An Absolutely Compelling Story

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian blew me away. I wasn’t expecting it. I hadn’t really paid much attention to the hype. I just needed a good audio book, and when I saw that the audio version of this one was read by the author, I was intrigued. Then I started listening. The story felt so real, like the author had lived through it himself. That’s when I did a little background research, and realized that the novel is semi-autobiographical. Wow! Knowing that made Arnold/ Junior/ Sherman’s story all the more compelling. I love how he tells his story, with humor and self deprecating candor, about himself, his family and friends, his “rez” and his tribe. There was so much darkness, but Alexie also brought the lightness of hope and humor to it. I learned more about life on a reservation than I’d ever known. It is sad, no doubt. I wish I could help in some way…some way that doesn’t end with me looking like Ted the crazy millionaire, of course.And in some small way I could relate, to rural life and poverty, to rising above the low expectations of your community and hungering for more, to rural small school life. I could care less about sports, but I found myself pretty involved even in the chapters about basketball. I cared about the characters, about Arnold, about Gordie, about Rowdy, about Arnold’s parents, and even about the breathtaking Penelope. I want more of this story.
Forget John Green. I want to read everything Sherman Alexie wrote now.

 
Also, I recommend both the audio version, for Sherman Alexie reading his own book in his own voice (and accent), and the print edition, with its goofy, fun, illuminating cartoons that suit Arnold’s story so perfectly.

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No Help to Me

I hate to give a generally well-written book a poor review, but Help, Thanks, Wow simply wasn’t for me. I admire Lamott’s openness about her own brokenness–although it does make any criticism I level at the book feel like I’m picking on her. I just can’t relate to her. Not that we aren’t all broken and struggling in some way. But she writes with such specific examples that she’s bound to exclude someone, with so many references to literary works, works of art, and classic movies, as well as cultural and personal experiences that I don’t know, am not interested in, and/or can never hope to afford. The literary references were especially frustrating, as they were often used to explain a point that Lamott was trying to make. I could generally ascertain what she was trying to say anyway, but I got frustrated with the process very quickly.
I also can’t agree with some of Lamott’s theology. It doesn’t seem to fall within the parameters of Christian orthodoxy.  So let’s just say that it never hurts to be reminded to pray and to be reminded that none of us is perfect, and that Anne Lamott and I simply weren’t meant to be friends, and leave it at that. She did a good job reading her own book for audio format, and the book is mercifully short. Considering that this is the second Lamott book I’ve read, and the second to underwhelm me, I think I’ll pass on any of her other books in in the future.

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Other Stories

A quick and pleasant read from the team behind Firefly. The story and the characters were faithful to the show, and enjoyable as such. The last story was different from the others, and I didn’t really get what was going on until the last few scenes, when Zoe walked in. Then I realized that the story was set AFTER the movie Serenity, and then everything made a lot more sense. The ending even added a little sweet to the bitterness of Wash’s story. These comics are a nice way to stretch out the too-brief experience of Firefly.

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Amazing Read!

 

Now THIS is what young adult dystopian writing should be like. Go read this book now! Rootless was amazing, perhaps all the more so by comparison because I started it in the middle of limping through a lackluster book of the same genre. But I think it would have blown me away regardless of when I read it. I didn’t even mean to read it when I did. I had picked up a stack of books from the library, and flipped through all them to read the first page or so, out of curiosity. Only with Rootless, I was sucked in right away and just didn’t want to put it down, until I was finally finished with the book.
The main character, Banyan, lives a harsh, lonely life, and watching his growth throughout the book is wonderful–how he goes from barely understanding concepts like friendship and love to embracing them and fighting for what matters, although in his own way. There are no easy answers in this book, though, and a shocking high body count, given the relatively sparse cast of the book. The world Chris Howard has imagined is breathtakingly shocking, brutal, and stark, and yet he sketches it out so skillfully that I never felt grossed out or disgusted by the violence. Horrified in a shocked, surprised way, but not in a gory way.
I think Howard’s descriptions, or lack thereof, are one of the brilliant things about the book. I didn’t feel like I was drowning in words and needless descriptions. Settings and character introductions seemed to flow seamlessly along with the story, instead of distracting from it and losing momentum. And yet what descriptions there were were incredibly vivid. I felt like I could SEE the scorched bare landscape and smell the foul dusty air.
Howard is clearly taking a jab at companies like Monsanto, but it’s a well deserved one, and a chillingly apt comparison. Imagining a world without trees and other plants is almost more than I can bear, but I did bear it, and came out richer for it.
The other characters are also skillfully sketched. Fiery Alpha, sad Hina, obnoxious Sal, enigmatic Crow, and repulsive Frost, as well as a few other characters, stuck out vividly in my head. I cared when characters died. I cared when they suffered. I hoped for their success, and I cannot wait for more books in this world. I don’t see any more listed on Goodreads yet, but the last page of Rootless says “End of Book One”, so there had BETTER be another book or two. It’s not the ending was a huge cliffhanger–there was enough resolution to make the book satisfying–but there’s still so much that can be explored. I want more of Banyan and his world!

