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review 2017-11-23 21:48
Romantic Outlaws by Charlotte Gordon
Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Her Daughter Mary Shelley - Charlotte Gordon

This is such a fantastic biography that I suspect it will become my gold standard. It’s a dual biography of two well-known female intellectuals (who were also mother and daughter), Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley. All I knew of either woman before reading this was her most famous book, but as it turns out they both lived fascinating – and, because they were writers, well-documented – lives. Both traveled internationally (Wollstonecraft even lived in France in the midst of its revolution), wrote extensively, and had children outside of marriage, and all this in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

This isn’t only a factual account; it brings both protagonists to life in alternating chapters (because Wollstonecraft died giving birth to Shelley, the two barely intersect), with distinct, complex and vivid personalities. And Gordon is an excellent storyteller, rendering their lives in a readable style more compelling than many novels; the end of a chapter would often leave me wanting to read just one more. The book is rich in information about the times, providing the context of these women’s lives and the lives of those around them, but despite being a history, the facts never feel inevitable; this is quite an achievement, requiring fresh and vivid storytelling. For the first 100 pages I was concerned that it would be a downer, featuring women oppressed by their gender and culture at every turn, but both women soon grow up and take control of their destinies. In the end, my only concern is that, while the book includes extensive endnotes and a bibliography, the author usually only cites a source when directly quoting someone; I wanted to know where more of the assertions about people’s feelings, in particular, came from.

Overall, this is an excellent book, and it left me curious to read both of these writers and see how my analysis of their works compares to the author’s. This would be a great choice for anyone interested in the lives of historical women; for those who don't typically read biographies, it's a perfect place to start.

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review 2017-11-23 19:37
Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich
Love Medicine - Louise Erdrich

This isn’t a terrible book, but I can’t claim to have enjoyed it. Love Medicine is a somewhat awkward merger between novel and short story collection, made up of 17 pieces about two families living on the Ojibwe/Chippewa reservation over the span of about 50 years, from the 1930s to the 1980s. I call it an awkward merger because the stories all feature the same group of characters, but there’s neither the overarching plot you want from a novel nor the neatly encapsulated plots you expect from short stories. Life happens, but it isn’t organized by much plot structure at all.

Still, my dissatisfaction stemmed less from plotting issues and more from the fact that I simply never became invested in these characters. The first chapter was promising enough, but the older generation’s love triangle provided little interest, and something about the characters’ motivations and viewpoints felt off. It certainly doesn’t help that 13 of the 17 stories are told in first person, by 6 different narrators, of both genders, various ages, and from three different generations, and they all sound alike. Which tends to destroy the illusion that we’re hearing from different people, and for that matter, that these are characters at all rather than multiple figments of the same author’s imagination. It’s always baffled me that first-time authors – those least equipped to write multiple narrators successfully – are the most likely to attempt this feat, but I think I’ve hit on the explanation, which is that almost no one, no matter how experienced, can do this well and debut authors are also the least equipped to recognize their limitations.

That said, awhile back I tried to read Erdrich’s most recent novel, LaRose, and bounced off of it, finding the plot diffuse and the characters uninteresting. So it seems most likely that I simply don’t connect with this author’s writing. Fortunately for me, after finishing this I started Anything Is Possible, which provides everything I wanted here – a constellation of linked short stories about beauty and pain in everyday life, with characters and situations that caught and held my attention – albeit featuring white Midwesterners rather than Native Americans.

An endnote about the endnote: removing “The Tomahawk Factory” from the main text because “it interrupted the flow” and then tacking it on to the end just seems to muddle the book’s ending. I read it second-to-last, which happily turns out to be its chronological placement, once I realized it was meant to be part of this book and not a preview for another one.

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review 2017-11-23 19:34
Tales in Colour by Kunzang Choden
Tales In Colour And Other Stories - Kunzang Choden

This is a surprisingly good collection of short stories about the lives of women in contemporary, mostly rural Bhutan, by a Bhutanese author, whose own life I wanted to read more about after the all-too-brief introduction detailing her own culture shock as a young girl in an Indian boarding school and her observations of the way women’s lives have changed in Bhutan, often becoming less independent under the influence of foreign culture.

The quality of the book was unexpected to me because, first, I bounced off the author’s novel awhile back (I may now give it another chance), and second, the publishers really let the author down here. The punctuation is bad and there are some grammatical mistakes. It’s unfortunate, though understandable, that this lack of professional copyediting has led some to conclude that the author lacks literary talent, when other indications are to the contrary. The thirteen stories are well-structured and engaging, getting the reader quickly invested in the characters’ lives.

