Book Review

Review: Girl in a Band by Kim Gordon

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Many folks know Kim Gordon best for her contributions to Sonic Youth, the popular band. While my musical tastes tend to fall more into the folksy, Alison Krauss vein, Sonic Youth has certainly made appearances in my musical life. So, I was interested to pick up Gordon’s memoir.

Memoirs and I have a pretty tough time together. While in theory I like the idea of someone recounting their life in their own words and attempting to convey their own emotions and reactions to their experiences, I have a tendency to doubt the truthfulness. Though I don’t believe everyone who writes a memoir is lying, I don’t think anyone can be wholly neutral about their own lives or free of biases when recounting their interactions with others.

That being said, I love memoirs that seem to be genuine and truthful about the author’s emotional experiences and the complexity of their relationships.

Gordon’s memoir follows her musical and artistic life following her departure from her hometown after high school. Occasionally, she recounts some of her more major adolescent experiences as explanation or context for later events. Her storytelling is not linear. Like when most people tell you a story, the context comes as needed. I found this appealing.

Gordon’s memoir talks a lot about the art world, in particular, Gordon’s perception of herself as an artist who is a musician, her time in New York among the 1970s and 80s art scene, and how her experiences as a musician developed out of art. There was a lot of information about who she was around and what was going on. I think the most interesting part of it was Gordon’s identity.

Somewhat surprisingly, I didn’t find that Sonic Youth as a band features very heavily in her memoir. The development of the band, Gordon’s relationship with the members, and much of the impact of Sonic Youth on Gordon’s life isn’t really discussed, and, when it is, the discussion is very dry-bones facts. I thought it left something to be desired.

I also expected there to be discussion of Gordon’s experiences as a woman. Though she does have some interesting and relatable experiences as a young adult coming into her own style and feeling a bit outside the loop when it comes to other teen girls and other twenty-somethings, there isn’t really a discussion about the way gender impacts the relationships in the music world, which would have been interesting from a woman who was in such a unique recording and musical space. Often our current discussion surrounds the treatment of female solo artists or young women in particular. I think Gordon would have had an interesting position on the discussion as a whole and I was a bit surprised that it didn’t feature really much time at all.

The book was, overall, a bit distant. Though there are some interesting stories about Gordon’s family, her father and brother in particular, I found the rest of the book to be rather dry, if still interesting. It distinctly lacked the sense of intimacy that may have made it fantastic. It was enjoyable, just left something to be desired.

Overall, I gave this one a 3/5.

You can pick up a copy of Girl in a Band off of Amazon at: http://amzn.to/1BSDn6n

She also narrates the audiobook herself: http://adbl.co/1EN9DXZ

A big thanks to Dey Street Books who sent me a copy of Girl in a Band for free in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: She Will Build Him a City by Raj Kamal Jha

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She Will Build Him a City is a poetically written tale that follows a cast of characters including an elderly woman, an orphan, a killer, and a dog. Set in India in a variety of settings, Jha tries to thread together disparate stories.

The story follows largely unnamed characters through their struggles in modern-day India, where despite living in a world of cell phones and modern medicine, most of the characters live in squalor, unable to afford even the most basic of necessities. The story incorporates elements of the unreal and magical realism.

The stories are largely thread through two characters: an elderly woman whose daughter has left her and an infant named Orphan who, by a twist of fate, toddles out of the orphanage where he has been kept and into the world with only a stray dog as his guide.

Jha’s novel isn’t so much a plot-driven story, nor is it a character study. It feels a bit fairy-tale like and meanders about, seemingly without purpose. Accordingly, there’s no really fast-paced plot, and there’s not really any character development. It seems more like a snapshot, blurred by magical realism elements. I think that can be appealing if it’s what you’re in the mood for.

There’s a lot of uncertainty in the novel. It’s never really clear if some of the character are doing what they say they are doing (the killer character in particular) or if the character actually exists. Part of this appeals to me. I like a bit of mystery in my stories. However, I thought it was often too confusing and a bit disjointed. The characters and their stories’ endings often seemed rough and incomplete.

I can’t really speak to the style much. The story’s grammar is going to be shifted around and some of the style may change as a result.

Overall, I think I wanted to like this story more than I did. I’d give it a weak 3/5, but would say it’s promising.

Book Depository: http://www.bookdepository.com/She-Will-Build-Him-City-Raj-Kamal-Jha/9781408855041
Release date: March 3, 2015

Note: I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for an honest review

Review: The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion

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Publication Date: 2014

Genre: Romcom

Length: 415 pages

This is a pretty obvious case of unnecessary sequels.

