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thefaultinourblogs

The Fault in Our Blogs

Book reviews, recommendations, and other bookish things.

More Than This

More Than This - Patrick Ness I picked this one up because it was only $8 and it was featured at my local independent bookstore. (Oh, and there was an awesome blurb from John Green on the cover) I'm glad I did. Ness unfolds an immersing and complex world that has the reader asking questions with the protagonist from the beginning. There are many twists and turns, and I have to admit they took me by surprise so much that I was very vocal while I was reading this book. Vast strings of profanities flew from my mouth at several points in the book. That's one of the really cool things about More Than This: the surprise never ends, really. You think you've figured out the puzzle, then you're hit with a plot twist that shakes your whole perception of Seth's world. Also, props for POC main characters and LGBT representation that seemed authentic. That ending though. It didn't end the way I wanted it to, but I want MORE. Please everyone, read this. I finished it in just a few days even though I was also juggling readings for several classes. Now I have to read everything else Ness has written.

Wool Omnibus (Silo, #1)

Wool Omnibus (Silo, #1) - Hugh Howey original source: http://thefaultinourblogs.blogspot.com

So I discovered after I'd finished this edition of Wool that the different sections within were published as separate novellas, or novels, or something. This edition, called Wool Omnibus, is the first in a four-part bigger series and I look forward to reading the next one. This is actually a book that I let my dad read before I did, and we both enjoyed it a lot.

The plot is very immersive. The quote on the front says "You will live in this world," and at first I thought it was a dumb way of phrasing things. The world in Wool is not a place that we would want to live. Compared to today's society, Wool presents a collapsed version of our Earth, years in the future. The characters in this novel live in a government regulated, self sufficient silo where everything (including corpses) is recycled and even mentioning "outside" can earn you a death sentence.

The entire time I was reading it, I kept viewing Wool as a combination of Les Miserables and The Hunger Games. A strange combo, but oh boy did Howey pull off his writing style. Boy can write. All that being said, I'm really glad I did not read each section by itself, because I would have been aching for the next part in the series immediately. Howey is very good at cliffhangers.

The only thing I had problems with was the ending, and here's where you should stop reading if you feel strongly about spoilers because there are a few mildly spoilery comments. The first thing that bugged me was that the Romeo and Juliet parallel that Howey set up in one of the books did not carry through to the end. I feel like it almost dropped out completely. When I first saw the mention of R&J, I was so excited, man! I was like, jumping out of my seat this is the greatest thing ever excited. But the parallels stopped abruptly and left me disappointed because they could have been GREAT! This book could have been a 5! The second thing that bugged me, along the same lines, was that the ending was so hopeful. This partially stems from my assumption that it would end tragically, like R&J or at least "West Side Story," along with viewing the battle scenes as comparable to Les Mis and trying to figure out which characters were supposed to be whom in the R&J overlay. But none of the really main characters died, and I felt like that was not an accurate depiction of war. I keep thinking of something Scott Westerfeld said at LeakyCon. Paraphrasing him: Everyone is the protagonist in their own story, and in war, people die. People who have wives and children and parents, all of whom are marked by the death of that family member. That's why it doesn't seem fair to write a war novel where none of the main characters die, because everyone is the main character to someone. (did I do that well enough, did it make sense?) Anyway, I really enjoyed this book, but I felt it highly improbable that everyone important survived, for the most part.

Dark Eden: A Novel

Dark Eden: A Novel - Chris Beckett source: http://thefaultinourblogs.blogspot.com

Holy Michael's names, this book! I was expecting some heart-warming philosophical novel when I picked it up, based off the reviews on the cover. The cover is gorgeous, by the way. It's iridescent. What I found was an imaginative world, and the story of its beginning.

This is the Adam and Eve story of another planet, Eden, where humans from Earth have settled and created Family. This is not a happy book. It's also pretty hard science fiction, based on my normal palette of books. What I'm dying for after finishing Dark Eden is a book club discussion or lecture series - it's that complex. There's SO much to take apart within its pages. Some topics of discussion would be Religious Undertones, Storytelling, Inventions and Inventors, and Colonization, to name only a few. I have a theory about Eden's origin story too, that I'll admit I want to talk about with some others who've read the book! This was kind of a difficult read for me, though, probably because I don't have much experience reading science fiction. I wouldn't say that I enjoyed reading it, but rather I enjoyed thinking about it.

Slam

Slam - Nick Hornby Alright. So this one's about a teen kid who gets his teen girlfriend pregnant.

