Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Beloved by Toni Morrison (1987)

Beloved by Toni Morrison

                Beloved. That’s what the pinkish headstone said. Beloved was what Sethe put on the headstone of her little girl. The little ghost that haunted 124 causing ruckus in its need to be loved. The woman came 18 years after Sethe’s daughter was put in the ground. Sethe, Denver and Paul D. found her laying outside the house when they came home from the carnival. She was looking for Sethe. Sethe was the one she loved the most. Denver was the one who loved her most. Paul D. was the one who feared her most. She said her name was Beloved.
                I am not going to lie. Beloved may be the one novel I was most apprehensive about reading as part of my theme this year. I guess I was scared from the movie version of the film. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I started this with a somewhat open mind and found the writing to be really amazing. The characters had deep and painful stories to tell. The unfolding and unearthing of the past was done so well and just really interesting.
                The narration flowed back and forth through time. It took place in the 1870’s in Cincinnati but many of the characters reflected on events that happened decades before but had a very substantial hold on the people that lived now. These reflections are what made the story great. These reflections are what developed the characters and really brought them to life.

                I was rooting for this novel until I was about 75% through. Then it started to lose me. It got awkward and I can’t necessarily put my finger on it but I stopped enjoying it. It didn’t necessarily get too dark but the message changed and developed into something unsettling and unnecessary. I lost my dedication to it. I give it 3.5 out of 5 stars. 

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Forrest Gump by Winston Groom (1986)

Forrest Gump by Winston Groom

                For years I had no idea that Forrest Gump was a novel. I just assumed that it was an amazing movie and left it at that. So imagine my surprise, when researching this year’s theme of reading a book from every year I have been alive, that this was indeed a book published in 1986. Sweet. Let the reading begin. Forrest Gump is the story of a man named Forrest Gump who honestly refers to himself as an idiot because of his low IQ score. He has struggled with the most basic things his entire life and yet he would eventually be a college football star, go to space, get arrested a few times, run a successful business and fall in love. It is more than a coming of age story. It’s a life story told in a simple way by a simple man.
                I went in to reading this novel knowing full well that I would have to separate it completely from the movie, which I know like the back of my hand. It was pretty simple to do. It’s very obvious from the beginning of this book that the creators of the movie took the basic premise of the book and created something totally different. This novel is more extravagant and darker than the movie. It is told in first person by Forrest and his lack of comprehension is unsettling. What I found more unsettling throughout the entire book was how he was treated by others. Almost every character in this novel tried to take advantage of Forrest in some way. It was such a telling and yet horrifying example of human nature that there were moments when I genuinely cringed.

                Forrest Gump got a solid 3 out of 5 stars for me. It was an easy quick read with well-developed characters but the story just went on and on…and on. It was amusing but tiring. I wanted more of a plot than what was presented. The only place where there was genuine growth was how Forrest saw his relationship with Jenny. That was a relationship that actually evolved and that he was able to process. Outside of that relationship there was no growth. This was simply an amusing rambling story. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel

Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel

Pieces of a giant mechanical being, thousands of years old, are buried around the world. The pieces are slowly being discovered and pieced together. The technology is light years ahead of what humans are capable of. There is one man behind seemingly every decision. He is almost omnipresent throughout the story and yet no one even knows his name. There is a woman who has been affected by the presence of these giants since she was a child and is now the scientist heading the operation. There is a hotheaded pilot whose helicopter was brought down by one of the pieces. She is now inexplicably tied to the project. Then there’s the linguist brought in to solve the code. What does any of this mean and where will it all lead?
                I am so torn when it comes to this novel. I found the whole concept of extraterrestrials possibly burying objects that would be discovered once humans had evolved to a certain degree extremely fascinating. I didn’t find any fault with the concept behind the story. I found fault with the execution of the plot. Let me try to better explain. The novel is told through conversations between an unknown male and the main characters, transcripts and journal entries. This was actually done pretty well. The characters had depth and each character felt believable on the surface. There was some character development and quite a bit of suspense. It was easy to read and I was genuinely curious about what was happening. Elements were slowly being added that kept my attention and my curiosity. Those are the good things about this novel that make me want to continue on with the series. But this was not a perfect book. Not at all.
                My interest wavered in Sleeping Giants when it became more about the human aspect. I saw no point to any of the romantic elements that were introduced. It became a distraction and a completely unwelcome one. It felt forced and brought an extremely unoriginal element to the story. Oh great but who cares when they are looking for pieces of a giant mechanical being! Another boring aspect was the introduction of the villain. It felt like another cliché. Another completely unwelcome and unnecessary aspect. It just wasn’t creative and this was full of so many creative elements that every time one of these clichés became apparent it took life away from the story. Not only that but when looking at the characters emotions, they begin to look immature and poorly developed.  I honestly think I simply gravitated towards the more scientific aspects of the plot and less towards the emotional aspects.

