Tag Archives: Book Review

Book Review: Imani All Mine by Connie Porter

imani-all-mine

Rating: A-/ Wow. This is one heartbreaking story. If you want to read this book but have doubts because the subject matter might be too hard to cope with, be forewarned, it only goes downhill from here. There’s so much pain in Imani All Mine, to the point where the moments of hope and redemption hardly seem worth mentioning. I knew that this was a dark book, but I didn’t see the tearjerker of an ending coming, it blindsided me. I think this book is a work of art. It combines dialect with lyricism to powerful effect, without feeling false or untrue to the character’s voice and education level. Continue reading Book Review: Imani All Mine by Connie Porter

Book Review: The Color Purple by Alice Walker

colorpurple

Rating: B/ Celie isn’t a slave, but she might as well be. At the tender age of fourteen, Celie’s abusive father passes her off to an equally abusive man in an marriage the two have already arranged. Celie’s only joy comes from her younger sister, Nettie, so when Nettie is sent away and becomes a missionary in Africa, Celie is understandably devastated and writes her sister hundreds of letters in order to keep in touch. The Color Purple is written in epistolary format, and the narrative comes either in the form of letters Celie writes to God attempting to reconcile with her horrid living situation or notes that Celie and Nettie write back and forth to each other, attempting to provide comfort in sad and desperate times. Continue reading Book Review: The Color Purple by Alice Walker

Book Review: Lucky by Alice Sebold

lucky-alice-sebold

Rating: A-/ Over the last few years, but particularly since Trump’s vile ‘grab ’em by the pussy’ comments recently resurfaced in the form of a viral video, sexual assault has been a commonly discussed topic in the American media. Most people would probably agree that it’s a subject that needs to be talked about, and incidents like Brock Turner’s trial have brought to life time and again the rampant issues concerning sexual violence against women and the justice system. Continue reading Book Review: Lucky by Alice Sebold

Book Review: The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks

sword-of-shannara

Rating: B/ The Sword of Shannara is my dad’s favorite book, and I decided to read it instead of continuing with the awful television series, The Shannara Chronicles. Even if The Sword of Shannara was utterly forgettable and a shameless rip-off of Lord of the Rings like some of the less charitable critics believed it to be, it had to be better than watching Will Ohmsford and his pube-stache try unsuccessfully to act, hadn’t it (who thought it was a good idea to get stupid Slade from Arrow to play Allanon, anyway?) Continue reading Book Review: The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks

Book Review: I’m Not Scared by Niccolo Ammaniti

i'm not scared

Rating: B+/ A quick read that sucks you in immediately with it’s fascinating premise, I’m Not Scared actually pales a little in comparison to it’s outstanding film adaptation, but is nevertheless absolutely a compulsively readable and extremely entertaining book. I bought the book because I was a huge fan of the film, and I finished it in a day. I think I would have liked it better if I didn’t know almost exactly what was going to happen from the movie version, which robbed the suspenseful story of the element of surprise; and the ending did not quite work for me. I think it will make for a better experience if you read the book first. But nonetheless, I’m Not Scared is a compelling read with a likable boy protagonist who is forced to come of age and make some very hard decisions over the course of a sweltering summer in a small Italian village in 1978. Continue reading Book Review: I’m Not Scared by Niccolo Ammaniti

Book Review: The Life Before Her Eyes by Laura Kasischke

the life before her eyes

Rating: B/ Considering that I had already seen the excellent film adaptation a few years before, this novel held few surprises for me, least of all the twist ending alluded to in it’s lyrical title. So it’s a good thing that Laura Kasischke focuses more in her writing on lyricism and less on plot. With the lovely, vivid writing, I still felt like I was getting something new out of the experience of reading the book even though I pretty much knew the story. The Life Before her Eyes is a good book, not a great one. The writing can be meandering and sentimental while at the same time being lush and gorgeous, starting off the bat with a Sophie’s Choice type situation and gradually touching on aging, sorrow, and regret in a bittersweet manner. Continue reading Book Review: The Life Before Her Eyes by Laura Kasischke

