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amandaalexandre5

Mommy, am I cult?

A former literary snob making her way back to commercial reads.

Currently reading

The Silver Linings Playbook
Matthew Quick
You Should Pity Us Instead
Amy Gustine

Short chronicles for eroded Internet brains? - Choose Yourself Stories, by James Altucher

The Choose Yourself Stories - James Altucher

It had been months since I read my last book. Maybe internet is killing my attention span. (Quite grave for someone like me, who used to read 100 books a year.)

 

But I could finish this book in two sit-downs. I finally got back on the bike. This little self help book seemed almost clinically sewn to cure my literary drought. Its chapters are short, the titles are click-bait (and often misleading), and there is so, so much clusterfuckery going on, I couldn't help but read more and more.

 

Because it is interesting to read about the life of someone who got rich and then lost everything. The author also dealt with depression, and by the looks of it, some mild social anxiety. He just doesn't feel ashamed about the numerous faults he did in his life, and even if some of the stories sound ludicrous, the author depreciates himself so much, it all just reeks honesty.

 

Sometimes the style is ranty and all over the place, and some chapters end with an articulation of abstract nouns that reads like an Instagram inspirational post. I skimmed those parts. Despite that, I enjoyed the foot-on-the-ground advice (eat well, sleep well, surround yourself with positive people, and write down your ideas daily.)

For someone who couldn't read a book in months, I'm glad I'm back on the marathon.

When Paris Sizzled: The 1920s Paris of Hemingway, Chanel, Cocteau, Cole Porter, Josephine Baker, and Their Friends

When Paris Sizzled: The 1920s Paris of Hemingway, Chanel, Cocteau, Cole Porter, Josephine Baker, and Their Friends - Mary McAuliffe DNF at 30℅.

This was meant to tell all about the crazy years in Paris. I always had a fascination for that period at that specific place, so I thought I could do no wrong by requesting this at Netgalley.

This was amazing until the second third, because of the way the book was structured. The author divided the book into time periods, and told what the prominent personalities of said time were doing. It was okay in the beginning when everyone was still being introduced, because the author had to stop to actually tell their stories, so we had a sense of progress. But in the second third, the book reads like this:

"So Coco Chanel did this, and Kiki did that, and Proust was going insane and Citroen was being an ass- as usual."

Nah, I won't keep reading this. But I'm greatful for the first part.

When Paris Sizzled: The 1920s Paris of Hemingway, Chanel, Cocteau, Cole Porter, Josephine Baker, and Their Friends

When Paris Sizzled: The 1920s Paris of Hemingway, Chanel, Cocteau, Cole Porter, Josephine Baker, and Their Friends - Mary McAuliffe DNF at 30℅.

This was meant to tell all about the crazy years in Paris. I always had a fascination for that period at that specific place, so I thought I could do no wrong by requesting this at Netgalley.

This was amazing until the second third, because of the way the book was structured. The author divided the book into time periods, and told what the prominent personalities of said time were doing. It was okay in the beginning when everyone was still being introduced, because the author had to stop to actually tell their stories, so we had a sense of progress. But in the second third, the book reads like this:

"So Coco Chanel did this, and Kiki did that, and Proust was going insane and Citroen was being an ass- as usual."

Nah, I won't keep reading this. But I'm greatful for the first part.

Simplesmente Ana

Simplesmente Ana - Marina Carvalho Garota descobre que é princesa, muda para um castelo. Aí conhece um bonitão que a distrata, mas como ele é gostoso, ela se interessa mesmo assim por ele.

E eu tenho que ler isso em 2016.

Sem falar que a pesquisa do livro não foi lá muito bem feita. A protagonista Ana, ao ganhar um cartão de crédito, decide torrá-lo na Victoria's Secret, como se esta marca fosse o supra-sumo da lingerie (quando na verdade, só vende lingeries de qualidade inferior fabricadas na China!). Lignerie top é La Perla, Agent Provocateur e olhe lá, essas já estão "pop" demais. Faltou uma pesquisa básica no que tange a marcas de luxo.

