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Books! Reviews of Books! (Part 3, Book List 2)

Oh man, I have been meaning to get to the latest stack of book reviews for months! Actual months! This time around I veered away (twice!) from the book list. The first time I read something not on the list was a mistake. With all of the moving, I made a stack of me to-read books and shuffled one in there that Maris had gotten me for my Birthday. The second time a coworker had given me a book she was raving about that was set in Seattle so I thought it would be a good one to finish during my first month back. But that is more about where my reading currently has finished, so let’s get to where it started!

First up I dove into Dragonfly in Amber (Outlander #2). It is quite the heft of a book and starts off in a place I wasn’t at all expecting. While I was reading this I had a lot of issues with it, issues I really didn’t have with the first book. And it got me aggravated by the whole romance-y genre in general. There is a lot (A LOT) of the main character, Claire, telling Jaime that he should beat her, or Jaime threatening to beat her. A lot. I get that this is set in a different time, I get that maybe this is supposed to be an example of their passion… it’s just… NO! A little bit of rough sex etc and the 1 beating that did occur in the first book (which, I cannot believe I am actually saying “the 1 beatin”) seemed part of the story, part of the time period, in context. But with this book it just seemed like a standard struggle the author could fall back on. Plus it is just fucked up that any strong female lead would say, “Yes, I deserve to be beaten.” No! This 1 thing, among some of the other high school like crap that Jaime and Claire go through, made book #2 difficult for me to finish.

And let’s not even talk about the end. LET’S NOT EVEN GO THERE because it was a total toss-the-book-across-the-room “WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT?!” ending. The best advice I received was to just invest in book #3 at the same time and go straight to it after #2 and just pretend there was a small commercial break of page turning.

I still want to see where the story is going, but I was rather put off the series by this one. I mean, I’m still ridiculously excited for the Starz Outlander series, let’s be real. And I’ll probably read #3 because I have to know! And I was totally emotionally invested in #2 while reading it. I just wish there was a little bit more real-ness associated with the relationship and a little less domestic abuse fantasy at play.

I couldn’t even give myself a day to digest Dragonfly in Amber before I jumped into A Discovery of Witches and WHAT this book is so awesome!! I read this in a week and did not want to eat or sleep, I just wanted to read. Actually 1 time I stayed up all the way until Gabe’s first feeding (at like 1 or 2) and then went to sleep afterwards just so I could give myself permission to read for longer.

Things to know before diving in:

  • It is a little Twilight-y except (And this is an important distinction) it does not involve humans at all, everyone is a real life grownup, and the power dynamics are way more even.
  • That being said, there still were some weird romance-y genre male controlling bullshit that super irked me. Although, I think it is a place for character growth and not supposed to be seen as “Ooo so sexy! He is controlling every move I make!”
  • Also, though this is set in the fantasy realm, they deal with real life things like wills and family planning. It totally tickled me that “heroes” going off on “adventures” had to get their assets figured out before risking their lives.

I knew nothing about this going into it (except that maybe it was a little Twilight-y) so that’s the way I’m going to keep it here. If you haven’t read this, go and read it! It is the first in a trilogy and I cannot WAIT to read #2 and will gobble up #3 once it is out. Everyone who has read it: OHMYGAWD AMAZING, right?!

After those two large, emotionally exhausting novels, I moved over to The People Of Paper. This is a tale of immigration steeped in magical realism. This is another example of a book I wish I would have studied in school, not because I didn’t understand it but because I wanted to be able to discuss it in depth, write research papers about it, and live inside it for a whole semester. This book plays with form, plays with mythology, plays with totally off the wall plot devices, and is incredibly beautiful.

My only negative critique – why are the majority of Latino/a literature centered around immigration or migrant workers? It is a part of these peoples’ story, but it is not the entire story. Where are the stories of the modern Latino/a world? I feel like there is a type-cast happening and it is getting old.

This is when I deviated and read The Night Strangers by Chris Bohjalian (not on the reading list). The biggest pro of this book is that it starts off with a plane crash that is the most realistic and fascinating view of a plane crash I have ever experienced in any form of media ever. I still think about it and it has been a few months since I finished this book.

This is a weird story. I thought it was going the classic spooky mystery direction and then it took a totally bizarro turn. It definitely has psychological elements, it definitely tugged at my “I am a mom and I have a child, protect the children at all costs!!” heart strings, so if you’re sensitive to that I wouldn’t recommend it. I would love to see this as a movie. And I want the mom played by Nicole Kidman. Has anyone else read this? The ending is so fucked up I had to immediately discuss with Maris. If we need a spooky, WTF kind of thriller – check this one out. It’s a bit of a wild ride.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple is the latest book I’ve read and it takes place in Seattle! It’s funny to me that it has a shout out by Jonathan Franzen on the cover since he can be a pretty big douchebag. But, I can see how he would get a kick out of it based on his writing.

This book is GOOD. It is a little Seattle heavy, even for me. And sometimes it bashes on Seattle and that gets under my skin, but it is such a good story. The characters are amazing and unique and complicated. The ending is incredibly satisfying. I don’t kno what other good things I could say about it! Even if you know nothing about this area, it is worth a read. It is a mystery, and a drama, and a family saga, and it is hilarious and sad and ridiculous. I cried twice and REALLY cried at the end, mostly because it was over. This is one of those books that you read because someone hands it to you and then you are SHOCKED at how much you really do love it. Dark horse book of the year!

**The next book review post will be the final one for this reading series! Have you been reading? I hope so!! The next few books will hopefully not take me as long as these few did, now that it is not the holidays and we are not moving. For those of you who have read these – I am anxiously waiting for any of your takes! I’ve already started the next book. More on that coming soooooooon!**

15 Comments

  1. Hm. I just finished Dragonfly in Amber for the, oh I dunno, 4th or 5th time? And I didn’t get the sense of “beaty-ness” that you did out of it. I think there is one part where Claire says that she deserves punishment but I don’t remember it being an overriding theme or anything.

