Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson ~ Fiction Book Review

 

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This book, originally written in Norwegian, has probably lost a lot in translation. Told from the perspective of an aging man who has moved to a secluded cabin in the wilderness to be by himself, it is a coming-of-age tale, both of his teenage years as narrator Trond reflects upon his youth, and as an old man as he ruminates about his current situation. Even after translation, the story is beautifully written.

My issue with this book, however, is that I was waiting for something that never happened. The big payoff, the defining moment, the climax – call it what you will, it never happened for me. There were plenty of smaller events, but no one big pivotal moment. Or maybe I just missed it. Chances are that I’ve been spoiled by mainstream fiction and its cheap thrills. This was a lovely book, it really was. I just prefer books with a little more action than self exploration. However, it has won a TON of awards, so it was definitely worth checking out. 4 stars.

Looking For Alaska by John Green ~ Fiction Book Review

99561Like all books that get a lot of hype, this one has received mixed reviews. A lot of love, a lot of hate, and plenty of middle of the road, “Mehs”.  Personally, I really enjoyed it. It didn’t make me cry, but then again, The Fault In Our Stars, the book for which author John Green is most known for, didn’t either. What this book did do was make me both think and feel.

It reminded me of my own youth, that tumultuous time of constantly being in emotional overload, sometimes without even knowing why, and of making piss poor decisions against my better judgement. (I blame it on my ‘not quite fully developed’ frontal lobe.)

What I love most about this book, and this whole new crop of awesome  books that are taking over the YA market, is that they treat teenagers as humans.  Imagine that. Those grumbly little misfits may actually be intelligent creatures with pain, frustration, and other feelings that adults may identify with. Go figure. 5 stars.

Ironweed by William Kennedy ~ Fiction Book Review

8017741I love the endless novels out there that say what they mean, without having to dissect themes and interpret the underlying meaning of the work. I did the required work in English class, wading through weighty tomes full of many layers and hidden meanings. But . . . it’s possible that I am becoming a lazy reader. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does beg the question – what am I missing? Luckily, there’s someone out there, call her my guardian book angel, who watches out for my  literary soul by dropping books of merit into my path.

Ironweed (actually a real plant, I looked it up) is a Pulitzer Prize winning novel written by William Kennedy in 1983, during what might have been the tale end of the age of the ‘great American novel’. Is it full of themes? Yes. Does it have depth? Absolutely. Is it a mind numbing, soul crushing vortex of words that takes the fun out of reading? Not at all. It’s a story of struggle and hardship and reality and redemption. A novel that will make you think. It might even make you grow a little. It’s also completely painless. I enjoyed my time with this book. 5 stars.

All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld ~ Fiction Book Review

18142324This book! Powerful prose oozing with ominousness, the pages practically sticky with sinisterness! The timeline was a little jumpy, disconcerting at first, but the pattern is quickly established and I soon developed a strange appreciation for it. The chapters alternate present and past, with the present moving forward, the past lapsing deeper and deeper into days gone by.

The reader is filled with anticipation while being unable to pinpoint the cause of suspense, knowing only that menace lurks somewhere in the shadows nearby. It was literary without being dull or boring, the refined edges sharp enough to cut yourself on. I can’t say I understood all of the slang, but I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the main character, an Aussie living on a remote island off the coast of Britain. A quick read that portrays a perfect example of how to break the rules of grammar the right way. Impactful writing, eloquent imagery, a beautiful work of art. 5 stars!

 

The Gathering by Anne Enright ~ Fiction Book Review

book15The Gathering by Irish author Anne Enright was the 2007 winner of the Man Booker Prize. Reading the book eight years after, I’m a little late to the game, but I figured I was in for some elegant prose and maybe a few out of date pop culture references. What I was really in for, it turns out, was a huge surprise.

There’s no doubt about Anne Enright’s talent as a writer. Her words evoke imagery that is both beautiful and grotesque. But that’s pretty much the sum of my understanding of this book – I get the words, but not the point. This is one of those books that you either love or hate.

The narrator of the book is unsure of anything. She takes the reader on a ride, tells us it didn’t really happen, then that it might have happened, then that it probably didn’t, and on and on, one instance after another. This seems to be the character’s way of working through some psychological mayhem that she is experiencing; but then again, it may not be. It may be, but probably not. And on and on.

At the end of the novel, I was left wondering what I had just read. Which is the way some people like their books, written along the delicate line where literature crosses the line into art, subject to each individual’s interpretation. Which I guess explains how 39 chapters of semi-sensical musings on death, sex and religion equate a prestigious literary award.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson ~ YA Fiction Book Review

book12I did something I never do – I started reading a book based on the recommendation of a stranger I met in the book store. Two days and only five pages later, I needed a quick reading fix. Something short, something easy, but something good.

I had this award winning slice of Young Adult fiction sitting on a shelf, so I grabbed it and devoured it on a weekend afternoon. This story was edgy, dark but funny, emotional but not tear-jerking. It was just what I needed.

Laurie Halse Anderson  has a gift for the teenage psyche. She does an incredible job of developing the character, and then letting her grow and evolve in a natural way, not the way a mom, teacher or adult would dictate. And while I’m not sure I would have liked this book when I was a young adult (I was on a strict diet of Michael Crichton with a side of Anne Rice and Stephen King – I liked my fiction to be a far cry from my reality), I appreciate the depth and craftsmanship that went into now. Five stars.

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