• Book Reviews,  Writing

    Trust Exercise: a book review

    ✂️✂️✂️✂️.5/5

    met·a·fic·tion
    /ˈmedəˌfikSH(ə)n/
    noun
    noun: metafiction; plural noun: metafictions; noun: meta-fiction; plural noun: meta-fictions
    1. fiction in which the author self-consciously alludes to the artificiality or literariness of a work by parodying or departing from novelistic conventions (especially naturalism) and traditional narrative techniques.
    2. “the followers of Borges had retreated into airless metafiction”

    I am a huge fan of metafiction and stream of conscious writing interspersed throughout a novel. Kurt Vonnegut is one of the masters of this writing technique and Susan Choi, the author of this book, is well on her way with Trust Exercise.

    Why start with a definition of metafiction? Because after reading many reviews it was clear that the readers didn’t have the patience to watch it unfold or wanted a conventional novel format.

    But if a reader goes into this with open eyes, I believe your experience will be quite different than when reading the tired, multi-POV format of a plot where each chapter is named for the character speaking at that particular moment.

    The story begins in the 1980’s at a highly competitive school for the arts. This setting drew me in immediately as a child of the 80’s and a current theatre parent of a high school daughter in a very competitive program.

    I saw her and her friends in the characters. I saw bits of her directors in the teachers in the book – but only glimmers as her directors are tough at times but never inappropriate in using their power and authority as teachers.

    That was not the case in this book and the reoccurring theme was the power that adults held over impressionable young teens and the abuse of that power.

    This was also my reasoning for the 4.5 ✂️‘s rating because there was an ick factor reading and watching the students do what the felt they needed to do to get ahead.

    Sarah, David, and their fellow classmates are under the instruction of their charismatic director, Mr. Kingsley. He pushes every boundary, every envelope, and the students arrive at their individual breaking points during the first third of the book.

    It isn’t until the second 1/3 that the curtain is pulled back and the reader learns that what happened isn’t completely true yet not completely false either.

    Without providing spoilers, here is where the reader has to stick with it as the metafictional elements are revealed and secrets begin to come to light. This is also where the stream of consciousness style of writing begins. You may find yourself flipping back a few pages to confirm what you just read but it was worth it for me.

    The final 1/3 shifts once again and the true secrets are revealed – the driving force behind each fictional account.

    While this was a challenging read, I enjoyed it immensely. The plot twists and the technique to execute the shifts were unorthodox and surprising. There were a few times where I found myself wondering where the book was going but I’m glad I stuck with it to the end.

    Who would enjoy this book? Kurt Vonnegut fans for sure. But also Virginia Woolf readers and in current times, readers who enjoy Helen Oyeyemi and her unique stream of consciousness writing style.

    It’s clear to me why the author, Susan Choi, has won multiple awards for her writing as well as being a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. This will not be my last Susan Choi novel.

  • Book Reviews

    Meaty: a book review

    ✂️✂️✂️✂️/5

    We all have that friend. You know, the one that goes there and unapologetically says what needs to be said.

    Consider Samantha Irby that book friend.

    Meaty is a collection of essays ranging from dating, tacos, recipes, Crohn’s disease, diets, and unbelievable loss that Irby somehow manages to overcome. I laughed through the first few chapters and then it hit me – this woman has lived, lost, gained, and somehow came out on the other side as a beautiful person who is sharply funny and intelligent. She has a gift for taking even the worst and extracting the emotions and putting them into words.

    She is relatable even if she is shocking and raunchy at times. I had a few what?? moments while reading. But I believe that when someone endures tragedy, trauma, or another life changing event – they have earned the right to tell their story however they see fit. It’s not my job to censor their past or expression of their feelings about the event(s).

    Irby is a great writer even when she uses ALL CAPS TO MAKE A POINT. This is one of my writing annoyances but it didn’t bother me that much because at least she used them appropriately.

    Who would I recommend this book to? Well maybe I’m better off recommending who shouldn’t read this book – if you are easily offended, grossed out, or don’t like cursing – skip this one. If you enjoy acidic humor mixed with a steady dose of sarcasm to address some of life’s sad, funny, and unbelievable moments – this book is for you.

