Tag Archives: adult fiction

The Time Keeper by Mitch Albom

 

timekeeper

The Time Keeper by Mitch Albom
222 pages
Hyperion New York, 2012
Rating: 3/5

A relatively short read about time and how it affects all of us differently. It is about three characters that are about as different as you can get, yet they are all involved in the consequences of time and come together to learn some life lessons.
The tone reminded me of the Alchemist, in that it was slow, thought provoking, and yet very simple. The writing was to the point and it wasn’t flourished with adverbs and adjectives. He even used a couple of descriptions multiple times to really get the point across (i.e. “coffee coloured hair” for the jolting emotions residing with a particular boy, Ethan). Sometimes simplicity offers the most complex and thought provoking ideas. This is the type of book that Mitch Albom wrote.
Honestly, this book wasn’t my cup of tea, but I can see the significance of the writing and how it does reach out to many people. I just wasn’t one of those people. I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting upon my own life and the time I have, so to me, this was nothing new or thought provoking. It was a decent read. I’m curious as to how I will react to other topics he writes.

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The Awakening by Kate Chopin

awakening

Rating: 5/5

This book was written in 1899, over one hundred years ago. What was life like back then? How does it compare to the life I am living now?

These are the questions I asked myself upon my second reading of The Awakening. My actions today, seemingly innocent and plain, would be shocking if recreated when this novel was written. As a privileged, 28 year old, unmarried, Caucasian woman, I have to also ask myself: What differences in my life, in my current socio-economic situation, are there to the life of the protagonist of the Awakening? The familiar actions I take for granted were considered shocking and even rude to the society of 1899.

What am I talking about? Here are some examples:

  • leaving the home without informing someone of the exact details of where, when, why I was going
  • being away from home without worry of some higher status individual coming to see me and being turned away due to me not being home
  • Partaking in hobbies for the sake of having fun, for nonsensical reasons and feeling no remorse
  • being an agent of my own agenda, without relying on a husband to inform me of what it is I should be doing every waking moment of my life
  • Doing things because I feel like it, not because I should be expected to partake in what society expects me to do.

Does that sound a little bit ridiculous? Today we take for granted all the freedoms and sociological expectations that we have so much wiggle room we don’t even notice it.

This book is about feminism in the definition that I prefer, the first wave, in which women sought for equality in regards to gaining political power (the ability to vote, which came much later) to make changes on an economic, sociological, psychological, and reproductive levels. It is about basic human respects, embracing independence, and challenging what has been ingrained in our minds.

To me, this book is about feminism and the individual seeking freedom and independence. It is told through a summer vacation, with mini scenes that show the challenges of the time in very subtle ways. We really need to analyze each scene, to dig deeper into actually seeing what has been written. A scene is a scene, but it can also be as dramatic or as plain as the reader decides.

For example, there is a scene where our protagonist goes to the beach and visits with another woman. This other woman does not enjoy swimming. Regardless, our protagonist decides to go swimming alone anyways. She lingers out in the sea but eventually returns to the house with the other woman whom had waited for her.

On the surface, this looks like a scene of two friends in which one decides to take a dip, then they retreat back to the house. But if you dig a little bit deeper, you will find the following:

  • Our protagonist ditched the woman to go swimming. Instead of respecting what the other woman’s wishes were, she was selfish and decided to go do what she wanted, not what she was expected to do (stay and chat with the other woman)
  • She lingered in the sea, hoping that the other woman would get fed up and leave. This did not happen. This contrast shows that the woman on the beach was much more familiar with sociological expectations than our protagonist. Even though our protagonist was selfish and went into the sea, the woman stayed on the beach even though she probably wanted to be elsewhere.
  • These two women don’t seem to like each other. Yet one of them is firm in sticking to societal norms whereas our protagonist does not seem to care about the consequences of her actions.

All in all, I would recommend this book if you are looking for a classic, something to challenge your beliefs and what you take for granted, a literary exploration of themes, and an introduction to the beginning of feminism in 1899.

