America was passing her by. New York City was passing her by. Bridges and billboards bearing smiling people were passing her by. Skyscrapers and brow
America was passing her by. New York City was passing her by. Bridges and billboards bearing smiling people were passing her by. Skyscrapers and brownstones were rushing by. Fast. Too fast. Forever.
3 1/2 stars. Ah, this book was a pleasant surprise. I picked Behold the Dreamers for my September Book of the Month read, mostly because none of the others appealed to me. I hadn't any previous plans to read it but, as it happens, it turned out to be an enjoyable read. Full of sadness, hope and - of course - dreamers.
It's quite an understated book for the most part. Quiet and character-driven. Set just after the economic crisis of 2007/2008, we see the American Dream from two different perspectives - that of Jende Jonga and his family, Cameroonian immigrants desperately trying to obtain a green card and stay in America, and that of the Edwards family, wealthy upper-class New Yorkers who show the cracks in this idea of paradise held by immigrants.
The theme is an old one - the fragility of the American Dream - and yet this Cameroonian family breathe new life into it. The author herself is a Cameroonian immigrant living in the United States, and so is able to weave the Jonga family with firsthand insight and honesty; the result being characters that come to life on the page and make you remember them.
There's an undercurrent of sadness to the whole book. Jende is such a wide-eyed, hopeful dreamer who longs to bring his wife and son to a place he considers a land of opportunity. At a time when animosity towards immigrants has been fostered by the likes of Donald Trump, this book really strikes a chord. The Jonga family are distinctly West-African in their ideals and cultural practices, and yet their desire to give their son the best life possible is a heartbreakingly universal one.
All of the characters are treated with such love and care by the author. Members of both the Jonga and Edwards families are multi-layered and sensitively portrayed. Cultural differences and issues of privilege are explored - for example, the Edwards' oldest son is anti-establishment and longs to abandon law school and head to India, whereas Jende believes the opportunity to become a lawyer is one of the greatest things he could give his son.
It's a painfully realistic book, as all good books about the "American Dream" tend to be. Sometimes I wanted a bit more from it - a lot of the story and themes of race/culture are revealed through conversations and the plot itself is very... simple. Though perhaps that is a strength too.
“Never forget, Sanada Takeo: in this forest, there is no place to hide.”
This book was just pure enjoyment from start to finish. Japanese my
“Never forget, Sanada Takeo: in this forest, there is no place to hide.”
This book was just pure enjoyment from start to finish. Japanese mythology, samurai, crossdressing female warriors, secrets, lies AND just the right amount of sexiness. Sure, it's not a perfect book, but somewhere along the way I forgot to care.
Flame in the Mist is set in feudal Japan. I keep seeing "Mulan retelling" floating around, but even if you ignore the fact that this is set in Japan, not China, it's a bit of a stretch. Mariko doesn't go to war, for herself or for anyone else. She is travelling to the imperial city of Inako when her litter is attacked by a gang known as "The Black Clan".
Mariko survives the attack and devises a plan to infiltrate The Black Clan, disguised as a boy. However, things don't turn out exactly how she hoped they would, and Mariko finds herself a prisoner-turned-reluctant-ally. Meanwhile, Mariko's brother and badass samurai soldier, Kenshin, is determined to prove his sister is still alive, and find the criminals responsible for the attack.
There's some bloodsucking Jubokko trees and forest spirits, plenty of action and bloodshed, even more secrets and betrayals. The more I read, the more I started to feel like no one is as they first seem, and everyone - from the emperor's royal consort to The Black Clan's leader Takeda Ranmaru - is hiding something.
For the most part, this book is far less romantic than Ahdieh's The Wrath & the Dawn. Which was fine by me. And the romance that did surface was... perfection. I won't spoil anything but I'll just say it's one of those rare occasions where I almost felt myself swooning. Look, there's just something sexy about the whole wolf thing, 'kay? Yes, I know, I have problems.
"A word of warning..." He bent closer. The scent of warm stone and wood smoke emanated form his skin. Mariko blinked. "Don't bare your neck to a wolf."
See what I mean? Problems.
All of the characters were interesting to me. All of them. Even side characters like Yumi, Ren and Yoshi added something important to the story. I especially loved the complexity of Kenshin's character - he is resourceful and cares deeply for his sister and Amaya, but is also a cruel warrior. I like multifaceted characters; it keeps things interesting. And I appreciated the author's decision to put the emphasis on Mariko's smarts over her strength. I like it when female heroines have skills that real world girls can relate to, and realistically aspire to.
