Friday, October 30, 2015

The Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia Moss


The Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia Moss
Max Wirestone
3/5


Published October 2015

First Sentence
"The only time I ever met Jonah Long he was wearing a fake beard, a blue pin-striped captain's outfit, and a toy pipe that blew soap bubbles. "
Publisher's Description:

The odds of Dahlia successfully navigating adulthood are 3,720 to 1. But never tell her the odds.

Meet Dahlia Moss, the reigning queen of unfortunate decision-making in the St. Louis area. Unemployed broke, and on her last bowl of ramen, she's not living her best life. But that's all about to change.

Before Dahlia can make her life any messier on her own she's offered a job. A job that she's woefully under-qualified for. A job that will lead her to a murder, an MMORPG, and possibly a fella (or two?).

Turns out unfortunate decisions abound, and she's just the girl to deal with them.

Dear Reader,

There was SO much good here, geekdom galore! I wish I could say I loved this, but I didn't completely. I loved parts of it, the references, and the nerdy plot. So why didn't it connect? I believe it all started with Dahlia Moss. I'm ALL about a kick-ass heroine (super plus for her geek chic cred) but the more we spent time with her, the more unbelievable she became. Not to mention the hipster sliding the way into the geek culture (NO! Bad Hipsters! You are not geeks or vice versa, thank you very much). Let me rewind a little and give a little backstory... the story revolves around Dahlia when she is hired to investigate a theft (in-game). Everything about this plot was exciting to me since I'm a recovering WOW (World of Warcraft) addict. I could completely relate to how grossly attached people can become to digital objects in a virtual game, I mean c'mon... I sweated it out in that dungeon for over three hours, every night for two weeks to get that thing! Yes, games like this are addicting but can be ridiculously satisfying (especially in the "collection" department). Let's just say that the Author CLEARLY knew who could relate to such a silly concept... but we exist.

Without going much further into the plot, Dahlia becomes overly involved in a murder to boot and she is thrust headlong into a giant investigation of which she is completely unqualified for. She talks straight at the reader sometimes (reminiscent of Veronica Mars) which worked out pretty well in a bunch of situations. While I enjoyed the fact that she is quirky and funny in many ways, it was her believability that held me back. She loosely flirts with all these guys but isn't strong enough to overcome her first love. Ohhh, brother. It's things like this that seem juvenile and after realizing the Author is a male, started to make a little sense. Yes, he tricked me enough to THINK that the main character was written by the reflected gender, but I smelled the fish along the way. However, take away that feminist twitch and the book is going to be very well received by many people out there. I can't even deny the fact that I had quite a few 'snort out loud' moments (SNOL?) which proves that this Max Wirestone knows his way around geeky stuff and comedy (I think that spells out w.i.n. in my book). I would love to see more Authors combine these two genres, and I can congratulate Max for succeeding in making me laugh and commiserate in my online wealth of nothingness. Thank you for that.

Happy Reading,
AmberBug

P.S. - Each chapter has awesome headings chock full of unicorns, d&d dice and more!

P.P.S. - The lovely publisher made this available on NetGalley for me to read and review, thank you! 

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Harry Potter, #4)

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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Slade House


Slade House
David Mitchell
4/5


Published Oct 27th, 2015

First Sentence
"Whatever Mum's saying's drowned out by the grimy roar of the bus pulling away, revealing a pub called The Fox and Hounds."

Publisher's Description:

Walk down narrow, clammy Slade Alley. Open the black iron door in the right-hand wall.

Enter the sunlit garden of an old house that doesn't exactly make sense.

A stranger greets you by name and invites you inside.

At first, you won't want to leave. Too late, you find you can't . . .

A taut, intricately woven, reality-warping tale that begins in 1979 and comes to its turbulent conclusion at the wintry end of October, 2015. Born out of the short story David Mitchell published on Twitter in 2014 and inhabiting the same universe as his latest bestselling novel The Bone Clocks, this is the perfect book to curl up with on a dark and stormy night.



Dear Reader,

This is the perfect Halloween treat for any David Mitchell fan. A question I'm sure many people will be asking is if you have to know or like Mitchell to read this? Not at all. I think it'll work great as a stand-alone as well. I'm new to the Mitchell fan group and with every book of his that I read, I'm starting to understand why he has such a following. Even though this book could be read without all the others, I felt a sense of glee when I came across a theme or character that deja vu'd me into his other novels.

