Reginadelmar’s #CBRV review #26 Of Bees and Mist by Erick Setiawan

The time it took me to read this book still stings. For some reason it took me weeks to read this book. As I look back, I think it may be that the 400 plus pages tell a rather mundane family drama interwoven  with magical realism. Of Bees and Mist tells the  story of a woman raised by abusive parents  who marries a weak man with a domineering abusive mother.  The plot was real enough. But the magic wasn’t so magic, it was a substitute for negative emotions and not much else.

The story begins with Meridia as a little girl. The house she lives in is unbearably cold and creates distances between people through staircases that  turn into the equivalent of escalators going the wrong way. Cold mists surround the house and accompany her father out of the house. The coldness is clearly the result of her parents hating each other. That hatred consumes her mother to the point that she neglects her daughter, and Meridia’s father extends his coldness to his daughter as well as his wife.

Meridia falls in love at the tender age of 16 with Daniel. Daniel’s mother manipulates her children and her husband in cruel and stupid ways.  Her nasty emotions are represented by swarms of bees that appear again and again through the novel. Meridia and Daniel get married, have a child, and suffer a lot because of their families.

The setting of this story is a small village in some unknown country.  Some details suggest Latin America, others suggests the Philippines, not sure that it matters. The time is uncertain. The presence of magazines and an American imperialist suggest late 19th or early 20th century. None of the magic includes technology.

I usually enjoy the magical realism genre, but this one didn’t do it for me.

Katie′s #CBR5 Review #26: The Time of My Life by Cecelia Ahern

Title: The Time of My Life
Author: Cecelia Ahern
Source: from publisher for a TLC Book Tour
Review Summary: Clever, unique, inspirational, with a main character I could definitely relate to – I loved this book!

When Lucy receives the following letter “Dear Lucy Silchester, You have an appointment for Monday 27th July 2011. Yours sincerely Life.” it is neither a metaphor nor a joke. In this wonderful alternate reality, every person has another person who is their life. Their life reflects how things are going for their paired person in their health, appearance, and happiness levels. Needless to say, Lucy’s life is not happy. Having let her relationships and herself go while focusing on a dead-end job she doesn’t like, it’s time for Lucy to make time for her life.

Read more at Doing Dewey…

Malin’s #CBR5 Review #65: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Our unnamed narrator returns to the old farm near his childhood home after a funeral in Sussex. He remembers his childhood friend Lettie Hempstock, who lived in the old farmhouse, at the end of the lane near his house, and while looking out over the pond in the back (which Lettie claimed was an ocean), he slowly remembers the strange and horrifying events of his childhood, after one of his parents’ lodgers stole their car and killed himself, not far from the house. There are dark and inexplicable consequences, and the three generations of Hempstock women help our narrator try to set things to rights.

This is Neil Gaiman’s first book for adults since Anansi Boys in 2005. As that book is probably my least favourite of all his works, with the notable exception of Marvel 1602 and Eternals (which were so boring I don’t even have the words), I was hoping that the excellent writing in his books for children and young adults would carry through to this story as well. I had very high expectations, because for all that I think his shorter fiction (comic book issues, short stories) is what he does best, it was just so unexpected and exciting to discover, early this year, that he had a new book out. Of course, this dark fable is a sliver of a book compared to, for instance American Gods. It’s much more like Coraline, both in size and tone.

Read the rest on my blog.

Katie′s #CBR5 Review #17: 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

Title: 1Q84
Author: Haruki Murakami
Source: library
Review Summary: Although the book was long and the ending was abrupt, I loved the writing and can’t wait to read more books by Murakami.

This book was so long and so strange that I’m not even sure where to start telling you what it was about, but I’ll do my best. The story involves two main characters and we alternate between their view points. Aomame is an assassin and Tengo is a writer. As the story progresses, they get pulled closer and closer together by events that initially seemed unrelated but which turn out to have a deep connection. The book involves questions of destiny and pre-determination, parallel worlds and some surprising magical elements.

