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Search tags: contemporary-fiction
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review 2017-06-23 18:47
The Female of the Species (Mindy McGinnis)
The Female of the Species - Mindy McGinnis

Series: N/A

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (2016)

Genre(s): Mystery, Contemporary Fiction, Young Adult

 

Me: cool, it's batgirl! Kick-ass, dude!

Also me: damn, insta-love... why? WHYYYY?

Also me: why is everything so freaking rushed?

Also me: yea, well want rushed? I can't connect with the characters.

Also me: I have the notion that I should be weeping at the ending, but I can't make myself care all that much. I did cry in that part about the puppies tho.

So, basically, great idea, but everything was so rushed I had no time to connect to the characters, they had no time to gain depth and the story had no time to take off. Superficially explored themes of rape culture, sexism and pedophilia. I'll say that the author was successful in showing how rape culture is so pervasive and it's just in the little things.

Could have been a really "food-for-thought" kind of book. It just felt confusing and a jumble. Just wasn't for me, I guess.

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review 2017-06-13 03:33
The Life and Deaths of Blanche Nero
The Life and Deaths of Blanche Nero - Ken Bingham

Blanche Nero's life has been punctuated by a series of important deaths.  At fifteen years old, Blanche's father was executed for the killing of their neighbor.  This death caused Blanche to have an interest into her father's past and sparked a curiosity for violence and death .  After excelling academically in high school and college, her mother's death provides enough money for Blanche to go to Med School.  Blanche is able to train with the best doctors in the field and becomes a successful trauma surgeon at Charity Hospital in New Orleans.  After Hurricane Katrina hits, Charity closes and Blanche takes a leave to Venice.  In Venice she rents a flat and befriends Ludo, or more precisely, Count Lorenzo Ludovici.  Ludo is dying of AIDS, but before he goes Ludo has a secret to reveal to Blanche that will unravel the mystery behind her father's death.  Ludo's death will also open up another door for Blanche to move on with her life.

 
From the moment Blanche's father murders their neighbor, I was pulled into the mystery of the Nero family.  The name Blanche Nero literally means 'White Black.'  From Blanche's birth, everything has been one or the other, black or white, no grey.  Throughout the book I did wonder if her father gave her the first name of White to try to lessen the black of his name.  Blanche's character lives her life very directly.  The writing brought me back and forth between Blanche's present as a 60 year old woman in Venice and her past growing up in Almesboro and throughout her schooling.  She is looking back at her life and examining her choices through a very mature lens.  Throughout the book death and violence are recurrent themes.  However,  through Blanch eyes, the deaths are drawn in a different light, without much meaning or emotion, but with advancement; that is until Ludo.  Ludo is exceedingly charming and a little frustrating with the slow reveal of his relation to Blanche's mystery.  Ludo's dignified ways create the perfect illusion to begin to introduce Blanche to the black spot in her father's history that I couldn't even begin to piece together until the very end.  In addition to the curious mystery, the Venitian culture and city is brought to life through Blanche and Ludo's travels as well as it's darker history.  Overall, an engaging story that weaves together death, secrets and their impact on our lives. 
 
This book was received for free in return for an honest review. 
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review 2017-06-10 20:26
Speak, Memory, by Vladimir Nabokov
Novels and Memoirs, 1941-1951: The Real Life of Sebastian Knight / Bend Sinister / Speak, Memory (Library of America #87) - Vladimir Nabokov,Brian Boyd

(Review for Speak, Memory only: four stars)

 

It was a pleasure to read Nabokov after so long. I forgot how easy it is to get carried along by the flow and particularities of his prose, sometimes to the point of losing the meaning of what's being expressed. Speak, Memory is a kind of memoir of Nabokov's childhood through his family's exile in Europe following the Russian Revolution. I learned (or was reminded of) a lot that sheds light on his writing, such as the fact that he had synesthesia (syllables and letters had colors). He read and wrote English before Russian but later lamented that his English skills did not match those in Russian (if only I read Russian!). At one point he states that once he used a detail of his life for his fiction, it felt like it was no longer his.

 

If you're familiar with Nabokov, you'll enjoy the passages detailing or referencing his passion for butterfly hunting. In fact my favorite line in the book concerns it: "America has shown even more of this morbid interest in my retiary activities than other countries have--perhaps because I was in my forties when I came there to live, and the older the man, the queerer he looks with a butterfly net in his hand." Lol, indeed.

 

I was less interested in some of the earlier chapters that focus on his extended family, but there were still fascinating stories to be had, and his prose is always worth it.

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review 2017-05-28 13:57
creepy
Pictures of You - Diane M. Dickson

atmospheric and creepy book about a lodger with an obsession.

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review 2017-05-22 15:41
Await Your Reply, by Dan Chaon
Await Your Reply - Dan Chaon

Await Your Reply is ultimately a tragic story featuring characters who are lost or mentally ill and either want a new start or can't let go of the past. However, I found it hard to sympathize with the three characters whose perspectives the novel shifts between in alternating chapters. As a result I rushed through my reading mostly to finish the book and see how these seemingly unconnected characters were, in fact, connected. It's a story of identity, how it is mutable but perhaps can become its own trap, even when that identity is traded in for a new one.

 

I'm surprised I purchased this book since it features one of my greatest squicks (as we say in fandom): a teacher-student romantic relationship. The recently graduated student, Lucy, is one of the characters whose point of view is narrated. Though she's lost her parents, at first it seems this is not a great loss to her. She also disparages her older, less ambitious sister. This made Lucy and her rash decision to run off with her AP History teacher unsympathetic for me. She's bright academically, but stupid and naive when it comes to everything else. She almost immediately begins to feel uneasy about the promises her older boyfriend made once they arrive at their temporary destination, but she sticks around.

 

Similarly, Ryan, a college student, leaves school and his family behind once he learns the truth about his parentage. He hadn't been doing well in school and wasted the money meant for tuition. He takes off with a guy he's just met and becomes involved in illegal money-moving and identity fraud schemes, though he barely understands what he's doing and why. He doesn't seem that troubled knowing that his family is looking for him. So, he's another character I found I couldn't care about.

 

The third character, Miles, I found the most sympathetic. He's been on the trail of his schizophrenic twin brother, Hayden, ever since the latter disappeared years before. Miles disrupts his own life (or barely develops one) to chase his twin and feeds on occasional communications from him. He gives Hayden the benefit of the doubt, despite the warnings of others and evidence to the contrary. Is he big-hearted or a fool?

 

I won't spoil how the three characters' stories connect, but despite some surprises, the mystery of that connection wasn't enough for me to overcome my issues with the characters.

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