Monthly Archives: August 2014

Preview – Perfectly Good White Boy

Perfectly Good White Boy

I love Carrie Mesrobian because she writes serious books. Important books. Books that matter and that have the potential to make readers think about important things.

A while back, I read Sex & Violence. I loved the rawness and authenticity of the text. I raved about it, petitioned my library to buy a copy, made my friends and coworkers promise to read it. Because it’s that good.

Perfectly Good White Boy is much the same. It’s deep and raw and important. I have to admit, I found Sean’s first-person perspective extremely annoying for the first couple of chapters, until I settled in to his particular thought patterns and manner of talking. Once I got used to that, I saw just how well-written the book is. Mesrobian almost perfectly pins down Sean’s voice…at least as well as an adult woman possibly could. She forces the reader into the thoughts of a teenage boy – sex and opportunity and the future and struggles with school and parents and drugs and feelings of inadequacy. I don’t know about you, but I don’t get that perspective often, so it was really interesting for me. I liked Sean, and I disliked Sean, and I invested my feelings and hopes in Sean.

Plotwise, this isn’t a book filled with action. There aren’t any time travelers or vampires, no court intrigues or dystopian societies or boarding school dramas. Instead, it’s more of a gentle character study. The story follows Sean throughout his senior year in high school, as he faces the uncertainties of the future and tries to decide what happens next. It’s a beautiful snapshot of the pressures teens face to live up to expectations and to have everything figured out.

When it comes down to it, I really enjoyed this novel. I think we expect so much from our teenagers today that the younger generations are being crippled by anxiety, inadequacy, and doubt. This book is a great testament to that. I can’t stress enough how important every section of this novel is, even in the seemingly trivial matters that Sean faces. I highly recommend this!

Rating: 4.5/5

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Review – Longbourn

Longbourn

 Longbourn

 Jo Baker

 2013 – Adult Fiction – Historical Fiction

 Rating: 3.5/5

The Story: We all know what happened in Pride and Prejudice. But Jo Baker takes a fresh look at Austen’s world, giving life and stories to the servants of Longbourn, the Bennett house. Intertwined with the plot from Pride and Prejudice, Longbourn is the story of Sarah, Mr. and Mrs. Hill, Polly, and James. As the main character, Sarah spends her days emptying chamber pots, washing linens, preparing meals, and running errands for the household. But the Bennett household has mysteries of its own, in addition to the intrigues and secrets downstairs, all of which Sarah is determined to uncover.

The Opening Line: There could be no wearing of clothes without their laundering, just as surely as there could be no going without clothes, not in Hertfordshire anyway, and not in September.

What I Loved: I’m a big Pride and Prejudice fan and I loved season 1 of Downton Abbey, so this is the sort of book that draws me in and persuades me to revisit the familiar in a new way. Longbourn was successful in providing a fresh glimpse into Austen’s world by introducing readers to the family servants. My favorite thing was encountering the family from a different perspectives. Where Lizzy isn’t the quirky, adventurous sister, just the messiest one. Where Mary pines for Mr. Collins and Mr. Bennett retreats to the library to cover up his own secrets. The book does a great job of showcasing class differences during that time period.

What I Didn’t Love: Seeing my favorite characters from a new perspective also has downsides. Realistically for the time period, servants were expected to be seen and not heard, run the household efficiently, and live blamelessly to protect the family’s reputation. And the Bennett family didn’t treat Sarah or anyone else badly in this book, but they did interact with them in a way that said they were much better. I didn’t like seeing the elitist sort of side to them.

Final Thoughts: A great addition to the Jane Austen universe. New perspectives and scandals layered across the familiar Pride and Prejudice plot really heightened the experience. I thoroughly enjoyed my time spent downstairs at Longbourn and I learned quite a bit about the running of a household during that time, something you don’t get just from reading the original. For readers who want similar reads, I would pair this with Manor of Secrets, a YA novel that I recently read and reviewed.

Friends, what are your favorite retellings of Jane Austen?

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Review – Adaptation

Adaptation (Adaptation, #1)

 Adaptation (Adaptation #1)

 Malinda Lo

 2012 – YA – Science Fiction

 Rating: 4.5/5

The Story: Reese and her debate partner are stranded in an airport after dozens of planes crash due to attacks on the planes by flocks of birds. So they decide to rent a car and drive home instead. Things go awry when their debate coach is brutally shot at a gas station and then even more so when a bird flies into the car, causing an accident in which both Reese and David sustain serious injuries. They wake up at a military hospital a month later, fully healed. After returning home, Reese begins to have strange dreams, meets the enigmatic Amber Gray, and starts to uncover the mysteries of what exactly she experienced after the crash.

The Opening Line: The birds plummeted to the tarmac, wings loose and limp.

What I Loved: There are so many great things to love in this book. So let’s talk about a few of those, shall we? The plot is really original and ties together a number of intriguing topics that often go hand-in-hand. Conspiracy theories, aliens, the possibility that our government is hiding things from the people. I really like conspiracy theories, so this was a perfect read for me. Characters were really well-developed and diverse as well. I liked the parallels between the relationships of Reese/Amber and Reese/David. Most GLBT characters are either straight up gay or straight up lesbian, so it was refreshing to read about a character who is bisexual. Especially the ease with which her sexuality was accepted by everyone, including her. It played a role, but was a non-issue, which was great. Finally, this novel is such a great example of science fiction worth reading. Original, fun, and potentially realistic.

What I Didn’t Love: Okay, I’ve actually been thinking about this for the past 5 minutes or so, and I can’t really think of anything I didn’t like. The first half of the book I read rather slowly, but that was due to me being busy and that sort of thing.

Final Thoughts: I really enjoyed this book. I’ve read Malinda Lo’s other books, Ash and Huntress, and really loved those as well. She writes really well, and Adaptation is no exception. It’s a great sci-fi with amazing characters, an intriguing love triangle, and shockingly realistic writing about conspiracy theories and hidden government agendas. You can tell plenty of research went into this book. I would definitely recommend this for believers in conspiracy theories, sci-fi fans, and readers who want to see more GLBT characters in novels.

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