Read more at Doing Dewey…

narfna’s #CBR5 Review #48: The Green Mile by Stephen King

greenUgh I’m in such a bad mood right now, guys, and bad moods are not conducive to writing reviews. Certainly not good reviews. So right up front, I’m just warning you this is going to be a shitty review. I promised myself I would write at least a review per day until I was caught up, and dammit, that’s what I’m going to do.

I’ve never seen The Green Mile. I DVRed it from AMC the night before Michael Clarke Duncan died and it’s been sitting by its morbid little self ever since. I’m afraid to watch it. The only reason I read the book is because I’m tutoring this high school kid and I let him pick a book to read so we could work on his skills and shit, and this is the book he picked because that kid fucking loves Stephen King. So it was like the reverse of when teachers make you read things in high school, which is a kind of trippy thought I just had right now as I’m pulling this review out of my butt.

Anyway, it was a pretty good story. It got a little repetitive at times, but I love stories with conversational narrators. Also stories about prisons. And weird mystical shit (even though I totally didn’t even know that part was coming.) It’s like, one second this is a prison book and I’m thinking I’ll get something along the lines of The Shawshank Redemption except with Death Row, but then all of a sudden WHABAM WELCOME TO NARNIA MOTHERFUCKERS.

Stuff I know: this book is really good for teaching high school kids about motifs, themes, and recurring images. Michael Clarke Duncan was born to play the role of John Coffey. Thank God for penicillin. Stephen King’s brain is crazy. I still haven’t seen The Green Mile.


narfna’s #CBR5 Review #36: Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin

386298 Ugh, you guys. I was so bitterly disappointed by this book.

Honestly, I’d never even heard of it until it was featured in an episode of Fringe a couple of years ago, and because Fringe is the shit, I decided to check it out. It sounded like something that had been written just for me, and indeed, when I started it I thought I was going to love it. And then the first chapter ended, and I started to get that sinking feeling. And then I got about 1/3 of the way and I wanted to rip my hair out. It was a chore to finish it after that, but I forced myself to do it because a) I hate not finishing books, and b) I kept hoping it would get better.

It’s really hard to explain this book to you, which is part of the reason I picked it up. Usually I love really imaginative fiction. The book begins with a horse running away, only he’s no ordinary horse. He’s clearly intelligent, and he loves to run away to Manhattan as apparently it’s his favorite place in the whole world. Clearly adorable, and I loved this part. And then the horse rescues a man named Peter Lake from a gang of mobsters and they become, uh, friends? Is that the right word? From there it got a bit convoluted and started to lose me. Helprin winds in and out of his own story, telling things in bits and pieces. Peter Lake is a burglar whose parents sent him to American shores as a baby in a tiny model boat because they couldn’t get past Ellis Island. He was raised by a group of pseudo-mystical people called the Baymen, exiled at puberty and slowly evolved into a burglar. He’s caught breaking into the home of a wealthy man with a very sick daughter, Beverly, and he and the daughter fall in love. If it sounds like this is a love story, don’t be fooled. From there, it only gets weird and apocalyptic. There’s people dying and coming back, immortal intelligent horses, long time jumps in the narrative, messiahs, the end of the world, a strange curtain of mystical fog constantly surrounding Manhattan, and bridges sometimes lead other places, but only sometimes. It all sounds cool in theory, but mostly it just confused the fuck out of me.

Other stuff that bothered me: Helprin writes with almost no dialogue, just lots and lots and lots of weird description, most of which would be beautiful on their own but when it’s all you’re getting sentence after sentence, page after page, it was just too much. There wasn’t enough character stuff, and too much emphasis on scenery. He spends five pages describing how the fucking wind feels on Beverly’s face, and about five seconds on her relationship with Peter. it’s just like BOOM they’re in love, for no discernible reason. I know that sometimes things just tend to happen in magical realism, but it really got on my nerves. All of his character’s actions started to feel like affectations after a while because I couldn’t really discern their motivation.

