Quick & Dirty Reviews & One Foot Long.

1.  The Sense of an Ending – Julian Barnes 

The Sense of an Ending | Julian Barnes

I don’t understand why this was a finalist for the Man Booker in 2011.  I could sit in my parent’s living room and hear the same talk of memory, loss of it, and how we look back at history through the lens of change, from my father.  He’s always telling me “now remember, this was the time when…”  The story was the typical boy might love girl, girl leaves boy, girl dates boy’s friend.  There’s a quick twist at the end, but nothing so shocking that the reader is anything but mystified.  The ending was far too quick for me to really grasp what Barnes was trying to say by it.  After all of it, my idea of the characters and the suicide in question is still convoluted.  I told my boyfriend when explaining, “it’s like he wants me to know he’s a smart writer by throwing in all these big words.  Then again, maybe people in England actually speak like this.”  I’m not a dumb reader, but I just couldn’t get into the philosophical impact that this book was meant to have.

2.  Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury

Fahrenheit 451

Now that I’ve finally learned how to spell Fahrenheit correctly, WHY WASN’T I OBSESSED WITH THIS IN HIGH SCHOOL.  I just remember it being about censorship on society and that’s about as far as I got.  In my notes for teaching it this coming semester I literally wrote, “How F*cked up is this book?”  It took all that I had not to buy the pencils on Etsy that say “F*ck this Sh*t” and hand them out as we read good ol’ Bradbury.  He’s like the go-to science fiction writer for America.  It just doesn’t get much better than this.  This book has the perfect amount of characters with the perfect lack of characterization, it’s disturbing and thrilling.  Of course, you sit there and say “oh my gosh, he means twitter today, Oh CRAP! We watch reality television with no point like this.  HOLY BALLS: This is what ipods could become if we’re not careful.”  It’s like if society just continued to become technology-driven and not people-driven.  And yet, there’s people who still don’t believe in global warming.  Hmph.  I will definitely keep everyone up on my teaching of this book.  I think it’s going to foster so much grand discussion within my room.  I just hope it becomes greater than the room.

3. The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Neil Gaiman

The Ocean at the End of the Lane | Neil Gaiman

I just couldn’t get myself to review this one completely.  I didn’t want to go against the cult following of Gaiman.  This was my first Gaiman book post-Coraline, okay?  As if that gives me the justification for what I’m about to say.  This book just wasn’t that great.  Let’s be honest, it’s a story that’s been told before with characters who leave residue with the reader, but not full bloomed leftovers.  I’ve heard a lot of people throw around the word “haunting.”  I wonder if that’s because the book involves a haunting, or that the Hempstock women remain fresh after many lives as if they are the original nest of the world.  I’m not going to lie, I adored the Hempstock women.  I would have been happy if Gaiman had just long-handed their story in different centuries.  I’m hoping that he does come back to Lettie just to let the reader know in a less-than-Harry-Potter-epilogue-type way what happens to the girl.  I was just really disappointed in the story, plot-wise.  I thought it had been done several times, including the childhood innocence-excess that wrinkles around the story-telling.  I believe this is trying to be a modern fairytale.  I believe that most of Neil Gaiman’s books are trying to reach that level.

The thing I most loved about this story was the fact that at some point in everyone’s childhood we think that we’ll be chosen.  I slept with the covers over my head every night, cocooned, my mother coming to unweave me in the night so that I breathed through morning.  I read scary stories to imagine the smaller bits of them happening to me.  I spent a lot of time on a hill next to the highway to my elementary school playground spinning and looking at the sky for Bloody Mary, who at the time I obviously didn’t know was once a queen.   This is a huge part of childhood, it’s not make believe, it’s true belief in the fact that we’re special.  I don’t care how you imagined as a child, but at some point you thought you saw a fairy, or a face in the hallway to the left of the corner of your eye.  In my area of the world, I was blessed with fireflies and this just led to more fabric in my fantasies.  How do these little bugs use their tail ends to make the pine trees glow.  My cousins smeared their gleam on their t-shirts and watched them call like a light house for hours later.   We were children.  We were looking for something to tell us that we’re different, and in some small way that we’re needed for the magic of the world (good or evil).  I believe in this and I believe somewhere in this novel Gaiman touched this cut of brilliance.

