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review 2018-09-01 13:27
Nightmare and Paranoia Fuel
The Yellow Wallpaper - Charlotte Perkins Gilman,Elaine Hedges

*whines* It's still miserable, windy winter here!! How do I combat the chills this induced? *shudder*

 

Whenever I read stories like this, I remember that quote "novels win by points, short stories by knock outs". I know I was already whimpering one page in. I finished with a wiki-walk and... How come every interpretation is so... mild? compassionate? forgiving?... of the husband?

 

I get time and society marching on, and symbolism, but how come picking the barred, dreary, ex-nursery with mismatched furniture and a purposely for that visit nailed down bed makes any but malicious sense?

 

No monster, no gore, but hell, psychological mind-fucks will forever get me shivering

 

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review 2018-08-24 22:03
POV's and unheard voices
The Penelopiad - Margaret Atwood

For such a short thing, it certainly packed a punch.

 

Between the unreliable but scathing narrator and the creepy chorus, I found myself running the whole gamut of reactions, from laughter to shudders.

 

It was an interesting way of taking a stab at all the bits of the Odyssey that make you look askance and wonder.

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review 2018-08-21 23:18
Dear RJ Scott...
Second Chance Ranch - RJ Scott

Could you please, kindly stop making me cry first thing in the morning...yep, once again I started my day in tears because of you.

 

But while we're at it thanks for making some of them happy tears that helped a lot...

 

full review to follow soonish!

 

‘Second Chance Ranch’ is the 5th book in R.J. Scott’s Montana series and for me it was also the ultimate in 2nd  chance stories. While I’ve enjoyed all of the stories in this series and this may have been the 5th book in the series it’s absolutely #1 as my favorite book of the series so far.

 

We’ve seen glimpses of Rob in some of the previous books he was a part of the Justin’s life during his missing years…a part that Justin never wanted to see again, but things have changed for Rob and he’s in desperate need of help and with Justin being the closest thing he has to a friend…where else can he go?

 

And we’ve seen glimpses of Aaron in previous stories as well…Aaron is one of the Carter brothers, there are 5 in total…there’s Sheriff Ryan Carter, we met him as one of the MCs in ‘Snow in Montana’, along with Jason the fire fighter, Karl the owner of Carters (the local bar/pub) and Eddie the accountant. I know after 3 adrenalin junkies and the owner of the local night life hotspot…an accountant seems a bit bizarre, but it is what it is. You’re probably thinking so why does this matter but trust me on this one it matters because all of these people matter to some degree, at some point in one or more of these stories and as well as being Aaron and Rob’s story there’s another story playing out in the background for another one of the Carter brothers.

 

Overall in this series we actually have 4 families who are central to this series the Todds, the Allens and the Strachans, the 3 families that founded/own/manage ‘Crooked Tree Ranch’ and the Carters whose family may not be a part of the ranch but are very much a part of the Crooked Tree family all the same.

 

In each of the books in this series we’ve been given the answers to a bigger mystery one that began when the men in these stories were very young and now with this 5th installment in the Montana series we get a story that’s come full circle…what started on The Crooked Tree Ranch has come back as Rob comes to the ranch looking for help for himself and his nephews.

 

Rob’s plan is to make sure his nephews have a home, a place where they’ll be safe and then his list is finished, and he’ll be disappearing for the last time, except by the time he’s ready to go it’s to late and all Aaron wants is for him to stay…ok, that pretty much sets the scene now for the important stuff…

 

This book…I don’t even know where to begin with this one. I was neither expecting nor was I prepared for how many feelz were in this story. I’m not even going to go into the how’s or whys of it but this one kind of crept up on me with how much it made my heartache. I really liked both Rob and Aaron from the minute they first met. Their interactions felt good, right…natural.  There was snark so much awesome snark…sorry, I’m a fan of this and with these two if it had been any different I think I would have been disappointed.