                Is this a story I could recommend? Yes, I think so. I am interested to see where this will go and where Neuvel wants to take this series. There are so many different possibilities and the ending left a lot of questions to be answered. I am curious to see if the narrative style will change. I thought for the most part the style was executed well. Neuvel just needs to develop the characters fully, get away from clichés and allow the science to shine. The concept is there, it just needs to be better executed. I give this novel 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Thank you Netgalley for this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln by Stephen L. Carter

The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln by Stephen L. Carter

                The Civil War is over. The Union has won. The slaves are free. President Lincoln was shot but survived. The Washington Monument is under way in Washington City and there is a trial underway to impeach President Lincoln. The Senate is trying to impeach on four separate counts. It is believed that the Radicals in Lincoln’s own Republican Party are behind the proceedings. Not enough has been done to the curb the attitude of the southerners. The Ku Klux runs wild and unchecked. The radicals believe that even though the President supports the Civil Rights Act, enforcing it is entirely different issue that he is failing at. Abigail Canner is the new clerk hired by Dennard and McShane, the law firm representing Mr. Lincoln. She is a young black graduate from Oberlin hoping to one day be a lawyer. She is part of a family that has been free for three generations and heralds Lincoln as something of a hero. Jonathan Hilliman is the law clerk at the firm and comes from a well to do white family in the north. As the case and trial for the impeachment of Lincoln goes underway the two begin to try and derail a conspiracy around the death of one of the firm’s lawyers and the disappearance of people throughout the city, including Abigail’s own sister.
                I am a sucker for alternative history novels. I find the re-imaginings to be extremely interesting and entertaining. Imagining the difference that could have been made based on the death of one person or the loss of a war opens up a huge array of options for an author. This held no exception. What would have happened if Lincoln had survived the assassination attempt on his life? Could he have possibly been impeached for some of the decisions he made during the Civil War? Would he still be remembered as he is now, with a huge monument celebrating his life in Washington D.C.? We will never know. But this nevertheless is a really entertaining historical fiction and mystery. This novel revolves around the two clerks, Abigail and Jonathan. Readers learn about the differences between the two and how those differences affect not only their lives, careers and views but the way they are treated within work and society. Two obviously different ends of the spectrum. They come to respect each other and viewing the United States through their eyes gave a very well rounded interpretaion of what life may have been like at that time.
                After creating two well developed characters Carter went on to develop the persona of lawyers, Senators, Representatives and those members of high society that were very easy to love or hate. He also had to create this image of a post-Civil War Lincoln. Overall I thought he did a pretty damn good job. One of the things I really enjoyed while reading this were the perceptions that people had of Lincoln and the United States post-Civil War. Some black people admired him while others thought he did the bare minimum. There were plenty of white people who felt the same way. There were a lot of mixed emotions and deceit was at an all-time high. No one knew what was going to happen next. That tension so soon after a very costly war had every one on edge and was obvious throughout the story.

                If Carter set out to make mystery/alternate history/historical fiction novel, with plenty of twist and turns and eye opening views and dissenting opinions about the president, then he succeeded. I really enjoyed this novel. It was way more complicated than I expected it to be, in a good way. It was layered and complex and an all-encompassing experience with a satisfying and unexpected ending. I give this 4 out of 5 stars. 

Saturday, April 2, 2016

The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins

The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins

                Carolyn and the other eleven librarians have been living with Father since they were children. All orphaned with nowhere to go after a tragic event, Father brought them into his home and assigned them each a catalog. They would become masters of their catalog and were not allowed to study anyone else’s. War, languages, medicine, animals, the ways of the world would be theirs. Two decades later Father goes missing and none of the librarians can enter the library. They’re stuck in America a world they no longer know and they have to find Father, who they believe may be God, and get back into the library.
                Well, this was just all around a good time. Carolyn has committed a murder. Father is missing. Steve is being framed. David is running around in a tutu. Jennifer is high. Margaret stinks. Michael didn’t tell anyone that Nobununga was a tiger. He thought everyone knew. What Hawkins did with this novel is throw the reader into an extremely unusual situation. And it is pure entertainment. Carolyn, one of the main characters, is funny, witty, cunning and unpredictable in every way. She is a well-developed character whose motivations are a mystery. I found her intriguing. She kept the plot and the pace of this story moving. All of the characters were well developed and entertaining. Hawkins did a great job with presenting his characters and making their little quirks and traits obvious. The unusual characters and supernatural creatures helped create this vastly different time and place. This novel feels fantasy without being overwhelmingly so and it’s because the story is grounded in a place we know but the circumstances and events are extraordinary.
                Hawkins did a pretty good job with this novel. I was never bored. I was constantly hunting for little clues to try and understand the mystery of the library and Father. I was kept on my toes the entire time. There were moments where vicious things were happening but because of Hawkins’s writing style I never felt like it was over the top. The reasoning always made sense and most of it had a hint of dark humor mixed in. Overall this was a well done. I give it 4 out of 5 stars. Easily something to recommend to anyone looking for a new author with a fresh new take on fantasy.

Thanks Blogging for Books for this book in exchange for an honest review.