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Worst book of 2020: The Book of the Unnamed Midwife

I had one rule in 2020. No dystopian novels. After reading The Book of the Unnamed Midwife, I had to add a second rule. Never read a book about a deadly plague during a world wide pandemic.

The Book of the Unnamed Midwife has the makings of an incredible dystopian tale. It has an awesome title. It has a plague that wipes out 95% of men, 99% of women and 100% of babies and children. It has a cross-dressing midwife, an interesting and unusual choice for main character. And the story opens with a creepy strange cult that has somehow been inspired by the journals of said cross-dressing midwife. Going in, there was no way this book could be terrible.

The story follows the “unnamed midwife” as she navigates across the U.S. looking for her lost partner and a safe space to survive post apocalyptic plague. As she travels, she journals her encounters with the world around her. Most of the entries detail the empty towns, long lonely highways, and endless nothingness left by the plague. The monotony is broken up with the occasional murderous gang of male rapists and their female slaves, religious fanatics who hide their women, women who refuse to join and follow the unnamed midwife, and “hives”, groups of men led by a single female.

Despite all of the four and five star reviews on Amazon praising this book for its innovation and strong feminist leanings, it had a messy plot that meandered, never actually going anywhere, with huge plot gaps and very poorly developed characters. Because you can’t write an entire book on nothingness broken only by the occasional bad guy encounter, the author threw in lots and lots of sex as filler. This is a clever ploy on the author’s part as the sex tends to take your attention away from the fact that this book is going nowhere.

In my opinion, the book fails majorly in a few ways.

First off, the main character sucks. There isn’t anything redeeming or remotely interesting about the unnamed midwife, except for the fact that she has survived and is now walking across the country. Her personality sucks. She’s kind of a jerk to everyone she encounters and is incredibly condescending. Most of the book dwells on her love life, which isn’t as interesting or as controversial as the author makes it out to be.

The cult religion angle never gets fleshed out and leaves so many unanswered questions. Why and how did a religion form? Where and how did the journals come into play? What is going on here?!?!

Every man is either a complete idiot or a murdering rapist. Every female, except the unnamed midwife, is incapable or incompetent. Why is the unnamed midwife the only competent character? This lack of depth in characters just feels too ridiculous to me.

The traveling and scavenging portions of the book left more questions on logistics and practicality than it solved the problems of hunger.

Sex. There’s just so much sex in the book that there isn’t much room left for anything else. I finally decided that I prefer young adult dystopian books because the kids in those books have to actually solve problems and figure things out.

I kept reading The Book of the Unnamed Midwife waiting for the action to start or for the loose ends to start being tied up nicely. Instead, the book ended quickly and without answering any questions.

Overall, I hated this book. Would not recommend.

That’s all for today, cheers friends and happy reading!

-R

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Rosie Revere, Part 2

Hey All!  Popping in between things to announce that our lucky winner of a Rosie Revere book is Melinda.  Congrats!  I’ll be mailing this out to you via amazon prime, asap!

It’s been great weather for reading, cold and snowy!  So many great books, I’m dying to carve out space and review each of them.

Until next time, cheers!

 

 

Rosie Revere Engineer

3 stars · African American Lit · Book Review · Uncategorized

Halsey Street by Naima Coster

Halsey Street

Halsey Street, by Naima Coster, takes on a whole lot of life in a single book.  Mother-daughter issues set the tone for Halsey Street, a clear angry discord thrumming throughout the entire book, which then wraps itself up in main character Penelope Grand’s life of sexuality, gentrification, aging parents,  failed dreams and a father’s love.

Penelope Grand, is a young, half Black-half Dominican native New Yorker with a chip on her shoulder.  After a lifetime of hero-worshiping her Black father and engaging in a negative and disappointing relationship with her Dominican mother, Penelope quits art school and rambles around Pittsburgh working as a bar tender and enjoying casual sexual encounters with bar patrons.  When Penelope returns to Brooklyn to care for her ailing father, her home turf is in the process of being gentrified, her father’s record store replaced with health foods, old haunts replaced with sushi restaurants.  Back home, Penelope is forced to face the ugly truth of her situation.  Her father’s record store has shuttered and been replaced by a health food store, her mother has abandoned her family and the Brooklyn home, and she has quit art school and is substitute teaching, no friends, no lovers, no future.

While Coster is a fine writer who gave herself plenty of material to work with, Halsey Street is not a book I’d recommend to friends.  Penelope is an angry, insecure, a-hole and she’s difficult to read.  Her actions and judgement are questionable at best, downright awful at other times.  She treats every other character in the book like crap and then validates her behavior with stunningly ridiculous justifications.  Penelope is boring in her anger and negative responses to everything.

The underlying thread of gentrification never seems to build into anything meaningful or poignant.  Aside from Penelope’s anger at her white landlords and the casual mention of a few new restaurants, gentrification isn’t really addressed head on in this book.  Penelope seemingly hates her hometown, so the anger, fear, resentment and other normal emotions experienced during gentrification aren’t really addressed here.  In fact, Penelope’s anger and hate towards everything takes away a lot of the power her anger and hate could have had if it had been better directed.

