March 9, 2014
In the Woods by Tana French is mysterious and dark and twisty.
In 1984 three children go missing one summer afternoon in Dublin. One is found hours later in a terrifying state with no memory of what has happened and the other children are never seen again.
Twenty years later, Detective Rob Ryan and his partner are called in to investigate a crime chillingly similar to the case that marred his childhood.
French spins this tale masterfully. In the Woods is extraordinarily complex and full of false starts and twists and turns.
One of my friends had been telling me to read this book for ages. I finally did and it was a truly gripping read. There are certain things for which I’ll never forgive her, but, well, spoilers.
The characters and their relationships are well-developed and it’s interesting to see how everything plays into the larger plot of the story.
I’d recommend this for a lot of readers, though it does have it’s gruesome and creepy moments, so if you’re particularly sensitive to those things you might want to skip this one. This is not one of those cookie-cutter mysteries. It’s atmospheric and character driven and will enthrall a wide audience.
March 7, 2014
This wasn’t my favorite book. It did, however, produce a truly, well, spectacular line: “Embrace the weird.” Now, is it wrong of me to want that tattooed on me somewhere even though I didn’t particularly like the book? (I didn’t dislike it) or fid it super profound and meaningful?
I do think that it is possible that had I read this book at a different point in my life it might mean something different to me. It might have felt more solid and relatable. As it is, I was left feeling somewhat flat.
In The Spectacular Now we meet Sutter. He’s a teenager that’s kind of just flitting through life. He parties, drinks, and doesn’t have much of a direction planned. Nobody takes him seriously. Then he meets Aimee. She takes him seriously and he starts to think about things differently.
All the characters bother me a bit at different points.
Since story is told from Sutter’s point of view, we see the good in him, but sometimes he’s really frustrating and I really just want to shake him.
Meanwhile, his friends manage to simultaneously be a little bit awesome and spectacularly sucky. And Aimee is intelligent and naive and a pushover.
But here’s the thing (and I realize that it’s kind of ridiculous for me to bring this complaint to the table, but this isn’t fantasy or sci-fi or dystopian, this is straight-up YA): it doesn’t feel real enough or believable or genuine. Because I’m sorry, but if there was a kid going that far off the deep end as Sutter, someone would take notice (more than one teacher noticing a lack of homework). I’m not saying it’d be handled well, but there would be some glint of recognition. And these kids show a bizarre amount of self-awareness in one scene where they’re able to talk about real-life shit, but then turn into these flat, unrespoinsive characters in the next (one could argue that it mimics adolescence, but I’m a fan of consistency).
But Aimee. Oh Aimee. I find her characterization so incredibly bizarre. That she would create this whole other dream world fits; that she would go a bit too crazy with the partying even does, but her complete inability to detach herself and her sense of self from those around her is troubling. Even in the end, Sutter is still “saving” her by essentially prolonging the connection. Though he never vocalizes it, he recognizes this trait. I just find it a perplexing one given her other characteristics. She has a strongly deliniated identity and goals and dreams laid out, yet she hitches all her dereams on a guy? Yes, he helped her gain the confidence to stand up for herself, but she still needs to pursue her goals on her own. One with such lofty dreams should be able to grasp that concept fairly quickly. And yet…
So I was underwhelmed by this book. But I think that some of that might just come from being an “adult” reading YA. This book didn’t resonate with me like it might with its intended audience, and that isn’t really anyone’s fault. Not every book is going to speak to every person. I would still recommend it for some readers even though it didn’t do much for me.
February 17, 2014
I’ve been reading a lot lately because, well, you can only spend so much time looking for library jobs in the Philadelphia area. And it’s cold and snowy and gross outside, so I’ve become an accidental hermit.
There are a bunch of reviews coming up, but this one is long overdue. I was reading Iris Has Free Time back when I was still in the midst of finishing my last semester of grad school/finding an apartment/holiday/moving to a new state insanity. So yeah, I forgot to write the review. And then I neglected to include it in my 2013 wrap-up.
Since this was a BEA book that the folks at Counterpoint actually mailed to me after the fact, I kind of wanted to get this review out, even if it’s woefully late.
And so, here we go: Iris Has Free Time…
I think the best way to describe this book would really be “HBO’s Girls in book form.” That may or may not be a selling point for you, but it is a very clear point of comparison.
Iris is an NYU graduate trying to make it in the city. My biggest pet peeve was that she didn’t seem to be trying all that hard. Iris’s narrator reads a bit like a [for lack of a better term] hipster millenial who complains a lot about her shitty lot in life, yet she refuses to make positive changes or act like a person with even a modicum of self awareness.
Now that I’m writing/reading this it sounds harsh, but that’s honestly how I felt. The characters are by and large vapid and insufferable.
