Unique – Dear Mr. You by Mary-Louise Parker

Dear Mr. You

by Mary-Louise Parker

dear-mr-you-9781501107832_hr

Published 2015

Genres: Non-Fiction / Memoir

“Perhaps there are no answers for us poor humans, but we know a handful of things. We know that there exists a planet with four thousand versions of songbirds. Because that is possible and because on that same planet can exist sentient beings made up almost entirely of stardust, and because actual poetry erupts mightily from some of those beings, and there is music, sex, and babies; because we are all roaming a universe that may in fact be a hologram, with another dimension consecutively projecting itself outside the definition of relativity and gravity; because of all that, there is no reason why my prayers shouldn’t be able to reach your mother whose name I didn’t even know.”

 

Janelle says…

This is not your standard autobiography. And thank goodness, because more than anything, I really liked the unique format of this book. Writing letters to people (in the case of this book – men) who have influenced your life in some way – sometimes through a close relationship, sometimes with only an obscure or fleeting impact – is such an intriguing method of self-exploration and sharing your story.

Parker writes in a way that is almost stream-of-consciousness, with really insightful thoughts about the world and the important moments in our lives. It wasn’t until I was about a third of the way through the book that I was really taken by her writing though. The more I read, the more I understood her way of thinking and writing and her letters grew on me, and by the end I felt a real affection for her.

The mystery of the book is that we don’t know for sure who all of the letters are to. Some are obvious or have been deciphered and discussed online – her grandfather, her ex. But for most of them, we might never know. Which I think actually adds to the lure of this book. The idea that seemingly anonymous people who may have only touched your life for a day or an hour or less, can still make you ponder life’s questions deeply and embed themselves in your memory in the long-term.

I wouldn’t say this was one of my favourite books of this year, but it’s clear that Mary-Louise Parker has real writing talent. She’s funny, and honest, and has a way of describing things that make me feel like maybe I have had the same thoughts once, but would never have been able to figure out how to get them down on paper. If you have been a fan of Mary-Louise until now, or are just in the mood for reading something a little out-of-the-square and thoughtful, then give Dear Mr. You a read.

 

“He won’t be able to jump until he is almost eight, will not be capable of pronouncing the letter r, and will pass through a period, as his mother did, where he will stutter so badly that it makes him cry. There will be plenty that he won’t be the best at, but it is within all the medium and below that I will find relief, knowing he can enjoy the enviable position of normal, and the thrill of improving from floundering to adequate.”

 

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

*I was provided with an ARC of this book from the publisher via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review*

Did you know you can follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for more bookish goodness?

Advertisements

Read by Janelle: September 2015 – The Beautiful Bureaucrat by Helen Phillips

The Beautiful Bureaucrat

by Helen Phillips

20150929_160549_20151002204031623

Published 2015

Genres: Fiction / Literary / Suspense / Mystery

“Back in 9997, Josephine stood beside her desk, eyeing the accumulated files, dizzy. A bead of sweat rolled from her armpit down her torso. She did not dare touch them. Like snakes. Handle with a stick, avoid skin contact at all costs.”

Married couple Josephine and Joseph have moved to “the big city” to make a new life for themselves. They both score mediocre jobs, frankly just to make ends meet, and spend a lot of time moving from one questionable basement apartment to the next. Josephine’s job is unusual, her one and only role is to input specific lines of data into The Database, ensuring that she works through the mountain of files that magically appear on her desk every morning. Her boss, who we know only as The Person With Bad Breath, gives no hints as to the purpose of The Database or the logic behind the data that is being added to it. Their workplace is a windowless cube, with no obvious corporation name or other way to identify it, other than the entry doors on the outside of the building, marked “A” to “Z”. Before too long, this sterile environment begins to take its toll on Josephine’s mind and body. She becomes suspicious of those around her, both at work and outside of work. And then Joseph starts to disappear for periods at a time with no explanation. What have they got themselves into?

