Sunday, July 31, 2022

Book Review: The Candy House

The Candy House 
by Jennifer Egan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I kind of wish I had reread Goon Squad first. There are some major character overlaps that I feel maybe I missed things in as it’s been 11 years since I last read Goon Squad.
Like that first book, The Candy House is written from many different character perspectives. One thing that was a bit disappointing is that we never go back to any of same characters once their narrative is over. All our characters are connected in some way (and things come full circle) but I was still sad we didn’t go back to the preteen girl or our tech genius/CEO from the first chapter.

Jennifer Egan does bring in some unconventional storytelling methods in The Candy House. We experience one story entirely through operative statements, and another set of character perspectives from emails sent back and forth. Both are closer to the end of the novel, and so took me by surprise.

Overall this is brilliant writing, as Egan tends to be. But it will not be for everyone. There is a multitude of characters and intertwined stories to keep track of (with no cheat sheets to help), and it’s written at a high literary level. So be prepared to need your dictionary for some of the doctoral characters dialogue.

If you love contemporary writing, want to explore the idea of consciousness uploaded to a ‘cloud’ (of sorts), or just experience some in-depth personalities then I would highly recommend Eagan’s latest novel. If The Candy House wins awards I wouldn’t be surprised. However it’s a bit too obscure at times and hard to follow for me to give it five stars. I also wish there was more said in the blurb about its tie-ins with Good Squad so I’d have known to read book 1 again. Especially given how long ago Good Squad was first published.

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

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Friday, July 29, 2022

Book Review: For the Wolf

For the Wolf 
by Hannah F. Whitten
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'll preface this review by saying that I just read A Court of Thorns and Roses, for the first time, only a month before I read For the Wolf. This is a bit unfortunate as their introductory stories are both based on Beauty and the Beast.

Our leading gal is taken by a 'monster' and held 'captive' (sort of). Which, of course, results in them developing feelings for one another. Most would agree that ACOTAR is a pretty amazing read (captivating, quick, and kind of like crack, you just want more!). The opening 300+ pages of Hannah F. Whitten's first book in the Wilderwood series is perhaps the exact opposite. It's fairly boring, predictable, and seems to go on-and-on for no real purpose at times. I'm not sure why we didn't get more character development (besides a bit from our two lead characters) or why there is seemingly no foreshadowing whatsoever. Even the explanations of magic, politics, culture, etc. don't give (or at least not for me) any hints as to what might be coming next. And given how this story twists it seems fairly important to maybe give your readers a sense of what is coming.

But I will say this... that first 300 pages of boredom is worth it! Things really change up and have some excitement to them in the latter half of For The Wolf. Lots of interesting gothic-esque ideas are brought about (although not as gothic and dark as I want, but for your average fantasy reader I'm sure it's just right) and some really interesting dilemmas and situations come up.

Which leaves me to my last pet peeve... you absolutely cannot take a big, and I mean BIG, idea and repurpose it. This faux pas is almost as bad as having a castle in your book named Hogwarts. You can have a magical school castle but it needs a different name at least!
< minor spoiler below >

You cannot put someone into a 'shadow land' and then describe said land as upside-down. Like literally trees are upside-down. Now maybe it's because I just finished watching season 4 of Stranger Things; but I think the show is more than big enough by now to say that you should NOT borrow from it. Or, if your story and description came first; maybe consider tweaking it a bit because as son as I read about upside-down shadow lands all that happens is I feel annoyed that someone would rip the concept right out of Stranger Things. Right or wrong; that is how it comes across to me.

As I do plan to read book 2, I know I will have to get over my annoyance with this. As it does appear our shadow lands will be prominently featured in it. So let this be a warning instead to future publishers and authors; please, please make sure you change something just enough, or at least name it differently so that your readers aren't rolling their eyes at the blatant rip-off. And again, intentional or not, you just can't use something so widely known in pop culture and hope no one notices.

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

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Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Book Review: Looking for Jane

Looking for Jane by Heather Marshall
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow, just… wow. This book is absolutely heartbreaking, brilliant, historically accurate, and yet poignantly relevant to todays world.

