Book Related Topics, literary fiction, Mystery, thriller, Uncategorized

Book Review: The Last Flight by Julie Clark

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“I’m not very good at forgiveness.” Liz nodded. “Not many people are. But what I’ve learned in life is that in order for true forgiveness to occur, something has to die first. Your expectations, or your circumstances. Maybe your heart. And that can be painful. But it’s also incredibly liberating.”

A chance meeting at an airport bar brings two women together, each running away from the circumstances in their lives, and leads to a switch in travel plans. Claire Cook is married to a very charismatic and well liked politician from a great political family and her life looks perfect. She lives in a fantastic townhouse in Manhattan, surrounded by staff and wealth but behind closed doors, nothing is as good as it seems. Her publicly adored husband is an abuser – both physical and emotional – and does not hesitate to use his loyal staff to clock and monitor her every move.

Eva is also running from something and just wants to not be on a flight to Oakland, so she proposes a change in travel plans to Claire at the airport. Eva to Puerto-Rico and Claire to Oakland instead of vice versa. But, when the flight to Puerto-Rico goes down with Claire’s name on the manifesto, she has to figure out who Eva was and if remaining hidden is the best cause of action.

“Identity is a strange thing. Are we who we say we are, or do we become the person others see? Do they define us by what we choose to show them, or what they see despite our best attempts to conceal it?”

Told through the women’s perspectives, we find out about the lives they’re trying to escape from. Both characters were very well developed and their stories were very compelling and interesting. I was rooting for these women to get what they wanted out of life.

You can feel the fear and tension in Claire’s life when you read her sections in the book. Being without a family for so many years and not being able to have any friends except those pre-selected by your husband, while he physically abuses you with all your staff in the know of what is going on but staying quiet, is a difficult thing to read about.

Eva feels lost and isolated in her life. One mistake in college (even though I thought it was a very dumb mistake and couldn’t believe she did it all for a boy) cost her the degree she had worked so hard for all her life. She is thrust into a life of drugs and crime just to survive. I was intrigued by both storylines and found them easy to follow. Both characters being likable didn’t hurt and made the characters easy to root for.

I found this book to be a well written and fast paced thriller but if you do not enjoy reading alternative point of views in books, then you’re probably not going to enjoy this one. With the book being less than 300 pages and getting straight to the point, I read this book in 4 hours.

I can’t really say too much about this book so as not to reveal any spoilers but I completely recommend this book. The epilogue wasn’t what I was hoping for and it completely broke my heart, but I understood why the author made that decision. I gave it 4 stars on Goodreads.

 

Leggy

Book Related Topics, Historical, Memoirs, Non-Fiction, Uncategorized

Book Review: Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family by Robert Kolker

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“We are more than just our genes. We are, in some way, a product of the people who surround us—the people we’re forced to grow up with, and the people we choose to be with later.”

Don and Mimi Galvin were an average middle class family living out what seemed to them at the time, their American dream. After World War II, Don moved his family to Colorado for his work with the Air Force and there, they created their large catholic family. Mimi went on to have 12 children, the oldest born in 1945 and the youngest in 1965.

Mimi tried to create a good domestic life for their children. Encouraging structure, hard work, and an interest in sports. Their family was huge enough to be well known and also well respected in the community but behind close doors was a different story – psychological breakdowns, abuse that went unnoticed by the parents, violence between the boys. By the mid 70’s, 6 of the 10 boys had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and were in and out of hospitals.

“And so I was crushed,” Mimi said. “Because I thought I was such a good mother. I baked a cake and a pie every night. Or at least had Jell-O with whipped cream.”

The Galvins became popular in the debate of nature vs nurture in the psychiatry field concerning schizophrenia. A lot of the theories in those days, laid a lot of blame on the mothers. A lot of psychiatrists, even without a suitable peer reviewed study, were quite convinced that children developed schizophrenia because they had an overbearing mother that they tried so hard to please that they lost touch of reality. This was a very sexist theory and completely discounted the presence of fathers in the house. The theory also prevented a lot of people from going to get help early because a lot of mothers feared they were going to be blamed for their children’s condition.

