Since it's been awhile since I read a classic, I thought I'd give Keep the Aspidistra Flying by George Orwell a shot. It kept cropping up on my radar and the name alone had me quite intrigued. I went into this blind...even to the extent that I didn't look to see what the heck an Aspidistra was. (I know now though and saw it mentioned fleetingly in Harry Potter so it's definitely super British-y.) For someone who is a huge fan of 1984, this book fell pretty flat. The book follows a man by the name of Gordon Comstock who fancies himself a poet but in reality is little more than a poor bookshop assistant. Right off the bat, I felt that Gordon had 0% likability and his actions made no sense to me whatsoever. At one point, I decided to look up what other people thought of this book because it has a decent rating on Goodreads. Everyone seemed to think that this was a profound story about the struggle against commercialism and "the Man". What I see is the story of a man who is self-destructive, self-absorbed, and annoying. He is constantly picking apart everyone and everything around him in terms of its inherent value to society (there's a really long bit about advertising on different food products which was bizarre). Bottom line: this one wasn't a winner for me. I won't completely discount Mr. Orwell though. I'm sure I'll give him another shot in the future. :-) Also, I'm sorry that this is the second negative review in a row. Sometimes that's just the way the cookie crumbles. 1/10
The following book was kindly sent to me by the author, Matthew Danza, who requested a review.
I'm going to come right out and say that I didn't care for The Fin. I can see why some people would enjoy it but this just wasn't the book for me. There's a lot of teenage angst combined with gore which sounds like a good time but I felt like it didn't really go anywhere. The story follows Lee, an annoying and obnoxious teenager, living on a small island with her twin brother James and her father. (There's a secondary storyline about her estrangement with her mother which was awkwardly included but ultimately went nowhere.) Her good friend (who obviously likes her and who she likes back) is named Adam and he rounds out the main cast of characters. Based on the title of this book and the cover art, it's obvious that this is a story about a shark attack. Firstly, I felt the storyline was excruciatingly slow especially for a novella. Also, totally predictable. (And I think the author was going for a Jaws homage but it felt super forced and corny to me.) The only good thing about this book was that it was mercifully short. I think that the author was trying to do too much for the length of a novella. This was a 1/10 for me.
Well, I was finally able to get my hands on her first book, French Milk, which chronicles her 6 week stay in Paris with her mom when she turned 23. I had this book on hold for months and honestly I was a bit disappointed. However, because I know this was her first and her subsequent works were so much fun I'm inclined not to be too harsh. This book is entirely black and white which was kind of a bummer. She incorporates real photographs throughout which I actually really enjoyed. I thought they lent a nice element when they coincided with her artistic interpretation. (She's included some of these in her other books at the very end.) While humorous at times, it lacks the zing of her subsequent books (which is one of my favorite parts). The art doesn't stand out as her best but I do think that's partly to do with the lack of color which I had come to expect of her. It's immediately clear to me how much she has grown as both an artist and a storyteller. Kudos, Lucy! Sometimes one finds that an author's later work lacks the punch and pizazz of their earlier forays but this is not the case with French Milk. I didn't find it nearly as compelling or engaging and I didn't feel a connection as I had with the other books of hers that I've read. I am very much looking forward to her newest which is all about her marriage and entitled Something New: Tales From a Makeshift Bride. If you haven't read any of Lucy's work to date then I think starting with French Milk will give you a greater appreciation for the rest of her body of work and in that vein I highly recommend it. However, if like me you started at a different point it kinda fell flat. 6/10
Flotilla is an unyielding exploration of people and technology in a perilous world. When 15-year-old Jim joins his dad on Colony D, he doesn’t see it as the new frontier in green technology and sustainability; he sees a free pass out of rehab to spend the summer on a man-made island in the Pacific. Jim thinks his troubles are marooned on the mainland, but it turns out that his dad has secrets of his own. When things stop adding up, and Jim becomes suspicious, he makes a horrible discovery.
But now, that’s the least of his problems.
The United States come under attack, and Jim’s parents go missing. Drug runners and modern-day pirates are coming to settle a score. All he and his sister have now are an old boat, limited supplies, and each other. Jim must race against time if he wants to escape the catastrophic meltdown of civilization.
Review 4.5 rounded up to 5*
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author through Netgalley in return for an honest review.
This is an intriguing young adult coming of age, post-apocalyptic novel. I really enjoyed it.
Jim Westfield is a wonderful character. I really liked him and admired him as he dealt with situations that most adults would struggle with. I love his character growth. He has an alcohol addiction and in a bid to avoid going into rehab, he chooses to live with his father on a man-made island of boats, farming fish in the Pacific for the summer.
I started this story and struggled to get into it at first. The story is told through the eyes of Jim, who has some serious issues going on around him. He is only fourteen when he decides to live with his father, who lives on a fish farm in the ocean, after a serious drinking session sees him facing time in a rehabilitation centre for alcohol poisoning. Not having had the same issues as Jim, I struggled to relate to him though I could empathize with him. What I love about his story is the way he starts to see what a waste his life has been up until that point. His father, Rick, doesn't coddle him and expects him to work (it is a business after all). I think that it may be a bit harsh for a fourteen year old to be expected to do the work of a man. However, this appears to be exactly what Jim needed. He flourishes on the Horner C and makes some friends along the way.
I loved meeting Miguel. He is the owner of "The Range", a rifle range within the colony, which the various characters use as a club and meeting place. He is a no-nonsense character who takes Jim under his wing and treats him like a son. I also loved Riley, Jim's rather gassy friend. Their antics made me laugh. Then there a menagerie of other characters that live within the colony that gives the island an eclectic feel. Some of them are down right weird though the majority are only looking to make a living but, just like any town, they bring their own personalities to the community.
Once I got into the story, I didn't put it down until I'd finished it. Watching someone like Jim mature before my eyes had me feeling as proud as if he was one of my family. There are a few surprising twists that I didn't see coming and a few scenes that had me giggling (most of those containing Riley). The danger, both on shore from the terrorists and the colony from pirates, kept me sitting on the edge of my seat. I reached the end of the book feeling a little emotionally wrung out from it all. I found myself on a roller coaster ride of emotion and, even though I am still feeling a little angry and disappointed at Jim's father, I am looking forward to reading the next book as soon as I can.
Daniel Haight has written a wonderful coming of age tale. There are elements of hard science fiction and dystopian parts, which will appeal to readers of all ages. I love his fast paced writing style that brought the characters and situations to life. The flow felt a little choppy in the beginning but as the story went on, it got better. I would definitely consider reading more of his books in the future.
I highly recommend this book to young readers aged 15 upwards and to adults who love reading YA coming of age or dystopian novels. - Lynn Worton