"Tester hands out understandingI gave this book 4.6/5 stars on InsatiableBooksluts.com. My review copy was provided by Tightrope Books.
"Tester hands out understanding strictly on a need-to-know basis, and it took me by surprise, I will admit. You know those books that spell everything out for the reader? This isn’t one of them. This book isn’t one to fly through, gobbling down pages; this book needs to be chewed on, like a crusty French bread. The “what the fuck” feeling I had when I reached the end of the first story told me that I was in deeper than I expected to be. Yet, this feeling wasn’t unpleasant. I was happy to be challenged. I read each story twice before moving on to the next.
Tester’s habit of revealing just enough information to make the story hang together makes one read like a detective; only at the end do you get a round picture of characters and events–and even then, it’s not fully complete. Just complete enough. This is especially true of the stories that take place in the West; four of them focus on the same characters, each story being told from a different point of view so that we see angles of the stories that were previously invisible. Reading Fatty is a bit like watching the film Memento; like Leonard, you piece together snapshots and try to figure out the truth, but even when you’ve reached a conclusion, nagging doubts convince you that you didn’t entirely get it right. I don’t think I have fully explored everything this book has to offer yet, and I read it twice."
"Yuknavitch turns the tables on Freud by givI gave this book 4.14/5 stars on InsatiableBooksluts.com. Review copy provided by Hawthorne Books.
"Yuknavitch turns the tables on Freud by giving Ida, who we know largely through Freud’s analysis, her own voice–sometimes figuratively, as Ida is prone to becoming mute in times of extreme stress. The author, along with many other women who have been critical of Freud’s work with “Dora,” (his alias for Ida) presents another reality: that Freud’s analysis of “Dora” was wrong. That he failed her because of his own shortcomings.
I enjoyed Dora a lot once I got into it. At first, the teenage-slangy narration made me dubious, but it wasn’t long before I was having laugh-out-loud moments. (Page 105 had me rolling.) There was also adventure and moments of tenderness and friendship. Ida/Dora wasn’t a flat caricature of a f***ed-up teen, but a girl with hard edges and under-protected softness. Some of the events in the book weren’t quite realistic in terms of things that might actually happen–but then again, Freud wasn’t a psychologist in the time of cellular telephones, so one already knows that the book isn’t 100% realism. I didn’t mind, though. The characters stayed in character, and that’s the more important part, to me. Whether they could pull off some of their adventures was a stretch, but by no means an impossibility. I cheered with them when they succeeded and mourned when they didn’t."
"Hagy did something else that I found very impressive: she wrote about the busI gave this book 4.15/5 stars at InsatiableBooksluts.com.
"Hagy did something else that I found very impressive: she wrote about the business of, uh, horsery (that’s totally a word isn’t it? No? Well, it is now) without boring me to death. Despite my love of Cormac McCarthy, I may be the only person from Kentucky who isn’t a sucker for a good horse story. Remember the movie Seabiscuit? Well, I don’t, because I never saw it. I’m generally that disinterested in horses. Hagy used character to make the business of horses interesting; even the filly had a great character, and I thought it fitting that she didn’t have to compete with a human love interest. (Not that she would have stood for that.)
I appreciated Hagy’s deft use of foreshadowing, as well. I hate books that excessively foreshadow; it’s an unfortunate trend that seems to be cropping up in a lot of books. “The reader didn’t know it then, but she would learn that each major plot point would be easily predictable until the end of the book because the author would loudly predict each event to make sure it wasn’t missed.” Hagy gave the reader a modicum of credit and left us with only a growing sense of foreboding–just enough to properly set the mood."
This book was engaging enough to start, but it didn't really follow through on the buzz I'd been hearing. I grew up in the area of the country where sThis book was engaging enough to start, but it didn't really follow through on the buzz I'd been hearing. I grew up in the area of the country where she writes about--at least in this book--but it didn't feel right to me at all. I know for a fact that I highlighted something in the book and said, "People from Kentucky DO NOT talk like this."
The characters read as being a little one-dimensional. The book had not one but two psychopaths vying for tension and attention. It had a ball-busting, successful, horny chick for a villain (one of three villains); the sort of dopey good guy who is in love with the heroine but falls for the nasty wiles of the villain, thereby creating CONFLICT ZOMG; the rich, self-absorbed sociopath (two of these, actually); the heroine with a secret past; the Sheriff who's determined to get to the bottom of it all. I found the characters a bit formulaic.
Overall: entertaining but not primo quality literature. ...more
"I started reading this yesterday as I was sitting under the hair dryer at the saI gave this book 4/5 stars on InsatiableBooksluts.com.
