Thursday, March 27, 2014

Love Will Tear You Apart-Giula Ottaviano

Love Will Tear You Apart-Giula Ottaviano

the facts
satisfaction: up
pages: 231
gender: F
nationality: Italy
year: 2012
novel in translation

The house is floodlit; the crystal glasses are ready; the waiters and maids are lined up. A delicate Chanel dress lies on the bed. Eugenia De Gasperis is late for her father’s birthday party, and she knows full well that a celebration for a prominent Milanese entrepreneur such as her father will be no ordinary occasion. She enters the house in a hurry, and then she stops, taken aback: The drawing room is empty. The news came a few days ago: The De Gasperis company’s huge building site has been seized, and Paolo, Eugenia’s father, has been charged with serious offenses. Lucy, his wife, is devastated: She can already see their assets confiscated, their family ruined.

At first, I was worried this would be a story of a whiny rich princess with a star-crossed lover plot. Thankfully, my trepidation was unwarranted. Eugenia is indeed a bit spoiled and aimless in that way that the rich have the privilege to be and luxury clothes brand names are indeed dropped left and right but she is also quintessentially a millenial. She's aimless in a way I identified with and I guess that made all the difference. There is of course, the love interest who is, stereotypically perhaps, a foreigner and someone from a vastly different class but Ottaviano steers clear of the easy plot lines trod before and instead sketches out a love affair whose uncertainty and style is acutely modern. In the end, Eugenia shows her strength and a sort of feminism.


On a completely unrelated topic-you can tell that the person responsible for the cover art had not read the book. Every character is described as having black curly hair yet the cover has straight haired sandy blondes.

Read for the European and in translation Challenges

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Diary of an Unsmug Married-Polly James

Diary of an Unsmug Married-Polly James

the facts
satisfaction: up/side
pages: 400
gender: F
nationality: UK
year: 2014
novel

Meet Molly Bennett. Married to Max and mother to two warring teenagers, she’s just ‘celebrated’ a significant birthday. Bridget Jones would call Molly a “smug married”. So why doesn’t she feel it?


Ok, I was not at all expecting to enjoy this as much as I did. Being someone not usually drawn to the women's lit style of Bridget Jones's Diary, I questioned why on earth I had downloaded a book named from Bridget Jones....Once I got a few chapters in and read around the overwhelming concerns about wrinkles and aging and the almost hysterical way of approaching life that, to me, consists of overreactions, I realized that this book had a lot to offer. I think primarily it was her job. She was not actually frivolous or promoting a privileged lifestyle (unlike many of her women's lit peers) despite her overreaction to everything, but rather there was genuine comedy. Her job is hilarious (working for the local MP) as she has to deal with all the nutters that those who work in public service will undoubtedly recognize and forms this chaotic background to her attempts to find romance within (as well as out of?) her marriage. I was distracted from my disdain to find a remarkably entertaining novel. Well done.

Read for the Eclectic Reader Challenge

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Garden Plot-Marty Wingate

Garden Plot-Marty Wingate

the facts
satisfaction: side/up
pages: 290
gender: F
nationality: UK
year: 2014
novel

 she makes an extraordinary find. Digging in the soil of a potting shed, Pru uncovers an ancient Roman mosaic. But enthusiasm over her discovery is soon dampened when, two days later, she finds in the same spot a man’s bludgeoned corpse. As the London police swarm her worksite, ever inquisitive Pru can’t quite manage to distance herself from the investigation—much to the dismay of stern Detective Chief Inspector Christopher Pearse. It seems that, much as he tries, even handsome DCI Pearse can’t keep Pru safe from a brutal killer who thinks she’s already dug up too much.


Well, cozy little mystery story definitely describes this novel. Featuring a truly Anglophilic gardener and Hadrian's autobiography, the mystery is suitably shocking with implications that shake the foundations but also thoroughly British in style. Nothing is going to keep you up at night despite murder and mayhem. The cast of characters are all genteel Brits and made the gardener's reluctance to leave the UK feel just right. The archaeology, thankfully, stayed in reality (to the greater extent), the love interest was actually believable and the plot suitably convoluted enough through the making of strange decisions to keep you reading-perhaps in your window nook with a cup of tea at your side.

