Size Doesn’t Matter (22): Mini Reviews from a Lazy Blogger

Size Doesn’t Matter (22): Mini Reviews from a Lazy BloggerLust for Life by Irving Stone
Narrator: Steve West
Length: 19 hrs, 38 mins
Published by Random House Audio on March 6, 2012
Genres: Historical
Format: Audiobook
Source: Purchased
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three-stars

No artist has been more ruthlessly driven by his creative urge, nor more isolated by it from most ordinary sources of human happiness, than Vincent Van Gogh. A painter of genius, his life was an incessant struggle against poverty, discouragement, madness and despair.

Lust for Life skilfully captures the exciting atmosphere of the Paris of the Post-Impressionists and reconstructs with great insight the development of Van Gogh's art. The painter is brought to life not only as an artist but as a personality and this account of his violent, vivid and tormented life is a novel of rare compassion and vitality.

To be honest, I was never particularly interested in Vincent Van Gogh, so I really had no particular interest in this fictional biography. What I did have an interest in is Steve West’s voice. Yes, I’m shallow, but, hey, it worked out well this time.

Lust for Life was surprisingly entertaining. I say surprisingly because Steve West has narrated some books I couldn’t get through despite his talents as a narrator. Written in the 1930s, Stone’s novel is obviously a bit dated, but I enjoyed it. I knew little about Van Gogh, aside from Starry Night basically, so everything about his life was knew to me. Most of it, conversations aside, according to the Author’s Note, is drawn directly from history. It’s made me more curious about the art scene in Paris, and I do plan to look up his pictures.

Van Gogh’s surprisingly (again this word) sympathetic. He puts the whole of himself into everything he does, which is evinced in his brief career as a preacher and then in his painting. His battle with a mental illness before they were much understood is tragic.

Where the novel lost me was any time Van Gogh was obsessed with a woman. I just do not give a fuck about his penis feels. Whenever there was a girl in his life, I went from feeling sympathetic to hating him. Just yuck to that.

I don’t regret the purchase because I learned a lot and West’s voice is gorgeous, but I hope I enjoy The Agony and the Ecstasy a bit more; it’s on my shelves so I do plan to read it at some point.

Size Doesn’t Matter (22): Mini Reviews from a Lazy BloggerHarry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
Series: Harry Potter #7
Published by Bloomsbury on July 21, 2007
Genres: Fantasy, Adventure
Pages: 607
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
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five-stars

Harry has been burdened with a dark, dangerous and seemingly impossible task: that of locating and destroying Voldemort's remaining Horcruxes. Never has Harry felt so alone, or faced a future so full of shadows. But Harry must somehow find within himself the strength to complete the task he has been given. He must leave the warmth, safety and companionship of The Burrow and follow without fear or hesitation the inexorable path laid out for him.

In this final, seventh instalment of the Harry Potter series, J. K. Rowling unveils in spectacular fashion the answers to the many questions that have been so eagerly awaited. The spellbinding, richly woven narrative, which plunges, twists and turns at a breathtaking pace, confirms the author as a mistress of storytelling, whose books will be read, reread and read again.

It’s a sad fact of adulthood that I rarely stay up late reading anymore. I pretty much always go to bed at the same time, and I don’t let reading get in the way of that. However, I stayed up about an hour  late to finish a book I’ve read before. Ah, the magic of Harry Potter.

That said, Deathly Hallows went slower for me. It alternates between slow scenes and ones of exquisite pain, so a lot of mental breaks were necessary. Plus, I was slumping, which isn’t Deathly Hallows‘ fault. Still, I’d say of them all, Deathly Hallows is one of my least favorite HP books. There’s some serious infodumping and some things I side eye, but it doesn’t change the fact that I love this book.

That goes for the whole series. I wondered if I should put on my critical reviewer hat and rate down for the things that bother me (for example: house elves), but the amount that I love these books is a five star amount, even if they’re not completely without flaws. I’m not blind to the fact that they’re not technically perfect, but to me they are perfect.

gif to me you are perfect love actually

I realize that sounds oxymoronic, but I don’t care. These books have been intrinsic to my life since I was young, and, even with my reviewer hat on, I honestly find them to be objectively amazing. So.

Pretty sure no book has ever made me weep harder than Deathly Hallows, either the first time I read it or when I finished last night. I will never be over it.

Size Doesn’t Matter (22): Mini Reviews from a Lazy BloggerVelvet Undercover by Teri Brown
Published by Balzer + Bray on October 20, 2015
Genres: Historical, Mystery, Thriller, Romance
Pages: 336
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
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Goodreads
three-stars

Perfect for fans of Jennifer Donnelly and Libba Bray comes this page-turning historical spy thriller from Teri Brown, author of the Born of Illusion series.