"I started reading this yesterday as I was sitting under the hair dryer at the salon, squinting through my one good eye (curse you, allergies) and holding it at arm’s length to keep from melting my Kindle. I have to admit, the first sentence made me a little frowny. “Stubborn daylight fades black”? I read on, uncertain. Gloria, the manager, had “gerbil eyes” and the protagonist was “performing semi-robotic functions gleaned from half-attention to yesterday’s training”. I was dubious of the overly-descriptive prose, I admit it. I had 15 minutes under the hot air, though, so I made a go of it.
I’m glad I did, because Himmer caught his stride quickly. I became engrossed in the story, which is about a college student who moonlights as a night clerk at a convenience store. Himmer paints scenes full of colorful characters: hookers, hobos, young kids trying to scam cigarettes. Most chapters run 1-2 pages; they don’t feel abrupt when you’re reading, as some works with short chapters tend to do. The quick vignettes meld, emphasizing nature of the clerk’s job–the kind of job where the moments, hours, and days eventually blur into one long question about what the hell you’re doing with your life."
"Series could be called–anI gave this book 4.5/5 stars on InsatiableBooksluts.com (A digital ARC was provided by Candlemark and Gleam.)
"Series could be called–and, I guess, will be called, as I’m calling it that right now–adult fairy tales. Not the Disneyesque idea of a fairy tale, where everyone is a princess, a prince, or a witch, and everything is wrapped up in the happily ever after; nor, I’d say, a story à la Brothers Grimm, dark and twisted and often tragic. Rather, these stories about ordinary people finding themselves in magical circumstances bring Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland to mind. (Stevie Carroll, Lewis Carroll–happy coincidence?) The stories range from sweet to sinister, all teeming with jittery undercurrents; reading Series feels a bit like walking past a cemetery at the stroke of midnight. You hold your breath and listen to your heart pound; you giggle like a loon when you’ve made it just past.
The stories center around fantastic events woven seamlessly into the fabric of our reality: a temp worker battles a dragon; a lottery winner encounters a minotaur; a grieving woman hatches a mysterious creature. The stories are set mainly in England, in cozy villages and towns where people never seem to shop at mega-marts; modern technology, while not conspicuously absent, fades into the background. Carroll’s lovely characters and their peculiar circumstances come sharply into focus without the competition of hyperrealistic elements that might distract from the fantasy. We recognize their world as our own, but blurred just a tad. Just enough to let our imaginations follow Carroll down secret paths we wouldn’t have noticed otherwise."
I gave this book 4.5/5 stars on my blog, InsatiableBooksluts.com. (A digital ARC was provided by Coffee House Press)
"The story switchesI gave this book 4.5/5 stars on my blog, InsatiableBooksluts.com. (A digital ARC was provided by Coffee House Press)
"The story switches between a cool retelling by Mr. Writer Man, as Adamine calls him, and her own testimony of her life, which she sends nightly into the wind. Mystery after mystery about Pearline, Adamine, the lepers, and even Mr. Writer Man unfold easily, blooming with elegant timing and driving the story forward. The changing points of view presented a small speed-bump in my reading at first, but I figured it out fairly quickly and enjoyed the different perspectives: Adamine, giving us the soul of her memory, and Mr. Writer Man with his research and facts. The narrative switch-up contributed to the feeling that the book had been researched and written as a non-fiction account, which I appreciated. Once I hit a groove with Warner Woman, I didn’t want to put it down."
"I really, really wanted to like thisI gave this book 2.75/5 stars on InsatiableBooksluts.com. (An ARC was provided by Atticus Books.)
"I really, really wanted to like this book. I really did. Nazis? History? Movies? Mystery and intrigue? AWESOME. Right? I’m sorry to say, though, and I think I’m in the minority on this, Kino fell flat for me in a lot of areas.
One of my primary issues with this book was believability. Even though Fauth created Mina to be impulsive and reckless, I had a hard time believing that she would leave her sick husband without even visiting him in person to talk to him about it. (She e-mailed him instead. Cold, yo.) I couldn’t connect to Mina, despite the fact that I actually should have a lot in common with her. I also found her to be rather too trusting. In one part of the book, a stranger meets up with her and gives her Kino’s journal–and warns her not to trust Dr. Hanno, who, despite protests, hasn’t actually been ruled out as the thief yet. So, obviously, her next course of action is to get drunk with Dr. Hanno and read the journal together. I . . . I just don’t see it. Her motives were murky and unclear to me, which made quite a bit of the plot suspect in my mind."
