Occasionaly, I read pre-publication/ARC copies of soon-to-be-published books that I receive in exchange for my fair and honest reviews. I write reviews for every book I read, and publish them on Goodreads (you can find me here on Goodreads). In addition to Goodreads, I’ll also be posting my ARC book reviews here in the Field Notes section of my blog.

==========

Title: Enlightenment

Author: Sarah Perry

Publisher: Mariner Books

Publication date: June 4, 2024

My review:

Several years ago, I read and enjoyed Sarah Perry’s The Essex Serpent, so I was eager to read an advance copy of her newest novel, Enlightenment, due to be published in early June 2024.

Sarah Perry writes beautifully, but this is one dense piece of fiction! I would call it . . . an effort-ful read. The characters are not fully “visible” over the course of the novel. I don’t think I’m describing that adequately. It’s not like they’re undeveloped, exactly. It’s more that as a reader, you never “see” them – or get to know them – fully, and they appear to just fade in and out of the narrative. Maybe that’s intentional, and part of the ghost-like quality of the story. But for me as a reader, I had a hard time connecting with the story because I wasn’t connecting with the characters.

The pacing is uneven, which also contributes to the effort-fulness of the novel. It took me a long time (well over 50 pages) to find my initial way into the story. And then once I did engage, I found the story either completely compelling OR a total slog.

That said, I’m glad I did put in the effort. I appreciate the author’s genre-defying story structure, as well as the effective way she combined the themes of science, religion, and mysticism. The ending is beautifully written and helped to pull loose ends together. But . . . it was a LOT to wade through to get there! In the end, I think it was an interesting story told in an interesting way. There is much to like. Just be aware . . . it is an effort-ful read, and you will want to have your wits about you, especially in the opening pages.

Thank you to Mariner Books and NetGalley for providing an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. The book will be published in the United States on June 4, 2024.

4 stars

==========

 

Title: Jimi Hendrix Live in Lviv

Author: Andrey Kurkov, translated by Reuben Wooley

Publisher: Harper Via

Publication date:  August 13, 2024

My review:

There were so many factors converging at once, compelling me to request Jimi Hendrix Live in Lviv from NetGalley and HarperVia: First, there was the title – which is charming, even though I was well aware that Jimi Hendrix would play a VERY minimal role going into my reading. Second, I love reading translations, generally, and try to read from the Booker International list each year. (This book was included on the 2023 Booker International longlist.) Third, I’ve never read anything by Andrey Kurkov but have always wanted to. So. There you have it – I was eager to jump into this ARC edition.

Alas, it was not entirely the book for me. I loved the characters and the humor. I just didn’t quite connect with the storyline, and I found the pacing uneven. Maybe it was the translation? Or maybe it was my own lack of contextual background for a book set in Lviv. Regardless, I’m not at all disappointed that I read it, and appreciate the opportunity to have done so.

Thank you to HarperVia and NetGalley for providing an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. The book will be published in the United States on August 13, 2024.

3 stars

==========

Title: Wandering Stars

Author: Tommy Orange

Publisher: Knopf, Pantheon, Vintage, and Anchor

Publication date: February 27, 2024

My review:

I very much enjoyed Tommy Orange’s 2018 novel, There There, so I was eager to read an ARC copy of his forthcoming novel, Wandering Stars, to be published in late February 2024.

While Wandering Stars is a follow-up (actually, I’d call it more a “deep-dive” into one of the families featured in There There), you don’t need to have read the first book recently – or at all – to enjoy and appreciate this newer one.

For me, Wandering Stars packed a bigger emotional punch than There There (which is saying a lot). I found that I needed to take brief breaks in my reading now and then, just to settle myself before I could continue on. It is an intense read, with a heartbreakingly raw – and very, very Real – storyline. As in There There, the language in Wandering Stars is beautiful – honest and fresh, and a pleasure to read. Orange employs shifting points of view/narrative voices brilliantly, which deepens the understanding of the individual characters while still tying them together as a whole.

Wandering Stars is packed with the brutal truth of addiction, generational trauma, and cultural identity. It’s lovely, honest, heartbreaking . . . and, in the end, also full of hope.

Thank you to NetGalley and Knopf, Pantheon, Vintage, and Anchor for providing an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. The book will be published on February 27, 2024.

5 stars.