Outra coisa que me incomodou foi o estilo de escrita. Sabe aquela história do "show, don't tell"? A autora não "mostra" nada, apenas "conta". Se apostasse em um estilo mais sensorial, talvez eu teria gostado mais...

Dark Places

Dark Places - Gillian Flynn This is a whodunit whose ending I guessed in half. Tchekov's gun is taken waaay too seriously in this book, so it made it easy to guess who did the murders.

Bel Canto

Bel Canto - Ann Patchett Reading this book is like going on a date with someone who is perfectly appropriate, but not enticing. It has all the elements of a good book: The writing is beautiful, sometimes to the point where it is called magical realism (I'm not so sure about that). The keen observations on human nature are there. I got the message of hostages and terrorists creating unexpected bonds, of finding beauty among repression, of art being an escape to reality...

I got it.

I just didn't like it.

It was only in the last third of the book that I actually got attached to some characters, and it prepared me to have the right emotions at the heartbreaking end. I gave the book an extra star for that.

I got disappointed at the Epilogue, it was beautiful, but a little contrived and there was a certain development that needed more explanation. For a work of such emotional complexity, it fell behind. Overall, I thought this book was very well executed, but a little too perfect, too artificial, like it was a huge exercise on writing well. It didn't feel honest.

Now let's consider this case

Now let's consider this case - Onyinye Ihezukwu "these women don’t always have time for TV from running around as the wife-job demands, for now you will agree that four to six children is no joke, fending off and thereafter surrendering to the libidinous nightly assaults of a hot-blooded Lord Darling is no joke either"

"praise Jesus for the gift of life, for the gift of a husband in these days of good-man scarcity, for Jesus had seen their chaste hearts and rewarded them for staying virgins till their wedding nights, very true indeed they confirm, although there was no way for each woman to ascertain if the other’s claims to virginity were true or not, a research mission they imagined themselves embarking upon"

This is a perfect mirror of the WASP housewife psyche. At first very critical and judgmental. But I can't resist it. This is my kind of reading.

Girl

Girl - Jamaica Kincaid BEST. SHORT. "NON-STORY". EVER.

It is one paragraph long. How much genius can fit in only one paragraph? Oh, God, now I have to know this Jamaica Kincaid person. Who is she? What else has she wrote?

Read it here:
http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1978/06/26/girl

Fairyland

Fairyland - Ramona Ausubel So, all the good fairy tale creatures decide to move into an island to form a utopic society where there is no evil.

Imagine what happens afterwards.

This is really short, so you lose only 5 minutes checking it out at:
http://themapisnot.com/issue-i-ramona-ausubel

Likeable

Likeable - Deb Olin Unferth Great. I had the same feeling of being unlikeable, even though the author links it to her age and I'm much younger.

Read it here. It's just 3 paragraphs.
http://muumuuhouse.com/dou.fiction2.html

The Swan as Metaphor for Love (Electric Literature's Recommended Reading)

The Swan as Metaphor for Love (Electric Literature's Recommended Reading) - Amelia Gray, Lisa Locascio This short story is so tiny it would probably fit in these review.
http://joylandmagazine.com/regions/los-angeles/swan-metaphor-love

I had to read twice to get all the metaphors. I expected something HILARIOUS, as Flavorwire claimed, but it is just ha-ha clever.

The Beach Boy

The Beach Boy - Ottessa Moshfegh This is a short story about a couple who goes on a vacation to an unnamed paradise, a Third World island where people speak English yet live in poverty. It does a good job in showing the clueless nature of privilege: even those well intentioned liberal progressists can be like Marcia, the woman who judges the "paradise" she visits in a less than complimentary manner. As someone who was born in a touristic destination, it pressed some buttons, but it made the short story stronger to me.

So Marcia judges. Ah, to judge and to repress. That felt like the main theme of story. That and how the pressure to be adequate can prevent us from living.

A little bit long, but if you like contemplative works, it is worth it.

Cheever Reads: The Swimmer

Cheever Reads: The Swimmer - John Cheever Underwhelming.

Cinder

Cinder - Marissa Meyer I picked up this book because I was in a literary drought and needed an easy read to get me back on track. (I'm 12 books behind my schedule this year, tsk, tsk.)

