BOOK REVIEW: THE BLOOD MIRACLES by LISA McINERNEY


The Blood Miracles by Lisa McInerney - Books - Hachette Australia

Genuinely upset over how disappointing this was.

Where The Glorious Heresies had so much life, The Blood Miracles had almost none. And this novel’s lifelessness is its most fundamental problem. Ryan goes through so much shit throughout the course of its narrative, and yet we never really see him deal with any of it. There are the occasional glimmers of depth and insight, but other than that, it felt like he was just going from one fuck-up to another, with no time for him–or us–to properly process the psychological or emotional repercussions of those fuck-ups. Like, I can maybe buy that that’s part of Ryan’s character, that the point is precisely that he’s unable to grapple with his decisions and their consequences, but I don’t think it makes for very compelling reading to have so little insight into a character who is making the most infuriatingly frustrating and idiotic decisions possible. And of course, Ryan made bad decisions in The Glorious Heresies, but that novel worked because we got to see his pain, his anguish, his awareness that he was constantly letting himself and the people he cared about down. The Ryan of The Blood Miracles is not subdued so much as he is hollow. He fucks up and you’re like okay, I guess that’s another shitty decision out of the 29037129371 shitty decisions he’s already made… It was truly the most frustrating reading experience I’ve had all year.

I don’t know what happened between The Glorious Heresies and The Blood Miracles, but something got lost along the way. The wit, the spirit, the energy of the first book is nowhere to be found here, and the result is a novel that feels like such a drag–depressing in a way that invites irritation rather than understanding from the reader (at least this reader). I was so ready to love this book; I would’ve forgiven it so much, and it still let me down.

(Also if I have to hear about Natalie in the next book I am going to SCREAM. OH MY GODDDDD I have never cared less about a character.)


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BOOK REVIEW: THE EMPRESS OF SALT AND FORTUNE by NGHI VO

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The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi VoThe Empress of Salt and Fortune wasn’t a bad story; it just wasn’t a developed enough one for me. My impression upon finishing this novella—”…that’s it?“—remains my lasting impression of this novella as a whole. In other words, I was underwhelmed.

I want to say that I found this underdeveloped because it was so short, but that would be doing a disservice to all the short fiction I’ve recently read that has been excellent despite, and even because of, its length. The Empress of Salt and Fortune had all the bones of a compelling story: a world based on Asian history and mythology, a story-within-a-story narrative, a focus on the inner workings of an empire from a female perspective. Sadly, though, these facets just didn’t come together for me; the compelling parts didn’t cohere into a particularly compelling whole, here. The characters, especially, felt insubstantial, lacking definition. What little character development they had was confined to their roles, and to the attendant set of qualities you would expect them to have based on those roles (handmaiden = self-effacing, unassuming; empress = bold, self-assured). It was characterization that felt more uninspired than anything else, producing characters that were less fleshed out and complex and more archetypal and one-note.

The plot, as well, only made my issues with the one-note characterization more glaring. It was a fairly traditional, linear plot, moving in exactly the direction you would expect it to move in. That is to say, it’s a plot that ends very conservatively, so much so that I was a bit baffled when I got to the ending because I didn’t think that the author would go in such an unexpected, and frankly underwhelming, direction.

Having said all of that, I don’t expect every story I go into to be ground-breaking or insanely innovative; I love me some good ol’ classic tropes (hate-to-love romances, found family, etc. etc.) from time to time. The issue here is that I didn’t think the tropes in this particular story were as well-executed as I wanted them to be; for me, The Empress of Salt and Fortune was just one of those stories that was more compelling in theory than in actuality.

(Thanks so much to Tor.com for providing me with an e-ARC of this via NetGalley!)

2.5-


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BOOK REVIEW: FUNNY WEATHER by OLIVIA LAING

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Funny Weather: Art in an Emergency by Olivia LaingI know what Olivia Laing is capable of—Lonely City was one of my favourite books of last year—and I don’t think Funny Weather did justice either to her writing or to the subjects she was writing about.

My disappointment with Funny Weather is more about my high expectations for it than anything wrong with this book, necessarily. If you go into this book keeping in mind that it’s a collection of her previously published articles, then you’ll enjoy it. I mean, it’s Olivia Laing, so her writing is still great. But given that this is an anthology and not a cohesive book about one specific theme, like The Lonely City, it read as a little disjointed and underdeveloped. At times I felt like just as I was getting into a piece, it ended. At others it felt like I got barely anything from a piece because it ended so quickly. What I’m trying to say is: these pieces were just too short to be substantial enough for me.

Another thing is that a lot of the artists Laing talks about in this book are people I’ve never heard of before. In The Lonely City I didn’t mind this at all because Laing took her time to develop their histories and relate their art back to loneliness. In this book, though, the pieces we got were essentially the barebones of artists I had no interest in, so it felt like a bit of a lose-lose situation.

That said, I am still ridiculously excited to read Laing’s next book, Everybody, which I think will be more in the vein of The Lonely City. I mean, this is the first line of the book’s description: “Everybody is a fierce, vital exploration of what it means to have a body in the modern era.” I am so sold.

(Thank you to W.W. Norton for providing me with an e-ARC of this via Edelweiss!)

2.5-


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