Flash Fiction Reviews: February 2015

Flash Reviews Part I

Okay, okay, I know I’ve been off the radar in 2015. Life’s been pretty busy over here – I won’t bore you with the details – so I haven’t had a lot of time to write. But a while ago I read this great post on one of my great friend’s site, where he did a whole slew of what he called “flash reviews.” These mini-reviews were brief but powerful, and they allowed him to write about a lot of topics in one post. It immediately struck me as an idea that I’d like to steal, which is exactly what I’m now doing (with his permission). Because I want to give credit where it’s due, please check out Conor’s flash reviews here.

And, without further ado, here are my first few Flash Fiction Reviews…

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

A pandemic of apocalyptic proportions, a travelling symphony who perform Shakespeare and quote Star Trek in the same breath, a comic book that inspires both a brave heroine and a mad prophet to murder, and a famous dead actor who connects everything. That’s what you can expect to find in Station Eleven. At first I was just as intrigued as you undoubtedly are now; then, when I started reading, I found myself entranced by Mandel’s prose. The language she uses is vibrant and at times jolting, and her descriptions are lush with colors and emotions that pulled me straight into the heart of everything. For that reason, I had no issues suspending just the barest hint of disbelief in the plot. Honestly, the true power of this book is all in the words – this is a book I just didn’t want to stop reading. I’m usually big on plot, but in this book the plot was merely what drew me in; the beautiful storytelling is what held my attention and warranted this book being recommended to others. Rating: 9.5/10

I’ll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson

It actually hurt to read this book. Not just because it’s incredibly heart-wrenching, story-line wise, but because the prose is so beautiful that it tugged all of my heartstrings into complicated sailors’ knots. It’s so beautiful that it made me crazy with longing, and by the end I just wanted so badly to meet the woman who wrote it; to interact with her and marvel at how she and I can possibly be sharing the same earth. She, who describes the world in ways I would never even think to – ways I didn’t know existed, but which resonated with me as I devoured them. I don’t think I’ll ever look at the world as being made up of the same drab colors I saw before. I see in technicolor now, and I’m never going back. Reading this book is like looking at the sun without going blind; it’s all searing images and radiance that stays with you long after you turn the final page. Rating: 10/10

Egg & Spoon by Gregory Maguire

Gregory Maguire is a genius (if you don’t believe me you’ve obviously never visited the incredibly detailed world of Wicked), and his first foray into Young Adult literature doesn’t disappoint. Full to the brim with mistaken identity (of the Princess and the Pauper variety) and  coming of age antics, the story is also steeped in both Russian Folklore and History (Baba Yaga and her moving house, as well as Rasputin and Tsar Nicholas II, make appearances). Baba Yaga, the most underrated witch in all of folklore, takes the main stage with some of the best lines in the novel – from bowling with Charlemagne’s skull to reminiscing about future Broadway hits (I, for one, can’t resist a Damn Yankees reference) – she constantly shocks and delights her audience, both within the story and outside of it. Maguire proves that he can twist any story (including actual history) to fit his fancy in this raucously fun tale that you won’t be able to put down. Rating: 9/10

Ms. Marvel: No Normal by Marvel Comics

Oh my goodness, I LOVED everything about this short and simple comic book. I’m not much of a comic or graphic novel reader, but I made an exception for this one. What’s cool about it is that the heroine is a Pakistani girl who lives in New York and inadvertently becomes a superhero(ine). She’s beautiful and smart and anything but a traditional female superhero, yet she kicks major butt and feels more real than any comic book heroine I’ve ever encountered. This is the kind of superhero movies should be made about. I’d want my daughters reading this one. Rating: 10/10