In an odd twist, every other character is quite well developed.  I wish Coster would have focused more on Penelope’s parents, Ralph and Mirella, and how an orphaned black boy grew up to become a successful business owner married to a significantly younger and beautiful red-headed Dominican.  Both Ralph and Mirella were interesting and complicated and their relationship left a lot to be explored.  Ralph seemingly loved Mirella with his whole being.  Mirella, on the other hand, spent her days avoiding her family and eventually bailing to another country.  Halsey Street would have been more enjoyable if we’d followed them instead of their cranky daughter.

All in all, 3 stars.  Great writing.  Main character sucks. The fantastic supporting characters make the read worthwhile.

Until next time, happy reading and cheers!

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Caroline: Little House, Revisited by Sarah Miller

51SDPJ0Ft4L._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_2019 has not been my favorite book year so far.  I’ve been snagging new books through the Amazon first reads program and flipping through a lot of different genres and authors.  Some, like The Storyteller’s Secret have been absolutely amazing, others like Rock Needs River have been disappointing.  Caroline: Little House, Revisited goes into the disappointing pile.  The premise of the story is absolutely irresistible for Little House lovers like me.  Caroline takes on the Little House epic through the eyes of Laura’s mother, Caroline Ingalls.

Unfortunately, Caroline is one book I’m giving up on.  Miller’s writing is downright boring.  She drowns the story in a flood of words and endless descriptions that add nothing to the story but definitely take away from it.  There were too many times I had to go back and re-read a paragraph just to figure out what started the endless paragraph in the first place.   Miller spends a lot of time on the mundane tasks and unnecessary detail.  There were whole paragraphs dedicated to pregnancy nausea, sore breasts after a day jiggling during the wagon ride, Laura and Mary needing to use the “necessary” before bed, someone always needing a chamber pot.  At the 30% mark, I decided to give up reading Caroline because the book was only about 4 days into their trip and I just couldn’t imagine following this boring tale through another day.

Miller also includes a lot of historical details that aren’t well known and create odd juxtapositions like a “corduroy bridge” and then fails to provide any context clues to help readers figure out what she’s talking about.  Apparently, corduroy bridges are a thing, but unless you’re well versed in early 19th century road history, you’re going to struggle with how a fabric type relates to a bridge.   

Boring superfluous writing aside, the worst sin in my opinion is how Miller has taken our beloved Ma, as written by Laura Ingalls Wilder, and depicted her as a boring, insecure, whiny, hyper-Puritan type who dwells on the negative.   In one story, Charles (or Pa as we know him) is teasing and flirting with Ma, to which she responds by hiding her braid so Charles can’t get worked up.  This was just so absolutely bizarre.  Ma, as written by Miller, comes across an angsty emo and it ruins the entire dynamic Laura created of Pa as the wild frontiersman and Ma as his ever ready and capable partner.

Miller has taken the fun and adventure out of the Little House stories.  0 stars.

Until next time, happy reading!

-Cheers,

R

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Author Review: Brittany Fichter

Y’all!  It has been so long since we’ve had a chance to discuss books and authors and all things reading.  I’ve missed the blog but have been busy surviving the whirlwind that composed September-December.  In the last few months, I’ve picked up a few new obsessions.  The first is Litographs!  This company prints entire books on tshirts, scarves, posters, and bags.  It is awesome!  My 2nd latest obsession is Brittany Fichter.

An excerpt from her retelling of Beauty and the Beast was included in the fall edition of Deep Magic.  It was absolutely stunning!  Of course after reading the first five chapters, I headed over to Amazon for more of her work and picked up Clara’s Soldier: A retelling of the Nutcracker.  Holy shit.  This book blew me away.  Fichter keeps the names of our beloved characters and a Christmas setting but does away with everything else, setting Clara squarely in post WWII America.  Clara was so well written and such a deep character, I found myself sighing and staying up way too late to finish the story.  Fichter also hits deftly and lovingly on the reality of loving a soldier.  Fantastic read.

I followed up Clara’s Soldier with the The Green-Eyed Prince: A retelling of the Frog Prince, Girl in the Red Hood and Silent Mermaid: A Retelling of the Little Mermaid.  These retellings are just incredibly well done.  Fichter takes old childhood tales worthy of maybe a few pages in a children’s book and develops them into these beautiful full bodied master pieces of love, magic and mystery.  The worlds she creates are stunning, as are her characters.  Girl in the Red Hood is quite possibly the best book I’ve read all year.  If you’re looking for something beautiful to read over the holidays or need a gift for a fairy tale lover in your life, I’d highly recommend any of the books by Fichter.

Until next time, happy reading friends!

Cheers,

-R

 

 

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Welcome to Hops & Lit

Hi, welcome to Hops & Lit!  

I’m Rubecca, a self-professed bookworm and beer enthusiast.  As a kid, my dream job was to get paid to read, edit and write newspaper book reviews.  While that didn’t pan out, the universe compensated by tossing me right into the middle of an amazingly well read group of friends….who also enjoy sharing what they’ve read over a good beer.  Sound good?  Grab something to drink and pull up a chair, I’ve been waiting for you!