Janelle says…

think I liked this book? I’m still not completely sure, it was such a whirlwind fast read (less than 200 pages) with a whole lot of mystery and weirdness thrown in, I’m still making my mind up. One minute I was totally absorbed in what was happening, the next minute I was frustrated and thrown by how completely bizarre the writing was.

The mystery at the core of the book is The Database, and trying to figure out what it’s for and what the data in it means. Josephine slowly works this out as the story progresses, and all is explained. But in the meantime, get ready to scratch your head in bewilderment a lot. I present to you – Exhibit A:

“She didn’t know whether pomegranates should be selected based on firmness or fragrance or hue.

Poor me granite.

Pagan remote.

Page tame no.

This starts happening more and more as we move through the book, because Josephine’s strange occupation is slowly sending her bonkers. Every couple of paragraphs or so, she will pull apart a word that is mentioned and rearrange the letters to form new words, as above. At first it’s kind of funny and intriguing, then it just becomes annoying, even though it is proving a point about our protagonist’s state of mind. And then, we have this:

“A laundromat, washers and dryers all filled with bright clothing, but the machines static, not spinning. A gorilla in the driver’s seat of a parked car. A transparent bird, a snagged plastic bag, a woman’s arm vanishing into a brick wall. Three luminous Coca-Cola trucks pulled up to a factory.”

It goes on. For a whole page. I have no idea what’s going on here. She is drunk at this point in the story, or at least a little tipsy, but is it possible she is also high on ‘shrooms or something and I didn’t know? What the actual?!

I enjoy books that are slightly off-centre, I do, but to a point. “The Beautiful Bureaucrat” ebbed and flowed in its weirdness, and its saving grace was that it wasn’t completely ridiculous the whole way through.

I really enjoyed the whole mystery around The Database, and whenever I was reading Josephine outside of the office, I was thinking “hurry up and get back to work!”. I love a good puzzle story. The conclusion was satisfying, and it left just enough unturned to let the reader continue to wonder a little more. I loved the whole concept of this story, and ultimately this is what has just tipped me over on to the “liked this book” side of the scales.

This book is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea that’s for sure, but if you enjoy your mystery/suspense novels with a good side dose of crazy, then this short read might just be up your alley.

 

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

Did you know you can follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for more bookish goodness?

Read together: July 2015 – Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

July 2015 – Janelle’s choice

Annihilation

by Jeff VanderMeer

annihilation

Published 2014

Genres: Fiction / Sci-Fi

“The air was so clean, so fresh, while the world back beyond the border was what it had always been during the modern era: dirty, tired, imperfect, winding down, at war with itself. Back there, I had always felt as if my work amounted to a futile attempt to save us from who we are.”

The biologist has joined the twelfth expedition to Area X – an area uncharted and lost to the rest of society, affected by an unspecified environmental disaster we know only as The Event. With no clear objective, only vague details of the landscape, and an awareness of the ill-fated eleven expeditions before them, the four expedition members are wary of their surroundings and one another. They soon discover things existing in this desolated place that none of them have ever come across before. What has happened in Area X? What happened to the members of the expeditions before them? And can they trust each other?

 

Janelle says…

I found the writing to be report-like a lot of the time, which made sense as it was written as one of the character’s field journals. But with the language being somewhat clinical at times, this caused me to zone out at times and I had to read some sections over repeatedly before I was clear on what was being said.

“The recurring data points found in the journals that related to repeating cycles and fluctuations of seasons of the strange and ordinary were useful in establishing trends.”

See what I mean?

This meant it wasn’t a fast read, even though the book is under 200 pages! I wasn’t drawn in until about a quarter of the way through the book. Strange things start to happen, but as you’re following the story through the biologist’s eyes, you’re just as clueless as she is.

You don’t find out where Area X is in relation to the “real” world. You don’t find out what happened in Area X to set it apart. You don’t find out why The Southern Reach are sending expeditions in to Area X. You don’t find out any logical explanations for anything that happens or anything that is seen in Area X. You don’t even find out the names of any of the characters mentioned in the whole book.

