Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights by Salman Rushdie

**Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights by Salman Rushdie is out in two weeks on Tuesday, September 8th! Don't forget to pick it up from your favorite bookseller!**

Two Year Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights by Salman Rushdie. Random House Publishing; 2015. 304 pages. Ebook. 

***I received an advanced copy of this book to read and review courtesy of NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group***

I consider myself to be a rather eclectic reader; I can enjoy something in almost any genre, and I can, in a rather chameleon-like fashion, alter my state of mind to various styles of writing. Unfortunately, I couldn't get myself to enjoy this particular novel.

As a result of this, I have officially decided that Salman Rushdie's writing is simply not for me. That is not to say that it is not wonderful writing, as Rushdie has a lovely prose with intricate stories and details, but rather that his writing is just not my type of writing. I have read Midnight's Children and I began (though was unable to finish) The Satanic Verses. I did enjoy Midnight's Children, but I never really fell in love with either of his works. I read both of those a while ago, so I figured I would give Rushdie one more go. Unlike Midnight's Children, there are not hundreds of made-up words that will confuse you - a huge relief to me, I assure you. Two Year Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights is classified as magical realism, but it has plenty of much more fantastical elements to satisfy any fantasy-lover out there.

In brief, Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights follows the story of Dunia, a jinn princess who, unlike normal jinn, falls in love with a mortal man and produces an abundance of offspring with him (seriously - we're talking births of ten to twenty kids at once here, supposedly) over two years, eight months, and twenty-eight nights. Eventually, years and years later, there is a great, unprecedented storm in New York that leaves the descendants of Dunia and her mortal man with strange powers: one man discovers he has begun to levitate off the ground and can longer put his own feet on solid ground; a baby is able to detect the corruption of any one person by merely touching them. All of this culminates in a struggle between dark and light forces, in which her descendants play a large and important part.

There are countless metaphors, symbolism, themes, and underlying messages that I think gives each reader the opportunity to dissect and devour it in their own way. Rushdie's prose is magical in itself: his words float along, perfectly capturing each moment before flowing smoothly into the next. Even in his long (very long), drawn-out informational lectures about the jinn, his words still read in a very lovely and elegant manner. It truly is magical novel, and the overall foundation of the novel is actually rather exciting and intriguing. I love hearing the details of the jinn and the overall fantasy/fairy story elements. Oh, and if there's one thing that one hundred percent, without a doubt understand and can take away from this story? The jinn really, really love sex.

The characters were hard for me to relate to. I felt a rather constant disconnect, and I felt more like an outsider viewing their stories from a great distance than actually being in and a part of their lives as I read along to find out what happens. Dunia is an intriguing character; the jinn don't normally feel many human-like emotions, nor do they generally consort with them, so she becomes unique in her relations with Ibn Rushd, her mortal lover. She tends to float back and forth between worlds, and provides a rather mysterious and complicated character for us to follow.

This is a dense book; the stories intermingle, the writing intermingles, and it continues to become more and more complex as it carries on. I found myself feeling confused and lost at multiple instances throughout the book. I honestly struggled to finish this, but something was tugging at me to carry on (plus, I knew I really wanted to write a review for it). The abundance of metaphors quickly become tangled up in one another, and I soon found myself losing interest at various points. The best way to describe my enjoyment of this novel is with the notion of random spurts of enthusiasm. I would be slogging through a particularly dense or uninteresting part, only to suddenly find myself enraptured in what was happening (I particularly enjoyed reading scenes with Mr. Geronimo). To me, this is a rather accurate depiction of the entire book: it has a somewhat random setup of involved scenes mixed with drier, more textbook-like informational writing. (Side note: I really love this cover, I think it adds a very simplistic yet symbolic image of the contents of the novel. It fits wonderfully - good job, designers!)

Overall, I am giving Two Year Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights  three stars, as it was both intriguing and beautifully written, but also confusing and lacking in engagement. I would recommend this to any who loves mythology, fairy tales, fantasy, magical realism, or deep, complex novels that seem to thrive on in-depth story lines. However, as I mentioned above, I do think this particular novel requires a certain type of reader, though I would encourage anyone interested to give it a try - you might just love it.

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Monday, August 10, 2015

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde. Penguin Books; 2003. 374 pages. Paperback/Softcover.

This was one of the most clever books I have read in quite a while. I lost count of the number of chuckles and laughs that escaped me while reading this book, all due to the charm and clever wit of Fforde's writing and imagination.

The Eyre Affair takes place in the 1980s, but in an alternate world from our own - a place where time travel is considered normal. In this world lives Thursday Next, a Special Operative, LiteraTec who regularly investigates issues revolving around stolen manuscripts and other literary dilemmas and crimes. One day, however, a legendary criminal by the name of Acheron steals Jane Eyre herself from Jane Eyre, and Thursday must find her and save her in order to save the original manuscript and story - which she does by entering into the novel itself.