As a cultural document this is fascinating, illuminating various aspects of ordinary life in Bhutan. The stories range from optimistic (a young woman who alternates between visiting her brother in the city, where she adopts the life of an urban sophisticate, and returning to the country to muck out sheds for her mother) to tragic (a dwarf who is shunned by most of her family and community until her death). There’s a strong sense of community life: in one story no one will turn in the village thief because everyone is interdependent, while another, about a single mother whose hard work gets her son through school and allows him to achieve a comfortable life for them both, feels not quite triumphant because it’s framed by the villagers left behind, who experience their success only by viewing photographs.

But the stories are still focused on individual choices and lives; many of the protagonists are poor single mothers, either giving birth outside of marriage, or providing for their families after leaving or being left by their husbands. It is certainly a more dynamic view of individual and family life than Western stereotypes about Asian farmers would lead you to expect. It’s mostly a realistic collection, but there is room for fancy too, as in one story about a misunderstanding between a woman and a mouse.

I finished through this collection quickly, was engaged by the stories, found the characters believable and sympathetic, and enjoyed the strong sense of place and learning about Bhutan. It’s a shame the publishers didn’t do their part; with a bit of polish and a strong publishing house behind it, this could be a real literary success.

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review 2017-11-22 23:39
I want an open road summer...
Open Road Summer - Emery Lord

 

Book Title:  Open Road Summer 

Author:  Emery Lord

Genre:  YA | Contemporary Romance

Setting:  On the road across the USA

Source:  Kindle eBook (Library)

 

 

 

Add to Goodreads

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plot:  5/5

Main Characters:  5/5

Secondary Characters:  4/5

The Feels:  4.5/5

Pacing:  5/5

Addictiveness:  5/5

Theme or Tone:  5/5

Flow (Writing Style):  4.3/5

Backdrop (World Building):  5/5

Originality:  4/5

Book Cover:  4/5

Ending:  4/5  Cliffhanger:  Nope.

Steam Factor 0-5: 2

Total: 4.5/5 STARS - GRADE=A-

 

 

 

A super-cute YA romance/coming of age story.  Effortlessly readable, with characters that felt real and were likable.  A realistic look at a celebrities life from their side of the camera.  Seriously, It would suck to read about your supposed life on the front of a magazine cover at the grocery store…the price of fame, I guess… While the ending had a bit too much drama, especially when the book had stayed away from overdone drama most of the way through, I found this a refreshing read, and just what I needed.

 

Will I read more from this Author?  Yeah, I may do so soon, actually.

 

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review 2017-11-22 17:31
Lack of World Building Causes Problems in Defy the Stars
Defy the Stars - Claudia Gray

I think I should have known there would be a problem when the book just starts off with one of the characters (Noemi) going into why her planet (Genesis) is at war with the planet Earth. We hear about a fatal run they are gearing up to do, Noemi worries about her best friend, and only friend it seems, and then we segue into another character (Abel) who we find out is a mech (not human, a robot without a soul or some thing). 

 

I don't want to get into it too much cause I am ready to head home and eat my face off for Phase I of Thanksgiving 2017.

 

I just really didn't like this one much. We have Noemi and Abel eventually meet and they both go around realizing that they care about one another though Noemi knows it's impossible.

 

They also fly around to other planets and see what Earth has done to them and a resistance starting to form. I just felt like there was way too much happening here in book #1.

 

The writing was perfectly serviceable, I just think that things needed to be explained a lot more since the world building wasn't that great. I didn't understand a lot of things with the planets. Maybe in the next book Gray can include an illustration that shows all of the planets or something. Or a prologue that even describes how Earth started a war. 


The flow was off. The first 1/3 of the book just moved slowly. And then it dragged once Noemi got into trouble (no spoilers) and a deux ex machina showed up that made me roll my eyes. 

 

The ending also didn't work for me either. I think I was supposed to feel moved. I just don't think that we got a chance to know and even fall in like with either Abel or Noemi. 

 

I am confused about so much that I started to make a list. 

1. I still at the end do not even get why Earth started a war with Genesis.

 

2. I don't get how Noemi is considered human still and then it took me several chapters later that Genesis people left Earth behind to form their own colony (I think that's what happened). 

 

3. I also don't even get why Genesis thought yes let's send children off to do a fatal run and than go yes we care about lives. It was such a contradiction. I think that Gray was trying to work a little Ender's Game in here, and it just fell flat.

 

4. I really don't understand how Abel was made unique from the other mechs. I am supposed to buy he has a soul or some sort of empathy? I just think it was sloppy storytelling that didn't get a chance to resonate. 

 

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