Saturday, September 29, 2012

Review: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

The Song of AchillesThe Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book had so much potential and I was so excited to read it after hearing so many good things from people that I respect! And its a good book but its not quite the book that I was hoping for ... and expecting. I am giving it a 4 star rating but its really more of a 3 and a half to me.

I love mythology so I was excited to read this book which centers around Achilles and Patroclus. The mythological aspects of the novel were fantastic and engaging. Overall, the book really started strong for me but it lost steam somewhere in the middle and I didn't feel like it ever quite recovered from that. And that is what is so sad for me - if it had stayed strong beyond the middle, I think it could have been a 5 star. I feel like it was perhaps in need of a bit more editing to be really great.

Many have called this a romantic book and although the novel centers around a romance, it never felt romantic to me for some reason. I loved getting to know Patroclus throughout the book - such an interesting and multifaceted character as developed by Madeline Miller.

I believe this is Madeline Miller's first novel which could perhaps be part of the problem I had with the book - the pacing was off and a bit more editing was needed. BUT, overall, it was an enjoyable read. I liked it. I just wanted to love it so much!

Definitely not one of my favorite reads of the year but definitely worth a read especially if someone has an interest in mythology. I am eager to see what Madeline Miller brings in the future as she has intrigued me with this effort.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Review: Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

Beautiful RuinsBeautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After hearing a number of friends rave about this novel (and seeing that beautiful cover art), I couldn't wait to get my hands on this one! And I certainly wasn't disappointed! What a fantastic little novel! I had no expectations going in. And I was definitely pleasantly surprised by how lovely this novel was to read! It's one of those novels that reads so effortlessly, appears to be a light sort of novel but is really a more complex, in depth novel when you scratch below the surface. Or at least that is how it felt to me.

It took me about 30 pages to get sucked into the story but once I was, I was IN. 100% in. It grabbed me and didn't let go until the final sentence. Which is refreshing and surprisingly rare these days!

This is a novel about so many things - forgiveness, choices, family, and even redemption. Yet, it is a quiet sort of novel. No huge crises or tensions to make you think WOW. It's more of a journey through the lives of a group of people who weave in and out of the novel. They are definitely connected but they are also separate journeys, many in parallel, that each teach another nuance of the overall story. Jess Walter weaves these stories together so effortlessly and makes the entire novel so readable. Yet, its never simple or easy. Just fluid and effortless.

This is a novel that reads like a summer sort of 'beach read' yet it's really so much more nuanced than what you'd usually call a beach read. I think its a special book in that way. This book is a charming read that I really enjoyed. I think its something almost anyone would enjoy and get something out of. What a gem! I'm so glad that I found this one!

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Monday, September 10, 2012

Review: The Mirage by Matt Ruff

The MirageThe Mirage by Matt Ruff
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I heard an interview with Matt Ruff about this novel and the discussion was so fascinating that I immediately went and began reading it. The premise is certainly compelling - taking 9/11 and turning it inside and out into an alternative history. What a fascinating idea! And since I loved how amazing Matt Ruff's novel Set This House In Order was, I thought that this may be a great next Ruff novel for me. And its a good, solid novel. It's not quite as good as I'd hoped but its definitely worth a read for those interested in the topic.

My biggest issue with the novel was the pacing. It took me a long time to wade through this one and there were times that I had to make myself pick it up. And other times, I didn't want to put it down. It was just inconsistent in that way. Which is why its being rated 3 stars. Although, in the end, I think the read was a good one, I don't think it was quite as great as I'd hoped it would be.

On the other hand, Matt Ruff's imagining of this alternate history is alone worth the read. I found his pulling all the pieces together and looking at them in a new way fascinating! I think Matt Ruff is a genius at this sort of thing! He is clever and his pulling the various pieces of reality together in the alternate view of history is really breathtaking and thought provoking! Although I didn't love how all of those pieces ultimately played out in the novel, I can look at them objectively and see how clever and current they were. Especially some of the tiny details which made me chuckle (CSI: Halal, for example).

I definitely think this is a novel worth reading but I also think it has a number of flaws that make it less than what it could have been. But, given how complex an undertaking this entire enterprise was for Matt Ruff, I think he and his novel deserve a read! Even with its imperfections, it's pretty compelling!

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Friday, September 7, 2012

Review: Broken Harbour by Tana French

Broken Harbour (Dublin Murder Squad, #4)Broken Harbour by Tana French

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Tana French does it again! I love how consistently fantastic her novels are ... each and every one of them is well worth the read! She is able to put literary fiction, psychological thrillers and police procedurals together in a way that is unlike anything I've ever read! Although the whodunit pieces of her novels are always compelling, I think its the why and how of her novels where she really stands out. She gives you more than just a mystery or a good police whodunit. Although those aspects are fantastic, the way she gets into the minds of the characters and the way that she explores humanity at its best and worst is where she truly excels!

Although I think The Likeness was and is my favorite of her novels, this one is probably now my second favorite. First and foremost, Tana French is a fantastic writer in every way. She paces so well, making the reading experience such a pleasure. Sometimes I'm not sure where she's going but I'm having a fantastic time getting there. And then, when I get there, I'm amazed at how effectively she got me where she needed me without ever boring or frustrating me. In fact, I suspect that Tana French could write about pretty much anything and I'd love every moment of reading it. Something about her writing style really resonates with me. And, frankly, she is incredibly skilled at bringing people and places alive in ways that most writers can only dream of. Although she does places well in all of her novels, this one is the best yet! The setting of this novel is as much a character as any of the people in the novel.

This novel just got under my skin, making me question everything and anything. There was much in this novel that I could relate to as a mother, wife, child, friend, etc. It was successful for me BECAUSE of how it made me see how close any one of us can be to the brink of so many disastrous things - homelessness, hardship, and even the unspeakable. It was an eye opening and thoughtful look at the economy's impact to individual lives as well as the impact of madness to individuals, families and communities.

I definitely recommend this novel. It's a fantastic novel that will not only keep you on the edge of your seat but it will also compel you to think about things you may not have considered. Really ... this is a well done novel that I can't say enough good things about. I can't wait to see what she has coming for us in the next novel!

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