Lauren O. (LoMel) - , - Reviews

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The 19th Wife
The 19th Wife
Author: David Ebershoff
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.6/5 Stars.
 301
Review Date: 2/11/2010


I really enjoyed this book. The writing is fluid and easy to read, so even if the book runs a little long at over 500 pages it's still a fairly quick read. For jumping back and forth between multiple storylines the plot still moves forward quickly and easily. I loved the "main" character of Jordan Scott, and the way the two stories intertwined in the end was well-pulled off. I would recommend this book to any historical fiction fans.


Acceptance (Southern Reach, Bk 3)
Acceptance (Southern Reach, Bk 3)
Author: Jeff VanderMeer
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.4/5 Stars.
 12
Review Date: 9/10/2015


When I finished Authority I mentioned I was worried about how VanderMeer would be able to wrap this up, and it turns out I was kind of right. There was just something about this book that didn't work as well as the first two, which grabbed me by the throat and refused to let go until I had read them basically in one go. Maybe part of it was just that this was a return to Area X, and as a return it didn't present the same kind of unknown horror as when we were first in it in Annihilation. I don't think the ending wraps things up in a bad way, it just turned out to be a little less satisfying than I had hoped. But then, I'm not sure how else you could have ended it. I think he kind of wrote himself into a corner on this one and finished it up as best he could.

All this to say Acceptance is still a good read and VanderMeer's writing is unbelievable. It's worth reading the series for the first two books alone.


Adulting: How to Become a Grown-up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps
Adulting: How to Become a Grown-up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps
Author: Kelly Williams Brown
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 12
Review Date: 1/11/2015


Some of this seemed like common sense and some didn't really apply to me, but I think there was some really solid advice in here. Brown's sarcastic wit fits perfectly with the material. I read this during a flight and it was a perfect airplane book.


After Birth
After Birth
Author: Elisa Albert
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 9/10/2015


The Book of Dahlia is one of my top-5 books of all time, so my expectations going into this were high, but maybe unfairly high. Much of what I really liked about Dahlia is present in After Birth, but it just didn't work as well for me this time around.

I have weirdly conflicted feelings about this book, as it seems to be both incredibly feminist and anti-feminist at the same time. Clearly from the descriptions in the novel Albert is very familiar with feminist literature and theory, probably moreso than I am, and so she may be able to defend this work in a way I'm just unprepared to do. Showing "the other side", if you will, of birth and motherhood is incredibly valuable, so much so that even the characters in here are aware that their criticisms and experiences are needed, if that makes sense. That being said, I felt uncomfortable with so many of the criticisms of women, instead of criticisms focused on societal structure and patriarchy that influence women to behave and act in certain ways. I also understand that there's something to be said for novels with an unlikable protagonist, and Dahlia was certainly unlikable in her own way, but the connections and empathy I felt for Dahlia weren't there for me with Ari for much of this.

As I mentioned, a lot of what we got in Dahlia still works beautifully here; Albert's observations about female adolescence are absolutely spot-on, and I really liked what came through in here about the importance of female friendships as well.

Even my review of this is structured as a comparison to Book of Dahlia, so maybe I'm just not giving this novel enough credit to stand on its own. I'm also happily prepared to admit I may not be the target audience for this book-Dahlia is a single twenty-something (like me), whereas I haven't gone through the experiences of either birth or motherhood, so maybe people who have lived more of this book will find more in here for them than I did. In the end, I didn't get the emotional punches to the gut from After Birth as I did from Book of Dahlia, but there's still a lot to like in here, even if I found the messages occasionally contradictory and confusing.


The Age of Miracles
The Age of Miracles
Author: Karen Thompson Walker
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.6/5 Stars.
 65
Review Date: 2/10/2013
Helpful Score: 2


This book frustrated me by having such an interesting premise and failing to follow through in execution. The pace of the story, mirroring the length of days, was at times painfully slow and the plot never seemed to go anywhere. The writing style and idea were unique enough that I would try another book by the author in the future, but this one just didn't do it for me.


All the Birds, Singing: A Novel
All the Birds, Singing: A Novel
Author: Evie Wyld
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.3/5 Stars.
 2
Review Date: 12/18/2014


There were a lot of things I liked about this novel but nothing that really bowled me over or convinced me I would read it again, hence the rating. After seeing on it many best-of end of year lists, I think I went in expecting more than I ended up getting out of it. The story is told in alternating chapters-odd chapters are set in the present and move forward in time, even chapters are set in the past and move backwards from close to the present back to the beginning. This sounds complicated but Wyld uses it well and it's actually a very effective way to tell the story. I liked Jake quite a bit, and even the unresolved ending didn't bother me, I just wasn't blown away by anything in here. There's no reason not to read this if it intrigues you.


