Recent Reads #4

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

I purchased this book, though I haven’t the fainted recollection of where or when. It was published by Algonquin Books in 2014.

I read this book in a single evening, in approximately four hours. I laughed out loud at numerous passages, and shed actual tears at the end. The main character is the titular AJ Fikry, and in his initial appearance he is depressed and curmudgeonly. From the blurb on the back cover, I expected his stolen collection of Poe poems would be returned in a fairly short amount of time, maybe after some kind of soul-searching personal investigation where Fikry rediscovered the meaning of life or something. Instead, it’s a story that covers a long period of time, and the mysterious package that arrives at his store is genuinely, truly life-changing, and not only for him, and shows how changes beget changes, for better or worse.

The characters are a lot of fun; the inter-chapter shelf-talkers are cute but not especially memorable. The plot is not what one would call especially deep, and plenty of it is thoroughly predictable- but that doesn’t detract from the pleasantness of the book in any way, as far as I’m concerned. This is an easy, indulgent, happy read.

(90* points to Hufflepuff in NovelKnight’s Beat the Backlist challenge!)

Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire

I’m pretty sure I purchased this book, as it’s in better condition than it would’ve been if I’d gotten it from BookMooch. It was published by DAW Books in 2009.

I’ve been meaning to read this for a while, but if I’m honest, urban fantasy is a hard sell for me. Which is weird, as I like it in tv- I’m a big fan of Buffy, for example, and I watched most of the early seasons of Charmed. Maybe I think more about what I’m reading than what I’m watching, making it harder for me to maintain the necessary level of suspension of disbelief. I don’t know.

I like Toby, as a character. Her trauma in the prologue is not what one would consider a run-of-the-mill backstory, even for a fantasy, and what she lost (and what she was forced to leave behind) is something that I look forward to seeing more of in future books in the series. I am definitely planning on reading more of the series, though I didn’t love this one. The fantasy element of the world was not quite as lived and real feeling as, say, Redwall, another first book, and there were so many species and abilities that I had a hard time keeping track sometimes. I also got confused by physical, geographic references because I am not at all familiar with San Francisco, so more than once I was wishing for a map. Toby falls into some old tropes that I am not a fan of- having a Thing for most of the men in her life; having a backstory/reputation for being or doing something amazing but spending most of the on-page time getting hurt, passing out, and being rescued by other people; being one of those “self-reliant” types who make things worse than they have to be because they won’t ask for help, because despite everyone liking them they never seem to internalize it. That said, I liked a lot of the smaller touches. Gillian; the blood thing Toby does; the rose motif (especially Spike); the different smells of peoples’ magic; the box. It’s an imaginative world, with some really interesting characters and politics, and I look forward to seeing how things unfold as the series continues!

(99* points to Hufflepuff in NovelKnight’s Beat the Backlist challenge!)

Our Hearts Will Burn Us Down by Anne Valente

I received this ARC from the publisher via LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers; it was published by William Morrow in 2016.

I was not able to finish reading this book, though believe me I have been trying. The prose itself feels like a forced attempt to be immersive, poetic, and lyrical; instead it feels disjointed and distracted. The narration is confusing, sliding between individual characters and the four as a whole group. I was a teen when the Columbine shooting happened. I remember the news coverage vividly, the fear, the confusion, the blame. This book has none of the urgency or anxiety of those moments, and the teen perspective feels hollowed out.

In the rare cases that I feel like I just can’t finish a book, I’ll skip to about the midway point between where I am and the end and read a few pages; this is almost always enough for me to go back and keep reading. If not, I’ll head to the final chapter (I don’t mind spoilers). In this case, reading the end unfortunately cemented the decision not to read this book the whole way through. I doubt I will read anything by this author in the future.

*If I did my math right.

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