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review 2018-01-23 14:50
Last Year's News & Ella's Pet Peeves in Book Marketing
The Girl on the Train - Paula Hawkins

Seems stupid to write a review of a book that everyone and their mother has read, but I'ma do it anyway.

 

This really could all be summed up with the note I wrote to myself privately on Goodreads:

DO NOT EVER BUY ANOTHER PRE-RELEASE UNTIL YOU HAVE READ THE AUTHOR'S WORK!

Let's do it anyway:

 

I bought this early on the strength of a review and a really good marketing plan, read half then apparently forgot to finish it. My local library's reading challenge for January includes reading a book made into a movie, and I was a bit shocked to see this one in my Kindle, so I started again from the beginning, having no clue what I'd read before, and I finished it in a couple days.

 

Turns out, The Girl on the Train wasn't half bad. It's not the best I've ever read, best I bought in 2015 or even the best I've read this month. Nonetheless, it's a decent mystery with a nice fake-out or two, and I love an unreliable narrator. I usually love a character that everyone in the book hates, unless she makes me indifferent to her, which sort of happened here. If I could've rooted more for Rachel, I might have been more invested. Oh well.

 

Now my two quibbles pet peeves: For all the women in it, it sure doesn't pass the Bechdel or any other feminist test I'm aware of. In fact, the women in this book are universally jealous, petty and horrid to each other -- even the so-called friends and especially where men are concerned. Hell, even the policewoman isn't very nice to other women. Grown women being so angry at each other for a man's infidelity or lack of trust, argh -- that time needs to pass from books right now. I'm tired of watching or reading about these women. I don't know women like this anymore, and I don't like them in books either. It's immature at best, pathetic and gross at most.

 

Quibble Pet Peeve number two is the word "literature" used to market this one. That word is supposed to mean something, and it's not about topping the best seller lists for a year. Popularity is great, but it's not the same as literary. Everyone expects a certain originality and quality to the writing that will make it stand the test of time when something is marketed as "literary fiction." (Though maybe more people will try the literary word if they think it's all like this?) Anyway, genre fiction can be literature. There are some wonderful works of literary fiction that are psychological thrillers or fantasy, mystery, western, horror, whatever. This isn't one of them. It's an indulgence, a treat, fun and relaxing read with real suspense at times. I'll make a bet The Girl on the Train will not end up part of any lasting literary canon.

 

 

picture of Amazon listings

 

Literature means "writings having excellence of form or expression and expressing ideas of permanent or universal interest" or "written works, especially those considered of superior or lasting artistic merit." As it was explained to me when I kept saying "I like this kind of book" and didn't know how to find more, literature has a way of exploring how we relate to the world, rather than a story told about the world. I'm not sure this little treat fits there. No new or lasting views are found here beyond a good story, and that's fine. Again, I point out that I'd read half of this two years ago and remembered zilch about it. Not a lasting effect. If my Kindle hadn't had a bookmark and a "last place" marker, I would've sworn I didn't 1) own the book and 2) never opened it. Just don't sell me a book under false pretenses! I buy plenty of mystery books that are far from literary or even good, actually.

 

Despite these "quibbles," it was good entertainment. I'm not upset I took the time to read it.

 

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review 2018-01-22 21:24
I am Livia by Phyllis T. Smith
I Am Livia - Phyllis T. Smith

I am reading books at a rapid pace right now. I've more or less been stuck on a couch with a pair of recovering five year olds for the last four days in addition to being hit with a terrible bout of sudden insomnia. At least I have plenty of books. 

 

To start, I have a minimal knowledge of Ancient Rome. I know what I've been taught in school. I know what my boyfriend Gordianus has taught me with his adventures. However, Gordianus (to this point) only brings me through Julius Caesar. Livia's tale begins with the death of Julius Caesar. However, my minimal knowledge of Caesar Augustus and his quarrels with one Mark Antony was enough to get me through this book without too much help from Wikipedia. 

 

I think my minimal knowledge actually worked in this case. I know about Livia and Nero and Claudius. I know who they are but not necessarily where they came from. While this book doesn't go into much detail about Nero or Claudius, it gives the reader an excellent glimpse into the life of the family's real power, matriarch Livia Drusilla. This Livia is not the scheming, poisoning, and manipulative woman we have been told about before. This Livia is slightly manipulative but not in the power mad way you think. At no point does the author lead you to think Livia's actions are meant to benefit anyone but Rome. This author does an excellent job making Livia human. She is a wife who cares for her husband. She is a mother who wants what is best for her children. She is a citizen who cares for her country. She is a woman who is constantly working to keep these three things in harmony even if it requires a personal sacrifice. 

 

I would have liked to have seen more of Livia later in life. I would have like to seen Livia during Nero. I would have liked to have seen Livia during Claudius even though the glimpses of Claudius we are given suggest that Livia wasn't exactly a fan. 