All the Young Punks: Stories from the New Cuba
All the Young Punks: Stories from the New Cuba
Author: Julia Cooke
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 2/9/2015


Really good read about the young generation in Havana (set mainly during the Raul Castro years) that got better as it went along. Cooke has a marvelous eye for detail and scene-setting, and gives an intimate look at the personal lives of Cubans through a series of vignettes. If you're looking for a straight unbiased historical take, I'd advise you to try another book, but for a personal/memoir reading experience this certainly gets the job done.


American Innovations: Stories
American Innovations: Stories
Author: Rivka Galchen
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.3/5 Stars.
 2
Review Date: 12/7/2014


I went into this collection unaware of the thick streak of magical realism that runs through Galchen's writing, which probably would have dissuaded me as it tends to be one of my less-favorite writing tropes, but that's just a personal preference of mine. That said, Galchen is clearly a great writer, but this collection suffered in the way that I feel most short story collections suffer; the content was uneven. A couple of these stories I LOVED (Wild Berry Blue, The Entire Northern Side Was Covered With Fire), a couple I really didn't like, and the rest were forgettable. I tend not to read short story collections for this reason, but this was on multiple best-of-the-year lists so I thought it would be worth checking out. If you're familiar with or a fan of Galchen's writing, I wouldn't dissuade you from this, but overall this collection left me feeling flat.


Americanah
Americanah
Author: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 41
Review Date: 2/22/2014
Helpful Score: 2


I really enjoyed this novel. I hadn't read anything by Adichie before but certainly plan on checking out her others. An engrossing book with extremely honest (and at times uncomfortable) observations on race in the U.S. My only complaint was the ending, which I found abrupt; nevertheless, I would rate this book as highly recommended.


Among Others
Among Others
Author: Jo Walton
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.7/5 Stars.
 24
Review Date: 12/7/2014
Helpful Score: 1


I REALLY wanted to like this book. I mean, really really. But it just didn't happen for me. Towards the end I wanted to skim just to get it over with. I liked Morwenna's voice and how her disability was portrayed (how she lived with it, the impact it had on her, etc.) but the plot just bored me to tears. The fairies/magic element seemed pointless to me and entirely out of place in regards to the rest of the story. This could have been a decent fantasy or a decent "girl at boarding school who loves books" novel, but trying to combine them just made it a mess. I enjoyed the discussion of all the great sci-fi novels, but I can read a list of great sci-fi on a webpage and not have to muddle through 300-odd pages. Also her relationships with her mother and sister were just...there. The confrontation with her mother was anticlimactic and didn't really seem to affect anything. The ending was abrupt and didn't solve anything either. I'm probably being too harsh, honestly, but with the subject matter and positive reviews from people I know I was really ready to love this book, and I'm bummed that I didn't.


Annihilation (Southern Reach, Bk 1)
Annihilation (Southern Reach, Bk 1)
Author: Jeff VanderMeer
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.1/5 Stars.
 37
Review Date: 1/26/2015
Helpful Score: 1


This book is terrifying, but beautiful. Short as it is, I read it incredibly slowly both because I was too scared to turn the page and because I wanted to drag out the experience as much as possible. The sense of place and description of the setting is nearly unparalleled. It's written in a slow creeping style, which I guess may annoy some readers but I think it works well for the material. I'm not sure how to describe this, but if sci-fi with a dose of horror is up your alley, read this.


At Night We Walk in Circles: A Novel
At Night We Walk in Circles: A Novel
Author: Daniel Alarcón
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 2.3/5 Stars.
 2
Review Date: 9/10/2015


I read Lost City Radio quite a few years ago and found it a bit unfinished but pretty emotionally devastating-I had sort of the opposite reaction with this. Alarcon's prose has improved a lot since Lost City Radio was published; there were times I stopped to transcribe excerpts to my twitter because the writing bowled me over. That said, I wasn't able to emotionally connect with the characters in this in the same way I did in the previous book. I don't think there's anything WRONG with this story; the pacing, character development, and plotting are all fine. For whatever reason it just didn't grab me in the same way. Still recommended, if on the strength of the prose alone.


