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review 2018-12-10 19:34
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
Little Fires Everywhere - Celeste Ng

I enjoyed this book. It’s quick, relatively light compared to a lot of my reading, and shows a lot of compassion towards a wide variety of characters. I don’t think it digs quite deep enough to be literary fiction, though it’s certainly more intelligently written than a lot of the “suburban drama and social issues” books out there.

 

This book focuses on the drama growing out of the enmeshment of two families. The Richardsons are prominent citizens in their planned community of Shaker Heights, Ohio, who rent a home to struggling artist Mia and her teenage daughter Pearl. The Richardsons have four teenagers of their own, all of whom are drawn to Mia or Pearl or both. But Elena Richardson, the mother, starts digging into Mia’s past when a controversial adoption case divides the town and the two women are on opposing sides. All of this leads to a conflagration, as we learn in the book’s first sentence.

 

What I most enjoyed about this book was its empathy and understanding toward its characters. Rather than painting people in black and white and dismissing some of them as just being lousy, it reaches out to turn everyone’s viewpoint into a sympathetic one. The omniscient narrator dips into the heads of even minor characters, which works well, drawing a full picture of events that allows readers a greater understanding than any individual character possesses. And the level of empathy is particularly noticeable around the adoption case, where the author shows an understanding of both the poor, desperate immigrant mother who abandoned her baby in a dark moment and the loving couple that want to adopt her despite their contented ignorance about her birth culture.

 

And yet, there’s still a certain remove from the characters that left me frustrated. If only the book had dug one layer deeper with the protagonists, I think this would have been a great novel. Perhaps it’s the amount of narrative summary (though there’s still a lot of scenes and dialogue) or the omniscient narrator (though that works well in many books) or the cramming of six or so “main” characters along with many more of lesser importance into a novel of average length rather than focusing on one or two protagonists (though again, this has been done successfully).

 

Or maybe it’s that certain moments don’t ring true.

The younger teens’ successful revenge on the bullying orchestra teacher reads like pure wish-fulfillment fantasy. Trip and Pearl’s relationship doesn’t quite ring true, and for that matter her friendship with Moody didn’t quite make sense to me either, probably because we don’t really see them together after their first meeting. Elena’s pursuit of Mia’s past also seems a bit over-the-top: Elena is initially presented as a principled woman, though somewhat blinded by her privilege, and her lack of qualms about her methods (as well as the fact that it was sparked simply by Mia’s telling Bebe about her daughter’s whereabouts – which weren’t exactly a secret) didn’t seem quite believable. And of course there’s the absurdity of the wealthy New York couple whose choice of a surrogate is a struggling college student picked up on the subway simply because she resembles the wife: I realize surrogacy wasn’t common in 1981, but common sense could still have told them that a girl who has never given birth before and is backed into a financial corner might have a change of heart about giving up her baby. And finally, the photographs Mia leaves behind, speaking on a deep level to each of the Richardsons, seemed to me a cliché but not very believable gesture.

(spoiler show)

 

At any rate, I enjoyed my time with this, though it didn’t rock my world. I would consider reading more from this author.

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review 2018-11-18 00:44
The Fires of Autumn
The Fires of Autumn - Irène Némirovsky

THE NEGOTIATIONS FOR the aeroplane parts that had begun in 1936 were only concluded two years later: the engineers had stated that the American parts were not suitable for French planes. The question was discussed in Parliament. ‘I’ll deal with Parliament,’ Raymond Détang had said. ‘We’ll sort it out one morning when the benches are empty. We won’t allow those troublemakers to prevent us from making a pretty packet. Why should I worry about the engineers? They’re specialists, and specialists only ever see their side of a problem. This is much greater, on a much bigger scale than they could imagine.

I have not read Nermirovsky's Suite Francaise. To be honest, the hype around the book put me off. However, I did watch the movie (because, erm, Kristin Scott Thomas...) and have been intrigued by Nemirovsky's writing ever since. Just not about Suite Francaise, which by now would be rather pointless because the plot no longer holds any interest for me.