Samantha Donaldson's family has always done its duty for the British Crown. In the midst of World War I, seventeen-year-old Sam follows in their footsteps, serving her country from the homefront as a messenger for the intelligence organization MI5. After her father disappears on a diplomatic mission, she continues their studies of languages, mathematics, and complex puzzles, hoping to make him proud.

When Sam is asked to join the famed women's spy group La Dame Blanche, she's torn—while this could be an unbelievable adventure, how can she abandon her mother, who has already lost a husband? But when her handlers reveal shocking news, Sam realizes she can't refuse the exciting and dangerous opportunity.

Her acceptance leads her straight into the heart of enemy territory on a mission to extract the most valuable British spy embedded in Germany, known only as Velvet. Deep undercover in the court of Kaiser Wilhelm II, Sam must navigate the labyrinthine palace and its many glamorous—and secretive—residents to complete her assignment. To make matters worse she must fight a forbidden attraction to the enemy—a dangerously handsome German guard. In a place where personal politics are treacherously entangled in wartime policy, can Sam find Velvet before it's too late . . . for them both?

A thrilling story of one girl's journey into a deadly world of spy craft and betrayal—with unforgettable consequences.

My expectations weren’t very high for Velvet Undercover. I’ve had mixed reactions to Teri Brown’s previous books, and Debby (Snuggly Oranges) wasn’t a huge fan, which generally means I won’t be either. Oddly, though, this was the first book (that wasn’t HP) to click with me in a slump period. It’s not that it’s the best book ever, but for some reason Sam’s voice clicked with me. Velvet Undercover was a quick read for me that had me turning pages, and that’s what I really needed just now.

I debated what to rate this one, between 3 and 3.5, and went with 3. My enjoyment was more of a 3.5, but quality-wise, I don’t know that the book quite earns it. Velvet Undercover is fun, but it’s not adding anything new. It follows a pretty typical spy formula and does everything tolerably well. This one might be better for reviewers newer to historical fiction or espionage novels because of that.

This is, however, one of the rare instances where I would have liked the book more without the romance. For one thing, I think it’s way too convenient, and, for another, there’s not nearly enough build up of the relationship, especially given the circumstances.

If you’re looking for something fun and fast-paced, Velvet Undercover might fit the bill. I’m very glad I read it when I did, but I don’t think this is one that will stick in my memory.

Size Doesn’t Matter (22): Mini Reviews from a Lazy BloggerA Song for Ella Grey by David Almond
Published by Delacorte BFYR on October 13, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Mythology, Retelling
Pages: 272
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
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Goodreads
three-stars

Claire and Ella and their friends are bound by ties so strong they seem unbreakable. Then the strange and handsome Orpheus strolls onto the beach, and he sings them all into an astonishing new understanding of themselves. Ella is caught the hardest, fastest, deepest—and Claire feels the pain of looking on.

Raw, emotional, lyrical, and funny, A Song for Ella Grey is a tale the joys, troubles, and desires of modern teens. It takes place in the ordinary streets of Tyneside and on the beautiful beaches of Northumberland. It’s a story of first love, a love song that draws on ancient mythical forces. A love that leads Ella, Orpheus, and Claire to the gates of Death and beyond.

A Song for Ella Grey is like the lovechild of the Orpheus myth and a Francesca Lia Block book. Until I started reading this book, I’d have said there wasn’t anything out there like a Block book, but, had I not known who had written it, I would have sworn up and down that A Song for Ella Grey was by her, not David Almond. Obviously, it is by Almond though.

The writing is strange and beautiful. It’s confusing but in this way that’s oddly engaging and hard to resist. It’s like Orpheus’ lyre music, tempting even to death.

The story’s also sex positive and there’s a lot of homosexuality and a bisexual love square thing. I’m not sure what I was supposed to ship, but definitely Claire and Ella, rather than Orpheus and Ella.

It doesn’t happen very often that I finish a book and feel like I didn’t understand it, but this is one of those times. Like, I put the book down, and I’m not even sure what the ending was, which then means that I don’t really get what the point was. I am really at such a loss to discuss this one because I swear it went over my head.

At the same time, though, I enjoyed reading it. I’d recommend it if you’re at all curious, because it’s definitively unique. And if you totally get it, please tell me what the heck the ending meant.

2 responses to “Size Doesn’t Matter (22): Mini Reviews from a Lazy Blogger”

  1. Hannah says:

    You had me at ‘bisexual love square thing’. XD Just added it to my TBR.

    Ah, memories of HP #7. I mean, I definitely wasn’t as critical of the series as I could have been, but overall, the series was just so magical and absorbing. #7 was definitely one of the bleakest, and slowest.
    Hannah recently posted…Review: Sweep in Peace – Ilona AndrewsMy Profile

  2. Lyn Kaye says:

    I was really let down by the Velvet Underground. I kinda had some interest in it.
    Lyn Kaye recently posted…Garden Gazette: November Wrap UpMy Profile

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