Another general positive-- The use of setting was fantastic. Ahdieh captured the setting well in her previous novels, and she does it again here. I personally think many authors underestimate the atmospheric power of place. Things like this:
Inako. A city of a hundred arched bridges and a thousand cherry trees. A city of mud and sweat and sewage. A city of golden cranes and amber sunsets. A city of secrets.
I did say this wasn't a perfect book, so I'll talk about the few negatives. Mariko makes some decisions throughout that were - to put it nicely - stupid. I didn't always understand why she did things. (view spoiler)[For example, saving members of The Black Clan when they're supposed to be her enemies. (hide spoiler)] And would you really bring a potentially powerful weapon to a fight when you’d “never had an opportunity to test it”? For at least the first half of the book, I felt like Mariko's intelligence was all tell, no show. Though, admittedly, she did seem to show some ingenuity later on.
But, you know, whatever. I enjoyed this book so much. I’ve come to the conclusion that Ahdieh just has that special something that draws me in, that special storytelling charisma that you can’t get from a writing class. You can learn sentence structure; you can learn metaphor; but I don't think you can learn charm. And this author has all of the charm ♥
A really interesting concept, but almost impossible to enjoy. The author is clearly reluctant to give up any secrets and the result is a book that revA really interesting concept, but almost impossible to enjoy. The author is clearly reluctant to give up any secrets and the result is a book that reveals almost nothing, plunges you into a confusing scenario without explanation, and expects you to keep reading to find out what's going on. Trouble is, with so little given up, it's very hard to become invested. How are we supposed to seek out the answers when we don't even know what the questions are?...more
A stunning collection of hard-hitting, discomfiting stories about women. In all their forms.
Many of the stories here pack a severe emotional punch, orA stunning collection of hard-hitting, discomfiting stories about women. In all their forms.
Many of the stories here pack a severe emotional punch, or challenge you to think, or disgust you. But what is evident throughout is that Gay is an amazing writer. For someone like me who generally prefers characters, plot, atmosphere and most things over the words themselves, it was astounding to be so floored by the author's command of language. She wields sentences as weapons and uses them to break your heart.
Here I am, children. Right over here. Step off that safe, moonlit path and come meet me. You aren't afraid, are you?
This was seriously creepy. Small
Here I am, children. Right over here. Step off that safe, moonlit path and come meet me. You aren't afraid, are you?
This was seriously creepy. Small towns, dark forests, and a psychopath playing twisted games. The only reason this didn't get a higher rating was because the "reveals" of the mystery were some serious DEUS EX MACHINA.
I'd forgotten just how easy to read Armstrong's books are. Her narrative just flows and it's easy to intend to read one chapter between other tasks and then find yourself, half a book later, having done nothing you'd intended to do that day. I fell into Winter's story immediately and breezed through the book in two sittings.
What I actually liked most about Missing was - surprisingly - its social criticism. Through Winter, who lives in a small town trailer park and often goes hungry, and Lennon and Jude (LOL yeah), who are the adopted sons of billionaires, the author explores class divides and prejudices. Interactions between the characters offer consideration of class, wealth and privilege, and Winter also criticizes the idea of Southern "chivalry".
Additionally, it is very atmospheric. Armstrong uses the isolated small-town Kentucky setting to create a sense of foreboding. She shows their suspicion of outsiders, and the way in which they're always watching their fellow residents. It's hard not to start wondering about the truth - if those who left Reeve's End were just regular kids escaping the confines of their small town life, or if something happened to them. If that's why they never came back.
All that being said, and though I don't regret having read this, I was really disappointed with the way the mystery resolved. A character came flying in from nowhere to offer convenient answers that were... anticlimactic. (view spoiler)[The killer shouldn't be someone who we haven't even heard of until the end of the book, in my opinion. (hide spoiler)]
Update: The author of this book has repeatedly contacted a GR member, asking her to change a negative review, which he called "mean-spirited". On theUpdate: The author of this book has repeatedly contacted a GR member, asking her to change a negative review, which he called "mean-spirited". On the exact same day that he sent his last message, this profile appeared on Goodreads. Her location is San Diego like the author, and she immediately added the author, before beginning to attack the aforementioned reviewer. She even accused the reviewer of wearing "the badge of your autistic son on your shirt like a good martyr". I don't know about you, but this is a great way to make sure I never pick up one of his books again.
After that, I couldn't - in good conscience - write a positive review. I'll leave my rating as is, to reflect my initial experience, but that post really made me question how I viewed the story....more
Cherry is a book about four friends who make a pact to lose their virginity during their senior year of high school. It could have been dumb, annoyingCherry is a book about four friends who make a pact to lose their virginity during their senior year of high school. It could have been dumb, annoying or message-driven, but instead it was honest, sensitive, sex-positive, diverse, and a whole lot of fun.
