April Mini Reviews
Each month I share a few short and sweet reviews of books I've read that might help you determine the next book you'd like to read. This month I'm adding: Planet of the Blind by Stephen Kuusisto, One Good Deed by David Baldacci, Missing Daughter by Rick Mofina, Beartown by Fredrik Backman, and The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones.
Planet of the Blind by Stephen Kuusisto
Published 1999, 189 pages
This book wasn't for me. Though the story itself is interesting, I'm not a fan of the writing style. Kuusisto is a poet and the book is too ...... literary? .... for me. Too formal. Filled with lots of poem snippets and references that I don't know so couldn't connect with. "So I am blind in a bittersweet way: I see like a person who looks through a kaleidoscope; my impressions of the world are at once beautiful and largely useless."
The book describes his experience with his blindness. He has a very partial vision condition where his eyes move independently and roam all over the place. He sees everything in a smoosh of color and shadow; he just doesn't know if the dark is a tree, a person, or just a shadow. He describes how difficult it was for him to function in the sighted world, all the time not admitting his blindness. In fact he didn't begin to admit publicly and even to himself that he was blind till he was in his 30s. He just went barreling along, pretending. The only part of the book that I enjoyed were the 20 pages or so about getting a guide dog. Those descriptions were clear, unambiguous and delightful.
I pulled this book off my bookshelves to read for the following reading challenge categories: #ReadHarder20 (about a person with a disability), #BooklistQueen20 (under 200 pages), #Popsugar20 (about a visual impairment)
One Good Deed by David Baldacci
Published 2019, 432 pages
It’s 1949 and war veteran Aloysisu Archer is released from prison and sent to Poca City to serve his parole. He takes on what he thinks is an easy job of collecting a debt. But it proves harder than he expected and when a murder occurs in the small town, the police suspect him.
While Baldacci is a terrific writer and I’ve read all of his books and liked most of them, this one let me down. I didn’t find it very interesting until the end when it all came together. Also, I think every character smoked and it was constantly being described. And, for the first three-quarters of the book every time any character appeared he described in detail every item of clothing he was wearing, which got old quick. Then towards the end he stopped doing it completely.
I found this exchange amusing – Archer has run out of cigarettes and says:
“That’s okay. Someone told me they were bad for you anyway.” She gave him a condescending look. “Really, Mr. Archer, I highly doubt that if cigarettes were really bad for you the companies making them would continue to do so.”
Another interesting line: “The air remained intensely dry. Archer had it on good authority from at least a half-dozen folks in town that Poca City saw rain about as often as one viewed a rich man in a soup line." So, even though the characters were strongly written, the story itself didn't draw me in.
Missing Daughter by Rick Mofina
Published 2019, 521 pages
Twelve-year-old Maddie is abducted from her bedroom in the middle of the night igniting a massive search for her. Her parents, Ryan and Karen, and her brother, Tyler, all feel it’s their fault for various reasons. As the police investigate, everyone is under suspicion, even the family. This is a typical story that’s been told many times before and Missing Daughter brings nothing new to the genre. At 521 pages this book is overly long and should have been at least 100 pages shorter. It really only starts to get interesting in Part Two (starts at page 325) which takes place four years later. It was a quick read without much depth and quite a bit of repetition.
Beartown #1 by Fredrik Backman
Genre: General Fiction
Published 2016, 418 pages
Wow! This. book. I read it a couple years ago and was stunned. Having read about Ove, Britt-Marie, and Grandmother, I was totally unprepared for the style of writing in this book. Spare and dynamic. Forceful and careful. A story with his expected attention to character development, but also very evocative of place - which is a small town in Sweden that revolves around hockey.
Needless to say, this is NOT his usual fare of quirky characters finding their way in unusual circumstances. He tackles more difficult themes with more damaged characters.
Don't let the 'hockey' throw you. While it's definitely an important part of the story, you don't have to know anything or care anything about hockey....it's the vehicle to make the point of the story. The themes are many - for me, primarily about societal reactions to a tragic occurrence. Backman did a good job having characters to represent all sides of the reaction spectrum seamlessly. The story starts off with a startling, dramatic scene and then goes back in time to lead you back to that scene and it's resolution. Oh my, what a resolution. And when you're done falling in love with this book, you can read #2, which is the further aftermath. If you haven't read this book yet, I'd strongly recommend you move it to the top of your TBR list!
The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones
Publish date 5/19/20, 320 pages
First let me thank #Net Galley and Gallery/Saga Press for the ARC of this book. The opinion is my own.
This may be a case of good book, wrong time. While clearly well written, somehow it didn't connect with me. I couldn't get involved with any of the characters and the initial set up following the character of Lewis was difficult for me to follow. I pushed through the middle of the book mostly because I felt obligated to finish, and then actually picked up interest in the last quarter of the book during the sweat lodge and meeting and following Denorah.
I appreciated the connection to Native American life, traditions, and story telling. I liked the opening with the four friends going on the elk hunt and how it went wrong - that's a good setup. However, I think I had trouble with the horror part and I can't quite put my finger on why. I'm by no means a horror aficionado so I'm not the most qualified to speak to that aspect of the story. If you do enjoy a good horror story, you should read it for yourself. Or, if you enjoy a perspective on Native life, this may suit you.
Reading challenge: #Bookworm20 : horror story