Monthly Archives: October 2014

Fast Food Breakfast: A selection of reviews quick to order

So I have been remiss in keeping up with my review writing, I admit. In between, starting a new job, buying my first house, and enjoying a much-needed cottage vacation, I have not taken the time to sit down and use what little brain power I have left to write a review. However, reading has always been a good release after a long day so I have been reading a lot (and buying more books for my upcoming library room). So, instead of trying to write out a lengthy review of each book and spending the next week motivating myself to catch up, I am doing this breakfast meal fast-food style. I’m going to dish my thoughts on each book with a few short sentences. The summary of the books can be found on any online site, so I’m just going to deal with my thoughts on whether these books are worth a second helping.

photo (8)“Inside” by Alix Ohlin This book had caught my interest as a Giller finalist. The cover art was telling of the book’s themes; the point of the book was to look at the flurry of bits that float around inside of each person, and the difficulty of knowing what was really going on inside of someone’s head. The themes the book touches on (love, motherhood, and mental illness) were interesting. However of all the books I’ve read over the past 6 weeks, “Inside” is not one I would pick up again.                                               3.5/5 bacon strips

photo (10)“Brain on Fire” by Susannah Cahalan Sitting in the sunshine on a dock was the perfect setting to read this disturbing autobiography. Cahalan perfectly mixed personal narrative with medical jargon and linked it to the larger picture of madness and auto-immune disease in women. Although there are points where this book feels quite depressing, it does end on a positive note as she looks what she has learned and how she will move forward. This book made me look at mental illness differently, and reminded me of the importance of fighting for the right answers. If you like well-written autobiographies or are fascinating by medical cases or have experience with mental illness, definitely pick up this book.                                                               5/5 bacon strips

photo (11)“The Painted Girls” by Cathy Marie Buchanan I enjoy historical fiction, so it is not surprising that I enjoyed “The Painted Girls”. A friend of mine picked it for our impromptu book club since the author was giving a lecture at our local library. The book switches narration in between the two elder sisters, Antoinette and Marie, and this variation of perspective added a lot more suspense and depth to the story of poverty in Paris, the struggle of young ballerinas, and the balance of love and family. Buchanan also touches on some great themes of the time period such as the ideology of criminal physiognomies. Food for thought and a well-told story!                         5/5 bacon strips

photo (9)“The Corrections” Jonathan Franzen Although this book is well-written, I realized that I am not a fan of the cynical male author. After a particularly strange 2-page scene where a piece of poop was mocking Alfred as it threatened to leave its traces all over the room, I almost put the book down. However, I had an enlightening conversation with a co-worker who reminded me that Franzen was delving into the mind of an Alzheimer sufferer which included describing his hallucinations no matter how strange. So, I continued the book and focused on what it was saying about the characters through their thoughts, instead of trying to read it for entertainment of plot. I can see why Franzen is enjoyed by some people, but I found his cultural dissections depressing and his character depictions frustrating. So, I am giving up trying to be a well-rounded reader and have decided I will not by attempting to read writing of this kind no matter how highly lauded it is (sorry Philip Roth and Mordecai Richler). I just don’t enjoy them.                                       2/5 bacon strips

photo (12)“The Luminaries” by Eleanor Catton Again, another prize-winning book that I found to be lacking (this one the 2013 Man Booker Prize winner). The size of the book (over 800 pages) should have been a warning sign that this book had far too many details, but I had heard this book mentioned so many times on radio and literary blogs that I thought I would give it a try. The basic plot was interesting and the characters were quite captivating, which is what kept me pressing on when after a couple of weeks I was still only halfway through. However, there are too many characters and too many stories trying to intersect with each other. At the end, I felt confused about what was the real story and the end result of all the commotion. Also, there was something about astronomy with the chapter titles but again, no real connection to the story, so it just seemed like another unnecessary detail that left me confused.                                1/5 bacon strips

photo (13)“Crazy Rich Asians” by Kevin Kwan Loved this book! It’s got crazy, it’s got over-the-top extravagance, it’s got family drama, and it’s got love. It really is like a modern-day Asian Pride and Prejudice as the book’s blurb suggests: the struggle to find the right spouse, dealing with family approval, and navigating Singaporean royalty-who has how much money from where to support what kind of lifestyle and fit into what kind of class status. It was a light, fast, enjoyable, and funny book. Read it!                     5/5 bacon strips

photo“The Rosie Effect” by Graeme Simsion Another light, funny read about relationships and family. This is the follow-up book to The Rosie Project as Don navigates social expectations, Rosie’s personality, and uniquely Don-inspired obstacles and solutions to the surprising announcement that Rosie is pregnant! I read this book within a couple of days because it was so entertaining I could not put it down. This is definitely on my re-read list. 5/5 bacon strips

photo (1)“The Blondes” by Emily Schultz Being a blonde myself, this book picqued my attention. It centres around a very interesting concept: there is a virus pandemic spreading through blonde females causing them to have rabies-like symptoms culminating in bouts of intense, random acts of violence. Although this affects our narrator’s story, it is really only a backdrop to her unexpected pregnancy. This book had a lot of great moments, but the author didn’t take the story as far as she could have. At the end, I felt very frustrated by the narrator’s limited knowledge of the Blonde Fury that was wreaking havoc on her world. Also, the story just kind of stopped without the resolution I wanted. What happened to Hazel and the baby? Did they find a cure for the Blonde virus? What is really going on with Larissa? I don’t like unanswered questions at the end of my books. Not a judgement call on the quality of writing, just a personal reader preference.           4/5 bacon strips

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