It's a touch more serious - or maybe important is the better word - than AMERICAN PIE, but it's not a dark, "woe is me" tale about the horrors and pains of losing your virginity. The four girls have very different experiences, but ultimately, sex is portrayed as something fun - as long as you play it safe and use protection, of course.
Unlike most stories featuring girls and virginity, this isn't really about boys, love or romance at all. Friendship, supporting your girlfriends, and not hating on other girls or slut-shaming are all the most important things in this novel. There's frank and open discussion about masturbation, as well as positive LGBT representation.
It's HONEST - and here that means not sparing any details. It is so refreshing to see a book tell it like it is for teen girls, allowing them to have sexual desires, as well as all the usual fears. I, for one, thought it was great that the author showed the girls talking openly about masturbation - a word that usually only conjures images of horny teen boys jerking off (that makes me sound kinda creepy, but you know what I mean).
As I said, in the wrong hands this could have gone so wrong, been childish and silly, and read like a PSA. Fortunately, Rosin weaves some wonderful characterization to make each girl - Layla, Alex, Emma and Zoe - painfully human, and each of their stories funny and memorable. There's a lot of great family/sibling dynamics to go alongside the main plot, and Rosin deeply considers why each girl might act the way they do in their different situations.
It is not a serious book. Truly, it is full of laughs and friendship and warm fuzzies. But it is just serious enough to be mature as well as lighthearted, touching as well as hilarious, and thoughtful as well as enjoyable. I liked it very much.
I just don't see the appeal of these "modern classics" that mostly feature men getting drunk, getting laid, being assholes and never really doing anytI just don't see the appeal of these "modern classics" that mostly feature men getting drunk, getting laid, being assholes and never really doing anything. I feel the same way about Post Office as I do about A Confederacy of Dunces. The protagonists are so repulsive that they are not even interesting in an unlikable way, and the "plots" are made up of drinking and screwing up one's life.
Oh, and they're both hilarious, apparently. Ha....more
On the top of the hill Christ himself stands with his arms outstretched, facing both Juarez, and, on the other side of the river, El Paso, in a gestu
On the top of the hill Christ himself stands with his arms outstretched, facing both Juarez, and, on the other side of the river, El Paso, in a gesture of brotherly love. It’s a misleading gesture. His arms are outstretched because he is nailed to a cross.
The first few reviews for Saint Death haven't been that great and I honestly wasn't expecting to find Marcus Sedgwick at his finest. But to say I thought this book was fantastic is an understatement - this book may be the best book I've read this year. It is, I think, one of the best YA books I've ever read. That being said, this smart, literary YA isn't for those who shrug their shoulders and say "kids these days have no interest in serious issues". I don't, I can't buy into that way of thinking - it's the kids who must have an interest, if the world is ever to change.
I don't know where to start. This book deeply affected me to the point that I actually cried. It comes at a chillingly appropriate time when issues of immigration and border controls are at the top of the list on every political agenda. Nationalism is on the rise - as it was during the 19th Century as political alignments shifted towards a set-up that would fuel two world wars - and the funny thing is so few people seem to see it.
I'm a Brit living in Los Angeles, which is an interesting view to have right now. My British family and friends are appalled that someone like Donald Trump can become a serious candidate for president, on a platform of hate and racism. "How are people voting for him?!" they say. In my other ear are my American family and friends "I can't believe your people voted for the Brexit. They must be either crazy or racist?" It really makes me worry that one day school kids will write essays on the causes of World War III and talk about how people in the early 21st Century developed an irrational fear of "The Other" - immigrants, refugees, a family crossing the border in the back of a van because they want their babies to grow up without fear.
This book is about that, as well as other things. What kind of world are we creating? What future are we moving towards? Sedgwick focuses on Juarez in Mexico and Mexican immigrants, but what he's ultimately saying is much bigger than that, the bold suggestion that there is no such thing as immigrants. Or, rather, that we are all immigrants out of Africa, and national borders are simply the way rich immigrants keep the poor immigrants confined to poorer areas; often areas that were made poor by the rich.
And they end up in the rich countries, and you know what people say... ¡Migrants! ¡illegal aliens! But everyone is a migrant, everyone, outside of the African cradle. It's just a question of how back in time you care to look...
This particular story is about the Mexican Arturo who lives in Juarez, right alongside the gang warfare and drug crime that exists on the US/Mexican border. His adoptive brother - the Guatemalan Faustino - has gotten himself into serious trouble by losing the money of a prominent gang leader. In a story spanning less than 48 hours, Arturo must try to get it back in a suspense-filled journey into the dark corners of the city. With Sedgwick's writing, Juarez comes to life in exquisite detail that equally captures its bright lights and its darkness:
“There are shadows in every alley, every doorway, and the lights of shops and bars and adverts and cars dazzle and blind and make the shadows darker still.”
