Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

198806Lolita is not a book easily reviewed or even discussed. Nabokov’s masterpiece was a book I had put off reading. Despite its presence on my Classics Club reading list, I still wasn’t super pumped to dive in. First, the subject matter wasn’t particularly pleasing and second, my first foray into Nabokov’s writing was less than successful. I attempted Pale Fire when I was about 21 and failed miserably. It went right over my head.

When my best friend and I decided to start our own buddy reads program, she listed three books that she was interested in reading, and I selected our first choice from that list. Having read two of the three choices, I was left with Lolita. It’s not a book that needs an introduction or synopsis. Everyone knows the story follows a pedophile called Humbert Humbert.

What a tragic and masterful story. Nabokov’s command of the English language is astounding considering his native tongue is Russian. The words – oh the beautifully manipulated words! So many puns and wordplay are scattered abundantly throughout Lolita’s nightmarish tale. I found myself laughing out loud often and then feeling terrible about that. Nabokov will reel you in and then bop you over the head with grotesquery. In short, he’s brilliant and so is Lolita if you can get past the yucky.

I was shocked at the absolute bluntness of the molestation, particularly for a book written in the fifties. I’m not entirely sure how the thing got published. The graphic-ness of a 12-year-old getting repeatedly raped by a man in his forties is baffling. Humbert is a monster of the most sordid variety and several times I had to set the book aside. There were even parts I skimmed over in the first half because I just couldn’t digest the imagery.

Victoria and I haven’t met to discuss the book yet as she’s just started. But she messaged me at about 70 pages in asking how the hell I managed to finish. Honestly, I didn’t have the best of answers beyond the writing is gorgeous. I suspect for many parents this book would be impossible to read so I wouldn’t fault her for not finishing. One saving grace, Nabokov is clearly not glorifying Humbert or pedophilia. He’s clearly not a fan.

The best thing to come out of my reading is how accessible I found the writing, the plotting, and pacing of Lolita. I’m now no longer afraid to visit Nabokov’s other works. In fact, I’m looking forward to a Pale Fire reread in the near future.

Have you read Lolita? Is it a book you can easily recommend to other readers? Do you enjoy books that make you complicit in some seriously demented moral quandaries?

Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake

12507214Girl of Nightmares is Kendare Blake’s follow up to Anna Dressed in Blood. Anna was a decent YA read for me, but had some flaws I had a hard time over looking. I had heard mixed things about the sequel in this duology, but hoped for the best. When the BookTube-a-Thon came along I decided to meet one of the challenges (finish a series) with this book and it was a perfect addition to my reading list.

(There will be Anna spoilers ahead so beware.)

When we left Cass and his friends, Anna had just been swept away to God knows where. Her Victorian mansion had collapsed, but everyone else had survived to journey on into Girl of Nightmares. This time around, Cass is seriously missing his ghostly honey, hating that he doesn’t know what actually ended up happening to her. Things turn rather strange when he begins having visions of Anna that at first seem harmless and just slightly crazy, but then he begins to suspect that Anna is actually contacting him from the hell she’s been living in during the past few months. Cass and company now must figure out if helping Anna is the right thing to do and whether or not it’s even possible.

You guys, Girl of Nightmares was so much more enjoyable than Anna Dressed in Blood. I’ve been trying to nail down why that is since I finished reading. Partially, I was aware of some of the book’s previous pitfalls and so didn’t let those things bother me as much in the second book. When Cass’s mother just sort of benignly accepts his job of choice, death be damned, I let it go. Mostly, however, I was so pleasantly surprised at how genuinely creepy this book turned out to be. At moments, I actually shuddered at some of Anna’s ghostly visits. The spookiness of Blake’s second outing was a wonderful improvement. Horror novels should incite fear – duh.

The new characters and the new London setting for the book’s second half were also a huge win! I loved that Gideon wasn’t all he seemed and that Cass’s job was on the table now that a kickass new female protagonist has been introduced. I say protagonist because I would totally love a novel from Jestine’s perspective. Plus, the hell world Anna’s living in with the Obeahman was so perfectly rendered and imaginative. I finally feel like Kendare Blake has transcended the multitude of other YA novelists into an elite group of talented super writers.

