I changed my stars from four to three and back again. I liked The Art of Fielding, it goes down smooth, but it really struck me as John Irving Light....moreI changed my stars from four to three and back again. I liked The Art of Fielding, it goes down smooth, but it really struck me as John Irving Light. All the neuroses, but none of the whimsy.
Two fairly major problems nag at me, and their names are Owen and Pella. Owen is preternaturally charming and perfect, a kind of idealized gay object without any really interesting - or even recognizably human - characteristics. Pella is a more flawed and intriguing character... but she's essentially THE ONLY WOMAN in a 500 page novel. That's a lot of weight to carry - two of the other main characters are college baseball stars, and in the three years that the novel covers, Pella is apparently the only woman they sleep with. Or even notice. She's also the rebellious daughter of a third character. There is a scene where she admires a female professor's poise and career, but I don't think she ever even speaks to another woman. I liked her (I liked Owen, too, I'm not a Scrooge), but the whole thing seemed kind of corny and vaguely sexist, like a 70's movie with Candace Bergin where she's torn between her lover and her career.
So I'd recommend The Art of Fielding as entertainment, but I was expecting more. If there is a sequel (I wouldn't be surprised), I will read it.
I'm not usually a fan of short stories. Ideally, what I want is not even a single novel, but a series. Something about Stories for Nighttime and Some...moreI'm not usually a fan of short stories. Ideally, what I want is not even a single novel, but a series. Something about Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day caught my eye, though, and I'm glad it did. These shortshort stories are addictive and refreshing, daring the reader to abandon assumptions and consider the possibilities lingering at the intersection of dreams and waking life. Fun and original.(less)
I approached this one with some trepidation. I was a teenager when I first read this trilogy, and a Christian. The last is particularly relevant since...moreI approached this one with some trepidation. I was a teenager when I first read this trilogy, and a Christian. The last is particularly relevant since the characters in this novel include not only an earnest teenager and a talking dog, but also the Devil and the archangel Raphael. I had loved these books in the 80's, but I doubted I would feel the same way today.
Long story short - I was once again completely enchanted by this novel. The plot is simpler than I remembered, and the deus sure do ex machina, but MacAvoy writes characters that a reader can fall in love with - and she's not afraid to raise some difficult questions along the way. Religion both comforts and frustrates her characters, and personal change is not always for the better.
I'm looking forward to re-reading the rest of the series, and moving on to her newer works as well.(less)
Okay, like a lot of the other readers here, I wanted to like this one. I just didn't.
Maybe the synopsis on the cover is to blame: it makes the book so...moreOkay, like a lot of the other readers here, I wanted to like this one. I just didn't.
Maybe the synopsis on the cover is to blame: it makes the book sound suspenseful, nostalgic, and light. It's really none of those things. Well, nostalgic, maybe: if your idea of nostalgia is a bitter nursing of hurt feelings.
Nora, the distinctly unlikeable narrator, spends more time remembering (fetishising?) childhood slights than focusing on solving the murder mystery at hand. Nora is married, but her husband isn't really a character in the novel. I think she's only married so that we don't think she's a loser, which seems... odd. And problematic, since Nora's almost-not-quite romance with a childhood friend is the most engaging part of the novel.
Charlotte, Nora's former best frenemy, is superior and exasperating as child in the flashbacks and seems like a COMPLETELY different person in the present. The flashbacks themselves are repetitive and do little to advance the plot.
I kept wondering about Emily Arsenault herself - What axe is she grinding? Emily, who hurt you?
And then there's the ending. I'm not into spoilers, so I'll just say that it's extremely anti-climactic....(less)
When She Woke was more religious than I expected it to be, and I couldn't help but think that it read like a "Lite" version of The Handmaid's Tale. St...moreWhen She Woke was more religious than I expected it to be, and I couldn't help but think that it read like a "Lite" version of The Handmaid's Tale. Still, it's an entertaining easy read with a likeable narrator. Not very suspenseful or unique, but I'm not sorry I read it, either.(less)
Here's something kind of funny... I (mostly) really liked Egan's latest book, A Visit from the Goon Squad. I say (mostly) because some bits struck me...moreHere's something kind of funny... I (mostly) really liked Egan's latest book, A Visit from the Goon Squad. I say (mostly) because some bits struck me as being too implausible, or too "Look! I'm writing from the POV of a mentally disturbed person!" for the book to really spin me, but I still thought it was good. Very good.
