Thursday, May 30, 2013

A Tale for the Time Being

A Tale for the Time Being / Ruth Ozeki
Toronto: Viking Canada, c2013.
432 p.

This novel was one I'd been awaiting: I read Ozeki's first novel, My Year of Meats, in those long-lost pre-blogging years, and loved it. And this one looked great: a diary washed ashore in British Columbia, a Japanese teenager's story, Zen Buddhism, depression, the ravages of modern Japanese culture, plus the metafictional twist of the main character Ruth working as a writer, married to someone named Oliver, living in B.C. and being half Japanese -- all the same as Ruth Ozeki herself.

So I was at first a little let down, as I found the beginning a bit slow, even thinking of putting this book aside. But, because I enjoy Ozeki, I kept going. And I am so glad I did, since the story clicked with me about a quarter of the way in (most likely when I slowed down enough to become an attentive reader) and then I could not stop. This turned out to be one of my top reads of the year so far. It was excellent, a collage of stories, reflected in the cover design, one which wove the strands of the tale more and more closely until the final brilliant turn.

It's hard to summarize or identify specific elements that appealed, as everything depends on its context. But even the title is a surprise, something that charmed me. Early on, Japanese diarist Nao (pronounced Now) states:
“My name is Nao, and I am a time being... A time being is someone who lives in time, and that means you, and me, and every one of us who is, or was, or ever will be.”
The idea of time and how it moves is a big part of this book. Nao's great-grandmother Jiko, a 104 yr old Buddhist nun, is a master of time, and tries to teach Nao how to meditate and experience time in the moment. Nao has been experiencing time as a burden, one that she is increasingly willing to cast off.

Meanwhile Ruth experiences what can only be explained as a rupture in the space-time continuum near the end, when she actually inserts herself into the narrative that she is reading, one that unscrolls before her eyes. It was an unexpected development, and brilliant.

The writing in this novel is wonderful; it flows, it eddies, it shoots straight ahead with its relation of the horrible conditions that Nao faces as a bullied schoolgirl. The picture that is drawn of modern Japan is of a rough, cold society. Ruth, on her rainy B.C. island, seems to connect immediately with the story she reads in the diary. And a Japanese crow that has found its way to her forest somehow is also connecting her to this story in a much more mystical manner.

I loved the way the realities of both Nao's life and Ruth's more prosaic one intertwine. As Ruth and Oliver worry about the power going out in storms, or head on down to the local dump, or take the ferry over to town for a dinner out, their lives expand and become fascinating and complex on their own. But in the interactions of both stories, mediated by Ruth's reading, magic happens.

And it's in this metafiction, this shared diary reading between Ruth and the Reader, that I found great delight. The book recognizes the ability of narrative and storytelling to bend and compress time, to record and bring to life events that may be distant from us in time and space, events that we reanimate and live through as if in our present, by reading. Whether it's the diary, emails, old letters scrawled in Japanese or French, or Ruth's tortured novel writing, words and reading are essential to this story.

I loved the complexity, the layers that build as the book goes on, the characters, the setting, the writing itself. This was a fantastic read, and I could go on and on, trying to explain why and how I loved it -- how the characters, major and minor, seeped into my consciousness so that I was dreaming about them; how the B.C. coast and Japanese countryside seemed to be opposite sides of one singular place; how the reversals and leaps between Nao and Ruth's stories kept me anxiously reading; how the motifs of time and water and flow intermingled effortlessly; how I marvelled at Ozeki's technique even as I enjoyed the story itself.

But instead of going on and on, I'll just recommend you read it. That you take time to pay attention to the moment, as Jiko teaches, and find what is revealed there. This was a beautiful book, one I will reread.

I also just noticed that this is my 1000th blog post! Great to have it discussing a book I loved. It's only taken me close to exactly 7 years to reach this milestone, as I started blogging in May of 2006 :)

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Barbara Pym Reading Week!

I'm thrilled that Thomas of My Porch and Amanda at Fig & Thistle are co-hosting Barbara Pym Reading Week, coming this Saturday! Check out their blogs for more info... basically a great opportunity to gorge yourself on Pym novels and share thoughts. Always a good thing.

It's Barbara Pym's centenary on Sunday, thus the timing. But it also works out perfectly because early June is simply perfect for having tea outdoors, and of course, reading! And also on Sunday, heavenali is celebrating with a Virtual Tea Party in Pym's honour. Join in wherever you are, it will be lovely. I'll be trying some of these teatime treats.

