Book Review: Running

Cara Hoffman’s Running centers on a small group (two guys, one gal) who eek out a living scamming tourists into staying at a rundown Greek hotel during the 1980s. This group, Milo, Jasper and Bridey are close and tightknit adoptive family, living in each others’ pockets, until one of their scams backfires and gets them uncomfortably close to an act of terrorism. The female, Bridey, ran to Athens to escape a dysfunctional life back in the US. Boyfriends Milo and Jasper are British expats seeking running from their own existences (one privileged and one not).

Hoffman’s writing is quite good – it’s obvious that she’s a very talented woman and she’s someone I can see myself reading again. The relationships aren’t flimsy constructs, which is important as these relationships are the pillars on the novel. Bridey, Milo and Jasper feel real and lived in.  There’s an interestingly slippery, somewhat dreamy quality to Running; you feel as though you’re sort of slipping through the words and through time. This quality is quite helpful – the action of Running shifts between the group’s existence in Athens and Bridey’s childhood in Washington state. The shifts can feel somewhat disconcerting at times and periodically, it can feel difficult to grasp the meat of a scene. The dreamy quality of the prose really benefits those structural choices – it makes it seem and feel that those shifts are more than just a structural, stylistic choice . It really does truly enhances the haunting atmosphere of the novel and allows you to get a clearer feel for the disorientation the characters themselves feel.  Her prose also never becomes overly involved – it’s restrained and allows you to focus more on what is happening and the feelings it evokes in you, the reader. Reading Hoffman’s prose does not feel like work, nor does it feel as though she’s simply attempting to show off what she’s capable of.  Considering the obvious talent and work that she’s put in, this is a high compliment to pay. Continue reading

Book Review: The V Girl

AKA: Why Did I Read This?

With Mya Robarts’ The V Girl, I took a step into New Adult fiction. I want to go back home because it must be said: The V Girl is simply not very good.

The V Girl has a super interesting concept, but here, that concept really reads more as a means to an end, rather than something that the author wanted to seriously explore. It feels like concept was really just a highbrow way to get sex into a book.

So, essentially, Lila Velez is a resident of a post-apocalyptic North America where rape and sexual slavery are legal. She’s a virgin, so she’s trying to lose her virginity before it’s taken from her. This sounds really good, right? Like it could be really gritty, really profound and something special? Well it’s really, really not. Robarts’ world building and characterization bears much of the fault for that.

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Book Review: The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend

I’ve noticed that, other than British authors, I don’t really branch out much to international authors and I’m not entirely sure why.

I’ve hit the biggies – like Conrad, Dostoyevsky, Murakami and so on, but I’ve been trying to remedy that and include more foreign authors in my reading. It’s slow going right now as I keep getting distracted by books I’ve been planning to read by British or American authors (darn you, Donna Tartt!).

I’m not sure what draws my attention from non American/British authors – I supposethat it could be that I perceive that there’s cultural differences that will limit my enjoyment of their styles. In any case, as I’ve said, I’m trying to do better.

Months ago, I was approved for an ARC of The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald, who happens to be a Swede. Reading the description, I figured that this work for me as the book is set in the US and so I would at least have some frame of reference. If I couldn’t appreciate everything, I figured that I could understand the characters at least.

So, The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend centers on Sara, a young Swedish woman who treks out to Iowa to visit her Amy, her American pen pal. When Sara arrives, shefinds that Amy has died. Instead of returning to Sweden, she decides to stay in Iowa for a while and eventually, endears herself to the residents of the town who plot to find a way to ensure that Sara is able to remain in Broken Wheel.

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend is a light, frothy read, which if that is your wheelhouse, should that sort of book be your poison. Continue reading

Book Review: Stir

I must admit that I’m weary of memoirs.

23281896Celebrity or politicians, okay, I get it. Not so meh. I can understand why they’ve written memoirs, good or not. If you a celebrity or a politician, you’ve actually done something of note. You’ve some combination of talent, luck and drive and most likely, you’ve seen – and probably done – some amazing/terrible/horrifying things. I can see why you’re writing.