“They have been warehoused where nobody can really deal with them,” he said. Here was the real reason, he thought, why big pharma could afford to be fickle about finding new drugs for schizophrenia—why decades come and go without anyone even finding new drug targets. These patients, he realized, can’t advocate for themselves.”

What went on inside the Galvin family house led to them being one of the first families to be studied by the National Institute of Mental Health. We see the medical field move and evolve as we follow their family story over the years. As we talk about the past and present protocol for schizophrenia patients from lobotomies to institutionalization and the ebb and flow of shock therapy in mental health.

We also see the harm this sickness brought to even the healthy people in the family and the innocent bystanders too. We follow scientists as they start looking for genetic markers for schizophrenia and find a compromise to the nature/nurture debate.

“For a family, schizophrenia is, primarily, a felt experience, as if the foundation of the family is permanently tilted in the direction of the sick family member. Even if just one child has schizophrenia, everything about the internal logic of that family changes.”

This book contains a lot of abuse, so consider this a trigger warning. There’s a lot of domestic violence, physical abuse, sexual abuse (we also see abuse from a catholic priest) etc. I found this book to be very compelling and very readable. I did this one on audio which is how I do most non fiction books I read. Even though there is a lot of science in this book, I do not think it bogs down this book in anyway. I actually think the science elevates it.

I completely recommend this book and hope we as a community think about the way we treat our mentally ill. This book is also a huge indictment of the pharmacology industry for their non interest in putting money into developing more drugs to help with a wide variety of mental health illnesses because of how difficult the trial process is. I gave this one 4 stars on Goodreads.

 

Leggy

Book Related Topics, Chick-Lit, Fiction, We Chit Chat

We Chit Chat: The Blessed Girl by Angela Makholwa

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Plot: Bontle Tau is living a luxurious and largely fake life in Johannesburg, South Africa. She has a gang of admiring older boyfriends who pay her rent, send her on vacations and even secure her high level construction contracts even though she doesn’t have a construction company. She narrates what life is like living the life of a “blessee”

 

Taynement: So, The Blessed Girl…lol

Leggy: Is this an actual book?

Taynement: I don’t want to be harsh but it could have been a PDF fan fiction, but let’s go back to how we ended up with this book. Given everything going on in the world, we wanted to read a fun book by a black author. We’ve been intentional with our chit chats. They’ve mostly been either black or female authors. Enter Blessed Girl.

Leggy: I think we took the fun read waaay to the left. I was actually excited to read this one, but once I downloaded it from my library and read the first 10% I put it down. It was so badly written.

Taynement: Same. It was such a fun cover till I read the first page.

Leggy: I actually would have never finished this book if we didn’t have to do this chit chat.

Taynement: I still don’t honestly know how to categorize this book because it was badly written but I do think there was fun in it? I could see the vision and the format was like it was her writing in her journal and we were the journal? Or it was a video journal and we were the viewers?

Leggy: I didn’t find fun in it. I actually found it very problematic and it ended exactly how I thought it would end. Because obviously we have to punish the “prostitute” by giving her HIV. There was nothing fun in this book for me. I’m also not going to recommend this book to anyone so there’s going to be a lot of spoilers in this chit chat. Can I talk about the author’s treatment of a full blown rapist in this book? He raped a whole 14 year old and they spent the entire time talking about letting him see the son that resulted from this rape instead of discussing the fact that he is an actual rapist!

Taynement: You’re right, I think I’m just reaching. Listen from the moment she said Donald Trump was her idol, I immediately went to search when this book was published and it was 2017.

Leggy: They just threw in the rape part to “explain” why she was the way she was? Fun would be just a materialistic woman who likes money and fascinated us by her exploits. This just turned in a Tyler Perry movie.

Taynement: I think she was wayy too easy on her mother also.

