The goods news: I’m officially done with grad school! I don’t graduate until next week, but I finished classes, my comprehensive exams, and turned in my thesis! I feel like I’ve been in school forever, so it’s a bit strange but exciting at the same time.
The not-so-great news: I had to DNF Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust. It’s been on my TBR for a long time, so I was excited to pick it up. It’s a Persian retelling of Sleeping Beauty, which sounds right up my alley.
This is not a bad book by any means. However, I just don’t think it’s for me.
The pacing was rather slow, which I don’t mind as long as I enjoy the characters. But I got 50% through the book and realized I didn’t care as much about the characters as I should. The writing style also wasn’t my favorite, and I had a hard time visualizing the world and a lot of what was going on. The actual plot was interesting, but I kept having to put this one down, and I decided it was best to DNF.
Maybe I’ll try picking up a physical copy sometime, and see if that helps move things along!
I hate giving a book 2 stars, but this one just wasn’t doing it for me.
I liked the overall idea, and I enjoyed the descriptions of the food.
However, the writing style was stiff and didn’t have any variety to it; it felt like every sentence was the same length. It was very much so “She said this. They did this.”
I found the dialogue and characters to be the same. The dialogue sounded very unnatural, and it didn’t help that all of the characters talked the same way. There was no subtext to the dialogue; it was all, “I’m sorry Auntie. I didn’t mean it.” “That’s okay. I still love you, Vanessa.”
Besides that, there was a lot of name dropping. There’s a scene in the Louvre where Vanessa and her love interest dissect every piece of art. Vanessa constantly talks about how fancy her aunt is, and name drops designers left and right. At times, it felt overly elitist.
The romance in the book was also pretty weird, including insta-love that just didn’t feel genuine to me.
And finally, whenever the background characters heard one of Vanessa’s predictions, they always accepted them as truth. I found this odd. I’d be very weirded out if I heard a prediction about my life come out of a stranger’s mouth, and I expected there to be more conflict from this.
I was hoping this book would be a nice, easy change of pace, but I just found it a little disappointing.
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
Library haul time! These are some of my most anticipated reads on my #tbr list.
- Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
- Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo
- The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge
- In the Midst of Winter by Isabel Allende
Anna and I went to a coffee shop and got some work and writing done today. And then we went to Ulta, my second favorite store after Barnes and Noble.
I’m starting with In the Midst of Winter since it’s currently 28 degrees outside and dropping! I’ve always loved Isabel Allende’s writing style and I’m enjoying the beginning of the book.
Alexis: Read 12/10/18
This is a hard book for me to rate. The story, as are all Holocaust stories, is dark, harrowing, and resonant. This is a story of survival and love. It focuses on Lale and Gita, who manage to fall in love amidst the horrors of Auschwitz.
Parts of the novel hit me hard. It’s impossible to read a book about the Holocaust and not come away emotionally affected by it. The knowledge that this was not only based on a real historical event but also on the lives of two very real people played in the back of my mind as I read. I liked that it was written in present tense, which propels you into the story.
But how do you rate a book like this? The perspective is one of the most interesting parts of the book. Lale, as the Tattooist, has a higher position than most of his fellow prisoners. I was wholly involved in his storyline of using his position in order to barter jewelry for food, help feed other prisoners, and help save other prisoners’ lives. His feelings of revulsion at tattooing his own people conflict with his instinct to do what he must to survive.
Yet chunks of this book still fall flat. The writing style is awkward in places. Half of Lale and Gita’s relationship feels real and raw, and half feels stitled. In the “about the author” section of the book, it’s mentioned that Morris originally wrote this story as a screenplay, and this seems to fit with the style of some sections of the book. Near the end, it’s mentioned that Lale’s way of dealing with the horrors of his imprisonment is emotional detachment. This could be the reason for the stiltedness, as the writing could reflect Lale’s repressed emotions. However, I don’t think this was a purposeful choice on Morris’ part.
VERDICT: 4 out of 5 stars
Alexis: Read 11/28/18
“I said to him that just because you can’t remember, doesn’t mean the past isn’t out there. All those precious moments are still there somewhere.”
This is a poignant story of love and grief. This is a story of first loves, final loves, and dying loves.
Winman’s writing style is gorgeous. It’s simple yet raw and peppered with beautiful descriptions and lyricism. Throughout the book, her lack of quotation marks echoes Ellis’ silent grief.
I love the recurring motifs of the color yellow and Van Gogh’s Sunflowers. Nora, Ellis’ mother, is impactful and realistic, and she sticks throughout the story in the minds of both Ellis and Michael as a reminder to stay true to themselves.
Both Ellis and Michael are realistic characters. Ellis deals with his emotions by withdrawing and keeping to himself, while Michael deals with them through writing. Without giving too much away, both of them end up being more similar than either of them thought. Tin Man is an aptly named book.
I love that this book addresses the importance of art and writing, as said by Nora: “Painting flowers as a sign of friendship and welcome. Men and boys should be capable of beautiful things.”
My only criticism is that Annie does not feel as vibrant as all the other characters. I loved her introduction scene, but I wanted to understand her relationship with Ellis as deeply as I understood Ellis and Michael’s relationship.
All in all, this was a beautiful and quietly harrowing read that I highly recommend.
VERDICT: 5 stars
Alexis: DNFed 11/25/18
Okay, so I rarely DNF a book. But I just couldn’t finish this. I was so disappointed because I love Pride & Prejudice retellings!
I only got about 45 pages in, then I skipped to the ending, and then I skimmed the middle.
To start, the writing style is just weird. It feels too flowery, too forced, like the author was trying too hard to sound like Jane Austen.
This is supposed to be a modern retelling. Instead, it ends up being a modern yet sleazy retelling. The story features a TV show that’s basically The Bachelor. There’s a lot of tasteless sex, and Lizzy and Darcy even have hate sex. Lizzy and her sisters joke about how they think Mary is gay so often that it makes me uncomfortable. A lot of other additions are completely unneccesary.
Instead of being loveable and annoying, Mrs. Bennet is rude and annoying. She also seems to be prejudiced (ha) and she hates everybody. There’s a line where she says, “Liz…life can be very hard for mulatto children.” Yikes.
Check out this other line: “From his first sighting of Jane, Chip’s face crumpled; and the sequent gush from his eyes would surely have been sufficient to bathe a medium-sized dog: a corgi, perhaps, or a border collie.” What?
The beginning wasn’t good, there were four different—equally bad—endings, and everything I skimmed in the middle wasn’t good, either. This book definitely wasn’t for me.
VERDICT: 1 out of 5 books