Sunday, December 27, 2015

Book Review: The Death and Life of Zebulon Finch (Volume One) by Daniel Kraus

My rating: 2.5/5

 From Amazon: "May 7, 1896.

"Dusk. A swaggering seventeen-year-old gangster named Zebulon Finch is gunned down by the shores of Lake Michigan. But after mere minutes in the void, he is mysteriously resurrected. ...

"Zebulon’s new existence begins as a sideshow attraction in a traveling medicine show. From there he will be poked and prodded by a scientist obsessed with mastering the secrets of death. He will fight in the trenches of World War I. He will run from his nightmares—and from poverty—in Depression-era New York City. And he will become the companion of the most beautiful woman in Hollywood.

"Love, hate, hope, and horror—Zebulon finds them. But will he ever find redemption?"

First of all, to Mr. Kraus if he should ever read this review: I love your work. Super love it. Scowler is one of my favorite books. I just didn't like this one.

Second, this was an advance readers copy obtained at a convention by a friend.

Third, I'll avoid them as much as I can, but I may describe some minor spoilers here.

I began reading this book back in July.  I have not read any books in between, and I'm both mortified and angry (at myself and it) for not having either finished or given up on this 600+-page tome earlier.  But by gød ( a convention in the book; please, no angry letters), I finished it on Christmas. And I'll keep it, because Daniel Kraus is one of my favorite authors and my friend got it signed for me and I think it's hilarious that the one autographed book I have from him is a book I pretty much hated. Irony is good; irony is for keeps.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Book Review: Beloved by Toni Morrison

My rating: 4.75/5

From Amazon: "Staring unflinchingly into the abyss of slavery, this spellbinding novel transforms history into a story as powerful as Exodus and as intimate as a lullaby. Sethe, its protagonist, was born a slave and escaped to Ohio, but eighteen years later she is still not free. She has too many memories of Sweet Home, the beautiful farm where so many hideous things happened. And Sethe’s new home is haunted by the ghost of her baby, who died nameless and whose tombstone is engraved with a single word: Beloved."

I really loved this book. The shifting points of view confused me in the beginning, but I adjusted to it after a short while. Beloved herself continued to be confusing, but I think that has to be intentional, and it didn't take me out of the story. 

I haven't read any historical fiction for a while, and maybe that's partly why I enjoyed this so much. Without being too focused on details, it's an intimate look at slavery and its effects on human beings (sociological, physical, and psychological) and what it would have been like to survive it.  I can't say that I've seen or read anything else that put me right in the middle of this time period and really made me think and feel what slavery was like (though 12 Years a Slave does come close).  Nothing was overdramatized, which would have been easy to do. The reader has to deal with the events as they happen or are brought to light, right along with the book's characters. Nothing is drawn out for the sake of forcing or emphasizing how the reader should react. 

This book somewhat reminded me of We Have Always Lived in the Castle, except that here every character was fleshed out enough to make them very real, even ones we never meet. And each one of the characters' viewpoints are made relatable. (Nothing against Castle; the townsfolk not seeming particularly real worked to develop the main character in that book; here, it works better to have each person made very real.) 

Due to the somewhat difficult writing style and some of the topics covered (rape, sex, death), I would recommend for high school and above.