Leggy: Her mother was TRASH!

Taynement: I couldn’t decide if the author wanted us to be mad or sympathetic towards her because I would never speak to that kind of mother again.

Leggy: You handed your 14 year old daughter to a grown man! And then made a case for why this grown man can come back 13 years later and be a great arse dad. What the fuck?! Who approved this crap?! I kept getting really angry reading this book.

Taynement: And his wife supported it. Ewww

Leggy: Also, the main character was crap. I sympathized with everything she had to go through but I didn’t like her. Honestly nobody in this book was likable and I think to pull off a book like this you need a likable protagonist.

Taynement: I think her best friend was – the one with the steady boyfriend but she got no development in the book.

Leggy: Honestly, that girl just came off as a stereotype to juxtapose her “good” character with the main character’s “reckless” life.

Taynement: And of course, trust the abusive man to be Nigerian in a book set in South Africa

Leggy: So many Nigerian oil barons sprinkled in this book, Nigerian artist, even the salon the girl frequented was owned by a Chimamanda. Anyway, I knew she’d get HIV. I mean how can a badly written book get worse than to introduce HIV? The ultimate punishment of wayward women? *rolls eyes*

Taynement: I honestly didn’t see any twist coming. I was too engrossed in how bad this book was and how it got published.

Leggy: Immediately Mr. Emmanuel asked to not wear a condom, I knew it. They didn’t mention through the entire book if she was having protected sex or not so for that to be mentioned specifically, I knew he had HIV.

Taynement: Also, what was the point of telling us about the cheating with her aunt’s husband if nothing came of that plot line?

Leggy: I kept waiting for her aunty to catch her and nothing happened. She even ended up starting a business with her aunty. It was like once they punished her with HIV, her sins were forgiven and she became a whole new person.

Taynement: And her ex-husband never stopped loving her and was fine with everything. I didn’t understand why or how he was still mad at her mother but not her. How do you forget that she is materialistic and only now open to returning to you now that you are successful.

Leggy: Even HIV. The protagonist cheated on him while they were married, lied to him and deceived him but still, love conquered all!

I wonder what the publisher saw in this book and thought it was worth publishing. Honestly, I can list so many Nollywood movies that are better than this book and they didn’t even end with the girls getting HIV.

Taynement: Probably wanted to explore the idea of the blesser/blessee culture but needless to say, this book was a fail. Don’t get caught up by the cover, skip this one people!

Leggy: We didn’t even talk about her brother/son’s drug problems. For a short book, this book sure had a lot of story lines.

Taynement: Someone who got rehabbed in 30 days.

Leggy: And suddenly was a drug free, happy child chilling with his rapist father and his family. We have to export this fantastic rehab to the world. Anyway, like Tayne said, skip this one. I wouldn’t recommend it. Gave it 1 star on Goodreads.

 

Leggy & Taynement

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Related Topics, Fiction, Historical, literary fiction, race, Uncategorized

Book Review : The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

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“You can escape a town, but you cannot escape blood. Somehow, the Vignes twins believed themselves capable of both.”

The Vignes twin sisters – Stella and Desiree were born in a small town in Louisiana called Mallard filled with very light skinned black people. At age 16, they run away to New Orleans to escape their small town and live bigger lives. After a year in new Orleans, their lives completely diverge. They both go on to live completely different lives – one passing as white, while the other marries the darkest black man she can find. Bennett takes us through the years, weaving together multiple strands and generations of these women, from Louisiana to Boston to California, she tells a remarkable story of trying to survive while black in America.

“There were many ways to be alienated from someone, few to actually belong”

Bennett describes the town of Mallard so well that it is almost a character in this book (I googled “is Mallard a real town?” even though the logical part of my brain knew it wasn’t). This town is a black community with a very unusual beginning:

The idea arrived to Alphonse Decuir in 1848, as he stood in the sugarcane fields he’d inherited from the father who’d once owned him. The father now dead, the now-freed son wished to build something on those acres of land that would last for centuries to come. A town for men like him, who would never be accepted as white but refused to be treated like Negroes. A third place.

