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review 2017-06-20 15:10
The Storied Life of AJ Fikry ★★☆☆☆
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry - Gabrielle Zevin

I sort of liked this book, until the 88% mark, at which the narrative took a turn that I found unredeemably distasteful. Until then, my thoughts about the book: This is a mildly interesting, if a little maudlin, romance about a grumpy lover of literary fiction (AJ) who is saved by love for the amazingly well-behaved and highly intelligent orphan (Maya) and the quirky bookseller (Amy). There’s an obvious bad guy caricature in the successful author (Daniel), who is a womanizing drunk, and his long-suffering and understandably bitter wife (Ismay) is AJ’s dead wife’s sister. The entire book (even the essay penned by one of the characters) is written in present tense, which serves no purpose other than to annoy me, but at least it’s in third person. None of the plot twists or big reveals were especially clever or surprising. Altogether, a three-star read, even with the long, drawn-out drama of the final chapters, which I suppose are meant to have the reader going through boxes of kleenexes. Or pressed linen handkerchiefs, given the fondness for vintage clothes.

 

I’m burying the part that dropped this into the 2 star range for me under spoiler tags: 

The backstory of what happened to Maya’s mother. Not that she was a fan of Daniel’s writing, or that they slept together and she got pregnant, or that he refused to acknowledge any responsibility for it, or that he never seemed concerned about her or his daughter. That’s just the tired old trope that goes along with his womanizing drunken author caricature. It was the dismissive way the narrative treated her. First the slut-shaming, that “she knew what she was doing” in sleeping with a married man, then excusing Ismay’s culpability in her death as it was understandably painful that she had to deal with the slut asking for money for her husband’s bastard child, when his own wife kept miscarrying and was cash-poor because all her money was invested in their fancy house. So Ismay steals a valuable book from AJ, then knowingly puts the young woman at risk of criminal charges by giving her unsellable stolen property to sell. Then she just shrugs and tells her to get lost when the girl finds out. So she (rightly) feels guilty that the desperate young woman committed suicide and her orphaned child was left in a bookstore, but then is absolved with the logic of, oh, well, it turned out for the best, since Maya had a pretty good life being raised by AJ instead of her own mother, and is credited for “saving” AJ’s life by giving him a reason to stop being a self-pitying drunk. “The End”, as far as the dead husband-thieving slut is concerned. Then we get another 50 minutes of glurge where AJ sells the book that contributed to Maya’s mother’s death, so he has the money to cover medical treatment, then rambles on about life and love and lessons for his daughter while he’s dying. Maya never finds out the true story of her mother, because it’s better to conceal her godmother’s selfish cruelty than for her to know something of the woman who birthed her and tried her best to care for her for the first two years of her life. Because it all turned out for the best, right?

(spoiler show)

 

Audiobook, borrowed from my public library. Scott Brick gives a fine performance. I picked this book up on the recommendation of a co-worker, who loved it.

 

Previous Updates:

 

6/19/17 52% http://sheric.booklikes.com/post/1572298/the-storied-life-of-aj-fikry-52

 

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review 2017-05-21 20:55
Nor Any Country by Garth St. Omer
Nor Any Country - Garth St Omer

This novella is only 96 pages long, plus a laudatory 20-page essay about the work by one Jeremy Poynting. (I was puzzled by how a work no one had a word to say about on Goodreads could have the sort of academic following implied by this essay, until a Google search revealed that Poynting is its publisher.) The book follows its protagonist, Peter, as he returns to his unnamed island home (presumed by the publisher to be St. Omer’s home country of St. Lucia) for a brief visit after many years of study abroad.

Unfortunately, where Mr. Poynting saw subtle brilliance, the novella seemed to me mostly a mundane catalogue of Peter’s wandering about the island conversing with various people; his role in the conversations consists largely of creating a sense of his own superiority by saying little and smiling often. While visiting, he must decide what to do about the wife with whom he had no communication during his years abroad, but the narrative does little to show us how he arrives at his choice. Mostly Peter, while traveling about the island, simply ruminates on his European ex-girlfriends. There’s precious little narrative momentum in any of this, and little to interest the reader in the protagonist. Some of the supporting characters seem more interesting, but have limited room to breathe in such a short work.

As for the writing itself, it is adequate but sometimes lacking in clarity; numerous times I had to re-read passages to figure out what the author was trying to say. Written in the 1960s, the book seems to assume cultural understanding that a modern, non-Caribbean reader is unlikely to have: while racial politics are quite important in this setting, readers are left to deduce the race of almost all of the characters on their own (and I’m still not sure about Daphne).

All that said, this is a very short book that will leave readers somewhat more informed about the issues facing a society in a particular time and place. While the lack of clarity sometimes slows down the reading, large amounts of dialogue should keep readers from getting too bogged down.