Read for the Eclectic Reader's Challenge

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Me Since You-Laura Wiess

Me Since You-Laura Wiess

the facts
satisfaction: up
pages: 368
gender: F
nationality: USA
year: 2014
YA novel

Before and After. That’s how Rowan Areno sees her life now. Before: she was a normal sixteen-year-old—a little too sheltered by her police officer father and her mother. After: everything she once believed has been destroyed in the wake of a shattering tragedy, and every day is there to be survived.

I did not get what I was expecting from this book-instead I got a realistic punch in the gut story about grief and mourning. One that I accidentally read on the anniversary of my own father's death and consequently I cried for several hours. It was quite cathartic and I owe it to Wiess's fully realistic and well written exploration of her characters' grief. Everyone's grief is highly personal (and people do stupid/self-serving things as part of grief and Rowan is no exception) but there is something universal to loss and mourning that when written so clearly and so well, it's impossible not to see yourself in it.

There's also some lead in where you get used to Wiess's writing style and get to know Rowan. The love interest is not the main plot of the novel which I really liked given that YA tends to be heavy on the romance WHILE grieving which has long struck me as too much going on based on my own experience.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Hangman's Replacement-Taona D. Chiveneko

 Hangman's Replacement-Taona D. Chiveneko

the facts
satisfaction: up
pages: 492
gender: M
nationality: Zimbabwe
year: 2014
novel

"Zimbabwe’s last hangman retired in 2004. As the nation drifted towards abolition, no determined effort was launched to find a replacement. However, the discovery of carnivorous flame lilies at the Great Zimbabwe monument triggered a spirited search for a new executioner. Those who know why this discovery energized the recruitment effort refused to talk."

Ok, so be honest, I'm not entirely sure what was going on in...pretty much this whole book, but I really liked it. It was super clever in a way I cannot help but adore. Chiveneko intertwines plots into plots into plots in what seems to be a neat way that makes me actually hopeful that when the series ends, the whole plan will reveal itself like the Harvester's plan ought to if he's such a genius as he's made out to be. Chiveneko actually seems capable of creating an overall tapestry out of the tangled threads he has gone through here-he has a capacity for manipulating language that is incredible. It's hard to say there was a plot in this book and there was no protagonist but I found myself completely not caring that this was essentially 500 pages of backstory, which is truly saying something.

There's a whole cast of outlandish and yet seeming completely real characters in this book-most of whom you meet properly, some you never meet (but listen to nevertheless), and others who flit through which can be a bit difficult to juggle but Chiveneko writes on and I read on without it troubling me too much. They come from all walks of life and all come with backstory. There're supernatural elements (or maybe just our perception of the supernatural/myths) woven throughout or maybe they're unimaginably advanced scientific elements and the whole thing seems to question whether fate exists or whether it is something that can be manipulated. There are two sides who know of each other and probably two more who also have an interest. Some of those sides cloak themselves in legalese, others in the language of spies, and others in violence and the language of the underworld. Things are implied and then unimplied and then carried out. Throughout it all is humor-this is a darkly humorous complicated novel which gives copious reward.


I definitely look forward to future installments in the Sprout of Disruption series as this was such an unusual and deeply enjoyable read.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Fall of Saints-Wanjiku WaNgugi

Fall of Saints-Wanjiku WaNgugi

the facts
satisfaction: side/down
pages: 288
gender: F
nationality: Finland, of color
year: 2014
novel

"Mugure and Zack seem to have the picture-perfect family: a young, healthy son, a beautiful home in Riverdale, New York, and a bright future. But one night, as Mugure is rummaging through an old drawer, she comes across a piece of paper with a note scrawled on it—a note that calls into question everything she’s ever believed about her husband . . . "