 

While I’ve enjoyed all of the stories in this series with ‘Second Chance Ranch’ R.J. Scott has brought this one to life for me in a way that hadn’t happened yet and she made me cry…seriously there was me lying in bed early in the morning thinking I don’t feel like getting up yet, I’ll just quietly lie here and read. I can be nice and let the hubby sleep and that’s what I did…until…that’s right until the tears started the big ugly, gulping sobbing tears that I had to try and stifle so that I wouldn’t wake people up and then when I’d almost got them under control the other tears started…you know the ones I mean, the ones that are streaming down your face while you’re sitting there holding your breath whispering ‘yes, yes, thank you so much.’ because the author…that person who could have left you broken with your sadness has fixed you…so, thank you R.J. not for making me cry those ugly tears but for remembering to fix me.

 

‘Second Chance Ranch’ is for me the best one yet but only if you read it last.

 

*************************

 

An ARC of Second Chance Ranch was graciously provided by the author in exchange for an honest

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review 2018-08-20 12:16
For lovers of poetic prose, complex narration and unique voices, a book about faith, guilt, and identity
The Incendiaries - R.O. Kwon

Thanks to NetGalley and to Grace Vincent, on behalf of Virago, Little Brown Book Group UK, for providing me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review. Thanks also for the opportunity to take part in the blog tour for the launch of the novel, the first book published by R.O. Kwon, and I’m sure it won’t be the last.

This novel describes the attempts by one of its protagonists, Will Kendall, of making sense and understanding the events that have led to his girlfriend’s, Phoebe Lin, participation in a horrific event. As often happens in novels with a narrator (or several), no matter what the story is about, the book often ends up becoming a search for understanding and meaning, not only of the events that form the plot but also of the actual narrator. Why is s/he telling that particular story? And why is s/he telling that story in that particular way? This novel is no different, although the manner the story is told can, at times, work as a smokescreen, and we don’t know exactly who is telling what, and how accurate he or she might be.

On the surface, the novel is divided into chapters, each one headed by one of three characters, John Leal (this one written in the third person and always quite brief), Phoebe (written in the first person), and Will, also written in the first person. At first, it’s possible to imagine that Phoebe’s chapters have been written by her, but later, we notice intrusions of another narrator, a narrator trying to imagine what she might have said, or to transcribe what she had said, or what she was possibly thinking or feeling at certain times. As we read this book, that is quite short notwithstanding the seriousness of the subjects it deals in, we come to realise that the whole novel is narrated by Will, who, after the fact, is trying to make sense of what happened, by collecting information and remembering things, and also by imagining what might have gone on when he was not present. He acknowledges he might be a pretty unreliable narrator, and that is true, for a variety of reasons, some of which he might be more aware than others.

The novel is about faith, about finding it, losing it, and using it as a way to atone and to find meaning, but also as a way to manipulate others. It is about love, that can be another aspect of faith, and they seem to go hand in hand in Will’s case. He discovered his Christian faith in high school, in part as a refuge from his terrible family life, and lost it when it did not live up to his expectations (God did not give him a sign when he asked for one). He moved out of Bible School and into Edwards, and there he met Phoebe, a girl fighting her own demons, a very private person who did not share her thoughts or guilt with anybody. Will falls in love with her and transfers his faith and obsession onto her. But she is also unknowable, at least to the degree he wishes her to be open and understandable for him, and she becomes involved in something that gives meaning to her life, but he cannot truly become a part of. He abandoned his faith, but he seems less likely and able to do so with his belief in her.

The novel is also about identity. The three main characters, and many others that appear in the book do not seem to fully fit in anywhere, and try different behaviours and identities for size. Will invents a wealthy family who’ve lost it all, to fit into the new college better; Phoebe hides details of her past and her wealth, and is Korean but knows hardly anything about it and John Leal… Well, it’s difficult to know, as we only get Will’s point of view of him, but he might, or might not, have totally invented a truly traumatic past to convince the members of what becomes his cult, to follow him.