I've reviewed a few of Pym's novels (favourite thus far is Crampton Hodnet) and read some that I haven't yet shared my thoughts on. During Pym Week I have An Unsuitable Attachment and A Few Green Leaves awaiting my attention. I'm also hoping to post a couple of outstanding reviews of her work, but we'll see... If you are also a Pym fan, join in, and if you haven't had the pleasure of meeting Barbara Pym yet, well, this is the perfect time to make her acquaintance.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Belinda's Rings

Belinda's Rings / Corinna Chong
Edmonton: NeWest Press, c2013.
259 p.

When I first noticed this book in a catalogue at work, I was immediately intrigued. It features two sisters, half Chinese and half English, living in Western Canada. Told from the perspective of the younger sister (or middle child), this book explores what happens when Belinda, their mother, leaves the family to go back to England and explore the phenomenon of crop circles.

Our narrator Grace (she prefers Gray) is a young teen, and speaks like one. She tries to be tough and act like she doesn't care, but she is hurt by what she sees as her mother's desertion of the family. Gray and her older sister Jess, and young half-brother Squid, are left with her stepfather, the unstable Wiley, to fend for themselves. Gray takes on a mothering role, with a few missteps along the way.

Meanwhile, her father is clueless that they are in this situation, despite seeing them for dinners and so forth. These girls are completely on their own.

Gray is an intelligent narrator, fascinated by giant squid in particular, and sea life generally. She peppers her conversation with facts about squid, relying on science for any sense of reliable fact in her life. Her mother, in contrast, "only believes in things she can't see." Belinda is obsessed with alien visitations, particularly crop circles. She decides that leaving her children and going to England to work with some crop circle enthusiasts is a great idea, even if it does mean she might run into her estranged sister at some point. And of course, she does, and it's terribly awkward, and Belinda is even more emotionally stunted than it appeared at first.

There is a lot going on in this book. Family dynamics, sibling rivalry, crop circles, Gray's scientific facts, relationships, emotional issues, and more. I felt that there was perhaps too much going on, distracting this reader from the primary storyline, having to jump around between the emotional pain of too many characters for my own liking. And Gray's voice sounds reminiscent of Holden Caulfield's, not something I appreciate in many novels, being a non-fan of Holden's.

But as a first novel, it showed a lively style with a strong narrative voice. I enjoyed the setting, and how Chong takes on the story of two half-Asian sisters becalmed in Western Canada. The motif of rings, or circles, echoes through the story. Crop circles, family circles, Belinda's wedding rings that Gray takes to wearing, which leave a physical mark on her skin that reflects her emotional scarring. I also quite enjoyed Gray's fascination with undersea life; she makes the giant squid a mysterious creature, and the impression of the quiet isolation of the deeps in which it lives seems to be another aspect of her interior life.

I was sent this book by Chong's lovely publicist at the Saima Agency and am grateful for the discovery! They are also offering one of The Indextrious Reader's own readers a chance to win a copy for your own delectation. (Canada and U.S. only, please) I`ll draw the winner`s name in a week, in the evening of Tuesday, June 4th.

To enter, simply leave a comment sharing one of your own teenage fixations or fascinations.

As for me: I was not then fascinated by squid, myself, but I did find deep space utterly absorbing, reading astronomy magazines and jumpstarting my interest in astrophysics which continues to this day. What enthralled you?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Crome Yellow

Crome Yellow / Aldous Huxley
London: Penguin, 1960, c1921.
174 p.

I felt it was time for a classic read, of which many live unread upon my shelves. So I chose this slim volume. This is an odd little read, a British amusement of sorts. Most of the action takes place at a literary house party at Crome, home of the Wimbush family.

Our main protagonist, young poet Denis Stone, is madly in love with Anne Wimbush. She isn't particularly in love with anyone. Other members of the party include Jenny, deaf and scathingly honest in her sketching; Mary, looking for a man to claim as her own; the Wimbush elders; Mr. Scogan, an older and extremely talkative cynic; curmudgeonly artist Gombauld; and popular writer Mr. Barbecue-Smith, who channels his best-selling aphorisms in a trance.

