The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown (CBR6 #5)

Image

Obligatory Synopsis (via Goodreads)

 See, we love each other. We just don’t happen to like each other very much. But the sisters soon discover that everything they’ve been running from-one another, their small hometown, and themselves-might offer more than they ever expected.

I received The Weird Sisters as part of the Cannonball Read 5 Book Exchange in December. I am so glad that I did, because while this book has been on my To Read list since Cannonball Read IV I’m not sure when I would have gotten around to purchasing it for myself (my library system does not seem to have it available). The Weird Sisters is a difficult book to categorize; it’s a tale of family, of how sisters relate to each other, about fighting cancer, about making peace with your past, about relationships. And it’s also a tale woven through with Shakespearean allusions. Oh, and it’s written in the first person plural.

I’ve seen quite a few reviews which gave this book a relatively low rating based on the use of the first person plural and I’ll admit that it initially took some getting used to.  The use of the ‘we’ in the overall narration can drag a reader out of the narrative or just generally serve to confuse, until you catch on that its intended to be the omnipotent point of view. But I can understand how this might still turn someone off.

Once you do get the hang of it, the narrative weaves in and out of the points of view of the three Andreas sisters – Rosalind, Bianca, and Cordelia or Rose, Bean, and Cordy as they are known. In transferring between each the narrative backs up into the collective and more omnipotent points and understandings are imparted to the reader. Once I sunk into the device, I really enjoyed it as it afforded the reader a greater understanding than the sister’s had individually while still relying on what they would know if they were completely and perfectly honest with one another. And, simply, it was something different.

While following a pretty standard plot (three sisters return to the family roost to sort out their issues) I bumped the rating of this book up from a 3 to a 4 because I called at least one of the wrap-ups wrong, and I like to be wrong when it comes to calling a plot trope too early. The other main argument I’ve seen against The Weird Sisters is that it’s a retread of stock characters (Control Freak, Slut, Hippie) in a stock relationship setting (sisters). Which, I’ll give you and that keeps this book firmly in the 4 not 5 range.

So I vote read this, but flip through the first few pages and make sure you like the narration before purchasing.

This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read.

Advertisements

Skinny Dip (CBR4 #20)

I have a fondness for Carl Hiassen books that is directly linked to the fact that I spent my formative years living in South Florida and that I was raised by two incredibly sarcastic folks. This means that I am hardwired to love this man and his books.

And I do.

I decided that a return trip into the land of Hiaasen was a great way to start the upcoming summer season so over Memorial Day weekend I dove right in (pun intended). Skinny Dip starts off with a woman recounting being tossed into the Atlantic Ocean from a cruise ship by her husband, and trying to puzzle it out while also swimming for shore – which is many, many miles away.  Our fateful heroine ends up fighting a shark, she thinks, but instead ends up holding close to a bale of marijuana to float closer to shore, and he rescuer who lives alone on a small island in Biscayne Bay.

Joey Perrone is our castaway and her rescuer is a former Miami cop, Mick Stranahan. We learn throughout the book about each character’s difficult pasts. She was orphaned at a young age, he’s been married six times. Because this is a Hiaasen book it’s not a romance, but it is a comedy (Joey’s parents die in a plane crash which was most likely caused by a trained bear waking up in the co-pilot’s seat and he has had his boat stolen several times by exes looking to leave the island).

While a good chunk of the story is about Joey and Mick, the larger part of the story is about Joey’s revenge on her husband, Charles ‘Chaz’ Perrone and his reasons for attempting to off Joey in the first place. Chaz, it turns out, is part of Samuel  ‘Red’ Hammernut’s plan to keep polluting the Everglade. Red is a crooked farm tycoon who owns large vegetable fields adjacent to the Everglades, which he pollutes with fertilizer run-off. Chaz is officially employed by the state authorities to test swamp water for pollutants but he is also on Hammernut’s payroll, forging the test results and allowing Hammernut to continue doing as he has always done.  Chaz thinks Joey has found him out, and the only way to keep her from telling the authorities is to kill her. When Joey comes to on Mick’s island she asks him to keep her rescue a secret and allow everyone, including her husband to think that she is indeed dead and launches a plan to exact her revenge and eventually uncover Chaz’s off the books job.

This is just the tip of the iceberg as things devolve into madness. If you’re a Hiaasen fan there are also sightings of favorite Everglades’ hermit Clinton ‘Skink’ Tyree and Twilly Spree. Mick Stranahan is himself a repeat offender in Hiassen’s novels, originating in Skin Tight. I completely loved my time in Hiaasen’s world, and I’m sure I’ll venture back in again before the summer is out since there are a bunch that I haven’t read. For the parent types out there Hiaasen’s Hoot is fantastic.

The Fault in Our Stars (CBR4 #15)

This book. This freakin’ book. I tweeted it as my Friday Read a couple weeks back and the lovely MsWas told me to get the tissues. While I didn’t out and out cry I did want to curl up with a blanket and hug something or someone when I got to the conclusion. But I was warned about that (h/t narfna).

This book has been reviewed a few times for cannonball, but it’s my first experience with John Green, and although this is YA, and to a certain extent reads that way, it was good times. Green kept me on my toes even when I was pretty sure I knew what was coming. It should be known that this book’s main characters are all cancer patients at various stages. You definitely need to know this before you sign on to read it, because as I said before – you might need tissues or a blanket to get through the end.

Our narrator through the journey is Hazel, she is sixteen and cancer has gone ahead and settled in her lungs. There is a miracle drug (just in the book) that has stopped the growth and for the time being she’s holding steady but required to bring her own oxygen wherever she goes. However, her mother has decided that she’s depressed and with her doctor’s direction, Hazel is forced to attend a support group. Hazel doesn’t want to go, stating that depression is merely a side effect of dying and not to be worried about. But, as it is in the world of fiction, it turns out to have been for the best that she attends.

