Ill Will by Dan Chaon

I had heard such good things about this book but I did not enjoy it.

First of all, the formatting was incredibly distracting.  It was supposed to make it feel like a stream of consciousness read but instead it just pulled me out of the action.  There were entire sections that were four different things happening all at the same time but the order of the events didn’t line up page to page.  It felt like it was trying to be “high and mighty” literature and it just missed the mark.

Secondly, the characters made a series of terrible decisions and the decisions were so bad and there were so many of them that it quickly didn’t feel realistic.  Here is this book that is pushing itself to be incredibly realistic and the characters seemed like bad charactachures.  These were supposed to be smart people yet them were being so incredibly dumb.

The book read quickly and I found myself motivated to continue reading it (which is why 2 sequinbeasts rather than 1) but I disliked it the majority of the time.  So disappointed.

2-stars

Gork, the Teenage Dragon by Gabe Hudson

I had such high hopes for this book and it just didn’t live up to them.

I was really excited by the concept: a loser dragon tries to find a partner before graduation.  What I ended up getting was a book that spent too much time focusing on one day and using a made up organizational system that was never fully explained.  A lot of my problems with the book could have been fixed with a single chart that explained the levels the different dragons went through.  I was never really clear as to how well Gork was doing at any given time, which really made each of the changes he went through less exciting than they were supposed to be.

This book was also incredibly violent and bloody which I wasn’t expecting.  I know, I know, it’s a book about dragons but really, come on.  There were constantly dragons being killed in the most gory and bloody ways and they happened to often that it started to take away from the plot.

This book got points for a fun concept but when it came to actual carrying out of that concept, it fell quite flat.

2-stars

Trying to Float by Nicolaia Rips

One of the requirements for the reading challenge I am doing with my roommates is to read a book by someone younger than me so I was excited to find this book on my shelf.  And then I was depressed when I realized that a 17 year old had a book published and I am slogging along with my writing.  But that is not the point.

This book was a fun, fast read.  There wasn’t much depth to it and many parts of it were repetitive but I can honestly say that I had a very different childhood from Nicolaia.

What impressed me most was her honesty.  She wrote openly about not being able to read until she was 7 or so and not being potty trained until she was 5.  I, personally, couldn’t imagine writing personal details like that about myself now and I most definitely couldn’t have when I was 17.

She mentions at the end of the book that she wrote most of these stories in middle school and, while that is fine, I wish that she had written some sections after that.  There is a complete disconnect between what I read in the book and what her bio at the end says.

I’m glad I read this but I don’t think it will be one that I will recommend at work.

3-stars

The Care and Feeding of a Pet Black Hole by Michelle Cuevas

This book was so incredibly charming.  I mean, I knew it was going to be great based on the name but I wasn’t expecting it to also be deep and have a very important message for kids.

In the aftermath of her father’s death, Stella is followed home from NASA by a blackhole that she quickly names and decides to keep as a pet.  But as she begins to feed her memories of her father to it, those memories begin to disappear as if they had never happened.

This book took me on a crazy adventure that I wasn’t expecting which included talking garden gnomes, a mutant (and stinky hamster), and an action-figure who is having an identity crisis.

I loved getting to spend time in this really fun world.  And Cuevas does a great job of balancing the heavy topics with the light and funny ones.  It is a great book for children who are experiencing any kind of loss (it doesn’t have to be a parent) but I think any child will have a fun time with it.  It is crazy fun.

(I also couldn’t handle how accurate Cuevas’s depiction of the sister and younger brother relationship was.)

4-stars

Forest Dark by Nicole Krauss

This book just did not work for me.  I really enjoyed reading The History of Love (even though it was so long ago that I can’t tell you anything about it) and so I had high hopes for Krauss’s new novel but I did not enjoy this book.

I found there to be way too much going on.  Flipping between a third person story (which is the part I actually enjoyed, for the most part) and a fictionalized first-person account from the point of view of the author, I was constantly trying to keep track of what was happening in each story, which was made more complicated by the fact that the events in both stories were very similar.  Add to that the fact that the first-person account would go off on philosophical tangents and I was lost.

The end was even more confusing to me than the rest of the book.  It seemed like she was trying to tie things together in a mysterious way but instead the book completely left the realm of realism and entered a weirdly magic place.  Now, don’t get me wrong, magical realism can be great.  But here it felt like it came out of nowhere, making a mostly realistic story feel lost and confused.

This book really missed the mark for me.

2-stars

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

I’ve always felt like I was missing out because I haven’t read Celeste Ng’s first book so I was incredibly excited when I got my hands on a galley of her new one.

Little Fires Everywhere is an absolutely beautiful book filled with fascinating characters.  The perfection of Shaker Heights, a town that controls every aspect of it’s presentation to the world, is wonderfully juxtaposed with the mess that is the inner lives of the characters.

This book is a great character study, showing what happens when two outsiders enter a fragile ecosystem.  It questions the importance of art and what it means to be an artist.  It questions what defines a family, whether it be money or blood.  She asks hard questions and gives even harder answers.  I found myself having a hard time deciding which side of each debate I was on.  She made me question what I believed to be right, all in the course of a beautiful novel.

This is a great pick for fans of literary fiction.  It is almost terrifyingly realistic yet reminds you of both the good and bad in people.  I was sad to leave these characters behind.

4-stars