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Hotel Iris by Yoko Ogawa

iris

Hotel Iris by Yoko Ogawa
164 pages
Harvell Secker
Rating: 3/5

When I finished reading this book, my cheeks were red and hot and I had a chilling sensation in my body.

This book is about a particular sexual fetish which takes advantage of a young, Japanese woman in her limited world working in a hotel with her mother. Some would read this book and be disgusted, others would be fascinated.

I liked how the book exposed a topic that many are afraid to look into. Instead of being the outsider, we are giving the insider’s perspective. We agree with Mari until a certain point where things change, but we can sympathize with her and understand the draw.

What I liked and will remember about this book was the writing. It evoked a lot of emotions and sensations regarding touch – which is a sense that I am particularly sensitive towards. I could feel everything that happened to Mari. Was that a good thing? Well it wasn’t a bad thing, but it also wasn’t the most comfortable feeling in the world. As I was able to experience what Mari was experiencing so clearly, I think it is a sign of great descriptive writing.

As this book deals with adult content, I would only recommend this to curious minds that are very open minded about sexual fetishes and that want to be challenged by reading something that may make you feel like you are doing something wrong.

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Room by Emma Donoghue

room

Room by Emma Donoghu
401 pages
Picador
Rating: 4/5 Stars

Description: Jack is five. He lives in a single, locked room with his Ma.

It has been awhile since I have read a book that I could feel my heart sinking while I read it. This book is about a woman that was kidnapped in her teens and forced to live in a 11×11 foot shed. Her kidnapper routinely rapes her and keeps her locked away secretly from society. As a result, she finds that she has a son that she must parent on her own. All he knows is that locked shed, the place they call Room.

The story is told from the boy’s perspective while he is four and five years old. This gives an unique perspective onto the situation, one that is of interest to those that like psychology, child development, and a sense of self within a designated space (me vs the world). Room contains the boy’s entire life and everything he knows about the world to be true. There is a single plant, a single bed, a single rug, etc. There is no space in his mind for multiples, wasted objects, or other people. For this reason, he calls the single plant, “Plant,” and the single bed, “Bed.” He grows up learning everything from his mother. He lacks common sense, but excels in reading and writing. He has no friends – his friendships are one-way relationships with him and the objects around him.

Try to imagine yourself locked in a shed for years and years with a five year old son. There is nowhere to hide. The questions that he asks his mother cannot be avoided. She must answer everything the best she can. From the child’s perspective, the world doesn’t seem limiting because he doesn’t understand there is more to the world than just Room. For the mother’s perspective, she is juggling from knowledge of the world that she left with the events and routines in Room.

Even though the perspective is told from the son, the mother’s perspective starts to be exposed during the second half of the book. The mother really hates Room, yet her son loves it because it is his entire world. Obviously his mother would prefer to have not been kidnapped, but her son doesn’t understand her thinking. There is a huge separation in each of their concepts of reality. They are in it together, experiencing the same stimuli, but they react to it completely differently.

It’s a book that some would feel uncomfortable reading, due to the subject matter it is based on. However, it is also a book about hope, consequences, and reality vs imaginary. The tone is similar to “The Lovely Bones” in that it is somber and melancholic, with a hint of possible justice down the road. It was emotional for me, but it is not something I regret reading. It allowed me to really identify the psychological issues that these two characters experienced and reflect upon my own issues I discovered in them.

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The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
September, 2012
Little, Brown & Co. 
My Rating: 3/5

 

Description (from Goodreads.com):

When Barry Fairbrother dies in his early forties, the town of Pagford is left in shock.

Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty façade is a town at war.
Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils…Pagford is not what it first seems.
And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations?

My Review:

I should start this review off by saying my opinion on the book is heavily biased through my experiences. Pagford, the Fields, and the people involved all resonated with me. I could connect with almost all the characters in a way that so-and-so reminded me almost perfectly of someone I know personally and bits of myself were in some characters. However, all these connections are part of a time in my life that I really hated. I hated the people that I was reminded of, and all the bad situations I have either experienced or known someone close to me that had experienced them.

