May Reviews: The Future for Curious People

The Future for Curious People by Gregory Sherl
I bought this book from Kramer Books in Washington D.C. off of a ‘Staff Picks’ shelf. This is my favorite way to choose books at an independent bookstore when I have no wishlist in mind.
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I started reading it immediately, got about halfway through on the trip, put it in my backpack as I was getting off the airplane, then forgot about its existence entirely for three solid weeks. I read other things I had lying around, I bought books on my Kindle, I packed up my entire life into boxes and put them into temporary storage, and I continued forgetting about this book, though there was always this nagging feeling of forgetting, like I’d met someone for coffee but their face smudged into the background so that only the vaguest sense of an espresso and lights lingered.
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Finally, though, I cleaned out my backpack and picked this book back up, started reading from where I left off (halfway through, the plot was not so difficult as to require rereading) and finished in about a day. It was… not bad. Again, much like Oscar Wao, I started out loving it. I think with most books, this is the case for me. I am generous with my first opinions, but after that I expect for my attention to be earned.
The Future for Curious People is about two strangers, Evelyn Shriner and i-can’t-remember-his-name-even-though-I-just-closed-the-cover (edit: Godfrey Burkes. yes. of course), both in relationships that aren’t *quite* right. They go to an Envisionist to see their future. An Envisionist, in this barely-future world, is a doctor who can hook you up to a machine so you can watch your hypothetical future with a romantic partner. The reasoning behind it being that though free will exists, human brains have the power to semi-accurately project future possibilities by processing sensory information and memory. Or something. The science is fairly vague, honestly, it’s a sort of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind-fuck that requires a painless but necessary suspension of disbelief.
The book is mostly a love story between two predictably quirky, average-ish MC’s who get together after a book’s worth of will-they-won’t-theys. When Godfrey describes Evelyn, it is almost always in reference to either her legs or her quirky as shit rainboots with flowers glued on them. She has a kleptomaniac friend who also has a dorky (and non-threatening to the main character but good enough for a supporting character) love interest. I was looking for something that was just a half step up from the regular YA romance that I read for stress relief. After reading Rainbow Rowell and Stephanie Perkins, I am 100% convinced that a love story can be both adorable and quality, both squeal-inducing and leave a lasting impression, so I’m not going to settle for any crappily-written YA shit anymore. That being said, this one fell pretty perfectly into what I was looking for. It was cute, but not overly so. It had some interesting things to say about life and living in the moment and the ideas of memory, etc., but I wasn’t blown away by its thoughtfulness. It was quick, and I found it… endearing. Not amazing quality when examined closely, but not the worst thing humanity has ever produced.
 I would recommend it to those looking for an adult version of a light YA romance read, probably. My biggest problem was the manic pixie feel of the whole thing. How Evelyn was still this princess to be caught at the end, how Godfrey was this charming prince who isn’t appreciated by his fiance, (who at first seems perfect but then, of course, turns out to be vapid, shallow, etc. etc. etc.). It was just so damn twee. And so obviously written by a white guy from a barely-veiled version of his own experiences, with some very light sci-fi thrown on top. And just… I don’t know. Cliche? Is it a cliche to call things cliche?
Nevertheless, 3 Stars. Probably won’t read any more of his books, but I didn’t feel cheated while reading it. It’s definitely not on par with Rowell or Perkins, but it wasn’t truly heinously offensive either. Oh, how high the standards of this blog.
-W
P.S. Check out a better review than mine. I’d forgotten that Evelyn changes the endings to famous books to make them happy endings when reading for the blind. And later she finds out that she has fans. Of course she does. She’s Evelyn Shriner, and she glues flowers onto her rainboots. Of course the people listening to her dulcet tones butchering classic literature are like HELL YES, I’VE ALWAYS THOUGHT ANNA KARENINA SHOULD HAVE ENDED IN A WEDDING. ALL THAT TRAIN BUSINESS IS JUST SO MESSY!
*eyes roll out of head and onto the train tracks*

May Reviews: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao – Junot Diaz
When I started this book, I was sure it was going to end up being my favorite book of the year. The titular Oscar is one in a family of Dominicans who believe they are cursed by a fuku, a curse put on the family in part by the dictator Rafael Trujillo. The book is an exploration of the tragedies that afflict this family, which are blamed on this fuku. The story dives deep into Dominican nationalism, racism and class issues, the effects of dictatorships, and problems of depression and anxiety. It is, in a word, complex, and I think it’s really important that I read it. It is also a big step forward in my quest to read more diversely, as Junot Diaz himself is Dominican American.
My review:
The writing was amazing, rich and intricate, atmospheric in a way that made the Dominican Republic, something I know nothing about, come to life. And I loved the switching of characters, the way some of the viewpoints were omniscient and some were first person, some looked forward, some looked backwards and some were stuck exactly where they were in time. Every single character had an entire life, and it was sometimes difficult to imagine that they did not actually exist in real life.
But after about 50% of the way through the book I realized that I was no longer engaged. I was semi-interested in what the actual end of Oscar was, what eventually, finally, brought it about. And I was semi-interested in the further relationships of the family and the life of Yunior, the unflappable narrator.
But I just… didn’t care THAT much. I was reading for the writing, not the story. And when it was done (a very disappointing ending, if you ask me, which you did implicitly by reading this blog), I realized I was grateful that it was done. I’m going to rad more Diaz, I’ve already bought This is How You Lose Her, and I think that may do the trick, because a big complaint I had was how very tediously long the book felt.
All of this being said, I’ve found myself referencing it and thinking about it in the weeks after reading it. Maybe it will become a book I like more and more in retrospect. At the moment, though, I give it 3.5 stars, but 4 for Goodreads’ sake. 
-W

#FridayReads

Right now I’m packing for my weekend trip to Virginia, (packing, tumblr, who can tell the difference, really…) but I wanted to post a quick #fridayreads. I’m not sure if this is a blog thing, but a lot of the Youtubers I watch do #fridayreads where they quickly mention the books they’re going to be winding down the week with.

