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Weekly Reads: Week 18

Happy belated Mother’s Day! I hope y’all had a wonderful weekend with the family – we sure did! Last week I had picked-up 5 holds from the library, only to be inundated by even more this week, ebooks included. Luckily most of them will be renewable, I just hope I don’t get any new alerts this week – but of course, I wouldn’t be able to resist the urge to check-out more if I did. I have all the books from my recent TBR list, what could be better!?

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A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

 A heartbreaking story of an old curmudgeon, A Man Called Ove will have you either laughing out loud or in tears to the very last page. Ove is a man set in his ways, he dislikes automobiles in the residential area and people who can’t even do the simplest of tasks – what kind of man can’t back-up a trailer? That is, until a young family moves in next door. With a shy husband and chatty daughters, the very pregnant Parveneh pesters Ove to no end until he has no choice but to help them, forging an unlikely friendship and exposing Ove for not the bitter old man he’s presumed to be, but an endearing man with a big heart.

“Ove had never been asked how he lived before he met her. But if anyone had asked him, he would have answered that he didn’t.”

“Ove feels an instinctive skepticism towards all people taller than six feet; the blood can’t quite make it all the way up to the brain.”

 Ove is easily one the most well-written and lovable characters I’ve come across in my reading, but the same can really be said for any of Backman’s characters. From his equally curmudgeonly neighbor Rune to the feisty Parveneh to Ove’s wife Sonja – each character is equally loveable as they are quirky.  But when it comes to Ove, it isn’t just his quirks that make him beloved, it’s his overwhelming generosity when he repeatedly helps others around him in need without seeking anything in return, and often, to his detriment. Ultimately, this is the quality that allows Parveneh to draw him back out of his shell to reengage with the world after his wife’s death. It doesn’t just take a village to raise a child, it takes a family to raise a village.

Rating: 5 Stars

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The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee

The Queen of the Night is a story of intrigue, suspicion, espionage, opera, and ball gowns….a true Parisian tale for the ages. Lilliet Berne is a legendary soprano, the star of the Paris Opera, and a notorious subject of gossip. To her delight, she’s made an offer to originate a role for a new opera, based on a newly released novel which just so happens to be the story of her life, an operatic version of her deceits and follies, one alias after another. The opera that could be the height of her career could also destroy her – she must, at once, discover her betrayer. It could only be one of four: “one is dead, one loves her, one wants to own her. And one, she hopes, never thinks of her at all.” Here she recounts her story and the many lives she’s led, her escape from the American frontier to her grand circus feats in the streets of Paris, to her fall into servitude and her glorious rise to fame. She’ll tell it all in hopes to discover the one who means to destroy her, unveiling a complicated web of romance and political schemes. Little does she know she’s been the perfect pawn, but will it be too late to change her fate?

“She wanted only to be feared. I wanted to be feared and loved. I didn’t want everything she had as she stood onstage that night. I wanted more.”

“A singer learned her roles for life – your repertoire was a library of fates held close, like the owns in this closet, yours until your voice failed.”

 I was super excited to finally get a copy from the library, but unfortunately, it just didn’t live up to the hype. For starters, the novel is too long. While the beautifully worded descriptions of Parisian life and scandal are fascinating, much of it feels forced. Then there were all the times I had to stop and ask, okay, so what does it really matter if anyone knows this about you or not? There are so many characters, and they all seem to know more than she believes they do, that the final twists are not so twisty after all. While her servitude to The Tenor begins, at best, romantic, it quickly falls into a pit of confusion and utter senselessness in the story – at one time she’s free of him, but then back in his clutches to free herself again, and then shockingly hands herself back to him again? At the beginning of the story, she’s completely free of him, but this instance of freedom is never quite explained or part of her history – as well as her final return to Paris. Where has she been in the last few years? Or was it nothing but a fluttering of operas and balls, too boring to be included? I’m not even going to get into my issues with The Composer and their relationship. I don’t want to give anything away, but brace yourself for drama and a lot of really? Why do you like him again? Besides the plot holes and unfavorable characters, the entire book is kind of a mess editorially. The text is void of all quotation marks, making it necessary to reread passages several times just to understand who is speaking to whom and saying what, but I also found a treasure trove of passages with repeated words (lots of were were going on) and noticeable typos. I swear I wasn’t even looking!

Rating: 3 Stars

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You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero

A new self-help sensation, You Are a Badass is an inspiring work, cutting through all of our lazy excuses to get us up from the couch and into the reality of our dreams. Or at least that’s what it’s supposed to be. I found it a little too forced, more than a little pretentious, and completely unfounded. Yes, Sincero can write an inspiring mantra – believe in yourself, don’t listen to the sullen Sallies, take the first step and you’ll achieve your dreams! But, the ways she went about it for herself are too far fetched for the average person. For instance, when buying a new car, she could have gone for the safe and reliable mid-grade SUV, but instead, she chose the more expensive, way out of her budget SUV, all the while serving the mantra believe you can make the money to pay for the life you want and you will! That simply doesn’t happen for everyone, and someone’s going to fall for it in the worst way.

You’re powerful. You’re loved. You’re surrounded by miracles. Believe, really believe that what you desire is here and available to you and you can have it all. Love yourself. You are a badass.”

While I did make a few notes listening to her book, most were generic takeaways you’d get from any kind of self-help. I could have totally saved five hours listening to the first chapter and skipping to the last line – pretty much the tldr of her book.

Rating: 2 Stars

 

What have you been reading lately?

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