 

Anyway. I picked up The Fires of Autumn from the library and once I started reading, I was drawn deeply into the world of Nemirovsky's Paris of the early part of the 20th century. The book started out as a family saga and a portrait of Paris society but then the plot turned into the war years (WWI) and we saw the characters develop by having to deal with the war and the emergence of the inter-war society with its decadence and thrills, and yet, the undercurrent of doom. 

Eventually, the characters are thrown into the next war. And this is where I found the book utterly gripping. 

The book was written in 1940 and, as we know, Nemirovsky never saw the end of the war. So, her descriptions of the life in France during the war, her descriptions of the war from the perspective of the soldiers are written by someone who didn't know which way the war was going to end. There is no all-knowing perspective and no hindsight, and this makes the writing very, very tense in the final chapters. Tense but not hopeless.

 

While I love a book that thrives on plot, this is not the case with The Fires of Autumn. The book thrives on the characters and the description of the changing times that the characters act within, and still, it was a fascinating read.

THE ARMY WAS beaten in Flanders, beaten at Dunkirk, beaten on the banks of the Aisne. There were no supplies left. It was only the civilians who clung to insurmountable hope in their hearts; in the cafés in the Lot-et-Garonne, they even tried to establish an imaginary line of defence south of the Loire, but the soldiers no longer had any illusions. The soldiers knew that the army had lost; they could even see the day approaching when there would be no more army, when amid the mass of an entire population in flight, soldiers would disappear, just as the debris of a ship sinks to the bottom of the sea during a storm.

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text 2018-07-25 09:08
NBtM, EXCERPT, GUEST POST & #GIVEAWAY - Forbidden Fires by Bobbi Smith
Forbidden Fires (Love Spell historical romance) - Bobbi Smith

Bobbi will be awarding $10 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

 

When Ellen Douglass saves the Union officer from the cold river, she doesn't think this one action will so alter her future. But as Price holds her is his arms, they try to forget that they fight on opposing sides and will be kept forever apart.

Source: archaeolibrarianologist.blogspot.com/2018/07/nbtm-excerpt-guest-post-giveaway.html
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review 2018-07-23 05:27
The Fires of Heaven, The Wheel of Time #5
The Fires of Heaven: Book Five of 'The Wheel of Time' - Robert Jordan

Jordan's epic continues to thrive, but there are signs of it faltering under its weight. 'Fires of Heaven' finds our victorious Nynaeve, Elayne, Thom, and Julien making their way out of Tarabon assured that they had left it better than they found it. Alas....but that's another plot-line. Nynaeve is hardly a fan favorite, but I've always liked her and a tonal shift in her narration is Nynaeve at her most enjoyable. She also scores a major personal victory.

Anyway, Rand, Jasin, Mat, Aviendha, Moiraine, and Lan are headed out of the Waste after the villainous Shaido, who have quickly become a menace to the 'treekiller' nation of Carhien and everything and everyone else they run into. The changes to Mat and Moiraine's characters are particularly noteworthy.

Perrin, Loial, Faile and Three Aiel....nothing. They don't appear, so readers must presume that domestic bliss and the flowering of the Two Rivers just wasn't interesting enough. Considering how toxic Faile and Perrin's relationship can be...I probably agree with Jordan on that.

Min, Siuan, Leane and Logain are still traveling incognito to find where rebel Aes Sedai may be gathering, but run afoul of someone who could help their plans or simply drag them back to a farm in chains.

Meanwhile, in Caemlyn, some really icky stuff is going on, and one of the most depressing character arcs in the series is swanning on down into the mud.

That last may be why this book has some tarnish. I've been loving the reread much more than I anticipated, but there's no getting around some unpleasant and barely plot-necessary happenings. Then again, the series still has some great moments (I for one loved the circus), more information from the Forsaken, big sea-change moments as Rand achieves more victories and yet also suffers great losses, and another spectacular finish. Though the plot-lines no longer converge, Jordan had a knack for pulling together enough of his plots to make gripping reading.

The Wheel of Time

Next: 'Lord of Chaos'

Previous: 'The Shadow Rising'

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