Review: The Orchard of Lost Souls

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Review for “The Orchard of Lost Souls” by Nadifa Mohamed
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Man, this woman can write. I had never heard of Nadifa Mohamed until I wandered into the library one afternoon and casually picked up this book.

The setting of this book is one that I have to admit that I knew very little about, Somalia in the late 1980s. The country was pretty much under a Communist dictatorship until they were attacked by rebel forces with innocent civilians caught in the middle. All of these events foreshadow the widespread famine and the “Black Hawk Down” disaster that most Americans are familiar with, and I enjoyed the fact that even though the book was fiction, it was somewhat of a history lesson as well without being boring or coming off too preachy.

The book is told through Deqo, a young orphan, Kawsar, a well off woman who is treated brutally by the police, and Filsan, a female officer within the ranks of the Somalian armed forces. The book started off a bit slow and difficult to follow at first, but once the voices of three main characters became more distinct I could not put this book down. This book has a quick pace and the stories are fascinating, and Mohamed does an excellent job with making you actually feel like you’re right there in the middle of the village of Hargeisa with her. Of course I don’t want to give the book away, but it was certainly a worthy read for me.

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Review: The Opposite of Loneliness

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Review for “The Opposite of Loneliness” by Marina Keegan
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

This book behooves me. The tragic backstory of it makes it somewhat critic-proof: to rip it to shreds is just plain heartless, and to sing its praises is to remain oblivious to what’s on the pages. We’re all suckers for tragedy, and that seems to be what draws us to Marina’s book. I gave this book three stars, and honestly, that was being generous.

First off, lemme say that there were some ok pieces in here. Keegan’s fiction is far better than her nonfiction, the latter part of which I largely skipped over. The problem with this book is that Marina is just so…young. There’s a blurb at the beginning of the book from one of Marina’s professors that mentions that the magic in her writing resides in the fact that her works resounds with the voice of a 20 year old. And my God, it does. There’s very little here in the predictable characters and pre-packaged endings to marvel at because it sounds like everyone else’s in a college writing workshop. Her prose isn’t particularly insightful and takes no risks. She has so much room to grow as a writer that I shudder to think of the many young writers out there whose work is far better, who, because they lacked the proper connections, didn’t have a job waiting for them at The New Yorker upon graduation.

In an ideal world, this book would not have ever been published. Because in an ideal world, Marina Keegan would not have died at 22. She would have graduated college, seen her existence beyond the confines of her privileged upbringing, and she would have grown out of her wide-eyed, precocious fascination with the real world. And I can’t blame her, my writing was probably this trite at 22 also. I imagine someone far younger than me would love this, so I read this fairly quickly and returned it to the library.

Review: A Monster Calls

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Review for ‘A Monster Calls’ by Patrick Ness
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

“And by doing so, he could finally let her go.”

The last ten words of this book had me crying like a baby, y’all…

Ok, I’m lying. I cried MORE than a few times. Because this book is one like no other I’ve ever read. I don’t give five stars easily, but this one is in a whole ‘nother universe of AWESOMENESS.

I’ll write a better review later. All I can say for right now is: DAMN.