Authority (Southern Reach, Bk 2)
Authority (Southern Reach, Bk 2)
Author: Jeff VanderMeer
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 11
Review Date: 9/10/2015


Authority is a very different book than Annihilation but no less wonderful. The writing is still incredibly beautiful, the pacing remains almost tortuously slow (which adds to the ambiance and tension), Control is a great protagonist. I'm concerned that Acceptance is going to be unable to suitably wrap-up what Vandermeer has started here and I'll have to knock off stars, but why worry about the future when the first two books have been so good?


Bang the Drum Slowly
Bang the Drum Slowly
Author: Mark Harris
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.5/5 Stars.
 3
Review Date: 10/30/2009


An absolutely great book. An easy read but very moving; of all four novels in the Henry Wiggins series, I think this one is the most accessible for people with a lesser interest in baseball as a sport. Not only for fans, this is a great book for everybody.


The Bees: A Novel
The Bees: A Novel
Author: Laline Paull
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3/5 Stars.
 4
Review Date: 11/10/2014


What a BUZZ-worthy book. Some of you may BEE interested in my review!

Okay, disclaimer: I hate bees. Like, I am terrified of them and they are my least favorite creatures on earth, so I'm happy to admit that may have colored my view on this book. If you're into bees try reading this. You may like it!

In terms of less biased criticism, the pacing of this book was really weird and Flora 717 came off as pretty flat. Also, and I know this is getting back to the bee thing, but I found this book really hard to take seriously when the main characters were bees. You can write animal protagonists really well (Hi, Watership Down) and in a way where the story weaves in well with the animal spaces. This felt like a weirdly written dystopia that did a find-replace with "person" for "bee", changed the setting and they called it a day. Even outside of that though, this plot wouldn't have really worked with human protagonists so...I guess I'm just not sure what the author was going for. Also the ending of this book is bananas. It just goes completely off the rails.

In summary, I'm happy to admit I am the opposite of the target audience for this book so try it if you like! For me the mix of not-great plot and bees (I hate bees) was just too much to overcome.


Beijing Coma: A Novel
Beijing Coma: A Novel
Author: Ma Jian
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.3/5 Stars.
 2
Review Date: 9/10/2015


This book was a doozy in a variety of ways. It´s an emotional rollercoaster that gets so graphic and tense for the last fifty pages I had to stop and put the book down multiple times and felt nauseous after reading some of the descriptions of the violence inflicted on the students in and around the square. I think as emotionally difficult as it is this book is a valuable read. My main criticism is the same as many other reviewers have noted, which is that this book could easily have been 200 pages shorter. While I´m sure the descriptions of infighting and power struggles among the student leaders are accurate, I just don´t think we needed as much of them as we got, along with some other extraneous details. The choices about love interests also seemed a little weird for the character, but to each their own. I think this book is worth reading though, even if it can turn into a bit of a slog through some sections.


A Better Angel: Stories
A Better Angel: Stories
Author: Chris Adrian
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.5/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 4/2/2010


Adrian's writing is gorgeous, as always. Contains a variety of stories, most having to do with illness or death, treated at times shockingly but always with compassion and grace. Beautiful read by an accomplished author.


Bone Fire: A novel (Vintage)
Bone Fire: A novel (Vintage)
Author: Mark Spragg
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.5/5 Stars.
 2
Review Date: 7/31/2011


Beautiful prose, wonderful imagery of rural Wyoming. This is a sequel to An Unfinished Life but I enjoyed both the story and the writing more in this book.


Broken (P.S.)
Broken (P.S.)
Author: Daniel Clay
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.3/5 Stars.
 13
Review Date: 10/30/2009


Ugh. Bought this on the premise that it was similar to To Kill A Mockingbird, one of my all time favorites, but aside from plot elements which follow a similar storyline, this book was painful to read, not in a good way. None of the characters are remotely identifiable with; this is a book mainly full of terrible things happening to terrible people


Brown Girl in the Ring
Brown Girl in the Ring
Author: Nalo Hopkinson
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 20
Review Date: 11/10/2014


I was looking forward to reading a Nalo Hopkinson book but unfortunately I didn't really enjoy this one. I felt little connection to any of the characters and while I enjoyed what there was of Afro-Caribbean myths and lore, I felt the plot of the story wasn't really strong enough to pull it together. That being said, I know this was her first novel, so I plan on reading a more recent book of hers. Her creativity and general writing style, as well as the uplifting ending, have me intrigued enough to give her another shot


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