MatthewSean Reviews

Book reviews, movie reviews, and other writing

Book Review – I’ll Give You the Sun – Jandy Nelson — March 31, 2016

Book Review – I’ll Give You the Sun – Jandy Nelson

Book Review – I’ll Give You the Sun – Jandy Nelson

giveyousun

Facts:

  •    Book: I’ll Give You the Sun
  •    Author: Jandy Nelson
  •    Genre: Fiction
  •    Year of Release: 2014
  •    Read 375-page hardcover edition in March 2016.

Book Description:

In her second novel, Jandy Nelson tells the story of twins Noah and Jude.  Twins who were once very close, but are now estranged as 15 year olds.  The novel tells us, from alternating time periods and both perspectives, how this came to pass.  It also tells us the story of the complex relationships they had with both of their parents, and the untimely death of their mother.  As the two characters learn more about themselves, they begin to see that getting past their difficulties and emotional trials may require the help of their twin sibling.

Book Review:

I started out reading this novel with high hopes, given the high ratings on Goodreads and Amazon for this novel.  And although I may not be the target audience for this novel, being someone in their mid-thirties, I was still excited to read this.  However, I must say I didn’t have the same positive experience as so many other readers.  Of course this is just my opinion and experience!

The overall premise here was fascinating, in terms of looking at how the relationship between twins changes over time in the teenage years, and how challenging issues of growing up, being LGBT, and losing a parent can impact teens.  These concepts were great starting points for the novel.  Furthermore, some of the scenes that were written truly were touching or funny, leading to laughing out loud or even tearing up a couple of times.

That being said, the overall execution by the author seemed confusing.  The overall lessons learned for the novel, or what the author wanted us to take away from the novel, seemed somewhat mixed.  For example, one of the lessons that seemed to be pushed by the author was that following your dreams must be done, no matter what the consequences, such as focusing on your new dreams at the expense of spending time with your children.  I may be over-simplifying the story, and I don’t want to give too much away for those who plan to read the novel, but some of these types of lessons seemed surprising to push forward, and sometimes they contradicted other lessons or themes in a way that was unclear and did not add up.

Although it is definitely believable that the twins in the novel could have a falling out, it was in some ways unbelievable the extent they both went to take certain actions that alienated them against each other.  Further, the ending of the novel, where the truth came out on both sides, the fact their didn’t seem to be hurt feelings or further alienation, even for a little while before reconciliation, didn’t seem to be the way most teenagers would react in emotionally heated situations.

In addition, the fact that all loose ends and all sub-plots of the novel were tied up so smoothly and neatly, seemed a little unbelievable and too convenient.  Even in books marketed to the young adult audience, there are often loose ends, and life is not looking perfect, and that is ok, because it is reality.

Finally, a small point here.  The idea of alternating the narrator between Noah and Jude, and alternating back and forth in time from when they were 13-16, was a fabulous idea.  However, it was unfortunate the author did not choose to do more time and narrator changes throughout the book.  Each section was sometimes 100+ pages long, meaning there were only a few changes from narrator to narrator and time period to time period.

Although it definitely has to be said that many people highly enjoyed this novel, to me it seemed full of contradictions and unbelievable plot points.

Overall: 2 stars out of 5 stars

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Book Review – Seveneves – Neal Stephenson —

Book Review – Seveneves – Neal Stephenson

Book Review – Seveneves – Neal Stephenson

Seveneves

Facts:

  •    Book: Seveneves
  •    Author: Neal Stephenson
  •    Genre: Science Fiction
  •    Year of Release: 2015
  •    Read 867-page hardcover edition in March 2016.

Book Description:

This science fiction / speculative fiction novel, told in two main parts, speaks of humanity’s attempts to survive an apocalyptic event, after the moon is destroyed and a rain of fragments are due to cover the earth in cataclysmic fashion shortly.  It is up to humanity to determine how they will survive this intense event, and what follows is many thousands of years of action, adventure, and evolution of culture and society for those who come after this novel.

Book Review:

In reading this novel, similar to the fact the novel was split into two parts, I was of two minds when considering my reactions to the story.

