Google+ The Introverted Reader

Review: Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler

Thursday, February 11, 2016

4.5 Stars

Henry, Lee, Ronny, and Kip have been friends for ages. Even as Henry has stayed home in tiny Little Wing, Wisconsin to take over his parents' farm, Ronny hit the rodeo circuit, Kip moved to Chicago and started raking in money, and Lee hit the big time with his music, they've remained tight. Over the year or two chronicled in Shotgun Lovesongs, their lives hit roller coasters as marriages and breakups occur, arguments flare up, and their friendship is put to the test.

I'm sitting here thinking about what it was, exactly, that I liked about this book. I can't really say that it was about much of anything. It's just a slice of everyday life. But I think what stands out to me most is that this is a book about male friendship. Not "good buddies" or even battle-forged bonds. These guys just like and genuinely care about each other. They always have, more or less, as is true with friendships of any real length. When is the last time you read a book about male friendship? I'm sure they're out there, but I personally haven't come across many, if any. I like it.

The group really is put through the fire in this period of their lives though. They're all starting to kind of settle down now. Henry and his wife Beth, also a member of this tight group of friends, have been settled for a while. But now the others are coming home to settle too. So they're adjusting to having a more prominent position in each others' lives again. It takes some getting used to. Everybody pretty much fights with everybody else but then they settle down. And then the serious disagreement happens.

The ending sounds a bit far-fetched at first, but the more I thought about it, the more I wonder if this is based on an incident in the author's own life. It's so bizarre, it has to be true. And then I tried to picture my husband and his best friend getting up to mischief like that and I absolutely could. Well, up to a point. I just had to laugh.

I pretty much liked the characters. Solid Henry appealed to me most. I related to him. He's maybe not the most exciting guy in the group but he's the rock. Lee is world famous but he mostly hasn't let that change him. He knows that this landscape is what has shaped his music and his soul. He knows that he needs his friends to anchor him. Ronny isn't quite the same after a head injury years ago, but he's learned to appreciate the moment even while yearning for more. Kip is the weak link. He doesn't quite fit in with the others but he knows it. He tries too hard and manages to always do the wrong thing, even with the best of intentions. He has the most growing up to do.

I've kind of left Beth out of everything. I really liked her but I don't feel that she was necessarily any sort of real focus. She was the, well, not the outsider, but not one of the guys either. She gave us a different perspective on the group, both in their younger years and currently. She also added some tension and a whole other set of dynamics to the group.

And then there's small-town, Midwest America. Lee says something late in the book about how this is his America. Not the excesses and selfishness, but the sense of community and even the sense of connection to the land. Little Wing could be Every Town, USA. If you're lucky, you grew up in a place like this. If you're really lucky, you know how lucky you are to have roots there.

I really enjoyed the narrators who read the parts of Henry and Beth. Even Kip did pretty well. I didn't enjoy the narration for Lee and Ronny quite as much. It's still definitely a good choice in audio format but I wish the cast had all been equally strong.

I highly recommend Shotgun Lovesongs. It's one of those books that will sink into your bones and linger with you for a long time to come.

Read or listen to an excerpt.

Find author Nickolas Butler on his website.

Buy Shotgun Lovesongs at

I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop's, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site. My opinions are completely my own.

Review: Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Cover of Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne
3 Stars

Axel's uncle comes home one day with a rare Icelandic manuscript. In perusing the pages, they discover a coded message from a famous scientist living in the 1700s. They eventually crack the code, realize that they've been given directions for how to reach the center of the earth, and set out to accomplish it themselves.

Eh.

Axel was a whiny wimp who complained endlessly about having to go on the trip. The minute his uncle, Professor Liedenbrock, started to get the least bit angry with him over his dithering, Axel would cave and blithely go along with whatever ridiculous plan the professor has in mind. Axel was generally the one with the most sense but he didn't have a backbone at all.

I've decided the professor must be going through a mid-life crisis. Or maybe a career crisis. Or maybe both. Why else do you plunge yourself, your nephew, and your hapless guide into a volcanic crater, not even carrying a supply of water but rather only a supply of gin? My guess is that you're feeling your age and you're out to prove that you're just as virile--no, more so!--than your 20ish-something ward. He's a tyrant but I think I was supposed to like him after one or two incidents where he shows that he does actually care about Axel. Too little too late is all I have to say about that.