It is quite amusing in parts, with much wry humour and satire of the literary mores of the day. Denis is young and idealistic, and announces that he is working on a novel. Mr. Scogan breaks in with his comments:

Mr. Scogan groaned. "I'll describe the plot for you. Little Percy, the hero, was never good at games, but he was always clever. He passes through the usual public school and the usual university and comes to London, where he lives among the artists. He is bowed down with melancholy thought; he carries the whole weight of the universe upon his shoulders. He writes a novel of dazzling brilliance, he dabbles delicately in Amour and disappears, at the end of the book, into the luminous Future."
Denis blushed scarlet. Mr. Scogan had described the plan of his novel with an accuracy that was appalling. He made an effort to laugh. "You're entirely wrong." he said. "My novel  is not in the least like that." It was an heroic lie. 

Many things occur during this holiday. Love is fermenting, virginity being lost, poems unwritten, paintings painted, vicars fulminating, histories of the Wimbush family read out in evenings, a country fair is hosted at Crome for the locals (at which all house guests help out, though Denis seems to be able to absent himself rather skillfully). There is humour both gentle and cutting, there is also a bit of social commentary thrown in via different characters suddenly speechifying. At one point, Mr. Scogan's prediction of the future -- "In vast state incubators, rows upon rows of gravid bottles will supply the world with the population it requires..." -- foreshadows Brave New World.

It was a light read, pointed in some elements and sure to appeal to those who enjoy reading about this era, certainly. I was a bit disappointed in the sudden ending, the unfulfilled denouement, but that is rather the point, considering what Denis was intending for his own novel. In sum, this was a lot lighter fare than I expected from Huxley, and I enjoyed it.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Lean In

Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead / Sheryl Sandberg with Nell Scovell 
New York: Knopf, c2013.
228 p.

I read this without knowing much about the controversy that surrounded it. I just thought it looked intriguing when it came into the library.

And I must say, I'm not sure what all the controversy is about. She has put together a book full of informative  stories and stats that supports the truth that women not only are held back career-wise by social mores and the infrastructure of the corporate world, but also by the expectations and beliefs that they've internalized as well. She is clear in her introduction about who she is addressing in this book, and thus the content is aimed at that particular audience.

Of course this is a difficult discussion and full of nuance. So not everyone is going to be behind every statement she makes, nor is she even fully consistent with her own arguments. But this is the complexity of life, and Sandberg points out shades and complexities in her experience of success. She also deals quite a bit with combining motherhood with a career, especially mothers with young children. I'd have liked to see a little more discussion directly about women without children, and how they face many of the same struggles. Speaking as a childfree woman in the workplace, there are specific issues about this situation that I'd like to see spoken openly about as well. She does note in the first chapter, however, that not all women want careers, not all want children, and not all want both.

We know that each situation is unique in our working lives, but there are many confluences in how women experience their career paths, and this is what she discusses. There are some common sense discussions on topics like the importance of mentorship, along with a definition of what mentorship is and what young women can expect from it -- hint, it's not handholding and unwarranted promotions galore. There are also some powerful statistics about women's limitations both socially and economically. She states right at the beginning that there are obvious limitations built in to how our society functions, but that there are many books that deal with those, and that her focus is on what holds us back internally.

I don't believe that she is engaging in "blame the victim" thinking in the least. Rather, it was refreshing to get some inside wisdom from someone who has actually been successful in this milieu, to hear how she and others like her have dealt with some of their drawbacks and overcome various issues. Her path won't be everyone's, but she doesn't claim that it is. She is advocating knowledge, both of exterior circumstances and self-knowledge. I agree that the two are inextricably linked, and only by acknowledging both will we be able to move forward.

All around me I sense that the world is less feminist-friendly, less accessible than it seemed to be when I was growing up. We've regressed rather than moved on, in many ways. So, it really struck home when Sandberg says, "It has been more than two decades since I entered the workforce, and so much is still the same. It is time for us to face the fact that our revolution has stalled. The promise of equality is not the same as true equality." I also enjoyed her list of what this book was not, ending with "It is not a feminist manifesto -- okay, it is sort of a feminist manifesto, but one that I hope inspires men as much as it inspires women."

I hadn't heard her TED talk before reading this, and have heard since that the book is essentially a transcript of that talk. So if you've listened to the talk you may not want to read this, but I always prefer having text to refer to. I found this book thought provoking, intellectually sound, and inspiring. And as for all those voices in my head that have always told me to "sit down, you're rocking the boat", I'll now counteract those with Sandberg's simple statement:

"Knowing that things could be worse should not stop us from trying to make them better."

