Friday, May 31, 2013

Glow by Jessica Maria Tuccelli: Read This If

Glow by Jessica Maria Tuccelli is a beautifully crafted  novel that I'm surprised I haven't heard much about. At all. It's compared to The Help on its paperback cover, but it's really nothing like The Help, except that it takes place in the South and deals with issues of race and class. That's where the similarities end. (Not to knock The Help, which I also thoroughly enjoyed - they are just two very different novels.)

Glow follows the lives of a few interconnected families in Hopewell County, GA, over the course of more than a century, from about 1834 to 1941, which covers slavery to freedom and all the fraught issues before and after the Civil War, including the rise of of the Ku Klux Klan. Not only does the novel deftly explore the race relations between blacks and whites, but also Native Americans, who were basically considered savage non-persons, especially after being kicked off their land in Georgia. The characters' tales are full of horror and humanity and authenticity and soul with a dash of ghostly haunting and redemption. The language captures the lilting dialect of the time and place (or so I imagine). (I listened to a good deal of the audio version, and it is superb.) I may even have shed a tear or two. That doesn't often happen these days. That's not to say it's sentimental - it's not.

You should read this novel. Seriously. This is a book I'm going to be running around telling everyone to read. I'm not saying it's the best book ever written, but the magic and vividness of the stories make them well worth reading. It's more like a novel of intertwined novellas, and be aware that it does not follow traditional or formulaic plot lines. It's more of a meandering, lilting set of tales, told with poise and heart.

Okay, you should read this novel if:
  • You are human. 
  • You can read. 
  • You think you've heard all angles of all tales of the south and slavery and racism and class (you haven't). 
  • You appreciate good prose and storytelling and strong characters.
  • You also appreciate stories that show the depth of our flawed human characters. 
Don't read this if: 
  • You can't read (in which case, learn to read, or listen to the audio). 
  • You hate books. (In which case, what are you doing here?)
  • You need formulaic, fast-moving, straight forward plots. 
  • Your soul is a crispy, burnt thing. 
*I received a copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Burning Air by Erin Kelly: Read This If

Hello, dear readers, it's been some weeks since my last post. I finished The Burning Air by Erin Kelly some weeks ago, and just haven't been able to disseminate my thoughts on the novel adequately. The novel certainly builds suspense with a slow, steadily growing heat. It grows on the reader in the same way - what seems like a reluctant, meandering plot jumps into focus after a change in perspective. The characters are all normal, average English people who happen to cross paths with a boy who anything but normal or average, and who refuses to accept his shortcomings.

This is not a formulaic story arch. The MacBrides, the central family in the story, are actually the flattest characters of the bunch - it's the villains of the story that have a fair amount of life to them, to the point that you might find yourself rooting both for and against the main scoundrel at the same time - though in the end, you will definitely pick a side. His revenge plotting is so all-consuming that he cannot see anything beyond its realization. That alone lends the novel its most disturbing quality.

The Burning Air was a different sort of thriller for me - its pacing was much slower than the Tana French novels I managed to fly through in the earlier part of this year. It's a gradual build, but its psychological mind games and its haunting, creepy atmosphere is sure to stick with you long after you fini

You should pick up The Burning Air if:
  • You like seeing your story from the perspective of the villain. 
  • You crave psychological suspense in your novels. 
  • Your life has just seemed too sunny and happy lately, and you need some creepiness to shake it up. 
  • You can't get the song Private Eyes out of your head. (Ha! NOW you can't! You're welcome.)
You should skip this if: 
  • You just had a child and might be suffering from post partum depression. You're probably not reading much at all if that's the case, so I'm not too worried.
  • You are prone to anxiety and paranoia and already find most people creepy. This will just feed al
  • You are in the market for a light read akin to Bridget Jones Diary (I'd suggest Wife 22 or Domestic Violets to satisfy such a mood). 
  • You're looking for a more traditional fast-paced mystery.
*I received this book from the Penguin Viking in exchange for my honest review.
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