Themes/issues in the book include drugs, poverty, prostitution, LGBTQ issues, spousal abuse, emotional abuse, physical abuse, the different parenting types, self harm, achievement vs failure, power, revenge, love, racism, and many, many more.

So let’s talk about the characters. There are plenty (a whole town’s worth, really), and at times it was very difficult figuring out who was related to who and what shop they worked at and why did all of this matter anyways. That run-on sentence highlights my thinking process while reading this book. Gossip is what brings the characters together (or tears them apart).

Krystal Weedon stood out to me immediately because she has a rocky relationship with her mom, has to look out for her little brother, and shares the same name as me (Crystal). Not to mention, her best friend is Nikki, which is the same name as my childhood best friend. I would argue that Krystal is one of the main protagonists of the story. She really captured the phrase ‘your actions have consequences for others,’ both as the perpetrator and the victim. She was tough, swore constantly, always tried to find a solution, and always was looking out for her little brother. She reminded me of myself, 10 years ago. She built up this defensive wall to protect what was most important to her – her brother.

Parminder was another character that captured my attention. As a woman of colour and a doctor, she was an interesting character. Her husband was also a doctor (heart surgeon) so together one could argue they held a certain amount of power over the community. Despite that, Parminder was constantly criticized and these accusations were further propelled through small town gossip. I was happy to see a family that wasn’t white, but I wish there were more in the story. There were two black families in the small town I grew up in, so I understand there is an element of realism here. I liked her character because she was a very intelligent person that made rational decisions. As pure small town virtue, because she was so smart no one bothered to listen to her. I think we have all been in the same situation – trying to convince someone ignorant that they are wrong is next to impossible.

Moving on, the pacing was very slow. The book is 500 pages and it felt excruciatingly slow up until the last 150-200 pages. The rest of it was just build up, and frankly, I don’t think the end result was all that shocking. I could see the ending coming a mile away, but I don’t think I would have changed anything about it. It is realistic and ties everything together. Although it wasn’t a “wow” moment for the reader, it was in the book and that is all that matters… right?

The writing was not what I was expecting. JK Rowling must have had a thesaurus open next to her because so much of the writing had awkward words that the average person wouldn’t know, and the descriptions were tedious and long. I remember there was a thick paragraph devoted to stating that it was raining outside. Some could argue that this was a literary device used to set the mood of the chapter or whatever, but the same could have been said in much less – i.e. ‘It was raining.’ I have heard people complain that she made the book ‘too adult’ in that the writing contains vulgar language all over the place. I found it realistic from my experiences, so that didn’t bother me. I guess it depends on how you grew up.

I’ve been harsh on JK Rowling, but the truth is there are a lot of redeeming qualities about the book. She managed to create an entire community and its inhabitants. Not to mention, all of these inhabitants felt like real people with real problems. It is understandable that she needed the space to build it all up. The idea behind the book is one that I hadn’t come across before and it made it feel like the same could have happened in my own town. The intricate nature of the plot line must have been extremely difficult to flesh out, and I commend her on her efforts.

All in all, if a different author had written this book I would have probably stopped reading 50 pages in. I kept going until the end because it was JK Rowling and I wanted to believe the end would pay off. In a way, it was satisfying but overall my impressions are a bit bleak. I don’t loathe the book, but I definitely don’t love it. It brings back a lot of bad memories for me, and I suspect that is why I cannot find myself loving it.

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Chasing the Dragon by Nicholas Kaufmann

Chasing the Dragon by Nicholas Kaufmann
133 pages
Chizine Publications, 2010
My Rating: 3/5

Description (From Goodreads.com):

Centuries ago, St. George fought and killed a dragon or so the legend goes. The truth is somewhat different. George failed in his mission, and the Dragon still walks the Earth, protected by an undead army, hiding in the shadows and slaughtering men, women, and children for its prey. Each of George’s descendants through time has been tasked with killing the Dragon, and each has failed. Twenty-five-year-old Georgia Quincey is the last of the line. But Georgia is also an addict, driven to the warm embrace of the needle by the weight of her responsibility and the loss of everything and everyone she has ever loved.