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Bone & Bread

Bone & Bread / Saleema Nawaz
Toronto: Anansi, c2013.
448 p.

I enjoyed this novel for so many reasons. It's set largely in Montreal, so of course the joy of revisiting and trying to identify some of my old environs was wonderful -- though you don't have to be a Montrealer to feel engaged in this vividly drawn setting.

The most notable thing for me was the writing itself. It is beautiful, capturing images,  characters, feelings, in its many descriptions, metaphors, and simply lovely sentences. It reads as completely natural and yet is also a clear reflection of such talent. I am envious!

The story details the relationship of two sisters, Beena and Sadhana, who are orphaned early, in quite a disturbing manner. These sisters have a Sikh father and a Western mother, and grow up in Montreal largely distant from their Indian family, other than an uncle. This uncle works in their father's bagel shop, and takes over both the shop and the girls' guardianship once they are left orphans. This is a realistic, difficult, yet ultimately powerful relationship for them all.

The book covers issues of sibling love and rivalry, family bonds, grief, the difficulty of maintaining and identifying one's cultural background, sexual desires and roles, teen pregnancy, anorexia, how much one can help really another person, and more. It is rife with issues, replete with drama.

And yet it is also extremely readable, engaging, and illuminating. The issues do not overwhelm the story itself; they are a natural part of the narrative, unlike novels in which story seems to exist simply to prop up a favoured perspective on The Issue that the author is dealing with. This seems to me to be a tough balance, but Nawaz manages it effortlessly.

I found the younger years of the sisters the most powerful, as they depend on one another utterly, and coexist in a small space, helping one another face the world. As they hit their mid-teens, Beena becomes pregnant, while Sadhana finds her focus in anorexia. They both move into their own private worlds until they finally split apart physically as well, with Beena moving to Ottawa with her young son to find a place of her own. The rest of the book details their efforts to stay connected despite the magnetic pull between them which both draws them together and repels.

There was one element right at the conclusion that I felt was jarring; Beena has been searching for Sadhana's diary after her death. She finally lays her hands on it -- but doesn't even open it, doesn't read it. In her circumstances, I can't imagine not reading it. It did feel a bit anticlimactic.

Nonetheless, this was a wonderful book, with much to admire. The setting was so well done, and the sisters' relationship was loving and difficult, very true to life. There were moments when Nawaz' choice of phrasing made me stop, look at everything differently, and reread the sentence more than once. I enjoyed it, and was interested in each character's take on the world, whether it was Beena, Sadhana, or one of the people who surrounded them. Intriguing reading, with lots to discuss.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Atkinson's Life After Life

Life After Life / Kate Atkinson
Toronto: Random House Canada, c2013.
477 p.

(**Spoilers ahead**)

There's been much talk about this book recently, and as my hold finally came up at the library, I read it over a couple of days last week. Wow! There is a reason for the buzz.

This is one of my 'best books' so far this year. I was absolutely taken with the conceit of the tale; Ursula is born, and then dies. And then is born, and then dies. And so on, and so on. At one point, her brother wonders, "Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could live over and over again until we got it right?"

And that is essentially what Ursula is doing. The cleverness lies in the way Atkinson details it; at each death, she returns to the point where things could have gone differently, and starts anew. As Ursula gets older, this can entail going back a number of years -- the connections get more complicated as more is happening. Some of the situations are ghastly, violent and so sad. And some are simply unfortunate. During a spate of Ursula's childhood accidents and restarts, my husband commented, "It feels like I'm reading the Gashlycrumb Tinies." So true!

But the detail in each part, the small things that shaped the direction of life -- Ursula's small wooden knitting doll, heavy snow delaying the midwife, a moment's distraction during the Blitz, being unable to celebrate VE Day -- these details create a layered, enthralling world that I was utterly absorbed into.

I loved how Ursula became more aware at each restart that something was going on. She has a strange sense of familiarity, put down to déjà vu, when she is repeating something, trying to fix it, to change the possible future. It was brilliantly conceived, and brilliantly executed too. I read it in a mad rush, so impressed by the skill and imaginative power involved.