Sounds like there are a lot of holes? There are, but that’s half the fun of the book – trying to put two and two together, coming up with your own theories….it becomes a puzzle to solve. Although I don’t think I got close to solving it. Maybe it can’t be solved? I’ll just have to read the other two books in the trilogy to find out.

I found underlying themes in this book of overcoming grief and loneliness, how we can be hindered by these states and how we can be helped by them. But mostly, it’s just an interesting piece of sci-fi fun, I don’t think there are aspirations for literary greatness here. I haven’t read The Hunger Games series, but having seen one of the movies, I thought this story was vaguely reminiscent. HG fans might like to give it a try. You’d also like this book if you like stories that have you trying to solve riddles and connect dots.

I did enjoy this book, I thought it was just the right size, and I’ll be continuing on with the next book in the series to learn what happens next in Area X!

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

Mel says…

To be honest until Janelle suggested this book for our second joint review, I had never even heard of the author, Jeff VanderMeer. The initial description of this series sounded intriguing and I was honestly excited about reading this book. Then I started reading…

I found this book so confusing and frustrating. I didn’t understand who was who as the characters don’t go by their actual names, but by their specialised area, for example – The Biologist, The Psychologist, The Surveyor, The Anthropologist and The Linguist. If you are like me and have bare minimum science interest/knowledge, these titles and ways in which the characters were described will go straight over your head.

By page 40 I was struggling to scrape the desire from the bottom of the barrel to pick the book up and continue. Ok, that is a tad harsh, but you get the point.

On a positive note, there were parts of the book that I found interesting, but then it would revert to science-speak and I would be lost all over again. I am not a fan of sci-fi and honestly struggle to understand the lingo, so I struggled to finish this book. Sorry folks, this one was a flop for me!

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

Linking up with I Blog on Tuesdays at Essentially Jess, and The Weekend Rewind with Maxabella Loves and friends

Read by Mel: July 2015 – Secret Keeping For Beginners by Maggie Alderson

Secret Keeping For Beginners

by Maggie Alderson

Published May 2015

Genres: Fiction / Chick Lit

Everything lurking beneath the surface of this seemingly happy family is about to come bursting out….

Secret Keeping for Beginners follows the individual stories of four women; mother Joy and her daughters, Tessa, Rachel and Natasha, as well as Rachel’s boss Simon. Each individual has a differing underlying ‘secret’ and it is only a matter of time before it starts to affect their relationships with one another and the ‘secret’s come bubbling to the surface. 

Mel says…

I think it is important to start this review by stating that I absolutely LOVE Maggie Alderson. I have read all of her books, so when I found out she was releasing a new book, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to read it for my first individual review.

This book sets the scene with the family of four women. Firstly there is Joy, the hippy/eclectic ageing mother who is the problem solver of the family. Her eclectic style, utilising meditation and crystals as her main sources of calm and guidance in her life, displays great amounts of compassion to not only her children, but others throughout the story. I found myself wishing I could carry some of my own problems to Joy and have her hold my hand and make everything ok. Her character has the great depth of warmth and welcome that Maggie Alderson was aiming for.

There was no doubting the closeness that was described of the three sisters; Tessa, Rachel and Natasha. I did feel that Rachel’s story was by far the stand out of this book. Her issues and character development made me feel for her in more ways than any of the other characters.

If I had to pick one character whom I disliked, or did not take to, it would have to be Tessa. I felt that Maggie Alderson didn’t portray her well and she felt like a bored stay-at-home Mum. Her back story annoyed me and I found that I would get irritated with her dedicated chapters.

As the title suggests, this book is full of secrets. One for each main character in fact. I felt that the secrets were definitely what drove the story and as the name suggests, each character had uphill battles with their own concerns as well as supporting one another. There was one secret though that I felt was worthy of more than the minimum mentions that it was granted, and that was Joy’s. I was disappointed that it was not given more depth, and it could have possibly been left out completely as Joy played a great role as the confidante.

All in all, I enjoyed this book. Would I read it again? Probably not. But it did give me the heartwarming feel that Maggie Alderson always seems to bring out in me.

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 79 other followers

Follow Little Blog of Books on WordPress.com