"Kinney’s writing is lovI gave this book 3.95/5 stars on InsatiableBooksluts.com. A digital ARC was provided to me by Two Dollar Radio.
"Kinney’s writing is lovely, striking a delicate balance among ennui, existential terror, and the pioneer spirit that comes out when one has nothing at all left to lose. The whole time I was reading the book, though, I was struck with how much it reminded me of the novella Shopgirl by Steve Martin. Both protagonists were young-lady loners who were reaching out for something more, both were doing jobs that were becoming increasingly obsolete and in danger of falling through the cracks, both have become obsessed with men who aren’t becoming obsessed back with them. Both books had a pervasive sense of emptiness with darkly humorous edges. On the whole, I think I like Radio Iris better. Kinney’s protagonist feels more real, and I relate to her more. (Possibly because Kinney is an actual woman writing the character–as much as Steve Martin is a lovely writer, you can always feel his man’s eyes looking at his female protagonists, which makes them less real, more like a portrait or a photograph.)"
I gave this book 3.75/5 stars on InsatiableBooksluts.com. (I received a digital galley for this book via NetGalley.)
"There were parts oI gave this book 3.75/5 stars on InsatiableBooksluts.com. (I received a digital galley for this book via NetGalley.)
"There were parts of The Thief that I really liked, and there were parts that I didn’t like so much. I really loved the main character, a Japanese pickpocket who steals his way through the streets of Tokyo. He develops a relationship with a young boy that he finds shoplifting alongside his mother in a grocery store–a chaste relationship, no sexual funny-business going on here. The mother is a prostitute; the boy lives in a broken home with her and with Mama’s abusive, jealous boyfriend. The narrator alternately sympathizes with the boy and tries to push him away; pickpockets and thieves, they’re loners, anti-social by nature. Yet, the boy eventually finds a place in The Thief’s heart. The narrator teaches the boy how to pickpocket and shoplift successfully. One of the more compelling aspects of the novel is the narrator’s musings on and explanations of the art of theft, not to mention “watching” him steal from people. (Who doesn’t secretly want to have some kind of badass criminal skill? Nobody does not want that–even if we choose only to use it for good–and this guy has like +1000 stealth.)"
We often do discussion-style reviews at IB. Here'sI gave this book 3/5 stars at InsatiableBooksluts.com. My co-reviewer, Rob, gave the book 4/5 stars.
We often do discussion-style reviews at IB. Here's an excerpt:
"Susie: What did you think about it? Rob: I liked it muchly. It was definitely my kind of book–loved all the music references. Susie: I hoped at least one of us would like it. I found it easy to read, but I developed a distinct dislike of every character in the book by the time it was over. Rob: Yeah, they weren’t a lovable bunch, but I liked all the flaws. It portrayed the music business very well; most of the people in that business tend to be selfish f**ks. I liked his writing style too… no frills. Susie: Uh huh. You know I have no love for selfish f**ks. Rob: The seediness of it reminded me very much of Ryu Murakami; Almost Transparent Blue came vividly to mind. Merle was such a damn wreck at the end, which also put me in mind of Carl Hiaasen–he tends to put his characters through the wringer, especially the selfish f**ks. Susie: He did remind me of Hiaasen, but not as funny. And after Smith started talking about Merle’s relationship with Beth, I wanted to crawl into the pages and pimp slap Merle. Susie: Talking about Beth: “I had to kill Merle Johnson and split town, I wanted this woman, every part of her, before I left.” (groan)"
We often do discussion-style reviews on our site. Here's aWe gave this book a 4/5 at InsatiableBooksluts.com. (We were provided an ARC by the author.)
We often do discussion-style reviews on our site. Here's an excerpt:
"Rob: How did we all like it? Amy: Liked it quite a bit. Don’t know if I LOVED it, but liked it very well. Susie: Same. It wasn’t perfect but I liked it a lot. Rob: That would sum it up for me too. The one thing I kept thinking the whole time I was reading it was that this is one book certain parents would raise hell to ban… and teenage girls would want to get their grubby paws on it. Susie: Oh yes. Teenagers having a libido (gasp) scandalous. Rob: Parents would rather not think about that of their immaculate children.
Susie: You know, this book kind of reminded me of All the Pretty Horses. If it had happened to a female. Rob: You’re right, it did have that feel… a softer McCarthy.
Susie: I really was interested in how she dealt with gender in the book. Part of what I liked about Las Verduras was that they weren’t part of the traditional gender mold, and neither was Rhonda–they weren’t stereotypical women. Amy: Gender, power, and strength were interesting themes, and handled well, I thought. And all themes I enjoy reading about, when done well, so I was pleased with that."
