Llew's Reviews

Archive for the 'All The Cool Kids Were Reading it' Category

The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell

Sunday, October 19th, 2008 by Miss Laura

Preparing For Christmas Season In The Harried Book World: Book #14

“As always, Vowell is darkly hilarious and freshly informative. She pokes fun at the buckle-shoed Puritans who first settled here, but she also tells a story of how their quirks and foibles, and love of words formed our country’s personality. her distinct and sharply witty voice makes this book an edifying delight.” — Laura DeLaney

Oh, I would have read this one any way. I freaking love Sarah Vowell and I loved this book just as much as I knew I would. Her interview on John Stewart was hilarious, and I was more than excited to finally begin this one. Also, an Asheville blogger compared Sarah Vowell to Susie Derkins in Calvin & Hobbes and I found that so incredibly apt.

My favorite quote from this book was:

“In fact, a handful of colonial New England women successfully sued for divorce on the grounds of impotence, including Ann Lane of Massachusetts Bay, who accused her husband in 1658 o failing to perform “the duties of a husband,” a detail not disputed by Mr. Lane. And speaking of marriage, in colonial New England weddings were “a civil thing,” civil unions one might say, performed by magistrates, not clergy. because a wedding wasn’t trumped up as the object in left that saves one’s soul – that would be God – but rather more like what it actually is, a change in legal status, an errand at the DMV, with cake.”


The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff

Monday, September 8th, 2008 by Miss Laura

Preparing For Christmas Season In The Harried Book World: Book #8

“Being a fan of David Ebershoff’s, The Danish Girl and Pasadena, I was delighted to see he was still writing along with his editorial work at Random House. The 19th Wife, brilliantly combines two stories, one, historical fiction about Ann Eliza Young, who defies her church and husband, Brigham Young; the other a modern day murder mystery set in Utah. Ebershoff adroitly gives the reader a behind the scenes glimpse and understanding of a world of faith and love most of us can not comprehend. Initially, you are drawn to the feisty Ann Eliza Young’s story to find one true love, but due to circumstances is forced to make compromises, but then you are pulled into the gripping story of Jordan Scott, an outcast, can’t have too many boys around in competition with the older men, and the son of the woman accused of murdering her polygamist husband. As always with Ebershoff, he stunningly writes with great depth and feeling for his characters, which leaves readers thinking about Jordan and Ann Eliza days after finishing the book.” — Jane Dawson in Indie Bound’s Indie Next List for Setpember 2008

ANSWER ME THIS, WORLD:  If all of Brigham Young’s wives were as whiny as Ann Eliza (the 19th) then how in the world did he live to be so old?

This one received rave reviews, and was even compared to one of my favorites, Wallace Stegner. I’ve read another of Ebershoff’s novels and really enjoyed his writing style. Plus, his first book “The Danish Girl (which is based on the life of Lili Elbe, the first person to undergo sex reassignment surgery) is on my To Read list.I was really hoping to like this one and thought that his past novels might be a credit in the way he was able to handle certain characters while avoiding sterotypes. Not so much.

As the above quote states, this is two stories. The one I like the most (which isn’t saying much) is the modern day murder mystery with the main character being a boy who grew up in a polygamist sect but was abandoned on the highway by his mother, who believe she was following the Lord’s directive, when he was 14. He seems to have settled himself into a somewhat comfortable although transient life in California when one day he sees the story where his mother is accused of shooting his father. He drops everything (which doesn’t seem to be much) to go see her. Immediately, he picks up an orphan sidekick (also ousted from the polygamist sect for being male and thus competition) who reminds me of Brad Renfro in the movie “The Client” except instead of a bad southern accent he would have a bad Utah accent. (And let’s face it the worse someone trying to do a Utah accent sounds the more accurate it usually is.) The sidekick is feisty, foul mouthed, wiley and impossible to control – but has a good heart. After that, he picks up a boyfriend. They’re basically husband and husband after the first date.  However, in order to point out that in the Gay World this is considered taking it slow, the author makes sure to point out that they could have just had sex but instead went out on a date, then had sex, and then immediately were a couple. Thank you for clarifying the confusing gay gay world to a heterosexual such as myself, Mr. Ebershoff.

