A while back, I read Nicola Yoon’s The Sun is Also a Star.
By “a while back”, I mean I finished it in the first few days of January.
It’s been a while.
I enjoyed Yoon’s debut Everything, Everything – it was a bit too sweet and a bit too syrupy and so not me, but eh, I loved it anyway. Everyone needs the literary equivalent of a diabetic coma every now and again, right? Well, Everything, Everything was mine. When I read that Nicola Yoon was releasing a new novel dealing with immigration, I was pretty sure that it’d be up my alley. When The Sun is Also a Star turned out to be one of Book of the Month Club’s picks, I thought it was simply kismet and made it my selection.
To my sadness and frustration, I didn’t like it as much as I’d hoped.
Yoon is a competent, strong writer and she’s got great ideas and knows how to carry them out – I didn’t feel as though the novel were half-baked or un-done in some strange fashion.
About 3 months ago, I was lucky enough to be approved for several YA ARCs. While I’ve read several of them, I’ve been incredibly remiss in actually getting down what I think about the lovely books publishers have allowed me to read.
First, I started with Becky Albertalli’s The Upside of Unrequited.
I was pretty darn excited about this as I’d read her debut, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda on a whim last year and loved it. Albertalli’s prose is nothing particularly special – it’s somewhere above workman but below beauty. It’s strong and sufficient enough for the tales she spins. For me, what made ‘Simon’ such an unrestrained joy to experience was the protagonist, Simon. I found him delightful and just the sort of person my younger self would have wanted to be friends with in high school. Sadly, I didn’t feel this way about Molly in The Upside of Unrequited. I’m not sure if I can explain it well enough – but I never really felt drawn into Molly – or for that matter, her friends or her family. They were well drawn, funny but still, I didn’t feel a spark there. I didn’t feel as riveted by Molly’s drama. It’s not to say that the book isn’t a worthwhile read, because it is! Albertalli is just as amusing and wry as she is in her debut and her commitment to diversity is just as wonderful – it never feels false or unearned, or as though she’s doing it simply to make a point. The characters who populate this book feel like the world in which we live. It’s simply that I cared for them and their situations less than I cared for those of Simon’s world. It’s a 3 star book for me. Continue reading
Sometimes, a novel will surprise you. That in and of itself isn’t really a surprise. What is a surprise is how the novel surprises you. Do you hate it when you thought you’d love it? Was it not as wonderful as you heard? Or was it better than your friends told you it was?
And, sometimes, the surprise is that it’s so much more than you ever anticipated.
When I requested an ARC of Miranda Emerson’s Miss Treadway and the Field of Stars, about 85% of the thought process that went into that decision was based on the over. I mean, look at it – it’s lovely!
The other 15% percent was the synopsis – it seemed like it’d be a fun romp. I only expected what I was promised – a group of people, lead by the titular Anna Treadway traipsing around London, investigating the disappearance of an actress, Iolanthe Green, who may or may not wish to be found. What I found within the pages was much more than this.
I recently read Natasha Lester’s A Kiss for Mr. Fitzgerald and I thought it was a pretty is fun, frothy ride. Yes, it so very, very soap opera-ish, but damn if it wasn’t a great soap opera.
I feel glad, I guess to have read A Kiss for Mr. Fitzgerald as it brought me some fun when I needed it. This was a easy, breezy read that I still found pretty engaging despite the genre not really being my speed.
This book is, I think, marketed as Historical Fiction, but in my opinion, it doesn’t really fit that into that genre nicely. When I think of historical fiction, I think of works where the setting completely informs everything about the world and story – the language, the plot, the characterization, the very fiber of the threats of the story. The book is seeped in its time and can’t truly be separated from it. It’s not possible to have that book without that time. Continue reading
AKA: I’ve Made a Huge Mistake
There is often much handwringing regarding adults reading YA novels. As someone who reads YA for kicks but who mostly reads classics and literary fiction, I can understand both sides.
There is interesting, clever and fairly well done YA. There’s also a lot of terrible YA. I do think, in general that people ought to read what they like as there’s far too little reading going on in general. YA is fun and can serve as a pretty nice getaway from some heavier adult literature. But I also don’t think that it’s best to just limit yourself to YA as an adult. There’s a lot of nuance in adult literature (in general) that is absent in YA (in general). But mostly, I fall back to “Read what you want, guys!”
Admittedly, YA isn’t a large part of my reading life. It’s there, I don’t knock it as a whole and if something looks interesting, I’m gonna read it. I’ve finished reading 56 books this year and 7 (or 8, depending on if you classify The Curious Incident of The Dog in the Night as YA (some do, some don’t) are YA. That’s not exactly a large percentage. It’s simply easier for me to find more adult literature that makes me excited to read. But obviously, I’m not against reading YA. If it looks good and intrigues me, I’m gonna read it.
Based on the hype machine that is the internet, I decided to follow up Michael Chabon’s The Mysteries of Pittsburgh with a current YA favorite, Victoria Aveyard’s Red Queen.
This was a gigantic mistake on my part.
Red Queen is a thoroughly unremarkable novel where the only thing of note about it is how it came to be and the fact that it’s a fantastic illustration of why people think YA novels are beneath adult reading. Continue reading
AKA: Navel-Gazing Ennui
After finishing Sweetbitter and thinking on it for a while, I think I understand why there’s such a sharp divide in how people feel about it. People seem to absolutely love or loathe this book.
I feel both feelings at the same time.
There’s a lot of beauty in Sweetbitter. Danler absolutely knows how to turn a phrase and how to set a scene. I found her words melodic. I’ve noticed often that people tend to complain about her descriptions of food not being very “culinary.” They aren’t, but I’m not sure why people wanted them to be. As far as I can discern, this novel is not meant to evoke memories of strong culinary loves. It’s simply a roman à clef and a bildungsroman of sorts. This is a novel about a young woman moving to New York and working in a restaurant. That’s it.
The few descriptions of the culinary world and the food itself are heady and and crisp – they’re enough for what’s meant to be there. It think it’s fairly obvious that the focus of the novel isn’t particularly to ensnare you in endless descriptions of food and culinary adventuring, but to immerse you in the mind of this young woman who happens to be working at this restaurant. Much of the story could function the same if it were removed from its setting and placed elsewhere – like, for instance, an advertising agency or a private school.
A few months ago, I won a Goodreads Giveaway. I’d been waiting to read Jan Ellison’s”A Small Indiscretion” for months – it was simply something which kept getting pushed back to the back of my To Be Read list.
So, I was excited when I won and pleased as I’d now move the book farther up my reading list. As I was in the middle of a few books, I didn’t get to it right away. Finally, after some time, I did.
I find “A Small Indiscretion” to be a difficult novel to consider.
The novel centers around Annie Black and hops between her misspent youth, living in England and her more stable adulthood in San Francisco.
The book is narrated in Annie’s voice. This is her story that she tells us. The catalyst for this divulging of her secrets is the rather serious accident in which her son was injured.
I found it somewhat difficult to keep my attention on this novel. In theory, this is just my sort of book – it’s all about the internal turmoil caused by silly actions.