Monday, August 29, 2011

funeral train brought to life

The Train of Small Mercies by David Rowell
Rating: 4.5 stars (out of 5)
Genre: historical fiction
Challenge: 100 Book Challenge 2011
Review: With the passage of Robert Kennedy's funeral train from New York to Washington as a framework, David Rowell fills this book with small details that make the stories come alive.  Rowell creates six stories from the hundreds of thousands of people who watched RFK's funeral train pass by (or, in one case, were on the train), and gives us a glimpse into a day in the lives of ordinary (fictional) Americans who were touched in ways large and small by his life and death.  This book is definitely not about RFK, though.  It's about these six sets of characters that Rowell has so realistically created.

FTC Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for this review.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

bad on either count

Love Lies Bleeding by Jess McConkey
Rating: 1 star (out of 5)
Genre: fiction
Challenge: 100 Book Challenge 2011
Review: A simply-told tale can be a good thing.  A simplistically told story, on the other hand, is usually not a good thing, and that, unfortunately, is what we have here.  The language is simplistic.  The characterization is simplistic.  The dialogue is simplistic.  The plot is simplistic!  It felt more like reading a comic book without the drawings than reading a novel.

Add to that was the question of what kind of book this book was supposed to be.  Was it supposed to be an attack-recovery story (in which case it was too pat to be convincing) or a thriller (in which case it was not at all thrilling)?  Making it even harder to figure out was that there was no believable connection between the two parts of the story.  I wish I could say that McConkey would have done better to decide what kind of book this was supposed to be and stuck with that, but since neither part was very good, I don't think it would have helped.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

narrative by implication

When God Was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman
Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)
Genre: fiction
Challenge: 100 Book Challenge 2011
Review: There is a lot of sex in the beginning of this book, most of it witnessed, which is good (or at least better than the alternative) since the main character, Elly, is a young girl.  Other sex is implied, making it difficult to know what actually happened.  I found this to be a very frustrating way of story-telling, since so much of Elly's character is supposedly shaped by this implied sex.  This is not the only piece of the story that is told through implication.  Elly's relationship with another character takes on importance in adulthood that is does not seem justified by what is revealed to the reader in her childhood.  I almost felt as though a critical scene has been edited out of the book which would explain how Elly came to be so close to this character later in life.  In the end, this book required too much guesswork for me.

FTC Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for this review.