Saint Death is woven with Spanish phrases and cultural elements - to me, it seems extremely well-researched. I recommend a basic knowledge of the Santa Muerte or "Saint Death" before picking this book up. It helps with understanding that element of the story, and it is also pretty fascinating. I hadn't heard of it before and I love learning something new.
“She’s wearing a white shawl over a long white gown, which reaches to the ground. From under the shawl glimpses of a black wig can be seen, grotesque against the skull face, almost ridiculous, Arturo thinks, and yet it’s more disturbing than it is funny, and in a way disconcerting because it is somehow comical too, and Do not laugh at death, he thinks, we do not laugh at death.”
Of course, enjoying this book depends on your interest in the subject matter, but it was absolutely enthralling to me. Arturo is such a sympathetic character who dares to long for something more than what he has, and parts of the book are filled with such nail-biting tension, hope, and horror because of the reader's desire that he will be different; that he will succeed. His story is peppered with extracts from social media pages, facts about NAFTA, and backstory on him and Faustino - the latter came to Mexico on a gruelling journey from Guatemala, in which he lost both his parents in their desperate search for a better life.
It's really hard to review books like this. I can't fully explain how important it is, how horrifically hopeful and sad it is. Just writing this review and remembering the book has me on the verge of tears. I can only hope you read it.
Preventing your heart from forgiving someone you love is actually a hell of a lot harder than simply forgiving them.
4 1/2 stars. Holy crap, what a b
Preventing your heart from forgiving someone you love is actually a hell of a lot harder than simply forgiving them.
4 1/2 stars. Holy crap, what a book. This is unlike anything Hoover has written before. I have so many emotions right now that it's hard to know where to start, but I think everyone should read this book. That's right: everyone.
I could easily give everything away. I could, but I won't. If you go looking for lots of reviews, it won't be hard to work out what It Ends with Us is about. And if you do, you should still read it, but I think it's better if you don't. I think you should go into this book knowing as little as possible. Just realize that this is something very different from Hoover's usual new adult romances (that I admittedly have had allkinds of problems with).
So I don't want to say too much, but this is an extremely powerful story and it's not what most people will be expecting. It gets its power from the singular first person narrative (I'm honestly not a big fan of the alternating male/female POV romances) and we experience everything through Lily's eyes. When she falls in love, we fall in love; when her heart is broken, our heart is broken; when she gets it all wrong, so do we.
I cannot stress how important and damn smart this book is. There is no black and white characterization - it's much deeper and more complex than that, and therefore, far more emotional.
It peels back the layers of characters and relationships to do something that so many other authors have tried and failed to do - to make you understand a situation that for most people makes no sense. It's very sad, painful and exceptionally honest. My heart hurt while reading it and I almost cried several times.
As well as all this emotion and sadness that I'm being coy about, Hoover also brings out some of her very best writing. Little gems of honesty about human nature and relationships that are all the more painful because of their resounding truth. It's such a quotable book, but unfortunately most of the quotes are spoilers, so I shall refrain from posting them.
There's so many great things to mention, but I keep getting distracted by my feelings. The narrative is interspersed with letters that Lily wrote as a teenager and they are addressed to Ellen Degeneres - a strange touch that ends up being absolutely perfect. Shit, just writing this review and remembering the story is an emotional experience.
And then there's the absolutely fantastic female friendship. I want Allysa to be my best friend. Hoover clearly knows her audience of 16-25 year old women, creating characters with their quirks and habits - Allysa, for example, is a self-confessed "Pinterest whore", which made me laugh. But seriously, she is the best friend ever and she says one of the most perfect lines in this book.
Anyway, I'm just going to start rambling soon because I read this book in a whirlwind of emotions throughout a single day. I've been up since a ridiculous time and I need to go sleep now. But really, give this book a chance. I thought it was excellent.
Halle is back on form. After loving her Sins & Needles trilogy and the spin-offs, I went through a series of disappointing reads from her. Love, in English wasn't my thing, Where Sea Meets Sky was an early DNF, and even the Experiment in Terror series didn't quite hit the spot. But this EiT spin-off featuring Ada Palomino is all kinds of creepy goodness, perfect for old fans and new readers alike.
Seriously, this book is scary. Ada's story was far more terrifying to me than that of her sister, Perry. It uses a lot of traditional horror elements - the voice in the closet, the thing that's there and then isn't - but Halle crafts the tension perfectly, playing with the lines of dreams and reality until you're unsure what's a nightmare and what's really lurking in the darkness of Ada's bedroom.
