact, Wavy seems somehow removed from the regular notion of sexuality, existing on a plane where she is not an adult or child, male or female, but simply Wavy. Just herself.
I'm sure it will provoke many conflicting reactions, but there remains one overwhelming certainty: it's hard to not react passionately to it. Whether you view Wavy and Kellen as two unfortunate victims of their personal circumstances, or as a child being abused by an adult who should know better, their story is a compelling one.
Sad and disturbing. I don't think I'll ever get these characters off my mind.
Clearly the downside of having a theoretical crush on someone you knew nothing about was the crashing realisation that you actually knew nothing abou
Clearly the downside of having a theoretical crush on someone you knew nothing about was the crashing realisation that you actually knew nothing about them.
This is my third and favourite read by Matson, despite the 3-star rating. In the past, I have found myself liking Matson's premises and her writing style, but being put off by the immaturity of her characters. In my opinion, they are 17/18 year olds with the "voices" of 12 year olds. Fortunately, that wasn't a problem here.
The Unexpected Everything is, for the most part, a really good book. It manages to straddle the line between fun summer beach read and a deeper contemporary about family life. It appears to be something of a romance - and it sure is, to a certain extent - but it's also at least as much about friendship, growing up, loss and family.
The narrator is Andie - a congressman's daughter whose life starts to unravel in the wake of her father's political scandal. She's Type A, ambitious and independent, and up until this point, she had everything figured out months in advance. Now her carefully-constructed world is crumbling and she finds herself forced to fill the summer gap in her resume by walking dogs.
I actually found the sympathy Matson constructs around Andie to be realistic and genuine. It didn't even matter to me that, on a surface level, Andie was a white, privileged narrator. I felt for her when she discovered that even after working so hard, walking the line and doing everything right, factors beyond her control could just come flying in and ruin it all.
The way her father's career has affected her life is told so well, as is their relationship. I loved the family parts of the book most of all, and enjoyed how the author turned Andie's father into a frustrating, obtuse, but oddly likable human being who is dealing with his own pain. This book could have turned into a stream of Andie angst, but it's cleverer and more thought-provoking than that.
There are also many great friendships in the novel, further solidifying this as a book more about the process of being a teenager and growing up, than it is about that cute boy over there. The cute boy surfaces, of course, but he is dorky and awkward, which made a nice change from all the smirking bad boys who've had hundreds of girls before they've even made it out of high school.
It's a sensitive and fun novel; not nearly as melodramatic as it easily could have been, but still important too.
Okay, so the big question: why only 3 stars? Well, all of the positives I've listed above were notes I made during the first half of this book.
The sad truth is, The Unexpected Everything is way too long. I'm not exaggerating by saying that the book could have been cut in half. It's rare to find a contemporary YA that needs to be over 500 pages, and this one certainly didn't. I felt like we should have been approaching the finish line at the halfway point and so much of that second half dragged.
I was enjoying the story so much and it was sad to see it dampened by slow, overlong stretches. Austen once said: "if a book is well written, I always find it too short." But I disagree. One of the things about writing a good book, series, or TV show, is knowing when to stop. Matson didn't get that here.