On the one hand, I very much enjoyed the overall premise of the novel.  Stephenson has taken years to develop this complex, intense story that spans 5000+ years of time.  Stephenson does well when he is exploring the world he has created, and the way society has evolved over the course of history, after an apocalypse occurs on earth.  Stephenson has also done a good job of creating complex characters who are not simply caricatures, but have shades of grey.  Nobody is all bad, everyone is redeemable in some way.  (Although there are some characters who are so flawless and perfect, for the most part Stephenson writes complex characters.)

Thus, Stephenson’s world building and character development (when he is focusing on characters) is top notch, original, and enjoyable.

On the other hand, the area where I was a little bit lost in the novel were the sections where Stephenson focused so much on the mechanics of how things were working, or on the reasons why issues were occurring in space, that he forgot to get back to the characters and story itself.  Often we would be given many pages of information that was a character running through facts (engineering, science, or astronomy), and it was definitely a way to tell the reader why something was a concern or issue, but it became a little tedious after awhile, particularly for those who don’t mind a little bit of hard sci-fi, but don’t need it to this degree.  Unlike The Martian, where the science was presented in more digestible bits, there were often pages of text where there were 1-2 paragraphs of text in this novel.  That text, appearing as a block of science to the reader, became difficult to get through at times.

Thus, although this had a great story, and some complex ideas worth spending time over, the reason this novel was so long, and perhaps too long, was because of the amount of time spent on the details, that sometimes detracted from the story and characters.

Overall: 2.5 stars out of 5 stars

Blog Format Update — March 9, 2016

Blog Format Update

Hi all!

I have changed the format and style on my blog, just experimenting with a new look and feel. I had used the same style for 2 years, and thought now was the time for a change!

I will also be trying to interact more on WordPress with other people in the blogosphere, commenting on other pages and blogs, and perhaps trying to post more frequently. (Currently I post about 8-10 posts per month, perhaps I could increase that slightly?)

Looking forward to more great blogging ahead! 🙂

MatthewSean (aka mattcanada.wordpress.com)

Book Review -More Tales of the City – Armistead Maupin —

Book Review -More Tales of the City – Armistead Maupin

Book Review – More Tales of the City – Armistead Maupin

more_tales_of_the_city

Facts:

  •    Book: More Tales of the City
  •    Author: Armistead Maupin
  •    Genre: Fiction
  •    Year of Release: 1980
  •    Read 340-page paperback edition in February 2016.

Book Description:

The second book in the series, Maupin further explores the lives of his eclectic cast of characters from San Francisco.  Michael continues to pursue love, and possibly a former flame; Mona looks for her family roots in a most unlikely place; Mary Ann finds love on a cruise ship and ends up in a complex adventure; and lovable Mrs. Madrigal reveals a hidden truth about herself.

Book Review:

This was a fantastic collection by Maupin. Similar to the first novel, this book has a large number of short 2-3 page chapters, as they were originally published in the newspaper in this format, before being collected up into novel collections.  The style and format of the writing allows the reader to get swept up, and it’s easy to read this novel in just a couple of sittings.

The readability of this is also a testament to Maupin’s skill at capturing the San Francisco of this time period.

He has created a collection of complex, interwoven characters, who have their own dark sides and issues, but who come together and support each other, much like real life around us.  This focus on true to life characters makes the novel believable and all the more compelling.  For those who are looking for diversity, and what it was like to be an LGBT person (or ally) in the San Francisco of the 1970s, this is an especially appropriate book.

The plot and story lines are interesting, dramatic, and adventurous.  It may be true that sometimes the drama is a little over the top, but at the same time, it generates laughter and suspense as well.  This was a particularly fun read while lying on a beach in February, which is when I timed my reading of this book.

Although there are a number of light hearted moments and fun characters in the novel, Maupin does a great job of covering the more serious issues as well with regard to life, including health issues, the meaning of life, a person’s place in the university, transgender topics, and LGBT inclusion.  Maupin is not one to shy away from bringing up important topics, and weaving these into a fun story with a great cast of characters is a cause for celebration of success.

Overall: 4 stars out of 5 stars.