None of this is to say that the book isn’t entertaining. For all her flaws as a character (or human being), Iris’s antics make for some decent reading. There is just a fair bit of prattling on in between.
I think this book is very hit or miss depending on your ability to tolerate this kind of character. For me, there was a lot of excessive eye rolling and it probably took me twice (if not three times) as long to finish as it should have because sometimes I just could not deal with it and needed to read something else.
It’s certainly worth a shot and there are some funny life in New York bits, but other times are shining examples of why people moan about millenials.
January 20, 2014
I received a review copy of Princesses Behaving Badly: Real Stories from History — Without the Fairy-Tale Endings by Linda Rodriguez McRobbie from Quirk Books.
Honestly, I feel like I shouldn’t even have to write a review for this one. Doesn’t the title sell it enough? What’s not to like?
In all seriousness though, this book was great. I found myself rationing stories so that it would last just that little bit longer. It was well-researched and informative, but McRobbie’s telling adds a sassy voice to the tales that’s often missing from other representations of historical royal figures.
The princesses in Princesses Behaving Badly aren’t necessarily the Disney role models á la Mulan or Brave, but they’re still great examples of female strength and leadership.
Just go read it. It’s fun and funny and informative (and it has a kickass title).
January 18, 2014
Lexicon by Max Barry was my first read of 2014. It’s a supercool book — part language/word geek out and part spy thriller and part something completely new. And to make it even cooler I got it as part of Book Riot’s first Quarterly box, so my copy came with a bunch of handwritten post-it note annotations from Barry himself. Can you feel the awesome from where you are, because this book radiates it.
I don’t want to say too much, or I’ll start giving things away, but let’s just say there is an organization of people, let’s call them “poets” who know how to use words. How to really use them in order to influence people.
Something horrible has happened far away and, somehow, a word is responsible.
There are a few key characters and it’s interesting to see just how they all play their part.
That’s all you’re getting from me. Seriously, go read it. There are lots of twists and turns and fun bits for word/linguistics/poetry nerds.
January 15, 2014
So here I am in Philadelphia.
I realized over the summer That those extra classes I was taking would enable me to graduate from my library science program a semester ahead of schedule. Since my lease was ending and i didn’t want to incur a semester’s worth of unnecessary student loan debt, it seemed like the right thing to do.
I picked Philly for a number of reasons. There are some that I’m not quite ready to share here, but I’ll let you in on the others: Philly has tons of cultural heritage institutions where I could potentially find work and there are fewer library schools in the area with graduates all vying for positions. Philly is also a bit closer to home, so I can see family and friends in the DC area more often. And finally, I think New York and I just needed a break for a while. Living there by myself was certainly an experience, but New York is intense and I think I need to dial it down a bit. Also, with no job and no student loans, I couldn’t really afford to live there, now could I?
But Philly! Philly is great. It’s a city, but it isn’t quite as crazy as New York (or maybe it is, just in a different way). I’m still getting used to things (I’m using tokens for the train/bus, guys. Tokens.), but my apartment is cute and I’ve gotten my library card, so I’m settling in.
I don’t think much will change here. It’ll be the same old Poindextrix ramblings, just from my new locale.
January 5, 2014
Hello treasured readers! I’ve been MIA for a while, but I think I have a fairly good excuse. I was finishing up school and had final projects and a portfolio and all that, but also — I moved! More on that later…
Despite all the insanity, I didn’t stop reading (I just stopped writing about reading for a little bit). At this point I’m not sure I want to do full reviews of all the books I’ve read but not written about, so instead this is just going to be a little bit of a wrap-up of sorts.
The Ruby Red trilogy by Kerstin Gier.
The trilogy follows Gwyneth — a girl with a time-traveling gene who is unexpectedly thrust into a world of intrigue as she tries to balance everything in her life and make sense of the inner workings of a secret organization. But the stakes are way higher than she could have imagined and she isn’t sure who she can trust. I really enjoyed this trilogy. I think the characters are interesting and it’s a great concept.
The biggest issue I had with these books was their titles. These books have time travel and talking ghosts and tons of intrigue, yet the titles give no hint of that. I think it’s such a great and somewhat unexpected YA trilogy (it’s paranormal/sci fi, but not in the more usual ways and the protagonist is strong and likable, while still reading as a “typical teenage girl”), but there’s nothing to hook the readers. A great title is what makes you take a book off of a shelf and at least see if you’re interested. I think that the titles might cause these books to be passed by, and that’s really unfortunate.
The books are Ruby Red, Sapphire Blue, and Emerald Green and I really do recommend them.
A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki.
I liked this book, but reading it was a very slow endeavor. I kept falling in and out of it and for some reason when that happens I often have less to say about those books. This book was short listed for the Booker prize though, so take that for what it’s worth.