Normal folks who’ve just lived through something, though? That I usually roll my eyes at. There’s something about this that annoys me – the idea that you, normal human, have something of note; that you have a story worth telling. We all have a story and the idea that you, normal human, are more capable and deserving than the millions of others with a story to tell makes me laugh.

I mean sure, I could write a memoir of my own, chronicling my own life-long struggle with Major Depressive Disorder, my time as a patient in a psych ward, my two months in intensive outpatient therapy and my (ongoing) recovering. I simply doubt that there’s much about my own story that makes it unique from all the millions of others who’ve had the same experience.

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Book Review: Everything, Everything

As an adult, I’ve really come to enjoy reading YA novels. Don’t get me wrong, I — Literary Fiction tends to still be my favorite and I still do love getting lost in the classics. It’s just that, after years of either refusing to read YA or denying that I read YA, I’m over that and am now embracing it.

I’m always on the lookout for really good YA, the same as I’m on the lookout for any good books in general. I received an ARC of Nicola Yoon’s debut Everything, Everything via NetGalley sometime ago and because I’m behind on basically life, I’m only now getting to post about it.

I was super excited about Everything, Everything from the get-go. That cover is gorgeous! It’s a debut novel! The protagonist is biracial! The author is a POC! The novel has illustrations! The illustrations were done by the author’s husband! Who is also a POC! I was all over Everything, Everything the moment I heard about it. How could I not be?

Everything, Everything ended up being a perfectly lovely, though not perfect read. Continue reading

Book Review: The Eight

So, it’s been a bit since I’ve updated. Between illnesses, work, writing, losing a draft due to a computer meltdown and more illnesses, I’ve gotten crazy far behind on reviews and on reading as well. Hopefully, life will simmer down in the next few weeks to something a little less insane.

So, I think I’ve mentioned before that much of what I read tends to stick within a few genres, typically the classics and literary fiction with a smidge of historical fiction thrown in. I have been attempting to read somewhat outside of my comfort zone this summer. The results, I’ve found, have been fairly mixed.

It is nice to try and leave your comfort zone every now and then. I had the pleasure of reading “The Eight” by Katherine Neville.

“The Eight” was published in 1988 (hey, it’s two years younger than me!) and is basically the precursor to things like “The Da Vinci Code”. The story is essentially a thriller with two interwoven story lines set centuries apart.cover69655-medium-2

The first plot line takes place in the midst of the French Revolution where a young woman, Mireille and her cousin are charged with assisting to disperse the pieces of the Montglane Service,  a chess set once belonging to Charlemange in order to keep them out of the hands of those who would use them to do harm. The second story concerns Cat Velis and is centered in New York City and Algeria during the 1970s. Cat is ignorant of both chess and the chess set, but in time, comes to understand and accept her role in gathering the pieces of the Montglane Service.

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Book Review: The Milliner’s Secret

Confession time: I’m tired of books and films that deal with World War II and the Holocaust. I tend to actively avoid them.

cover69085-medium-1I know. I know.

I’m terrible, right?

It’s not that I avoid them because I don’t think the period is important. There’s other reasons: 1) I feel that we tend to completely ignore other wars and genocides of the 20th century & 2) often, the period is used cheaply.

Let me explain:. The events of World War II and the Holocaust are extremely important and ought not be forgotten. However, in the US, we tend to be taught about this period in school from elementary school on down while so many other important wars and genocides are never even touched. With so many books and films that center on or use WWII as its setting, we neglect the other wars/genocides and their horrors fade away. If we don’t at times focus on, say, the Yugoslav Wars, the Armenian genocide, the Ottoman Greek genocide, the reign of the Khmer Rouge or the Sierra Leone Civil War, just to name a few, we run the risk of forgetting about them. Think about those conflicts I named. How much do you know about them? Exactly. It’s only been 20 years since the start of the Yugoslav Wars and I am constantly shocked at how little my fellow countrymen know about the wars or the aftermath.

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