Archive for the ‘Fiction’ Category

Book #26: Sweet Tooth

Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan (image via amazon.com)

You can’t judge a book by it’s cover…or it’s synopsis. I am going to keep this short, because the thought of this book leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Goodreads, you failed me on this one. If you are a feminist, you will probably not like this book. McEwan seems to paint women as meaningless, worthless, simple cogs in the greater overall scheming of men. Another friend also communicated her surprise that I would read this drivel for that very reason. What makes this more insulting is the fact that McEwan chose to make portray his main character as a smart and well-educated woman. I really struggled with this book and almost gave up on it but I was too close to completing my goal, so I persevered. It was a really rough five days, guys.

Honestly, all I can say about this book is no….just…no.


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Broken Harbor by Tana French

By Tana French
September 30
Finished: October 13

On a trusted fellow bookworm friend’s advice, I skilled over a few of the books in the Dublin Murder Squad series by Tana French and jumped straight to Broken Harbor. French is a really great writer; she had a knack for painting complete portraits of her characters in order to more fully illustrate their present and want drives as Murder Squad detectives.

Mike “Scorcher” Kennedy is a seasoned Murder Sqaud detective who is summoned back to the seaside town where his mother committed suicide several decades prior to investigate a murder that devastated a whole family: a father brutally murder, two young children killed while they slept in their bed, and a mother hanging on for dear life. Though the sleepy, seaside town of his youth is now a half-empty development of large, fancy houses (thanks economy!), Scorcher is still haunted by his past as he investigates the murder. Complicating matters is his crazy younger sister, and a new partner on his first murder case. For me, this book drew really strong parallels to the BBC series Broadchurch, which aired on BBC over the summer (I consulted Dr. Google who informed me there was no official link between the two works).

The basic storyline of Broken Harbor was exceptionally engaging, and unlike In the Woods, the ending was satisfactory but book was bogged down by too much narration. In order to paint a picture of a family man coming unglued, the reader is forced to suffer through pages and pages of email and online message board exchanges; suspect interrogations are lengthy and uninformative, and Scorcher is so far into his own head, his internal dialogue often takes center stage. I would not recommend this as a book to read before bed (or on a train, bus, plane) as I did have trouble following along during these lengthy narrative chapters and dozed off once or twice (or fifteen times) mid-page.


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The Gods of Gotham by Lyndsay Faye (image via amazon.com)

By Lyndsay Faye
August 21
Finished: August 29

The Gods of Gotham is a book that while reading, I couldn’t make up my mind if I actually liked it or not. Turns out I did, because when I found out this was the first in a new book series (The Timothy Wilde series) I was pretty bummed that I had to wait for the new book, Seven for a Secret, to be released in softcover (another weird practice of mine).

Gods combines so many of my favorite things in one neat little novel, it’s almost like the book was written for me specifically. Murder, Victorian-era NYC, a history of the NYC police force, NYC politics, and immigration issues just to name a few. Oh, and there’s also a few characters that, judging by Lyndsay Faye’s age, she had to have based off the amazing Disney musical, Newsies (maybe she didn’t but seriously, the similarities are so extreme that it would be a really strange coincidence if she had never seen the movie).

Gods focuses on Timothy Wilde, a young bartender with a tragic past who hopes to earn enough money to convince the woman of his dreams to run off with him. Those fantasies come to an abrupt end when a huge explosion rocks Manhattan, devouring Tim’s stash of money and permanently disfiguring his face. His older brother, Valentine, lands Tim a job on the newly-formed NYC Police Force, where his beat is on the edge of one of the worst areas of Manhattan. One night, while on patrol, Tim runs across a young girl name Bird….clad only in a thin nightgown, which is completely drenched in blood. Helping Bird leads Tim to a cache of bodies buried just outside the city, and he unwittingly becomes the lead detective in the police force’s first serial murder case.

Honestly, I really love Faye’s writing, it’s engaging and fully captures not only the narrative but the history of New York City and the turbulent political climate at the time. My only compliant is that i completely called the “twists” in the story.

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Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple (image via amazon.com)

By Maria Semple
August 8
Finished: August 21

Ahem, so I love Arrested Development and was wicked excited for the Netflix’s exclusive season 4 of the series. I’ve seen every episode at least 100 times and have been known to drop AD references in everyday conversation (case in point, a friend recently told me his ex-girlfriend cheated on him with a BlueMan…and my immediate reaction was “When did your life become an episode of Arrested Development?). So when I found out author Maria Semple used to write for ADWhere’d You Go, Bernadette was a no-branier for a an easy beach read over my vacation in Maine.

I loved this book because it was smart, funny, and I could totally see myself being Bernadette if I ever have kids. Bernadette is a once famous architect now completely devoted to her family, especially her teenage daughter, Bee.  Bee attends a prestigious school in Seattle, where Bernadette and her style of parenting often cause arguments with school officials and other mothers.

