Thursday, March 13, 2008

Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah

Review is based on an ARC.
Well, this was actually disappointing. It started off really well. It had a similar feeling to Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood, which I quite liked. But after a few hundred pages, I felt like I was re-reading, over and over again, the same passages, the same stories, at times even the same words. In addition to its repetitive nature in the story and sentences, the foreshadowing became so transparent and unsettling that I found myself, for the first time EVER, flipping to a later point in the book in frustration and disgust.

The book isn't bad. At all. I just didn't feel like it was really ready for publication. In addition to several typos and grammatical errors, the book needs more finessing and could probably lose 200 or so pages (with a tightening up of the story and rewriting several areas). Although untrue, it felt as though the author started out tracking two lives over a few decades, but then felt like she had to throw in some real drama to make sure it was, I don't know, exciting enough? But the result was a weakening of the original structure with a climax that fell far short of being climactic. It was also hard for me to believe the sincerity and steadfastness of a friendship that was *defined* but not *portrayed*. It was never quite convincing that either of the girls actually *cared* for the other and weren't, instead, merely acting out of jealousy or obligation.

In the end, I was surprised at how quickly my impression of the book changed... at 250 pages, I still felt it was quite good and I was planning out who I would recommend it to first... at 330 pages, I found myself turning pages with a scowl on my face. Even so, I still tore through the pages. I can't give this book a horrible rating because it simply wasn't horrible. But it was a bit too simplistic to have left any lasting impression.

On the plus side (there are plus sides!), the book was very easy to read, fun (most of the time), and informative. The information and facts on the political landscape through the decades, while sometimes forced and awkward, were also interesting and placed the reader fairly quickly into that decade's mindset. I was also impressed with the author's ability to write from the perspective of the girls in each decade relatively convincingly... Her portrayal of teens in the 70s was equally convincing as her portrayal of young ladies in their mid 20s in the 80s.

Overall, an average rating for an average book.

THREE of five stars.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

I Have the Right to Destroy Myself by Young-ha Kim

FOUR of five stars

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Sister by Poppy Adams

Review based on ARC (Advanced Readers' Copy).

This was a fascinating book, by all accounts. The narrator of the book appears, at first glance, to be a "normal" elderly woman, waiting for her sister after almost 50 years of absence. The story she tells is strange and traumatic, yet as the novel progresses, the reader becomes aware that there is not just a little bit hiding below the surface. Through inconsistencies in the narrator's story (not, however, in the author's) and questions almost begging to be asked (though, notably, not answered by the narrator), the reader becomes aware that there is an entire iceberg waiting to be discovered. I found myself quickly drawn into the story--particularly into that which occurred in the past. The only complaint I really had was that there were a few occasions where I felt the author spent just a little too long on scientific details (the butterfly/moth details). In the end, I did understand why this was done, but I felt that this result could easily have been accomplished with just a *little* paring down, leaving the reader feeling fully satisfied, yet not bogged down. All in all, a great read and very refreshing to find something unformulaic and original! Recommended!

FOUR of five stars.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Bad Monkeys by Matt Ruff

This was one of the most enjoyable books I've read in a long, long time. A mystery, the story is quick, intelligent, and multi-layered, offering thought-provoking discussion on the human psyche with deft humor. Completely accessible and fun, this novel keeps you turning pages *through* the end. My only hesitation in picking up a second Ruff book is my fear that it won't be as good!

I recommend Bad Monkeys to everyone.

FIVE of five stars.

(See author's website and book website for more info)