“The Perks of Being a Wallflower”

Today I’m talking about The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky. A lot of people really like, even love, this book.

I wasn’t one of them. To tell you the truth, I didn’t like it at all, and I’ll do my best to say why here without spoiling the story too much.

The narrative style bothered me, not because of the letters-to-a-stranger thing, which was kind of a neat device. Maybe it was just too “literary” for my personal taste (or maybe I’m a dumbass talking out the low end — let’s not discount the possibility!). It felt navel-gazing in the most unpleasant way. Later on in the book there are other characters who call the narrator “gifted” and I just didn’t see it; he didn’t read that way to me at all.

That wasn’t what really bothered me about it though. I could be wrong about this, since I don’t have the particular problems he had, but I just did not buy the mental illness. It was pretty clear from the get-go that the author wanted something to be going on with the character, but what it ended up being, and the representation, just didn’t feel authentic to me. I’m open to being told I’m wrong, as always, but you still couldn’t make me like the book.

Agree? Disagree? Let me know what you thought of the book in the comments.

“Crimson Fire”

This week’s read was Mirren Hogan’s Crimson Fire.

What I loved most about this book was the world-building. The enjoyable story serves as a kind of tour of the world, or at least the region with which the series (Magic of Isskasala) is concerned. The setting is realistic and deliciously crafted.

Hogan skilfully places her readers in a non-European world, and conveys a mindset that may be alien to a lot of fantasy fans. The plot contains a number of familiar elements (such as the Hero Enslaved), but puts its own spin on them. Readers may enjoy going somewhere totally different while remaining, for the genre, right at home. I strongly recommend Crimson Fire for adult lovers of fantasy, especially those who want to taste something new, or lovers of a charming, dirty, messed-up world.

I received a free copy of this book for the purposes of review.

“The Iron Trial”

The read I’d like to discuss this week is The Iron Trial, by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare.

This book was much better than I’d expected. I’m reading my way through the Shadowhunters right now, and I can’t say I love it, but I really enjoyed this one. It tasted good enough to my brain that I had to lay it aside once or twice because I wasn’t wanting it to end.

I thought it was an interesting reaction to the Chosen One trope in general and the Harry Potter series specifically. Well-characterized and well-plotted, well-written, I felt. The friendship between Call and Aaron made emotional sense to me, and even though I felt as if Tamara was less well-realized than the male characters, almost a little tokenish, I thought she was a good addition to the group.

All in all, I’d recommend this, especially to people looking for something a little different in their ya/mg fiction, or for fans of Percy Jackson.

“League of Dragons”

Today’s book is the last in a series, Naomi Novik’s Temeraire novels. I figure I should let you know that before I go on. I’ll try not to give spoilers, but instead to talk about how the series as a whole affected me. If you aren’t familiar with the series, you can take a look at the first book, His Majesty’s Dragon, on Ms. Novik’s website.

The concept behind the series is awesome, just the kind of thing I love to read: a Royal Navy captain becoming a dragon rider (!) to fight Napoleon. There are so many dragons in this series, and they’re very well-characterized, well enough to love or hate on their own merits.

Novik’s prose is excellent. That wins a lot of points with me. I like the plot overall; but I felt like the pacing was off, especially in the latter books of the series (where the story becomes something of an enticing travelogue), and in this last book in particular. It was overall delicious, but I wish more of the battles had been actually written out. At least twice, at pivotal moments, the text cut to the aftermath instead of showing me what had happened, and I love the battle scenes in this series, so I was a little disappointed.

Overall, though, I strongly recommend the first book at the very least, just so you can see if you like the taste of it. I loved it enough that I am just miserable that it’s over. If Novik should revisit the world in the future, I demand more Granby. He was my favorite.

 

“The Arab of the Future”

Today, because Saturday, I’m going to talk about something I read this week: The Arab of the Future, by Riad Sattouf, which you can take a look at here (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B015WA0D72/).

I read both volumes available to me through the library, 1 and 2. This is a memoir in comics, and so far it’s been about the author’s childhood in Libya, Syria, and France. Sattouf was born of a Syrian father and a French mother. Most of the story thus far is set in Syria, where Sattouf’s blonde hair attracts a lot of racism and the assumption that he’s Jewish.

If I said “I enjoyed this,” it would give the wrong impression of the work. I found it readable, and it was done very well, but I don’t feel as if it’s a thing to be enjoyed, exactly. The vivid memories contained here are fascinating in their difference, and in their sameness too; Sattouf conveys the terror of being a small child with great accuracy. The emotional punch of comics as a medium brought this story home in a way that I feel prose couldn’t have, and the stillness of image as opposed to film made it stronger yet.

So was it enjoyable? Not particularly. It was difficult and challenging, at least for me. Is it worth your time? Absolutely, I’d say, yes. Easy isn’t the point. If you are purely a reader for entertainment, you might want to give this a pass, but otherwise, it’s well worth the effort to digest. I’ll be thinking about it for a long time.