At last, a post-apocalyptic hero the other half of the world can relate to! Not that there aren’t a lot of great reads featuring the current go-to hero/heroine, but as a reader with more than a few decades under her belt I do occasionally tire of the teenager-saves-the-world trope—there, I said it! I found a few chapters in the first half of the book a little slow. Not enough to put me off though and on the whole a fine offering from Howey (I’ve put Shift, and Dust on my reading list too).
I really wanted to like this more than I actually did. I’m a big fan of the fairy tale genre and write them myself. (Ahem, that’s a BIG hint by-the-way if anyone wants to head over to my website and check them out!) They are much harder to write than you might think. First, there’s a rhythm and tone to the language that is very different from the way we normally think and speak. Second, maintaining a consistent internal mythology is critical. Except at the very beginning, you can’t just make up random shit as you go along; everything has to flow from what came before. Ms. Lo does a fabulous job of the former but, in my opinion, not the latter. I detected a few skips in the mythology. At one point Ash is warned explicitly “time passes differently” when spending a night in Fairy. In the morning she returns home to find <insert gasp of surprise here> it’s the very next day!—wait, what? Eh, maybe I’m being too picky and others might not be bothered by something like that. My other problem with Ash is that although it’s an LGBT retelling of Cinderella wherein Ash falls in love not with The Prince, but with his Huntress, all of the sexual tension is between Ash and The Fairy. He’s always just called “The Fairy”, no name given so I’m not being obtuse. The growing romance between The Huntress and Ash is sweet and tender but overshadowed by the physical intensity of Ash’s connection to The Fairy. Then there’s The Prince: sure, he’s a convenient hook to hang The Huntresses’ movements and actions on, and serves to frustrate the ambitions of Ashes’ wicked stepmother and stepsisters, but he feels like such a peripheral character I wonder why he’s even there. He’s a path that leads nowhere, is ultimately irrelevant, and could easily have been written out of the story altogether without impeding the narrative. Ash isn’t a bad book—it’s just not great, and I wanted it to be great.
Holy Predictable and Forgettable Batman! The only surprise in this entire book was when the BMW our bad guy drove during the car chase inexplicably turned into a Lexus and then back to a BMW by the end of the paragraph. Or maybe it was the other way around? I can’t remember. Now, because Josie Brown has no less than eight, four and five star reviewed novels on Amazon I’m just going to presume this is not her best work. A book based on this concept should have been—and could have been—hilarious. But it wasn’t. And I can’t decide if the uninspired, soft-core porn scenes made it bearable or truly cringe-worthy. The Housewife Assassin’s Handbook was so forgettable that at one point I did, in fact, forget I was reading it. Enough said.
After reading so many great reviews I decided I had to read it myself. I love a flawlessly written historical novel and Hild hit the mark in every way. Detailed and intricate without falling into tedium, a compelling narrative pace, and characters with the depth and breadth of genuine humanity—no one-dimensional, trivial types here.
…and cue the applause. Nicely done Ms. Zevin. Nicely done. A book about books, and reading, and writing—and it takes place almost entirely in a bookstore! Okay, it’s not really about books. It’s about people, but the construct is genius, as is the writing. I loved A.J. (even as a bad-tempered drunk), Amelia, and Maya. I loved Lambaise and Ismay. I even loved that sorry, selfish, prick of a man, Daniel Parish; he was what he was and perfectly so. What else can one ask of any character? Funny, touching, revealing…I just can’t say enough great things about this book. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry goes straight to the top of my recommended reading list. Or it would if I had one. I may skip Zevin’s YA Birthright series but I’ll be keeping my eye out for a copy of Margarettown.