Monthly Archives: October 2018

Review of Loving Violet, by Steven Lewis

I won a copy of Steven LewisLoving Violet through Goodreads.

Loving Violet is a tight cinematic narrative about conflicting dimensions of love, romantic as well as familial, told against a backdrop of the pleasures and frustrations of “the writing life.” A generational sequel to Lewis’s Take This, the book follows the late Robert Tevis’s grandson Aaron through his entry into a graduate MFA writing program and the arms of the most drop-jaw gorgeous–and disarmingly untethered–girl he has ever known. From there we follow Aaron and Violet as they travel through the intoxicating, absurd, and confounding stages of erotic love, from a fictional Westchester college to a small loft in Brooklyn, the North Fork of Long Island, and, finally, with their newborn Esme, to Central America. In Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica, Aaron and Esme establish an unusual extended family life with a unique group of women (his divorced mother, widowed grandmother, his late grandfather’s lover, and the grandfather’s former hippie caretaker) while Violet travels the globe as a successful writer.

I’m uncertain about how to feel about this. I found the writing quite lovely (though the editing had the occasional mishap, usually in the form of a missing word here or there), but I finished it with a vaguely disquieted feeling, like something important was missing.

I’m tempted to say it’s the point, that’s what’s missing—Why were we told Aaron’s story? What were we meant to take away from it? But I think that’s an oversimplification. No doubt there was a point, even if I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

There’s a chance my discomfort stemmed from how self-indulgent it felt for an author to write about the life of a burgeoning author. Then to see him give the success away, almost unearned. No doubt the book’s MFA professor would have some cutting remark about my prosaic expectations as a reader; seeking some lofty (easily identified) meaning and dismissing a good story.

Perhaps I was uncomfortable with the fact that the book was full of interesting women, but focused solely on one boy/man (and occasionally his father). The women exist, not on their own, but in their relation to these men, Aaron in particular. Violet, especially, for all her foibles, seemed more a figment of Aaron’s mind than a real person. Maybe this was the problem. I didn’t understand why Aaron was so obsessed with her, other than that he fixated on her.

I said early on that I thought this book was the sort where the ending would make or break it. I won’t go so far as to say it broke the book, but it sure didn’t make it. I feel kind of like the book just fizzled out, never had accomplished that incandescence it was obviously reaching for. It wasn’t bad. It was an enjoyable story that I don’t regret reading. I just don’t think it was much more.

Review of Leviathan Wakes (The Expanse #1), by James S.A. Corey

I borrowed a copy of James Corey‘s Leviathan Wakes from my local library.

Book Description:
Humanity has colonized the solar system – Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt and beyond – but the stars are still out of our reach.

Jim Holden is XO of an ice miner making runs from the rings of Saturn to the mining stations of the Belt. When he and his crew stumble upon a derelict ship, the Scopuli, they find themselves in possession of a secret they never wanted. A secret that someone is willing to kill for – and kill on a scale unfathomable to Jim and his crew. War is brewing in the system unless he can find out who left the ship and why.

Detective Miller is looking for a girl. One girl in a system of billions, but her parents have money and money talks. When the trail leads him to the Scopuli and rebel sympathizer Holden, he realizes that this girl may be the key to everything.

Holden and Miller must thread the needle between the Earth government, the Outer Planet revolutionaries, and secretive corporations – and the odds are against them. But out in the Belt, the rules are different, and one small ship can change the fate of the universe.

This was so good, you guys! I mean really good. I found the writing snappy, the humor on point, the banter witty, the diversity appreciable (even if the only significant female characters were the love interest and girl in need of rescue), and the moral quandary interesting. I liked the way the Belters’ and Inners’ cultures were notably different in ways that caused conflict; two men could do the right thing and it would be different things in the same situation.

There were a few leaps of logic that were maybe a bit too drastic to believe and the characters seemed to solve complex problems with relative ease. But all in all, I basically fell in love with them and can’t wait to get my hands on more of the series.

Review of Bloodlist (Vampire Files #1), by P.N. Elrod,

I borrowed an audio copy of P. N. Elrod‘s Bloodlist from my local library.

Description from Goodreads:
Jack Fleming, ace reporter, always had a weak spot for strange ladies. And he certainly should have listened to the one who said she was a vampire! Because when a thug blasts several bullets through Jack’s back, he does not die–and discovers that he is a vampire as well!

Well, that was something I listened to. I can’t say I loved it, not that it was actually bad. I was just rather bored with it, having expected more. The vampire aspect was totally pointless, Jack could have just been any prohibition-era gumshoe. (And I say that as someone who loves a good vampire novel.)

I did appreciate that he wasn’t an alpha-asshole. He admitted to fear, cried and cared about his friends. It humanized him.

The book does suffer from the classic lack of female characters though. There is only one female character at all and she, of course, is the sexpot hooker-with-a heart. Cliched beyond mention!

Whitener did a fine job with the narration.