So they strived to create a better negro with each generation breeding specifically for white features – skin lighter, hair wavier, eyes colored but this still didn’t inoculate them from the hands of racism. The twins’ father was still dragged out of bed in the middle of the day and lynched while his little girls watched when they were only 7 and it didn’t stop race from shaping everything about their lives for the 40 years the book spans.

10 years after she leaves, Desiree comes back to Mallard while trying to escape an abusive husband with the darkest baby the town had ever seen. Desiree’s daughter, Jude, is the darkest person in a town filled with light skinned black people. The way Mallard treats and talks about dark skinned people is quite riveting to read. The cognitive dissonance is fascinating. They throw out all the dark skinned insults – dark baby, black you’re almost blue, tar baby, if you swim with us i’m sure the water would be filled with crude oil and on and on. They never see the irony in the way they treat Jude and the way white people treat them.

“But the passe blanc were a mystery. You could never meet one who’d passed over undetected, the same way you’d never know someone who successfully faked her own death; the act could only be successful if no one ever discovered it was a ruse.”

Reading about Stella’s passing as white and being immersed in a world that absolutely hated her was fantastic to read. Bennett paints such a vivid picture of fear and hiding in plain sight in a world that wants nothing to do with you and actively participating in that world and in the prejudice that comes with finally being the oppressor. Stella marries a white man and gives birth to a blonde, blue eyed daughter who had no idea that she was anything but white.

The way little micro aggressions are laid out and “good people” are shown to think their prejudices are for everyone’s good and even the feminist movement’s exclusion of black women is explored. At first, you judge Stella for her choices but as you read more about her story you can’t help but ache for her – the loneliness, the lies her entire life is built on, the struggle of not being able to belong to your people and the surety that the people who claim to love you now would absolutely hate you if they knew who you really were.

“She hadn’t realized how long it takes to become somebody else, or how lonely it can be living in a world not meant for you.”

Bennett’s debut novel “The Mothers” was very good but this book is FANTASTIC. I loved every second of this book. This story is so well written, emotional, and is one that stays with you long after you’ve stopped reading. I truly enjoyed every character and setting used by the author. Every single line belonged here. I think everyone should read this one. I gave this book 5 stars on Goodreads and I would give it more if I could. This will definitely make my top 5 books of the year. Absolutely recommend. You should read this one and come talk to me on twitter about it.

 

Leggy

Book Related Topics, Fiction, Mystery, thriller

Book Review : A Good Marriage by Kimberly McCreight

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“And in the end, wasn’t that the key to marriage? Learning to pretend that a few unspoiled things could make up for all the broken ones.”

Lizzie Kitsakis just started working at the prestigious Young and Crane law firm when she gets a call from an old friend, Zach Grayson, from Rikers prison desperately asking for her help. His wife, Amanda, has just been found dead on the floor of their Brooklyn brownstone and he’s the primary suspect. Until recently Lizzie had been a happily underpaid prosecutor with a devoted husband but everything has come crashing down around her. She delves into investigating who could have murdered Amanda, the close knit group that surrounds the couple in Brooklyn who all seem to be hiding secrets of their own and she has to figure out which of these secrets is worth committing murder for.

“Forgiveness is a side effect of love,” he said finally. And sadly, almost. “If you are going to be married, share the ups and downs of life. What other choice is there?”

This is an impressive slow burn of a book. The author starts off building her characters’ backstories and letting us into their lives. We get two different points of view – one from Lizzie as she gets Zach’s call and starts investigating the murder and secondly, from Amanda as we get a countdown of the events that lead up to the murder. The chapters alternate between these two characters so if you don’t like that plot narrative device in a book, this one might not be for you. Even though the book started out slow and built to a crescendo, I never thought for a second it was boring. It was intriguing from the very first page.

“That’s the hardest part about marriage, isn’t it?” Zach went on. “Somebody else’s problems become your own. It doesn’t always feel fair.”