I liked the two stories, but I felt like it took too long to reach the climactic scenes of the book. We are so eager to find out what happened and see the convergence of the two stories, but it seems like it’s constantly in the distance. I really think that the last quarter of the book had the most action and some readers might not be willing to invest time in a book where the action is so often delayed.
We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson.
I finally got around to reading this and it was just as weird and eerie as I wanted it to be. Once you get into the story it’s kind of oddly predictable, but I don’t think that quality detracts from the story at all. It’s a short and good read. Bring it on your next long bus/car ride and you’ll be good to go.
Flash and Dazzle by Lou Aronica.
I received an e-galley of this book from NetGalley and I’m so glad. The book is unexpected and great and incredibly sad. It is really just spectacular and I definitely recommend it. Just be prepared for a bit of an emotional rollercoaster.
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.
I was reading this book at roughly the same time as Flash and Dazzle, so I was basically just an emotional wreck. There is so much that I could say about this book, but I don’t even know where to start. I think that The Bloggess said it very well, so I’m just going to link to her post about finishing the book instead of trying to articulate my thoughts and feelings (so many feelings).
Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh.
This is the long-anticipated (by me, anyway) book that grew out of Allie Brosh’s blog Hyperbole and a Half. I knew that I would love it as soon as I found out it was going to happen and pre-ordered it accordingly (fun fact: if you’re like me and have the memory of a goldfish, pre-ordering awesome books is like buying presents for yourself in that one day you will receive a package and have no idea what is inside. Then BAM! Awesome book!). Brosh writes about life in all its ridiculousness and tragedy and brings humor to everything. It’s really just fantastic and I will sit here (im)patiently waiting for the next book.
OK, that was longer than I anticipated, so I think my life update will have to be a separate post. These are the books I read at the end of 2013. I’m possibly forgetting some, but it should give you a good idea of what I’ve been reading.
November 20, 2013
I recently finished reading the graphic novel adaptation of Joseph Joffo’s autobiographical A Bag of Marbles. I have been meaning to read this book for ages. I learned about when I was at work (seriously, my TBR list has grown so much since I started working there. But it’s annoying because I have to keep track of release dates.) Then I got a e-review copy from NetGalley, but did not get a chance to read it before I lost access. But finally, finally I got it from the library and eventually got around to reading it.
And I have to say, it wasn’t nearly as striking as I thought it would be. It is the story of a young Jewish boy and his family living in occupied France during WWII. The artwork is laudable, but the narrative feels disjointed and stilted.
This is an adaptation in translation, so I’m somewhat inclined to believe that something was simply lost in translation. All the same, I felt a disconnect with this book and was left feeling somewhat disappointed.
I may, at a later date, try to read the original novel and see if the narrative flows better in that format.
November 19, 2013
Once again I’ve been accidentally MIA for a while. But I’m going to go ahead and use the graduate school/internship/regular work excuse because, well, it’s a good one.
Despite my insane schedule I have still been reading (just, y’know, not sharing my opinions in the usual public fashion). And so it’s time to make up for lost time and reviews.
Some time ago I read The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon. It takes place in the not-so-distant alternative future where, for citizens of major world cities under Scion control, clairvoyance is illegal. Paige Mahoney lives in Scion London and works in the voyant criminal underworld. Even among other voyants her gift is unusual and she and her crew (known as the Seven Seals) guard her secret closely. Then one day she is captured and brought to the lost city of Oxford where she meets the Rephaim. The Rephs value clairvoyance, but something sinister is going on in this other society and Paige is determined to find out what that is and how to save her friends.
I initially heard about this book when I attended BEA. At first I wasn’t too interested, but the more I heard about it, the less I was able to deny my intrigue. Here’s the thing: as interesting as this book sounded, it’s over 400 pages and is the first in a series. Of seven books. I was not (and still am not really) ready for that kind of commitment. But I caved. I almost always cave.
I really liked this book and certainly recommend it, but I won’t blame you if you decide to hold off until all the books are out. Seven books. Why do I do this to myself?
October 6, 2013
I recently finished reading an e-galley of This Is How I Find Her by Sara Polsky.
This was a really interesting book. Sophie is in high school. She does well in her classes (especially art) and goes straight home everyday, checks in on her mom in her studio space where she paints all day, and continues upstairs to their apartment to start dinner. Expect on the fourth day of junior year. On that day, Sophie’s mother attempts suicide and Sophie is suddenly plunged into new waters.
As her mother recovers and Sophie is, for the first time in five years, not responsible for anyone but herself. Finally getting to be her age is different and scary and she knows it can’t last.
There’s a lot going on in this book and you’re really with Sophie every step of the way. She feels responsible for everything, but knows that isn’t fair and you really feel for her. There are also family secrets bubbling under the surface, waiting to be exposed.
This Is How I Find Her takes a different look at mental illness and family dynamics and I definitely recommend it.