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

This is a book that stays with you. The story pivots between a blind girl in france and a young German soldier as their lives are hit and shaped by Hitler’s rise to power and the disasters of World War II. What I like most about this book isn’t the descriptions, which are gorgeous, or the plot, which is fast-paced and deeply moving. Nor was it the interesting characters or the realistic setting. No, what I liked most about this novel was the fact that it gives both sides of the story. The inclusion of a protagonist who isn’t simply a German, but a German soldier – a Nazi – adds a dimension you don’t often find in WWII literature. It really shows you that war is never black and white. For every Nazi soldier who followed in Hitler’s footsteps with evil in his heart, there were others who fought for Germany because they were given no choice, because they had families to protect and gruesome ultimatums hanging over their heads, because they were just boys who were rounded up, brainwashed, and forced into hive-minded obedience; already in trenches before the true horrors of their mission became clear. This poignant novel does not sugarcoat the atrocities of war, but it also reminds readers that nothing in life is as it seems. There are no easy answers or set lines. Every man is at war with himself, with his nature, at all times. Every man is capable of unspeakable acts of violence and immeasurable acts of kindness, often simultaneously. A person, like a war, is all gray areas and shady borderlands. The trick, no matter where you fall, is trying to get back up again and live. This isn’t a book I’m likely to forget. Rating: 10/10

Love, Nina: A Nanny Writes Home by Nina Stibbe

I found this memoir to be a little lacking. For one thing, I was expecting more about the woman Nina nannied for, Mary-kay, the illustrious head of The London Review, but there really wasn’t much at all about The Review or MK (as she is often referred to in Nina’s letters). Though some famous names make appearances (Alan Bennett, among others), there just wasn’t much in these letters to keep me invested. Will and Sam, the two boys Nina nannied, are by far the most interesting characters – and records of their conversations were one of the only reasons I didn’t give up the whole book as a bad job and just move on to something else. The one thing I felt I learned from this was that I could easily publish my own memoir, because I’ve written plenty of letters in my day, and they’re equally – if not more – entertaining than the ones selected to appear in this book. Rating: 6.5/10

Looking for Alaska: Special 10th Anniversary Edition by John Green

Since I’ve read Looking for Alaska before, I won’t review the book here, except to mention that it is – like all of John Green’s work – a monumental and moving work of fiction that everyone should go out and read right this very minute. Bring your tissues. What I will review here are the special 10th Anniversary Edition additions – the deleted scenes and the interview with Green, in particular. The deleted scenes were awesome because it really gives readers a chance to see how much the book changed throughout the many years John spent writing and revising it. From a writer’s perspective, it gives me a lot of hope for my own work when I can see how much he improved during revisions, as well as how long it took him to bring his manuscript to its fully realized potential. As for the interview, well, let me say that I find John Green to be a witty, wise, and hilarious person, so I found the interview portion to be enthralling. I underlined and highlighted as many quotes from his interview as I did in the book – John Green is the person who speaks most to my soul. In fact, this only helped cement my belief that there is no wrong moment to pull out a John Green quotation. I have one for almost every encounter. If you pick this up, you, too, can start collecting them. Rating: 10/10

Bittersweet: A Novel by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore

For starters, I could have done without the explicit sex scenes. They were not only unnecessary, but also a bit grotesque and certainly (when considered in context) disturbing. The story would have been fine without them. Apart from that, this is definitely a book that compels you to finish it. There’s a lot of mystery surrounding the Winslow family and the main character, Mabel, who has a huge skeleton in her closet for most of the novel. Generally, I really like a book that keeps me guessing, and I love a shocking twist; this book had those in plenty. But I don’t know, somewhere along the way, this book just sort of disappointed me. I found that I wasn’t committed enough to the fate of the main characters, most of whom were extremely unsympathetic and unlikable. I couldn’t feel invested in the story because I just didn’t like any of them. In a lot of ways, this book reminded me of E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars, but the irrefutable fact is that where Lockhart’s work was riveting and unforgettable, rife with realistic and devastating secrets, Beverly-Whittemore’s seemed to be scandalous simply for scandal’s sake. Rating: 7/10

Add Comment

Required fields are marked *. Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>