Book Review: The Pillars of the Earth

Book Review #26: The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follet)

***

I got this from the library essentially because it was very long and I wanted something without a screen to help me occupy lazy evenings. It started off really riveting, and soon diverged into something best described as Game of Thrones, without the dragons or magic. A sort of story that uses lazy and misogynistic plot devises, lacks true character development and, therefore, any true investment in the story itself.

Book Review: The Year of the Runaways

Book Review #24: The Year of the Runaways (Sunjeev Sahota)

***

Ooof. A real heavy book. Hard to read almost entirely throughout. I know that’s purposeful – to make the reader feel the same lack of hope and constant struggle that the immigrants in the story are experiencing but wow. As someone who generally has a favorable attitude towards immigrants – both documented and undocumented – it made me despair.

Book Review: The Great Alone

Book Review #23: The Great Alone: A Novel (Kristin Hannah)

**

This book started off strong with a great plot — a teenage girl, her abused mother, and her violent, unstable father are moving to Alaska to homestead off the land. While there, they’ll have to learn how to hunt and grow all of their own food; meanwhile, the father becomes increasingly erratic as the winter lengthens. It’s basically the Shining plus homesteading. But then it meanders into an extreme soap opera including unintended pregnancy, cancer, police department confessions, brain damage, etc. Just way too much and totally unrealistic by the end.

Book Review: Pachinko

Book Review #22: Pachinko (Min Jin Lee)

***

I had really high hopes for this book given that I had read rave reviews everywhere and had to wait for it to become available at the library for several months. In the end, it was a satisfying read but I also felt let down. I found the writing and plot sometimes to be overly simplistic and not prone to giving enough depth to characters. I know part of that was out of necessity because the book had to cover an absurd amount of time, but I would have rather read an even longer novel that filled in some more details for me. I will say it was the first book I read from start to finish in quite some time.

Book Review: The Little Friend

Book Review #21 – The Little Friend (Donna Tartt)

*****

Wow. What a book. I can’t even think of what to say. This was a book I read, frequently, but also thought about reading when I wasn’t reading it. The only book I can compare it to is Light in August by Faulkner. There is a similarity — the gothic Southerness, the focus on race and class relations, the loss of innocence, the sense of individual people making logistically sound choices but getting caught up into a chaotic world. It’s a book about a 12-year old avenging her brother’s murder but it’s so far beyond that. Nothing much happens but also everything happens.

Donna Tartt, like Jeffery Eugenides, has written three books. Like Jeffery Eugenides, one has won the Pulitzer Prize. But unlike him, she has published each book ten years apart. Each one constructs a completely realistic and surreal world, and each one lets you go so deep into that world that it’s a struggle to let go.

Book Review: A Wizard of Earthsea

Book Review #2O – A Wizard of Earthsea (Ursula K. Le Guin)

**

I really thought I’d love this book. I have been reading Ursula K. Le Guin’s blog which is amazing. I love hearing her perspective on small moments, news events, and appreciate the value she provides as both a wonderful writer and someone older, who has an interesting perspective and view of the world. A Wizard of Earthsea is arguably her best known book. Written for children (or young adults might be more accurate), I found it really complex. Maybe it just wasn’t what I was expecting. The plot was almost hesitant, and I often found myself confused and having to go back a few pages to pick up the lost thread. I was curious about the book and how it would end, but couldn’t really get into it.

Book Review: The Marriage Plot

Book Review #19 – The Marriage Plot (Jeffrey Eugenides)

**

Jeffrey Eugenides has published three books: The Virgin Suicides (adapted into a movie directed by Sofia Coppola), Middlesex (a Pulitzer Prize winner), and The Marriage Plot. I have read all three. The Virgin Suicides, which I read in my teens, I thought terrible and completely unrelateable. Middlesex, I found completely moving and phenomenal, and the Marriage Plot. What do I think about the Marriage Plot? It is a book I have seen – at the library, at the bookstore – many times, picked it up, read the back cover, and placed it back down. I do honestly believe it’s not worth reading. The characters are flat, the plot is absurd and slow-moving — there is just a completely vapid nothingness. It almost reminded me of Revolutionary Road in terms of how much of a novel you can craft around unlikable flat characters who can’t seem to learn how to be better people.