Little Disasters by Randall Klein
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I'm beginning to think that my liking a book has to do with the mood I'm in. This book shouldn't have been called Little Disasters, it should have been called Terrible People.
I'll start out by saying that the writing itself is lovely. I felt fully immersed in the plot and the setting. You're transported to New York City and taken through the course of a few years in the life of the main four characters. The author has created full and vibrant characters for you to latch onto and relate to.
He did such an excellent job, that I ended up hating two of the characters. As in I wanted to crawl through the pages and just throttle them.
One downside to this entire experience were the flashbacks. I don't mind a decent flashback scene every once in a while, but there were countless ones in this novel. Sometimes flashbacks within flashbacks. It got to be a tad too much.
Spoilery plot points ahead
The plot follows two couples who have babies on the same day. The fathers meet outside the hospital while awaiting the birth of their children. Both women, for reasons, have decided that the men are not allowed in the birthing room with them; that the births are things they as women should have all to themselves. I could unpack the misogyny of it all, but who has time for that?
We find out later that Paul and Jenny's child has died, while Michael and Rebecca's child has lived. This is told through flashback. During the present day there is some sort of potential terrorist attack on the city and both Michael and Paul are stranded and unable to get home.
But wait! Turns out that Jenny and Michael started an affair. End sympathies here. Jenny and Michael continue to be terrible people throughout the entire book. Carrying on literally in front of their spouses faces at once point. They finally decide to "do the right thing" and leave their spouses for each other. Try not to sprain your eyes with that eye roll. In case you were wondering just how awful they are? Michael feels basically ZERO guilt. Jenny? Well she has it in her head that the first time she cheated on Paul was her fault, but every other time he let her get away with it is somehow his fault.
See? Terrible people.
All in all, I'm going to end up giving this book 4 stars. I didn't care for the flashback aspect of how it was written. But ultimately, the author created vibrant characters for me to love, hate, and sympathize with, so that counts for something.
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Circe by Madeline Miller
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I've had a run of disappointing books lately and unfortunately this is one of them.
If you're anything like me (and I'm guessing you are since you took the time to be a member of Goodreads in the first place), you saw Circe on practically every website, book of the month club, review list, and magazine "must" list imaginable.
Assuming still that you're like me, you enjoy reading fictionalized versions or the Greek and Roman pantheon. No demi-god too big or small! It's all fair game and completely fascinating.
Side story: when I was in middle school, my English teacher had an entire six week course about the Greek and Roman pantheons. It's practically the only thing I even remember from middle school.
I bit the bullet and bought Circe from Book Depository. It was available quicker from other sellers but let's face it…I have a thing for paperbacks and I'd have to wait until next year in the US to get the book as one. Once it finally arrived, I dug in immediately.
Circe is about the naiad daughter of Helios, the sun god. It loosely follows her arc in Homer's Odyssey. When you get this books it's shiny and bronze and you're in love. By the end, you may have a general sense of disappointment. What did I waste my time on?
I think the author was trying to go for a story about a woman overcoming adversity, coming into her own, and finding her voice. What I feel like she ended up with, was a novel about a whiny child-woman who just accepts her fate and refuses to stand up for herself until literally the last 50-100 pages. Even the climax of the book is so mundane that you may miss it altogether. You'll be waiting for something bigger to happen.
This is not to say that the author's writing is bad. The plot is just seriously lacking in the meat that you are expecting. Most of the novel takes place on a deserted island to which Circe is banished so the setting can feel a little redundant.
Bottom line for me, it wasn't the worst thing I've ever read…but if you have something else catching your eye on the shelf…you may as well grab that instead.
This one gets 3 stars only because I can't give it 2.5. I know there are a ton of people who loved it, I'm just not one of them.
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The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Oh boy. Have you read this one yet? You should. You absolutely should. I know that there are a lot of comparisons made with the Woman in the Window and novels like Gone Girl or the Girl on the train and they are completely understandable. This book has so many twists and turns that I couldn't even stop to think about what I was reading.
Usually for me, I skip to the last page of a mystery novel once I get to the central core of the mystery that's trying to be solved. I like to try and figure out how the author is going to get me there.
This novel had me so sucked in that I FORGOT TO DO IT. That's never ever happened to me before. I inhaled it.
The story follows a woman who is homebound due to extreme agoraphobia. She witnesses what she believes to be a murder while watching the world go by from her window. From here her small and safe little world begins to unravel as though pulling a stray thread from a sweater.