The Rosie Project was a romcom that hinted, but I’d say by and large failed, at saying something about adult relationships with persons with Asperger’s syndrome. At the very least, it was a largely predictable romance. It ticked all of the “aww” boxes, but wasn’t fantastic and wrapped up its loose ends.

It’s sequel, The Rosie Effect, picks up the two characters a little under a year afterwards, during which time, Don and Rosie are expecting a baby. Hijinks ensue.

The plot in this book was chaotic and often too convenient. Characters from the old book were brought back in, despite it going counter to the implied ending in their previous storyline with little to none of the information needed to bridge the gap. The plot once the characters are assembled is haphazard at best with wildly improbable actions being taken all around. The resolution is, again, all too  convenient.

Largely, I can’t help but be critical of the story because it gloms on to RomCom conventions without any of the relationship building that makes a RomCom a good story. Don Tillman is his usual self, but his entire approach to their newest dilemma (the impending birth of his child) isn’t really what I would expect of his curiosity. It was just disappointing.

I received an eARC of The Rosie Effect for free in exchange for an honest review via Netgalley.

Rating **

Amazon Link:

hope.ly/1BH9h1c

Review: Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie

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Ancillary Sword is the follow up to Ancillary Justice, Leckie’s acclaimed debut novel. I have to say, this book was, for me, a more enjoyable novel than the first. Where the first is captivating in concept, its execution is often confusing and too busy. The second, in contrast, has a much firmer footing in plot development, character, tone, and pacing.

Breq has been charged with keeping the system stable following the chaos of the first novel. To do so, she goes to a primary station where the sys Ancillary Sword is the follow up to Ancillary Justice, Leckie’s acclaimed debut novel. I have to say, this book was, for me, a more enjoyable novel than the first. Where the first is captivating in concept, its execution is often confusing and too busy. The second, in contrast, has a much firmer footing in plot development, character, tone, and pacing.

Breq has been charged with keeping the system stable following the chaos of the first novel. To do so, she goes to a primary station where the system governor is housed, Lieutenant Sievarden and a new “baby Lieutenant” Tiarwat in tow. There, she is dismayed to find that the system in inherently corrupt, an entire population of people live in squalor, and the politics of the system have prevented any change, infact they have encouraged active resistance to it despite Breq’s new rank of Fleet Commander.

Maybe its my own adjustment to the gender pronouns (gender and sex are not so much the confusing aspect of Leckie’s gender dynamic, rather the singular feminine pronoun is standard Radchaii and the switch, often frequent and unnoted, in pronoun use in other AJ languages) or the less prominent gender dynamics and sexuality of the supporting characters, but the use of “she” as a universal pronoun was much less confusing and much less preoccupying in the second novel.

The plot in this book is linear rather than multi-temporal. In that regard, the plot is streamlined. Leckie isn’t building two detailed plot lines while worldbuilding, so things were less busy and there was more attention to plot development and character maintenance and development. I thought that Sievarden was a more likeable character, Breq grew into her new one-ancillary state more, and Tiarwat was a pleasant addition to the cast. Not to mention that Dlique, a side character who shows up for about 20 pages, provided just enough humor to balance out some of the more maudlin aspects.

Review: The Abyss Beyond Dreams by Peter F. Hamilton

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I should preface this by saying that The Abyss Beyond Dreams is the first Peter F. Hamilton book I’ve read. So, I can’t really speak to the extent to which it incorporates the rest of his world.

Hamilton’s novel features The Void, a black hole in space that seems to be exerting a conscious will. When a Commonweath fleet is absorbed into the Void, Nigel determines that he must go in after it and rescue the Void’s captives. He arrives to find a fully established planet, Bienvenidos, with a governmental system and religion already taken hold. Time works differently in the Void. In order to save them, he’s going to have to do a lot of work.

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Meanwhile, Slvasta is an ambitious military officer. He’s seen existential threats to Bienvenidos and is dedicated to keeping the planet and its people safe. His dedication teeters on the verge of obsession. When the planet’s government doesn’t take his advice, he becomes wrapped up in political intrigue that threatens a full-blown and violent revolution.

The world that Hamilton creates is extremely rich in detail. The descriptions of the planet, space, and the people are very vivid. He develops a believable and nuanced political system in which most of the plot takes place. It was all-encompassing.

Some of the technology was a bit overly convenient. They know that the Void breaks down technology very quickly and interferes with its ability to function. Knowing that, they bring bio-tech in when Nigel leaves. Despite his presence on the planet for decades, there doesn’t seem to be any degradation of the tech. This to me seemed weird. Then it would often be that the bio-tech was extremely useful. It wasn’t too big of a deal, but it was just a bit strange.

Note: I received a copy of this book for free via NetGalley.