Spoiler alert: they decide to keep the baby. The main character was one moody, immature little bastard though. I was worried about the cliches in the protagonist's narrative for a while, but as I got into the book, his character began to form and I took them as a part of his personality.

The thing I loved about this book was that Sam acted in the way I expect most teenagers would. He didn't go all high and mighty and have an epiphany where he suddenly gets smarter and more mature, like lots of stories in this genre seem to favor.

No, he did all the stupid things. He stumbled over words, got into trouble for misspeaking, and said "I dunno" a lot. Sam was the most realistic character I've seen in a long time. In the end you have a real sense of his age and mindset compared to the others around him. Hornby messes with the timeline a bit, which I liked because it made the plot more interesting. I'm not sure if the book would have held my attention without those aspects. Oh, and it was published in 2007, so there's a reference to myspace in it, haha. myspace.

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Landline

Landline - Rainbow Rowell Yayyyy another book by Rainbow!! I was devastated when I saw that my amazon pre order came back declined on the day of its release, but it got here soon enough and then of course I couldn't put it down. I even passed on Harry Potter movie night in favor of this book. This is exactly the kind of book that need to be written right now. RR gets great marks in all aspects of depiction, characterization, and overall plot. Girl had me laughing out loud in the office on my lunch break with her witticisms. The ending though? Really not how I was expecting things to go down, but of course I respect it anyway. This novel in one quote: "Magic Fucking Phone."

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The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line

The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line - Jennifer Graham, Rob Thomas original source: http://thefaultinourblogs.blogspot.com

I just started and finished watching the TV series of VMars over the past two months. Then I watched the movie follow-up, and the next day I rushed out to get this book.

One word to describe Veronica's transition to the printed page: clumsy. I just couldn't get my mind around the writing style. It was full of fluff, but fluff containing huge cliche metaphors and descriptions. At times I felt like the authors were describing a complex series of camera shots and not writing a book. That being said, the dialogue was the strong point of this one. However, the book was written in third person, which creates an extra voice in the story. Juggling the dialogue, internal monologue, and actions was very confusing and had me flipping back pages trying to sort out what was happening. Veronica's character was a little bit lost in her transition to print, but the dialogue was definitely trying to poke through that fog. Structurally, the plot was basically consistent with an episode of the tv series. The kind of know-who-did-it-3/4-the-way-through mystery.

I felt like the appearances by Logan and Weevil were just put in to appease the fans. They did little to progress the plot and the book could have gone without it. I was still waiting at the end for the Veronica's Personal Life problem to appear, but nothing on the level I expected ever came up. God damn it though, I wanted to like this book so much. I'm still going to buy the sequel, in hope of it being better, or different. [Edit: IT WAS!]

Swamplandia!

Swamplandia! - Karen Russell http://thefaultinourblogs.blogspot.com

Let's start off with the good. Russell has a very engaging style that makes the reader fill in the blanks. One of the cool things people have said about this novel is that depending on the mindset of the reader, it can be interpreted or classified many different ways. There's mysticism, poverty, and war themes, but in the end, everything is ambiguous enough to let you draw your own conclusions about the subject matter. I found this amazing. Russell managed to tie up the plot and leave questions hanging in the air. Oh, and Karen Russell is one of the best writers I've ever read. She handles difficult and tragic topics tactfully. Well, some of them.

I had a huge problem with her use of Natives in the storyline. For starters, the Bigtree family lives on a secluded island, and the kids have been raised thinking of their family as a "tribe." The father even wears a traditional headdress. The kids call him "Chief." Now, obviously these are very offensive things. The Bigtrees are not Native and will never be; they are appropriating cultural aspects that are not theirs. I wouldn't have a problem with this "character flaw" of blatant racism if Russell had used it as a negative example, but she never ties it up that way. While I was reading, I kept waiting for her to add a piece in that criticizes the Bigtrees' mindset, but she does not. The problem with this is the ignorance in America right now on the subject of appropriation. Many people won't know that the Bigtrees have racism deeply embedded in their roots because they cannot recognize it as such. That's why I think Russell should have taken more responsibility in her writing to open a dialogue on the subject, especially for someone who apparently went on school field trips to a local rez.
Russell digs her whole even deeper when she mentions that the kids had learned Indian history of the area quite extensively. Ava, the youngest, even knew a few local tribe names. Apparently they didn't learn much about tradition though, because neither Kiwi or Ava realize their family's errors when they leave home. They call their father "Chief" until the end.

