A Critique: Salvage the Bones – 5 out of 5 stars!

Salvage the Bones should be read for what it isn’t in addition to what it is. A truth about Hurricane Katrina and a truth about a family living a harder life than most would consider. And, how the elements of the world sometimes pile up against you to make things impossible and all you can hope for is to maybe survive.

Jesmyn Ward illustrates, to be blunt, a rough, extreme poverty-stricken family in Bois Savage, Mississippi in 2005. Ward is so brilliant with her story-telling that you forget the ultimate theme of the book despite the fact that’s written on the back cover: Hurricane Katrina.

As a first-time reader of Ward’s work, I immediately fell headfirst into the mindset of her narrator, fourteen year old Esch. Esch tells, first and foremost, her story, intertwining with her family, and the things that matter most to a young girl just trying to navigate life in the south with a drunk, often absent father, a deceased mother she’s just barely old enough to recall, and a slew of brothers to both watch over and out for. I felt for Esch, and I felt frustrated with her much of the time, as well.

Ward makes impressive use of Mississippi weather throughout her novel. She seems to make the weather work for her rather than the other way around – oft controlling and influencing us, as people. She paints the sticky humidity in the air, the red dust-covered ground Esch’s home sits on, the horror stories of past rain storms, and the ever-impending wind that comes with living near the sea.

Despite careful, gripping writing that you’re sure to remember, you’ll also find gritty, graphic scenes that you won’t like but won’t want to stop reading.

Since completing Salvage the Bones, I’ve, personally, added another of Ward’s books to my To Be Read list. She has a style and a voice that needs to be heard. The book I’ve added to my list is: Men We Reaped.

To learn more about Jesmyn Ward and her work, visit her page on Goodreads.


Rating: 5 of 5 stars

A Critique – 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl

Mona Awad’s 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl has some amusing quips here and there, but overall I found it a bit disjointed and lacking punch or flair.

Awad’s novel is written in pseudo short-story format. However, the short stories had the same themes and most of the same characters. What added to the unusual format was that deciphering time frames was never easy… which might not be a bad thing but in this case it didn’t help the author.

I respect the power of making a reader feel awkward or uncomfortable, or any strong emotion for that matter – well done. But the novel took this furtber; I must stress that the narrator was hugely unlikeable. It’s hard to enjoy a book, play, or story of any sort when the protagonist is hard to be around. Even a murderer, when described in a certain fashion, can be likeable. Sweeney Todd, anyone?

The ending, though I won’t divulge it, was disappointing and sudden. The reader spends the novel hoping that, through all of her self-reflection and often hatred, that narrator Elizabeth, will find a healthy light (and I do mean, light, not body, lifestyle, etc) to view herself in. It was less than iluminating. Not all endings have to be happy, but this one was also far from satisfying.

I’d had a few people recommend the book and felt conflicted while reading it because I simply wasn’t feeling what I expected to.

In fact, I read several reviews after finishing the book’s final page because I thought I was being overly harsh in my criticism. After seeing that so many had the same reaction, I felt less horrible about my 2 star, out of 5 rating.

To learn more about Awad and her work, visit this site.


Rating: 2 of 5 stars

A Critique – Celeste Ng’s Debut Novel

Ng’s debut novel Everything I Never Told You reads like poetry, with beautiful elaborate descriptions of not only characters but scenes, emotions, and plot twists. It is writing to aspire to, in my opinion. A voice a lyricist would likely respect.

The novel takes its time unfolding, at times at a slower pace than desired. If it weren’t for Ng’s prose, I may have become frustrated with the speed and length of the book.

The themes – family, teen angst, self discovery, 1970s racism – are well portrayed, but I found myself recalling a similar plot within Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight. Having adored that book and reflected on it so many times since reading it a few years back, I found myself comparing the two occasionally. The difference in time, tone, place, and dynamics however allow the reader to appreciate both writers’ work.

As a whole, Ng’s debut is enjoyable but leaves something to be desired – perhaps a bit more complexity, a few more pitfalls leaving room for further conflict and, later, potential resolution.

It’s important to note that there doesn’t need to be complete resolution though, especially in a novel where mental health is one of the main threads.

Overall, I would welcome a future book of Ng’s to my Reading List.

To read more about Celeste Ng and her work, visit her website.


Rating: 3 of 5 stars

 

Baltimore Tunes

100_0722

These photos were taken in 2009 at a friend’s live gig in Baltimore. He had no idea a few close friends would be in the front row at his show!

100_0707

This was my previous camera – a little red digital one that travelled around the world with me. And my last camera before investing in a fancy shmancy DSLR. Not too shabby.

100_0721

Darling Harbour

Taken in 2014 for a FotoRiesel photography competition in Sydney.

Photo itself pictures the Sydney skyline and Darling Harbour – the Wildlife Museum and Madame Tussaud’s. Background is viewed through the cross-hatches of a footbridge.

Furious

In some regards, America infuriates me. More than that, western style media has a lot of explaining to do.

When even the slim, healthy, strong women lack the confidence they deserve to feel, I move to detest our media. Even those who found their own drum to walk to – even these men and women are part of the equation.

A friend and I were out swimsuit shopping Friday afternoon and found ourselves both contemplative and furious with the state of self-esteem of the youngest generation.

I look at my nieces and nephew with hope and love that they know they can choose their emotions and opinions. They can decide whose company to place themselves in. They can read and listen and learn and love the world if they so choose. As an aunt, I plan to do all I can to show them these things. And to make sure they never doubt the love I have for them and the beauty they exude.

We owe this to our children.

Photoshop

My first serious foray into Photoshop and Lightroom after years with Mac’s photo editing software. Take a peak at the first grouping if you so choose.
Quite pleased with where I am.  🙂
https://www.flickr.com/photos/mrlesco/