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review 2018-01-22 15:26
should have hit my sweet spot, but it missed the mark for me
Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk: A Novel - Ben Fountain

I am perhaps the last person who truly wanted to read this book to finally do it. This was the very first book I ever bought on my Kindle. Several Kindles later, I finally got around to reading it. What threw me over the top was 1) noticing it became a movie while I've got a book that was bought on the strength of a pre-release review, which inspired me to 2) borrow the audiobook from the library and that gave me a deadline. I usually speed up audio at least a little, but this guy sounded like a chipmunk with any speed at all. He also had an annoying way of portraying all women with what I can only describe as a "stereotypical gay voice." It was so bad and so slow that I got impatient, pulled out the Kindle & just read the darned book already.

 

The title is one-hundred percent spot on. Almost all 315 pages take place on Thanksgiving Day at a Cowboy's football home game.

 

Billy Lynn is a 19 year old kid who ended up in Iraq after a judge gave him a choice. He and “Bravo squad” -- 8 close buddies and their Sargeant "Fine," are now War Heroes after a battle is caught on video and shown on Fox News. They've been brought home to do a two-week "Victory Tour," oh and bury Shroom -- one of their own who was killed in the skirmish. Shroom was Billy Lynn's closest friend, and while he's not physically there, he is ever present in Billy Lynn's mind. While on tour they've picked up Albert, a Hollywood type who has bought the rights to their story and is trying to quickly fashion a big movie "deal" before they all go back to Iraq. Oh and the US Army would prefer they didn't mention they're going back.

 

Billy Lynn comes off at first as a stupid hick, but we learn otherwise. He may lack formal education, but he's been reading over in Iraq, with recommendations from Shroom. He's read many of the books that people who don't sign up for the military pretend to read. His list is basically a "great American Books" series. He's simplistic but sharp. He lacks confidence to act impressed by himself though, and he's never sure that what he says is on target. What he has is a clear view on right and wrong, and good insight into the differences between those who fight and those who talk about the fight.

 

The satire is deep, rich and almost constant. It's well-written with great metaphors and one-liners. There's also a wonderful scene where they're greeted by yet another adoring, rich Friend of George Dubya who is foolish enough to proclaim that he's drilling oil "for the troops." Fine loses it in one of the most exquisite tirades I've ever read. 

 

I wondered what Ben Fountain would do with the current climate and all the contradictions involved in today's convoluted "patriotism;" kneeling for the anthem, or dreamers who have fought in the US services being deported...

 

Satire can be emotionally gripping, but this one wasn't. I laughed aloud and nodded agreement with the Bravos frequently. I just wasn't much affected by what I read. A book about the public-military disconnect, performative versus actual patriotism, the rich keeping their kids home while making money off the war machine; a loveable, slightly neurotic, too-smart-to-be-educated main character: this one should have hit my sweet spot, but it missed the mark for me. Nonetheless, I would still recommend it without hesitation to anyone interested in the topics I've mentioned.

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text 2018-01-22 15:19
Reading progress update: I've read 51 out of 240 pages.
My week with the bad boy - Lyra Parish,Brooke Cumberland

Didnt know pottery was sexy until ethan 

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review 2018-01-21 21:31
Revenger (John Shakespeare #2) by Rory Clements
Revenger: A Novel of Tudor Intrigue - Rory Clements

I fell asleep reading this last night. I woke up this morning determined to finish before the Vikings play. SKOL! 

 

I have seen so many different books toted as comparable to C.J. Sansom's Matthew Shardlake books. More often than not, I find myself disappointed. Truth be told, I have not yet found anything to be as dark, gritty, or politically charged as the Shardlake novels. Enter John Shakespeare. 

 

Shakespeare and Shardlake both have similar qualities. They are both slightly naive. They both tend to find themselves being used as pawns in someone's political schemes. The biggest different between the two men, Shakespeare is a more of a rogue. While Shardlake strives to use his brains to get himself out of trouble, Shakespeare is not afraid to fight. 

 

I will confess to liking Shardlake just a little more than Shakespeare. However, I am only two books in to Shakespeare. Things could change. If the second novel is any indication of how things will progress, that could very well be the case.

 

Much like the first, this book was dark. It was gritty. It was gruesome. It was thick with political schemes. If you are not familiar with Elizabeth's England post-Walsingham or the children of Lettice Knollys, I would highly recommend doing a little background research first. Otherwise, you may find yourself a little lost. 

 

Easily the most fascinating part of this book was the story of Roanoke. As a child, I was taught all about the mysterious colony of Roanoke. A colony of English settlers come to the New World to create a new life who suddenly vanish without a trace. What happened to little Virginia Dare and the other colonists? Did a mysterious illness overtake them? Did they run foul of the natives? Did they just leave and start a life somewhere else? This book presents an entirely different theory. It's actually quite fascinating. That's all I'm saying about it. 

 

I would love to start the third novel but the Vikings play today. I have Super Bowl on my mind. SKOL! 

 

 

 

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