Sunday, May 28, 2017

Review: Before We Were Yours

Before We Were Yours Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"Before We Were Yours" tells a horrifying story based Georgia Tann and The Tennessee Children's home which she used as a mean for child trafficking starting from the Depression era through 1950 when she died. Through a dual timelines one starting in 1939 and current day the author tells the tale that connects a dynastic American political family, to the 9 children of a impoverished family of river folk who were stolen away from their parents, how they were separated and how they fought to be reunited. Ms. Wingate paints an extremely realistic portrayal of how actual children were taken from their families and sold as property while authorities were either corruptly involved or chose to look the other way. Masterfully "Before We Were Yours" hurdles the reader through the historical ugliness of the past and current day and subtly questions character of any society that turns it's back on or take advantage of it's weakest and least powerful members whether they be children, the elderly, the disabled, or the poor. This is my first experience reading Ms. Wingate's work and I was thoroughly impressed by this powerful story and look forward to diving into the author's back list.

View all my reviews

Friday, May 26, 2017

Review: Beartown

Beartown Beartown by Fredrik Backman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fredrik Backman was already my official favorite new (to me) author for 2017 and with the release of Beartown he continues to strongly hold on to that title and all its prestige. *snort* Beartown is written with in the no-frills yet beautiful voice that is recognizably unique to Backman. He has such an incredible talent for simultaneously tapping into the best and worst of humanity. I know of no other author whose characters can inspire readers even as you feel the plot snowballing towards tragedy. Beartown tells an all too common story of good and evil, kindness and cruelty, loyalty and betrayal and how willingly people will abandon their moral character when times are hard and do what's right is the less appealing option. As with all of Mr Backman's previous novels I found myself in tears for at least 50% of this story. I couldn't recommend it more.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Review: Long Black Veil

Long Black Veil by Jennifer Finney Boylan
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

This novel was my first experience with the author's work and I was left with the sorts of mixed feelings I seem to keep encountering the more I branch out with reading author's new to me. There's a the part of me that sees the skill and is like "ok, yeah I understand why this person it writing books for a major publishing house the talent for storytelling has been witnessed. This ability is what kept this book from being unpleasant and it wasn't, at no point while reading 'A Long Black Veil' did I ever want to say "screw it" and leave it to sleep among my other DNF novels. It's also what leaves me open to the idea of reading some of the author's other work. That being said this particular novel did not work for me at all. It was just such an odd bizarre story. This book starts out feeling like a horror novel, the book blurb described it in a way that made me think it was suppose to psychological thriller type deal, it was actually mostly about gender identity and how someone handles who they were born as, who they once lived as, and who they've chosen to become.
There's also an abortion, a boy/man with a vaguely described developmental/neurological condition, a cop who was also a roofie rapist obsessed with a missing person/ murder, and another cop who is apparently so abhorrent at her job she thinks that a women found dead with her husband's pocket knife proves he murdered her because married people have each other's possessions on them? There's also a very sweet character who's obesity is repeatedly mentioned. None of these things actually have anything to do with the story and serve very little purpose. To me it felt as if the author attempted to hide the superficial nature of this stories smaller characters by assigning extreme events or off the wall characteristics to them. It ends up providing a distracting sense of absurdity to the story that didn't feel intentional. It was all just a little to chaotic and the aspects of the story just didn't meld well together.

View all my reviews

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Review: The Fever

The Fever by Megan Abbott
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Actual rating: 2.75 stars

Ok, so this book was pretty cray. In its defense I've read a few reviews where people seemed really angry/annoyed that this book wasn't a horror story and rated it very low based on that. I don't remotely understand that. I mean maybe they saw some type of marketing material or a different blurb than I did but I never got the impression this novel was intended to be "scary." Maybe a little creepy and murky but I certainly never got The Ring/The Grudge vibe from the cover or the blurb I read. So I guess that's a heads up for me.

Onto my thoughts about what was going on in this book... maybe... This is my second try at reading one of Ms. Abbot's novels. I wasn't able to get through Dare Me when I tried reading it, but I got through enough to recognize a theme in the author's fondness for writing about teenage girls and all the varieties bonkers they might be. For that matter all the parents seem to be varying levels of unhinged too. Just in their own parental sort of ways. On a positive note I did find this novel to be far more readable than "Dare Me." The author's writing is good and entertaining enough to keep me interested until the end. Although, I got to the end I wasn't entirely sure what the hell I was supposed to have gotten from everything I'd just read.