The language used varies, depending on what we are reading. The dialogue reflects the different characters and voices, whilst the narrator uses sometimes very beautiful and poetic language that would fit in with the character (somebody who had been proselytizing, who was used to reading the Bible, and who tried to be the best scholar not to be found out). Also, he tends to use that language when remembering what his girlfriend had told him or imagining what John Leal might have said as if he remembered her as more beautiful, more eloquent, and more transcendent than anybody else. This is a book of characters (or of a character and his imaginings and the personas he creates for others he has known) and not a page-turner driven by plot. The story is fascinating and horrifying but we know from early on (if not the details, we have an inkling of the kind of thing that will happen) where we are going, and it’s not so much the where, but the how, that is important. The book describes well —through the different characters— student life, the nature of friendships in college, and some other serious subjects are hinted at but not explored in detail (a girl makes an accusation of rape, and she is not the only victim of such crime, there is prejudice, mental illness, drug use, abortion…).

I read some reviews that felt the description or the blurb were misleading, as it leads them to expect a thriller, and the book is anything but. I am not sure if there must have been an earlier version of the blurb, but just in case, no, this book is not a thriller. It’s a very subjective book where we come to realise we have spent most of the time inside of the head of one single character. Nonetheless, it offers fascinating insights into faith, the nature of obsession, and what can drive people to follow a cult and to become strangers to themselves and to those they love.

The ending is left open (if we accept the narrator’s point of view, although there is an option of closure if we don’t) and I was impressed by one of the longest acknowledgements I’ve ever read. It hints not only of a grateful writer attentive to detail but also of a book which has undergone a long process and many transformations before getting into our hands.

A couple of examples of the poetic language in the book:

Punch-stained red cups split underfoot, opening into plastic petals. Palms open, she levitated both hands.

The nephilim at hand, radiant galaxies pirouetting at God’s command. Faith lifted mountains. Miracles. Healings.

Not a light or easy read, but a book for those eager to find a new voice and to explore issues of faith, love, identity. Oh, and for those who love an unreliable narrator. A first book of what promises to be a long and fascinating literary career.

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review 2018-08-18 16:38
The examination of others that leads to the self
Invisible Man - Ralph Ellison

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison is another title from the list of 100 books compiled for the Great American Read. (Have you voted today?) I feel somewhat chagrined that I had never heard of this classic until I checked out this list. The reader follows a nameless narrator who tells the story of his days in college while living in the South to his move to New York City. As this is set in 1930-40 the racial/social divide is still quite stark even in the North and the author doesn't pull any punches in that regard (i.e. expect violence). The beginning starts out with our narrator underground and in hiding although we have no idea why. In explanation, he weaves a story full of brutality, bigotry, backstabbing, and political machinations. He leaves college and goes to NYC where he is recruited into the Brotherhood which purports to strive for equality among all men regardless of race. Events unfold quickly and he fully believes and embraces the cause. The fomenting of racial riots are underway in Harlem (his district) and at this pivotal moment he is pulled out of his district and sent on another assignment downtown. The reader is kept on their toes and always wondering (as the narrator is) just which side is the "right" side and what is truly motivating the men he has come to trust in this (to him) foreign city. What is the "true" self and how does one embrace it? Invisible Man chews this question over while telling a story of one man coming to terms with the racism (both overt and covert) of society which is told so convincingly that you'll forget it's a work of fiction at times. This is a dense book and took me far longer to read than I expected. Several interesting points were made and quite a few powerful passages but overall it doesn't rate higher than a 6/10 for me.

 

A compelling and thought provoking point:

"For history records the patterns of men's lives, they say: Who slept with whom and with what results; who fought and who won and who lived to lie about it afterwards. ...only those events that the recorder regards as important that are put down, these lies his keepers keep their power by." - pg 439

 

There are quite a few covers but I like this one best.[Source: National Book Foundation]

 

 

What's Up Next: Comics Squad: Recess! by Jennifer L. Holm, Jarrett J. Krosoczka, Dan Santat, & Raina Telgemeier

 

What I'm Currently Reading: ???

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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