So naturally I wanted more.
I hated Look at Me. The self-indulgent, self-destructive meanderings of her too-large cast made me want to throw my Nook at the wall more than once. I don't remember ever reading a book that had more pointless and repetitive scenes, and (as with Goon Squad) I kept thinking that Egan's desire to play with a large cast says more about her insecurities as a writer than the needs of the story. Getting bored? Wait! Here's a sympathetic homeless guy! Annnnd... a little kid with cancer! It gets awful flabby.
It's not all bad, by any means. There are bits where her ability to play with the rhythm of your reading - as the scene shifts between characters and places - that are pretty technically impressive. And there was one character - Moose - who I really liked, and thought might have centered a different (and better) book.
I wanted to like this book much more than I did. It's terribly well-intentioned, but unfortunately not as well-written.
Chapters alternate between the...moreI wanted to like this book much more than I did. It's terribly well-intentioned, but unfortunately not as well-written.
Chapters alternate between the alarmingly naive Jason and the increasingly unlikeable Doug until (late in the novel) an act of violence brings them together. Fast forward 18 years. Doug has a sudden - total - change of character. The men meet again, and forgiveness is implied.
To me, it seems that the meat of this story is in the change of heart, and how that leads to forgiveness. Instead Hurwin focuses on her characters' younger years, and we get a rough but unremarkable story of abusive parents, hustling, and punk rock.
Too many questions are left unresolved. Jason's older brother, Paul, spends time in juvie for an offense that is never clearly spelled out. What was Paul's crime? Getting fondled by his uncle? Is Jason kind of a special ed kid? Or does Hurwin think all young people are a bit dense? Was it hard for Doug to sever his ties to the white supremacy sub-culture? Is it small-minded of Hurwin to condemn the violence of punk while skirting the real problem of racism? Dunno.
I gulped this one down in a single sitting on the day it was released, loving every word... but with a nagging feeling that it wasn't on par with the...moreI gulped this one down in a single sitting on the day it was released, loving every word... but with a nagging feeling that it wasn't on par with the rest of the series. So it was with some trepidation that I picked it up to reread it, as I've reread the rest of the Tales books so many times.
It was both better than I remembered and not as good. Bits that struck me as being "off" the first time through are really no big deal. The sex scene is suprisingly graphic but quite short, for example. I don't think the dialogue (which flirts with corny) is as strong as it is in earlier installments, and the new characters seem a little generic this time (Jake will improve in his second outing, but unfortunately Ben will remain the least winning of all Michael's many boyfriends). But the heart still shines through, even if Maupin - and his narrator, Michael - have become a little grumpier with age.
This is definately the slightest book in the series, however, and a reader who comes to it not knowing - and caring - about the long history and backstory of various characters will probably find little reason to care about them here. A climactic conversation between Mary Ann and Michael, which seemed weighted with meaning on my first read, turned out to be actually kind of perfunctory. (And I'm really not sure why Michael dislikes his sister-in-law so much.)
Before I go to Sleep is a surprisingly old fashioned gothic, the kind where the heroine marries in haste and...more(This review will contain MILD spoilers.)
Before I go to Sleep is a surprisingly old fashioned gothic, the kind where the heroine marries in haste and frets at leisure. The novelty here is that the narrator's own inability to form new long-term memories keeps her in a constant state of doubt. Can she trust her husband? Her doctor? Her best friend? It's more soapy than suspenseful, although I'm sure it will hit the sweet spot for many readers who miss Mary Stewart, or who wish Mary Higgins Clark was smarter.
That said, I admired Watson's ability to vary his lead character's personality from day to day while maintaining a sense of the core "self" that the reader can relate to. As Christine wakes each day with no memory of who she is or how she ended up in bed with a person who seems to be a stranger, she doesn't react the same way every time. Some days she seems more suspicious, other days more sad, or more accepting. That made sense to me.
But there are problems. The first is that every character needs to act in exactly the way that they do to maintain the mystery of the situation. This seems particularly improbable in the case of the doctor, for a number of reasons too spoiler-y to get into here. I read a review on this site that said Christine's family and friends are all terrible people - they're not terrible so much as unobservant, because the plot requires them to be unobservant.