Yes, I liked Girl of Nightmares just that much.

Bonus:

I love that the girl on the cover doesn’t appear to be white – but rather looks Asian. At least to me. You can’t really tell in the above picture. She looks a lot like Kendare Blake, actually.

Tooth & Claw by T.C. Boyle

24725T.C. Boyle is another one of those author’s I’ve heard a ton about but never explored. To me, he seems sort of like a ‘gentleman’s club’ writer – someone meant specifically for male readers which is probably absurd. But something just felt so nebulously masculine in a way that put me off. Enter the library where you can borrow books for free! Or you can just check out the New Yorker online for the title story!

Tooth and Claw borrows its title from a Tennyson poem wherein nature is described as:

Who trusted God was love indeed

And love Creation’s final law—

Tho’ Nature, red in tooth and claw

With ravine, shriek’d against his creed—

(In Memoriam)

Boyle’s 14 shorts all link to nature in some way – great or small. At times nature is a force to be reckoned with and at others a quiet mention providing background scenery. I think the ‘nature’ even doubles as human nature more often than not. Sometimes the stories work and sometimes they bore you to death.

That’s not to say that the collection isn’t worth reading because I believe it is. A couple of the stories actually won me over enough that I bought a hardcover edition to add to my other short story collections. The first winner was ‘Dogology’ where a woman endeavors to study dog behavior in the most natural of ways, eventually losing her ‘humanness’. The second was ‘Swept Away’ where a love story is put to its conclusion when a violent wind storm literally sweeps away a visiting ornithologist. I’m fairly certain she didn’t end up in Oz.

However, more often than not Boyle’s narratives follow some average joe dude who’s content drinking himself or drugging himself into a sort of oblivion (enter that gentleman’s club theme I mentioned above). These shorts are rarely compelling enough to warrant reading, let alone rereading.

What I particularly appreciate with short stories is that you don’t have to read the ones you don’t enjoy! You can skip whole chunks of blathering nonsense and cherish the brilliance in-between. There’s no doubt that Boyle is talented, but perhaps next time I’ll seek out works that aren’t quite as bogged down in his own past history with the drinking and drugging. For all the time he spends on down and out males, I actually think he writes fairly interesting women. So there will be a next meeting, Mr. Boyle. Perhaps a novel, yes?

Casino Royale by Ian Fleming

15954464Oh, James Bond. How I love thee. At least when you are brought to life by Daniel Craig. Casino Royale and Skyfall are two of my favorite movies of all time so I decided to give the source material a read. I worried the books wouldn’t live up to my love of the films and that the woman-hate would be too hard to overcome.

The first Bond novel, Casino Royale, is at first about a high stakes baccarat game between a British Secret Services operative, our handsome Bond, and the soviet scumbag, Le Chiffre. Le Chiffre has lost millions of dollars that belong to a high terrorist conglomerate, SMERSH, and he needs to win this showdown if he’s to save his own life. But pesky James is always in the way. Interrupting Bond’s game playing is that beguiling minx, Vesper Lynd. She’s been assigned to work with Bond in the field and becomes quite the player in Bond’s work and surprisingly, his heart.

Gotta say – a great overall reading experience. I loved Fleming’s writing. His novel reads like a literary page-turner that manages to feel far less dated than I would have thought. The sexism is there, but I think Vesper’s character is far more interesting than just some piece of meat for Bond to bed. She’s extremely important to this novel and the rest of Bond’s life. I could get annoyed that she ultimately ends up being a boobed villain without much depth, but I like when a woman manages to sneak up on a world renowned master spy – so sue me.

The book is different enough from the movie to be a worthwhile read. I’m also convinced that Bond’s character in the books is far less campy playboy, and much more brooding, clever lone wolf with a sharp tongue and sense of humor. For this reason, I really appreciate the newer films even more and believe Daniel Craig’s Bond to be very faithful to the source material. Reading the novel allows one to get inside James’s mind and see that there’s a lot going on there – at least in this initial offering. He philosophizes ideas of good and evil. He also weighs his role of hired killer in a far more moral and intriguing way than one might expect.  Bond is blunt about the world he sees and how he sees himself.

