BOOK REVIEW: The Best of Adam Sharp, by Graeme Simsion

BOOK REVIEW: The Best of Adam Sharp, by Graeme SimsionTitle: The Best of Adam Sharp by Graeme Simsion
Published by St. Martin's Press
Published: May 2nd 2017
Genres: Fiction
Pages: 314
Format: Hardcover
Source: Book Sparks
Goodreads

 The Best of Adam Sharp is the latest by Graeme Simsion, the author of the highly-acclaimed The Rosie ProjectThe Best of Adam Sharp follows the life of a British man at fifty-something reminiscing about a relationship he had twenty years ago with Angelina Brown, an intelligent and beautiful actress. When the two had a chance to be something more than just a passionate fling, Sharp doesn’t take the chance and the two part ways. Twenty years after the two part ways, Adam receives a message from Angelina, and it causes him to wonder about the stability of everything in his life.

Unable to stop thinking about what might have been, Adam takes the chance and reconnects with Angelina, only to find out that it’s probably better to let what happened in the past and what fizzled out in the past remain in the past because it’s never going to be what you think and hope it will be, because Angelina is with someone else and really has no intention of ultimately shaking up her own life just to have a taste of that “what could have been.”

As I was reading this, I kept thinking I am not the target audience for this book. I’m about twenty years too young to really relate to anything that’s going on in the story, except for the flashbacks to Adam and Angelina’s initial romance. I think this would be a better read for someone who is a bit older than I am, someone who has had the chance to love and let go in this kind of way or for someone who is a little bit more of a romantic than I am. I also found it interesting that it played with the idea of polyamory and extra people in a relationship for a bit, and that’s the first time I’ve seen it in commercial fiction in a somewhat positive light. Then again, I don’t always gravitate toward commercial fiction with a romantic bent, so I might be completely off the mark in that! However, the writing made this a highly compulsive read, and I definitely wanted to see how everything played out for Adam and how it resolved itself. In the end, I felt that Adam got what he wanted and what he deserved as fairly as the universe could possibly present it to him. It’s never easy coming to terms with a lost love and the chance and failure of reconciliation, but sometimes it’s the journey that really matters.

I received this book from Book Sparks and the publisher for review! All opinions are my own.

BOOK REVIEW: Woman No. 17, by Edan Lepucki

BOOK REVIEW: Woman No. 17, by Edan LepuckiTitle: Woman No. 17 by Edan Lepucki
Published by Hogarth Press
Published: May 9th 2017
Genres: Fiction
Pages: 320
Format: Hardcover
Source: Book Sparks
Goodreads

“You think you know how a story begins, or how it’s going to turn out, especially when it’s your own. You don’t.”

I’m participating in Book Sparks’s Summer Reading Challenge this year, and Edan Lepucki’s Woman No. 17 is one of the books I read as part of the challenge that I couldn’t put down. I’m branching out of my reading comfort zones by participating in this challenge, and I think it’s helping me figure out why it is I gravitate toward certain genres and styles of fiction and it’s also showing me that branching out every now and then is an amazing palate cleanser.

Woman No. 17 explores the upsides and pitfalls of self-expression in the name of art, and I liked that S was not that likable of a character from the beginning, but she’s also a character a reader can empathize with because I feel like so many of us go through all of those loops and twists to try to understand our parents without actually going to the source because that’s awkward and uncool. It seems more interesting to our weird brains to do the roundabout thing and figure things out for ourselves when a lot of the time, our answers can be easily gained with time and the right questions. Anyway, I digress.

S, following in her mother’s footsteps, becomes a nanny to Lady, a woman living in southern California, and her youngest son. S finds out that Lady has an adult son, Seth, who is mute, and it’s revealed throughout the novel that Lady has a difficult time letting Seth go and grow up. The dynamic between S’s projection of her vision of her mother’s self, Lady, and Seth becomes pretty predictable by the middle of the novel when Seth and S begin communicating with each other without Lady’s knowledge. I think this is where the novel ultimately lost me because it was so predictable, especially in the connection between S and Seth by the end, and I felt that just one more twist in the whole thing might have made me enjoy this book that much more.

There’s a lot of drinking and a scene of animal abuse that caught me off guard (I’m not generally disturbed by these things, but it is worth mentioning for those who might be), but the writing itself is sharp, well-paced, and kept me reading even though I found myself rolling my eyes at S’s behavior. Lepucki shows her familiarity with the southern California landscape and the sorts of people who inhabit it and the people it attracts, and I really enjoyed that aspect of it. The characters, while ridiculous to me at times, seemed realistic within the setting and I didn’t feel as if it was completely unbelievable. Woman No. 17 is an enjoyable summer read that will take you away from the world for a few hours and leave you feeling quite entertained.

I received a copy of this book from Book Sparks and the publisher for review! All opinions are my own.

BOOK REVIEW: The Bone Witch, by Rin Chupeco

BOOK REVIEW: The Bone Witch, by Rin ChupecoTitle: The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco
Series: The Bone Witch #1
Published by Sourcebooks Fire
Published: March 7th 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 400
Format: eBook
Source: Netgalley
Goodreads

Rin Chupeco’s The Bone Witch is a fantasy about a girl who accidentally discovers her powers when she brings her brother back to life. She is taken in by a bone witch for training, and her brother, Fox, becomes her zombie familiar of sorts. The story follows Tea’s instruction from age twelve to about age fifteen? We get to see the “coven” in which she is raised and trained, the day-to-day life, the details of the clothes she and the other people wear, glimpses of the food, and all of the minute details that comprise Tea’s education. In a way, this works, but it also drags the story out and often feels like nothing is happening. Most of the action happens in the first quarter of the book and the last quarter of the book, and the rest is mostly world building filler with a few minor conflicts that Tea has while learning how to utilize her powers.

