meghan rose allen

Review of Meet Me in the In-Between by Bella Pollen

Posted by in netgalley copy

So, part way through the chapter I was thinking of as The Godfather chapter, I started to wonder if maybe I was reading a fiction book and not a memoir. I mean, book started out with an incubus, and I was cool with that as non-fiction, but the dappled Italian summers filled with olive trees and mafioso in-laws, my mind could not process that as anything other than fiction. Is that a failure as a memoir or a success for a creative non-fiction piece? We have a Woody-Allen-1970s-New-York childhood crisis, a Godfather quarter-life crisis, a Thelma-and-Louise roadtrip-type crisis, a Cormac McCarthy forties crisis, and a British stiff-upper-lip NHS healthcare crisis. And an incubus (we'll call that a pale Paranormal Activity crisis). And comics (Fun Home?). The whole book has a cinematic feel, a poor-little-rich-girl-wandering-to-try-and-find-herself feel that may not be relatable: I, for one, do not have a vacation house in Colorado and a non-vacation house in England; I've never tried to cross the Mexican-US border illegally for a magazine story; I'm not married to a prime minister's grandson, etc.

So something about Meet Me in the In-Between doesn't seem real. I'm guessing that's the point of meeting Pollen in the in-between. Real, not real, incubus, mafioso, Colorado, sharp, unexpected turns like in a dream. Off-putting but neither in a bad nor a good way.

Meet Me in the In-Between by Bella Pollen went on sale June 16, 2017.

I received a copy free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Review of The Things We Thought We Knew by Mahsuda Snaith

Posted by in netgalley copy

I never know what to write about books that are just meh. And The Things We Thought We Knew isn't even meh. It's definitely better than meh so why can't I find something to say about it other than I liked Swing Time more, which The Things We Thought We Knew is thematically similar to (although then, obviously, The Things We Thought We Knew is thematically similar to all British, female-narrator, multi-racial, coming-of-age, lower-class, novels since that is what The Things We Thought We Knew is).

So The Things We Thought We Knew is a first novel, with some first novel foibles: the voice getting clearer and stronger the further in we go, wishy-washy beginning, an open-ended ending, pull-the-heartstrings-plot lines to buttress up the organic story, secondary characters of more depth than the main ones. All that sounds bad, but it's a first novel and none of these quirks are too off-putting. I got into the story by the end, until the open-ended ending (blech -- start your story later and write a real ending instead), but it took me a while to get into the voice at the beginning. I always feel sort of awkward about recommending books by saying Stick with it but what else am I supposed to say? Throw your kobo across the room (I've only ever thrown one book across the room, and that was Mail Order Wings when I was a kid, and I threw the book because it freaked me out so much that I just wanted it gone)? Maybe skip the first twenty pages?

Decent book. Good first try.

The Things We Thought We Knew by Mahsuda Snaith went on sale June 15, 2017.

I received a copy free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Review of The Song and the Silence by Yvette Johnson

Posted by in netgalley copy

A friend of mine just came back from a memoir-writing workshop. We talked about it on a walk around the duck pond near our houses. You need to have a narrative, my friend said. You need to have yourself as a character. You need to have a focus and a lens and a frame and basically, you can't be all rambly (like I often am).

The Song and the Silence is rambly. It's a unfocused. Neither means that it isn't compelling, but it's muddled. Johnson discovers her grandfather appeared in a 1960s television documentary about desegregation attempts in Mississippi. Her grandfather, a black singing waiter at a white's only restaurant, detailed how no matter what, around the white restaurant patrons, he smiles. He smiles but that doesn't mean he's happy. As the book's blurb says: he described what life was truly like for the black people of Greenwood, Mississippi.

Except the book isn't about Johnson's grandfather. It's about Johnson discovering about her grandfather, and maybe it would just be better about her grandfather. I'm rarely a fan of making the discoverer the protagonist rather than the person who is being discovered. As an example, I don't really need to read about Johnson having a fight with her mother about whether her kids can watch some Disney movie or not. If that fight could somehow be tied back into the struggle Johnson's grandfather endured, then maybe. But the clumps where Johnson writes about her own life are not deftly woven in to her grandfather's story. Johnson works hard to make this a memoir, when maybe this was better suited as a non-fiction about her grandfather's life. Her writing is stronger not writing about herself.

I just don't know what I was supposed to take away from this experience.

The Song and the Silence by Yvette Johnson went on sale May 2, 2017.

I received a copy free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Review of The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel

Posted by in netgalley copy

A decent potboiler, genre: midwestern gothic, to while away a lazy summer day. Unfortunately, for a book that deals with repeated sexual abuse, it's surprisingly unsympathetic to the victim, with the female narrator having a slight Humbert Humbert-esque rationale of the situation. So that was uncomfortable. Obviously, no one in the story (except maybe the narrator's high school flame Cooper) is that sympathetic, but at the same time, none of the characters really have enough depth to make their unsympathetic personalities compelling. Of course, it's not a literary novel; it's a (slightly trashy, although not in a bad way) mystery novel where Engel trusts her writing and her readers enough not to make the sexual abuse the lurid, end revelation. Out of everything in the book, I appreciated that the most.

The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel went on sale March 7, 2017.

I received a copy free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Review of Get Your Sh*t Together by Sarah Knight

Posted by in netgalley copy

So I read this self-help book last week and I already don't remember much of what was in it, except for the general theme of actually do the things you need to do to get where you want to go. There was making lists, I remember that, and prioritizing those lists. I haven't made a list yet, but the past week I've been making an effort to actually do the things that will let me get to where I want to go. Maybe. Now if I could just figure out where I want to go with my life, I'd be set.