I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Veiled wasn't as romantic as I'd anticipated. It's being called a paranormal romance, but I'm inclined to call it "urban fantasy with a love story". Sure, there's the typical descriptions of male hotness, but it is excruciatingly slow burn (I mean this in a good way). No instalove - no insta anything, in fact - and a whole lot of ghostly plot to make this a book about more than young lovers.
There were many things I thought the author captured well. She remembers that Ada is a young woman grieving for her mother, and portrays that grief without melodrama. I also felt melancholy along with Ada when she discovers that an old friend is not what she thought - how difficult it must be to count on someone for so long and realise you never really knew each other that well at all.
I foresee fans of the usual New Adult romances coming into this book with certain expectations and not having them met. It's not typical of the genre, and actually does many great things that have nothing to do with romance and have everything to do with being a young woman with problems, heartache and, yes, a sex drive.
Only then did I see it clearly: everyone was figuring it out. Everyone except me. I had no passion, no plan, nothing that made me stand out from the
Only then did I see it clearly: everyone was figuring it out. Everyone except me. I had no passion, no plan, nothing that made me stand out from the crowd. I had absolutely no idea what kind of job I was supposed to get.
2 1/2 stars. I can't decide if I'm being harsh or generous by giving The Futures 2 1/2 stars. It's probably best not to put too much weight on the rating. For some time, I really liked what it was doing. Pitoniak perfectly captures that feeling of helplessness and uncertainty that many young adults face after college. Those desperate, scary questions: What do I do now? Who am I? What do I become?
The story follows the two perspectives of young couple, Julia and Evan, as they try to navigate the real world after completing their degree courses. Deeply in love during their college years, they find themselves drifting apart as reality sets in and their career paths diverge.
It begins as an emotional read and, for many people, a relatable one. I felt absolutely terrified when my school years came to an end and I found that I now actually had to make some real world plans. Jobs, apartments and - oh my god - taxes! And beneath that, the worries that people don't talk about so much: the fear that everyone else is getting ahead of you, the fear that you'll never get on the job ladder, or be stuck somewhere you are miserable.
This period of uncertainty is one so many young people are facing. The premise of Julia and Evan's story resonates deeply. And, in the beginning, there's a subtle undercurrent of sadness giving a lot of life and emotion to the simple idea.
Notice I said "the premise of Julia and Evan's story". Problem is, though the basic idea is one that did speak to me directly, the actual story was quite different. A few chapters into the book and I was really struggling to sympathise with the two extremely selfish protagonists. Two white Ivy League alumni living in New York City, both with decent jobs, loving families, and a certain amount of financial security. Excuse me if I don't reach for the Kleenex just yet.
It's a very privileged sob story. Why not write about all the people who finish college and end up unemployed for years? Or stuck back at home with their parents? Instead of having two reasonably wealthy, reasonably successful, beautiful young people who feel disillusioned because their college romance isn't surviving adulthood. Boo hoo.
It was really hard to understand some of the decisions being made and a lot of the problems were dragged out when it seemed they had simple resolutions. I could have found some sympathy for Julia when Evan became obsessed with work and neglected their relationship, but then she had to go and cheat on him because breaking up with him was just too much hard work. Meh.
Plus, despite being set in New York City - one of the most diverse cities in the world - almost everyone seems to be white. The only mentions I recall of non-white people in the novel are an “Asian” girl with a "tiny body" who Evan "fucks" in a club, and some Chinese businessmen making shady deals to get visas. Yikes.
A story that could have been hard-hitting for a lot of people, but I doubt many young college graduates will see themselves in the fortunate (and oblivious to it) shoes of Julia and Evan.
“Yes, Minister, it turns out that there was a mysterious force that caused that plane to crash. We call it gravity.”
I can't believe no one has recom
“Yes, Minister, it turns out that there was a mysterious force that caused that plane to crash. We call it gravity.”
I can't believe no one has recommended - or even mentioned - this book to me before! It's a creative, complex urban fantasy with an hilarious and likable protagonist, monsters, and an intriguing mystery.
The Rook grabbed me immediately. Myfanwy Thomas awakes surrounded by bodies with no recollection of who she is or what she's doing there. All she has is a letter in her pocket; a letter that begins with "The body you are wearing used to be mine." She soon finds herself caught up in this life she never asked for, trying to figure out how she lost her memory, who's out to get her, and how to manage the basics of Myfanwy's job at the secret agency known as the Checquy Group.
