Posts Tagged ‘4 out of 5’

8th April
2011
written by Steph

For Laura: "Would you like a cream bun?"

Avid book bloggers know that a common lament throughout the book blogging world is the lack of time devoted to re-reading, given all the wonderful new books that are cropping up every day. With so many books frequently flooding into my own home, I know that I certainly have spent the bulk of my reading time in years past trying to make my way through the deluge of new books, rather than returning to old favorites. Of course, it’s not just well-loved books that I frequently mark as “to re-read”, but also books that challenged me or that I struggled with. Sometimes I finish a book that I expected to love and find that we just didn’t click. This can certainly be due to the book just not being my cup of tea, but sometimes I think that I simply wasn’t in the right space for that book, or that it might be one of those tricky ones that you can only appreciate after multiple readings. I am here to say that The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie is definitely one of those books. (more…)
28th January
2011
written by Steph

When I read and reviewed Room by Emma Donoghue late last year, I really didn’t like it. Part of me was rather surprised that the book had received such acclaim because I found the majority of its narrative rather superficial and lacking in real depth. Many readers who did enjoy Room thoughtfully responded to my crankiness by saying that my expectations had perhaps not been quite correct going into the book, as they had not necessarily approached it as a literary novel, but one that was a fast-paced page-turner. Perhaps if I too had gone into Room expecting something more straightforward I would have liked it more… When I picked up Child 44, I recalled some of the reviews I had read about it when it was first released, and even though it was short-listed for the Booker Award in 2008, I decided to approach it as a standard thriller and put aside expectations of it having to transcend that genre or having an obvious literary quality to its writing. (more…)
18th January
2011
written by Steph

Y’all, I have been waiting to talk about this book for soooo long. I think I first saw it posted on TLC tours sometime back in back in SEPTEMBER, so I’ve literally been sitting on this thing for months. Ok, fine, figuratively, since I haven’t in fact been perched on my galley copy of The Weird Sisters like a mother hen for three months, but it kind of feels like I have. I’ve been nursing a great secret, but now I can let it out: The Weird Sisters is a totally fab book and you must read it post haste. I was initially drawn to this book because of the Shakespearean connotation of the name (the weird sisters being the three witches in “Macbeth”). You know I love me the bard, so any book that alludes to the master of the English language is going to pique my interest. As I read the little blurb about the book, I realized the Shakespeare reference in the title was not mere coincidence but intentional, which thrilled me. Add to that the fact that book involves three sisters whose father is a professor of Shakespeare, and who all return home, beaten and bruised when disasters of various ilk strike, and I was sold. If this were a Cosmo quiz about books, my answer would say something to the effect of “If you chose mostly A’s: You are the kind of reader who loves books set in academia that are chocked full of literary references, and feature dysfunctional family drama to round things out.” If this also describes you, then The Weird Sisters is the book for you. (more…)
27th September
2010
written by Steph

As regular readers of this blog know, I’m not the biggest fan of the short story. I really prefer sustained narratives rather than tiny little bursts of story, and I often find it hard to shift gears from one story to the next. Also, I tend to find that there’s this trend with short stories where the stories just seem to end, often times abruptly, and I’m left wondering what the point of the whole exercise was. When I recently discussed Scarlett Thomas’s Our Tragic Universe, I mused about the notion of the “storyless story” and allowed that it’s something I don’t necessarily mind in my novels. However, I think that I’m anti storyless short stories! With this in mind, the Sherlock Holmes short stories are exactly the kind of story I would like. They’re mini mysteries, each with an obvious beginning, middle, and end, and they’re all sufficiently straightforward that I can just sit back, relax and enjoy. As much as I like giving my mind a workout when I’m reading, sometimes it’s nice to just romp about with a cocaine-addicted, sneering detective and have an adventure or two. (more…)
23rd September
2010
written by Steph

It hooked me all right...

Oh, Red Hook Road. I just can’t quit you. Ever since I heard about your publication, I have been wanting to read you… so it wouldn’t be entirely fair to say you’re a book that crept up on me, except that’s kind of exactly what you did. Your premise – a newlywed couple are killed in a car wreck on the way from their wedding to the reception and the way the fallout affects their respective families – was one that was so blindingly tragic that I was drawn to you like a moth to a flame. Surely this would be a book that would burn me, make me feel the deepest pangs of grief, and yet I could not pull away. I ran into your embrace wholeheartedly, prepared to have my heart bruised and beaten. (more…)
30th August
2010
written by Steph

