Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Room-Jonas Karlsson

The Room-Jonas Karlsson



the facts
satisfaction: up
pages: 128
gender: M
nationality: Sweden
year: 
novella in translation

Björn finds a room at his office but no one else seems to see it.



I have only ever worked in the traditional office environment for a grand total of six weeks. By the end of those six weeks, I was ready to never see a cubicle again. It was an experience I’d describe as uncomfortable, surreal, and incredibly dull (though I didn’t actually dislike any of my coworkers). This book instantly put me back there but with a (very welcome) sense of humor.
This is such a short book and the language is sparse, clean, and cleaned of any extraneous details. Minimalist writing is not usually my jam-I like details and atmosphere. Yet, you get the sense that you could reread this book and each time read a different story. Masterful writing. This is a satire so there’s definitely humor in almost every scene but what it is exactly a satire of is a bit more nebulous. Is Björn crazy and/or a victim of office bullying? What exactly is Björn so efficient at? Does the room actually exist?  Is the problem the room or that Björn works alone? I’ve reread it three times now and each time tried to see it a different way and the writing still works out beautifully (so kudos to the translator too!). I mean, Björn is…an amalgamation of those three co-workers you’ve hated working with the most-he’s self-involved, arrogant, suspicious/paranoid, and socially inept. I enjoyed his predicament-Authority liked him, his coworkers were disturbing him, and no one believes him when he says the room is real.

I will be waiting for more of Karlsson’s work to be translated because this was an unforgettable piece of writing.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Breeder-K.B. Hoyle

Breeder-K.B. Hoyle

the facts
satisfaction: up
pages: 379
gender: F
nationality: USA
year: 2014
YA series

Seventeen is genetically perfect and living in a lab where her life is also perfect. Except it's not and a man named Pax shows her that.


I’m doing something I really shouldn’t do. I’m reviewing the first in a series while reading the second. Why am I breaking my own self-imposed rule? Because I really can’t believe I didn’t immediately review this book!
It’s easy to feel burnt out by the glut of YA dystopian books/series that are now out on the market even for a dystopia fan like myself. The blurb for this one sounded like the setting was heavily borrowed from Atwood but the plot promised seemed interesting so I gave it a chance.

Good thing I did. This is such a well done plot. There are twists and turns and unreliable sources of information and you speed along enjoying the ride. It gets very fast at the end and then leaves you teetering at the edge of a cliff, priming you for the second book, but I can’t hold that against this book somehow. Pria is a strong heroine but not superhuman, she remains human. Pax can seem a bit ‘too good’ at times but Hoyle writes her characters in a way that they are not peripheral to the plot. Sure there is a lot of action but the novel still reads like a character study. Delightfully, there is no “insta-love”. And yet, Hoyle also doesn’t skimp on the world building. There is real science mixed in there and a realistic feeling world to go along with the strong characterization and riveting plot. Basically, I consider this to be the whole package in terms of YA dystopias.

The second book, Criminal, releases soon so better read Breeder to get ready!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Girl in the Photograph/Fiercombe Manor-Kate Riordan

The Girl in the Photograph/Fiercombe Manor-Kate Riordan

the facts
satisfaction: up
pages: 448
gender: F
nationality: UK
year: 2015
novel

Upon finding herself in trouble in the 1920s, Alice is sent to a manor in the countryside where she seeks to find out what happened to the previous mistress of the manor, Elizabeth. 

I know it’s right there in the publisher’s blurb but I just loved the atmosphere of this novel. There’s something not quite creepy but strange and discomforting atmosphere that Riordan builds up though it can feel a little sluggish at times. Nevertheless, the handling of the  intertwining of the twin narratives is well done-not all the parallels are obvious nor are they ‘reaches’ nor do they ‘collide’. Furthermore, I commend Riordan for not using narrator switches as a tension device but rather letting the two stories unfold organically and using other methods to create the atmosphere. By setting the two narratives both in historical fiction, Riordan can explore details which alternatively hide and expose the secrets Alice seeks to clarify. The two heroines, Alice and Elizabeth, are products of their time, at the mercy of the attitudes towards pregnancy and mental health, and they are true to their context. As such, they are not anachronistic while still evoking an impressively strong array of emotions.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

When Mystical Creatures Attack!-Kathleen Founds

When Mystical Creatures Attack!-Kathleen Founds

the facts
satisfaction: side/up
pages: 206
gender: F
nationality: USA
year: 2014
novel, experimental style

Mrs. Freedman is trying to teach a class of kids who have no respect for her.



I have to say I enjoyed reading this. The format is very quirky and seems culled from a variety of sources like student essays, forms, notes, and reports. It is experimental and Founds handles it well. The pace is quick and so this is a fast read. This is both its strength and weakness as a book. The voices are at times too various and the segments too short-by the time you comprehend what is going on, the book moves on. What is the book about? A somewhat inappropriate relationship between a teacher and her students. I don’t know, there was something of the tall tale teller in here-stories that are fun to listen to (some proper, real life laugh out louds happened!) but just a smidge too far over the line to be believed/to allow suspension of belief. The teens are fun people with teenage appropriate voices but they are too many to really make an individual impact on me. The combination of the voices and their actions also often contradicted themselves in ways that made some of the stories feel like caricatures. Mrs. Freedman meanwhile is not given closure and is, beyond her relationship with her students, a deeply problematic characterization. Her mental illness is portrayed one-dimensionally, almost a punchline, relying on tired and outdated tropes.
It was really quite a shame-I really enjoyed the format and the humor is very present (a rarity-humor being one of the hardest things to write!) but the characterization and stories were disappointing.