Monday, March 12, 2012

Review: The Grief of Others by Leah Hager Cohen

The Grief of OthersThe Grief of Others by Leah Hager Cohen

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was so intrigued by the premise of this novel (and that cover - it's so compelling - even if it doesn't match the story at ALL in terms of the characters & their ages) that I couldn't wait to read it. It sounded like something right up my alley. I seem to be drawn to books that have some level of sadness and what not. Given its focus on grief, this one seemed to have all of the components that I like in a literary novel.

Let's start with the good - this is a beautifully written book. Leah Hager Cohen is obviously a fantastic writer. I was incredibly moved by some of the writing, particularly at the start of the novel. The opening scene in the hospital was so beautifully written that I read it over and over, amazed at the picture the words were painting. However beautiful the language, I felt that it didn't take the story anywhere. It didn't make the characters come alive. It didn't do what beautiful writing is supposed to do - make the novel brilliant and readable. Instead, it seemed to get bogged down in the beauty of the words but somehow neglected moving the story anywhere interesting for the reader. It was like the novel was all prettied up with this beautiful language and imagery but it never actually came into itself. It was stagnated and just sat there.

I love the idea of this novel - an exploration of a family and how that family handles the ups and downs of life. However, the family in this novel felt very unreal to me - I never connected with them or really even felt that they were in any way connected to each other despite being told over and over that they are connected. Perhaps that disconnection was intentional given the themes but it didn't do much to make the novel actually interesting.

I'm really conflicted about this one. It had such potential but ultimately fell flat for me. Perhaps I wanted to love it so much that it led to disappointment. I'm not sure. But, I ultimately liked this one but didn't love it. It was better than OK but not great - it was a solid 'good' book. I'm not sure that I recommend it ... I think its worth a read, particularly if you like beautiful writing. But, it won't blow your socks off and I worry that it may leave you feeling ambivalent in some way.

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Saturday, March 10, 2012

Review: Between, Georgia by Joshilyn Jackson

Between, GeorgiaBetween, Georgia by Joshilyn Jackson

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

All in all, I don't think this one lived up to its potential. It's a unabashedly southern novel. The story was compelling, the writing was fine, and I liked the wacky characters. But, there was something missing and I'm just not able to put my finger on it. Although I liked the story and the characters, the novel just always felt separate and out there. It never felt real. It never came alive for me. I found the novel to have some extremely slow areas and other areas were raced through entirely too fast. There were things I wish had been explored less and other things that I wish had been explored more. In the end, it left me feeling unsatisfied in some way. Sad almost that it didn't go to the places that I'd hoped it would go. This is my second Joshilyn Jackson novel and I felt this exact same ambivalence about that one. I'm wondering if perhaps Joshilyn Jackson's writing just isn't for me. I'm going to read one more before I decide to definitively give up on her. However, I really can't strongly recommend this one. It's okay. I think that there are so many other novels that do southern fiction so much better ... perhaps pick one of those up instead of this one!

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