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text 2018-04-18 20:27
Reading progress update: I've read 333 out of 333 pages.
Circe - Madeline Miller

I´m not impressed.

 

[Source]

 

It´s the second book written by Madeline Miller I have read and contrary to everyone else (there are tons of five star reviews on goodreads), this book didn´t work for me. It´s not a boring story, it´s just completely bland and uninteresting.

 

 

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review 2018-03-30 00:04
White Tears, by Hari Kunzru
White Tears - Hari Kunzru

It was difficult to read the first half or so of this book because the protagonist (Seth) and his best (and only) friend (Carter) are aggravatingly ignorant of their appropriation of black culture. They're even more offensive for thinking they're woke or genuine in their fetishistic consumption of the rarest blues, at least in Carter's case. Seth is less than sympathetic in his own distinct way; he's such a follower that he barely has a personality of his own. As little as I could bear the privileged Carter, Seth is consequently even harder for me to care about given that he follows Carter like a puppy. I don't know what to make of the fact that both have or have had mental health issues. And I don't know what to make of Seth's thing for Carter's sister.

 

I patiently waited for these guys to get some sort of comeuppance. When it came, it was a whirlwind of genres, a mishmash of past and present, a blurring of identities. Formally, stylistically, this novel took off, grabbing me by the collar. It was hard to put down. I hadn't known what to expect at the beginning, which is a gift for a reader. I do think at times the cues or signals were overdone; we could have been better trusted to follow the shifts in time and perspective. But what a ride.

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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. 

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review 2018-03-08 02:30
A historical fairy tale that has gone straight on to my favorites list, and I’m not usually big on fairy tales OR mermaids! Christina Henry has written something special here
The Mermaid - Christina Henry

'The Mermaid' has immediately gone onto my favorites list, so I can tell you right away that this book is an absolute treat.
When I grabbed my early copy of it at Emerald City Con at the weekend, I hadn't heard it was coming out, so I certainly didn't harbor any expectations for it, and to be honest, I'm not even a big fan of fairytale retellings. Plus I had to dispel any recent images of killer mermaids I still had in my head after reading 'Into the Drowning Deep’ by Mira Grant, and I thought this would be the perfect way to do that.

'The Mermaid' is a historical fairy tale about a mermaid who wasn't content enough with life in the ocean so she decided that life on land, with a man called Jack, who she feels is the love of her life, was where she needed to be. Amelia was able to come and go from the sea as she pleased, and it seemed as though her life was everything she needed it to be...until Jack grew old (and she didn't). She was then discovered by the great P.T. Barnum. The same P.T. Barnum of Barnum & Bailey Circus Company, who is famous for coining the phrase "There's a sucker born every minute."

That's where Amelia's life completely changed, and the story of the mermaid becomes loosely based off the 'Feejee Mermaid' hoax that Barnum orchestrated. Author Christina Henry obviously did a lot of research to include details about Joice Heth and Tom Thumb (reading the novel will make this all clear!); I found all of this, and all Barnum's various 'humbugs' to be absolutely fascinating (and shocking).

Through the eyes of Amelia, who is essentially a stranger, 'an alien' to this foreign modern world that is New York circa 1840, she questions all sorts of things: why wear all the silly trappings of clothes, why are women not afforded the same rights as men, why are animals treated so poorly, why are people who are not white or Christian 'savages', and so on. And she dares to question her new 'employer' Barnum*, who basically is raking in the dough with her mermaid exhibit.
*I have no idea what to make of P.T.Barnum as a person or character, but Henry does say this rendition is the one that suits her story.

There is so much to love about this book: the wonderful characters who fit within the actual mold that was cast, but who now have been brought to life, the writing of Henry's that seems to flow so beautifully and seems so befitting of the time, and all the questions and ideas that spring off the pages through the character of the mermaid Amelia.
And then there's the idea of the mermaid herself, something we think we have an idea about, and here it is done again; I felt like what I was reading was subtle and ethereal, and in the way that that Amelia was trying to show her reality within the book to others, I was being made to believe it too. There are also themes of sadness, loss, and longing, new love, and acceptance, in the book, and I felt those emotions from the characters clearly. It was wonderful to read all of that and move along with the feelings like waves.

Absolutely wonderful book. I already want to own whatever special edition is made. And the Funko Pop.

I received free books from Penguin Random House in exchange for this review. Thank you!

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review 2018-03-05 03:03
Suspend your disbelief for this wild novel about a girl with healing powers who kickstarts the apocalypse; also takes on topics like suicide and bullying
The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza - Shaun David Hutchinson

I wanted to read this crazy book from the moment I read the synopsis, and a kind soul surprised me with a pre-order of it.
It’s the sort of book that you’ll either be stoked, like me, when you get your hands on it, or one that you will steer clear of because it’s way too outlandish. And that’s because if you fully intend to immerse yourself in a book where a young girl called Elena Mendoza exists because she is the product of a virgin birth (parthenogenesis), it means suspending your disbelief (a lot), but not reading if you are prone to seeing that very premise alone as blasphemous.

The concept of the book becomes even more interesting after Elena realizes she has the gift of healing people, but she discovers this only after her crush, Freddie, is shot outside the Starbucks she works at. Big problem with this though: innocent people are ‘raptured’ every time Elena heals someone, and the number grows the longer she does it, and she has inanimate objects telling her she must do these healings. Not to mention that this all kicked off the apocalypse.
There’s so much else in here other than this wild story though, that will have the reader thinking all the way through. Having the main character as a bisexual girl of Cuban descent (kudos to Hutchinson) struggling with the ‘voices’, dealing with bullies, and her feelings toward her crush (who honestly isn’t very nice to her), there are a whole host of teenage issues even without the impending apocalypse and feeling like an outcast because she’s a product of a virgin birth. There are also lots of other things brought up such as grief, suicide, gun use, and ultimately the fate of the world becomes the final big conversation.

It’s hard not to read this and not have yourself thinking about how Elena is ‘playing God’ and also about how the world might end. So you can read this and think about how silly it is that Elena is hearing a voice coming from the siren on the Starbucks cup, but you can also appreciate that there are some big questions and topics that Hutchinson is tackling within this wonderful, thought-provoking novel. Sometimes you have to tackle the big subjects within these parameters because otherwise they’re even more overwhelming!
My only major issues with the book were with some passages that seemed to drag that made pacing odd, and a little bit of preachiness at the end. Overall though, this is a wonderfully-written, decidedly different and fun YA novel. A unique read!

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