Not only was there clear hints from his most recent The Bone Clocks but he managed to write this shorter novella with that same structure. I don't know many Authors that would attempt to write a novella made up of shorter/connected stories. THIS is exactly what I'm not too fond of, short stories but maintain a tight connection or flow between them and I fall in love. Maybe that's why Mitchell is fast becoming a reliable Author to lean on.

Getting down to the plot, it's spooky and gave me a few chills. With each story, the sense of what's happening begins to become clear. Slade House mysteriously opens up a certain time of year and swallows up someone in the process. Each section of this novella follows another person caught in the trap of this house. The best part is... Mitchell does it his style and spans each story nine years. This means we get characters and different eras from 1979 all the way to 2015.Here's the thing, this book can be appreciated by many... horror fans, definitely some creep factors for you... science fiction fans, without a doubt (now go back and read the Bone Clocks)... historical fiction fans, the multiple timeline stories will be your thing. I guess I don't have to state the obvious... David Mitchell fans... you know why you'd want to read this AND you should.

Happy Reading,
AmberBug

P.S. - I want to thank NetGalley and Random House for giving me the chance to read this in advance and review it.

Slade House

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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Illuminae


Illuminae
Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
4 / 5

Published October 20, 2015

First Sentence
"So here's the file that almost killed me, Director."
Publisher's Description:
This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do.

This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet's AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it's clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she'd never speak to again.

Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.

Dear Reader,

This book's structure was unlike anything I'd ever read before. Plus, can you beat combining the delicious horror of zombies* with the vast terror of space? Because that is exactly what these authors have done. And it is done extremely well. Throw in AI with a real personality, an evil megacorporation, and loved ones torn apart, and you've got a recipe for a riveting book.

It was done in such a unique way, too: the reader is told the story by reading through a stack of classified documents intended to recreate the story, collected in pieces from various places (email and chat transcripts, video feed analyses, official documents, voice recordings, debriefing interviews). And when I say "stack", I mean it - this book is 599 pages long! But it truly flies, especially when you hit the halfway mark. (Don't worry, getting to page 300 sounds daunting, but it took me no time at all. Plus - I kind of liked how every page was marked as, for example, 289/599 so you always knew exactly where your endpoint was!)

I love that the true hero of this book is a 17-year-old girl who is a badass hacker. Things started off a bit iffy for me as the first thing you read is an interview transcript where the girl and her recently ex-boyfriend are mostly talking about their anger towards each other, with a bit of background "my planet was getting attacked simultaneously" thrown in. But it works itself into a great story, so stick with it for a few pages. Plus, I started imagining Ezra as a young Captain Mal, which helped when reading his parts - you can tell from the clever banter that the authors are probably big fans of Firefly. That kind of helped cement my love for the book. (Maybe it was just that they used "'verse" a lot, but I do think it was more than that.)

And there were a couple twists that I didn't even see coming! Which was pretty great.

You'll also be impressed by some of the art this book employs to tell its story - it's as much a visual as a textual piece of work. And a surprisingly emotional and deep one, considering some of its subject matter. You'll find yourself aligning with people you didn't think you would. Every character is memorable and multidimensional, and you often feel as if you are traveling alongside them on this adventure.

So if you are in the mood for some space travel, I say pick this one up!

Yours,
Arianna

*If we're going to be technical, they are pseudo-zombies, but close enough.

P.S. This book was one we grabbed as an ARC from BEA this past year.


Illuminae

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Friday, October 16, 2015

The Wicked + The Divine, Vol 1


The Wicked + The Divine,
Vol 1: The Faust Act

Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie
Illustrations: Matt Wilson & Colorist: Clayton Cowles

3/5


Published 2014

First Sentence
"And once again, we return to this."

Publisher's Description:

Every ninety years, twelve gods incarnate as humans. They are loved. They are hated. In two years, they are dead. The team behind critical tongue-attractors like Young Avengers and PHONOGRAM reunite to create a world where gods are the ultimate pop stars and pop stars are the ultimate gods. But remember: just because you’re immortal, doesn’t mean you’re going to live forever. Collects THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #1-5

Dear Reader,

This one is going to be short folks, sorry! This comic/graphic novel came under my radar because of a few fellow Goodreads friends. I decided to purchase Volume #1 outright before testing the waters and I'm torn with this decision. On the one hand, this wasn't as fun as I thought it would be (more confusing than anything) but on the other hand, the ending was such a cliffhanger that I want to read more. I'm not sure if the answers I want will be solved in Volume 2 but if they don't start to clear some stuff up... I won't be reading any more volumes.

