Anna: I so badly wanted to love this! I love New York City and I lived there for a year, so I want to make a disclaimer that this wasn’t an issue of me not understanding NYC. I also think N.K. Jemisin is a talented author and I enjoyed The Fifth Season.
What I liked:
- Great themes of equality, identity and belonging; fighting hate: racism, sexism, homophobia; and what it means to belong somewhere
- Wonderfully diverse group of characters of varied races, sexualities, and identities
- The setting and the complex characterization of New York City
What I didn’t like:
- Too on the nose
- Confusing world building
- Lots of telling and not showing (We are told exactly what something is and what it means throughout)
This is a unique and creative fantasy novel, but not without some thoroughly confusing world building. While I enjoyed the setting and the diverse cast of characters, I couldn’t shake the feeling of being hit over the head with thinly-veiled symbolism throughout. With little room for interpretation and imagination, I’m not sure if I’ll pick up the next book in this series.
VERDICT: 3 out of 5 books
Anna: The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls is the best memoir I’ve read since Educated. If you haven’t read it yet, you should stop everything you’re doing and read it right now.
Jeanette grows up in extreme poverty in Appalachia with an alcoholic father and neglectful mother. Jeanette and her siblings were horribly abused, but the book also details glimpses of beauty and love throughout her life. The book shows how her past and her family continually follow her even when she leaves West Virginia for New York. Most astonishing is Walls’s power of forgiveness.
I also watched the movie, which I’m happy to report is just as good as the book!
What I liked: I like Rowley’s writing style. I remember liking it a lot in his other book, Lily and the Octopus. His dialogue is always on-point and funny, and I enjoy his imagery.
I also really liked James as a character. I found him funny, and I enjoyed reading about his relationship with Daniel. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book set in the 1990’s, and I enjoyed the political climate and the history of the book.
What I disliked:
I really couldn’t get into this until about halfway through. James’ story was a little too boring at first, and I found myself skimming a lot of the details. I wanted to have more of James’ backstory earlier on in the story.
My biggest issue with the book was with Jackie Kennedy as a character. I could tell that Rowley was being careful with how he wrote her, and because of this, she never felt fully fleshed out as a character. I’m not a huge fan of historical people being one of the main characters in books, and I don’t think she served a good enough purpose. In my opinion, the editor would’ve made more of an impact in the story if Rowley had made up a famous editor and created a backstory for her.
There was also an event towards the end of the book which I felt like didn’t fit into James’ character, and was a little too on the nose.
Overall, I liked James and Daniel, and as a writer myself, I enjoyed reading about James writing his novel. But the slow plot and Jackie’s character dragged this down a star.
VERDICT: 3 stars