Writing about religion takes a certain gall (not to mention talent to really nail it). It has such an impact on some people’s lives that it’s hard to capture its enormous weight as well as the life it bears to those who practice it. Alice McDermott doesn’t shy away from this challenge in her novel, The Ninth Hour, another top contender in 2017. She exquisitely hits the aura that religion provides with just the right amount of suspense, weariness, and hope. The foreboding, though, that her writing evokes fails to come to fruition in the plot, which ultimately knocks down some stellar language to three flames.
- What: Sing, Unburied, Sing
- Who: Jesmyn Ward
- Pages: 285
- Genre: Contemporary fiction
- Published: 2017
- The lit: of 5 flames
I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again: Something Borrowed gave me life. It taught me to go after what I want even if it comes with pain and isn’t easy. It also provided a good deal of practical information. For example, it taught my 16-year-old self what sartorial means (lord, what a great word) and gave me insight into some pertinent acronyms, including “DBCD” (duty, breach, causation, and damages or, more importantly, Dex Buys Celebratory Dinner [take a hint, Rach!]) and “TTH” i.e., trying too hard. Rachel refers to a man when she explains it, but TTH could also be used to describe the last book I read.
It’s not that I didn’t like Sing, Unburied, Sing; it wasn’t on a lot of Best of 2017 lists for nothing. The story line was intriguing with descriptive scene-setting, but the language was almost too poetic. Yes, Ward wrote many beautiful lines, but I also had to reread several passages due to lack of clarity. It simply seemed as if Ward was trying too hard to write elegantly when she already had an interesting narrative in front of her, and TTH is grounds for three flames.
Nobody can argue that many aspects of 2017 were piles of flaming garbage. That doesn’t mean literature failed us though. I read 24 books* this year. While there’s never enough time for all the wonderful writing in the world and while I wish I had read more, I am more than satisfied with the books I chose this year. Therefore, to the Big Little Literature library: You got ranked.
*This number does not count Zadie Smith’s Swing Time and Aravind Adiga’s Selection Day, which I just could not finish.
…The creepy glass dwelling made someone crazy. Or maybe it was the mysterious past. Or the obsessive friendship. Or the sizzling sense of humor. Or the self-obsession. Or maybe even the unknown. Whatever it was, someone snapped in the middle of nowhere U.K., putting both the characters in this high-intensity novel, as well as its readers, on edge.
It’s no secret that the success of a mystery novel is its page-turning quality. You know the kind: the ones where your heart is practically beating out of your chest, and you know the feeling won’t subside until you reach the final page. Well, In a Dark, Dark Wood hits the mark with the hows and whys, and not to mention the where, becoming just as important as the who done what.
As a book blogger, you’d think that I thrive on book reviews. Quite the opposite. I know this sounds backward (and doesn’t exactly promote Big Little Literature), but I try to avoid spoilers and/or getting my hopes up when possible. But I struggled to stay away from one book in particular this year. Manhattan Beach hit me like a bang. From the mind of a best seller, this historical fiction novel made a huge impact on the reading scene in 2017. New York even included it on its anticipation index multiple times before it was released (probably because it took 13 years to finish), and I’ve seen it on many best-of-2017 lists so far. Let’s just say, it made some big conversation.
Of course, I made sure I put it on my library holds as soon as it was released. My favorite genre, a bad-ass author, and praise all over. I came home beaming the day I got it. I can’t say the smile stayed on my face for the book’s entirety. So here’s the truth from my red lips: A top contender for the best of 2017 didn’t make my list.
Somebody read my gift guide–thanks, Honey Bee!
Indeed, it’s the most wonderful time of year. And for two solid reasons: Christmas presents in the shape of books and cold and cozy days meant for cuddling up with your favorite read. So if you have a bibliophile in need of some holiday magic, here are my picks for the best gifts, Big Little Lit style:
Etsy is full of creative and thoughtful gifts, and its Book Club MVP section is no joke. It clearly knows that there’s nothing like the smell of books to get a book lover’s imagination running wild. Choose between a classic bookstore with Earthy tones, Divination classroom or Christmas in the Great Hall for the HP fanatics, or even old books to set the perfect reading mood.