Happiness

Happiness

New Release 3-6-18

Happiness by Aminatta Forna as provided to me by Grove Atlantic/Atlantic Monthly Press via NetGalley and Edelweiss in return for an honest review.

It has been a long time since I have read a book that I suspected I would like, and then come to find out that it just wasn’t what I expected. I requested Happiness as an ARC because its descriptions on all the “most anticipated books of 2018” lists made it sound like a deep, enthralling novel.

I loved the descriptions in Forna’s writing. Her setting and characters are so vividly described that I have no trouble picturing them. I can taste the food, see the parakeets fluttering, hear the foxes and rabbits crying and screaming. Her writing is gorgeous and should be converted to an oil painting to be displayed for all to see.

Unfortunately this is one of those books where I gave myself until 30% on the Kindle, and then gave myself permission to give up. The writing and language could not save the fact that I did not care about what was happening. I am certain that if I had continued to read everything and everyone that was involved with whatever it was that was happening in the city of London in this book would have been brought together in a grand finish that displays the puzzle in a bright light, allowing you to finally see how all the pieces connect, how all the players mattered to the central idea.

The problem is that I read to escape. I read to be strung along, to be fed at least a few breadcrumbs along the way to make me curious to read more. You can bore me in the first 30% but if you give me just enough to make me wonder, then you’ll hook me for at least another 20%, and by then I’ll know for sure if I’ll finish or set your story aside.

I am not interested in Attila, the Ghanaian native whose ex(?) is in a home in London due to early onset Alzheimer’s. I’m not interested in Jean, the scientist studying the behaviors of urban foxes and creating wild rooftop spaces for landlords in London. I don’t understand why it’s important that these two people have found each other and by the time you throw in that Attila’s niece and her son have been apprehended by immigration authorities and her son becomes lost and they go to find him…I don’t know, man, I just don’t care. There isn’t enough connective tissue here, it just feels like someone is throwing story ideas at a wall to see what sticks.

By 30-50% I should have an idea of the characters, what their individual purposes are, how they relate to one another, and what the overarching goal of the plot line seems to be. By 30% I should be at cruising altitude and about to be offered a drink from the cart. I shouldn’t be wondering if I’m on the wrong plane, or where my seat is, or why I’m on this trip at all.

So while the writing was spectacularly descriptive and enjoyable in its own right, the journey was not clear enough to hook me into the rest of the book. You might try it to see if it’s more your cup of tea, but for me it’s a not so much. Sorry.

 

I’ll Be Your Blue Sky

Blue Sky

New Release 3-6-18

I’ll Be Your Blue Sky was provided as an ARC by William Morrow/Harper Collins via Edelweiss in return for an honest review. My thanks for their generosity because this is one of my favorite authors. 

I absolutely love Marisa de los Santos. I read two of her other novels before starting this blog, Love Walked In and Belong to Me, and each one was as comforting and warm as I’ll Be Your Blue Sky was.

It only took me two days to read this book, and that was only because I had things like teaching or sleeping to do. If I had a choice I would have read this book straight through in one day. Reading this story was like wrapping a warm blanket around myself and bringing a cup of hot chocolate with those little marshmallows with me to my favorite chair near the window to watch the snow fall gently outside. That’s saying something considering I live in Florida and it has decided to be 90 degrees in March.

This book switches back and forth from Clare to Edith. Clare is in present day, getting ready to marry Zach, and she has some misgivings. Edith is in the 1950s with her husband, buying a house and getting ready to start a life with the man she loves.

The morning of her wedding, Clare sits down next to an old woman named Edith who is also at the home where the wedding is being held. Clare shares that she feels nervous to marry Zach, that she might be making a mistake based on how hard he has to try to be a good person. Edith tells her that every woman deserves to be with someone who doesn’t make her afraid.

This is exactly what she needed to hear, and Clare decides to call off the wedding. When she does, we discover how mean Zach could really be and are thankful that she was able to make that break for herself.

Edith loses her husband to cancer after only two years of marriage, and finds herself alone in a small town in the 1950s, something women just didn’t do. She is approached by a man named George, who asks for her help with an underground railroad for battered women, because her house is the perfect cover, since she has been renting out her rooms to vacationers.

