logo
Wrong email address or username
Wrong email address or username
Incorrect verification code
back to top
Search tags: literary-fiction
Load new posts () and activity
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-03-26 23:32
The Last Bell, by Johannes Urzidil
The Last Bell (Pushkin Collection) - David Burnett,Johannes Urzidil

Pushkin Press continues to do sterling work by retranslating and republishing European fiction with Johannes Urzidil’s The Last Bell (translated by David Burnett). The Last Bell includes five stories by a mid-century Czech author who got lost in the shuffle of history. In these stories, Urzidil writes about life in Prague in the late 1930s (before he himself fled Europe) and in the old Austro-Hungarian Empire before World War I...

 

Read the rest of my review at A Bookish Type. I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley for review consideration.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-03-24 02:58
Book 12/100: Room by Emma Donoghue
Room - Emma Donoghue

I rarely give out five-star reviews, and my criteria for a five-star review is fairly straightforward: I give five stars to books that I don't want to end.

I read lots of books every year that I enjoy, but because my TBR list is so long, I very rarely dread a book ending -- I know there will always be plenty more where that came from!

But this book engaged me so much that I felt dismay rather than accomplishment as I watched the end draw nearer and nearer. In the beginning, it was the voice and the introduction of a horrifying situation that captivated me. Then it was whether they would manage to pull off an escape. And then it was seeing the "normal" world through Jack's eyes, which turned it into a strange and fascinating place.

I've heard people criticize this book for infusing Jack with too much maturity, but his voice felt believably childlike to me throughout -- perhaps it helped that I listened to a full-cast audio version (WONDERFUL) that actually used a child's voice, so it was a lot harder for me to layer an adult inflection on top of Jack's words. The characters were all so richly drawn and multi-dimensional -- even Old Nick, as despicable as he was. I loved both that Jack's narration kept this story from feeling too bleak and also that as an adult you could read between the lines. The movie is excellent as well.

I can see now why people who read Donoguhe's other books after reading this one come away disappointed -- this is certainly a tough act to follow.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-03-16 19:15
Book 8/100: Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore - Robin Sloan

Even though I am a book lover, novels that are supposed to pay homage to books never quite do it for me. There is just something to "fangirl/fanboy" about it all -- and in this book it was especially bad because the author also spent the majority of the book gushing over Google and tech culture. I was like, is this a novel, or a Google infomercial? Right down to the main character's quirky love interest working for the company.

There were times when the pace picked up and I was very curious and intrigued to see how everything would fit together -- but this sense of suspense and mystery was strongest at the beginning of the book, and it got less and less compelling as the book went on -- which I'm pretty sure is the opposite of how it's supposed to work. And the overall conspiracy/message/etc. just ended up feeling so convoluted that by the end I had trouble caring enough to hold it all together. It wasn't a horrible book, but it just felt a bit too much like Silicon Valley (the place, not the show) fan-fiction to me.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-03-11 20:24
Black Wave, Michelle Tea
Black Wave - Michelle Tea

The more I read (and watch movies and TV), the more I value encountering something unlike anything else I ever have before. Black Wave, by Michelle Tea, immersed me in a world new to me in several ways.

 

Though there are occasionally individual queer characters in the books I read, I haven't read much queer lit where a larger community is represented, especially queer women. Black Wave is set in San Francisco in the 90s at the start, an alternative past where gentrification has strangled most of the culture(s) from the city. In addition, the world appears to be ending due to advanced climate change: it's dangerous to be out in the sun even incidentally, the ocean is a trash wave, many animals are extinct, and invasive species have overtaken the dying native flora. In other words, the environment's death mirrors a cultural and, as is soon apparent, a personal one.

 

The protagonist, Michelle (like the author), is in her later twenties, and is the kind of addict who tells herself she's not because she doesn't shoot heroin but snorts it and is able to keep her job at a bookstore. She falls in love (or becomes infatuated) easily and hooks up with many of the women who come into her orbit, despite being in a "steady" relationship with a partner more stable than she is. At one point the point of view shifts from Michelle's to her girlfriend's, who thinks she's a sociopath.

 

That feels pretty accurate, but one of the amazing things about Black Wave is that despite Michelle's objectively unlikable character, I still felt very much invested in her. In part this is due to the humor and energy of the writing. For example:

 

Michelle seemed more like some sort of compulsively rutting land mammal, a chimera of dog in heat and black widow, a sex fiend that kills its mate. Or else she was merely a sociopath. She was like the android from Blade Runner who didn’t know it was bad to torture a tortoise. She had flipped [her girlfriend] Andy onto her belly in the Armageddon sun and left her there, fins flapping.

 

I may also personally respond to Michelle because she's a writer, one who's even published and had a sort of local fame. Around the midpoint of the book when she moves to L.A., the narrative is deconstructed as she attempts to write a new book. It becomes clear that not everything we've read so far is as it happened. Another aspect I liked is that somehow this sudden shift doesn't feel like a trick as can happen in many modernist and post-modernist writing and metafiction. How and why I don't know, but after some minor readjustment on my part as a reader, I was still invested.

 

I've often noted what a structure fanatic I am, and the last major selling point of Black Wave is the way it beautifully spins out in the last third.

 

Tangents were Michelle’s favorite part of writing, each one a declaration of agency: I know I was going over there but now I’m going over here, don’t be so uptight about it, just come along. A tangent was a fuckup, a teenage runaway. It was a road trip with a full tank of gas. You can’t get lost if you don’t have anywhere to be. This was writing for Michelle: rule free, glorious, sprawling.

 

As the world ends, people begin dreaming vividly and lucidly about others who exist in the real world, all over the world. They're dreams of connection and love where identity is fluid, and some begin living in them, like Michelle's bosses at the bookstore who hand over the business to her. So the world ends, but somehow Michelle's in a good place, and so was I.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-03-09 21:56
Hag-Seed
Hag-Seed - Margaret Atwood

Hag-Seed is Margaret Atwood's entry in the "novelists take on Shakespeare's plays" lineup, and is her take on The Tempest.

 

Felix, the director of a Canadian theater festival, and a lover of Shakespeare, is planning his latest extravaganza: a production of The Tempest, starring a teenaged gymnast as Miranda.  And then he finds his assistant has betrayed him and taken his job.  His daughter, Miranda, has just died, at age 3.  He is a broken man.

 

And so, using an assumed name ("Mr. Duke"), he goes off into the wilderness to become a hermit, living only with the spirit of his dead daughter.  After a while, he revives enough to stalk his former assistant on the internet, as the latter goes from success to success.  He also eventually becomes the leader of an inmate rehabilitation program, teaching literacy and job skills, down at the local prison. 

 

His teaching method: staging Shakespeare.  The prisoners are both cast and crew (the "job skills" part) for plays like MacBeth and Julius Caesar.  His next production: The Tempest.

 

And then he finds out his former assistant, now a government minister, is going to be attending the performance.  And a plan forms in his mind.  One that will involve some of the special skills of his cast, who include pickpockets, ex gang enforcers, black hat hackers, and a crooked accountant.

 

I dithered between giving this 3.5 and 4 stars.  The writing is pure Atwood.  The plot, however - it's that fourth act that gives me pause.  Is it as good as Oryx and Crake or The Handmaid's Tale?  No.  Is it still an interesting and entertaining novel?  Yes, absolutely.

More posts
Your Dashboard view:
Need help?