Book Review: A Selfie as Big as The Ritz – Lara Williams

“Imagine being that lacking in wonder, aspiring to jobs in logistics or IT services, imagine never entertaining frothy careers scouting bands, imagine never picturing yourself in front of a glossy iMac. Did it make the heartbreak easier or earlier?”

As soon as I’d read those words – and on page 3, mind you – I knew I’d like this collection. I’ve had that exact thought before and there it was, on the page right in front of me.

Lara William’s A Selfie As Big as The Ritz is an interesting, introspective short story collection, which perfectly depicts the confusion of millennial life. There’s a sure, taught point of view here – the collection is well composed and ties together nicely. You never have to wonder if Williams scrambled to fill her collection. While a many of these stories have appeared in other publications, they still feel natural together, as though Williams wrote them with the intentions that they should form a collection.

The stories are comprised of first, second and third person perspectives. I really enjoyed that as it allows the stories (for me, at least), some room to breathe and to not feel as though all the protagonists were merely clones of one another.

I do have to say, though – A Selfie as Big as The Ritz isn’t for everyone. While it’s obvious that Williams is extremely talented, it’s also obvious that this collection really lends itself to be enjoyed by a particular sort of person and they seem to evoke a certain spirit of being. This is a collection, I think, that wouldn’t exist if not in this time and place; it really seems to call to mind the thoughts, fears, pains and fleeting fortunes of a specific generation – millennials. Even still, this collection feels like it’s meant for those millennials who haven’t even begun being settled.

The first story, “It Begins” resonated with me the most, but standouts also include  “Sunday’s at the Tipping Yard”, “One of Those Life Things”, “This Small Written Thing”, “Dates”, and “Treats”.

*I, of course, must divulge that I received an ARC of this collection from Flatiron Books as a Goodreads Giveaway

 

Book Review: American Street

Ibi Zoboi’s American Street is very nearly exactly what a YA novel should be.

The protaganist, Fabiola Toussaint, boards a plane from Haiti to the US along with her mother, planning to move to Detroit to live with family members. During a routine security check while changing planes in New York, Fabiola’s mother is detained by immigration officials and Fabiola’s left to go on to Detroit alone. There, Fabiola’s left to navigate her American cousins, a romance and her attempts to secure her mother’s release.

I have no experience as an immigrant – while I did complete a Study Abroad during college, I have lived my life as a citizen and resident of the country of my birth. I can’t speak – at all – to how real to life Fabiola’s experiences actually are. But I can say that the book felt so real to me – I felt as though the events could actually happen.

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Book Review: The People We Hate at the Wedding

Back in April (May?), I won an ARC of Grant Ginder’s The People We Hate at the Wedding as a Goodreads Giveaway. Because I am, as always, somewhat behind in my reading, I didn’t get a chance to read this until a few days ago.

If one only looks at the cover image – the headless figures of a bride and groom atop a wedding cake, you would guess that the novel centers on the a bride, a groom, and preparations for their wedding. You’d be wrong. The groom actually doesn’t figure into the story much at all –  The People We Hate at the Wedding centers around the bride, Eloise, her mother, Donna and her half-siblings Paul and Alice in the lead-up to the wedding.  

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Paul and Alice have always had a particularly fraught relationship with Eloise, caused by the fact that Eloise has always lived a life of privilege, thanks to the her father’s wealth. Alice and Paul’s childhoods were far less lofty and there’s always been a wedge between them and Eloise, no matter how Eloise has worked to bridge it. Additionally, Paul has been icing Donna out of his life since his father’s death a few years prior due to her attempt to erase him from her life. He also has an iffy relationship with his boyfriend, Mark. On her end, Alice is still reeling from a tragedy which occurred five years prior and is currently carrying on an affair with Jonathan, who’s entirely unavailable to her.  Continue reading

Book Review: 3 YAs

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

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: Bright Lights, Dark Nights

So. Bright Lights, Dark Nights by  Stephen Emond.

Can we talk about this?

I need to talk about this.

If you’ve not heard of this book, I’ll give you a really short synopsis: The protagonist  a white kid named Walter Wilcox meets a black girl, Naomi Mills and they’re basically perfect for each other. It’s all good and golden a until his cop dad is accused of racial profiling and then the ish hits the fan.

I’ve been curious about this book since I saw it on NetGalley – I requested a copy a because I was intrigued and dying to read it but was declined. So I went and pre-ordered it because I was just that interested.

I was stoked when I got a text from Amazon on the 11th, telling me my book had been delivered and I devoured. I basically read it anytime I wasn’t sleeping, in the shower or at work.

I LOVED Bright Lights, Dark Nights. LOVED it. Like, if it were possible to marry a book, I might be tempted to propose marriage, despite my “I shall never marry!” mantra.

I’ve got so much to say and I’m gonna warn you now that this is gonna be long and possibly rambly because I’m in Book Love and it’s a damn good place to be.

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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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