Jayne Anne Phillips used family letters to help inspire her work Machine Dreams

4. Black Tickets – Jayne Anne Phillips

As you guys know, Lark & Termite is my favorite book in this age.  I call this age the mangirl  because I’ve almost reached womanhood, but I’m just not quite out of girlhood yet.  Anyway, I decided to read Jayne Anne Phillips’ first story collection because there are moments when Jayne Anne Phillips rips my Bambi heart open and lets the white petal of it flutter away.  I mean seriously, that woman knows exactly how to be brutal.  AND brutal this book was.  If this isn’t the most about sex, least sexy book out there then I would like someone to show me different.  This book had sexualized, marginal, broken people around every page.  They lurked and lingered in smoky, down-home, flea-bitten places.  When I tell you they’re on the corner of every page, I mean they’re on the corner, literally.  These are people who are cornered, reside on the corner, or sell themselves on the corner.  It was at times depressing, at times too much for me to really handle and at other times lovely.  I understood Lolita because it’s a character-driven book and I just accepted that I was in the mind of a very sick person, but boy, as these stories grew into heartache & heartburn, there were times I didn’t want to look at myself in the mirror.  Did I just read that, I’m a dirty human being.  In the case of fantasy sometimes it’s hard to suspend reality, in the terms of Black Tickets, sometimes it’s hard to suspend humanity.

The Girls Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank

5. The Girls Guide to Hunting and Fishing – Melissa Bank

This book just made the woman in me happy.  We’re not all out there chasing boys (or girls), but when we are we become Sasha Fierce.

6. Birds in Fall – Brad Kessler

I chose this one because surprise, surprise, I love birds.  Turns out it was about grieving through the eyes of a husband and wife team in the middle of a bird study.  I actually really loved this book.  For the large amount of characters, Brad Kessler did a fabulous job at making them all seem tangible.   Not only was the grief of the wife strong enough to actually sheath the reader, but the grief of the other loved ones is perfectly delicate.   This wasn’t one of those books that you want to keep reading because you can’t put it down, but it’s notable in the amount of emotions it encases.

7. The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern

Night Circus Tickets on Etsy

I feel like the girl who doesn’t love the boy band.  I’m sorry, guys, this just wasn’t as good as the hype.  It was definitely a hit for being a NaNoWriMo novel.  Anything that can be drafted in a month and be that plot-driven is a great idea.  I think she just mixed Twilight, Water for Elephants, Big Fish and One Day with some sparkle and pizazz.  I had to really push myself to continue reading because I thought it would never come to the climax.  Now don’t get me wrong, the ice tree is absolutely stunning and the description of each intricate part of the circus is elegant and ornate, but that doesn’t drive a story, that is just accessory.

8. The Spare Room – Helen Gardner

For a book about a woman taking care of a friend with cancer, this book was unmoving and too gentle.  It’s short enough to read in a day, but don’t push yourself if that day never comes.

9. Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn

Yep, it has a twist.  Who saw that coming.  Oh right, all the people who ruin movies for everyone else in the movie theater by being overly-confident and far too loud.  My dad thought this was lame and so did I.

My thoughts via goodreads.com

My thoughts via goodreads.com

The problem is that you can’t like any of the main characters, so while it’s meant to be thrilling, you have to lull through the husband’s whining about his own resentment and then come to find out he’s being a sly dog on the side.  So, really….why did I read this?  I’m not going to read any Flynn again.  This is the second time I’ve been let down by her.

10. Tiny Book of Tiny Stories: Vol. 2 – Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Artists

Tiny Book of Tiny Stories Volume 2 Image

Adorable. Breakable. Valuable. Cherished.

24 thoughts on “Quick & Dirty Reviews & One Foot Long.

  1. Brianna Soloski says:

    I hated The Night Circus. And that’s saying a lot because the only book I’ve ever hated in my nearly thirty-one years is The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

      • Brianna Soloski says:

        About Huckleberry Finn? It took me an entire semester of high school to read that book. The library kindly let me check it out three times because, as they said, “it’s not a bestseller.” Well, duh. I still don’t own a copy and I’ve never read anything else by Mark Twain. Ironically, fake Mark Twain (who resides in Lake Tahoe, where actual Mark Twain spent a lot of time) was a speaker at my college graduation.

        The Night Circus? Confusing, didn’t like the writing style or the story line.

      • Cassie says:

        Huckleberry Finn probably isn’t my favorite Twain and I can definitely understand why it wasn’t one of those that you just couldn’t put down.

        Same with The Night Circus, for sure.