As a retelling of Cinderella as a cyborg in a futuristic society, there were two elements that made Cinder interesting.

1. The World
The place is a conglomerate of Asian countries, and being the new center of the world, it is New Beijing that attracts all the immigrants. You see characters from all over the world, from various ethnicities. I myself thought that Cinder was Asian until I heard she came from Europe.

Cinder, the hero
Cinder is a strong character. As a cyborg, she is seen as a propriety, as a subhuman. She is explored by her stepmother and humiliated by one of her sisters, but she never, never becomes whiny.

The book ends in a cliffhanger, and I decided to keep reading the series. Cinder alone is enough to keep me going, not to mention her friendship with the adorable android Iko and whatever the future holds for the prince Kai.

Middle-Aged Boys & Girls

Middle-Aged Boys & Girls - Diane Bracuk This is one of the best short story collections I read and, by far, my best book from Netgalley.

To put it simply, the writing is delicious. It has spirit and critique. Sometimes it gets judgy, and sometimes it gets heartbreakingly empathetic. From the first paragraph, I knew I found a hidden jewel: after I read this, I found myself closer to my human peers, more privy to their inner insecurities (and how those relate to mine) than judgmental of their shortcomings. This is what "high literature" should be all about.

...the reason he was interviewing her, and not he other way around, the requisite Master's degree in social work prominently displayed on the wall. Never once spending a day at the poverty line, but rich in the political acumen that people like her lacked to market themselves to the powers that bestowed big money.


His head was lowered. Preoccupied, I wondered? Or with the affectionate, mockexasperation of the duty-bound father?


The kind of guy [who was] was small town loser-boy who couldn't make it in the big city, stubbornly clinging to hard rock bands that no one listened to anymore, his hard luck stories and his victim's sense of entitlement.


This kind of book is why I became a reader in the first place.

Raven Sisters

Raven Sisters - Gabi Kreslehner, Alison Layland This is a whodunit with enough observations about human nature for me to say that it has a tinge of literary fiction.

Sometimes that tinge of literary fiction comes very poetic, to the detriment of believability... or not.

"I'm an eagle", Hanna cried, laughing, running, flying. "Who is the wind's bride to carry me aloft?"
I will, Gertrud thought. I will, let me be the one...


Sometimes, it's not poetic at all, and you just think: Really, recently-found-antagonist? You're using "melt like butter" as a threat in this super tense scene?

But that doesn't mean the story is bad. In the beginning, it's all about the relationship between those two sisters: Hannah is beautiful, creative and all around social superstar. Gertrudes is none of these things, and spends her whole life as a shadow of her sister. (Female jealousy is a very interesting subject to me, and I wish it was exploited more.) When we discover one of them is dead and the other, missing, right after we are presented to a plot twist that subverts any chance that the sister-jealousy plot would go on an entirely predictable path. That plot twist took the novel to a whole new level, and was the start of abackstory that is different than a lot of mistery novels we read out there.

Add that to characters who are developed enough for: a) at a certain point, you think there is no clear antagonist; and b) everyone is kind of a victim of the situation.

For instance, Franza, the cop that investigates the murdering case, is a middle-aged divorceé with a body that is actually compatible with her age. So are her levels of confidence and insecurities. She was very believable, and one of the best written 40-something women I read about in the last years.

But why only three stars?

The writing is good, and will teach you something about human nature... and you'll get a murder mistery in the mix. I'm just not sure if it's very entertaining in the first half. It took me 11 days to finish these book. And some creative choices take away a little from the surprises (I won't be able to talk about them without spoilering).

Not to mention the intense POV-switch. Changing POVs all the time can be fast-pacing, but also dangerous. Sometimes the POV changed inside the chapters. Every once in a while there was a very short chapter (from a misterious POV) that served as nothing but a tense builder, which is a good thing in murder misteries... if well executed. Since the number of characters was big (and sometimes so was the list of suspects), the whole thing just became confusing.

I really wished all these issues should be trimmed down in order to give a more clean, concise narrative. The result would be way more entertaining. It felt all over the place. But if you don't mind the cluttering, I guess you could try to read this.