I really don't even know how to describe this one to you. The blurb above does that just about as well as I could. The artwork is cool and grungy and the characters are completely wacky and interesting. The plot? (whatever that might be) is all over the place. Greek Gods coming back every so many years to perform?! Huh?! Are they evil, good, neutral? Who the heck knows. I think I'll check out what some of you think of Volume 2 before I commit. I am intrigued as to how things end up... 

Happy Reading,
AmberBug

The Wicked + The Divine, Vol. 1: The Faust Act (The Wicked + The Divine, #1-5)

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Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Olive Kitteridge


Olive Kitteridge
Elizabeth Strout
3 / 5

Published 2007

First Sentence
"For many years, Henry Kitteridge was a pharmacist in the next town over, driving every morning on snowy roads, or rainy roads, or summertime roads, when the wild raspberries shot their new growth in brambles along the last section of town before he turned off to where the wider road led to the pharmacy."
Publisher's Description:
At times stern, at other times patient, at times perceptive, at other times in sad denial, Olive Kitteridge, a retired schoolteacher, deplores the changes in her little town of Crosby, Maine, and in the world at large, but she doesn’t always recognize the changes in those around her: a lounge musician haunted by a past romance; a former student who has lost the will to live; Olive’s own adult child, who feels tyrannized by her irrational sensitivities; and her husband, Henry, who finds his loyalty to his marriage both a blessing and a curse. 

As the townspeople grapple with their problems, mild and dire, Olive is brought to a deeper understanding of herself and her life–sometimes painfully, but always with ruthless honesty. Olive Kitteridge offers profound insights into the human condition--its conflicts, its tragedies and joys, and the endurance it requires.

Dear Reader, 

Yeesh. This book should have been called “Everybody Cheats, Sometime” (with a nod to R.E.M., of course). I couldn’t get past how every single character in the book seemed to either be cheating on their spouse or wanting to. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m the biggest cynic I know, so I don’t think it’s necessarily unrealistic! I just would get my hopes up with each story that it would finally be one with a solid couple for once, and then: nope! Foiled each time. This didn’t influence my rating very much, but it was definitely the thing that stuck out the most!

I have had this book on my Audible account forever; I wish I recall why I had added it, specifically. I did finally pick it up though because of the many comparisons to Kitchens of the Great Midwest, and I understand the connections people made: both books tell the story of one woman through the eyes of many others. 

I did love the weaving of the stories of the people who reside in a small town in Maine, each interacting in some way with Olive Kitteridge. It was certainly a New England book. And there were some memorable characters and situations. Olive wasn’t my favorite, by a long shot - she was cranky and ornery 99% of the time. But she was definitely a strong character! And it makes sense why the book ultimately revolves around her - the ending sentence really does tie it all up nicely. 

This book had the feel of a collection of stories, with the neat added bonus that they often subtly referred to one another. Despite some of the difficult subjects it tackled, t felt cozy and the perfect thing for a snowy day in front of the fireplace.

Yours,
Arianna


Olive Kitteridge

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Sunday, October 11, 2015

You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost)


You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost)
Felicia Day
4/5



Published 2015

First Sentence
"Whereby I introduce myself to people who have no idea who the hell I am, but have found themselves in possession of this book."

Publisher's Description:

From online entertainment mogul, actress, and “queen of the geeks” Felicia Day, a funny, quirky, and inspiring memoir about her unusual upbringing, her rise to Internet-stardom, and embracing her individuality to find success in Hollywood.

The Internet isn’t all cat videos. There’s also Felicia Day—violinist, filmmaker, Internet entrepreneur, compulsive gamer, hoagie specialist, and former lonely homeschooled girl who overcame her isolated childhood to become the ruler of a new world…or at least semi-influential in the world of Internet Geeks and Goodreads book clubs.

After growing up in the south where she was "homeschooled for hippie reasons", Felicia moved to Hollywood to pursue her dream of becoming an actress and was immediately typecast as a crazy cat-lady secretary. But Felicia’s misadventures in Hollywood led her to produce her own web series, own her own production company, and become an Internet star.

