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Book Review: Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

Book Review: Bel Canto by Ann Patchett


Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Bel Canto is a beautiful novel. I’ve never read Ann Patchett before, but I quickly became infatuated with her storytelling over the course of this novel. To be completely honest, this was a 5 star read until the last ten pages. I shouldn’t have been so blindsided by the climactic events. The story does, after all, revolve around opera. But I was indeed blindsided. I feel slightly scarred. It was still a great book, and one that I might even read again someday, but the list of people to whom I would recommend it shrunk significantly in those last pages.

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Book Review: Or What You Will, by Jo Walton

Book Review: Or What You Will, by Jo Walton


Or What You Will by Jo Walton
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book from the publisher (Tor) and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

“I have been a word on the tongue. I have been a word on the page. And I hope I will be again.”

Or What You Will blew me away from the very first page. The last time I got this excited over the first paragraphs of a book was when I read The Ten Thousand Doors of January, which ended up being my favorite book of 2019. My pulse actually sped up as I read, and I had to stop and go back and reread those first few paragraphs because they were just so gorgeous. I had read passages to my husband and frantically text my fellow Novel Notions besties about how excited I was before I even finished that first chapter. And I continued to deeply appreciate the writing all the way through, and highlighted and annotated an incredible number of passages. But after such a wonderful beginning, things went from beautiful literary fiction to an unexpected accounting of the art scene of Renaissance Florence. I mean, I have no problem at all with the topic but that shift came out of nowhere. I would say it was jarring if the air of the novel wasn’t so meandering. And then there were a ton of Shakespearean characters added into the mix, which was surprising. But the book never really came back to what I loved so much in those first few pages, and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I was incredibly disappointed by that decision on Walton’s part.

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Book Review: Valentine, by Elizabeth Wetmore

Book Review: Valentine, by Elizabeth Wetmore


Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore
My rating: 6 of 5 stars

Valentine is absolutely gorgeous. The writing is so vivid and transporting that I felt like I indwelled each character during their prospective chapters. It’s also one of the most tragic, heartbreaking stories I’ve read in a very long time. My heart almost physically ached during my time reading this book. But most of all, Valentine is immensely powerful. It proclaims an almost rebellious resilience in the face of heinous adversity that is fiercely and unequivocally feminist, and I felt impacted by it at a soul-deep level.

“Mercy is hard in a place like this…”

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Book Review: The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead

Book Review: The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead


The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I so wanted to like this book. I appreciate and respect it, but it left me cold.

The enslavement of African Americans in the United States and the horrific ways in which they were treated is one of the two most heinous sins (alongside our treatment of Native Americans) in our national past. I have never been able to fathom how people could treat others as less than human over such a minor difference as skin color. And the fact that these slave owners viewed themselves as good and kind and “Christian” is one of the most appalling and ludicrous things I’ve ever heard. The systematic oppression and abuse of any subset of humanity, whether they are set apart by gender or religion or sexuality or something as simple as a different pigmentation, is so opposed to the teachings of Jesus that I am baffled by how anyone who considers themselves to be one of His followers can possibly rationalize it.

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Book Review: We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker

Book Review: We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker

 

We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Published: 2nd April 2020 (Bonnier Books UK)

 

Chris Whitaker is one of those authors whose every release makes me wonder just how much better he can get. He’s only on book 3 and I’m wondering if this time he might have created something unmatchable. Honestly, I’ve been sitting on this review for ages because I can’t seem to write anything that’s not offensively superlative. We Begin at the End is a triumph. Spectacularly plotted, gut-wrenchingly genuine, and memorable in that way that sits heavy on your heart.

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Book Review: An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

Book Review: An American Marriage by Tayari Jones


An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m going to be honest: I never intended to read this book. I have a terrible case of reverse snobbery that causes me to inwardly sniff in distain at any book presented by Oprah or Reese Witherspoon or any other celebrity as exceptionally worth reading. However, since I’m aware of this tendency within myself, I’m making an effort to not write something off just because it has an Oprah’s Book Club sticker on the front, though I’ll never be a reader that decides to pick up a book based on the same sticker. I’m very glad I made myself look past its popularity and pick it up, because An American Marriage gutted me. The characters it portrays are stunningly, viscerally real. And the situation in which they find themselves is heartbreakingly, infuriatingly believable.