Hans, the poor guide, is really the hero of the story but since he's a barbaric Icelander (If that's not a description directly from the book, it's at least implied), he doesn't really count. He's just there to carry stuff. Lots of it. And build things that the two intellectuals can't. Oh, and save their useless asses multiple times. But he's barely educated so he doesn't matter.

There is so much potential for this plot but it mostly went nowhere. There are a couple of well-developed scenes and adventures but the things that would have interested me even more are cut drastically short. Like, "I think I saw this but I'm not entirely sure. And does this other thing I saw mean what I think it means?" short. There was too much buildup for not enough payoff.

This is a classic for a reason but it's not something that I'll remember. I don't regret reading it but the details will probably fade within a week. Other readers obviously disagree since this thing has been around since...1864.

Read an excerpt.

Buy Journey to the Center of the Earth at

Books in Translation Reading Challenge hosted at The Introverted Reader










I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop's, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site. My opinions are completely my own.

Sunday Post/What Are You Reading?

Sunday, February 7, 2016

The Sunday Post











It's Monday!  What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date. Sunday Post is hosted by Kimberly at Caffeinated Book Reviewer.

We've had a good week here. The weeknights were pretty low-key and yesterday we went to a local RV show and spent tons of our imaginary money. :-) That's the best kind to spend, right? We were just dreaming. Last night we went to see an 80s tribute band with a couple of good friends. They always put on a good show. Tonight we're heading to a neighbor's house for a Super Bowl party. I honestly couldn't care less who wins, even though I'm a North Carolina girl, but I do like watching the commercials and halftime show and I'm sure we'll have some good munchies. Will you be watching?

Posted:
Review: The Discreet Hero by Mario Vargas Llosa, translated by Edith Grossman--3 Stars

Review: Winter by Marissa Meyer, read by Rebecca Soler--3 Stars

Read:
Cover of Orphan X by Gregg Hurwitz
Orphan X by Gregg Hurwitz



Cover of The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
I also officially Did Not Finish
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, read by Clare Corbitt, India Fisher, and Louise Brealey

Currently Reading:
River Marked by Patricia Briggs

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

Lady of Devices by Shelley Adina--This is my read-at-the-gym book, so it will take me a while to get through it.
Up Next:
I might get through River Marked since that series is usually a quick read for me. If I do, I'll move on to The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater. I had planned to pick this one up last week but a trip to the library derailed me a bit. I also need a new audio book since The Girl on the Train didn't pan out for me.

What are you reading this week?

I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop's, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site. My opinions are completely my own.

Review: The Discreet Hero by Mario Vargas Llosa

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Cover of The Discreet Hero by Mario Vargas Llosa
3 Stars

I'm about to write a huge sweeping statement that I really shouldn't but here goes.

I just don't do well with South American authors.

That's not fair. I've only read three or four, I think. But I never have a clue what's actually going on. What's real, what's not, what the "not real" things are supposed to represent--I'm just lost. I'm sure it's not them, it's me. But my brain and understanding is all I have to work with, and I just don't get it.

I read this for a reading challenge last year. I did better than I expected but I still have questions.

The "discreet hero" of the title is Felícito Yanaqué. He owns a transportation/trucking business that he built from the ground up. He becomes a hero of the little people when he refuses to bow to the gang that is trying to extort "protection" money from him. Instead of paying the money for the gang to protect his business (i.e., not burn it to the ground themselves), he complains to the police and makes a stand. I could follow Felícito's story and even enjoyed it. He's a feisty little guy who's worked hard all his life and tried his best to do the right thing.

There are two other storylines here, both featuring Don Rigoberto. Don Rigoberto is drawn into the family drama centering around his boss and friend, Ismael Carrera. Ismael has decided to marry his housekeeper and disinherit his worthless sons. Of course the sons fight this decision with every means, legal and illegal, at their disposal. They even make Don Rigoberto's life miserable just because he was a witness at the wedding. As all this is going on, Don Rigoberto is also dealing with his son, Fonchito, and the mysterious man who keeps appearing to him. No one else has ever seen this mysterious stranger. Don Rigoberto doesn't know if his teenage son is losing his mind or having visitations from the devil.

