logo
Wrong email address or username
Wrong email address or username
Incorrect verification code
back to top
Search tags: first-read-by-this-author
Load new posts () and activity
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2018-04-20 03:03
Heroes of the Frontier
Heroes of the Frontier - Dave Eggers

This was tough for me. I love Eggers' work, and so much of this is what I would expect from him, but there are parts that just left me irritated, confused, or extremely stressed out for this unprepared, ill-equipped, mother of two, who displays an almost stunning lack of judgment when she takes her children on an inspired but completely unplanned trip to Alaska. The children, of course, are perfectly sweet, beautiful, wise little Yodas, who manage to charm even when they are at their worst.

 

Despite this, I was rooting for Josie. I bookmarked my audio-book and listened to one part several times — describing how we went from 4 parent visits a year at school to 46-hours' worth of recommended involvement (in a month). So, I cheered for Josie, even when she did some super questionable things (did anyone besides Josie not figure out the jumpsuits immediately?). And I almost made it all the way through. With about an hour or so left, Josie composes some music, and the story went from completely unrealistic yet kind of sweet and brave, to you have got to be kidding me. I considered Josie's musical scoring a charming affectation, a cute little character trait, but this was completely bizarre and almost offensive (to all musicians, everywhere, and I am not a musician). It went right off the rails for me after that.

 

There are some awesome, radical, refreshing ideas here about parenting and life, and it would have been so great if the rest of it had measured up to that great promise. Based on some other comments, I am guessing the geography is not well-researched, which seems a shame, and also easily avoidable. Any Eggers fans out there? Curious to know your thoughts.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2018-03-31 17:49
The Animators, by Karla Rae Whitaker
The Animators - Kayla Rae Whitaker

The Animators struck a deep chord with me on two levels: as an artist and as best friend to a fellow artist. If you are either, you'll likely love this novel as I did.

 

Funny and engaging from the first page, The Animators starts with our narrator, Sharon, in college, where she meets the charismatic Mel Vaught. Both are aspiring animators who are into the same shit and share an aesthetic; both come from poor, rural southern U.S. backgrounds. Many of us in the arts could identify that time when we learn we're not actually outsiders, that others share our interests; college tends to be a place where we find our tribe.

 

But this is not a novel about being a college arts student. The narrative quickly brings us to a present where Sharon and Mel have made a successful indie animated feature that centers on Mel's life. They live together in New York City. Mel drinks and does a lot of drugs; she's the life of the party. Sharon...is not. She spends a lot of time and emotions angsting over her latest romantic interest, of which there are many.

 

Tension develops between the two, much of it, from Sharon's perspective, owing to Mel's lifestyle. There's a blowout, followed by a shocking, life-altering health crisis for one of them. It's a reset that leads them on a path to mining Sharon's childhood for their next project. This raises very real questions artists face about using their lives in their art in ways that may hurt loved ones. I wasn't quite satisfied by the resolution to this issue, but I appreciated its being seriously considered.

 

This book excels at depicting partnerships between women, their working lives as artists, and craft. The prose is engaging, the characters vivid, and there are some heartbreaking and harrowing moments. Even if you're not an artist or friends with one, I can't imagine Whitaker's (first!) novel not winning you over from page one.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2018-03-15 17:29
Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee
Pachinko - Min Jin Lee

It took me almost four months to read Pachinko. As I read, I began wondering about my slow pace. My fall semesters are busier, yes, but I still manage to finish most books in what's a timely manner for me. It certainly wasn't because I found the book hard to read in terms of comprehension or engagement. As I got closer to the end, I realized: it was because I was so invested in the characters and storytelling I had to take time to process the intense feelings the novel evoked. There are also regular gaps in time that take place between chapters where characters' situations change significantly; I needed mental space before diving into the story again. I can't think of another novel that required this sort of reading from me.

 

In addition to Rushdie's The Moor's Last Sigh, Pachinko has served to establish that "family sagas" can engage me, or at least when another culture is involved. Through the family portrayed here, I learned more about Korea, but it never feels like a history lesson. Everything comes from the characters. The novel also provokes thought about national and racial identity.

 

There were moments I dreaded, as with the return of a less sympathetic character, though not in a way that made me dislike the novel or its author. There were moments that shocked me to the point of gasping. There are many scenes that easily and vividly come to mind when I recall my reading, which I finished more than a month ago.

 

I would love to teach this novel. I have the feeling I may reread it some day, regardless. For me, that's a rarity, a compliment, and a sign of deep gratitude. 

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2018-01-25 04:55
Anything is Possible
Anything Is Possible - Elizabeth Strout

I will preface this, in an attempt at full disclosure, by admitting I am a fan of Elizabeth Strout. I heard her speak at our library lunch after Olive Kittredge came out, and at the time I was not sure if she would be able to top the success of that book. At the event, I grabbed copies of Amy & Isabelle and Abide with Me, which I greedily read not long after. There is something soothing and almost intoxicating about Strout's writing; she draws you in effortlessly, lulls you into complacency, and then shatters it all with a painful reality you might not have even imagined. Her characters are, at first glance, nondescript, often eking out a meager existence; but in her caring hands, they are stalwart, earnest, and beautiful. When Lucy Barton reappeared in this book, it was like catching up with an old friend, and I'm sure I judged her siblings harshly because I defended her. And that is the heart of it, really. I care about these characters. Strout pulls away the curtain, and we see what makes these people tick; we care about them because she makes us care, her words inspire empathy. And, given the state of things around here right now, we could all use a little more of that.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2018-01-12 03:40
The Refugees
The Refugees - Viet Thanh Nguyen

I read Nguyen's well-received first book, The Sympathizer, so I was eager to read this collection of short stories, and happy to see it available on NetGalley. When I initially selected Sympathizer, it was on my husband's recommendation, but that book easily sold me on Nguyen's ability to compel a reader, especially one who wasn't sure about the subject. Like Sympathizer, the characters here live difficult, often impossible lives. In some cases, I admit, I wasn't sorry the story was short; I was happy to escape to a different place, with new characters and challenges. Despite the slim volume, the characters are fully-realized, and their stories are crafted with care and compassion.

More posts
Your Dashboard view:
Need help?