Just so you know: there's a lot of infodump. I usually don't like that, but it was fun enough here that I kept sprinting through pages anyway. The background of this world and the Checquy Group are revealed through letters that the former Myfanwy Thomas wrote before she lost her memory. These letters appear throughout the book and are, basically, witty infodumps. Still, I enjoyed them.
Watching Myfanwy try to adjust to a life she doesn't remember is hilarious. And she's kind of badass - but not in the usual kicking ass way, more in a "I guess this shit is happening, but I'm still going to eat my Toblerone first" kind of way. My kinda girl.
Turns out this Checquy Group is a secret organization that deals with all the supernatural nastiness in Britain. O'Malley gets a great balance between the humour and drama of Myfanwy's day-to-day life and relationships (no romance, though), and the greater mystery behind it. We all want answers to the big questions, but it was just as enjoyable to follow Myfanwy into the office.
Some very weird and wonderful creatures exist in this world, and some of them are Myfanwy's colleagues. Like the creepy, awesome Rook Gestalt:
Three boys and one girl. Two of the boys were identical. That’s not the weirdest thing, however. The weirdest thing was that when all four pairs of eyes opened, only one mind was looking out from behind them. This was Gestalt.
Then there's strong female friendships, snarking, and people who are willing to rip your face off first and ask questions later.
Funny, compelling, and just the right amount of weird. HELL YES.
“This should be a pleasant little interview. All I have to do is put on my scary face." "You have a scary face?" Ingrid sounded skeptical. "Yes," said Myfanwy indignantly. "I have a very scary face." Ingrid surveyed her for a moment. "You may wish to take off the cardigan then, Rook Thomas," she advised tactfully. "The flowers on the pocket detract somewhat from your menace.”
Seeing as We Need to Talk About Kevin is famous for being such a gritty, disturbing read, I always expected to love it inOverwritten. Arduous. Boring.
Seeing as We Need to Talk About Kevin is famous for being such a gritty, disturbing read, I always expected to love it in a sick, twisted kind of way. Unfortunately, it is not what I expected at all. I had to force myself through one overstuffed sentence after another, only to be left feeling drained and dissatisfied.
I knew I was in for a paint-dryingly slow read almost immediately. Every sentence is padded out with big words and details that are clearly there to impress, but actually only weigh the narrative down. Damn, it was hard work. And it was made even worse because it's an epistolary novel - I couldn't get past the fact that no one would ever talk this way in a letter. This is the second sentence (and they are all like this):
But since we've been separated, I may most miss coming home to deliver the narrative curiosities of my day, the way a cat might lay mice at your feet: the small, humble offerings that couples proffer after foraging in separate backyards.
Kevin's crimes are revealed in the very first chapter, so it's a struggle to see what we're really reading for. I suppose it is an attempt to show how he got to there - built up through tedious anecdotes from his childhood - but without mystery or action, it was merely dull. We already know Kevin is a sociopath; we already know he killed a bunch of his fellow students.
I also had no sympathy for Eva. In fact, I felt a certain amount of anger towards Eva for deciding her baby had an evil agenda (that's honestly not even possible!*) and mistreating him. I don't buy into any interpretations that Kevin's psychopathic nature was something he was born with - it seemed pretty obvious to me that his mother fucked him up from day one. Eva was unlikable, Kevin was unlikable and Franklin's blind defense of his son despite the contradicting evidence was just plain annoying.
I have a little inner book snob that desperately wants to like Vonnegut. In the very unlikely event that I should find myself at a convention of bookiI have a little inner book snob that desperately wants to like Vonnegut. In the very unlikely event that I should find myself at a convention of bookish intellectuals, I feel like I'd fit right in if I sipped my champagne and said "Oh yes, indeed, I simply adore what Vonnegut has to say about the absence of free will..."
This is the kind of bollocks that runs through my mind on a daily basis.
Unfortunately, I just don't find him that funny most of the time. Perhaps jokes about open beavers are funnier to readers who don't have vaginas - who knows? - but it goes sailing right over my head. Maybe this is why my invitation to the bookish intellectual convention seems to have got lost in the mail.
He also repeats the phrase "which looked like this" and follows it with a sketch of everything from a flamingo to a swastika to the aforementioned beaver, in both senses of the word "beaver". Again, is this funny? Should I find it funny?
The funniest parts are his jokes about white people and the way in which they celebrate their "discovery" of America in 1492, despite the fact that others had actually been living on the continent for thousands of years. But even that is a little overdone these days, and haven't others done it better? It sure feels like it.
That being said, I enjoyed Cat's Cradle. Easily my favourite of his works.
This is my first read by Colson Whitehead and it makes me think his style may not be to my tastes.
It's personal preference, I'm sure. There are some bThis is my first read by Colson Whitehead and it makes me think his style may not be to my tastes.