Upon reflection, there were some elements that were perhaps not as compelling. In one of Ursula's futures, she ends up marrying a German during her pitiful continental tour post-school, and has a child. By some stroke of luck, she befriends Eva, a young woman who brings her along to a posh retreat in the mountains for the sake of her daughter's health. It's Eva Braun, of course. But things end badly. This German episode felt a bit divorced from the tale that had come previously, but its reasons for being become apparent in the following pages.

Ursula begins again and again, and finally recalls enough to set herself a course of action. She plans, prepares and puts into motion her essential reason for living -- returning to Germany and finishing off Hitler. This is a bit unsatisfying; is Ursula really just an instrument of fate? If things can be altered by such a little detail, is Hitler's demise utterly in her hands alone? To me, this exposed the germination of this tale, as we have probably all considered that question -- if you could go back in time and kill Hitler, would you?

Still, this was an amazing read, and now that I've finished I would like to go back and begin again, and pay attention to all those details I'm sure I missed in my first quick reading. If this book didn't have to go back to the library, I would! It was clever, but also very compassionate and human. Ursula was a deeply felt character, distinct from her siblings, unsatisfying to her charming mother, uncertain about what she wanted from life. I was drawn into her world and into her inexplicable condition. I found the repetitions in the narration as she begins anew each time both strong and affecting, as the reader could see the minute alterations and try to figure out what had changed and what the results might be this time around.

This was an excellent read with internal echoes adding colour and weight to the story. I felt that there were certain similarities of atmosphere or theme in a couple of other books I've read recently, which would make great companion reading. My suggestions:

The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt -- for the pre and interwar setting, the sense of large families in the country, the intense interiority of the main characters, the looming presence of the War.

Making It Up by Penelope Lively -- for her focus on chance and the moments in a life when everything could have gone completely differently

Blackout/All Clear by Connie Willis -- for the episodes in the Blitz, the fluidity of time, and the emotional punch of unexpected losses

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Poisoned Pawn

The Poisoned Pawn / Peggy Blair
Toronto: Penguin Group, c2013.
318 p.

This was a light mystery I picked up recently, book two in a series of which I haven't yet read book one! It features Cuban detective Ricardo Ramirez, who has to travel to Ottawa to follow up leads on a very complicated case which includes Canadian tourists, mysterious poisonings and much corruption of many bureaucratic organizations.

It paints quite a picture of life in Cuba -- the shortages, the differences between what tourists are allowed to see and what daily life is like (there are even two currencies: Cuban pesos and tourist pesos). There is a lot of description of the daily routines of Ramirez and his department, as well as his family life, always turbulent. Despite official agnosticism, there are still many practicing Catholics and those who practice Santeria in Ramirez' life, including his grandmother, who left him with the gift/curse of seeing ghosts. He is by now resigned to seeing murder victims in his living room until he solves a case.

There are predictable moments when Ramirez gets to Canada, like his shock at the cold. There are also comparisons pointed out between Cuba's third-world conditions and those of Native reserves all over Canada, when Ramirez is met at the airport by an Ojibway officer, Charlie Pike. In this instance, I found that the author didn't allow much subtlety of interpretation, rather she spells it out, coming across as somewhat didactic. Still, the conditions on reserves and in residential schools do play a part in the story, so for non-Canadians this approach may be necessary to aid understanding.

The mystery itself is complicated, a multilayered twist of various strands that end up not being completely connected, but in searching for the answers to one case, the other is invariably implicated. These strands connect Ottawa and Cuba, and Ramirez must walk a fine line between the expectations of both sides in order to sustain his precarious lifestyle in Cuba. He wrangles the corruption in each place with enough panache to preserve himself, while meting out justice, as much as he is able.

It begins with a poisoning of a Canadian woman who is fleeing Cuba, carries on with a dead woman in an alley in Havana, and has a suggestion of widespread child abuse as an element in the case. Ramirez, with the help of both the local coroner, a dwarf named Hector Apiro, and the contacts he makes on his Canadian visit, must find the connections.

The setting is an integral element of the story, and Ramirez' world is fascinating. Even without reading the first book I was able to follow along and get to know the characters sufficiently to become involved in the story. If you've ever travelled to Cuba you might find this one particularly interesting for its inclusion of everyday detail. Quite unusual, and intriguing in its variety of characters.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

The Butler Speaks

The Butler Speaks: a Guide to Stylish Entertaining, Etiquette and the Art of Good Housekeeping / Charles MacPherson
Toronto: Random House Canada, c2013.
247 p.