At support group we meet Augustus and Isaac. Isaac is a known quantity to Hazel. Augustus on the other hand is something new altogether. I appreciate that Green wasn’t afraid to write the meet cute in a cancer support group. Life doesn’t stop just because you have cancer.  Hazel shares with Augustus her favorite book and they begin their relationship from there.

I won’t devolve into a plot summary. But the relationships these characters share read and ring true. You get it all with these characters: hope, love, sorrow, tragedy, triumph, humor. The whole deal. 

Green is careful to point out in his Author’s Note that this book is not about anyone, and is strictly speaking a work of fiction. I respect that. I will however point out The Fault in Our Stars was dedicated to Esther Earl, who’s picture reminds me of what I thought Hazel looks like. Her family has set up a foundation in her honor to support cancer families, This Star Won’t Go Out and is worth a visit, particularly if you have some dollars you can afford to donate.

 

Heartless (CBR4 #7)

When I started the Cannonball Read last month I was so surprised to see how many people had trouble with the review; that reviews were the thing that kept people from making their goal, not the actual reading. I do now understand how that may happen. I finished reading Heartless by Gail Carriger almost a week ago and have been carrying it around in my purse as a reminder to write the review, the problem is I just don’t have much to say about the book.

Did I enjoy it? Absolutely. There were certain points in the story where I absolutely did not want to put it down and made excuses to keep reading. Was it earth shattering? Absolutely not. Nothing new happened here and no views about the world or writing were changed. Would I recommend it to a friend? Yep, and already have. Does it leave me wanting more? No, not really. That’s a bit of a copout. It did leave me wanting more, because Carriger has a habit of squashing the best action in the Parasol Protectorate books into the last 70 pages or so, but this could have been the end of the series given about 10 more pages dedicated to tying up loose ends.

Will I be reading Timeless when it comes out next month? Certainly. Will I be ravenously awaiting its arrival? No, I’ll be pleasantly surprised when the book gets passed down from my friend who’s reading them before me. I do look forward to more time with Professor Lyall (particularly after the revelations of his love life), Biffy, Ivy, and to a lesser extent Mme LeFoux and Channing. But I wonder after a rampaging octomaton, a political reshuffling, and the birth of the baby what could possibly be left to talk about?

Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk (CBR4 #2)

I admit from the outset that this book was my holiday gift to myself and I went in planning on loving it. And I do love it, but not the way one loves their favorite pair of shoes or a brand new laptop. I love it like you love a cousin you haven’t seen in a few years but who gave you your first tequila shot when you were severely underage.

Don’t look at me like that, I stand by the analogy.

I love David Sedaris’ style. I love his dry wit and the variously interesting ways in which he gets around to the point of his stories. Even though I know there’s likely a twist coming, I am rarely, if ever, able to call it. I love that his books are generally collections of short stories, something that I don’t always appreciate in other authors. I even like that he is adventurous in style choices. Sometimes his books are memoir, sometimes its first person narrative fiction, and this time it’s a riff on fables.

Yep, fables. Although to be fair Sedaris refers to the book as “A Modest Bestiary”.

And that may be the reason why I am not puppy dog in love with this outing as I have been by previous Sedaris books. Even though the animal protagonists are very obviously based on people who populate the world around us, I couldn’t always invest in them. Sure, there are standouts in the book , but I’d say I was most disappointed by the title pair. There just wasn’t a lot to love in the chapter about a squirrel and a chipmunks forbidden love and a misunderstanding about jazz.

There is quite a bit of social commentary to be had, each new chapter with its new animal protagonists. There is a new topic tackled, a new insight aimed for. My favorites include “The Motherless Bear” where an overly needy and selfish bear receives her comeuppance and “The Faithful Setter” following the travails of a man dog about town. Certainly I felt the stories got stronger as the book, at a mere 120 pages or so, continued. Also, the illustrations by Ian Falconer are both adorable and hilarious in equal measure.

Cannonball Read 4 – Pope Joan

Cannonball Read felt like a challenge I could accept, especially when I discovered I could do a half cannonball of 26 books. This felt doable.

So here’s my first review for Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross:

 

Do you like political intrigue? Subterfuge? Espionage? A tale of stolen identities and familial politics?

You do. Great. Here’s the kicker:

How do you feel about the 9th century? Are you still interested?

Wonderful!

Pope Joan chronicles the life of perhaps the only woman to ascend the throne of St. Peter. This historical fiction is told completely from Joan’s perspective. The novel checks in with Joan every few years, detailing the nature of her family and family dynamics in general, life in rural Frankland – and eventually beyond, the ever-changing political landscape following Charlemagne (the man divided his empire amongst his three sons – this was not a good idea.), and the inner workings on the Catholic Church.

There is, it should be said, a lot of information to absorb in this book but at no point did I feel overwhelmed. And this is fiction the way I like it best. The author, Donna Woolfolk Cross spent quite a bit of time and a lot of diligent effort doing the historical research on Joan specifically and the 9th century broadly. We meet a cavalcade of characters, some who stay in the story for hundreds of pages and some who come and go quite quickly but they are all richly developed.

At over four hundred pages you might not expect it to be a quick read, but I was able to move through it at a relatively quick pace, but not so quickly as to not remember the details and nuance of the story. As I write this review it has been a few weeks since completing the novel and the plot has stayed with me, and in the days that followed my completion of the novel I was dying to talk to someone about it.

So read it and let’s talk about it!