Llew's Reviews

Archive for the 'IndieBound Picks' Category

A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick

Sunday, November 8th, 2009 by Miss Laura

reliable_wife “Set in a land where long winters drive residents to unthinkable acts, this is the story of a wealthy Wisconsin foundry owner gets more than he bargains for when he orders a mail-order bride. Determined to quickly change from new bride to wealthy widow, his wife is as surprised as the reader to discover the sexual intensity of this quiet man. Many secrets. Many lies. Very sensual.”
— Beth Golay, Watermark Books, Wichita, KS
April 2009 Indie Bound Pick

The characters are more than they seem from that snippet. That wealthy lonely widow isn’t a kind old man, even if he is pining for new love. He’s not cruel to his new bride but that didn’t keep him from flying into a rage after his first wife left him. Now he’s filled with guilt and a longing to make the past right – but that longing is so steeped in frustration and doom it becomes very narrow minded in focus.

He chooses the most simple plain looking girl to take as his wife only to discover the moment she steps off the train that she lied. She’s strikingly beautiful — instead of the plain stern woman in the picture she sent him — and though she’s pretending to be the simple daughter of missionaries it’s not a story she’s good at seeling. She’s not a reliable wife – except for the fact that she is an expert at changing herself to match whatever someone else wants her to be so she is trying to be the kind of wife she thinks the widower wants her to be.

For a book that doesn’t seem to have a lot of action, a lot seems to happen. It’s completely absorbing, even if it wasn’t completely satisfying. It’s well writen and a compulsive (and violent and dark) read.

Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Saturday, November 15th, 2008 by Miss Laura

“This compelling, page-turning futuristic novel takes readers into a world that pits teenagers against each other in a fight to the death for the glory and well-being of their district. But when Katniss discovers the young man from her district is in love her, she is faced with having to kill him to survive or sacrificing herself to save him.” Indie Bound Indie Kid’s Next List, Winter 2008

The above blip makes this one sound kind of boring when it’s really KIND OF AWESOME. It is like Lord of The Flies only enjoyable. Don’t get me wrong – it has its brutal moments but there’s a sense of humanity (brief glimpses of humanity) that make it a worthwhile riveting tale.

Paper Towns by John Green

Saturday, November 15th, 2008 by Miss Laura

“Quentin has loved Margo Roth Spiegelman since they were both nine years old. Now it’s the spring of their senior year, and after a night of pranks, Margo disappears, leaving a solitary clue for Quentin. He and his friends use ingenuity and creativity to search for Margo and the search culminates in a mad dash road trip to upstate New York that must be read to be believed. Both poignant and hysterical, this book is a delightful celebration of smart guys.” Indie Bound Indie Kids Next List Winter 2008

John Green is my favorite current young adult author, and I’m a sucker for his stories which are usually coming of age tales of awkward witty boys . While I still love “Looking for Alaska” more this one is hilarious. It’s full of his normal acerbic style this time featured in LISTS which made me giddy.  For example,

“She may be hot, but she is also 1. aggressively vapid, and 2. an absolute, unadulterated raging bitch. Those of us who frequent the band room have long suspected that Becca maintains her lovely figure by eating nothing but the souls of kittens and the dreams of impoverished children.”

Yeah, I definitely loved this one.

I See You Everywhere by Julia Glass

Monday, November 10th, 2008 by Miss Laura

Preparing For Christmas Season In The Harried Book World: Book #16

“Louisa — solid, steady, dependable. Clem — younger, rebellious, daring, and the favorite. This is a story, told over 25 years, of two sisters — opposite as night and day, oil and water, yin and yang — and how they remain connected. In my opinion, this is Julia Glass’ best book yet!” Indie Bound’s Indie Next List November, 2008

No, no, no, no. This book switches back and forth between sisters. One chapter will be by Louisa, the next is from Clem’s point of view. Then, back to Louisa. This is fine, except that the author then acts as if the reader has mental deficiencies and over-explains things that were just detailed in the previous chapter. Gah!

Glass and her editors had to purposefully choose this style and I just don’t know why. Why do you act as if your readers are stupid? Why are you explaining that X is your sister’s zen ex-boyfriend when we just spent the previous chapter with him as a main feature character?

This book showed real promise with a fantastic beginning, and I thought I was going to adore it. Thus, I feel doubly disappointed that by the middle I was rather annoyed by it all.

I don’t care how close it is to Christmas – my next three books are all going to be young adult titles. I’m burned out on these sad soul sucking novels. Yes, Songs For The Missing, I’m looking at you.

Songs For The Missing by Stewart O’Nan

Thursday, November 6th, 2008 by Miss Laura

Preparing For Christmas Season In The Harried Book World: Book #15

“Popular high school student Kim Larsen disappears from her Midwestern home. Yes, it’s every parent’s nightmare. And, yes, this book pulls you in with its quiet power and alternating moods of hope and doom, as you are drawn into reading it long into the night. Highly recommended.” from Indie Bound’s Indie Next List, November 2008

Highly recommended? Sure, if you like being depressed and all hope slowly being seeped from your soul. That being said: once I started, I couldn’t stop reading this one.  It’s really well written.

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.”


Belong To Me by Marisa de los Santos

Friday, September 12th, 2008 by Miss Laura

Preparing For Christmas Season In The Harried Book World: Book #10

“Belong To Me is a portrait of suburban assimilation filled with heart, laughter, and recognition. Marisa de los Santos manages to write about the funny, awkward situations that so many of us have endured, while creating characters as real as your own next-door neighbors.” – Danielle Marshall Indie Bound’s Indie Next List April 2008

Look it’s Desperate Housewives: The novel

Not badly done, just not my thing. For those who do like family drama chick lit it’s something worth checking out.

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.

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