This book was full of twists and turns and none of it was silly but none of it was mind blowing either. It is sprinkled with a lot of deceit, false starts and dead ends but you never feel like the author is toying with your sense of believe. Even though I didn’t see a lot of the twists coming, they just made me go – “oh, ok, I can see that being true”, there wasn’t a huge Gone Girl twist which I loved. I’m tired of every thriller on earth trying to have a huge twist at the end just to cash in on that Gone Girl popularity. Also, I could not guess the killer which is very important to me and this is the fact that kept me reading, I just needed to know who killed Amanda. I read this book all in one day and didn’t go to bed till I was finished.

“I’d been so foolish to think love could change the essential nature of anything.”

After every few chapters, the book presents you with a transcript of a grand jury testimony containing several interviews between witnesses and the prosecutor building the case against Zach. I found these transcripts to be unnecessary and stopped reading them after the first couple installments, just started skipping them. They added nothing to the plot. Also, honestly, the ending was lackluster. Even though I didn’t guess the killer, I still felt oddly unsatisfied. I wanted someone more instrumental to the plot. Anyway, this book is very readable and even though it starts off slow, it still managed to be a big page turner. Gave this 4 stars on Goodreads.

 

Leggy

Book Related Topics, Fiction, literary fiction

Book Review: The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel

The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel

 

“There is exquisite lightness in waking each morning with the knowledge that the worst has already happened.”

The publisher’s blurb tells you virtually nothing about what this book is about. In fact, the first 50 pages leave you wondering where Mandel is going with this one. Vincent is a bartender at the Hotel Caiette, a five-star glass hotel on an island in British Columbia. Jonathan Alkaitis works in finance and owns the hotel. When he passes Vincent his card with a tip, it’s the beginning of their life together. Jonathan sweeps Vincent up into a world of wealth and greed. At the heart of this book is a Ponzi scheme and the financial collapse of 2009 which makes this even more of a sobering read, now that the stock market is crashing and recession looms.

If you intend to pick up this book because you loved Station Eleven, bear in mind that the subject matters are nothing alike. But the way the books are written is actually quite similar. Mandel has a way with words, every single sentence matters and is important. This book is a real puzzle with pieces scattered all over the different chapters and they all come together at some point to make a full picture.

“Leon hadn’t understood, and he’d given Alkaitis his retirement savings anyway. He didn’t insist on a detailed explanation. One of our signature flaws as a species: we will risk almost anything to avoid looking stupid. The strategy had seemed to adhere to a certain logic, even if the precise mechanics–puts, calls, options, holds, conversions–swam just outside of his grasp. ‘Look,’ Alkaitis had said, at his warmest and most accommodating, ‘I could break it all down for you, but I think you understand the gist of it, and at the end of the day the returns speak for themselves”

The characters in this book are genuinely unlikeable characters. They are opportunists, grabbing whatever life offers them at the expense of so many people while convincing themselves that they are not monsters. The way Mandel writes about the people who are affected when the ponzi scheme finally collapses is heart wrenching. People losing their homes, their retirements, pensions, working well into their 70’s just to survive, losing houses, etc. It’s also fascinating how people never question things that are too good to be true, there was always a feeling that something wasn’t right but those feelings were brushed aside.

This is an effortless read. I adored the writing. Mandel makes sure all her characters have layers, you start to feel like you know these people, you imagine what you would do if you were in their shoes and your heart breaks when theirs does too. This book is weirdly beautiful for a finance book and even if you’re not at all interested in finance (which i’m not), it still captures you from beginning to end. I gave this book 4 stars because even though I loved it the last 50 pages just dragged on for me, I didn’t need everything wrapped up that much. Still a very compelling novel. I definitely recommend.

 

Have you read this one? Will it be making it on your TBR?

 

Leggy

Book Related Topics

Is It The Book I Hate…Or The Character(s)?