I finished this book hoping (against hope) there'd be some sort of satisfying ending to what was really a morass of a novel. There's a bit of a feel that the author had a beginning and an end but struggled to create a middle. There's so much going on in this mystery...or was it a mystery? So many issues are raised and then dropped and then suddenly picked up again in a way that I felt like I was left adrift at sea and everyone you were introduced to properly was suspicious. Perhaps that was the intention-throw the reader into the same confusion as the main character but mine was born of frustration with the morass. I guess, it was writing style and 2nd person view that made it feel a bit too amateurish and muddled. I do have to say, it neatly snipped off every loose end but perhaps it would've benefited from not tying those ends together before snipping them off.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Of Fever and Blood-Sire Cédric

Of Fever and Blood-Sire Cédric

the facts
satisfaction: up
pages: 369
gender: M
nationality: France
year: 2012
novel in translation

"This fast-paced supernatural thriller is a race against time to defeat a deadly force. Of Fever and Blood begins at the end of an investigation. Inspector Svärta, an albino profiler, and her colleague Vauvert, solve a series of sadistic ritual murder cases, and the supposed culprits—the Salaville brothers—are killed in a standoff. However, one year later, the killings start again, this time in Paris. All forensic evidence points to the brothers, but how could that be?"

Another surprise enjoy. I'm not usually drawn in by supernatural thrillers but once Cédric sets the background, he plunges you into this complex narrative that keeps you going. The supernatural aspects were really well handled-like they stood up to scrutiny and remained really creepy. They elevated what would have been a good thriller/mystery into something that really sticks with you, for better or for worse. The details of the crimes were grisly and not for those with weak stomachs but did not seem gratuitous. They didn't seem exaggerated and I could not imagine writing them out (like other books I've read).


Above all this grisly, creepy grit rises a truly compelling detective. She remains opaque (as does her partners-the character development was not the largest priority) but is a mystery in herself. She is vulnerable (you realize things about her that takes a bit for her to get) but nevertheless is tough as stones. I really enjoyed her as a character as she throws herself past sexism and her own past. Then there was somewhat of a grim humor as the characters had to reconcile the supernatural and the procedural demands of the police. One of the main detectives basically has to operate outside of the law and it is this awareness of the reality of an investigation that makes the novel suitably creepy-this is the real world these supernatural aspects are affecting.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Burning the Sea-Sarah Pemberton Strong

 Burning the Sea-Sarah Pemberton Strong

the facts
satisfaction: up
pages: 355
gender: F
nationality: USA
year: 2002
novel

"In an airport in the Dominican Republic, two searchers are drawn together by a suggestive smile and a shared sense of longing. Michelle is a young American with holes in her past and a need to wander so strong that she walks in her sleep. Tollomi is a native of the West Indies, thoroughly Americanized by education and in search of his truer self. Haunted by elusive secrets of the past, they forge an intense connection that allows them to comprehend each other's secrets while remaining blind to their own. For Tollomi, the route to salvation lies in his deep involvement in Dominican politics; for Michelle, it is the rebuilding of a family home, long abandoned, which she hopes will hold the key to her lost memories."

I know, right, two 'lost travelers' in the Domincan Republic. We all know what's going to happen...except we don't. This was quite an original book. Few of the things you really expect to happen happens in the way you expect. The travelers are genuinely lost-either by trauma or by the straddling of two worlds. They are expecting to do things and end up doing other things-exactly like true traveling ends up being. Yet they are lost, constantly running without articulating why. They are tied together because they are both living in bodies that they do not feel connected to.

And the Dominicans aren't stereotypes either-they end up being fully fleshed characters in their own right spanning the spectrum of people. There are various narratives of destruction, colonialism, and revolution woven throughout masterfully that give the book a true political bite that makes it a strong, hefty read.


If this is a really vague review, I apologize. It's hard to write about this book without ruining any of the plot which I sincerely wish to avoid. It is a good book that resonates without my being able to directly say why.