Reviewing BooksForAri – Jennifer Weiner’s “Good in Bed”

Good in Bed (Cannie Shapiro, #1)Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: A free digital copy of this book was received via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


QUICK REVIEW DONE AT THE TIME I FINISHED THE BOOK

I loved the beginning of this book! I had high hopes and was completely enthralled with this witty, sexual female that just saw happened to be heavier than average… then this woman failed me. I think that I was more disappointed in the character than the writing style. Honestly, I like the way the book was written but I just hate what it was written about. Three things that bugged me: there was a severe lack of diversity, there were scenes that were placed for shock value but weren’t given a realistic portrayal, and there was a lot of prejudice and judgmental undertones set in the writing (for example, the main characters feelings towards non-hetero sexuality). Because of these things, I wouldn’t recommend it to my friends or family, but I do see why other people may have liked it.


PROCEED FOR FULL, MORE IN DEPTH REVIEW

First things first, this is not the typical type of novel I look for when I’m browsing the aisles of Barnes & Noble or scrolling through the daily specials on ThriftBooks, but I simply couldn’t resist a tale surrounding a fat girl and her sex life. As many of you do not know, I am a woman of above-average weight and slightly average height, so, of course, Baxter (my mind) leapt with joy at the sight of such a relatable read! Step aside supernatural YA lit – Arielle is delving into the world of bonafide adult fiction (or maybe slightly adult fiction)!

Cannie

The Writing:
I read this ebook in a day. And that statement, in itself, is a declaration in the name of all that is holy in literature. I have no complaints about the author. I believe the writing was done very well and in line with the type of story that was being told. The one-liners, the sarcastic set ups, the portrayal of being a food lover, were all things I genuinely enjoyed. It was an easy read and flowed nicely without too much flowery text which I thought was perfect.

The Characters:
Our main female lead, Cannie (short for Candace), had a really believable and vibrant personality. She was quick-witted and completely unfiltered. Whether she was dealing with nosy co-workers or unflappable friends, she most definitely had a response to every tidbit and had no qualms about offering her opinion on the subjects at hand. I knew I liked her from the moment she pronounced (not too subtly, I might add) that she was going to commit a murder and needed to know the Pennsylvania penal laws in the middle of the day while at work.

Bruce. *sigh* Bruce is… I, honestly, do not know. He did some really atrocious things, but he did some really sweet things, too. Mainly, I found him immature and appealingly opportunistic, but overall, I just don’t think I got much of a feel for his raw character, as everything about this man was provided through the lense of the main character and completely unreliable.

The friends… while great people, weren’t really there with enough backstory or plot to develop much of an opinion.

The love interest! I love him. Make me one of him. I like him a lot and I wish there was more build up of his character or maybe some backstory and insight into his thoughts, because even though he has such a large role, I don’t feel like I got to bond with his character as much as I would’ve liked to.

The Themes:
Alas, dear readers. This is where my decreased ratings start to make sense. The themes in this book really irked me to the point where I would physically cringe and shut my eyes just so I wouldn’t have to read the end of what I knew was going to be a very disappointing sentence. The indirect homophobia, lack of cultural diversity, and plethora of dependency motifs made me severely uncomfortable. I wish I could reach through the page and try to talk to the character. It made me curious if these traits were directly related to where the character was from or if it was a trickle down from the author’s own feelings – which again, made me uncomfortable… These things may not make another person uncomfortable and I don’t think that it affected the writing too much, which is why I included my negative comments towards the end of my review. I look for strong female characters, cultural diversity and non-prejudice premises which is probably why I spotted these things right away. It may not be something that bothers other people, and these may be points that another reader and gloss over – which is fine but I could not finish my review without highlighting the reason for a 3-star review and why I will not be continuing the series.

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Reviewing BooksForAri – Jodi Picoult’s “Small Great Things”

Small Great ThingsSmall Great Things by Jodi Picoult

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: A free advanced digital copy of this book was received via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I was originally hesitant to read this book because, although I love nearly everything Jodi Picoult, I don’t feel like a white woman had any right to discuss a POC topic. On another note, I also didn’t want to read a narrative that neither the author nor I was able to properly engage without disrespecting the voice of another. I am not Black; Jodi Picoult isn’t either. Reading particular narratives of peoples that the author isn’t directly related to or associated with is a dangerous game because you cannot depend on the author to be a reliable source of information. The author more likely than not formulates the character(s) and situation(s) based on stereotypes or information that they’ve heard about but haven’t experienced. As the reader, you find yourself absorbing these fictional characteristics, whether they be racially-motivated or culturally stereotyped, in a way that makes you (perhaps, subconsciously) apply it to reality and real people. Because the relationship between a writer and reader is interdependent, a black narrative orchestrated by a white person has the potential to be a perpetuation of racism and prejudice, and I personally did not want to participate.

What changed my mind? Jodi Picoult has always dealt with challenging topics. I remembered her always having a way of changing the perspective and disrupting my understanding of what is commonly accepted as true. More so, she brings to the forefront society’s widely-accepted truths solely for the purpose of challenging it. I remembered, and thought to myself, this can either be really good or really bad, but why not give it a chance?

“White people don’t mean half the offensive things that come out of their mouths, and so I try not to let myself get rubbed the wrong way.”

