Friday, March 7, 2014

No Book but the World by Leah Hager Cohen

No Book but the World by Leah Hager Cohen. 
ISBN 1594486034
Publishing date: April 3, 2014, Riverhead

In a similar fashion as participating in Kindle first, I am also a reader for a program by Penguin Publishing that allows readers to enter drawings to be one of the first to read/review a new book before it's final publication. This is the first instance in which I have had this opportunity and I am very excited ti share with you what I though. I really hope to have many more opportunities in the future. This is pretty much my favorite thing. Brand new books! I found out on our honeymoon that I had won the drawing for this, and I could barely contain my excitement. It's probably a good thing that I didn't hide my extreme nerd habits from Nick at any point. It might have ended up being a deal breaker. : ) I know it wouldn't have, but that doesn't take away from the fact that I have a problem. Anyway. So I got this book, and I won't lie, I didn't read the instructions to download it. I also didn't pay attention to the fact that it is a PDF and I probably could have directly moved it to my kindle. Either way, I somehow messed up the formatting and wasn't able to read it on my Kindle. Needless to say, that staring at a screen for work all day and then coming home and staring at the computer screen for enjoyment do not make for an easy time on my eyes.

I'm not really in the habit of reading about the book before actually reading the book, and so I went into this completely blind. Maybe if I had been prepared to read a story with a very strong philosophical undertone I would have been greater able to follow from the beginning. The story revolves around two siblings who have been raised with complete freedom by parents Neel and June who had previously run a "free" school in which students followed no actual structure. Fred who is the youngest seems to be troubled from the start. He is slow to do anything and every thing that is expected of him. Ava is an intelligent introvert who protects her brother like he is an extension of herself. As the story progresses the reader finds out that adult Fred is accused of doing something terrible. When Ava finds out she runs to try and rescue him like she has done on so many occasions before. The plot itself discusses the main subjects of sibling relationships, how strong these relationships can be despite time and distance, and how parental control or lack thereof can make or create a person.

The least I can say is the book was strange. The subject matter wasn't strange insomuch as the language and arrangements themselves were strange. I'll tell you that at the start I was a little anxious as to knowing what some of the words even meant that Cohen used. There seemed real intent to use the largest or most complex words possible to state even the most inane things. The dictionary came out a few times to help me through. Not to sound egotistical, but if I have trouble with words like that, then the general public will probably have a deal more trouble. Contextually the words more often than not explain themselves, but it feels pointless and a bit over done. I think the part that I liked the least came all the way at the end of the book. The final section called "The Thing Itself" sees almost as if it is an apology for the entire book. It was completely unnecessary and completely ruined whatever suspension of disbelief I had created for myself. Writing an entire novel and then essentially recanting it at the end is kind of crazy. Even if it is still completely done in character it just didn't work for me. Dumbfounded is a really great word for the feeling finishing the book left me with.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Hidden by Catherine McKenzie

Catherine McKenzie has been a recent favorite of mine. I've only reviewed one other book of hers, Arranged. The book Hidden is currently on the Kindle First list for March, which means that anyone who has Amazon Prime is able to download it for free before it's publication next month. You can ask Nick, I was pretty darn excited about this being one of the four options to choose from in March.

Since I haven't been reading very much lately I was extremely excited to have a book that I was looking forward to reading. Now, only if my expectations had equaled my reality. There was just something about this book that really didn't sit well with me. The layout was probably the thing I had the greatest problem with. Jumping around from person to person. The first time it switched from Claire to Tish I was completely confused and it took me longer than I think it should have to realize that this part of the story was someone else. Another issue I had was my inability to feel for the characters. Since finishing the book this morning I have been trying to find a reason why a connection wasn't made. While combing my brain for an answer the only thing I could come up with is that the characters just really weren't likable to me.

Claire's character seemed sort of vacant and unresponsive. Even when there was the real tragedy at hand the story didn't make me feel like there was anything really strong and emotionally pulling there. Please remember that I went into this book with a positive and excited attitude towards it. Finding fault was not my aim. When it comes to the character Tish I got some of the same feelings towards her. Just a lack of something that would make her seem real. Maybe I was searching for some kind of hidden strength in each character as I read through, there definitely wasn't anything like that. Strong female characters are something that is taken as a given in women's literature anymore. 

The subject matter of the book could be summed up essentially by saying two women lost something that they know they can never replace. Love and companionship are the two most difficult things to find in this sad world. I can't imagine what I would do, were I in Claire's position. Claire needed to find a reason to think that Jeff got even with her in some way. She needed closure by discovering something hidden that would put him even with her past transgression. Overall I gave the book a 3 out of 5 stars and part of me is thinking that I'm probably just being nice because I enjoyed her other works so much more. 

I am looking forward to many more great works from Catherine McKenzie in the future. And if you aren't part of her reading group on Goodreads, you should be. 52 Weeks, 52 Books I don't participate as often as I'd like, but this is a great group that is always reading something interesting. 

Happy reading.