      • Brianna Soloski says:

        Exactly. I read a fair number of books each year and I rarely run across books that I don’t enjoy on some level. I don’t fall in love with every book I read, obviously. But speaking of love, check out Songs of Willow Frost by Jamie Ford if you have a chance. I got it from NetGalley (which pleasantly surprised me because usually I get turned down), and it’s really, really good.

      • Cassie says:

        I requested Songs of Willow Frost and saw that the author tweeted you back – love that! YAY! : ) Keep requesting from Random House because they seem really open to requests.

  2. deborahbrasket says:

    Great job covering so many books at once! I don’t know how you have time to read so many. I’ve only read one, Gone Girl, which was a book club pick. But I did really enjoy it. I agree, the guy was whiney, and the wife’s diaries were a bit annoying too, but the writing was interesting enough and the plot line just intriguing enough to keep me going until I did get hooked, then it went very fast from there and was a lot of fun to read.

    • Cassie says:

      I’m really glad you were able to be hooked by that one. I felt like I was going against the reading coalition by not liking this book. Maybe one day when I’ve almost forgotten it, I will read it again and stop being so bitter. :)

  3. Jenny @ Reading the End says:

    I have never understood what the fuss is about Julian Barnes. I’ve read three of his books, and they were all fine, but really nothing special.

    Completely agree about The Night Circus, although I think I liked it slightly more than you did. I do think it will be a very beautiful film to watch, but the book didn’t have enough plot to keep me happy, just a lot of very beautiful window-dressing.

  4. Let's CUT the Crap! says:

    Holy Moly, you’ve been BUSY! I’ve read four in this list but will mention only the first one: The Sense of an Ending. I was confused at the end of the book as well. I didn’t want to re-read because it was only the ending that ticked me off. You’re right about the boy meets girl and girl decides to favour his friend blah, blah, blah. I begged a fellow reader to borrow it so we could talk.
    Did you get it about his old girlfriend at the end and the young man in the group and where he belonged? I don’t want to spoil this for anyone who hasn’t read it. If you’re interested, Cassie, you can contact me:
    cookiecrumbles2012@gmail.com

  5. mamacormier says:

    I agree with you about “The Sense of an Ending”. This is the second Man Booker Prize book that I didn’t like. For some reason people in my book club did like the book. I, on the hand, did like “Night Circus”. I loved the descriptive narrative and the magic and fantasy aspect of the story.

    • Cassie says:

      I think The Night Circus is one of those love it or hate it books. I read a lot of blogs to see what I was missing about it and found that they changed some of my ideas about it and showed my bias as a reader. EEEEE! I just didn’t get The Sense of an Ending. What is the big deal? What did your book club members say? I think that was one of those where people were like, “well, it won an award so I should like it, let me find something to like.”

  6. kayeholl says:

    Somehow I agree with your description of Night Circus being a mix of those other works, but am still disappointed that you didn’t love it. Oh well. :)

    Similar feels on Fahrenheit 451! Also I’m shocked that I was never required in high school or college to read any of the “classic” dystopias – Brave New World, 1984, Fahrenheit. I read all three on my own, and Fahrenheit is most def my favorite.

    For Gone Girl, I don’t think it’s a problem, per se, that you can’t, or it’s difficult to, like any of the characters. I often am more engaged by books with characters that inspire hatred and irritation than by books with perfectly lovable characters.

    I like your reviews. :) You’re not afraid to be like, “um, this sucked, why did everyone love this?” and further, you have legitimate reasons for disliking those cases. I’m sometimes brave enough to admit I didn’t like books everyone else enjoyed, but even at those times, I almost always fail to articulate what I found wrong.

    • Cassie says:

      So many things I want to respond to here! Ah!

      Gone Girl was a mix of loathing the characters, too much hype by the time I read it (everyone telling me how much I needed to read it … Like over AND over again) and just not liking the style of writing which is typical for me and a Gillian Flynn book. I just don’t like her writing I guess.

      Night Circus grew on me as I read but I wasn’t fully comfortable by the end so I just couldn’t agree.

      Ahhhhhh, you never read the dystopian novels. So glad you got to them on your own though. I think 451 is packed with social arguments and technological arguments and just awesome action so I am beyond excited to teach it this semester. Yes!!!!!

      I like you for liking my reviews. Just wait until I really hate a book. Those are secretly my favorite to review because I can really lay it all out there. :)

  7. 5eyedbookworm says:

    From the books you reviewed, I only read The Ocean at the End of the Lane but I’m definitely going to check out The Girls Guide to Hunting and Fishing. I might review Neil Gaiman’s book sometime in the future, and re-read it too :)

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