So all in all, this book has me conflicted. Russell does some really great writing in Swamplandia, and I don't want to discredit that. If she would have developed the Native storyline to its full potential, this book would have blown me away. I probably would have given it five stars on goodreads if that were the case. It hurts to know that this book was a finalist for the Pulitzer the year it came out. I'm wondering - do other people see nuances that I'm not picking up here?

Betwixt

Betwixt - Tara Bray Smith Betwixt by Tara Bray Smith is one of those exemplary YA novels that reads with the richness of an adult novel. The character voices drew me in from the beginning, making me want to read more and more. It's quite a lengthy book, but I read it in about 3 days. Once I got into it, I couldn't put it down. It's about teens in Portland, Oregon who have always known they were... different. Betwixt is a coming-of-age story with a paranormal twist. That being said, Smith build up to the "reveal" incredibly. I was reading so fast to discover what was really going on with these kids, but I felt like the story that followed was lackluster in comparison. I was confused by a bunch of details, but read on, lodging them in the back of my mind, hoping to understand them later, like a lost punchline. Some of them, I did, or speculated about, but others were so lost. I still don't really know what happened in the last half of the book. I couldn't describe the plot points if I tried. Published in 2007 though, I recognize that this was one of the first pioneers of the YA paranormal genre, so it can't have been easy to write. This is a very well written mediocre book.

Flight Behavior

Flight Behavior - Barbara Kingsolver http://thefaultinourblogs.blogspot.com

Well, Kingsolver's writing style stretched this one out to two weeks for me to get through. That's not a bad thing, I'm kind of glad I took my time to get through it because Kingsolver is such an adept writer. Her rich, dense, nuanced, prose is a feat of nature in itself. The book is about a flock of thousands of butterflies that descends upon a modern rural southern town. The characters were incredible, really. Our protagonist had obvious character flaws, especially at the beginning, which I think is a nice realistic touch. My favorite, though, was her son! What a cutie! One of the main themes is money and class divides. There's one scene that I keep lingering on every time I go to the store - Dellarobia is shopping at a thrift store and finds herself finally able to buy necessities for her home. Sheets? Clothes for the kids? Done. The place is a miracle for her, but as she's shopping she watches the college kids of the town doing their shopping. Hipsters, to be blunt. They're buying the decades-old clothes to make a "statement," but Dellarobia is at the thrift store because she can't afford to shop anywhere else. The depiction of the Turnbow farm life, living season to season, paycheck to paycheck, is eloquent and tasteful. Kingsolver weaves this tale with great skill. The only problem I had with the book was the slow plot in some places.

The Unnamed

The Unnamed - Joshua Ferris The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris is about Tim and his family (a wife and daughter) coping with Tim's unnamed disease that makes him walk. And not stop until the disease lets him. Then he's so tired that he falls asleep on the spot. Basically, think Forrest Gump's run across America, except sadder. Oh boy, is this a sad one. I mean, the disease uproots all of Tim's life when it hits, and he doesn't have a choice, so it's to be expected. The characters all responded in very clear, motivated ways, so the book basically played itself out. It's one of those books where you read the next paragraph and you're like, "Why didn't I guess that would happen?" Ferris is a very good writer.
His most incredible passages, as one reviewer on the back cover blurbs remarked, occur in the last leg of the novel. At one point, a sentence had me flying through my kitchen looking for a pen to mark it before I turned the page. The Unnamed had me doing some serious soul-searching when I was reading it. After I finished it, I sat holding it to my stomach and just thought about "the soul" for a while. Ferris does a good job handling unanswerable questions and unnamed diseases. I highly recommend this one.

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Where'd You Go, Bernadette

Where'd You Go, Bernadette - Maria Semple originally from: http://thefaultinourblogs.blogspot.com

This book was a very quick read, especially compared to the Kingsolver novel I picked up two weeks ago and am still slogging through. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I picked up a copy at a garage sale for $1 and I'd heard some good buzz about it, so I went in without even reading the description on the back.

I could not put this book down. Seriously, I started reading it one night when I was having trouble falling asleep, and I read several hours into the night until I inevitably had to get some sleep for the coming day. I finished it the next day. The novel is formatted as a sort of collection of notes about Bernadette and her friends, interspersed with narrative from her daughter's point of view. As I was reading, a recurring thought was, Damn, Bernadette can write! She's got admirable skill.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette is about Bernadette Fox, who ran away from her career and wound up in Seattle, and the Fox family as they plan a trip to Antarctica. (Penguins!) It's hilarious in some parts, in a cheek-biting kind of way where Semple describes the "gnats," rich moms of the area, and their crazy antics. The way Bernadette responds to them is tickling, but let's just say I was glad to be experiencing it from a distance. Definitely did not have me rushing off to become a mom any time soon, and I think that was kind of the point.