So two (maybe one?) days after dating the couple (and the trust foul mouthed sidekick!) drive two hours to Las Vegas go to a LDS(ish?) church in Las Vegas for homosexuals, transgendered, bisexuals, and whoever else still wants to go to a Mormon church. It’s somewhat unbelievable – if for the mere fact that the place the group congregates is described as tacky.

So that’s the storyline of the two I like the most.

The second one is set WAY back as the LDS church is first forming in Utah, and is about Ann Eliza Young – one of Brigham Young’s wives. First off, every man (and there are many) in this part of the story is the EXACT same man. The author took one personality, one set of actions, and then just pressed them all in a delightful cookie cutter set. This cookie cutter happens to quite loathsome. Every man might start off not wanting to take more than one wife, but soon they become obsessed with taking a newer prettier wife and can’t help themselves – no matter what the cost to anyone else’s feelings or their budget.

Brigham Young himself is portrayed as a dishonest manipulative bastard who cheats Ann Eliza Young’s brother into a horrible situation ruining his reputation, and then offers him a way out of it ONLY if Ann Eliza will marry him.  Ann Eliza Young is an actual woman in history, and this is actually exactly what she claimed to happen (in addition to writing a book on the subject, she also testified in front of congress about the cruelties of polygamy and was instrumental in getting it banned in the US) so it’s not the portrayl that I have a problem with.  It’s the fact that every other male character is the same shade of evil. That there’s no real variety. Then, the women are exactly the same way – the same copies as each other – all some variation of Ann Eliza Young although just maybe not as boisterous or outspoken about it.

I’ve always liked Ebershoff’s writing style but his tone and storyline were so condescending in this novel. I haven’t actively disliked a book that wasn’t actually poorly written in a long time. I’m not gay but the modern day story offended my inner homosexual. I could not stop rolling my eyes at it. Plus, the portrayal of every single grown man in Salt Lake City to be a randy cheating scum bag bothered me almost as much. 75% of every single grown man sure…

Anyway, from reading reviews and comments it seems as if I’m alone in my feelings.

In Hovering Flight by Joyce Hinnefeld

Monday, September 1st, 2008 by Miss Laura

Preparing For Christmas Season In The Harried Book World: Book #7

“In Hovering Flight is the story of a couple, Addie and Tom, a bird painter and a bird scientist, of their romance and marriage, and of their only daughter, Scarlet. In lovely but precise language Joyce Hinnefeld slowly reveals the larger world and the more intimate landscapes within it. This is a remarkable first novel and a unforgettable story.” — Cheryl Upchurch from the Indie Next List, September 2008

This was the top pick for September’s Indie Next List so evidently it really struck a chord with a lot of booksellers – just not this one. It’s a well written story, and I can see how the characters could be compelling to some. Perhaps it’s because I haven’t (thankfully) had to go through the experience of losing a parent or becoming pregnant or any of the other myriad of various life experiences which this novel covers.

I could not deeply relate to any of the characters or their experiences so it really was just a vaguely neat story with a lot of asides about various birds that I didn’t know before. It was worth reading and none of it made me mad (see: Story of Edgar Sawtelle) but none of it made me passionately love it either. If you know an avid fiction reader who also really loves bird watching, it might be a fantastic choice for them.

Mudbound by Hillary Jordan

Tuesday, August 26th, 2008 by Miss Laura

Preparing For Christmas Season In The Harried Book World: Book #6

“Rural Mississippi just after the Second World War is a hard and muddy place. Hillary Jordan’s novel Mudbound evokes the era brilliantly–returning soldiers trying to find their way after the brutality of the war, some facing the continuing brutality of a racist America. A very compelling story.” Cathy Langer on Indie Bound’s Indie Next List (March 2008 Pick)

You know how I’m lazy right? So lazy I might consider doing these book reviews via Twitter. I usually only have a few sentences to say about each book any way.

