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review 2018-08-03 00:44
Bitter Orange - Claire Fuller

I received an ARC of this book for free from the publisher (Tin House Books) in exchange for an honest review. 

 

The best part of this book is the atmosphere that Claire Fuller creates with her prose. This book gave me the creeps which I wast totally not expecting. It was so eerie and I got a haunted house vibe from it at times. Fuller uses lush language to create an astonishing portrait of a crumbling English countryside mansion. She really makes the setting come alive and gives it a character of its own. 

 

As for the storyline, I didn’t find it to be as twisty as I had expected it to be. Some of the blurb reviews on the back made it seem like it was going to be shocking but it ended up being more subdued. The twists are more blink and you’ll miss rather than in your face. 

 

The three main characters were all very fascinating. They were all very nuanced and well crafted. However, I didn’t feel like I really got to fully know who Cara and Peter really were. I was waiting for a big a-ha moment to come but it never really happened. I’m still left with a lot questions about their relationship and what really happened between them. 

 

Overall, this was a gorgeously written novel with dynamic characters, a stunning setting and an intriguing mystery.

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review 2018-07-03 03:58
A Clockwork Orange -- wow.
A Clockwork Orange - Anthony Burgess

I'm now going to allow myself to see this film, now that I've read the entire book, including the redemption/change final chapter that was so gallingly removed from the US versions for so long. I've never seen Kubrick's film because I knew I wanted to read the book first. This is marked as "dystopia" and I'm having a bit of trouble differentiating it from regular old life.. Not sure what that says about me.

 

For some reason the entire time I read this - from the very first scene, I kept thinking "what if these were girls?," "What if Alex was an Alexa?" (or just a female Alex, actually.) Every section I saw both the way Burgess wrote it and then I'd sit back and wonder how it would be perceived if the narrator was female. Would this be a classic novel if Alex was a 17/18-year-old girl? And what would we think of the Ludovico technique if it was used on a girl? I mean, we do use this technique - not exactly, but some very similar techniques, for various reasons still (as troublesome as that is.) I'll let you all play that little gender game on your own, but I couldn't stop doing it (which is sort of maddening, actually.) 

 

I've only read two other books by Anthony Burgess (Earthly Powers and A Dead Man in Deptford.) From what I've read, he could probably easily have written this with a female narrator - he was versatile. His introduction to this corrected American edition is pretty awesome all by itself, and he shares that this is not one of his favorite works.

 

I'm actually just sort of gobsmacked by this novel. I have no idea how much I liked or disliked it. I don't know that I felt like or dislike, but I'm really really glad to have read this story because it's just amazingly original -- despite having read many rip-offs, and the ethical questions are overwhelming. I'll be puzzling through them for quite some time, actually. 

 

I'm glad the final chapter was included in the version I bought (I'd been trying to buy it for a while and kept ending up w/ old copies that lacked the final metanoia.) I've had a period of life-change come from pure exhaustion myself. I wasn't murdering people, but I was not doing good things either. There is a point when the trouble to make trouble (for oneself or others) actually can just be too much. 

 

Oh, I have so many thoughts on this & I'm too beat to write more tonight. I wanted a place-holder b/c I finished another book too, and this needs to come before it in my blog.  I'll try to rent the film by next week, & maybe I'll amend this with a book/film review.

 

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review 2018-06-07 04:02
Great surprise
There There - Tommy Orange

I loved this & wrote a review last night in the wee hours (I should look at the typing...)

 

Today I learned that I'm getting a SIGNED FIRST EDITION in the mail! I'd borrowed my copy from the library, and I seriously argued with myself about buying my own copy after loving it so much (I do this with books I love sometimes.) I was forcing myself to wait a year, then today I learned that I am getting a copy of it -- a signed copy too!

 

Yay

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review 2018-06-06 08:18
There There by Tommy Orange - Urban Indians and lost connections
There There - Tommy Orange

If this is what Tommy Orange writes for his debut, we have a major talent writing right now. My copy of There There arrived today. It's nearly 3 AM, and I just finished. No food, no sleep; I couldn't put this book down.