Although halfway through it I was worried that the plot was going to fall short, it built up perfectly and crescendoed to the end. I loved, loved, loved the ending and Semple's description of Antarctica through Bee's eyes. The best writing of the book is definitely in the second half, so you have time to prepare yourself. Honestly, this book surprised me. Just as I thought I would lose interest, Semple weaved something else in to add a different dynamic entirely. About a hundred pages in I was enjoying the book, but thinking, So... How long are we gonna talk about snotty rich Seattle? As I let things unfold, the book gained momentum and I sped through the last 100 pages as quickly as I could. I was so into it.

Definitely worth a read.

The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow

The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow - Rita Leganski review from: http://thefaultinourblogs.blogspot.com

God, this book had me up all night reading. It starts out with all the necessary parts for a mind-blowing book. I was SO enthralled. I loooooved it until about three quarters of the way through.

Then, I kind of realized that the predominant theme was religion and... well, the ending just made me scoff. It came across as very White Christian writing, and I couldn't make sense of the ending in any other way. It even changed the way I saw the rest of the book too, despite the esteem previously afforded to it. This book turned from magical realism to religious studies way too fast and it was not subtle at all. (Also note, if it wasn't clear before, I go to a liberal arts college and etc etc)

Darkly Dreaming Dexter

Darkly Dreaming Dexter - Jeff Lindsay Alright, I am a huge fan of the show. HUGE fan. I've watched all eight seasons and I'm still aching for more, so I picked up the first novel in the series that the Showtime television series "Dexter" derived from. As with any book read after the movie or television adaptation, I kept picturing the actors from the show as Lindsay's characters. Of course, they're all fantastic, but I'm of the firm belief that every actor is interpreting and adapting the characters they play from the source, and I wanted to create my own interpretation, which I was not able to do because the show is so well done. (Not the worst complaint ever.)

As for Dexter though, I found Lindsay's innovation riveting. Dexter himself is so complex that even an award-worthy performance by Michael C Hall cannot contain all of him. That being said, I did enjoy the book, probably for that reason alone. A lot of the suspense I was looking for was taken away by my already knowing the ending. I WILL pick up the second one at some point, but I'm not in a hurry to do so because I already know what happens.

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Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity

Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity - Katherine Boo How can nonfiction be so well done? This award winning nonfiction gem seemed to me like a novel, written from different perspectives in a deep and understanding narrative form.

Books like these leave me thinking, wow, these people have such a different life from me. They struggle and hurt and I have no idea how I could possibly help them. Katherine Boo got me to empathize with the subjects of her work in ways I don't think would be possible in any other medium. Empathy is different from sympathy, after all, and I think any other medium would pander to the sympathetic instead. I was very impressed by the author's ability to craft the story around a main event in the life of a community and turn it into something that resembles a novel, but holds more truth and therefore more despair. A really great (and somewhat quick) read.

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Light Boxes

Light Boxes - Shane Jones This one was on sale at my favorite bookstore, and after reading the blurb I decided to pick up the cute little volume and have a go. The story is about a town perpetually stuck in February, who is also a character in the book. The surreal mood of the book confused me a little bit because I wasn't sure what was going on with the whole February is a person and there's a hole in the sky thing. I really liked the writing though, and in parts it took on a poetic tone. I got through the whole book in one sitting, and I think I might read it again to see what I think of it now that I know what to expect. I will say though, that I'm glad that I was in a good mood when I started reading it, because it is pretty sad at the beginning. The mystery and feel of the book reminded me consistently of the Welcome to Night Vale podcast, of which I'm a fan. Come to think about it, that may be why I liked this little one so much!

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NW

NW - Zadie Smith I picked this up because White Teeth is one of my favorite books in the world. I greatly admire Zadie Smith as an author and intellectual and NW fits right in with her style. Written in sections of narratives from different perspectives, she weaves several individuals together in ways I never saw coming. She explores motifs of race, time, and academia with eloquence and grace, making this novel a win for me. The theme of "roots" is a recurring one from White Teeth, and the messages Smith writes are ones that really hit home. She has a way with words that gets you thinking as you admire the turns of phrase. Overall though, I would say that I liked White Teeth better. I can see stylistic and narrative improvements in her writing within NW, but I liked the characters in White Teeth better. The books are very different from each other, but of course I enjoyed them both.

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