As a POC, I usually encourage others to read more POC authors and books with diversity, but I’ve never really given white authors the chance to also be inclusive. I just automatically assume that they’ll do a poor job of representation and fuck it up somehow. But I took a chance… And it’s led me to a 4.5-star review. (WHY DOESN’T GOODREADS LET US GIVE HALF STARS?!)

By exploiting a racially-charged murder trial where race cannot be mentioned in the courtroom, this novel carefully illustrates the nuances of racism in the modern world. In true Jodi Picoult fashion, the storyline is presented from 3 different POVs: the White supremacist accuser, the Black Nurse defendant, and the well-intentioned-but-ignorant White Lawyer. What is shown is that racism does not only exist explicitly. It taints everything from the hospital to the courthouse, from the nursery to the classroom, from the home to the streets. And even though it is present in everyday life, it is not something that’s up for discussion. It’s a reality that is ignored by those who pledge to be ”color-blind” and gets glazed over by people who aren’t affected; however, racism is engrained in the minds of all POC and taught to us from birth. Moreover, being Black is a separate experience – specific and significant – that can only be explained by a voice that society has silenced.

“You don’t go to school with a stain on your shirt, because if you do, people aren’t going to judge you for being sloppy. They’re going to judge you for being Black.”

Small Great Things isn’t just an account of a Black person being racially targeted, it is an exploration of a White person becoming aware of all the different versions of racism. It’s a book that is needed – not for those that are affected by racism but – for those that don’t believe that they’re contributing to it. Jodi Picoult portrays what is means to participate in racism without believing oneself to be a racist and attempts to give voice to what it means to be a bullseye for racism. Emotional and aggressive, Picoult’s words will make any reader think twice about just how progressive one might believe oneself to be and about all those times a blind eye was turned.

Small Great Things is a very good start to highlighting and uprooting the racist foundation of modern society while also providing a bit of hope for a better future. It’s a conversation we cannot be afraid to have. There are voices that should be heard, and some people need to learn to lend their microphones. This book was a valiant – and, in my person opinion, successful – effort in emphasizing racism and all the things that stem from racism that society does not talk about. I do not regret reading this book, and have since, recommended to so many peers to pre-order it. I hope other readers that might also be a bit skeptical give this book a chance, as it has the potential to change the way we view and speak about race.

“…Equality is treating everyone the same. But equity is taking differences into account, so everyone has a chance to succeed…”

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Reviewing BooksForAri – Bryn Greenwood’s “All the Ugly and Wonderful Things”

All the Ugly and Wonderful ThingsAll the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: A free advanced digital copy of this book was received via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I did NOT want to love this book.

I did NOT want to sympathize with the situation.

I did NOT want to give this such a good review.

But alas, what’s done is done and I have no urge to further overanalyze myself. This book was truly filled with everything “Ugly” and “Wonderful” about the exploration of a devloping romantic relationship between an underaged female, younger than the age of consent, and a fully adult male, over 10 years older than her. It isn’t the type of content that’s meant for the faint-hearted or for those individuals with rigid moralistic values. It paints broad strokes of grey in a situation that is conventionally viewed as strictly black and white, but (I have to admit) the sheer audacity of the theme is what drew me in the first place.

I was completely captivated from beginning to end. The author places the reader right in the thicket of a severely taboo subject – not frequently explored as a love story – while still maintaining the dignity of the main characters and the brutal honesty of the topic. No one was ideally perfect; no decision made completely right. What made the novel fall on the side of beautiful (instead of disgusting) was the raw portrayal of each and every character and the unbridled emotional output poured into the pages. Those glimpses into personal thoughts and unfiltered commentary given built this story just as much as the action and setting.

Pity is not the author’s purpose. Sympathy was not being funneled towards a singular character. What was slowly teased out of me was a kind of despaired understanding and reluctant approval that had me wanting to simultaneously stop and continue reading. Morals are a fluid thing, laws do not always mean justice; and though both systems serve their purpose, this book does a fantastic job of questioning moralistic and legal principles in a unique way that places this subject of love and rape through a lens I’ve never read before.

That being said, I know there will be a lot of comparisons between All the Ugly and Wonderful Things and Lolita because of the similarly disturbing premise, but I’d have to strongly disagree with anyone that makes that comparison. Nabokov wrote Lolita from the perspective of an unreliable narrator with various hints that begged the reader to be appalled by the hidden truth of rape. Greenwood, on the other hand, changes the POV of the story to avoid this. Both main characters play their respective parts in cultivating the relationship and, even though it is categorized as rape, there is much more involved in the romance than just the sexual features.

I originally knocked this title down from a 5-star to a 4-star rating. My reasoning was very much influenced by the amount of times I felt utterly uncomfortable with the content and how often I was forced to re-evaluate my opinion of the circumstances. Additionally, my desire for the novel to be a bit longer was also a factor in my decision. I would have liked to see more delicately detailed descriptions of the main characters towards the end; I felt like the later-portion of the book was lacking the fulfilling explanations presented in the earlier-portion and deserved more pages. However, I still do not feel like any of the negative aspects of my reading experience even compared to all of the positive ones. After writing all of this, I have to bump it back up to a 5-star rating because I realize how strongly I reacted and, consequently, how good of a think-piece it can be. All the Ugly and Wonderful Things was a beautifully tragic romance that has the power to shock and awe the masses, if given the chance. Original. Vexing. Enthralling. I’d recommend this book to any daring reader who can handle the ethical crisis awaiting you upon completion. I cannot wait to see what this author does next.

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