I don't know if he's losing his mind or having visitations from the devil! This is the kind of thing that just loses me. It's just there. I can't make sense of it. I can't see how it relates to one other thing in the novel.

Felícito and Don Rigoberto are in different cities and their stories don't overlap at all. It was like I was reading two completely different books at the same time. I was about to give up hope when there was finally a connection! A straightforward connection that I could understand!

I did enjoy each man's story individually. Well, not the stuff about Fonchito's mysterious visitor, but other than that, I was interested to see whether Felícito would be able to stand firm and hold on to what was his. The same could be said of Don Rigoberto. He's practically under siege but he tries his best to remain loyal to his friend.

The two cities did come to life in these pages, I have to say. I could smell the food cooking, the unsavory smells in the heat of the day, picture Don Rigoberto's house overlooking the beach and imagine the hang gliders floating past his windows. Peru itself is a character in this novel.

This was well-written and Edith Grossman's translation was well done. It was interesting enough but I do prefer my narratives to be a little more straightforward. If you do understand magical realism more than I do, by all means give The Discreet Hero a try. If you're more like me and just want a linear, concrete story, you might want to pass on this one.

Read an excerpt.

Buy The Discreet Hero at

I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop's, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site. My opinions are completely my own.

Review: Winter by Marissa Meyer

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Cover of Winter by Marissa Meyer
3 Stars

Winter wraps up The Lunar Chronicles with the story of Snow White. Princess Winter is beautiful and sweet and kind and batty and the people love her. Which, of course, means that her evil stepmother, Queen Levana, hates her. She eventually finds herself joining Cinder and the rest of the group in an effort to overthrow the tyrant queen and win better lives for the people of Luna.

I'm exhausted. Emotionally and physically exhausted.

Because of my library's policies, I had two weeks to listen to a 21-part audio book, when it normally takes me that long to listen to about 10 parts. Because I love this series, I buckled down and did it. This can't have been good for my blood pressure.

I only thought that I despised Levana before this book. I was raging against her as I drove around town. I raged against her when I wasn't even listening to the book! My husband will be glad that I've stopped shouting about her now and he can have his peaceful evenings back.

I love this series and this book did wrap everything up nicely, but I do feel that it was entirely too long. It took forever and a day to listen to this! Events kept happening! Plans kept going awry! Not one character that I liked came through this book unscathed and it pissed me off!

But mostly I was upset because Levana just kept winning. And winning. And winning! When was she going to get the justice that she deserved?!? When was someone going to stop talking to her and giving her time to seize control of his or her mind or someone else's, and JUST FREAKING KILL HER ALREADY!?!? Villains are supposed to delay the ending with endless prattle about how smart they are. It irritates me beyond all reason when the good guys do it! I got so ridiculously angry at about part 18 or 19 that I walked in the door and told my husband that I was giving up. This book was never going to end and the good guys were never going to get their act together, and I was broken. I just couldn't do it anymore. He laughed at me, pointed me toward the shower (I'd just gotten home from the gym), started the book back up on my phone and told me to stop being dramatic and keep listening. Which I obviously did. But for about five minutes there I really was that over it.

Aside from all the drama of my personal overreactions....

I still adore the characters that I'm supposed to. Snow White isn't my favorite fairy tale but it was actually a good choice as the final book in the series. It brought the action closer to home for Levana, which is where everything had to be.

Speaking of closer to home...

I liked seeing more of Luna. When I wasn't deeply angry at something Levana had done. This book shows more of life in the outer sectors and how bad conditions are for the average Lunar. It also shows more of their technology and everyday lives.

Rebecca Soler's narration was almost too good in this book. She's done a fabulous job with the entire series. She does a perfect condescending sneer for all the bad guys that just had me wanting to reach through my speakers and smack somebody. She's probably most of the reason I was so pissed at Levana.

This isn't my favorite book from the series but I did actually like it. And feel strongly about it. Obviously. But I do love the entire Lunar Chronicles and recommend it to fans of fairy tale retellings.

