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Search tags: better-than-expected
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review 2018-09-20 02:59
First half to see good, then the shots are fired
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil - John Berendt

When I was around two thirds in, I started idly concocting a review in my brain, about how the almost surreal elements and characters was what gave this narrative such a verisimilitude. Cue me over the 80% mark, just going to search for a detail, and finding out this is nonfiction. Sure, there are artistic licenses, but in essence?

 

I love it when knowing absolutely nothing about a book pays up in such ways.

 

As I mentioned previously in an update, the general tone reminded me a lot of latinoamerican writing. This has a lot to do with the conservative (and quirky) societies that brew in relatively small, isolated towns. You have the sedate and beautiful surface, and the decades, generations, long ugly undercurrents. Everyone "behaves" in public out of a certain need for society and peace, and whomever "pops" may as well go the whole nine-yards and wear it like a flag.

 

So, that's basically the aim: to illustrate Savannah. The plot as it were serves the theme. We go into the deep ugly undercurrents. Almost every ugly you can imagine. Sometimes you are enraged and amused at the same time from the sheer hypocrisy rampant. I spent most of the book in some queer state of entertained stupefaction because it is so grotesque you almost can't believe it. But you do. You recognize it. It is your hometown.

 

 

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review 2018-09-06 01:54
Deserves the Hype
His Majesty's Dragon - Naomi Novik

I did not expect to enjoy this as much as I did.

 

Beyond the absolutely endearing dragon (and a book-lover dragon at that, how can you pack more win?) and the lovely friendship with Laurence, the setting goes into many issues I would not have expected it to, but that would be the logical result of dragons existing, being intelligent, and drafted into the military.

 

It made me laugh, and think, and I mowed through most of it in one sitting. Full stars.

 

 

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review 2018-09-04 22:39
Not what I expected, but I could not stop reading
Strangers on a Train - Patricia Highsmith

I think I enjoyed this one exactly for the same reasons everyone disliked it: the characters were so messed up it was nerve-wreaking to read.

 

I've likely commented many times before how I love those books that engage me enough for me to get emotional over the characters, even if it is rage enough to want to strangle them, and that's pretty much what happens here. Bruno is a messed up cookie, and Guy is a derrotist moron, and that's what drives the slide-down-the-slope plot.

 

There is the thing too. I think most people think this will be something that is not. It is not a mystery. It is not a heist type of book of two guys planning perfect murders. What it is, is the very, very, very messed up relationship between a sociopath and a coward. The murders are just the thing that binds them and the theme is something like "all the wrong choices". While it made most dislike the book, it made me want to bitch-slap Guy and continue to read the train-wreak.

 

I think Highsmith was trying for this high-minded "either guilt or law will punish" poetic thing at the end, but it felt like an unnecessary convolution that made me go "NOW you find your spine/brain/cold-thinking to live with your actions, you moron", which, yeah, OK, poetic irony or something but... 4 stars

 

 

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review 2018-08-26 05:41
Love for a wild land
O Pioneers! - Willa Cather

This one tugged at my heart.

 

All of the ingredients did: the hard life on new countries, the stubbornness of immigrants, the strong girl and all the quirky people you may find around her, the small town tragedies.

 

Most of all this love for the land, and the strange, difficult to explain ties one develops to it when you fight it and work it and live it.

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review 2018-08-22 20:09
On Spousal Abuse
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall - Anne Brontë

Ok. Anne is my favourite Brontë now, hands down. Her social commentary was decades before the times opinions and all around relevant still (sadly for the most part).

 

There is nothing over the top or sensational here. There is a lot of spousal abuse and neglect going around, but the fact that it's not violently brutal is like the last cherry in a way. We have this mentality that abuse is really abuse only if it surpasses a certain level (good God, that sentence gives me the creeps), and this book spits in that (in a very lady like way) and calls it for what it is: unsustainable and inexcusable. There are several instances where different men try spout a variety of rationalizations, shifting of the blame or deferred promises of change. They are all classics and shudder inducing because... well, because they not only try to fool the women, but fool themselves. They actually believe they are not that bad.

 

"Not that bad" could actually be some kind of abusive anthem. One that this books seems to have taken arms to pulverize, and my kudos to it.

 

The other thing that is done marvelously is the depiction of how precarious the abused one's position is. Even beyond the context of the restrictions of the times. As the neglect started, and I could envision it getting worse, I had this terrible anxiety over how dependent these women are. It was nerve-wreaking, and it had a point: after accepting it is not right, that pride is not worth bearing it, that there are reasons to escape (oh, and there is another interesting bit: that she can not do it for herself, but raises the courage to protect her son), you need help. This is perfect. So well done, and again, so forward thinking. That one is something that still escapes many when judging an abused spouse.

 

Character wise, I had some issues with Helen's over-piety, but I get where that fits too: here is this paragon of virtue; she leaves her husband. In a time where that was terrible disgrace, maybe excused but not pardoned for the height of brutality, it threw in the face of everyone reading that a woman so estranged may very well be in the right. Besides, I imagine she might have the need to rely even more on religion and found solace there under her circumstances. I thought her judgmental and dismissive of others counsel too, but that works too, because not only brings her to her marriage, but carries her through it, with both proclivities magnified I imagine.

 

Gilbert sounded so painfully young to me the whole book. I don't quite feel the romance there, except to imagine that to her he is ultimately so harmless. Which... OK, I totally get.

 

Beyond the overarching theme, there a lot of things addressed to provoke thought, if all the bits I quoted as I progressed didn't make it obvious, so it's really a book to own, and savour, and take a pencil to (I'm such a savage).

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