Thursday, February 20, 2014
If you are unfamiliar with the Mitford books, they are the chronicle of an Episcopalian preacher in a small town in North Carolina. They are full of the charm of the South, delicious food, and enchanting characters. The books are not what one would call action-packed, but are instead a comforting place to exist for a while with old and new friends.
I love getting to know the characters in each book. I also love the way each experience by each main characters has poignancy to it. There are moments of pain and loss and moments of rejoicing, but each moment has a lesson and seems so relevant to life. I can't finish one of these books without feeling uplifted. However, despite the fact that the book is about a preacher, it never feels preachy. It is simply good, and edifying, and I love it. In a few weeks or months I will return to Mitford in the fourth book, and I can't wait.
I loved the concept of Love, Tink. I think the idea of taking Tinkerbell and Peter out of Neverland was creative. Not to mention the fact that I adore Peter Pan. Love, Tink did well with keeping the plot bouncing along quickly. There were many twists and turns that kept me invested, and I read the book in less than a 36 hour span of time (which is pretty quick, when you're working full time and a mother to a 15-month old). However, the execution suffered a bit in my opinion. At times the writing was a bit childish (and yes, it was a YA book, but no, writing for young audiences does not mean the writing needs to be childish). Also, at times, the events were not believable within the world that Elle Strauss had built. Some of the decisions made by the characters were completely irrational and explained away with, "Fairies are different from people" and nothing more to back-up that concept.
Still, Love, Tink was a fun, romantic story. If you are a fan of Peter Pan and don't mind the fluffiness, Love, Tink makes for a quick, entertaining read.
I think one of my favorite things about Beautiful Ruins was the way each chapter was from a slightly different segment of one of the main characters' lives. Rather than telling the narrative in a linear fashion, Jess Walter gives us a series of snapshots that expose rather than inform a certain truth about one of the characters. Finally, everything comes together in the last few chapters. I also loved how some of the chapters, rather than strictly narrative, were a sort of multi-media -- a pitch for a movie, a play, the first chapter in a novel. It kept me interested in what would happen next (an essential for any book) without keeping too much from the reader (something that personally drives me bonkers). The flow was perfect, revealing the pieces of the story just slowly enough to tantalize.
The writing was also exceptional while managing to be highly readable. Many of the works touted as excellent literary fiction are impenetrable. And while I enjoy the occasional challenge of trying to figure out what an author is trying to say through the obscurity of their overwrought art, mostly, I like books to make sense. To make me think, yes, but also to make sense. And Beautiful Ruins does that excellently, keeping a lovely balance between artistry and, you know, making plain sense.
Also, the romance. It's been a while since I've really gotten caught up in a good romantic read. Some of the teen books seem far-fetched (find true love between your lunch hour and gym class), while many literary fiction books seem too hopeless. Beautiful Ruins struck a good balance -- yes, people are imperfect, and yes, circumstances may contrive to keep you apart, but you can find happiness with a lot of hard work and a little luck.
So, yeah, I would recommend Beautiful Ruins.
Warnings: Language, non-graphic descriptions of sex and scandal, some drug use