Felicia’s short-ish life and her rags-to-riches rise to Internet fame launched her career as one of the most influential creators in new media. Now, Felicia’s strange world is filled with thoughts on creativity, video games, and a dash of mild feminist activism—just like her memoir.

Hilarious and inspirational, You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) is proof that everyone should embrace what makes them different and be brave enough to share it with the world, because anything is possible now—even for a digital misfit.



Dear Reader,

This is going to be a short review, sorry! However, I clearly enjoyed this - especially as an audio-book (narrated by Felicia Day herself). One thing that stuck out for me was how much I WOULDN'T have gotten along with her if we met in childhood days. She describes herself as a know-it-all, and I couldn't stand that. However, what her shortcomings were as a child (mostly based on her upbringing) didn't interfere with this awesome woman she is today. Okay, not just awesome but brilliant?! Did you know that she comes from a line of scientists and doctors? She was born with a brain and used it in a totally different way than would have been expected. Follow the same path? No way! Follow your dreams is more like it. She tells us this many times throughout this book and I think it's a good message - especially coming from someone who veered off the path and made it work. Her background story makes you believe you can do anything if you put your mind to it (but it probably helps to have extremely intelligent genes too). This is a perfect book for a laugh and a must read for any Felicia Day fan.

Happy Reading,
AmberBug

You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost)

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Thursday, October 8, 2015

Twain's End


Twain's End
Lynn Cullen
4/5


Published October 2015

First Sentence
"Isabel's mother watched her tie on her hat with the look of intense pride and suppressed doubt that is particular to the mothers of grown daughters."

Publisher's Description:

From the bestselling and highly acclaimed author of Mrs. Poe comes a fictionalized imagining of the personal life of America’s most iconic writer: Mark Twain.

In March of 1909, Mark Twain cheerfully blessed the wedding of his private secretary, Isabel V. Lyon, and his business manager, Ralph Ashcroft. One month later, he fired both. He proceeded to write a ferocious 429-page rant about the pair, calling Isabel “a liar, a forger, a thief, a hypocrite, a drunkard, a sneak, a humbug, a traitor, a conspirator, a filthy-minded and salacious slut pining for seduction.” Twain and his daughter, Clara Clemens, then slandered Isabel in the newspapers, erasing her nearly seven years of devoted service to their family. How did Lyon go from being the beloved secretary who ran Twain’s life to a woman he was determined to destroy?

In Twain’s End, Lynn Cullen re-imagines the tangled relationships between Twain, Lyon, and Ashcroft, as well as the little-known love triangle between Helen Keller, her teacher Anne Sullivan Macy, and Anne’s husband, John Macy, which comes to light during their visit to Twain’s Connecticut home in 1909. Add to the party a furious Clara Clemens, smarting from her own failed love affair, and carefully kept veneers shatter.

Based on Isabel Lyon’s extant diary, Twain’s writings and letters, and events in Twain’s boyhood that may have altered his ability to love, Twain’s End explores this real-life tale of doomed love.



Dear Reader,

Lucky me! I got to read an advanced copy of this (via netgalley & BEA) from a well liked Author (Hi Lynn!) and a topic close to home. Samuel Clemens has so much history in Connecticut and anyone who lives here has been subjected to many Mark Twain themed educational romps. You can't grow up in Connecticut without some knowledge of who he was and what he wrote. I'm curious if people who haven't grown up around here have the same basic knowledge of him... it would be interesting to find out. My guess would be, other towns/states would have their own historical figure to learn about in detail, ours was just Sam Clemens (Mark Twain). For whatever reason, I had a feeling that I'd enjoy this book more than Mrs. Poe, but that wasn't the case. Although I really, really enjoyed "Twain's End", the subject, setting and characters had me more enchanted in Mrs. Poe

Even though I had extensive knowledge surrounding SC/MT (my new nickname for him), I learned soooo much more from Lynn Cullen. She really dug in deep (just like she did with Mrs. Poe. Something I did know but maybe I should clarify for those of you reading this... Mark Twain is Samuel Clemens and vice versa (almost like an altar ego). Twain was the beloved (his pen name) and Sam was the grouchy/greedy jerk (the majority of the public only saw him as Mark Twain and didn't know he had this other side). Another tidbit I was aware of was the connection he had with a comet, how he felt it would be with the comet he would meet his death. But it wasn't just the background details that I loved so much, Cullen even added wonderful little references to the times (again, reflecting something I loved about Mrs. Poe):
"Now I know why he called his stories 'Just So'. But I think he forgot the second 'so'."
I know, I know... I'm not supposed to quote until the finished product but that was too good not to share! If it didn't make you giggle a little, you have a questionable sense of humor.