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review 2017-05-10 03:56
The War of the Worlds
The War of the Worlds (Atria Books) - H.G. Wells

I'm sure if I were alive in 1897 when this was first published, the long drawn-out passages of endless details would've blown my socks off. H. G. Wells certainly did have a healthy imagination, and the average reader back then wouldn't have anything to compare this to. The details would've been necessary. But in a world where we have thousands of alien invasion books and movies, including that recent "adaptation" of this book with Tom Cruise and Dakota Fanning, I found myself wishing that Wells would stop setting the scene and just get to the point already.

 

The first several chapters are all setup. When the action finally gets underway, it's well-written and well-paced, and the vividness of Wells' writing is appreciated then. And then the action will be over and goes back to its previous dragging pace. The narrator is never given a name, nor much of a personality since he spends most of his time describing what everyone else is doing. He's just a TSTL dude from a podunk town outside London, and he's clearly not prepared for these alien shenanigans. 

He really is TSTL. He gets his wife out of town after the killing starts, and then he GOES BACK for no other reason than to see what happens. The fact he doesn't die disproves Darwinism.

(spoiler show)

 

I found myself comparing this to other alien movies I've seen, and figuring that Independence Day is the closest update of this book. (I can't comment on the Tom Cruise and Dakota Fanning movie, since neither of those actors inspires me to go to the movie theatre.) I also wondered what a movie would look like if it was actually set at the same time as the book in the late 1800s - and then remembered Cowboys and Aliens. :D

 

The narrator, James Spencer, was decent. He was easy to follow along though his dialogue was stilted. The cool thing about him is that his voice had a very Cecil-esque tone to it, which made me really wish that Cecil Baldwin, who voices the podcast program Welcome to Night Vale, would narrate this story at some point. Given its broadcast history when Orson Welles decided to update the story in 1938, it just seems too meta to not happen. 

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review 2017-03-20 19:13
Review: "The Impossible Boy" by Anna Martin
The Impossible Boy - Anna Martin

"You make me feel--" Stan said, then cut off the thought before he could voice it.

"Tell me."

"So feminine."

 

Oh man, it was an ordeal to finish this book. AN ORDEAL, I'm telling you!

 

I really liked the premise of a gender-fluid character who suffered from anorexia. Just think of all the possibilities. How does a character like Stan become this confident person at the age of only 21 that he is at the beginning of the book? How does he live his everyday life? How much of a struggle is it for someone who identifies him- or herself as neither male nor female? How is your environment, your friends, your family treating you?

 

 

Alas, I didn't get any of that. What I got instead were endless descriptions of THE most superficial stuff, like putting on make-up and clothes, wearing designer bags, showering! (OMIGOD, all those numerous shower scenes!), washing and conditioning your hair, and body care in general.

 

NOTHING about the everyday struggles of someone who identifies as gender-fluid.

NOTHING even remotely deep about how Stan became the person that he is today.

NOTHING about anything that goes beyond hair styles and wardrobe.

 

I honestly was bored out of my mind during the first part of the story.

 

 

Unfortunately, the second part that dealt with Stan's anorexia wasn't any better. Since the first part was all about his appearances and clothes, his illness has been so neglected at that point that the real severeness of his condition came out of nowhere for me. So much so that I couldn't really relate to it anymore. I really wish the author would have concentrated on THAT part of Stan's personality in the beginning, instead of throwing brands, make-up, clothes, shoes, dresses and handbags at my face.

 

 

It also didn't help that there were A LOT of descriptions that didn't matter at all to the overall story and just made for a boring read. Like

"Remembering they were out of soy milk, he wrote it on the shopping list Ben had brought. It was magnetic and stuck to the fridge, so they shouldn't forget stuff like that anymore."

Um, ok. I know that amplifying a story is important and all, but ENDLESS descriptions of stuff like that that just doesn't matter is nothing but annoying AF.

 

 

But kudos to the author for writing a book with a diverse character. I seriously appreciate that. But if looks, clothes and hair care is all there is to gender-fluidity, then I'm pretty much done with that whole trope already.

 

Thanks again to Julie for accompanying me during another frustrating BR!

 

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review 2017-03-12 15:33
Review: "Shadow Bound" by Garrett Leigh
Shadow Bound - Garrett Leigh

"Luca leaned back into Dash's embrace, feeling the rays of the 

dawning sun bond with the heat of Dash's vibrant form. He tilted his neck to feel the warmth of Dash's lips on his crystalline skin. "Why?"

"Because you have found your soul. Now come with me and let me show you the world."

 

After being attacked by werewolves (off-page), a wounded vampire gets healed by a cat shifter's jizz (!), and they bond. That's it. That was the plot.

 

This felt more like a rough draft for a full novel rather than a short story that can hold its own. The world building was superficial and a lot of things were being left unexplained.

 

 

If this would be a freebie at least, then it would have made for a nice read for a rainy Sunday afternoon. But certainly not for $1.05 (Amazon price at the time of this review).

 

Cannot recommend.

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