  • 23:33 finished Black Tower, am now reading Mudbound. Am I seriously reading a book w/ phrase “he took me from behind”? Who do I recommend that to?
  • 23:35 and that was a rhetorical question. We all know the answer: customers in turquoise velour track suits
  • 00:54 Finished Mudbound & need therapy. Was so emotionally tumultuous. No wonder Vamp novels sell well: they have NO FEELINGS & they’re Dead Sexy.

The Black Tower by Louis Bayard

Sunday, August 24th, 2008 by Miss Laura

Preparing For Christmas Season In The Harried Book World: Book #5

Although this is a pick for September’s Indie Bound’s Indie Next list the blurbs for next month aren’t up on-line yet. Thus, you will have to make do with the book description for now:

“Hector Carpentier, a medical student, lives with his widowed mother in her once-genteel home, now a boardinghouse, in Paris’s Latin Quarter, helping the family make ends meet in the politically perilous days of the restoration. Three blocks away, a man has been murdered, and Hector’s name has been found on a scrap of paper in the dead man’s pocket: a case for the unparalleled deductive skills of Eugene Francois Vidocq, the most feared man in the Paris police. At first suspicious of Hector’s role in the murder, Vidocq gradually draws him into an exhilarating–and dangerous–search that leads them to the true story of what happened to the son of the murdered royal family.

In ‘The Black Tower,’ Bayarddeftly interweaves political intrigue, epic treachery, cover-ups, and conspiracies into a gripping portrait of family redemption–and brings to life an indelible portrait of the mighty and profane Eugene Francois Vidocq, history’s first great detective.”

Now I know the first thing most people think of when they think of me is “epic treachery” but to be honest – this isn’t the kind of book I normally read or like. However, I was quite taken with this one. I didn’t adore it wholeheartedly but I was quite smitten with Bayard’s style of writing. In fact, I know I have one of her earlier novels, “Mr. Timothy”, on my bookshelf and as soon as Christmas season (and the tireless prep of reading books to recommend for people during Christmas season) is over I shall pick it up. Although, seeing as that book is based on Timothy Cratchit from A Christmas Carol fame perhaps I should get to it BEFORE the holidays.

ETA: Here’s the Indi Next List blurb

“In The Black Twoer, a ne’er-do-well medical student is surprised by the founder and chief of a newly created Paris plainclothes police force and is asked to help solve a mystery involving French royalty, with surprising and dangerous results. Bayard’s talent for spinning a suspenseful story along in the margins of known history makes his books irresistible.” — Carol Schneck

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Annie Fiery Barrows

Sunday, August 24th, 2008 by Miss Laura

Preparing For Christmas Season In The Harried Book World: Book #4

“The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society is a gem. Just after WWII a writer is contacted by a fan on the island of Guernsey. As events unfold and she goes to Guernsey, she learns of the misery, bravery and ingenuity of the locals when Guernsey was abandoned by the British to be captured by the Germans. Because it’s told in letters, it’s bound to be compared it to 84 Charing Cross Road. But Guernsey Literary is like no other book I’ve ever read and it’s outstanding.” — Elaine Petrocelli in Indie Bound’s Next List

This is one of those feel good happy books – that happens to cover a few non-feel good happy subjects (the devastation WWII wrought on the people, the land, and their hearts). I’m really going to enjoy hand selling this one during the holidays because it really is a fantastic book to recommend to others (to give to someone else). It’s clean, insightful, and has a lot of humorous moments. Thus, I was thrilled to see this one in the holiday catalog and have already grabbed an arm full to give away as presents myself.