The book's tone is kind of sassy. It was a quick read. I don't know whether, truly, I needed a book to tell me that doing things works better than not doing things (unless not doing things was my goal), but it was good to have a reminder that my natural state of lazy bump isn't always the best to get things done.

Now off to do things!

Get Your Sh*t Together by Sarah Knight went on sale December 27, 2016.

I received a copy free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Review of Chemistry by Weike Wang

Posted by in netgalley copy

So why did I leave science again? ... Was it because I didn't like it or I wasn't good enough to do it?

Does it matter?

Maybe this book won't resonate with people who aren't like me and the narrator: people who've left science. Or maybe it will. Everyone has left something behind. Maybe that feeling of loss is universal? If not, maybe I'm not the one to review this book because it read like the internal monologue that goes on in my head when I can't sleep, or when I'm walking to the mailbox, or when I'm driving to the library, or whenever there isn't anything to distract me from my own thoughts. Our narrator leaves science (chemistry) and then has to decide whether to follow her boyfriend, who is still nuzzled into science's temperamental embrace, to a small town where he has gotten a job. I left science (math) and then had to decide whether to follow my husband, who is still nuzzled into science's (math) temperamental embrace, to a small town where he has gotten a job.

I am the girl who followed you and I know what happens to those girls. They are never happy and then they carry that unhappiness everywhere.

I detached myself from reading this, otherwise I would have gone mad. I didn't have any beakers to destroy, like the narrator, but I would have if I had some. This book gave me the plunging feeling in ribs of having made the wrong decision all over again. I know every feeling, the narrator's every feeling. Detach all I want, doesn't work when I've been emptied out like this.

Maybe go find an English major. Maybe their review will give a dispassionate appraisal. Reading my own truth and mine doesn't.

Chemistry by Weike Wang went on sale May 23, 2017.

I received a copy free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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poetry earworm

Posted by in what song is stuck in my head

Do other people get poetry stuck in their heads the way that songs sometimes bunker their way in there? Because right now I have Tyger, Tyger stuck in mine, and it has been there for about ninety minutes now, with no interest in vacating.


What immortal hand or eye,

Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

I don't know brain. Stop asking me.

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May 2017

Posted by in this month I ...

I read:

Thoughts:

His Whole Life by Elizabeth Hay: Reviewed earlier this month.

Tremulous Hinge by Adam Gianelli: Reviewed earlier this month.

The Things We Thought We Knew by Mahsuda Snaith: Review to come.

Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo: Review to come.

Chemistry by Weike Wang: Review to come.

Get Your Sh*t Together by Sarah Knight: Review to come.

The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel: Review to come.

The Song and the Silence by Yvette Johnson: Review to come.

Basically, I read a lot of ARC books off my kobo this month.

Favourite book:



Most promising book on my wishlist:



I watched:

I visited somewhere with cable.



I wrote:

A possible novella-length Canadian response to The Nest.

Faerie-story fiddling. Three rejections now!

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Review of Tremulous Hinge by Adam Giannelli

Posted by in netgalley copy

(or wherein I once again prove that the parts of poetry which intrigue me may not be what I am supposed to be talking about)

You know what I really appreciated about Tremulous Hinge: the layout of some of the poems. Like the indentation. Seriously. Or there'd be a thin poem, maybe only eight or nine spaces worth of letters on each line. Then each verse would be only lines long and it would be these little rectangles like a path down the page.

I can hear one of my high school English teacher's sarcasm right now: That's what you think is important about poetry?

Yes. I mean, how do the poets know

   where to end lines and

how much to

             indent?

So I read Tremulous Hinge and thought about that. The poems that were over a page were too long and could have been tightened. One poem mentioned a Catholic grandfather, which made me think of my Catholic grandfather. The poems felt working class, close houses, thin walls lacking insulation (I don't mean that in a negative way, because I read what I just wrote and it sounds super classist. I mean more like you felt you were walking through that sort of neighbourhood as you read the words; some of the poems drew the scene like a photograph).

I wonder how one becomes a poet. It's so different than how I see the world. Sometimes I feel like an alien when I read poetry. I didn't mind so much with Tremulous Hinge though.

Tremulous Hinge by Adam Giannelli went on sale April 15, 2017.

I received a copy free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Review of His Whole Life by Elizabeth Hay

Posted by in Uncategorized

Way back in the heady days of 2015, I requested an ARC of His Whole Life from Goodreads. What can I say? It was a different time when I thought just because I didn't like Late Nights on Air wouldn't mean I wouldn't like His Whole Life.

And now we're 2017. I haven't won a Goodreads giveaway since this one. Trump runs rampant across the border. Parks and Recreation is no longer on the air. And I'm still not feeling the love for Elizabeth Hay.

I finally read it. There's nothing really wrong with His Whole Life; I can't point to something and be like "There. That. Right there. See what I mean?" I can't even summon up minute distaste for the book. I honestly just don't care. The best criticism I can come up with is that the book feels like a first novel, like there's all this stuff that happens just outside the page which is hinted at to flesh out the characters, when it would have been better to drop the characters and instead focus on what is happening off the page. Plus a lot of dead dogs. Three, which maybe isn't that much (more die, for example, in Fifteen Dogs by Andre Alexis), but too many for me.

So this book is a camel-hair tan colour for me, which always feels like a non-existent colour to me.

Sorry it took me two years to read. I should have just gotten it over with back in 2015.

His Whole Life by Elizabeth Hay went on sale August 11, 2015.

I received a copy free from Goodreads in exchange for an honest review.

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