Edit: I hate to revise my review because of someone else's but this is something that truly bothered me as I listened and I forgot to mention it until I started scrolling through other GoodReads reviews. How to say it without spoilers? Physical beauty and being good or evil were linked here. I know this happens in fairy tales, but they originated hundreds of years ago. In 2016, we're trying to move past it. It's nice when our arts can lead the way on this. There is some sort of effort to make it sound not-so-bad very late in the book but I already had a bad taste in my mouth at that point. I can't imagine how I would have felt if I had the same condition that is described here and then read the characters' reactions to it. I would be beyond crushed. And there are a lot of people out there who really do have this. I'm talking about the fact that everyone seems to finally hate Levana enough to revolt after they see her without her glamour, with all the scars from her horrible burns on display. I despise her because she's a tyrant. Shouldn't that be the reason everyone else despises her too? (Highlight to read the spoiler) Physical appearance is something that no one has real control over. Someone's character cannot be judged based on his or her appearance, no matter how often we all make the same mistake over and over again. That part was not cool. I'm knocking my rating down a star.

Read or listen to an excerpt.

Read my reviews of Cinder, Scarlet, Cress and Fairest, the earlier books in the series.

Find author Marissa Meyer on her website, her blog, Facebook, and Twitter.

Buy Winter at

I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop's, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site. My opinions are completely my own.

Sunday Post/What Are You Reading?

Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Sunday Post











It's Monday!  What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date. Sunday Post is hosted by Kimberly at Caffeinated Book Reviewer.

Our snow from last week is mostly gone so life is back to normal. I know some of you have a big snow storm heading your way now, so stay safe and warm! My mom's birthday was on Wednesday and my dad's is coming up on Saturday so we took them out to eat today and had a nice time with them and my sister and her husband. Otherwise it was a pretty quiet week, which was fine by me.

Posted:
Review: The Tea Rose by Jennifer Donnelly--3 Stars

Review: The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker, read by George Guidhall--4 Stars

Read:
Cover of Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler
Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler, read by Ari Fliakos, Maggie Hoffman, Scott Shepherd, Scott Sowers, and Gary Wilmes


Cover of Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne

Currently Reading:
Orphan X by Greg Hurwitz

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

Up Next:
I'm on the hunt for a new audio book but I don't even know what I'm in the mood for. If I finish Orphan X, I'll probably pick up The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater next. I bought it for my sister for her birthday in November and she handed it to me as soon as she finished, saying, "You have to read this."

What are you reading this week?

I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop's, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site. My opinions are completely my own.

Review: The Tea Rose by Jennifer Donnelly

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Cover of The Tea Rose by Jennifer Donnelly
3 Stars

Fiona Finnegan is growing up poor but happy in Whitechapel in the 1880s. Her family might not have much but they have each other, they have a roof over their heads and food in their bellies. That's more than most of their neighbors can say. She also has Joe Bristow, the boy she's always loved, and their shared dream of someday owning a shop together. But everything changes in a tragic series of events that leaves Fiona scrambling to care for herself and her younger brother. She's also out for revenge.

I'm so torn. I adore A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly. Like, top-five-books-ever adore it. So I know she can write. But this is her debut novel and it shows. It also got laughably melodramatic. There's a better word to describe this book but it's escaping me. Dickensian? Maybe.

Fiona's tragedies just pile one on top of the other, on top of the other, on top of the other! I do have to admit that I didn't see a lot of them coming, and I do appreciate that. The final climactic scene was predictable--until the shocking twist that was so implausible it truly left me laughing. But I think the author was kind of going for that over-the-top feel. It's certainly reminiscent of someone's writing from that era, even if I can't place who it is.

Star-crossed lovers doesn't even begin to describe Fiona and Joe. The number of obstacles they had to attempt to overcome eventually became ridiculous.

I did keep turning the pages quickly, especially once everything starts falling apart.

Fiona was maybe a little too perfect. She's beautiful, intelligent, fiercely loyal, and driven. She does have a temper, which I guess could be a fault, but since it only flares up in defense of others or to help her achieve her goals, I'm hesitant to classify it as such. I was mostly as charmed by her as all of her family and acquaintances were.

In the right mood, I would probably have eaten this up but instead I feel that it amused me a bit more, and in a different way, than it was intended to. I'm not a huge romance reader so I'm not the best judge of this kind of thing. While it wasn't exactly for me, most readers do seem to love it, so don't let me dissuade you from giving it a try if you're so inclined.

Read an excerpt.

Find author Jennifer Donnelly on her website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Buy The Tea Rose at


I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop's, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site. My opinions are completely my own.

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails