Thursday, September 11, 2014

My Biggest Lie-Luke Brown

My Biggest Lie-Luke Brown

the facts
satisfaction: side
pages: 288
gender: M
nationality: UK
year: 2014
novel

A literary agent finds his whole life in tatters and runs away to Argentina.





Well, I don’t regret reading it but it felt a little like something I didn’t really want to do? It was all so melodramatic and so silly in terms of plot that I really didn’t particularly care. The prose was so polished that I ended up finishing it anyway but I didn’t really find it funny in a way that really made me feel amused. It wasn’t really for me despite the general well written nature of both plot and character I guess.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Narcissus is Dreaming-Rose Mambert

Narcissus is Dreaming-Rose Mambert

the facts
satisfaction:  up/side
pages: 141
gender: F
nationality: USA
year: 2014
novel

A shapeshifting alien falls in love and falls in the hands of a government organization.

I don’t read a lot of science fiction but I think I ought to read more. This was fascinating. The different species of aliens (shape shifters, spiritual healers, etc) were differentiated and really fascinating foils to human beings. There’s something unfinished about this novel-it’s disjointed, I ended up not being sure who was who/what/etc, there may have been 3 novels in this 1 rather short novel-but I felt the bones of this gritty and tragic novel to be well done. There were parts so well written in terms of prose and pacing that I fell in love. I’m definitely not going to tell you that everyone ought to read this but I found enough to really enjoy.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Wolf-Mo Hayder

Wolf-Mo Hayder

the facts
satisfaction: side
pages: 410
gender: F
nationality: UK
year: 2007
novel

A family is terrorized in their country house by a duo of men.




Ok, I ended up feeling little about the book. I don’t know if I’m just desensitized from too many Austrian films or something but I found little to truly react to. I must say I did like Caffrey-there’s something about such a tortured man as a full detective that was enjoyable. But the plot...I felt a bit too much like I was reading Funny Games. This is totally unfair to Hayder though since she did stray from that particular trajectory but I felt like it went into another tired trope that I’ve also seen before (also in Austrian cinema, yes). I feel like I’m doing the book a bit of a disservice since it is genuinely twisted and disturbing (with just enough humor to make it entertaining), there was just something that failed to get under my skin. I found enough to enjoy that I’m actually looking to read a different book from Hayder.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

John Dreamer-Elise Celine

John Dreamer-Elise Celine

the facts
satisfaction: down
pages: 203
gender: F
nationality: UK
year: 2014
novel

A bunch of people end up in a white room filled with personalized chairs. A guardian tests them and then fulfills their dreams.




This had such an interesting and promising premise but it ending up being a bit too pat in execution. The prose was so tell not show that there felt like there was no characterization and no real plot. I cared so little about these people that their ‘traumas’ and the situations they overcame to fulfill their dreams impacted me not one bit. I didn’t care or want these people to get their dreams fulfilled because they were utter strangers. And then the people we did get to know a little better, the main character, and her insta-lover were such cliches that it was difficult to imagine that the others were not as well. I think it was really a combination of completely uninspired writing style and the too-lightness of the book. The ending was, quite possibly, the sappiest I’ve read this year. I mean, the book had promise-I detected influences of Willy Wonka (in the Guardian) and the NY trilogy but it fell so short. I was also a little irked by the lack of connection of the photographs (which were nice ones) to the text which also made it lose a lot of potential.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Peacemaker-Marianne de Pierres

Peacemaker-Marianne de Pierres


the facts
satisfaction: up
pages: 416
gender: F
nationality: Australia
year: 2014
novel


A novel set in a mega-city Australia, with a park ranger named Virgin attempting to understand why and someone ended up dead in the park she walks in. Meanwhile, her superiors have sent a Native American cowboy who can also see the eagle that is protecting her from ravens.


I have to say I finished this book immediately thirsting for more! (I’m thrilled this is a series.) I loved its crazy blend of outlandish characters, science fictional elements, and an amazing Australian in the near future. The plot is a bit odd and a bit hard to follow, mainly because Virgin (oh, in the future, people have odd names-I made myself ignore that) also has no idea what is going on. But she has good connections with people who can help her, a spirit guide, and a cowboy who is the first other person she’s ever know to also be able to see her spirit guide. 

So she’s unsure whether she’s an unreliable narrator and you the reader gets the sense that you should buckle yourself in because something really weird is about to happen in this future where nature requires super-vigilance and everyone lives in megacities (which seems most remarkable thanks to how large the outback is). Anyway, I loved Virgin. She’s emotionally stunted, yes, but she is also hold no prisoners determined which I absolutely loved. She was thrown for a loop in every violent encounter but also somewhat in control in her independence. Her interaction with the ‘cowboy’ is a bit of a buddy cop story archetype but their growing respect for each other feels real and unfeigned. 

The novel’s overall pacing is really spectacular but there is very little world building. There’s no history given to understand why the world is this way, nature wise or those specialized neighborhoods within the city.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A for Angelica-Iain Broome

A for Angelica-Iain Broome

the facts
satisfaction: up
pages: 256
gender: M
nationality: UK
year: 2012
novel

Gordon watches and keeps track of his neighbors in a series of folders arranged alphabetically. He takes care of his wife who is suffering from a stroke.


I honestly did not realize this would be a such a heavy book and it is-the main story at its centre is tragic in that slow way that disease often is. Gordon is that creepy busybody you suspect is your next door neighbor (or, at least, I know my grandmother definitely is) who watches and remembers most of the details of the neighborhood’s habits. But he has a wife, suffering from strokes, and he is alone with this. The creepy neighborhood watching is really him watching out for people who could help him. There’s a lot of dark satire encouched in this terse and straight to the point prose that makes an otherwise claustrophobic novel into something entertaining. I learned that this is Broome’s debut novel and I must say I never guessed because this is something masterful. The suburb is anywhere UK (but also maybe USA) and the ending is...the one I wanted all along. I mean, Gordon is an obsessive narrator but it’s hard to say that anyone in a similar situation-hiding/denying the ongoing deterioration of a loved one-would be all that different.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Weight of Blood-Laura McHugh

Weight of Blood-Laura McHugh

the facts
satisfaction: up
pages: 302
gender: F
nationality: USA
year: 2014
novel

The body of a peer, Cherie, was found displayed which sends Lucy on a quest to understand what happened to her mother-a beautiful outsider who captured her father’s heart and disappeared soon after her birth- as well as why Cherie was killed so graphically.

If previously I had read a book that one might call well written chick lit and ended up ambivalent, this was the perfect antidote. This is also a book focused upon character development and the relationships between people (the things that make up ‘chick lit’) but it is also gritty. The Missouri hills are both gorgeous and dangerous-echoing the tangled social and historical landscape of the town. The characters are strong characters-well written with realistic reactions to some pretty awful situations. The plot is focused upon outsiders and the way they may be treated in a small town. There are allies (a romantic interest that is handled well) as well as villians. This might be overwhelmingly depressing in other hands (especially with a name like Weight of Blood) but there was something optimistic about McHugh’s ending that solidified my enjoyment of the book.