California by Edan Lepucki – no Calfornia Dreams here

20140822_104458I initially became aware of California by Eden Lepucki due to the massive media the-mad-reviewer-reading-challenge-buttonattention it has garnered.  Hard to ignore given how much it’s been talked about.  So I picked it up to see if it was worth a read and the story sounded interesting to me – Cal and Frida have been living a secluded life after leaving post apocalyptic Los Angeles.  However, when Frida realizes she is pregnant things have to change, they have to find other people and a more hospitable living environment.

Cal and Frida left LA after it seemed there was no hope for staying.  Food, homes, gas, any of the needed essentials were no longer easily available.  If they were, one had to pay for it in pre-melted gold.  They escape to the woods and come across a small shack that provides shelter and is livable.  At first Cal and Frida think they are the only ones in the area but they end up meeting the Millers, a man and woman with two children, whom they befriend.  Life is rough but good.  The Millers provide enough contact with other humans to make things tolerable as well as a monthly visit by a man they can trade goods with.  The Millers come to their own tragic end and Cal and Frida move into the Miller’s old home and life is still tough but Cal and Frida are surviving.

Things change when Frida realizes she is pregnant.  The need for better shelter, better food, and help with the baby come to the forefront.  Cal reluctantly agrees that they should go to the Lands, a place that doesn’t welcome strangers, and make a try to be accepted in.  Once Cal and Frida arrive and are able to make it onto the Lands, they are faced with many surprises as well as questions as to how this community is able to make it, where they get all the food supplies from, and if the two of them will be allowed to stay.

All of this is a good story but Frida is not a likeable person. She is self-centered and self-absorbed.  Frida met Cal when Cal was attending Plank, a free college for boys, and Cal became friends with Frida’s brother Micah.  Frida seems to idolize her brother and cannot see that he is really not a good guy.  Micah ends up getting involved in The Group, a seemingly terrorist type of group, and he eventually takes part in a suicide bombing that ends his life.  Frida never seems to get over this and Cal has promised to never talk about it.   Frida likes to keep secrets from Cal and these secrets make things complicated at times.  Cal does his fair share of secret keeping as well but he seems to realize that it’s better to share with Frida than keep things hidden.

The flashbacks that occur throughout the book start to weigh it down, just too many happen in the second half and it takes away from the main story.  The ending of this book was the most disappointing for me.  I can deal with books that don’t tie things up in nice pretty bow at the end.  Sometimes an ending that leaves things left unknown works.  The ending to this book was almost infuriating.  It seemed to just stop and left far too many questions about what happens up in the air.  I thought the ending was almost like a half thought that wasn’t expressed in a way everyone can understand.  Too much conjecture on the readers part is needed and that is far too disappointing.

Overall, this was an Okay book.  I liked the idea behind the story but overuse of flashbacks was frustrating.  I found myself skimming through a few lines since it didn’t really have an effect on the storyline.  The ending was the most disappointing part.  It needed to provide a tad bit more in order to be satisfying.  Unfortunately that did not happen.  Is it worth the read?  I think it might be.  I guess I’m a bit ambivalent about this book.  Good idea for a story and a strong start, but not a good ending and an overuse of flashbacks for me.

The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness

20140817_161105Ahh – the trilogy.  Loved and hated at the same time.  Loved because the reader gets to visit familiar/favorite characters again. the-mad-reviewer-reading-challenge-button Hated because the reader has to patiently wait for the next installment, which can be its own form of punishment for reader and writer alike.  The Book of Life, the final book in The All Souls trilogy by Deborah Harkness just came out.  I picked up the final book with a bit of trepidation.  Shadow of Night, the second book, wasn’t what I had hoped it would be.  Trilogies can be great sources of joy or great sources of sadness/anger for the reader (e.g. Divergent series, I’m the minority who liked the final book thinking it stayed true to Tris).  I was hoping the final book by Harkness would be worth it.  Thankfully I was not disappointed.

Harkness has done the rare thing – she wrote a final book that was the best in the series.  Many third books can be disappointing or not live up to all readers expectations. The Book of Life did a good job of explaining things as well as provide a satisfying conclusion.   The third book starts right where the second left off.  Diana and Matthew have returned from their trip to the past and come back to the devastating news of the death of Diana’s aunt.  This death of course has meaning and sets other storylines up.  Diana needs to be fully accepted as a Clairmont, she and Matthew have to deal with wholly unexpected faces, Diana’s close friend plays an integral role in finding out the reason why a witch and a vampire are able to have children,  and the secret of why Ashmole 782 revealed itself to Diana.

One thing that I think doesn’t get as much attention as it should in this book is the underlying message of acceptance.   Acceptance of one’s self,  acceptance of others,  acceptance of one’s role in a relationship as well as within a family,  and acceptance of things that happened in the past.  Diana has to be willing to admit she is a witch and with that admittance, what she is able to become.  The Clairmont’s have to be willing to understand that vampires aren’t the only representative of the family, and a few other points of acceptance. Reading the final book made me appreciate the second one more.  At the time I read the second book I was very frustrated with it.  I wasn’t able to see the point.   However the third book referred back to events that happened in the second and allowed me to understand why the trip to the past was needed. IMG_11995930681991

The Book of Life is much more of a grownup story about witches, vampires,  and demons.  It was refreshing to read and dealt with topics in an adult and realistic manner (well, as realistic as can be for the subject matter).  This book was a bit heavy on the romance for my taste but that’s just my taste and the romance is important to the overall story.

I had the opportunity to see/meet Deborah Harkness when she came to a local bookstore for a reading/signing.  Her explanation of Diana and Matthew’s journey enabled me to see the series in a new light. It also enabled me to understand the writer’s perspective and her process.  It made me like the books in a different way that I hadn’t been able to before.  An overall good series with a final book that offered an enjoyable ending.

What’s your Genre?

I was perusing the bookstore the other day looking for a specific book.  I figured it would be in the fiction section but I was wrong – it ended up being in the mystery20140801_185815 section, I think.  The list of genres out there for books is almost staggering.  And then toss in the sub-genres and it can20140801_185907 get really confusing. Which makes the answer to “what’s your genre” not so simple.

I tend to like fiction: horror, literature, young adult, humor, and a few more.  I’ll read a wide range of topics but those are my main go-to genres (pics of my bookshelves may reflect that).  This makes me wonder how does a writer choose what genre they should fall under?  The other day I was at an author reading and she indicated there was a newish (my word, not hers) type of genre: adult vampire (or something like that), which means it has vampires, etc., in it but also has sex.  Who knew. Once a writer is done with their book, I would think the hard choice would be what genre does this fit in.  Choose the wrong one and it may get marketed ineffectively.  Choose the right one and it could be a massive hit.  Then again, sometimes genre doesn’t matter.  If it’s a good book, people will buy it, regardless of the genre.

When did the massive amount of types of books come about, or has it always been that way and it’s just much more in the forefront due to marketing tactics?  I guess the point of this post is try not to limit yourself to reading a specific genre.  If you like YA you may like some horror; if you like fantasy, you may like some historical fiction.  There certainly isn’t any problem with sticking with what you like, but don’t be afraid to branch out once in a while.  Even if you only find one book outside of your norm, that’s one more book/genre you’ve exposed yourself to. The more variety you read, the better for yourself.

What’s your genre?  If you’ve read something outside your norm, did it cause you to read a wider variety of books?