My main criticism of the novel, though, lies with the ending. (mild spoilers ahead!) "Oh my god!" someone says. "I can't believe _________!!!" "I know," Christine replies. "Call me tomorrow and we'll talk about it some more." Not, "Come rescue me!" Not, "Call the police!!" This completely illogical delay allows the villian to go crazy and get with the violence. Like, super, super, nobody-would-actually-do-that crazy. Ridiculously crazy.
That killed the suspense for me. It was too over the top.
(Finally, I'd like to address two facts that bother other reviews, but that are dealt with in the narrative (again, there will be mild spoilers): The diary that we read isn't the actual diary, but a recreation of it made after the fact. So she had all the time in the world to write it and get as literary as she wanted (she is a novelist). Also, the exact situation that Christine is in at the beginning of the novel has only existed for four months. That relatively short time span actually makes many things more credible, I think.)(less)
**spoiler alert** Okay, I'm going to say two things up front: This review will contain spoilers, and - in spite of how it may sound - I didn't HATE th...more**spoiler alert** Okay, I'm going to say two things up front: This review will contain spoilers, and - in spite of how it may sound - I didn't HATE this book. Allen has a charming voice that kept me turning the pages even as I was counting cliches and feeling increasingly uncomfortable about the "gay" content of the novel. Willa and Paxton are likable protagonists, although you know from the start that all their problems will be solved in the approximate running time of a Lifetime movie. Whatever. And Willa's love interest, Colin, is serviceable (if slightly bland).
The problem arises from Paxton's love story. See, she's fallen in love with her gay best friend. She's decided to be cool and not force the issue, until the stress of her life (she's planning a big party!) drives her to instigate some awkward groping. But don't worry! It's okay because he's not really gay! He just dresses nice and says things like "sweetie," and "lovely" a lot. Oh, and this one time when he was a teenager he was gay for a while, but he was just trying to fit in and be accepted(!), and he stopped trying to tell people that he was actually straight because they didn't want to believe it. They didn't know about the gay lover, but the whole town had seen him wear a purple trench coat, and I guess that's enough to brand you for life in the south.
Now, maybe you personally don't know any gay people, but believe me when I tell you - that is not how gay works. In real life, if Paxton had bought her lover's story she would not be headed for a happy ending... she would be headed for disappointment, self-recrimination, alcoholism, and finding her husband in bed with the pool boy. And even the blindest kind of romantic shouldn't be encouraged to pursue that relationship.
(I'm not saying that otherwise straight men are never bi-curious or... flexible... But those men are not obvious screaming queens like the character in this novel. And no one has ever smuggled a sausage just because they thought all the cool kids were doing it. That's just stupid.)
Anyway, that was a deal breaker for me.
If you're still on the fence, you could do worse... But I'd recommend Anne Tyler or Alice Hoffman instead. (less)
This book is the damnedest thing. It seems completely original, while reminding me of 100 Years of Solitude (which is the most obvious comparison), Th...moreThis book is the damnedest thing. It seems completely original, while reminding me of 100 Years of Solitude (which is the most obvious comparison), The Milagro Beanfield War, Wuthering Heights, and East of Eden. And I loved it. Mostly. But ultimately a kind of fatigue set in, as so many years and such a large cast of quirky (that's an understatement!) characters were burned through in such a surprisingly low page count. At times Crummey seems oddly stingy, repeatedly making you fall in love with characters who then disappear until their death scene. And since the last section takes a unexpected turn for the gay, I was particularly surprised to find my attention flagging. Don't get me wrong - this is a book that I will absolutely read again, probably more than once... but I think it is - maybe - too much of a good thing. Ask me again in five years, I'm sure I'll remember it - and that's saying something, right there.(less)
This was just a great, fun read. I'm not a big Sherlock Holmes fan, but Moore has a light touch that preserves the fun of Arthur Conan Doyle's gothic...moreThis was just a great, fun read. I'm not a big Sherlock Holmes fan, but Moore has a light touch that preserves the fun of Arthur Conan Doyle's gothic plots - without the dreary faux period literary stylings that other modern Holmes writers seem to think are brilliant. I'd love to see a movie based on this. I'll definately be looking forward to Graham Moore's next novel.(less)