A lawyer contacts Clare, informing her that Edith has passed away and has left her Blue Sky House, the home Edith owned and operated as a kind of Bed and Breakfast. So Clare travels to Delaware to see the house and promptly becomes curious about who Edith was. She follows clues scattered around the home, and along with her childhood sweetheart Dev, discovers the heroism of Edith and George along with her own self and heritage.

I think that sometimes we forget that it wasn’t that log ago when women were still expected to stay at home, make babies, and be servants of their husbands. I don’t know how we forget, since so many members of our society and even our government still believe that women and their bodies are there for the pleasure of others and should be governed by men today. It was still shocking to see the battered women coming to Blue Sky House being marked as kidnappers if they dared to take their children with them as they tried to escape. Fighting this treatment and view of the role of women as subservient continues even today, and we have to keep fighting.

Despite this dire piece of the story, Marisa de los Santos shows us hopeful possibilities. Clare is never beaten by Zach, she escapes that kind of marriage. Dev is patient with her after he confesses his love, and waits for her to come to him without being pushy. Edith is brave and sticks to her guns in the face of the impossible. This story shows us both the horrors women face and how everything can go right and turn out for the best.

I always need these kinds of stories so I can live vicariously through the women in them, but in the After Times I didn’t realize how much I needed this book. I drank it up like a person in the middle of the desert desperate for an oasis. It is truth frosted with comfort and wrapped in hope and support.

Please read this book. It was so good. Go get it now and curl up with it and let it hold you close.

 

The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth #1)

The Fifth Season

N.K. Jemisin begins her series at the end of an age, with the breaking of the Earth. In this world, Seasons are apocalyptic events that communities or “comms” have survived through and rebuilt after. This world has survived acid rains, poison waters, and other such seasons, but this fifth season may be the season to end all others.

The people are divided into several different types as well. We are introduced to stills (normal humans), orogenes (earthbenders, basically), Guardians (help control orogenes), stone eaters (people with diamond teeth who can travel through the earth) and yet unknown beings who are imprisoned within obelisks that float in the sky.

I liked this story enough to finish the book, but I didn’t like it enough to pick up the next book in the series. I didn’t appreciate the bamboozlement of all three stories I was following being the same person in the end. That felt unnecessary and I kind of figured it out as I went. Also just because a book is the first book in the series doesn’t mean it shouldn’t have a resolution of some kind, an end to its own story arc as the overarching story continues on with some unanswered questions. It feels like this book ended 3 chapters too early, and I actually exclaimed “oh, I guess I’m done!” when I turned the last page and found the glossary.

This book was very good until it wasn’t. It is the kind of book that I will say that it was good enough that you might like it a lot more than I did. The writing is good, the story is ok, and so if you like fantasy and apocalyptic type settings you may want to give this one a try.

I do plan on trying out some of her other writing to see if something different catches my fancy. It was good enough to not give up on the author entirely.

No Book Nook: Wayfair Chairs

I had a lot of students miss a test due to Senior Skip Day so on Tuesday I was after school with about 10 of my best and brightest, monitoring them making up said test. I had completed all my work for the day and was bored and decided to browse wayfair.com for comfy chairs. I have had an IKEA chair that I love since I lived in Arizona (about 10 years ago) and both the husband and I have been talking about getting something more cozy for both of our office/game rooms.

I did not expect to be so entertained. (All chairs are linked to the website.)

First of all, what the fuck is this? Because it sure as shit doesn’t look like a chair and doesn’t seem to warrant the price tag of $273.

Weird Chair 1

(Thanks to Maggie Smith for the stick people attempting to navigate demon chair.)

Also I have my doubts about whatever this is pretending to be at $241:

Weird Chair 2.jpg

I found where the set designers for Men in Black found their test taking egg chairs for $489:

Weird Chair 3.jpg

 

And I decided that I might want to get into the evil villain kind of decor, so I am considering this at a cool $1,300:

Weird Chair 4.jpg

In all seriousness though I am thinking about a chair that I could lounge in to read and play video games, so feel free to make suggestions or share links of chairs you love in the comments. I hope you got as big a laugh out of these chairs (and their prices!) as I did.