REVIEW: Green for Danger

If you are like me, you like your mysteries less convoluted; the focus being on the mystery at hand, with the cast of characters merely breathing life, some humor, and intrigue to the plot as opposed to taking it over. If you are not like me, change. Just kidding. But this review might not appeal to you.
 
Christianna Brand exemplifies the epitome of a straight forward mystery novel with Green for Danger. Brand creates a solid whodunit that cleverly keeps the reader hanging on until the denouement. She offers just enough insight into her characters’ lives without overloading the reader with backstory and drama unless required to create the plot twists and mystery to keep the reader guessing and support the final reveal. 
I simply couldn’t put Green for Danger down, because I was so curious as to how it would unfold (which is kind of sad because I definitely watched the film within the past year and, in typical Day fashion, couldn’t remember a single important thing), and because the cast Brand put together kept me rooting for each of them to be the good guy.
 
Brand certainly has me excited to read more of her works, earning a spot on my 2018 list.
 
Rating: 4 Scrubs
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REVIEW: The Death of a Beekeeper

I have been writing my reviews on a fairly long delay. Not intentionally, just because life happens. But, I’ve found it has helped me create clearer views on these postponed reviews.

When I finished Lars Gustafsson’s The Death of a Beekeeper I wasn’t smitten. It certainly didn’t spark the ranter in me, nor did I pinpoint anything specifically flawed in the novel, I didn’t for some reason connect with the narrator on a personal level. So, as I finished the last page I had a general feeling of “eh, alright.”

I was very sad to inform my father of my reaction, since The Death of a Beekeeper was yet another of his suggestions, and, as you know, he has been batting a thousand thus far.

Pops recently brought up the novel again, partially to kindly (impatiently) inquire as to when I was actually reviewing the novel, but also to express his reasons why it struck a chord with him. After this exchange, and the writing of a few more overdue reviews, I realized that much of Gustafsson’s words have, indeed, stuck with me over the 2 ½ months since I finished the novel. (Yes, I’m THAT delayed).

The Death of a Beekeeper truly is a uniquely and beautifully written work. And, no, I couldn’t always get myself to feel engaged with our titular beekeeper, Lars (though I could sympathize with his condition…the title is pretty blunt in what we are dealing with here), but the overall essence never left me. In fact, in rereading sections I highlighted, I became quite emotional.

Now, maybe my sentimentality was heightened because of my association of the novel with my father, or maybe something in myself has shifted over the past couple of months. But, The Death of a Beekeeper has moved up in the ranks for me, and I’m glad I waited to share it with you (something I wish I had done last year with The Road, that book has never left me). And, if you don’t trust my unstable judgement, trust my father’s, he always finds the beauty in hidden gems and brings them to light.

 

Rating: 4 Stingers

REVIEW: The Shining

Stephen King is an author I haven’t revisited in about a decade. Partially because Ive been distracted by other authors, partially because I’m a scaredy cat. But, finally I have conquered the book so creepy Joey hides it in the freezer, The Shining.

The psychological aspects of The Shining are incredible, and far more developed in the novel than the film (I see why Mr. King took many an issue with the latter). If you take out all the redrums and I see dead people moments, what you have is a study of an addict battling his demons, and the impact it has on his family. Not only is Jack Torrence an exquisitely executed character struggling with alcoholism and rage, his wife, Wendy, is an exceptionally well developed, layered character (POORLY depicted in the film). The most fascinating parts of the novel are the inner monologues of the couple – their love for each other and their son is palpable, as is their inner turmoil as they attempt to navigate a relationship in light of the rough hand they’ve been dealt.

The use of supernatural elements and isolation in The Shining, especially when experienced through Danny (the son), creates an even more vulnerable environment for the Torrence family. With the personal battles they are facing it’s only natural for them to be highly susceptible to the otherworldly forces running the show in the Overlook Hotel.

The Shining is a solid piece of literature, and I didn’t even mind that it was over 300 pages. This one has certainly earned a spot on my “Most Likely to Recommend” list.

 

Rating: 4 Unstable Boilers

REVIEW: Persepolis

The graphic novel market is one that has impressively expanded over time and is the perfect vehicle for Marjane Satrapi to engage audiences in her memoir of the after-effects of the Islamic Revolution in Iran during the ‘80s, Persepolis.

I am a fan of non-fiction and take pleasure in learning as much as I can about the world and it’s citizens, but it can be daunting to take on history books or at least those whose intended audience is assumed to have a background and the lexicon to support it. Usually lacking a clear narrative and heart, they leave me cold. I absorb knowledge more easily when personal context is involved.  

