The Open Book

aka bookjunkie1975

So disappointed.

— feeling angry
The Big Sleep & Farewell, My Lovely - Raymond Chandler

When I first started reading this I was certain it was going to be a 4 star book. The writing is fun and stylish, with a sardonic wit I generally enjoy, and Chandler sure knows how to turn a phrase. Sadly, the book is also racist, homophobic and rampantly sexist. I'm sure some would argue that it's simply reflective of the time and place it was written in but frankly that's just not enough to give it a free pass for me. What a disappointment. 

Reading progress update: I've read 50 out of 544 pages.

— feeling dead
The Big Sleep & Farewell, My Lovely - Raymond Chandler

Marlowe's in a rare books store and he just sat down to have a smoke!?! I'm having a slight panic attack over this.

Beloved by Toni Morrison: Mini Review

Beloved - Toni Morrison

Beloved is the story of Sethe, a former slave who escaped to the free state of Ohio, her daughter Denver, and the ghost that they are haunted by. There is a lot to unpack in this novel; thematically there are issues of slavery, race, mothers and daughters, PTSD, and structurally there's post modernism, eloquence or sparcity of language to convey horrible truths, how gothic conventions are applied to explore the thematic issues and whether those elevate or devalue the thematic structure. Basically there's just a whole lot in the text and the subtext to explore. It's kind of a deconstructionist's wet dream. But. Here's the thing. I think readers would be doing a disservice to the book and themselves to go into it with anything other than a desire to read the story. And I would recommend being sure you have a dedicated amount of time carved out to read it as this, I think, works best as a one sitting read, at least the first time. The writing has moments of heart stuttering beauty and eloquence but it can also be challenging in a way that very likely alienates some readers. Stream of consciousness tends to be an in or out kind of lit convention, and Morrison's use of it is further complicated by it's infrequency. The only reason I think she pulls it off is because her narrative is already so back and forth between past and present that the change in structure slips right in to place. I did't love that aspect, to be honest. I understand why she does it, but I did find it a bit too jarring. As far as the story line goes, this is a hard book. And it should be. Because slavery is a hard subject. But Morrison weaves the story in a way that it's accessible and engaging, teasing the reader with a bit of mystery before hitting us with the cold and horrible reality. It's a very skilled path she lays and there are some scenes that I will carry with me forever. 

Level Up by Cathy Yardley: Mini Review

— feeling big smile
Level Up: A Geek Romance Rom Com - Cathy Yardley

This was cute. A little idiosyncratic at times, although that could just be because I'm old, but definitely a lot of fun for anyone involved in either gaming or fandom culture. I'm not sure I'd recommend it to anyone outside of these specific interests, as they make up a significant portion of both character and plot, but the romance genre has room for everything and anyone who has ever fallen in love with a show or a game will happily connect to Tessa and her crew. The obstacles aren't anything new or unique here, but I was impressed with the way they're all resolved in a mature manner and don't slide into the cliche, and the story rides along at a very respectable 3 and a half stars all the way up to the declaration, which is so sweet and fluffy and smile-inducing that I bumped it up to 4. 

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty: Mini Review

Big Little Lies - Liane Moriarty

I'm not going to lie, I didn't expect to like this as much as I did. The set up is relatively simple; one child is accused of bullying another at the kindergarten orientation of a beachside community public school on the Golden Coast (I think) of Australia. Lines are drawn, sides are taken and the whole thing culminates in a death 6 months later, on the night of the school fundraiser. Moriarty gets the cutthroat, teeth-gritting politics of the playground just right. She's disturbingly accurate, actually, and as someone finally (FINALLY *fistpump* Booyah!) phasing out of that stage of parenthood, I certainly found the storyline relatable. While the main characters weren't particularly unique, they were likeable and engaging. The success of the story though, really relied on the pacing and tone and Ms. Moriarty definitely pulled it off. There's a lot of skill at play here. I found myself reading compulsively as each secret was disclosed, becoming more and more invested in the outcome. And I have to say I was pretty satisfied with the ending. I hear that HBO is making it a series. I can't wait to see if it lives up to the book. :)

LumberJanes: Beware the Kitten Holy by Noelle Stevenson & Grace Ellis and Illustrated by Brooke Allen: Mini Review

Lumberjanes Vol. 1  - Brooke Allen, Grace Ellis,  Noelle Stevenson

Holy cats! This comic is ah-mazing! It's fun and witty and so very, very charming. The characters are fresh and endearing, with very distinct voices. I love them all! The story is fast paced and engaging with just the right blend of action, suspense and humour. And the panels are gorgeous - colourful and vivid. There's just so much to love here! I am smitten. Friendship to the max!

Beowulf: Mini Review

— feeling doubt
Beowulf: A New Verse Translation - Seamus Heaney, Anonymous

A lot of wank. That's pretty much all that's going on here. I can see how this stands as one of the foundations of contemporary Fantasy as a genre, but other than that, it's just a lot of standing around and comparing dick sizes, really. Grendel and his mother take up 6, maybe 8 stanzas of the entire poem. What a disappointment. 

Ru by Kim Thuy: Mini Review

— feeling love
Ru - Kim Thuy

This book is gorgeous. A fictionalized memoir that follows its narrator from a childhood marked by both privileged affluence in old guard Vietnam and abject poverty as a refugee in Quebec, Ru is a thoughtful narrative that flows in and out of the narrator's life. Part of it's brilliance and charm is in the short, evocative text Thuy uses to tell the story. It's non linear, connected by theme, rather than chronology, and that works particularly well with the spare passages she's chosen to give us. Occasionally it feels like Thuy overreaches, dropping in issues that, while certainly relevant and important, she can't possibly hope to cover adequately given the format she's chosen and, as a result, they jar the reader out of the lovely ebb and flow she's established. Fortunately, those instances are relatively minor and the tone of the book isn't diminished. Overall, reading this book felt a bit like a gift from the literature gods and I'm so happy I pulled it off the "We Recommend" shelf at my local library. 

Forbidden Pleasure by Lora Leigh: Mini Review

Forbidden Pleasure: Part 1 (Bound Hearts) - Lora Leigh

So this was not good. Let me start over. I ran into an acquaintance and I happened to have a book with me (truth time - I always have a book with me) so we got to chatting about books and somehow she came around to this one. It had been recommended to her by an older lady whose book club had just finished it, which amused her quite a bit given the content of the book, and so she had read it and liked it "but it's a little risqué" *wink**wink*. "Oh, you sweet summer child," I thought. Because I've spent the last 5 years reading fanfiction, you know, where the smut lives. And my base line for erotica is, frankly, in a whole different league here. For both quality and content. This book doesn't even come close.


In Forbidden Pleasure we have a potential menage between Mac, his wife Kiely and Jethro, his best friend/FBI partner. Mac wants all three of them to be together, so he manipulates the situation so that his wife will be receptive to the idea, knowing she'll only agree if she has an emotional attachment to their third and also knowing that Jethro is in love with Kiely. But he's not in love with Jethro. Nope. Of course not. No homo, bro. All. The. Way. Through. I'm not going to lie. This really pissed me off. I'm pretty sure that if you want a guy to sleep with your wife, while you also sleep with your wife, and you get turned on just by thinking about it, you are not exactly a zero on the Kinsey scale. Let's be real here. Also, the book wasn't particularly sex positive, considering it's full blown erotica. The amount of times characters referred to themselves as "slut" or "pervert/ed" was mind boggling. And I don't even really want to get into the quality of the writing. It's giving me a headache just thinking about it. Honestly, when it comes to erotica, I think I'll be sticking to fanfiction.

Reading progress update: I've read 75 out of 126 pages.

Forbidden Pleasure: Part 1 (Bound Hearts) - Lora Leigh

So far this book is doing nothing but pissing me off. Grrrr. It's all info dump, super thin plot (although at least she made the effort of coming up with one) and the actual sex is pretty meh. But it's the constant "no homo" that's making me grind my teeth. 

Reading progress update: I've read 15 out of 213 pages.

Beowulf: A New Verse Translation - Seamus Heaney, Anonymous

So far so good. I'm reading Seamus Heaney's translation and so far it's hella easy to follow. o/

The Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobbs: Mini Review

Assassin's Quest - Robin Hobb

Ok. So I finally finished book 3 of The Farseer trilogy and it was a lot. This time out Fitz is on a quest to find Prince Verity and aid Queen-in-waiting Kettricken in first hiding, then retaking the throne. Along the way he continues to fail at assassining (don't look at me like that, it's totally a word), meets some minstrels, whines a lot about Molly, wakes up some statue dragons (sort of, it's complicated) and continues his oblivious, one sided love affair with the Fool which is, honestly, my favourite part of the whole series. 


The world building is first rate. The Six Duchies, their history and politics, are really well conceived, which makes it easy for the reader to immerse herself into the word Hobb has created. Unfortunately, the story, over the course of the three novels, suffers a bit from repetition and a lack of character growth. Fitz finds himself in the same situation over and over again, yet he never seems to learn from his mistakes, never really develops as a character. He also seems to really fail at connecting to others emotionally. He says he loves Molly. He feels compelled to follow Verity. And yes, he really, really hates Regal. But most of the time he doesn't really seem all that moved by other people, with the exception of the Fool. And maybe part of that is an unreliable narrator (Fitz, himself, and lets face it, he's not particularly self aware) but I tend to see this more as a failure in the writing. And when the main character can't connect, well, that makes it really hard for me to. 



Reading progress update: I've read 535 out of 757 pages.

Assassin's Quest - Robin Hobb

Reading progress update: I've read 215 out of 757 pages.

Assassin's Quest - Robin Hobb

I have decided that Fitz is really quite bad at this assassin gig. He should probably take up shepherding or something. 

Reading progress update: I've read 100 out of 757 pages.

Assassin's Quest - Robin Hobb

How many times  Burrich going to disown Fitz though? 

All of Us and Everything by Bridget Asher: Mini Review

All of Us and Everything: A Novel - Bridget Asher

All of Us and Everything by Bridget Asher is a quirky little read. The Rockwell women, sisters Esme, Liv, Ru, their mother Augusta and Esme's teenage daughter Atty (who is a joy and a gift to this novel), come together at the family home after Hurricane Katrina unearths some family secrets. Each of them are at a particularly tumultuous time in their lives and bring a lot of baggage to the reunion, which of course leads to thinly veiled tension and dramatic revelations. The story works best when it's running on a dry, sardonic blend of humour and light pathos, but somewhere around the halfway point it veers a bit into the ridiculous and that's where it loses me. I think I was expecting one type of story in the first half and then suddenly it slips into farce, and while I love a good farce, it's a bit discombobulating to have it show up out of nowhere. Particularly frustrating is the fact that there were a lot of intriguing elements to the story, they just never quite seemed to fit together so it all feels a bit patchwork. Would I read another novel by Asher? Yes. Absolutely. But I'd probably borrow it from the library first. 

Currently reading

The Changeling
Victor LaValle
Fangirl by Rowell, Rainbow (2014) Paperback
Rainbow Rowell
Progress: 59 %