Notorious Cigar Smoker


There was so much the book had me questioning, "Is it true?", well rest assured that Lynn divulges all at the end, which makes the story even more enriching. For example, I had no idea Mark Twain was close friends with Helen Keller! Check it out:


Helen Keller & Mark Twain

That's right, Lynn based a huge chunk of the story on an actual meeting that happened. I never knew! Shame on me. Thankfully, Lynn Cullen is giving me the history lesson everyone wants (the gossipy one). Her books should have a tag line of, "These are the things you don't learn in school". Let's just say this woman opened up my repertoire of  fun facts to use while chatting it up with others - especially in Connecticut. I should also mention that the title of this book is very aptly named and will be something you'll discover once you read it... ahem... wink, wink... shove - go read it already!  

Happy Reading,
AmberBug

P.S. - If any of you readers come to visit Connecticut, you should visit the Mark Twain House (one of the biggest 'not to miss' spots in CT):

Mark Twain House in Connecticut


Twain's End

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Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Strong Motion


Strong Motion
Jonathan Franzen
2.5 / 5

Published 1992

First Sentence
"Sometimes when people asked Eileen Holland if she had any brothers or sisters, she had to think for a moment."
Publisher's Description:
Louis Holland arrives in Boston to find that a minor earthquake in Ipswich has killed his eccentric grandmother, triggering a struggle between him, his sister Eileen, and his mother Melanie over the disposition of a $22 million inheritance. During a visit to the beach, Louis meets Dr. ReneĆ© Seitchek, a Harvard seismologist who believes she has discovered the cause of subsequent earthquakes in Peabody. Louis, ReneĆ©, and the Hollands' affairs become entangled with the petrochemical and weapons company Sweeting-Aldren, as well as a pro-life activist commune called the Church of Action in Christ, headed by Reverend Philip Stites... 

Dear Reader, 

I don’t know why I stuck with this book. It was frustrating in so many ways. But I picked it up at the wonderful Autumn Leaves bookstore up in Ithaca, NY back when I lived there from 2004-2005. I believe it was right around the time I was reading The Corrections, and I figured I might like other Franzen work, as well. This was one of his first publications, and it definitely shows. Every time I read a Franzen book, I not sure whether or not I enjoy it. It’s very odd. I suppose I do ENJOY them to a certain extent, or I wouldn’t read them, but I am not sure whether I like him as an author. I don’t recall much of The Corrections, frankly. Freedom stuck with me much better. But I feel sometimes as if he is a not-so-good John Irving. I may get totally torn down for that, but it’s kind of how I feel. He writes these familial epics which have a ton of promise, but end up falling flat, for me. 

In any case, what frustrated me about this book is that Franzen writes well but then shoots himself in the foot but clearly writing like an MFA student who is trying to hard. The section about cars being like mismatched shoes, shuffling around the street? It was painful, honestly. But then he writes gems like: “It was if, in nuclear terms, the configuration of forces had changed and he was no longer an oppositely charged particle attracted to her from a great distance but a particle with like charge, a proton repelled by this other person until they were right next to each other and the strong nuclear force came into its own and bound them together.” I don’t know why, but that struck me. I loved it. Sure, maybe it’s also young-author-trying-too-hard material, and on the wordy side. But it works so well. So I think I kept reading the book because of small jewels like that. 

Another frustrating aspect was how confounded I was by the actions of his characters. And he didn’t do this purposefully; they weren’t supposed to be crazy, just normal people. But they constantly reacted in ways I didn’t understand. I kept feeling like I’d missed something. I read books to learn about, get inside, understand other people.I couldn’t do that with this book. I found most of the characters’ actions perplexing in many cases. Someone would suddenly start yelling or acting sullen, and I couldn’t see the impetus. It left me vaguely upset. Like I said, it wasn’t that they were intentionally hard to predict characters. It felt more like Franzen didn’t understand the human psyche as he was writing. 

(I’ll admit, my impressions of Franzen may currently be a bit colored by his Iraqi adoption scheme, as well. But I thought this way about the book even before I had heard about that odd little faux pas.)