The Eyre Affair is the exact definition of an unpredictable novel. We're thrust into this alternate 1980s world that is entirely the same, yet entirely different from our regular world. The best part: it's completely centered around literature. I love the added touches that litter the  normal and create such an imaginative world. For example, there are 'Baconians' who go around like religious followers and try to convince people that it was actually Sir France Bacon who penned all of William Shakespeare's works, not Shakespeare himself. I also absolutely loved how dodos have been cloned, brought back from extinction, and are now some of the most popular pets - they seem so adorable. I loved these little details, as they really brought the entire world to life in a very whimsy and exciting way.

On the negative side, sometimes it seemed like there was just too much going on, and I felt a bit... confused. Now, confusion was a rather common feeling for me in this book, as it was a smidge hard to pick up the lingo and figure out who was who and what meant what, but most of the time it went fairly smoothly. It was just too convoluted overall - the Acheron Hades storyline (the main one, which eventually includes the whole Jane Eyre manuscript debacle), her romance (?) with Landen and (kinda?) Bowden, her aunt and uncle's kidnapping (related to Hades, but still different), her father, her career, etc. etc. I just felt lost in this wide world of wit and imagination; all I needed was a nice little guidebook, and it would have been perfect.

Thursday Next is someone who on the surface seems very organized and thoughtful, but she's actually rather impulsive, and also very quick-witted. She's sly, clever, and knows her literature (I mean, she is a LiteraTec, after all). I enjoyed following her on her adventures and learning more about her career, family life, and her overall interact with this crazy world. The Eyre Affair is littered with a large supporting cast that add so much excitement to this book; even the names of these characters was enough to make me happy - Victor Analogy, Braxton Hicks, Jack Schitt. I don't want to go into too many details about these characters or any other elements of the story, however, because while they may not be direct spoilers, I feel like a big part of the enjoyment of The Eyre Affair is in the sheer unpredictability and discovery of everything.

However, while I enjoyed Thursday Next as a character, I never felt like I really got to know her and who she really is as a person. There seemed to be this thin wall placed between the reader and Thursday, which hid some of her personality and prevented me from really connecting with her or understanding her emotions. In fact, she was almost somewhat bland. She had good humor and made quirky jokes with her companions, but there wasn't much other depth. Her backstory had depth, such as her time spent in Crimea and her history with LiteraTec and, but her character lacked depth.

Overall, The Eyre Affair is receiving a nice four stars, because despite it's incredibly fascinating world and enjoyable read, there were issues that could have used improvement, such as with the characters and mash-up of plotlines. I would definitely recommend to any who loves wit, charm, literature and literary-inspired things, or simply anyone who wants an enjoyable read!

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Thursday, August 6, 2015

Bradstreet Gate by Robin Kirman

Bradstreet Gate by Robin Kirman. Crown; July 2015. 20 Pages. Ebook.

**I received a copy of this book courtesy of NetGalley in exchange for an honest review**

What I hoped would be a delicious, mysterious novel centered around the murder of a college student turned out to be a rather ho-hum story more focused on the minute details of the supporting cast's lives that, let's be honest, weren't all that interesting.

This story centers around the lives of three college students and a professor, both during and after another fellow classmate is murdered. Through various narratives, we learn about the lives, secrets, obsessions, and general complexities that have led to the transpiring of many events.

Despite the fact that the murder is the main plot for this novel, it's really not all that interesting. The student who is murdered? She's not event that important. Most of us probably couldn't care less about her or her death. I can understand that it was more of a plot device to get the ball rolling and explain the hidden and taboo issues that surround the student's murder, but for a novel that boasts itself as a college murder mystery, it doesn't quite live up to that.

Our four main characters are: quiet, somewhat shy Charlie who comes from a working-class family, but wishes to rub elbows with the rich Harvard elite; Georgia, the enigmatic blonde that everyone wants, but basically no one gets, and who has a complicated history with her father; Alice, a pissed-off-at-the-world young woman who despises her family, which leaves her full of rage and motivation; and we have Storrow, the mysterious, somewhat awkward professor that rolls into bed with one of his students, accidentally offends his students, and is accused of murder.

I had an extremely difficult time caring about any of the character. I'm not necessarily one of those people that has to like the characters in order to enjoy a novel, but I simply didn't care about them. There were no great, defining qualities that drew you to them and made you want to follow their life and participate in their difficulties. I hated Storrow; he was an incredibly pathetic, disgusting man who I simply couldn't bring myself to like or pity in the slightest manner, despite Charlie's early attempts to make him appear pitiable. Sorry, Charlie, not going to happen.

The way in which these characters stayed "connected" after college is incredibly weird as well. I just can't possibly believe that these people who really didn't have that strong of a connection even while attending college would possibly rely on one another outside of college. In fact, beside the facade of each character and their interactions, they almost (sort of) hated one another. There was always tension, always some issue, and I can't recall any interactions that were, well, happy. The best way to describe their interaction would be as extremely unhealthy, magnetized attractions to one another.

Kirman also seemed to keep hinting at a huge, incredibly wide array of interesting subplots and secrets, but she never dug deeper and explored those ideas, which would have added so much to this otherwise disappointing novel. I both liked and disliked the way in which Kirman jumped back and forth between characters and time periods. It was incredibly confusing, but that style sort of fit with this book. The timeline and jumping around sort of matched the jilted and troubled lives of the characters; nothing was linear, nothing made sense, and nothing was ever perfect/right/etc.