We often do discussion-style reviews on our site. Here's an excerpt of our review:
"Amy: We both loved, loved, loved it! Best book I’ve read so far this year, by far. Susie: I’m also so glad that we read it. I was enchanted (as much as you can be enchanted by a book that is about terrorism and war and hippies). Amy: Almost every line was a poem in itself. I’m going to try to find the one, early on, that hooked me. Susie: I loved her use of imagery. During the “anniversary” scene she talked about Della’s mother in terms of a tsunami–ocean imagery is dicey because it can be so overdone, but hers was perfect. Amy: Bah, I can’t find the specific line, annoying. One I did find: “I had been kissing the hems of ghosts.” *swoon* Gorgeous. Amy: Her use of language and imagery is masterful. The recurring themes of the self-immolators, the pregnant rat, her sister, the ocean… so many common (and often ugly) things, but made beautiful with her language around them."
"I enjoyed this book–indeed, reading Varamo got me out of my post-holiday reading slump. (Yay!) The book started off a humorous read, but the hilarity of it didn’t click for me until halfway through, when I found myself cackling as the narrator described how, exactly, he had come by his information about Varamo to write the book. (I won’t spoil it, but oh, how I laughed.) Aira also has a knack for plunging you directly into the scene as a participant rather than an observer. The book covers only one day in the life of Varamo, but in all likelihood, this day was the only day that mattered; Aira distills and concentrates the story, giving you a perfect bite without leaving you wanting."
"Devil is violent. Not just a little violent, but really violent and really peI gave this book 3.75/5 stars on InsatiableBooksluts.com.
"Devil is violent. Not just a little violent, but really violent and really pervy. I am not a prude when it comes to sex or violence (see also, my loves for Cormac McCarthy, Quentin Tarantino, and Anais Nin) but Pollock’s novel digs deep into depravity. It doesn’t just have sex, and it doesn’t just have sex with dead people, and it doesn’t just have sex with dead people that have been murdered previously by the person having sex with the dead people, but it also has all of that and posing the dead people for photographs while sticking foreign objects into the wounds as decoration. Rail spikes. Branches. Whatever’s handy–it was like the ikebana of death. Additionally, every male character in this book, save one or two, thinks of women as basically no better than semen receptacles. The few ‘main’ female characters themselves are also pretty awful, swinging between oversexed and overly pious . . . you know, the only two personalities that women are allowed to have forever, saints and sluts. While I don’t think that Pollock intended to present this aggressive misogyny as his viewpoint–he makes it quite obvious that those characters are far from upstanding–and while this may be an accurate representation of a segment of society*, it’s hard to choke down. Damn hard."
"The book does drag a bit in a couple of spots–nothing terrible, but Miyabe goI gave this book 3.75/5 stars at InsatiableBooksluts.com.
"The book does drag a bit in a couple of spots–nothing terrible, but Miyabe goes to great lengths to explain Japan’s 1980′s credit crisis that caused an economic bubble, possibly a bit further than necessary to the plot of the story. She seems to want to impress upon readers that having had bad credit doesn’t give one bad character, which was surely an important message at the time, but borders on preachy now. She also explains the public systems of Japan at some length, such as work registry, health insurance, identification, and the like; I found this relevant to the plot, though, especially for us westerners that may not be familiar with how the Japanese system differs from ours, or how it differed from ours 20 years ago. It’s sort of like the forensics mysteries that sidetrack to tell you what they’re doing so you understand where they get the clues."
Max Barry himself said in a pretty good interview that, if he had it to do over again, he would rewrite the last third of the book. The last third of the book was the part I actually enjoyed the most–it was the first two-thirds that dragged. The story follows a fellow who calls himself Scat. By page 34, he’s met the love of his life (a self-described lesbian named 6), has made a sh**load of cash on a fabulous idea that he wanted to sell to Coca-Cola, and has subsequently been screwed out of that shitload of cash. One could easily pace that action out over twice as many pages, and when I got through the sequence I felt like I had been on a crazy roller coaster that went too fast and stopped abruptly at the height of its momentum. The plot then chased its tail for awhile until about page 143, when it finally got to a point where I could sink in my teeth. I wouldn’t have minded the jerkiness of the exposition so much if the book hadn’t then skipped like a scratched record for the next hundred-odd pages. (Lookit me overusing similes and metaphors! In fact, I’ll use another one: it reminded me of those drivers who go 90 mph to pass you, only to have to slow back down two car-lengths ahead because traffic is thick and there’s nowhere to f**king go. In related news, I hate a**holes like that.)"