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Think of a book you really don’t like. Now think of a book that you don’t like that EVERYBODY seems to love. Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine is that book for me. I read this book a few years ago and absolutely hated it. It was recommended to me by a friend and it was back in the day when I had not learned the art of dropping a book if I did not like it.

If you didn’t know,  I found out early on that I seem to have a problem with books with British protagonists. They are just never likable and I don’t know why. So from jump I was struggling with the book but powered through as mentioned above. By the end of the book I was annoyed, irritated and very relieved that I was done with the book.

To my chagrin, this book is a beloved one. I kept reading rave reviews about it, it was on every list imaginable. In fact, much to my chagrin before Covid19 struck, this book could almost always be found in every airport bookstore bestseller bookshelf – regardless of country.

Every time I see this book or someone tells me how they just “read this book that I really loved”, I’d roll my eyes and want to understand exactly what it is they loved. At some point, I took the time out to wonder what I was missing and what it is exactly I don’t like about the book.

One day, after giving my response for the 100th time as to why I didn’t like the book – I just couldn’t stand Eleanor. I took a step back and wondered if you don’t like a character in a book does that automatically make it a bad book or is it the reverse where it has been written so well that you have intense feelings of dislike for a fictional character? Do your characters have to be likeable to qualify a book as good?

While it definitely affects your enjoyment of the book, I want to say no. I’d like to think that you can separate the meat of a book and its writing from the likeability level of a main character. Book that comes to mind is A Little Lie. I found the main character very frustrating but I wouldn’t say I hated the book (although Leggy did so hmm) I think it was written well enough and the characters were fully fleshed out. On the flip side, I also don’t think I have ever described any of the aforementioned British chick lit books with annoying protagonists as “a good book”

So I pose the question to you, can you hate the main character or characters in a book and still think of it as a good book or does the intense dislike color your feelings towards the book?

Taynement

 

Book Related Topics, Fiction

Book Review : Writers and Lovers by Lily King

Writers & Lovers

“I squat there and think about how you get trained early on as a woman to perceive how others are perceiving you, at the great expense of what you yourself are feeling about them. Sometimes you mix the two up in a terrible tangle that’s hard to unravel.”

Blindsided by her mother’s sudden death, Casey is devastated. She’s 31, broke, riddled with anxiety and trying to finish writing a book she started 6 years ago. This is in fact a coming of age story except our protagonist is 31 and has had a long wild youth immersed in creative pursuits and spontaneous love affairs that leave her mostly broken. She’s now at the cusp of selling her novel and finds herself in the middle of a love triangle trying to decide between her love interests.

I think as more people read this book, the reviews are going to be a mixed bag. I really wanted to love this one, I chose it as my Book of the Month pick and even the title called to me. I think the author is good at slice of life novels but a lot of this book still completely underwhelmed me. I never connected with Casey, I didn’t like or dislike her but I found some of her decision making process to be extremely lacking. Some of the decisions she made that got her to the point of being a 31 year old server riddled in debt was atrocious to say the least. The way she let emotions and men drive so much of her life was quite appalling.

“I can tell he lost someone close somehow. You can feel that in people, an openness, or maybe it’s an opening that you’re talking into. With other people, people who haven’t been through something like that, you feel the solid wall. Your words go scattershot off of it.”

There was so much about her family that could have been explored that King just flies pass through. Her father was a pervert who lost his job for spying on young girls in their locker rooms and that was never deeply explored. Her mother left her father for a younger dying man and that also just didn’t get as much light in the story.

I would have preferred a slightly different book as Casey’s current life really didn’t have that much of an appeal to me and her love interests were a bit lack luster for that to really draw me into the story. This book is completely internal and largely takes place in Casey’s head, we see everything through her eyes, it’s really hard to write a compelling and readable story that has this format. This is a character driven book so if you need a strong plot to enjoy a book, this will not be the one for you.

“It’s a particular kind of pleasure, of intimacy, loving a book with someone.”