The main points of this novel seem to be

*Teenage girls are crazy with jealousy over their friends
*Other teenage girls are envy and trying to be like their friends
*Teenage girls will be jealous of their friends friendships with other friends.
*Girls will sleep with their friends hook ups out of jealousy.
*Teenage girls are fucking crazy.
*Teenage girls are so fucking crazy they will have literally have mass psychosis to the point of having seizures and hallucinations.
*Teenage boys are all horny heartless assholes (unless one of narrators) but they are not crazy and thus their maleness saves them from psychosomatic illnesses.
*Teenage girls are secretly every Victorian Era physicians wet dream with their very real "hysteria"
*teenage girls are insanely dangerously obsessive
*Lastly teenage girls might take the form of a sociopathic Stevie Nicks with scoliosis.

Meanwhile the parents are...
*anxious helicopter parents with a dash of anti-vaxxer hising in them
*Or hysterical men with internet connection
*Cocaine users who take claw hammers to their wives faces
*Negligent aunts and uncles on probation, have tinnitus, raise rattlesnakes, and have hooch fermenting in the house and yet still have custodial rights.
*Have affairs and leave their children and then don't bother to come check on them while girls are dropping like flies.

***Everyone in this town seems to be connected to a current of horniness.

Not entire certain how all these factors are meant to tie together to make an understandable story I think maybe the author is trying express a sense of mystery but by the end it just comes across as illogical. The author's writing style was still decently entertaining and did a good job of creating a setting for the story and a mood to match it.

Lastly, the story's conclusion contained the line "my Dad called her Rasputin." Which literally made me spit out laughter it was so unexpected and yet such an accurate description on the absurd level of abuse the author threw at a specific character. I gave the story extra points for wit flying in from left field.

View all my reviews

Friday, May 19, 2017

Review: All the Best People

All the Best People by Sonja Yoerg
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

"All the Best People" is a solidly good story. It kept me interested enough to stick with it to the end although I did struggle at the beginning a bit with the slow pace of the plot. The story time slips back and forth and bouncers around quite often between four female characters of the same family over three generations. Unfortunately I think the author could have cut back on some of the points of view or the number of individual stories that were going on in the novel. I feel like the book scurried over a lot of different topics that are all important and could all make really interesting good stories but all together it was to much for one book. Rather than giving each plot enough time and attention to supply a fulfilling novel. I kind of felt like I had a superficial introduction into a bunch of people's lives and they all happened to be each others relations but there was no strong thread binding these stories together.

View all my reviews

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Review: The Fall of Lisa Bellow

The Fall of Lisa Bellow by Susan Perabo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book. I liked it a lot. I was I liked it a lot. I'm generally not a fan of open-ended novels and usually find books that are intentionally ambiguous. I usually stick pretty firmly to the idea that if an author starts a story they better damn well finish it and if they are going to start a novel it should probably have some sort of point and the books that don't usually fall somewhere between obnoxious and pretentious. Obviously that is me broadly stereotyping but stereotypes exist for a reason and they don't deny the existence of outliers. "The Fall of Lisa Bellow" is an outlier. It is vague, and open-ended, and it doesn't tell a story so much as it stops in and watches one family and paints a portrait of a family living in the wake of two very different life altering traumas experienced by each of their children. This novel was a very quick read and written in a tone that is both haunting in it's simplistic while observing how complex it is to be human. How hard it is for a mother who's instinct is to fiercely protect her children only to have life show her how little say she has in the matter. A teenage girl who witnesses something extraordinarily awful happen to someone she didn't like on a very basic normal teenage level. The inner murkiness that results from guilt, guilt from being the one left behind, not knowing what to do with the hate she always had for her school's most popular, shallow, "mean girl" and the fact that the last thing she ever heard and saw that mean girl do was say words of kindness and attempt to give comfort. A brother/son trying to balance surviving his own traumatic freak occurrence while helping a little sister try to get through hers. A father who desperately wants to be able to make everything better with presents, hope, and optimism. "The Fall of Lisa Bellow" doesn't provide much in the way of neatly tied up ends but shows a beautiful example of human resilience and determination to move forward through life even if it's by way of a convoluted path.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Review: A Court of Wings and Ruin

A Court of Wings and Ruin A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Before I say anything else about the actual story. I just need to share my word woe with my fellow readers. Share just how much I despise the term "mate" as used in these books. It's a little inane and a lot petty and completely my own problem but sweet baby Jesus I just wanted scream everytime Feyre said or thought "my mate." That word makes me think of British guys kicking around a football and/or lesser life forms connecting in a sexual manner on instinct that helps insure the survival of their species not. (By lesser I mean having less capacity for emotional cognition than the humanoid peoples in this story. Not that they are worth less. I love animals!! ) Ok, I'm done with my rant. It had been building up for many chapters and it just had to be released. Now I will continue with an actual review covering more than a single word.