    If you enjoyed Shrill by Lindy West or My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh, you will love Meaty. An if you haven’t read these books, you should – after you read Meaty.

  • Book Club For Introverts,  Book Reviews

    Bitter Orange: a book review

    IMG_9561

    The all-seeing eye. What has it seen? Nothing as interesting as the things I saw through the judas hole at Lyntons. But of course, the difference is privacy. The other women will complain and shout about being looked at without warning. But I think it is better to know when someone is watching rather than to live your life under an invisible gaze. Claire Fuller, Bitter Orange

    ✂️✂️✂️✂️✂️/5

    Is it possible to be reading and tread into psychological thriller waters without realizing such until you are immersed? Beautiful writing, rich imagery, a socially awkward woman, and a charismatic yet odd couple living in an old house with a history of its own make for an interesting plot. But the relationship dynamics of this trio were only the beginning.

    Told from Frances’ perspective as an old, dying woman with a failing memory, the reader is forced early on to decide if Frances is a reliable narrator. I decided she was because while her mind was fading, memories and the recounting of them are never 100% accurate. This turned out to be a common thread throughout the story.

    Frances is a 39-year-old woman who has little experience in the world. She spent most of her adult years isolated while caring for her ill mother. Throughout the book you get glimpses into their relationship and it does not appear to be a healthy one.

    Set in 1969, Frances’ mother has passed away and she takes a summer job at a crumbling British home. Her task: inventory the garden architecture and report back to the new owner, an American. Initially she believes she is alone in the house. And then she discovers Peter and Cara living below her.

    Peter has been hired to inventory the house belongings and Cara has traveled with him. Cara has a magnetic personality which often crosses into the outrageous. Frances begins to develop a friendship with the couple and appears to finally be experiencing the world.

    Remember the judas hole? Frances finds one in her floor that looks down into Peter and Cara’s bathroom. Between her stolen observations, afternoon picnics, and alcohol fueled dinners with the couple, she becomes obsessed.

    Cara has wild stories, Peter has contradictory versions, and Frances is haunted by her former life of isolation. The smartly dispersed psychological twists, sometimes only a sentence, make this book come to life. Multiple times I found myself stopping with a wait, what??

    •     •     •     •

    I enjoy unreliable narrators but rarely have I seen them written as well as Fuller does in this book. Combine that with the imagery, the detailed descriptions of the house and property, the character development, and the writing style – you have a unique and well crafted story. Fuller is a very talented writer and I’m looking forward to reading her other books soon.

    Because this plot shifts from present to past, there were a few times I missed the transition and had to reread to find my place in time. Or maybe that was the bourbon reading. This and a few loose ends were my only small annoyances with Bitter Orange.

    Who would I recommend this book to? Anyone who enjoys a well written book with unreliable narration and great plot twists. If you enjoyed Something in the Water, Where the Crawdads Sing, or Behind Her Eyes you will most likely enjoy Bitter Orange.

    •     •     •     •

    This book, about an introvert, was our Book Club for Introverts first pick. Our group is on Goodreads and is open to anyone. It was fun to read something shocking or surprising and then discuss it real-time in the chapter discussion threads. Almost like calling a friend but without the talking because, introverts.

    img_9935

    Our book selection for December is Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty and we would love to have you join us. Look for my Instagram post soon where I’m giving away a copy of the book to two lucky book club members!

  • Bookish,  Lists

    Top Ten: the backlist edition

    aged antique book stack books
    Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

    Happy Friday! Today’s list is the top ten backlist books I want to read. I tend to read a decent amount of them already but here are the ten that are high on my list, a.k.a I should buy them.