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Only Partially Enjoyable

Thank God I’m finished with this book! I listened to Partials on audio, and it felt absolutely interminable. The woman reading the book did a decent job, and the plot was action-packed and fast moving. But I found Kira to be one of the most annoying protagonists I’ve read in a long time. She was everything that was stereotypically annoying about teenage girls, mostly constant mood swings and massive melodrama, which was rarely necessary. I realize when you’re facing the potential end of the world, tensions are probably running high, and moods might be a bit unstable, but Kira was ridiculous and annoying. Her ideas were far-fetched and caused lots of collateral damage, and yet that only seemed to encourage everyone she encountered to trust her more…or fall in love with her.
I applaud the effort to have a multicultural group of characters, even if it felt a little forced and stereotypical. The rest of the characters were not as annoying as Kira. I liked Jayden, and thought he deserved better than the storyline he got. Marcus could do better too. I liked Samm the most, but even so, I’m not actually invested in a single one of these characters, and could care less what happens in the following books, which I won’t be reading.
It didn’t help that the book needed a good proofread, both for simple fact checks (i.e. nutmeg doesn’t grow in northern gardens, kudzu doesn’t generally grow as far north as Long Island, and even if it did, it’s not the only creeping vine native to the area, etc.) and continuity (Tovar’s steed is referred to first as a camel, then a donkey, then a camel. A single gun is often referred to interchangeably as rifle, shotgun, and semiautomatic in the same scene. That may actually be more of a lack of knowledge than continuity. Extremely distracting, but difficult to tell.). The author had a lot of stock words, phrases, and actions he used repeatedly as well, such as “thumbing” the button on a walkie-talkie, kudzu climbing on buildings, and Kira having a hissy fit/ tantrum.
It’s a shame. This book had plenty of potential, with interesting world building and a fairly interesting and fast moving plot, despite relying so heavily on Kira’s crazy impulsive actions. But when you spend the whole book muttering rude comments at a fictional character and rolling your eyes at her, it’s not a satisfying read. Time to go find a better book.

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Hammertime

Yes, I just read the third Iron Druid book, in less than a month’s time. No, I am not making very good progress with my “read what I own” campaign. Maybe now that I’m finished with this book…

In some ways I did not enjoy Hammered as much as the first two in the series. I struggled to get involved with the storyline at first, didn’t really enjoy the extended reconnaissance and battle scenes, and was just feeling very frustrated with Atticus’s immaturity, smugness, and level of violence, no to mention the way women are depicted in these stories. What I did like about this story, though, was that it addressed many of the things that annoyed me about Atticus (although not the woman issue. alas). He admitted that he could be smug (and he paid a price, however small, for his smugness). He bemoaned the violence into which his choices had led him into. Did he become any less perfect and all powerful? Maybe a little. The story isn’t completely happy ever after this time, in fact, it kind of ends on a violent down note, with more questions than answers. (There was, of course, someone around to heal his ear, though.) I’m curious to see what the fallout from his encounters will be, which is, I suppose, the point of the books. Keep me interested and reading. I’m hoping Granuille eventually becomes less of an acolyte and more of an equal to Atticus, and that there might be other female characters introduced who are worth respecting for something other than their cup size.
I wasn’t crazy about the “buddy Jesus” he depicted, but it’s not the first time Jesus has been depicted that way, and for the most part it was still more reverent than any of the author’s treatment of other gods. I also enjoyed the diverse assortment of short stories that the author integrated into the main story.  I appreciate that in each book the circle of cultures and religions and mythologies that he covers expands further.  I found Scandinavian mythology less interesting than Irish, but still worth learning about, and I look forward to whatever else I might learn about in future books. Because no matter how annoyed I am with how women are depicted in these books (described solely by level of desirability, never a true threat for Atticus, etc), I find the books interesting, so I keep reading, at least for now.

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Dead Never After

I read the first twelve books in the Sookie Stackhouse series, and I really enjoyed most of them. The last two or three books were not stellar, in my opinion, but I soldiered on, since I’d already invested so much time and emotion into the storyline. And I nervously awaited book thirteen, the final Sookie book. I wasn’t just worried about Sookie’s romantic fate, but that was a major one of my concerns. The series had spent so much time and energy building up a chemistry and then a relationship between Sookie and Eric, only to start tearing away at it in the past few books. I had a bad feeling about where the story was headed, and based on every spoiler I’ve read, I was right.

But it’s not just that I’m angry with Sookie’s totally unromantic ending. It’s HOW she ends up that way. All the fun was sucked out of these books several books ago.  Life is too short to force myself to read joyless books that take all the expectations I’ve built up through loyal readership and the writing itself, and just stomp on them. Sookie doesn’t seem likable to me anymore, but instead a broken down, bitter woman, settling for what she can, instead of fighting for what she really wants, or at least used to want. She’s tired of her life and its drama, and so am I. Eric isn’t the same person anymore either, in a way that seems a betrayal of the irresistible character he once was, and not at all a logical character progression.

Which is why I won’t be reading this book. I read enough reviews to know that I needed to check out the spoiler reviews, and once I heard, not just the end, but also the events leading up to the end, and how the ending was achieved in this book, I simply can’t make myself do it. I am getting rid of my Sookie books and forgetting this series. I’m also removing any additional Charlaine Harris books still on my to-read lists. I detested An Ice Cold Grave and I didn’t care for the first Lily Bard book either. I’ve come to the conclusion that the fun, enjoyable Sookie beginning aside, Charlaine Harris simply doesn’t write the kind of stories or characters that I want to read (about). I don’t know what trauma has occurred in her life to keep making her write such unlikable, unfriendly, emotionally scarred women, with such unsatisfying relationships, but I’m not going to keep wasting my time and happiness on books that disappoint. There are too many other great books out there for that.

So goodbye, Charlaine Harris. I’d say it’s been nice, but I’d be lying. Good luck with that new series; I surely won’t be reading it.

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