After one such run in, Bernadette takes off and vanishes without a trace. Bee, determined that her mother would never really leave her, uses emails, letters, and other bits of information her mother left behind to weave together the cause of her disappearance and (hopefully) her current location. Bee gives small pieces of information to the reader, who must fit them together like a puzzle to solve the mystery of Bernadette’s disappearance. It’s a great commentary on the pressures of modern society, of fitting in as a “soccer mom,” and doing what’s expected of you (for example, the neighbors all seems to despise Bernadette because  despite her husband’s well-paying job at Microsoft, she chooses to live in a rundown former girls’ school instead of a nice, respectable house). Where’d You Go, Bernadette is a filled with hilarious rants, a mother’s love, a daughter’s determination, and an assortment of not-so-outrageous characters that you can picture living on your block.


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The Night Gwen Stacy Died by Sarah Bruni (image via amazon.com)

By Sarah Bruni
July 12
July 20

Kudos to Sarah Bruni for delving deep into comic book lore for this one. You don’t nessecarily need to be familiar with Spiderman, his girlfriend, or the infamous Spiderman story arc that gives this novel its name, but knowing a little background information definitely makes for a richer reading experience.

The Night Gwen Stacy Died is a coming of age novel meet psychological thriller, focused on a small town Iowa teenager named Sheila, a loner who works at a gas station and can’t wait to graduation high school so she can move to Paris. Sheila develops a crush on a station regular, a cab driver who goes by the name of Peter Parker.

Peter Parker is haunted by nightmares that ultimately prove to be a reality; when he has a nightmare about a man killing himself in a bathroom that involves Sheila, he holds up the gas station and “kidnaps” Sheila (I say “kidnaps” because she puts up no fight and even assists in the crime). The two hideout in Chicago, with Sheila takingon the alias (and even look of) comicbook Peter Parker’s girlfriend, Gwen Stacy. Both are running from something–Peter from a traumatic childhood and adult life and Gwen from the small towns and small minds she feels trapped by—and ultimately figure out what htey really want and need while in Chicao.

There’s a really weird subplot about coyotes that runs throughout the book. In Iowa, Sheila “befriends” a stuffed coyote in a museum, often talking to it as thought it were a real person. Coyotes are also said to be acting strange, encroaching on populated areas and showing no fear of people. Later in the novel, the coyotes almost act like a spirit guide, leading Gwen and Peter to the right place at the right time. It’s a little odd and I’m not sure how much it adds to the overall story, but it did add to the dark mood and feeling of impending doom of the novel.

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Book #18: White Teeth

White Teeth by Zadie Smith (image via amazon.com)

By Zadie Smith
June 6
Finished: June 25

White Teeth. White Teeth. Though this wasn’t as much of a struggle for me to get through as Swamplandia!, this still felt like a marathon read, which was really disappointed since buzzfeed.com named it one of their 65 Books You Need to Read In Your 20s. Maybe I read too many British books this year, or too many books about the immigrant experience, or maybe I unfairly compared it to Brooklyn, but I could not for the life of me really commit to reading White Teeth.

What bugged me the most was the number narrators telling the story. It jumped around from the perspective of 2 different fathers, 2 different mothers, their 3 children, and if I remember correctly at least one other, Briton-native family with multiple narratives. It was long and jumpy, but ambitious–covering a span from WWII to the late 1980s. And either I missed it, or Smith assumed the reader had enough knowledge to understand that a few chapters dealt with the fatwa against Salman Rushdie after publishing The Satanic Verses. Pretty sure I had to resort to using Google to confirm my suspicions were correct. While I didn’t hate this novel, I don’t know if I’d ever pull it off my shelf for a second read.

Or maybe, a re-read would help in this case?

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Will Grayson, Will Grayson (by John Green & David Levithan)

By Jonathan Green & David Levithan
May 28
Finished: May 31

“i get it now. i get it. the things you hope for the most are the things that destroy you in the end.”

Listen, this book is just quotable. It’s heartbreakingly honest and mildly humorous at the same time. I’m almost ten years removed from high school at this point, but certain parts of this young adult novel felt like John Green & David Levithan opened the diary I kinda-sorta-not really kept in high school.

Wil Grayson, Will Grayson, if you couldn’t tell from the title, is the story of two Will Graysons whose lives randomly intersect one night in Chicago. The chapters alternate between Will Grayson and will grayson (will grayson’s chapters being written in all lowercase letters, a sign to me of the prevalence of online communication but a debate can–and has—be made for the lack of capitalization as a reflect of how the character views himself). LGBT issues also play a huge role; will grayson is trying to find his identity as a gay teen, and Will Grayson’s best friend Tiny Cooper is a larger than life gay teen who falls in and out of love at least once a week. It’s a coming of age novel for a new generation, a generation more comfortable with a text message or an email than a phone call or face to face meeting, discovering how they fit into the world that surrounds them.

The novel is a collaboration between John Green and David Levithan, with Green responsible for Will Grayson and Levithan responsible for will grayson. The characters interact so frequently and so seamlessly, it easy to forget two authors are responsible for the words on the pages. If you want to read more about Green & Levithan’s writing process, here’s a great interview with John Green.

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