Ok, so I've had a complicated relationship with the ACOTAR trilogy... series. I loved the first installment thought it was a great story all around. Now, I didn't begin reading book one until after book 2 had been published and ACOWAR would be on its way pretty quickly. Anyway my point being I went directly from finishing ACOTAR to diving straight into ACOMAF. To say the least it was not an easy transition. I believe my brain was half trying to read the current story as it unfolded while simultaneously rhetorically questioning WTF? WTF? WTF? It didn't help that I had also read all the main novels in the Throne of Glass and was feeling some déjà vu going on only to a much larger extent.

Seriously though I was so annoyed and pissy while reading ACOMAF. In my opinion Ms. Maas is a very talented story weaver in many ways and I think I would have liked book 2 as much as I liked book 1 IF the novels had been completely unconnected and anyone but Feyre was the protagonist. Unfortunately Feyre was the protagonist and I was just so annoyed and appalled with her character. I mean we invest hours into this epic loves story where Feyre's love for Tamlin is so pure and true she's willingly fights through test and tribulations of biblical proportions. She's literally willing to go through hell AND back for this man, kill innocent people to free him. She fought through a demon hellscape and went up against lLady Sadist of Evil Mountain. After being absorbed into this story we then open book 2 and the author is all like JK. Feyre and Rhysand are soulmates. Me: WTF WTF WTF!?!?!

It left me feeling like Feyre was fickle and a completely unreliable narrator and kind of a really terrible disloyal person and I I felt like poor Tamlin's character was completely thrown under the bus in order to provide the reader with a way to justify Feyre's actions and have her still look like the victim. That there is an example of the one real issue I have with the author's writing in this series. In my personal opinion the sign of a great novelist/storyteller is to present the events and the characters in a realistic manner or at least a manner that flows naturally with the story. Flows without feeling the author's presence. If that makes sense. Sometimes when reading a story you can feel the author trying to manipulate the story and if Maas has one flaw as a writer it's that I felt her writing pushing me to see the characters in a certain way. I think I would have respected Feyre so much more if she had called a spade a spade and admitted that her feelings started changing and she started falling in love with someone else and she was selfishly fickle at times because she was human(ish) she was kinda a bitch because sometimes that how life pans out. Nope instead if felt like it was being shoved down our throats that Tamlin was a bad bad High Lord who did lots of bad things and treated Feyre in a manner the was degrading and completely out of character with his behavior throughout the entire first book. Just in case we still didn't accept that nothing Feyre does is out of her own imperfect moral character we get a beautiful obnoxious high priestess who really adds nothing to the story other than to show just how awful the Spring Court is when it's not cursed.

To be honest I also felt like this book was like 20% substance and 80% filler. That's not even necessarily an awful thing. When a writer is talented enough their storytelling can be entertaining even when it's not vital to the story. By the end of ACOWAR I did kind of feel like books 2 and 3 could have easily been one novel. As the author mentions at the end of the novel and must have announced at some point there will be spin off stories coming in the future and in my opinion that’s the real purpose this book served. Letting the author build backstories that eventually she will finish up in a novel(la.) Which would have been fine if it hadn't felt so forced and at times out of place. There's a section right before the stories climax really begins to kick in and I swear to God it went on for 20 pages. I have to assume the purpose of this section was to pave the way for Mor's story to be told but all I really got out of it was the author destroying my fondness for a character I was totally fine with one page earlier. Once again the author tries to force the reader to excuse someone's abhorrent behavior with a justifiable reasoning but it didn't fly with me at all. There's literally dialogue in this scene (paraphrasing) that goes down like this.
Mor: you must think I'm so horrible.
Feyre: not at al_
Me: shut up Feyre yes more I do think your awful. Everything you just blathered over the last 20 pages sounded like a self absorbed bs excuse to be a selfish bitch. I wish those 20 pages never happened.

I feel like I just spent this whole review complaining which is probably confusing since I would give this ACOWAR 3.5 stars if Goodreads would just set the 0.5 stars free. So I'm going to clarify that in spite of the little beefs I had with the overall story line here and there I still voluntarily read every book and looked forward to reading the following installment. The author creates a wonderful world that fun to get lost in. Her characters are interesting and complex and funny. I think she just needs to learn to trust her readers to interpret the characters behavior in their own way rather than dropping explanations upon the readers that feel forced and distract from the story.

View all my reviews

Review: Once Upon a River

Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield My rating: 3 of 5 stars The plot was extremely slow, there were a...