"This there there. He hadn’t read Gertrude Stein beyond the quote. But for Native people in this country, all over the Americas, it’s been developed over, buried ancestral land, glass and concrete and wire and steel, unreturnable covered memory. There is no there there."


That title gathers more meaning with every character, chapter and section. By the end the weight of not knowing exactly who you are or where you come from is a heavy weight even for a reader. All the characters have different experiences and difficulties, but they are all in search of connection to their own community, and none seem sure they belong to that community or if that community will allow them to belong to it. What is the character with an advanced degree in Native American Studies to do when he can't find a job? What about someone born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome who wears his face as a constant reminder? What about native peoples who have to learn all of their heritage and how to practice it from YouTube or Google searches? Beyond poverty, unemployment, far too much alcoholism, there is death, devastation and a lot of shame in these characters. While they don't rise above in Hollywood ways, getting through the day - learning and growing and putting one foot in front of the other - while continuing to strive for that connection is pretty triumphant. 

The characters are fully realized. We know why they do what they do, and we get a sense of how they feel about their current and past selves. It takes a minute but we understand their connections to each other better than they do by the end of the novel. We also get a sense of how these people came to be so broken from the proud nations that the Americas have systematically wiped out. What is most clear is that the bloodbath that came to America with the first settlers has left a never-ending trail of trauma. And in case we might miss it from just the stories, there's one of the best essays -- seemingly well-researched and certainly well-written that pulls no punches right in the beginning of the novel. While the characters don't escape unscathed, neither will a reader. In writing this so openly and leaving the sharp edges intact, Mr. Orange has held a mirror up to the Americas - whether the reader is indigenous or not.

There are many major characters in this novel, all in various stages of heading to the Oakland Powwow. While some have visited a Reservation, they are mostly urban or suburban and none seem fully connected to their native culture. This isn't a reservation story or a historical account. These indigenous people live in the here and now, in the cities (mostly Oakland) and do all of the things everyone else in the city does, including riding the subway and not dressing up (except maybe on the day of the Powwow.) At first they don't seem to be related, but as the chapters and parts of the book move along, their connections become clear and that broke my heart even more. Missed connections, searching out parents or grandchildren you've never known, searching for yourself - all of these are explored and there are no pat answers. In fact, the book ends on one of the most wistful non-answers in recent memory. I love a book that refuses to put a pretty bow on top, and had Mr. Orange packaged the ending that way, everything that came before would have been cheapened.

What you get here is a journey, good stories, interesting characters, but no perfect answers. How could there be perfect answers to such a long history of carnage and stolen identity?

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review 2018-04-13 15:58
A Crown of Bitter Orange (La Vie en Roses Book 3) - Laura Florand

Tristan is the youngest of the Rosiers and he is known as the fun loving guy, always ready with a smile and to brighten people's day. Malorie is from a rival perfume family that is almost extinct and she has come back to France to handle her recently deceased grandmother's property. Malorie and Tristan have known each other since they were in grade school together. Tristan has had feelings for her his whole life but when she up and disappeared after graduation he wasn’t sure he would ever see her again. She has made something of her life and has tried to put her family’s shame behind her but now being home is bringing back dreams she didn’t realize she had - to resurrect her family’s legacy in the perfume world. When Tristan walks back into her life things are a bit rocky but Tristan sees it as the opportunity to finally win her. She finds it hard to believe Tristan’s sincerity because of her family’s history, but he is persistent and works his way back into her heart. The problem lies with the fact that he is keeping a pretty big secret from her and when she finds out she can’t help but think of how her father treated her mother. I enjoyed their story a lot, it was sweet and romantic, steady, and well-developed.  Tristan is such an easy kind of guy to like; his personality really jumps off the page. The cousins are such fun male-leads and the setting is romance personified. Great books, easy to get engrossed in, and I like that there are more in the series. So delicious.

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