Because when you like reading enough to blog about it, chances are you’re not doing anything else with your friday.

I’ll be driving the six hours to Virginia by myself, so audiobooks it is! Kindle Unlimited has kindly provided me (well, and everyone else with an Amazon account and a debit card) with Whispersync’d books to listen to on the road, and I have an Audible account that I haven’t decided whether or not to cancel…
The drive to Virginia is all winding roads and empty highways and lots and lots cannibal-worthy hiding places. (You can’t be too careful around people who live that far away from society, ok. I’ve seen Deliverance. I know what’s up.)

Inspired by the creepy scenery and creeping darkness, I’m listening to Dracula, voiced by Tim Curry and Alan Cumming, and Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife by Mary Roach. I’ve started Spook, and it isn’t in the least bit scary yet, but I have high hopes.

 

I’m also listening to:

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater. I was under the uneducated impression that this book was a teen horror, but having listened to about 30% of it I have learned that is a teen romance, with very little suspense and oodles of mixed metaphors. Lovely. I’m still determined to finish it so I can review it, but I don’t expect it to be pleasant.

I’ve also downloaded like 8 other Whispersync’d Kindle Unlimited books… so if I get bored it’s my own fault.

Off to actually pack, perhaps will see you on Sunday?

W

 

p.s. Hopefully I’ll have some time for a blog redesign (or… just ‘design’ I guess) this weekend. I wanted to get into the swing of blogging, even though I haven’t had much time to commit to the whole branding experience that is modern blogging. IT’S CALLED ‘TAKING INITIATIVE’ NOT ‘BEING UNPREPARED’ OK?

ok

Weatherly Reviews– Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Warning– some people may find this review a little harsh. If you’re bothered by this, then

GROW A PAIR PUMPKIN BEAR, THE WORLD IS HARD AND MEAN.

Or you could click away. Life is full of choices.

For those of you not crying into your Elmo bib right now– on to the review.

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Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Back  of Book:

An invisible boy.  A girl who floats.  A boy with bees living inside him.  What sounds like a circus act are just a few of the children living in Miss Peregrine’s home for peculiar children.  When Jacob Portman discovers the orphanage may be in danger from the same monsters that killed his grandfather, he must summon all his courage (and peculiar talents) to rescue the children and possibly save the world from destruction.

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The Weatherly Channel says:

What I liked about Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs was the author’s name.

Yep.

Look, I really tried to like this book. I really did. You can tell I’m being sincere about this because I used italics to indicate how very serious I am. And really, it wasn’t the book’s fault. Well, not completely. Well, let’s call it half and half. I listened to it on audiobook from Audible, and I think the narrator had at least a small part in how difficult it was to force my headphones into my ears, knowing this this could be the time the Sisyphusian* struggle ended with me giving up and letting the boulder roll over me to squeeze out my brains like toothpaste in order to escape.

Ok, I’m exaggerating. And using terrible metaphors. It really wasn’t that bad. At times, I was even kind of rooting for the main character, whose name escapes me at the moment, and who was in all honesty not much of a character. The story had a beginning, a middle, and an end, and at times I know I was listening to his plight without really disliking it. But the whole package was just not… good.

The thing was, it just had so much potential. I mean, it had the shambly old house; the timid but eventually courageous teen boy hero; the completely-disposable parental figures that are conveniently uninterested in their child’s whereabouts until nagging is needed to make the main character look put-upon; and, oh yeah, a bunch of kids with special abilities who may or may not be dead.

With all of this, I feel like I was right to expect just a little bit… better. All of the elements were there, but the final product felt a bit forced, a bit cliche, and a bit spoonfeedy. I know, I know, it’s a kids book. Here’s what I say to that:

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That’s not an argument. Don’t even. Don’t even. I’m talking to you, thinking that. Don’t even. Children’s books can be scary, and smart, and heartbreaking, and complex. This was really trying to be that, it just fell a little bit short.

Ok. I give it… 2.5/5 stars. That’s half-awesome, half-something else I wasn’t that impressed with. Read it if you want, it’s fast and who knows? You may like it some. Don’t listen to the audiobook if you can help it. Also maybe read it while you’re eating fries or spaghetti or something equally as delicious and distracting so the experience bumps up to like a 3 or a modest-but-pushing-it 3.5 and isn’t so-disappointing-it-kind-of-makes-you-sad-inside-but-also-mad-cause-like-come-on.

And this concludes the bitchiest review of a children’s book on record! Oh Miss Peregrine. I’m so hard on you because I expect so much of you… You’ll understand when you’re older. Or possibly in the sequel (which, let’s be real, I’m not gonna read.) 

Toodle pip!

W

(I felt kind of bad about how mean this sounded, so I included a picture of me from a few weeks ago at NOLA Mardi Gras, which I hope illustrates my intense devotion to being responsible, and therefore establishes me as a trustable source for literary criticism.)

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wink.

*is this a word? do I care? why can’t the internet agree on a proper adjective form of Sisyphus? Non-answers to these questions and more brought to you by The Weatherly Channel, LLC, Copyright 2014. Tune in daily! ish.