The below review was written minutes after reading the last page and closing off the book. It is much more emotionally charged than my usual reviews. But because of the subject matter I have chosen to leave it as is.

I can barely find the words to describe the multitude of emotions, feelings, and frustration I have after reading these combined stories. From illegal abortions to adoption practices to lies lived for a lifetime to the excitement of abortion being legalized; Looking for Jane will take you into an account of what life was once life, what life is still like for some, and what life is about to be like for so many American women. The relevancy of this novel cannot be overstated at this point in time.
While I am a childless woman, and will never have a baby of my own (partially because of infertility, and partially by my choice); all I can say is that without a doubt MY BODY is mine. And no one; not the government, the church, other women or men, or even the father should be allowed to use my body for their own means or gains. Nor should they be allowed to decide what does or does not happen with it.
Looking for Jane brings so many poignant pieces of the struggle together that by the end all I can do is still here stunned, breathless, angry, and resolute that abortion MUST remain a woman’s right. It MUST remain our choice what happens to our bodies.

All I can really say to fellow women, supporters of the right to choice, those scared of what the reversal of Roe vs. Wade means for other basic human rights, and any men whom have had to grapple with what the women around them have done: READ THIS BOOK.
While set in (my home country) Canada (and written by a fellow Canadian); it tells the illegal abortion networking stories of all of North America; and the atrocities put on pregnant women when the church was all too involved in ‘health and safety’.

I won’t lie, it’s nearly 3am, I couldn’t put this down in the end; and now I’m riled up with anger, fear (for the future), frustration, and extreme sadness all at once because some people can’t mind their own business and worry about their own lives and how what they do impacts others. So forgive my extreme emotional reaction at this exact moment.

One thing I have always believed, and has just been reinforced for me by Heather Marshall, my body is MINE! Don’t tell me what I can and can’t do with it. Especially when the emotional turmoil of said decision will haunt the woman forever. No woman takes abortion lightly. No one. I’ve seen the haunting look in other women’s eyes who made the hard choice, and while I’ve never met someone who regrets their abortion; without a doubt they all hurt from it, even decades later.
If nothing else, Heather Marshall depicts the haunting grief all women feel either for: themselves or their fellow females (be it lovers, family or friends) in a way that I believe will remain with any reader forever.

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

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Monday, July 4, 2022

Book Review: Aristotle and Dante Dive into the Waters of the World

Aristotle and Dante Dive into the Waters of the World 
by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

DNF @ 20%
If I have to read one more time about how something is ‘such an Ari thing to say’ or how much Ari loves Dante (and can’t stop thinking about him) or any other insecure (yet mushy at the same time) comment between these two boys I’m going to gag.
I know there’s probably some big conflict that happens and will make me love the boys as I did in book 1. But at 600+ pages I have no patience to get there.
I’m already tired by the self deprecating rhetoric the boys have for themselves as gay men. Their parents are only marginally better. I mean who decides to only love someone because they are your son and not love ALL of them. If you can’t love someone for who and what they are then please don’t pretend it’s acceptable to ignore it. This is the kind of thing my own parents did to my sister and I (both bisexual women) and I absolutely hate it. As though ignoring the elephant in the room is going to make it be okay or disappear? My answer is no.

Sorry but I don’t need anymore queer literature that tries to set-up the premise that members of our community are trash before it builds us back up.
The timeframe of the 80s AIDS epidemic really wasn’t doing it for me. Could be because I just watched the amazing show ‘Pose’… but I felt these two young boys couldn’t understand or even begin to grasp the magnitude of what was happening in their (new to them) community.

I’d rather read a book about older gay men that can give some context and insight into the crisis. I don’t need to see it from a child’s perspective.
Sorry, I know many will be mad about me for this review and for giving up on this book. I’ve just got so many books to get to and knew exactly how this would play out for another 400+ pages. So I say no thanks, and move on. Which is probably for the best because if I read 600+ pages of this type of writing from the first 20% I’d have a very mean and likely ranting review to post. So I’ll save you all that experience and leave it as is.
Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.
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