Young Marjane’s experiences of the revolution translate beautifully to the graphic art form. Upheaval in society, rioting, and war are all issues that pack more punch when depicted visually; not just reliant on the written word. It’s easy to become detached from and dehumanize events like the Islamic Revolution when you are simply reading recorded facts. Satrapi makes it impossible (much like Art Spiegelmen did with Maus in the ’90s) for a reader to disengage via the graphics of Persepolis. None of the imagery is explicit, but it puts a face to a piece of history. In addition, there is the added impact of experiencing events through the eyes of a child, which broadens the allure of the memoire. 

We should be indebted to those authors like Marjane Satrapi who incorporate the use of the visual arts to bring knowledge to the masses.

Rating: 4 Protests

REVIEW: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

I decided to add a contemporary YA novel to my list this year for a few reasons, one of them being that I have little to no idea what’s out there for kids these days (beside the Twilight and Hunger Games worlds), additionally the YA novels of my time were integral in shaping my love of literature and sense of self. I was very pleased to discover that a novel like Becky Albertalli’s Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda exists.

Even if the character development and writing style were stripped away, Albertalli would still get high marks solely for the basic narrative in Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Adventure. A problem generally exhibited in YA novels, films, and TV is the attempt to tackle every topical issue at once as opposed to focusing on one major issue and allowing others to pop up organically. This flaw weakens the intended impact.  Albertalli, on the other hand, hits the nail on the head with her approach to dealing with common teen issues in today’s society without over saturating her plot. While the main story follows Simon and his journey as he copes with his sexuality, Albertalli peppers in other issues (cyber bullying, heartache, alienation) without distracting from the main narrative.

Now, we add in Albertalli’s easy but high quality style (another general issue I have with YA…we should be upping kid’s literacy game, not dumbing things down for them) and fully realized characters. Well, there’s very little to critique.

Far too often we project unrealistic images onto younger generations of what their high school experience should be, Albertalli’s ability to keep it real throughout Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is what corralled my attention from beginning to end. I was giddy (yes, me, giddy) getting caught up in Simon’s email exchanges with his mystery crush. I felt a part of Simon’s social circle, because I’ve been there too.

Rating: 4 Secret Admirers

Special shoutout to SW for the recommendation

 

REVIEW: The Princess Bride

I’ve rewritten this review multiple times trying to throw in more of the technicalities of the novel, but I can’t be objective on this one. It is a story that has been too much a part of my heart for so long. This review is in fact a love note to William Goldman.

How a person can currently exist without knowing the truest way to say “I love you” is “as you wish” is a concept I have yet to grasp. But, there seems to be a population of fully grown humans who have never seen The Princess Bride. (Lookin at you best friend.) A film which helped shaped my childhood and foster my off-beat sense of romance; it is one I return to frequently, quote often, and think of when I need a smile. So, naturally, it took me 30 years to read the damn book (inconceivable, I know).

William Goldman redefined the fairytale genre with The Princess Bride. Relating the
main story of romance and adventure to us via an abridgment of the “original” novel, with annotations by our narrator, Goldman himself, sets the tone of whimsy from page 1. Though the framework of The Princess Bride’s plot is quite standard, Goldman zests it up with his over-the-top cast of characters, unconventional humor, and twisted wit. Goldman’s manipulation of a formulaic genre which has spanned centuries makes The Princess Bride an instant classic which speaks to all generations. A classic that is brilliantly executed in both media and print.

While he adds his own flare to the emblematic romance world, Goldman never forgets the root of the tale, the thing we all really yearn for: true love.

Rating: 4 Rodents Of Unusual Size

REVIEW: Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair

Pablo Neruda’s Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair exemplifies the power that can be wielded by a well-formed poetry collection. While poetry collections can be tricky to review due to the subjectivity of the art form, it would be difficult for me to do anything less than gush about Neruda.

Infamous for his blatant sensuality, Neruda never employs carnality as a gimmick. Threaded throughout Twenty Love Poems…, is the exploration of the many facets of love, loss, and sexuality. Neruda writes with a raw honesty and a bittersweet nostalgia that is relatable (at least to this reader).  While every poem may not strike a personal chord, it’s hard to avoid Neruda’s power to reel the reader in; especially those with a sentimental heart.

Personal favorites:

So That You Will Hear Me

I Remember You As You Were

I Like For You To Be Still

Tonight I Can Write

 

Rating: 4.5 Hearts