That being said, I enjoyed King’s writing style. She has a lot of great lines about being a woman and struggling with achieving within the creative space. I think she succinctly captures that stage in our lives where we’re feeling unmoored with deep anxiety about getting our lives together, torn between achieving stability especially financially and pursuing our passion.

A lot of Casey’s friends gave up pursuit of the literary life and just went to grad school or law school to be able to make an actual living. This book picked up half way and ended on a happy note which made me happy and excited for Casey. I really enjoyed a lot of the witty conversations between the characters especially with one of her love interests’ children. King gives us a glimpse of the end of a long youth and I left the book feeling satisfied with the state of the characters’ lives when the book ends.

If you enjoy character driven books, you should definitely pick this one up. I’m also going to pick up her previous novel, Euphoria because I’ve heard a lot of good things about that one as well. Have you read this one? Are you going to? I gave this book 3 stars on Goodreads.

Leggy

Book Related Topics, Fiction, We Chit Chat, Young Adult

We Chit Chat -Trust Exercise by Susan Choi

Trust Exercise

“Thoughts are often false. A feeling’s always real. Not true, just real”

Plot: In an American suburb in the early 1980s, students at a highly competitive performing arts high school struggle and thrive, ambitiously pursuing music, movement, Shakespeare, and, particularly, their acting classes while dealing with teenage issues and predatory teachers. 12 years later, they look back on their lives in this performing arts high school and try to dissect what actually happened to them there.

Taynement: It’s been a while since we had a chitchat. We ended up with Trust Exercise because I was seeing it win so many awards

Leggy: You know, I went into this book without reading any description whatsoever because you picked it. I was like Taynement likes plot driven books so this will be good.

Taynement: Ah, is that a first for you? Going in blind, I mean.

Leggy: It’s not a first but I usually read plot blurbs before I pick a book to read, just to see if it’s my cup of tea.

Taynement: Ah okay. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I went in completely blind

Leggy: I kept reading it and when I got to the 20% mark on my kindle, I had to go see what the book was supposed to be about. I just wasn’t getting any consistent plot.

Taynement: I think this was my thought for the entire book. I see what the main theme was but man, it did NOT work for me.

Leggy: I truly thought I was going to give this book 1 star. The beginning just didn’t work for me at all. The middle I liked more when the voice switched to Karen’s. I thought Karen had a stronger voice and point of view than Sarah.

Taynement: So I did this on audio and with each switch I wondered what I missed. It took me a minute to get back into the groove and realize the story switched and it honestly confused me.

Leggy: Karen is the only voice that worked for me and the reason for my one additional star. I thought this book could have been so much more but it’s very obvious it was written for awards. This book was a freaking Pulitzer finalist.

Taynement: The thing is if this book had the main goal of highlighting sexual assault or predators I think it did a piss poor job. I think my issue with this book was it tried to be smarter than itself and ended up all over the place.

Leggy: That’s exactly what I mean by it was written for the awards.

Taynement: I was so confused by their teacher’s story line. I thought it was borderline abuse and predatory but it was so vague I couldn’t tell if it actually was or if it was normal in the theater world. I’m referring to when he made Sarah and David reenact their breakup.

Leggy: I guess the theme seems to be that no one knows what exactly “truth” is. We’re all locked into our own points of view. Everybody has a spin. Sarah and Karen and David all lived the same things but came out of it with completely different views. David became friends with his abuser. Sarah is mad when she sees Mr. Kingsley at David’s show and wonders how David can be friends with him. Sarah portrays Mr. Kingsley as gay but Claire portrays him as extremely straight and masculine.

Taynement: Oooh, that’s an angle I can see. I really do not think this book should be done on audio. I was so disinterested by the characters, I just went through the motions of finishing the book.

Leggy: I think it shows the effects of grooming. They were all being groomed by Mr. Kingsley. In her retelling, Sarah makes Kingsley gay and invents Manuel as a character he was molesting. But then in the second part, Karen tells us it was actually Sarah Mr. Kingsley was having a “special” relationship with. And then Martin grooming Sarah and getting her pregnant. It’s all rife with abuse, different points of view and the subjectivity of truth. But my thing with this book is okay, so what’s the point?