I received this book from Random House and have really enjoyed looking through it over the last week. It's actually quite fascinating -- although I do freely admit I skimmed over the section on how to properly clean every single thing in your house.

This is not a stuffy volume of arcane protocol, rather, it is a modern take on the service industry. I really liked what MacPherson said in the opening pages:

Etiquette is not a set of classist rules for the rich, famous or snobby -- rather, it's a way of understanding other people and having consideration for their needs.

It covers all sorts of things, from how to set a table and differentiate between cutlery, to how to clean, iron or polish your household. If you ever wanted to know how to set a tea tray correctly, that's here too. What wine to serve with which meal? Is this chair Queen Anne or Louis Quinze? Fold a napkin? Make a bed? Create a champagne tower? Address people correctly by order of protocol? Yes, you'll find out how. There is also a wonderful discussion of the temperament and behaviours of an efficient and effective butler (or any other kind of service position).

While I am not considering a career as a house manager this was still great reading. Recommended reading which he includes at the end, a list of 10 essential household management books (actually 11, but one is only in French), contains Cheryl Mendelson's Home Comforts, a book I bought some years ago but have as yet never even opened. Oops. However, if this field does in fact interest you as a career choice, try reading this book to get a feel for what's involved, and check out his recommended titles. And then check out his website, too -- Charles MacPherson Associates offers an accredited training course in the field, and it appears to be quite elaborate with assistance in placement afterward as well. It is based in Toronto, and MacPherson also makes regular appearances on the Marilyn Denis show.

Definitely a useful book for the non-professional (like myself) who needs a reference for some of these things now and again! A great gift, too, for those people you know you won't offend by giving it to them ;)

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Where'd You Go, Bernadette?

Where'd You Go, Bernadette? / Maria Semple
New York: Little, Brown, c2012.
330 p.

Another epistolary read, this one has been repeatedly recommended to me. I'm sure that most readers will have heard of this one by now -- it's the story of Bee Fox, a rather precocious girl living in Seattle with her currently agoraphobic (and formerly famous) mother and her Microsoft exec father.

It is told in a collection of letters, notes and emails back and forth from the various players in the story -- Bernadette, her virtual assistant in India, crazy neighbours, passive-aggressive fellow mothers from Bee's fancy school, and more, with the addition of a few narrative sections to add information to the story.

Bernadette, formerly a star in the architecture field, has closed herself off from most interactions with the outside world, preferring to stay inside of her rambling, crumbling home. Bee, a brilliant student, has been promised a reward if she gets straight A's (which of course she does) and starts off this tale by asking for a family trip to Antarctica.

With her mother anxious about the entire idea, and her father a busy executive falling into a relationship of sorts with his hyperefficient secretary, Bee's trip doesn't look good. But planning goes ahead, until Bernadette disappears while an intervention is being staged in her kitchen.

The second half of the book follows Bee and her father as they travel to Antarctica and follow Bernadette's trail to try to discover what has happened to her. Father-daughter bonding (and non-bonding) goes on, they discuss Bernadette's place in their lives, we get to see Antarctica even as the sullen teenager Bee ignores it, and get to some emotional depth in Bee's longing for her mother. Finally, a resolution: by chance and daring, Bee and her father take action and find out what has happened.

I liked this book. It was fun, with snappy dialogue, some entertaining characters, great settings -- both Seattle and Antarctica are real places here. The epistolary format perhaps didn't work so well for the entire story, but exposition is really hard to capture authentically solely via the written word, especially in our non-letter writing culture. It was much more normal for 18th century letter writers to go on and on about every detail, since there was no other way that people were finding out information, for example. Still, it was pretty well done, and really creative and entertaining.

What I didn't like so much was the confusion I felt between the characters of Bee and Bernadette. Not only are their names similar, but their voices are as well. They think and speak in the same patterns, and with the same insouciant sarcasm. I couldn't immediately recognize who was speaking in some scenes, despite the fact that one character is a precocious teenager and the other a disappointed adult. Sometimes I felt like the structure and dialogue was just a little too snappy.

So while I didn't adore this one as much as many other readers have, I still enjoyed it and appreciated what it was trying to do. I liked many of the elements and will most definitely be keeping my eyes open for this writer's next book.