In any case, I have to admit, the book was worth reading (slogging through?) if only for the ending! When the earthquake hit and things started really getting in motion (and storylines began falling into place - and people began acting in more realistic ways!), I couldn’t put it down. 

Yet I waffle on whether to recommend this book. I did love the scenes of early-90s Boston, and some of the messages (women's rights, and an interestingly prescient outlook on the equivalent of fracking) from the book. But I can’t 100% recommend someone spend 500 pages on it. Even if the ending really makes it worth it.

Yours,
Arianna

P.S. I began reading this book in April (!) because it was a Franzen book I hadn’t read and we would be seeing him speak at BEA. Well...then I got sidetracked for quite a while from it! And while I tried to read a bit every few days, I didn’t end up being able to pick it up again to focus on until last week. It’s a little weird to think that I’ve technically been reading this book for almost 6 months! Haha.


Strong Motion

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Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Painter


The Painter
Peter Heller
2 / 5

Published 2014

First Sentences
"I never imagined I would shoot a man. Or be a father. Or live so far from the sea."
Publisher's Description:
Peter Heller, the celebrated author of the breakout best seller The Dog Stars, returns with an achingly beautiful, wildly suspenseful second novel about an artist trying to outrun his past.

Jim Stegner has seen his share of violence and loss. Years ago he shot a man in a bar. His marriage disintegrated. He grieved the one thing he loved. In the wake of tragedy, Jim, a well-known expressionist painter, abandoned the art scene of Santa Fe to start fresh in the valleys of rural Colorado. Now he spends his days painting and fly-fishing, trying to find a way to live with the dark impulses that sometimes overtake him. He works with a lovely model. His paintings fetch excellent prices. But one afternoon, on a dirt road, Jim comes across a man beating a small horse, and a brutal encounter rips his quiet life wide open. Fleeing Colorado, chased by men set on retribution, Jim returns to New Mexico, tormented by his own relentless conscience.

A stunning, savage novel of art and violence, love and grief, The Painter is the story of a man who longs to transcend the shadows in his heart, a man intent on using the losses he has suffered to create a meaningful life.
 

Dear Reader,

Ugh. This just felt like way too much of a “bro” novel to me. Perhaps it resonates with male readers, but I just could not connect in any way to the protagonist. He was this dude (it actually made me feel a bit as if his attitude was modeled after The Dude) who lives to paint and fish. Which is fine with me - I absolutely don’t have to identify with a character’s interests in order to like them! But Jim just was so … smug, and SO full of himself. He thought EVERY SINGLE WOMAN he encountered wanted to jump his bones. Every. One. It was annoying and offensive. I would have liked to have seen him brought down a peg by a woman even just once in this book, but they instead just compliment him and have sex with him, and generally support him in every way. The women in this book are flat characters, with absolutely no real value other than to play the role of backup singer to Jim. (There’s no way this would pass the Bechdel Test!) 

I also realize I am not supposed to base my dislike of a book solely on my dislike of a character - but believe me, I am not. This novel felt as if it never moved. And the premise - Jim just murdering this guy because he saw him mistreat a horse this one time?! It felt like such a stretch. (Even for me, a true blue animal lover!) Granted, the author did a bit of explaining why he felt so protective of the filly later in the book, but I could have used that explanation earlier, because I spent most of the book disbelieving Jim’s motivation. Nothing seemed right about this book, or based in reality.

And the ending was SO unbelievable and extremely frustrating. I want to discuss that more, but can’t give away the meat of the book, which I believe is the question of whether Jim gets caught for several illegal acts he committed. I don’t believe there was any other real point to this book then whether this smug asshole could somehow slime his way out of the debt he owes society - whether or not the man he murdered deserved it. (I am a fan of vigilantism, too - and I felt as if the Siminow brothers were certainly slimy - but perhaps I just didn't feel as if Jim, the new guy in town, was the person to make that judgment call.) I didn’t take any life lessons away from this book, that is for sure. And I didn’t even really enjoy myself during a lot of the reading! I kept finding myself drifting, having missed the last few minutes of what I’d read...and then realizing I didn’t care. 

My favorite things about this book were the artist’s name - it just seems so fitting - and the scene where he did his study of the twin girls for his commissioned painting. That was the only time I saw Jim as being charming and self-effacing enough to redeem his otherwise awful character. 

I added this book to my Audible queue a few years ago because it was getting a lot of hype. I am really uncertain about why it did. I was pretty disappointed. 

Yours,
Arianna


The Painter

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