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Book Review: The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Book Review: The Secret History by Donna Tartt


The Secret History by Donna Tartt
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Secret History is one of those books that I’ve been meaning to read forever. According to my Kindle account, I purchased a copy more than five years ago; somehow, I just never got around to reading it. It’s one of those books that sounds so perfect for me that I’m afraid to read it for fear of it failing to meet the irrationally high expectations I have for it. When my co-blogger Emma informed me that it was one of her favorite books ever, I decided to take the plunge. I’m so glad I did. Far from failing to meet my absurd expectations, The Secret History blew them out of the water and is now happily ensconced on my favorites shelf.

“Beauty is terror. Whatever we call beautiful, we quiver before it. And what could be more terrifying and beautiful, to souls like the Greeks or our own, than to lose control completely?”

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Book Review: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Book Review: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Series: Standalone

Genre: Literary fiction, Historical fiction, Mystery

Pages: 384 pages

Published: 17th January 2019 by Corsair (UK) & 14th August 2018 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons (US)


Where the Crawdads Sing is a book that’s massively praised worldwide, and it lives up to all the hype.

It doesn’t matter whether you read literary fiction or not, if you’ve visited Amazon or a bookstore in 2019, it’s quite likely that you’ve heard about Where the Crawdads Sing, Delia Owens’s FIRST novel that’s praised and hit bestseller everywhere. Honestly, I didn’t expect to read this one; my girlfriend and my co-blogger—Celeste—highly recommended it to me even though they know that it’s well outside my usual genre—SFF—of novels to read. However, the immensely high average ratings made the book a must-try for me. At the time of writing this review, it has an average of 4.5 stars out of 463k ratings on Goodreads, and on Amazon US it has an average rating of 4.8 out of 27.3k ratings/reviews! To make things even crazier, this is the author’s FIRST novel, and everything about it lives up to the hype.

“I wasn’t aware that words could hold so much. I didn’t know a sentence could be so full.”

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Book Review: A Ladder to the Sky, by John Boyne

Book Review: A Ladder to the Sky, by John Boyne


A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“And you’ve heard the old proverb about ambition, haven’t you?”
He shook his head.
“That it’s like setting a ladder to the sky. A pointless waste of energy.”

I have to say, I’d never have picked up this book had it not been so highly recommended by both Petrik and his girlfriend, Katherine. Not because the subject matter wasn’t of interested, but because I had honestly never heard of it. I’m not sure how, but A Ladder to the Sky completely missed my radar when it was released in 2018. I had heard of two other of the author’s work, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas and The Heart’s Invisible Furies, and while they sound great, the premise of this particular book is far more intriguing to me personally. As someone who loves every single aspect of books, from how they’re made to who wrote them to those who sell them and the stories they actually hold, any novel that involves bookselling or authorship or any other profession or hobby linked to books is always going to draw me in. Not every such book delivers, in my opinion, but this one sure does. A Ladder to the Sky was compulsively readable from page one, even though it took me a bit longer to actually gel with the story it was telling.

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Book Review: The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne

Book Review: The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne

The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Series: Standalone

Genre: Literary fiction, Historical fiction

Pages: 567 pages (Kindle edition)

Published: 9th February 2017 by Doubleday (UK) & 22nd August 2017 by Hogarth Press (US)


The Heart’s Invisible Furies is beautiful, heartbreaking, dark, and occasionally humorous.

If you follow my reviews, you should know already that literary fiction isn’t my favorite genre to read; I probably read, at most, one or two literary fiction book per year. But when I finished A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne, which I enjoyed very much, at the end of last year, I knew that I had to give his most highly-praised work, The Heart’s Invisible Furies, a read and I’m glad I did.

“But for all that we had, for all the luxury to which we were accustomed, we were both denied love, and this deficiency would be scorched into our future lives like an ill-considered tattoo inscribed on buttocks after a drunken night out, leading each of us inevitably toward isolation and disaster.”

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