The world building in this story draws heavily from Chinese influences, and this makes it different for me from any of the recent YA fantasy I’ve read. The atmosphere and setting are richly detailed, and everything is described so vividly, and I enjoyed that a lot. I also like that the main character’s magical powers are necromancy. It’s dark, and it’s different from the soft and beautiful magic often reserved for female characters. I like that, and I want to see how that power grows and manifests itself as she ages. Fox is probably my favorite character, because who doesn’t love a sidekick named Fox who is also a zombie and who also has an interesting personality?

After finishing this, I found myself wanting more, more to have happened and more to have been done with the story. The intertwining parts of a bard recounting his experiences with an asha (who is most likely Tea) in the future with the story of Tea in the past is very reminiscent of Rothfuss’s Kvothe in The Name of the Wind, and I feel like this is like the younger end of the spectrum YA sibling to The Kingkiller Chronicles. The world Chupeco created is so grand and so vivid that I just wanted to see more of Tea’s interaction with that world and within that world rather than descriptions of it, and I’m hoping that’s what we’ll get to read in the sequel.

A copy of this book was provided to me by Sourcebooks Fire and Netgalley for review; all opinions are my own.

BOOK REVIEW: Into the Water, by Paula Hawkins

BOOK REVIEW: Into the Water, by Paula HawkinsTitle: Into the Water by Paula Hawkins
Published by Riverhead Books
Published: May 2nd 2017
Genres: Fiction
Pages: 386
Format: Trade Paper
Source: Publisher
Goodreads

 Some say the women left something of themselves in the water; some say it retains some of their power, for ever since then it has drawn to its shores the unlucky, the desperate, the unhappy, the lost. They come here to swim with their sisters.

This summer I am participating in Book Sparks‘s Summer Reading Challenge, and the first book of the summer is Paula Hawkins’s Into the Water. I have been eagerly waiting to read this after reading The Girl on the Train last year, and I feel like she met my expectations with her sophomore novel. Into the Water is a slower-paced novel compared to the runaway feeling that I got while reading The Girl on the Train, and I think that the pace and atmosphere of each book fits the title. Into the Water unfolds slowly through multiple perspectives and all of the details float around until the final few chapters when everything comes together.

Into the Water‘s strength lies not in the driving force of the plot but in its undercurrent. The main plot revolves around the death of a single mother in a pool of water in which other women throughout the town’s history have also died. To me, the most interesting aspect of this novel is the history of that pool and the stories of the women who died there. I would have loved for the novel to revolve more around the histories of those women because their stories were nuanced, engaging, and compelling. I wanted to know more about the lives of those women and what led to their downfalls.

The major drawback for me in this novel are the narrators. I felt like there were too many narrators (eleven! I wrote the names down to keep track of them, and I’ve never felt like I’ve had to do that before), and that many narrators lead to a jumpy, sometimes jarring plot. I like stories with multiple perspectives, and I think eleven narrators can work if it’s a longer book or a longer series, but when a book is less than four-hundred pages, I find that eleven narrators eventually blur and lose their distinctions.

Overall, this is a solid read for me, and I breezed through it on a lovely spring day with my cat on my lap on our deck.

An advance reader’s copy was sent to me on behalf of Riverhead Books and Book Sparks for my honest opinion.

BOOK REVIEW: The Paper Menagerie, by Ken Liu

BOOK REVIEW: The Paper Menagerie, by Ken LiuTitle: The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu
Published by Saga Press
Published: October 4th 2016
Genres: Science Fiction, Fantasy
Pages: 450
Format: Trade Paper
Source: Purchased
Goodreads

 Time’s arrow is the loss of fidelity in compression. A sketch, not a photograph. A memory is a re-creation, precious because it is both more and less than the original.

Ken Liu’s The Paper Menagerie is one of the best short story collections I’ve ever read, period. It’s rare for me to read a short story collection and find something to enjoy and marvel over in each story, but I did with this one. I think the only other one that matches that ‘I love every story in this’ is Ted Chiang’s Stories of Your Life and Others. After finishing The Paper Menagerie, I just wanted so much more, and I’m so looking forward to reading his Dandelion Dynasty series.

I think the thing I liked most about this collection of stories, aside from Liu’s deft skill at writing in and blending several different genres, is that so many of the stories focus on the idea of storytelling and what that means for us as people and as a society. In the collection, you’ll read about the ways in which species across the universe record their stories for the present and the future (“The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species”), the ways in which society tells us stories to keep us controlled and how difficult it is to break the illusions (“Perfect Match”), the literal power of words (“The Literomancer”), and the literal preservation of memory to be “read” and its upsides and pitfalls (“Simulacrum”).

This solid collection has fiction in all genres, and one of the heaviest stories to read was “The Literomancer,” because while it’s got a flavor of magic and magical realism, it’s firmly rooted in history, and it’s difficult to read about and stomach the atrocities people can do to one another, and it adds another layer of heaviness when the story is mostly from a child’s, an innocent’s, perspective, because we’re watching that loss of innocence unfold before us. I also really liked “The Waves,” and I found it one of the strongest recent science fiction stories I’ve read in a while.

Part of the joy of short story collections is the discovery within the covers, so I don’t want to go into too much detail about the stories themselves. But I will recommend this to you and everyone you know because it’s just that good.