I have to say I wasn’t sure I really liked this book for 90% of it. It was the feeling of constantly not knowing if every character with exception for the protagonist would die the next minute or betray her. It felt like there was not enough to grasp on, not enough solid ground. I suppose in some way it is actually consistent with the life the main character is living—disappearing and re-eventing herself, watching everyone die. Also, too many innocent people dying left and right might have something to do with that. Usually, ‘mind games’ is one of the themes I try to avoid in books. But I was also pleasantly surprised by the ending, which took me right back to being excited to continue reading this series.
A well-written realistic contemporary romance. There are details, imagination, well-built characters, self-deprecating humour. While the writing is above average, the content itself…is 50/50 at best. The main character inspires more pity, than sympathy (although I do believe the book is self-aware of the fact), and definitely a lot of ‘why do you need to be so stupid’ thoughts. She is also a bit too venomous and judgemental towards her surroundings (in a cowardly way), for my comfort. A lot of developments were very predictable, which only made the main character’s bad decisions seem even more stupid. And then, the drama in the end seemed a bit too ‘dragged in by the ears’…as in, too convenient and suddenly very not realistic, compared to the rest of the book. …It is likely, however, that it was necessary because nothing less would ever shake this main character enough to change something. The writing does save this book though, it makes it enjoyable regardless.
Everything about him at that moment made my internal organs bleed hearts and flowers and puppies and kittens and hot chocolate and hot apple cider and red wine and campfires and Star Trek and yarn—my favorite things.
(It’s so much easier to read these romantic comedies when the female part of your brain doesn’t push you to try to over-identify and empathise with a character just because you identify with some neurological characteristics.)
Yes to the humour, to the tone, to the sarcasm, to the Star Trek Voyager references, to the characters, to the “it has always been you” kind of love. I enjoyed reading this book much more than I expected myself to.
Though, as with the first one, there were also some moments that felt ‘just…no‘… Mainly everything to do with the TV show (including the whole scene in the end). And the fact that the ‘villain’ part, the non-romantic comedy part of the world, felt too half-baked.
If not for the tv show thing, Nico’s character could really be that perfect kind of romance hero. I really don’t get this part of this book and the insistence on trying to make something trashy and sleazy sound like it’s not.
My impression is that this book felt a little too dragged out. A lot of circling around the same questions without actual developments. A lot of back-and-forward on relationships. A lot of interesting side character, but so many questions… Even the humour felt sometimes laid too thick and forced sometimes. Also, …mostly frustrating and unsatisfactory ending. Hoping for swift improvement in the future books…
Close to 1.5 stars, 2 only because I managed to make myself finish it (it wasn’t easy). The publishers and other people who wrote all the comments and praise words on the cover of this book tried very hard to make me believe I was about to read something special and heartfelt. The book didn’t deliver. The impression I got from this book, is that if I could gather it up and squeeze it in my hand, once I opened my hand only sand and dust would seep through my fingers. There was nothing inside. Perhaps it’s a mean thing to say… But, imho, a book of contemporary literature like this, which picks and focuses on ordinary lives of a small number of people out of the millions living on this planet, has to either show something you won’t forget, or tell its story using words you won’t forget. This book fails to do either. The writing is simply weak. The ‘fragmented’ structure of the text can be interesting when it’s used with a good reason, but here it unfortunately serves only a single purpose—to make it easier for readers to get through the text that has no powers to grip their attention otherwise. When a pause/space is inserted where neither POV not the scene have changed, the only reason it is there is to hide the fact that if you reconnect paragraphs in your mind, the flow of text would just be jaw-numbingly boring. It’s mostly dry listing of every detail in sight. Predictable reactions spelled out over and over. Astonishingly stale dialogues. Some of the sections consist of nothing but 7-10 short sentences beginning with the word ‘I”. And even when it tries to express something ‘deep’, it somehow just doesn’t sound sincere. Considering that this is a story of an English teacher with love for books and writing…all I can say is “…Really?” Overall, the narrative bits mostly left me with a lot of unpleasant aftertaste. The Ukrainian bits were slightly better on emotional level…if not for all the frustrating details—like the fact that people don’t wear shoes in houses in Ukraine, or how it’s always kielbasa everywhere, even when it’s not, or verb tense switching constantly back and forth. These parts would me marginally better is they made an effort to not be so Americanized. Figuring out kolbasa (not kielbasa), pirozhki (not pierogi), kasha, and what they actually are and their actual uses (as in, no kind of kolbasa would go into hotdogs, and that there’s no such thing as ‘just kasha’), as well as the proper shapes for paskhas, would be a good start. The disturbing part is that I can’t really tell if the author didn’t have the knowledge, or did have it but chose to not put it in and over-Americanize it for ‘simple readers’ on purpose. Either way, I do wish authors would stop mangling other cultures because they’re either too lazy to do proper research, or, when they do, think they need to ‘localize’ and over-simplify everything for American readers. Overall, food issues aside, the minds of people living in Ukraine in the last days of the USSR are not represented believably anywhere on these pages. These are just Americans in costumes with Polish kielbasa in hands pretending to act Ukrainian (just as they would be in any Hollywood feature, I suppose).
In terms of story, it’s just…nothing we really haven’t seen before? Picking up a sad story to tell doesn’t magically make it into a good book. Mixing in boring broken relationships makes it even worse. Everything is entirely too predictable, nothing really grips the heart strings. The main character is practically impossible to like. On top of which, most of the side characters feel very bland and empty. “Katya” especially feels like an over-simplified empty shell, where she should have been the core of emotion here. The cliché doomed relationship of the “and why they were tougher to begin with?” variety, where from the first pages the empty character if the boyfriend is written in completely negative light (with the whole “sully my happiness with his pub breath”), while the replacement is better from every angle in comparison, perfect overall, and is praised with every word and description so much its nothing but ridiculous… Was this a necessary part of this book?
Long story short, even if this could be a good story, it is thoroughly spoiled by being told from a perspective of an mentally immature, unreliable, overly subjective, and too self-centered narrator…in bad prose.
P.S. I also do believe it is morally wrong for a teacher to actually read the letters “to future selves” she asked her students to write. They should have been private. But then that would have defeated the main point of this book, wouldn’t it?
Just as the previous one, this book continued to do this weird thing of hitting precisely the points I find very close and like a lot (the ostrich behavior, the structure of the relationship between the main characters, the unconditional love-friendship importance, Kitten, ASD qualities, etc.) and precisely the points I really hate very much (stilettos and women’s shoes, stockings, men who try to dress up women, women who find idiotic reasons to care about people opening doors for them, etc.). Similarly to constantly randomly mixing things I love and hate, it also constantly mixes elements that could belong in a silly-almost-childish ‘girly’ fiction (wedding, fashion, girlfriends…not as much the topics as the way they are written about) with things belonging in more serious adult fiction (crime, mental disorders, broken families, real-life assholes). It’s a fun and uplifting book on one side. The relationships are written especially well, and there are many things here that are worth stopping to think about for a few moment. And I’m giving it 4 stars on my bookshelf because of it, …though, if I am to be really honest and remember the number of times the ‘female’ stuff in here made me gag (practically every time fashion and clothes/shoes came into focus, and the whole discussion of men opening doors for women, plus some of the behavioral decisions), I’d probably end up rating this book much lower. Good thing I’m so good at pretending that things I didn’t like weren’t there.