Book Review Monday

Dreamland, by Sarah Dessen

Book description: What no one understands is that Caitlin can’t afford to leave this dreamland, this half-sleeping state where everything – and everyone – can be kept at arm’s length. Because they she’d have to face the ugly truth about her relationship with Rogerson, magnetic, fascinating – and very dangerous – Rogerson. What is it about Rogerson Biscoe … and why can’t she leave him?

My review: Initially I thought this book was about a boring teen girl and her boring teen angst. Halfway through the book I was really ready to give it a terrible score (on GoodReads), then it turned around and became a half-interesting look at an abusive relationship.

Seeing how Caitlin is slowly but irrevocably pulled into this world where she has no friends, no hope and no escape from her boyfriend, whose temper revolves around controlling her absolutely. It was a little frightening, and sad, and so that rescued the book for me a little bit. I suspect the plot is actually very realistic, focusing on ideas of control over others and ones own life. So it doesn’t make for the happiest read, but in that way it was somewhat interesting. How’s that for a tepid review?

 

The Long Earth, by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

Book description: 1916: the Western Front, France. Private Percy Blakeney wakes up. He is lying on fresh spring grass. He can hear birdsong, and the wind in the leaves in the trees. Where has the mud, blood and blasted landscape of No man’s Land gone?

2015: Madison, Wisconsin. Cop Monica Jansson has returned to the burned-out home of one Willis Linsay, a reclusive and some said mad, others dangerous, scientist. It was arson but, as is often the way, the firemen seem to have caused more damage than the fire itself. Stepping through the wreck of a house, there’s no sign of any human remains but on the mantelpiece Monica finds a curious gadget – a box, containing some wiring, a three-way switch and a…potato. It is the prototype of an invention that Linsay called a ‘stepper’. An invention he put up on the web for all the world to see, and use, an invention that would to change the way mankind viewed his world Earth for ever. And that’s an understatement if ever there was one…

…because the stepper allowed the person using it to step sideways into another America, another Earth, and if you kept on stepping, you kept on entering even more Earths…this is the Long Earth. It’s not our Earth but one of chain of parallel worlds, lying side by side each differing from its neighbour by really very little (or actually quite a lot). It’s an infinite chain, offering ‘steppers’ an infinite landscape of infinite possibilities.

My review: The Long Earth is definitely complicated, but once you get over the initial sci-fi explanations about what is going on, it’s all a little easier to deal with. The authors have created a very interesting world (or worlds) and in a way in reminded me of The Postmortal, which I read not too long ago. The concept that our world has been irretrievably changed by a discovery and the fallout is far less than a better world.

The Long Earth begins to delve into themes of loneliness and the meaning of humanity, but I found these were never fully realized in the book. The ending certainly left me wanting something more, and unlike most YA books out there, it won’t be a part of a trilogy. I guess the book left me feeling a little lonely and unfulfilled, so it wasn’t a perfect read.


The Family Fang, by Kevin Wilson

Book description: Mr. and Mrs. Fang called it art. Their children called it mischief.

Performance artists Caleb and Camille Fang dedicated themselves to making great art. But when an artist’s work lies in subverting normality, it can be difficult to raise well-adjusted children. Just ask Buster and Annie Fang. For as long as they can remember, they starred (unwillingly) in their parents’ madcap pieces. But now that they are grown up, the chaos of their childhood has made it difficult to cope with life outside the fishbowl of their parents’ strange world.

When the lives they’ve built come crashing down, brother and sister have nowhere to go but home, where they discover that Caleb and Camille are planning one last performance – their magnus opus – whether the kids agree to participate or not. Soon, ambition breeds conflict, bring the Fangs to face the difficult decision about what’s ultimately more important: their family or their art.

My review: I’m not quite sure what to say about The Family Fang. It’s really fucked up. But kinda in a good way.

These parents will make anyone’s (okay, almost anyone’s) family situation seem normal. I spent a lot of time cringing at what I was reading and saying “yikes.” But it is sharp, and often really funny, and you develop a total soft spot for Annie and Buster (Child A and B) as they try to pull their fucked up lives together away from their intensely fucked up parents.

Word of the day:

Epoxy: having the structure of an epoxide; also called epoxy resin – any class of resins derived by polymerization from epoxides: used chiefly in adhesives, coatings, electrical insulation, solder mix, and castings

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