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace is one of those books that I guess you could say is on my bucket list; last year when the Infinite Summer readalong was taking place, I was sorely tempted to give it a try, but I know that massively long doorstop books are just not my style. And yes, I was woefully intimidated. While I wanted to read Wallace, I wondered if Infinite Jest was really the best place for me to start... I decided it wasn’t and instead decided I’d try Wallace’s first, and much shorter, novel, The Broom of the System, on for size and see how it fit. Rather than cannonballing (or bellyflopping, let’s be honest) into the deep end, I figured I’d spend some time wading about in the paddling pool instead. If Infinite Jest is a full marathon, I’d say Broom is a half-marathon. It may look considerably slimmer than its successor, but you’d be foolish to consider this a trifling 5K. It starts off simply enough, with a fun chapter involving college party shenanigans, and while the novel certainly has a healthy dose of the absurd coursing through it, this is not a light or flippant novel. (more…)
28th August
2010
written by Steph

With the completion of Agnes Grey I can now say that I have read a novel apiece by each of the Bronte sisters. Hurrah! I didn’t really know what to expect going into an Anne Bronte novel, though this Hark! A Vagrant Cartoon that I was directed to by Jenny of Shelf Love during my read through of Jane Eyre last year caused me to suspect she might be my favorite sister of the three.  I mean, I like neither assholes nor alcoholic dickbags for my male heroes in fiction… What can I say? I’ve never been one of those girls who goes for the brooding, badboy. It’s just never been my shtick. Turns out, it’s not Anne Bronte’s thing either. If there’s such a thing as a proper romance (or a romance of manners), then that’s exactly what Agnes Grey is. In many ways it was like Jane Eyre, but it was far less epic and not at all gothic. Essentially, if you were one of those people who when reading Sense and Sensibility just wanted more of Elinor and Edward and swooned at their polite and reserved interactions that masked their deeper passions, then Agnes Grey is the novel for you. (more…)
19th August
2010
written by Steph

When I picked up a copy of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao I only knew three things about it: 1) it had won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction; 2) it had a bunch of Spanish in it; and 3) it involved a lot of “geeky” sci-fi/fantasy references. The first point was certainly not a deterrent, and I figured that being fluent in French and having taken one year of highschool Spanish would probably be enough to make it through any smatterings of Spanish throughout the book. I’d only heard effusive praise for the book, even by those readers who didn’t have an extensive background in genre fiction, so I was pretty excited to give it a go. I think the first thing I have to say is something that you’ve probably heard in other reviews but which I must make very clear: THERE IS A LOT OF SPANISH IN THIS BOOK. Sometimes it’s just a word thrown into a sentence here or there that doesn’t completely undermine your comprehension of the book… but other times it’s an entire phrase, and it’s not likely to be one of those phrases you learned in an introductory language course. This isn’t holiday Spanish, this is contemporary, living Spanish that uses a lot of slang and idioms, that will probably be lost on you unless you’re a native speaker or extremely fluent. If you know how to ask where the beach is or proclaim your love of chicken and rice, that’s not going to cut it. Consider yourself warned! (As an aside, you need to worry less if you know nada about sci-fi and fantasy. I’m sure some references didn’t hit home, but I didn’t feel these detracted from my comprehension of the novel.) (more…)
17th August
2010
written by Steph

So way back in 2009, I read Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, because I had heard it was a really engrossing page-turner that was super fun to read, and its 500+ pages really just whipped by. I did largely enjoy the novel, but wound up thinking it was good, not great; it did, however, pique my interest in Eugenides’ first novel, The Virgin Suicides, which is perhaps better known for its film adaptation. Well, by everyone but me, because I have of course not seen the movie (though I have now rented it from Netflix, so it’s only a matter of time!). On a whim, I recently decided now was the right time to finally try on Eugenides’ debut and see whether it was a better fit than Middlesex. The premise was certainly just as tantalizing as Middlesex (the story of a hermaphrodite): The story revolves around the suicides of the five young daughters of the Lisbon family, although predominantly it looks at the effects of the youngest daughter’s suicide (the first to commit the deed) on the rest of the family. Through the eyes of an anonymous group of boys who have been long fascinated by the beautiful and mysterious Lisbon girls, we watch as the family unravels and slowly spirals into decay and derelict dysfunction. Throughout it all, the boys try to solve the mystery of what caused Cecilia Lisbon to jump to her death. (more…)
13th August
2010
written by Steph

A cracking good read!

For years I’ve been hearing about how Three Men in a Boat is the funniest of books, a book that will truly tickle your funny bone. Some have even claimed this might be the funniest English book ever written. Such claims cause ambivalence within me, because I LOVE me some British humor, but I also get worried because I fear that when I finally get on the boat (as it were), I’ll find the item in question only kind of funny rather than a rip-roaring side-splitter. I mean, for all their stiff upper lips, those Brits do dry humor better than pretty much anyone in my book (Blackadder, anyone?), and we all know I fell head over heels for P.G. Wodehouse last year, all to say that any declarations of being the apex of humor are going to come under some pretty harsh scrutiny when I’m the one doing the judging. (more…)
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