    The book as a whole is a bit of a shocker, but it does fit in with the rest of the series nicely. I actually like this one better than the next couple (and mind you, I’m a big fan of the whole series). But for a couple of books there seems to be a lot of “Oh my god what a coincidence that I should run into X person in Y city! And look .. they somehow link back to the future and I’m related to them!” If you can push past the deus ex machina bit there, the story still mostly holds together.

  2. I also loved Where’d You Go Bernadette, and Dragonfly in Amber made me want to stop reading the series too. I’ve been trying to read more, and I’m in the middle of both The Book Thief and Pope Joan right now.

    • Pope Joan!! I loved that book! I read that in a long series of italian/pope dramas I was in a fit over a few years ago. haha.

    • YAY! That is the best news. :)

  3. I agree about the immigration themes in The People of Paper, but it’s just so beautiful I can’t make myself care! I understand wanting to live in it for a semester. I read it a couple of years ago and I still find myself wanting to live in it because I haven’t read anything close to as good since. I recently read Tropic of Orange which had Mexican immigrant characters, but also Asian immigrants and characters that were second generation and they all interacted with each other…. But it wasn’t as good of a book.

  4. A Discovery of Witches is one of my favorite books! I love Matthew. Usually I hate alpha males in books, but I loved Matthew and Diana together, and all the history! Some people I know who read it hated all the “extra” facts they didn’t think was needed but I devoured them.

    I also love the outlander series, read the first four books and excited for the show!

  5. Just to warn you, the 2nd Harkness book is, sadly, not as good. But I will still try the third.

  6. We should start a book club that is like a chain letter–buy a book, read it, send it on to your friends, and repeat! Maris sent me a couple books that have been on my list FOREVER. I think I’ll read room next! (Thanks Maris!!)

    • Yay! I sent a few home with Maddie too – I’m trying to spread the wealth instead of hoarding books for years (as I am wont to do). I have a stack of about 20 books on the windowsill next to my bed that I plan on getting through (some day) and then passing along.

  7. Oh my gosh. A Discovery of Witches. RIGHT? So good! I like supernatural-y things, and was so happy this one was about adults, as you said. Also, I have read the whole Gabaldon series (roughly four billion pages) and I think the first book is definitely the best but the whole series is worth reading. The split between the second and third book is a little abrupt, though, I agree. (She also wrote a whole side series about Lord John Grey that is excellent as well. I think I would categorize them as historical fiction/mystery instead of the more historical fiction/romance of the Outlander series. Also, they are shorter!)

    I just finished Tigers in Red Weather by Liza Klaussmann (interesting, good but disturbing) and American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld, which was excellent. It’s loosely based on Laura Bush, which I didn’t realize until nearly the end, though it is largely fiction, I believe. It was very well written. The narrator is very thoughtful, and there is some beautiful language in it. It reads almost like a memoir.

  8. You know I love Discovery of Witches, and i am SO EXCITED for the third and final book to come out this summer. SO EXCITED. There is something about a book that you can just get lost in, and sneak under your desk at work (who, me?), and read in every spare second of the train. I love it, and i have a few books that do that for me, so I’m constantly revisiting them.

    I’ve heard mixed things about Where’d You Go, Bernadette, namely that it bashes Seattle to the nth degree… so I have been on the fence about reading it. But you think it is worth it?

    Also, the Outlander series… sucks you in so much. And now you kind of HAVE to know what happens next, right? That is the magic/curse of that series.

  9. I’ve read the first 4 books of the Outlander series. Sometimes I feel like they are too.long., with too many coincidental running into characters, as you said, and I just want the story to be over already. But … they do just suck you in with all the story lines, and I love all the historical bits. I’m going to keep reading. And I had no idea it was going to be a TV series – sweet!

    Loved, loved, LOVE Discovery of Witches, and I am super excited for the third one to come out soon, even though the second one wasn’t as awesome. I hadn’t heard any Twilight comparisons, which is probably a good thing, because I’ve never had any interest in that and it may have turned me off from this series just because I can be annoying like that with no good reason. I am into witch stories, but not so much vampires usually, heh.

  10. The only one of these that I’ve read is Where’d You Go, Bernadette, which I LOVED. It’s interesting to me that you found it a little too Seattle-heavy, because I’ve never been to Seattle, and I didn’t feel like that at all. Maybe because I don’t know the places she’s talking about, so it was all “fictional place in a book” to me.

    I love these updates. Can’t wait for the next batch!

  11. I didn’t even read the rest of the post (I’ll go back) because I need to agree with you immediately about the ending to Dragonfly in Amber. I literally screamed outloud. And then had to wait WEEKS to get it from the library. Just picked it up a few days ago but I need to finish a book due first! Pressure!

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Who the hell is she?


Lauren

I am a writer living in Seattle and I believe that life is a grand adventure and only boring if you believe it to be. Plus! You don't need money to have fun.

I live with my husband, a photographer by education and a maker-of-video-games by trade, and a baby named gabe in an apartment on the hill.

I am romantic about most things and I cry... about almost anything. I tell stories to entertain you, I spread stories to keep you in the loop. I am not a grammar freak, but I do know how to spell it. I am exceedingly proud of my scrambled eggs and I really could eat an entire pan of cupcakes. If I met me, I would be my best friend. I tend to be irreverent.

If you would like to chat with me or see what else I'm up to you can follow me on Twitter (betterinrealife), on facebook, or email me at betterinrealife at gmail.


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