I will say that I figured out the end, but it wasn't long until the protagonist worked everything out as well. I only had a few pages on her revelations. Some of the surprises threw me off completely…in that "wait…WHAT?" sort of way.
I'm excited to see the forthcoming movie for this one. It's not a stretch to tell you that AJ Finn has a new fan in me.
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What I Leave Behind by Alison McGhee
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I can't remember exactly where I saw a recommendation for this book. I was intrigued by the plot description. What I got was something completely unique.
If you look over the plot, you have basically read this book. Which makes it a little disappointing for me…
The book itself is listed as being 208 pages. That's a fair description, what you may not know is that you only have half that amount of pages in content and maybe even a fourth of that because each page only has a couple of paragraphs listed on each page. The description on Goodreads even tells you this, although you may think it's part of the plot devices somehow; "After his dad commits suicide, Will tries to overcome his own misery by secretly helping the people around him in this story made up of one hundred chapters of one hundred words each."
It doesn't necessarily detract from the plot, in this instance I think it may even enhance the overall feel of the story. I was, however, expecting a gripping YA novella about this kid and his friend. That's not exactly the right way to think of it and not exactly wrong either.
The author packs a lot of punch into the few pages they have. No word is extraneous and everything has a purpose. It was nice to read about a little bit of beauty in what is an otherwise awful situation. I admit that I teared up a time or two. Overall it's an enjoyable read and definitely a fast one.
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Ship It by Britta Lundin
My rating: 1 of 5 stars
This book is possibly the worst. Just, the worst. It's hard to figure out where to start with this review because I have entirely too much to say.
I understand where the author was trying to go with this, but all she managed to do is highlight the toxicity of fandom in general.
From the very beginning, we meet Claire. She's a superfan of the show Demon Heart. She's picked up on what she believes is an attraction between the two male costars of the show and has become convinced that the characters are gay and in love. Claire writes a lot of slash fanfic of the characters and is excited when she finds out that the team from the show are going to be making an appearance at her "local" comic convention.
From there, Claire bullies and cries her way into contrived situations and somehow "finds herself" in the process. I could go into all the problems with the plot, the writing, or even the unlikableness and terrible behavior of the protagonist. Instead I'm going to end up talking about fandom and its pitfalls. If you find that you agree with what I'm saying, I think you'll know that you want to avoid this book.
For any of us that are super fans of literally any show, movie, or general fandom; by now you know about the toxicity that exists. Just recently there were articles regarding the actress Kelly Tran deleting her social media pages because of hateful and bigoted vitriol by a bunch of grown-up-children because she dared to be a POC in a fandom film. There is a faction of the bowels of the internet that are unable to separate fiction from reality and are determined to foist their view of their fandom on you whether you like it or not.
These people are the fan fic writers. The angry message board commenters. The ones who sit there and type out angry reactions to the slightest faux pas by casual fans. These are the people who feel as though they own fandoms because they got there first. I've read various op eds over the years about how this group feels as though they own these fandoms because they were persecuted for liking these things for so long. Now that geek culture has gone mainstream, they still are holding on to that anger and awfulness instead of embracing the newbs and making new friends. The superiority and snobishness that drips from every condescending word is apparent in most of their interactions. Now they have the power in knowledge and they work to tear down anyone who dares to think they might know a little something about the chosen fandom. In case you haven't connected these dots…THIS is the chosen protagonist of the story.
Bitter? You bet I am. I came into geek culture late in life. I didn't know that there was this entire community of geeks and nerds who loved all these awesome things. Luckily I found a few awesome people to help me navigate the waters, but I learned quickly and the hard way not to bother with online forums.
In this novel, Claire decides that she knows more about the show and the characters than the actual creators, writers, and actors. You know, the people who actually handle the overall creation of the TV show. This plot is loosely based on an interaction that occurred during a Supernatural convention in which Jensen Ackles brushed off a fan who asked about the context of Dean and Castiel's relationship.
This book has the vehicle in which to truly explore Queer issues and it's role (or lack thereof) in fandom. It has the vehicle to bring people in. Instead Claire spends the entire time forcing her agenda instead of just enjoying the thing in the first place. She crosses so many ethical lines it's downright absurd and I'm pretty sure she broke a law or two in the process. She's wholly unlikable.
If you're looking for a geek centered romance, I'd recommend Geekerella instead. Heavy on the romance, but a far better choice than this tragic representation of fandom. You can check out my review of it here:
Literally the best thing about this book is the hardback version's cover.
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