So I definitely recommend Casino Royale to anyone with even the slightest interest in 007. It’s a great companion to the movie and a wonderful addition to any readathon TBR. I’ll definitely be continuing on with Fleming’s next Bond installment!

The Exiles by Allison Lynn + A Giveaway! (Closed)

THE-EXILES-Final-Cover-Hi-Res-199x300The Exiles intrigued me initially due to the modern day Fitzgerald comparisons. Since most of these comparisons never live up to their promise, I mostly had low expectations when I began Lynn’s newest novel. It felt like I was daring the book to impress me.

The story centers around a thirty-something couple, Nate and Emily, who have been priced out of Manhattan. As a mediocre investment banker, Nate can no longer afford the lavish lifestyle of his more successful friends. With a new mouth to feed, Emily and Nate pack their bags and move their small family to Newport, Rhode Island where a new job awaits and the promise of normalcy beckons. When they arrive in Newport, their jeep and immediately essential possessions are stolen. Over the next three days, they shack up in a hotel they can’t afford and are forced to face the secrets and denials they’ve been keeping from each other and themselves. Also, art theft!

Allison Lynn’s novel quietly sneaked up on me. At first, the story feels fairly humdrum with extremely unlikable characters. But slowly, the secrets Nate and Emily have been keeping start to unfold and the pages begin turning at a tremendous pace. The two never become likable, but they do become completely engaging and compelling. Their web of lies and denials is absolutely astounding at times, but also gritty and realistic.

The Exiles is essentially about two people running from themselves and from each other who collide dramatically over one long weekend. The book progresses through such topics as hereditary disease, art thievery, parenthood, and deception. It’s a world where you’re asked to sympathize with a family that makes $150K+ a year, but due to their environment feel ‘poor’. Allison Lynn has done a superb job of making a mundane story thrive with energy and flow with seamless writing.

Honestly, I can’t believe this book hasn’t gotten more attention. It’s better than a lot of popular novels I’ve read recently and a title I recommended to my bookclub on Sunday. Do yourself a favor and give it a read. To help you out on that front, you can enter to win your very own copy by filling out this form!! Only US/Canada addresses eligible. No P.O. Boxes. Winner will be drawn next Tuesday, July 30. Good luck! (closed – winner selected)

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Thanks so much to TLC Book Tours and the publisher for providing a copy of The Exiles in exchange for my honest review. You can check out other stops on the tour here.

About the Author:

Lynn-cKelley-Jordan-Photography-high-res-220x300Allison Lynn is the author of the novel Now You See It, which won awards from both the Pirate’s Alley Faulkner Society and the Bronx Council on the Arts. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times Book Review, People,  and elsewhere. She teaches at Butler University in Indianapolis, where she lives with her husband, the writer Michael Dahlie, and their son.

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Discussion: Ender’s Game and the Film Boycott

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If you haven’t heard by now, people are planning to boycott the film version of Orson Scott Card’s novel, Ender’s Game. The movie comes out in November, and I’m not going to lie – I’ve been excited for this film since I first read the book some 15+ years ago. That being said, I deplore Card’s politics and how he spends his money. The interwebs are currently filled with passionate pleas and some downright virulent opinions about those who pay to watch Ender’s Game. I would hate to fund Card’s beliefs, but I’d also hate not seeing the film version of my favorite novel of ALL TIME. Plus, it would suck for the child actors in this film to be affected by a low grossing box office. My feelings are complicated. In real life, my friends all tell me to stop reading the internet and go see the movie (including all of my gay friends).

So my question this lovely Friday, what are your feelings about the controversy? Are you planning on seeing the movie? If you see the film, are you thinking about making a donation to a particular group or charity that fights against such crazies as OSC? Or perhaps you might even side with OSC and his beliefs? No matter – just let me know in the comments!