One is going to my grandmother – and it’s really that type of fare. Really, I wouldn’t suggest it to the hand full of people who comment somewhat regularly on this blog. A little to run of the mill for you selective readers.

The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson

Wednesday, August 20th, 2008 by Miss Laura

Preparing For Christmas Season In The Harried Book World: Book #2

“This is an unusual story about the power of love to transcend physical limitations and to transform ugliness into beauty. It’s all in the eyes of the beholder, as we are often told. This book makes you believe that simple truth.” Miriam Sontz from Indie Bound’s August 2008 Indie Next List

I really adored this one, but I can’t think of one single person who I would recommend it to. With a severely burned former porn star as its main character it’s not exactly the wholesome feel good story one likes to suggest to customers. But the people in the book who are on the cusp of “normal” society are just so intriguing, likable, and easy to relate to – whether it’s the gay viking or a fallen nun in the 13th century.

It’s part The Burn Journals (by Brent Runyon) and part “the last will and testament of a crazy homeless man.”  It doesn’t have a neatly tied happy ending, but the way this story wrapped up didn’t make me feel cheated either.

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski

Wednesday, August 20th, 2008 by Miss Laura

Preparing For Christmas Season In The Harried Book World: Book #1

Evidently the dust jacket to this book features a book description that gives away a major plot point that doesn’t occur until halfway through the book. Shame on you dust jacket!

Fortunately, I don’t read dust jackets prior to reading books! Unfortunately, I did read the letter from Stephen King praising the book that was included in the front of the advance reader’s copy of this title. It compares it to a story which not only gives away the plot but also the ending as well.

Even though I knew how it would end based on this comparison, I still feel sucker punched by it. I completely loved the entire book until the end which made me take all of my feelings of love and adoration back. It’s been over a month since I finished this one and I’m still steaming mad over the ending. I don’t know if it was worth it. I feel as if the author made me love Edgar Sawtelle and his story, only to manically destroy everything I loved with an evil cackle.

Fablehaven: Grip of the Shadow Plague

Sunday, May 25th, 2008 by Miss Laura

I have been in reader HEAVEN! All of my favorite YA series have had another book come out. Septimus Heap has Queste out. After I finish devouring that, I get to hop on to Libba Bray’s third book wrapping up The Great & Terrible Beauty trilogy. Then, it’s on to Pullman’s prequel to the Golden Compass. I am so excited! I have such a huge stack of lovely looking fun reads that it’s making me giddy.

This one is the third in Brandon Mull’s Fablehaven series which is really quite likable. Normally, I like young adult books that are for the older readers whereas this one is more middle school level. It’s still a thick seemingly complex book though so I’m still a fan. I’ve had good luck with recommending this one because there’s really nothing for people to dislike.

Author Death Match: Holly Black Versus Melissa Marr

Sunday, May 25th, 2008 by Miss Laura


In this corner weighing in at 645 pages, I have a set of books set of books which are urban faeire tales with Seelie folk walking around with glamours to shield us mere mortal from their cruel beauty.

And in the other corner weighing in at 653 pages, I have a set of books set of books which are urban faeire tales with Seelie folk walking around with glamours to shield us mere mortal from their cruel beauty.

Hmm, wait. When I read the first book in each of these sets (where the second book is slightly related to each other as in they take place in the same world, but the second book isn’t a true sequel of the characters in the first books), I liked Melissa Marr’s tale slight better than Holly Black’s. Neither are fantastic books but there was something compelling about each one that kept me from stopping halfway through. They both try a little hard to be cool – look my humans have tattoos and problems! and so forth.

I didn’t love either book enough to whole heartedly recommend it to someone (unless they were a fan of the genre) but they weren’t horrible. Pretty much they’re on the same level – if you liked Holly Black’s books, I’d recommend Marr’s to you or vice versa.

However, Wicked Lovely & Ink Exchange have gorgeous covers so I declare them the winner by a hair!

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