Book Review: In a Perfect World by Laura Kasischke

in a perfect world

Rating: A-/ Imagine a deadly virus began to spread across the U.S., first gradually, then like wildfire. Society deconstructs. Loved ones and neighbors succumb grotesquely to the pandemic. People go into quarantine. It’s not a particularly original concept, but it is one that captures one’s imagination. How would you react? Would you go about business as usual? Would you wantonly indulge in alcohol and casual sex? Would you lash out at your fellow citizens like a caged animal, looting shops and beating anyone who tries to maintain a semblance of peace to a pulp? This is one of the big questions asked in In A Perfect World, a lyrical end-of-times novel by author/poet Laura Kasischke. Continue reading Book Review: In a Perfect World by Laura Kasischke

A Drink Before the War by Dennis Lehane

01adrink

For your information, I broke the rules early on and read the fifth book, Gone, Baby, Gone in the Lehane’s Kenzie and Gennaro series before I read his debut novel A Drink Before the War. Comparing the two, I actually like Gone Baby Gone, a teeny bit better than I like this one. I can see how Dennis Lehane developed as a writer between the penning of these two books. Not only is Gone, Baby, Gone more emotionally effective, it doesn’t hit the reader as much with its social issues.

Don’t get me wrong, A Drink Before the War is a well-written mystery. I don’t even generally read mysteries, but even when I’m in a funk and can’t seem to finish anything, I can finish a book by Dennis Lehane. I haven’t read a single one of his books that have let me down or proven difficult for me to complete yet. Although I preferred Gone, Baby, Gone to this, I recommend you read A Drink Before the War first since it is the first book in the series so the timeline will make more sense chronologically if you start there.

A Drink Before the War follows private investigator Patrick Kenzie, a world-weary smart aleck who pulls no punches about his cynicism concerning the human race, and his beautiful and spirited partner, Angela Gennaro, as they navigate a gritty, Noir-ish urban Boston landscape. Some phony politicians recruit Patrick to find a black cleaning lady, Jenna Angeline, who has pilfered some important documents and disappeared.

Immediately the case smells fishy; what exactly do these documents pertains to? And why does Jenna act like her thievery of the papers is a matter of honor when Patrick does manage to find her? The answer lies among a long-time feud between two gangs and a whole lot of political corruption (politicians? Be less-than-ethical? Why I never!)

Meanwhile, Patrick deals with his seemingly unrequited love for Angela, who’s married to an abusive d-bag who smacks her around, and confronts his own prejudices when a lot of racial and socioeconomic issues simmer to the surface of this deceptively simple case. This book is well-written, thoughtful, and exciting, and Patrick’s acerbic mixture of sarcasm and cynicism makes him a dynamite narrator. There’s always something interesting going on or bubbling up in the background of this action-packed book.

I do think Lehane went a little overboard with the hot-button race issues. The book hardly ever drags, but when it does, it is  due to the sometimes didactic exposition on white privilege and race wars the author sprinkles, occasionally excessively, into the prose. I think politics have a place in fiction, even detective fiction, but this was just too much. The story should be able to present it’s issues without beating us over the head with them.

I’ll admit, Gone, Baby, Gone didn’t always use the utmost subtlety when bringing up the perils of the child protective system, but this struck me as more heavy-handed. Maybe it’s partially because everything seems to be riding hard on race issues lately (from Black Lives Matter to the Oscars debate) so I didn’t need another reminder of the hostile racial climate of today.

However, A Drink Before the War benefits from Patrick’s fresh voice and a multitude of memorable characters such as the protagonist’s ticking time bomb one-man army of a ally Bubba Rodowsky and Jenna herself, who’s made some bad decisions in life but ultimately fucks herself attempting to do the right thing for herself and her family.

What I like best about this series is that every book’s a page turner, I can’t wait to get my hands on the second novel in the series, and I recommend Dennis Lehane to anyone with a enjoyment of crime fiction and a pretty strong stomach (his books can get pretty brutal at times.) If thrillers about scandal, corruption, and hard-boiled detective action is your thing, you should do yourself a favor and pick this book up from your local library or bookstore