Probably the tipping point for my dislike was the narrator. I know I would have enjoyed this book A LOT more if I hadn’t listened to it on audiobook. The only thing narrator Oliver Wyman got right was Peter’s voice because he does a mean Irish accent. The rest of it he read in this airy annoying tone, emphasizing the wrong words, and doing mostly awful voices for other characters (the worst was Beverly, who I completely loathed because he made her sound so stupid and whiny with his line-readings).

I feel like this was never going to be a book I would love, but I also feel like I didn’t give the book a chance because of narrator. Will probably pick it up in hard copy in the future.

ABR’s #CBR5 Review #12: Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

like-waterI saw the movie “Like Water for Chocolate” years ago, so I knew the story before reading the book. Even so, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the book.

The novel takes place in Mexico during the Mexican Revolution. It is divided into 12 chapters, each representing a month, a recipe and a significant event in the life of Tita, the youngest daughter of Mama Elena De la Garza. Mama Elena is like a Disney villainess – hypocritical, sadistic, abusive and vain. According to tradition Tita cannot marry but must take care of Mama Elena. For generations no one questioned the tradition but then Tita meets Pedro, and he announces his intent to marry her.

Of course Mama Elena denies Pedro. Instead she offers her other daughter Rosaura, and Pedro accepts, if only to remain physically close to Tita. The rest of the novel rotates around the emotional love affair between Tita and Pedro, and their attempts to be together despite Rosaura, Pedro’s children, Mama Elena and the revolution that occasionally interrupts their lives.

But the thing that brings everyone in this novel together and ties all the stories together is food. The author uses the pleasures of food, meal preparation and eating a meal as metaphors for love and life and passion. Tita was literally born in the kitchen so she has always been “wrapped up in the delights of food.” She finds comfort, inspiration, refuge and confidence in the kitchen. And through her cooking she is able to affect her family, her surroundings and her fate. Rosaura lacks Tita’s passion for cooking; her life and her relationship with Pedro is bland and unappealing.

With Like Water for Chocolate Laura Esquivel has created a unique story that is appealing on many levels. It is a love story, a fairy tale and a cookbook. The relationship between Pedro and Tita is sad and sincere and intense. The descriptions of the food and the meals are lush and sensual. And the magical elements of the story – the potions and home remedies and old wives’ tales – add to the story’s appeal.

Lauri’s #CBR5 Review #3: Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

I founImaged this book for a $1 at last year’s library book sale and it has sat in on my “to-be-read” list ever since. In the meantime, I read last year’s captivating State of Wonder, by the author and finally last month it was time to taste another of Patchett’s unique flavor of magical realism.

Bel Canto is set in an unnamed South American country and begins the night of a Japanese businessman’s birthday bash at the Vice-Presidential mansion. The star of the night is Roxanne Coss, a famous American opera singer with whom Mr. Hosokawa, the businessman being wooed by the government of said country, is well, a bit obsessed. When revolutionaries storm the mansion and take the crowd hostage, the story turns into a tragicomic story of love found in the oddest of places.

Like State of Wonder, the novel requires a certain suspension of disbelief. The characters, from the youngest, lowliest guerrilla fighter to the vice-president, to an international array of businessmen, to the generals who have gotten themselves and their people into this mess, without an exception they are captivated by the American singer. But what captivated me, more, was the way the novel unexpectedly turned into a love story between the Japanese polyglot interpreter and a smart but quiet female guerrilla.

Patchett has a way of humanizing every character, giving them a detailed and fleshed-out history in just a page or two. We sympathize and empathize with all of the characters caught in an obvious no-win situation. Like the novels players, I wished that the book continued on and on as they loved and learned from each other. And though little attention is actually given in the novel to flesh out the desperation of the terrorists, that they would commit such acts as kidnapping, we know that in the end the government will always win.

Now to that ending. Without spoiling, I will say that there is an epilogue that feels tacked on and completely out of place with the rest of the novel. Unfortunately, once read you know it is there. I would like, however, to think of the novel ending before this. Even before the last few pages in the final chapter. That these characters still live in that limbo, dream-state where music, sport, learning and love reign free.