    1. I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson – I actually already own this one so I should probably add it to my TBR stack soon. I typically enjoy plots that have twins and this one looks really good.
    2. The Name of Rose by Umberto Eco – I don’t remember where I saw this book for the first time but the plot summary sounds like an early version of the Da Vinci Code.
    3. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead – I own this book and have started it and put it down a few times. I know it’s a great book; it’s just been a little hard to get into at first.
    4. Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt – The cover alone makes me want to read this one. I have a pretty good track record picking books based on their cover art so I should probably go ahead and “invest” in this one.
    5. A List of Cages by Robin Roe – This one has been on my list for awhile. The subject matter is supposed to be tough which is probably why I have been putting it off.
    6. Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon – The cover alone is pretty awesome. The synopsis seems even better and also very important.
    7. Shrill: Notes From a Loud Woman by Lindy West – “Shrill provocatively dissects what it means to become self-aware the hard way, to go from wanting to be silent and invisible to earning a living defending the silenced in all caps.” I should probably read this one ASAP.
    8. A Month in the Country by J.L. Carr – I have had this little book forever. I was reminded of it when it popped up in an author’s interview as one of their favorite novellas.
    9. The Women of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor – published in 1982 and currently lives on my Kindle.
    10. The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett – Listing this one is a bit of a cheat as I’m 25% of the way into this one. I put it down and need to pick it back up again.

    What backlist books are on your to-be-read list? Or what are a few of your favorite backlist books?

  • Book Reviews

    Running From Scissors: a book review

    TCW

    ✂️✂️✂️✂️/5

    Running From Scissors (A Running Store Mystery #1) by T.C. Westcott

    How could I possibly pass up this Advanced Reader’s Copy with this blog name, Blunt Scissors Book Reviews, and my Instagram handle, @thatgirlrunswithbluntscissors ?

    I’m also a runner so a murder mystery that takes place in running group based out of a local running store was really appealing. Add to that, Staxx, the best friend of the protagonist, Lacy, owns a local bookstore that she and her brother inherited from their parents.

    • Scissors – check
    • Running – check
    • Books – check

    I’m in!

    Lacy, recently divorced, starts her life over in a small Oklahoma town. As part of her fresh start she takes up running. Her local running store hosts group runs on the weekends as well as during the week for all levels of runners.

    There are the usual group dynamics that are a part of any group including the queen bee and her friends. Marlene is not well liked outside her own little group of friends and even that is a bit questionable. Lacy has made her dislike of Marlene quite clear but remains a part of the group.

    Someone starts sending Marlene messages in the form of barber scissors; most notably a pair stabbed in her car tire. This is obviously troubling to Marlene and but life continues on.

    Then on a long trail race, Marlene never crosses the finish line.

    The whodunit commences here with a cast of characters from the running group and store all being examined for their motives.

    Ruby, one of the group’s older and slower runners, was a best-selling mystery author in her former life. She still has her mystery solving skills and ropes Lacy and Staxx and running a parallel investigation to the police investigation.

    From there, suspects are brought in, then eliminated, and brought back again once Marlene’s body is found and the missing person investigation intensifies into a murder investigation.

    This was my first exposure to the “modern cozy mystery”. If you’re unfamiliar with the genre, it’s basically a murder mystery without the gory details of violence and mystery solving using detective skills rather than the latest and greatest forensic testing.

    Ruby added an Agatha Christie flair to the plot which I enjoyed immensely as a life long Christie reader.

    This was a quick read with quirky characters in a quirky town. It was a nice change of pace after reading several sad and/or intense books.

    What I enjoyed about the book: the return to the cozy crime fighting methods. It was executed well in this book and Ruby was a wonderful character to bridge the gap between the old style and the more modern style of the genre.

    What I enjoyed less about this book: this is small because a character is who they are but Staxx, a character intended to be a bit over the top and rough around the edges, irritated me at times. Again, this is small in the grand scheme of things but I did find myself skipping some of her dialogue toward the end because I already knew that whatever she would be saying would be grating to me.

    Who would enjoy this book? Anyone who loves running (or not), appreciates the quirks of runners, and likes the cozy mystery genre. An Agatha Christie fan would be at the top of my list of someone to recommend this book to.

    This was a quick and fun read and I’m looking forward to reading more from this author.

    Thank you to BooksGoSocial and NetGalley for the Advanced Reader’s Copy that I received for free in exchange for my honest opinion.

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