Taynement: Yeah it never really wrapped things up in a clear manner. So you feel like you’re taking this journey and taking in the scenery but you never get to any destination.

Leggy: For such a popular book it barely has 3 stars on good reads. Ordinarily, I enjoy unreliable narrators and narratives and I do think this will make a good book club pick to discuss the subjectivity of truth and what actually happened to those kids in high school but I don’t think it was executed well.

If I wasn’t reading this for a chitchat, I would have dropped it after the first 50 pages. I found the first part of this book overwritten with these huge emotions and I understand that those emotions seemed so huge because they were teenagers. But if you’re going to write from an omniscient point of view and not a first person, then it’s just over written.

Anyway, this book is more fun to discuss with your book people than it is to actually read. My advice? Skip this one. I gave this 2 stars on good reads.

Taynement: The execution was shoddy. I agree, skip it!

 

Leggy & Taynement

Book Related Topics, Fiction

Book Review: Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano

Dear Edward

“There was no reason for what happened to you, Eddie. You could have died; you just didn’t. It was dumb luck. Nobody chose you for anything.”

Twelve-year-old Edward Adler, his beloved older brother, his parents, and 183 other passengers board a flight in Newark headed for Los Angeles which tragically crashes leaving Edward as the sole survivor. Now living with his aunty and uncle, Edward struggles to make sense of whatever life he has left while trying to heal physically, emotionally and mentally. Along with the devotion of his aunty and uncle, Edward develops an unconventional relationship with a neighbor his age called Shay who offers him honesty and friendship. This story follows Edward’s coming of age journey, as he copes with the aftermath of the crash. The author was inspired by a true life story of a plane crash that occurred in 2010. The plane was going from South Africa to London when it crashed, killing everyone on board except a 9 year old boy.

Traveling back and forth, the book toggles between the incidents on the plane and Edward’s life post crash. I did not enjoy this set up at all. At first, it was interesting but after a while it just came off as trauma porn. We all know these people are going to die, it’s on the blurb, so following every thought and hope they had for themselves got exhausting after a while.

Also, every passenger on the plane was just a caricature and the author employed every stereotype in the book. There’s a leering young business man, a flight attendant who is a sexy tease, a closeted gay soldier, a ruthless old business man who’s been married more times than he can count, a woman who finds out she’s pregnant while on the flight (I’m sorry but who takes a pregnancy test on a plane?). Every one of these stories felt gimmicky especially because none of these stories had anything to do with the crash or Edward, so they just felt unnecessary.

I went into this book expecting a heart wrenching read but for some reason, I didn’t connect with this book at all. There wasn’t much of a story. Even Edward’s life post crash was underwhelming. I did not connect with Edward. I felt bad but I found him extremely annoying. I waited and waited for something poignant to happen, for a switch to occur, for Edward to do something with his life but nothing happens.

We follow Edward from 12 till he goes off to college at 18 and he never does anything. I just don’t understand the people who were ugly crying at this book. Edwards lacks a sense of self and depth. The character of the therapist he sees for most of his life felt pointless as they never explored anything of value that added anything to the book. This could have been a great way to explore Edward’s emotional life but it just didn’t happen. Even the lives of the people in his life were not explored. His aunt and uncle’s marriage problems were just mentioned in passing, the fact that they couldn’t have kids was mentioned then abandoned, his aunty’s grief at losing her only sister was also mentioned in passing.

Trauma and healing are nuanced topics that require a delicate hand and deep understanding. Sadly, this author missed the mark on this. I know I’m in the minority with this review. Everyone loved this one. I didn’t. This book started slow, continued slow and ended slow. All the characters were strangers to me and lacked depth. Maybe I’m heartless but this book was a bore to read. I gave this 2 stars on my good reads.

Leggy.