It's personal preference, I'm sure. There are some beautiful sentences, some genius structural choices, and many great ideas. Indeed, the re-imagining of history where the Underground Railroad is an actual railroad is a great idea in itself. I just found it lacking in anything resembling emotion. It's a cold, distant, impersonal novel and it didn't pull me in.
All of the secondary characters are undeveloped and forgettable, but more than this, Cora herself wasn't given enough personality and development to really drag me into her world. The other central character - Caesar - is even less developed. I will probably have forgotten them both by tomorrow. Perhaps a first-person narrative would have better suited the subject matter and helped warm us to the characters.
In this story, Cora and Caesar are slaves at the Randall estate in Georgia. Caesar proposes an escape via the Underground Railroad, which Cora initially refuses, but later agrees to when her situation becomes more dire. The book is full of every monstrous thing committed by slavers - beatings, sexual assault, executions - but I felt distanced from it because of the impersonal nature of the narrative. It was horrific, but in the way a history textbook is horrific. We should have been right there in the middle of the story with Cora, hearts pounding in fear, and yet I felt somewhat removed, reading - it seemed - an almost clinical account of history.
The jerky structure that jumps from the main plot to some backstory and back again doesn't make it any easier to become invested. My interest in Cora's story waned some more every time the author picked us up and dropped us somewhere else. With no emotional connection to the characters and little opportunity to become connected to the plot, I felt like this book full of clever ideas never became one I was truly affected by - no enjoyment, no sadness, no anger, no nothing.
Colson Whitehead is obviously smart. He obviously did a shitload of research. But I just didn't care.
1 1/2 stars. What is extremely impressive about this book is how David Baldacci has managed to convince thousands of readers that this kind of shit is1 1/2 stars. What is extremely impressive about this book is how David Baldacci has managed to convince thousands of readers that this kind of shit is not only good, but something shiny and new.
First of all, Amos Decker is a *gasp* "memory man", meaning that an injury gave him the ability to never forget ANYTHING! You got that, right? He remembers everything he has experienced. Literally everything. Isn't that completely unique and never heard of before? So weird how no mystery/crime author has thought to do this!
Okay, I'll stop.
But the big selling point of this novel is a character who forgets nothing and, let's be honest, this is pretty common in the genre. Sherlock Holmes, one of the most famous fictional detectives of all time, has a photographic memory (slightly different from Decker's hyperthymesia, but mostly the same). The fact that this is pretty much the extent of Decker's characterization and it is somehow supposed to be shocking - well, that kind of fell flat instantly.
There are many things in this book that I suspect we are supposed to exclaim dramatically at and be impressed by, but we've either seen them before or they're flimsy at best. For example, Decker is supposed to be the absolute best at his job because of his memory, and yet rather than being wowed by him, I got the impression that everyone else in the book was dumbed down to make him look better. He would make a fairly obvious deduction and all the other agents' mouths would gape open in awe. Seriously, I could have told them that.
Backstory goes like this: Decker left the police after discovering his wife, daughter, and brother-in-law murdered in his home. The murderer was never caught. But he now finds himself pulled back into an investigation of a school shooting, because he is just so damn good that they need him on the case. Nobody else can figure this out. What's more, a guy called Sebastian Leopold confesses to his family's murder and gets taken in - but some things just don't add up.
The story is full of plot holes - the detectives ignore key pieces of evidence to prolong the mystery, instead looking into other dead ends. They mostly do nothing, anyway, and just stare googly-eyed at Decker, waiting for his instruction. As a reader of fairly average intelligence, I definitely don't like to feel I could conduct a murder investigation better than trained detectives. I did here.
Also, the "motive" did not make any sense to me. I do not think the reasons given in this book added up to the sum of the crimes at all. It seemed like Baldacci had a random idea for a crime and a random idea for a "reveal" and simply stuck the two together, even though they didn't fit. The answers to the mystery are kind of ludicrous, throwing more mess into an already convoluted plot.
I'd even go so far as to say the conclusions add some disturbing implications, and I don't mean in a good way. (view spoiler)[The use of a crazy murderous genderqueer character leaves a bad taste. Perhaps it would not have been quite so bad if LGBTQIA persons had received some other kind of representation in the novel. As it was, however, it had the same effect as a black murderer in an otherwise white novel would have - i.e. not a good one. (hide spoiler)]
The rating gets rounded up only because Baldacci knows how to keep you interested and turning the pages. His writing has a certain easy-to-digest charm that makes me think I should try his other books. This one, though, was clearly not a good place to start.