Oh, and to anyone who compares it to The Secret History by Donna Tartt: stop. The only comparison is that it's a college campus and there was a murder. Comparison stops there; nothing else is the same.

Despite the many things I apparently really disliked about this novel, I kept reading it. Something, somehow, dragged me on. I feel a large part of that reason was Kirman's writing style; she truly does have a haunting, melodic tone to her narrative which does add to the air of intrigue and ability to keep readers turning those pages (or tapping their Kindles, in my case). There are moments throughout this story where Kirman's voice shines through, and that is what made this somewhat dry and unlikable a bit more enjoyable and intriguing. Because of this, Bradstreet Gate will be receiving three stars from me.

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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Corridor One by Rafael Derchansky

Corridor One by Rafael Derchanky. Self-published. June 2015. Ebook.

**I received a copy of this book from the author, Rafael Derchansky, in exchange for an honest review**

Rafael Derchansky reached out to me a few weeks ago and inquired about receiving a review for his novel. I read some summaries about the book and happily agreed. In short: I'm extremely glad I did.

Corridor One has a very complicated plotline, so I'll do my best to summarize: Dina is a sharp, hardworking woman who one day receives a random package at her apartment. This package marks the beginning of a long journey into her past. She endeavors to find out the identity of the man who left the package, as well as the fate of her long-lost brother and father, whom she has been separated from for a majority of her life. At the center of this intrigue is the question of missing treasure, which Dina and her fellow colleagues set out to recover. In order to find the answers to all of these questions, Dina must face her past and confront her emotions. 

There is so much detail in this plot. Derchansky has obviously taken great time and care in developing such an intricate and in-depth backstory, performing research on a wide variety of topics, and then relaying it all to us in an interesting and creative manner. Derchansky himself has a very interesting biography (found here) which I definitely can see as an influence in his writing.

One aspect of the novel that I really loved was hearing and learning about MirexGlobe and the sort of projects the company takes on. I was really fascinated by the world of authenticating art and various objects, and it really made me want to learn more about that particular line of work. I was also immensely intrigued by the Kerzhak Navigation exercises Dina so often practiced. The best way that I can attempt to describe Kerzhak Navigation is as a mental art that trains both the mind and body t focus on details, and it is through this exercise that one is able to train their minds to recognize and memorize maps and locations. This exercise eventually becomes an extremely useful and critical part of the story. I feel it is also important to add the organization of Corridor One creates an entirely new air of mystery and intrigue; who doesn't love reading about rather secret, unknown organizations? I'll leave it at that, as I don't want to give away too much.

The characters are also very well written. Dina is a strong, logical, and organized woman who wants things done right and will go to great lengths to make sure that they are done that way. Dina is not the type of woman to become emotional or let her true emotions show, but as we can see throughout the book, those are not always the easiest things to hide. Throughout Corridor One, we are given glimpses into the different sides of Dina, including both her strength and vulnerabilities, which allows us to see an honest, well-rounded person.

In ways her opposite, Tamara is quirky, animated, and extremely upbeat. She is the friendliest of the group, and brings her warmth and unique charm/sense of fun to each meeting and scene. We also have Gregory, who is much the opposite of this; he is rather quiet and keeps to himself. However, he is also prone to moodiness, preferring to spend his time working on his assignments in his laboratory, as he is extremely adept and intelligent. Lastly, we have Igor. Igor is also highly intelligent and extraordinarily loyal to Dina (though, to be honest, they are all extremely loyal). While all of these coworkers act as partners to one another, I personally see Igor as Dina's right-hand man who is always looking out for her and is also closest to her. This is a close-knit group of intelligent and strong colleagues who work in wonderful harmony with one another. They are matches made in business heaven. Each member plays to their own strength, and together they provide all of the necessary skills and tools needed for every successful business - as well as every successful mystery.

The pacing of this novel was fairly spot-on; it was never too fast, but also never too slow. It was on the slower side, but never dragging or slow. Derchansky did wonderful work in adding his immensely detailed and explanatory style. All of my questions were answered, and even more were created at the end of the novel, which the perfect setup for the second book in this trilogy, Corridor Two. The ending wrapped things up very nicely, while also creating an exciting new introduction to another book.

The only issue I seemed to find within the story was more structurally related, and that was with the dialogue. At times, the dialogue was a tad jilted and unnatural; it was very formal and somewhat stiff, which broke up some of the flow. Fortunately, it did not impede my enjoyment of Corridor One too much. In ways, this dialogue fit with some of the characters, as it only seemed to enhance how formal, educated, and lucid everyone spoke and acted.

Overall, I am giving Corridor One four stars. It was an extremely intriguing storyline, full of a wide array of interesting facts and mysterious questions. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoys solving a mystery, going on adventures, or simply reading extremely in-depth and captivating storylines.

As a side note, if you enjoy any form of artwork, Derchansky actually has quite a few paintings up on his website that are simply beautiful, and I would encourage you to take a gander at a few of them. They can be found at rhdera.com

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The House at Riverton by Kate Morton