 

My Review:

I picked up the book knowing absolutely nothing about it. It was fairly inexpensive due to a deal the bookstore was having, so I read the back and became intrigued. I love anything that has to do with dragons and this book sounded like an adventure of some sorts that dealt with dragons. In a sense, that was a correct assumption. It should also be noted that I read this book at work, where I was often interrupted. Whether that affects my overall feelings on the book, I cannot say.

The book deals with quite a bit of history and intense moments. We are told of Georgia’s ancestors as Dragonslayers, but also of Georgia’s current issues in her life such as her addiction to drugs and lack of family and friends. In such a short book, it is difficult to fully convey the magnitude of these events, but the author does a great job setting everything up. The perspective on Georgia’s addiction is similar to what an addict would actually feel (as far as I know) of the conflict between what the body and the mind want, but the more intricate details of withdrawal were left out.  There were many action scenes with a great sense of gore; however, referring to the corpses as “meat puppets” took away all the horror for me and made it feel a bit comical at times.

I liked how the book tried to fit in all these different ideas and bring them all together. It was an interesting story, but there were missing pieces. I think that if the book were longer, then we could have gotten more of a grasp of the “how” aspects to both the dragon and Georgia’s back stories. Overall, it was a pretty good read but didn’t stand out to me.

 

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Daisuki by Hildred Billings

Daisuki by Hildred Billings
(Ren’Ai Rensai, #1)
Kindle Edition
Barachou Press, 2012
My Rating: 4/5

Description (From Goodreads.com):

Aiko and Reina have been together for almost 20 years, yet one thing remains unsaid between them: “Daisuki,” or, “I love you.” As they approach their anniversary, their relationship comes to an impasse as Aiko the Japanese housewife begins demanding “I love you” with a side of marriage and romance.

But Reina doesn’t understand complex concepts like “love” or other heavy emotions. She’s spent years supporting her girlfriend via a soul-sucking salary job and tending to their mutual needs in the bedroom. Isn’t that sufficient? In a culture demanding Reina choose between the “feminine” and the “masculine” worlds, it’s bad enough she’s trying to find her role without Aiko adding extra pressure.

Some words need not saying, but “I love you” is about to destroy a relationship already surviving strange side-lovers and even stranger exploits.

Review:

I wasn’t sure what to expect with this book, but I am very pleased that I read it and will be reading more of the series. On the surface, it is a book about hot sex between two Japanese lesbians. If you dig a bit deeper, then you will find it is also a book about Eastern vs Western cultural norms, relationship status differences, societal expectations, family shame and honor,  and many LGBT issues including sexual privacy, gender identity, and marginalization.

The two main characters, Reina and Aiko, felt like real people to me. I was especially drawn to Reina – she considers herself to be more masculine than Aiko, works in a company filled with (perverted) men, and she reminded me of myself and some of my close friends. She has an insane sex drive (as does Aiko), but also engages in poly* activities. I liked that we saw some poly* in the book, but a part of me fears that someone new to LGBT literature might confuse lesbianism with poly*ism. At the end of the day, all characters that engaged in sex felt like real people with real issue and needs, but with a playful side too.

This is a book in the erotica genre and there are lots of opportunities for sex. These scenes can be read for pleasure, but they also add to the sub-plots in the story. If you dig a little deeper, you can see the seeds of foreshadowing for major themes later in the book.  Obviously, this book is recommended for adults due to the mature content.

The writing was quite good. A couple of times near the beginning I came across some odd word choices (i.e. fornication, gyrating) that I felt didn’t fit the mood for the passage. However, there were some beautiful passages and the ending was absolutely fantastic. These characters really grow on you, and the writing just adds another dimension that can’t be ignored. Our characters are Japanese, and so some Japanese phrases are included in the writing. They are added in a way that the reader can easily catch on to what is being said and even adds a bit of a cultural air and realism to the dialogue.

As this is a romance novel the plot was predictable to some extent. Despite this, there were a couple of sub-plots that contributed to the overall story arc and really made this book unique. There are quite a few things to consider once you finish reading the book. Yes, the story takes place in Japan but the issues there are similar to the issues here and I think most people can relate to someone in this book.

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