When I do not see you my heart is in a tomb. The whisper of your words I carry in my tomb. The shadow of your smile creeps out from the tomb, the warmth of
When I do not see you my heart is in a tomb. The whisper of your words I carry in my tomb. The shadow of your smile creeps out from the tomb, the warmth of your body without it, I am a tomb. If I can’t be with you bury me in the tomb.
If you're anything like me, the promise of a book unlike anything you've ever read before is very enticing. So when I saw this book - a novel in verse, a retelling of Romeo and Juliet, about an Israeli girl and a Palestinian boy - I knew it was a must read. I haven't read any fiction about the Israel/Palestine conflict, never mind any YA about it. Unfortunately, though, Ronit & Jamil just didn't deliver.
It's a quick read, though I'm not sure that's a positive here. If you have an hour to spare, you can breeze through the entire book in that time. And it feels so... lacking in depth. The book takes on a serious political issue that is affecting people in the world today and doesn't give it the time and care it deserves.
For one, the verse is essentially pointless. If you're going to write a novel in verse, then you have to make that style choice count; it has to add something. Here, it feels lazy - a way to quickly tell a story without having to deal with careful sentence structure, character development, dialogue or setting. It allows the author to tell a story in fragments, which is what this feels like.
The verse alternates between the jarringly simplistic:
I live at the bottom of the hills. She lives at the top. I could just climb up to see her. I can smell the flowers in her hair.
And the weird attempts at being deep and metaphorical:
I hate idle chatter my sisters rumble with it: hair and makeup. I like natural hair like a forest of greenery.
The relationship between Ronit and Jamil fails to convince, too. It seems they would cross lands and cultures and defy their families and wipe clean everything they've ever been taught about the other for... a shag? Okay, I'm being crude, but their relationship was never anything more than sex. It's all:
His gaze makes me want to undress so he can lift up and see what’s beneath the dress.
I mean, sweet, you embrace that sexuality, girl! But isn't this book supposed to be a little bit more important than two horny teens? Whose perspectives are indistinguishable, I might add. It would have probably taken me thirty minutes to read this book if I didn't have to keep trying to work out who's POV we were on. It's really hard to tell sometimes.
The real problem, however, is just the oversimplification of everything. I cringed at those chapters where Ronit and Jamil take it in turns to remember what they've been taught about the Arabs/Israelis, but then in the same breath seem to shake it off so quickly and without consideration. The conflict is reduced to: “everyone says he throws bombs but, oh my, he has such pretty eyes” and “everyone says she’s a land stealer but, oh my, she has such pretty eyes”.
If that wasn't enough, it was also really hard to stay firmly in the setting of the story when the two teens kept throwing in Americanisms like "lame" and "ratted me out".
The Wangs vs. the World has been getting a lot of buzz lately, riding in on the recent wave of financial criHilarious? Well I obviously didn't get it.
The Wangs vs. the World has been getting a lot of buzz lately, riding in on the recent wave of financial crisis lit. It's about a wealthy immigrant Chinese family in America - The Wangs - and how they lose everything in the wake of the 2008 economic disaster (it is actually the second book I've read in the last week about the crisis - the other being Behold the Dreamers).
Firstly, I know it's a personal thing but this is not my brand of humour. It's silly and campy, and I must have laughed a grand total of 0 times. One of the first attempts at hilarity in the book is about how the Americanized "Wang" is basically a penis joke. Ha. Another is that Charles Wang's company started by producing urea. As in piss. Um... ha?
As I said, definitely not my brand of humour. Penises stopped being funny a long time ago. Piss never was.
Worse than that, though, is the complete lack of love I had for any of the characters. They are irritating and unlikable, but not in an interesting way. It was really hard to make myself attend their pity party as these spoiled, insufferable people lost their live-in maid and had to leave behind their private schools. I can sympathize when it comes to tragedy, but not when rich people get a shot of the real world. Boo freaking hoo.
Credit where it's due: there's some good dialogue, especially between the siblings. I feel like the author made a lot of effort to create complex, well-rounded characters - they were not short on characterization - it's just that I simply disliked them. I didn't care about them, nor did I relate to their problems, hopes, dreams or fears. I get that their lives were falling apart, but I had a complete emotional disconnect from that.
And that's a real problem here. The book relies on its characters and dialogue to move forward, as there's very little actual plot. It's predominantly a story of (former) rich people family dynamics. Outside of that, there's a lot of industry talk - cosmetics, finance, journalism, etc. - which really didn't float my particular boat.
One of the biggest problems I see other reviewers having with this novel is the inclusion of untranslated Chinese. I get why an inability to understand parts of the book would bother people, but what's interesting is that it didn't bother me. Because I honestly did not care what the translation was. I was, unfortunately, not that interested in what the book was saying.