July was hot and I read three books:
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
Dark Disciple by Christie Golden
Minor spoilers are in the Dark Disciple review.
LINCOLN IN THE BARDO BY GEORGE SAUNDERS
Lincoln in the Bardo mixes truth - President Lincoln’s son, Willie, died at the beginning of the Civil War - with the supernatural. Upon Willie’s death, the President visits his son’s grave and is unknowingly watched by ghosts all night long.
I had some mixed feelings on this after reading it and I saw a lot of mixed reviews, too. Saunders is brilliant, the writing was stunning, and the characters memorable. Even so, it did drag a bit because it reads like a play and certain sections I had to force my way through. The book takes place in one night but it took me a couple weeks to finish.
Each ghost had one single thing they fixated on. One was obsessed with his pickle factory. Another ghost only stayed long enough to confess his infidelity to his wife and then - poof - his conscience was clear and he moved on. That’s why I can agree it’s a good book, because Saunders created an entire person’s history from just a few lines, and he did that dozens of times. The Reverend’s struggle to understand why he was in the bardo made him the most compelling character to me. (If you read it and start to get confused by all the names, it might help to remember that the Reverend, Hans Vollman, and Roger Bevins III are the three main ghosts.) Each story got me thinking about birth, death, and everything in between. If I was stuck in purgatory, what event would my soul fixate on? Missed opportunities?
At first I thought that it could’ve easily been about any other father/son duo out there and didn’t necessarily need to be about President Lincoln and Willie, but at the end the history and fantasy elements all tied together nicely.
These were my favorite lines:
“The tide ran out but never ran in, said Susanna Briggs.
The stones rolled downhill but never rolled back up, said Cynthia Hoynton.
You never in your life was given enough, said Miranda Debb.”
“...creeks running and popping beneath us as we lurched over groaning bridges of freshcut timber…”
-and since it was set in the Civil War, the references to slavery were particularly powerful-
“And yet, still: I had my moments. My free, uninterrupted, discretionary moments.
Strange, though: it is the memory of those moments that bothers me the most.
The thought, specifically, that other men enjoyed whole lifetimes comprised of such moments.”
Overall Lincoln in the Bardo is well worth the read; it’s nice to dig into something different every once in awhile.
Rating: 3.5/5 (Rounded to 3 on Goodreads)
A MAN CALLED OVE BY FREDRIK BACKMAN
Ove is a bitter old man, the kind of person no one wants as a neighbor. When a new family moves in, Ove finds himself pulled into their lives.
Honestly there’s not much to say about this book. It’s cute, it’s easy to read, it hits you right in the feels, and I teared up a little bit at the ending. It’s just a pleasant, happy read. Sometimes that’s all you need, right? Ove’s grumpiness seemed a bit forced at times when it was obvious by his actions that he was a big softie, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying it.
Summer will be over soon but it would be a perfect beach read for anyone lucky enough to still have a vacation coming up. Unless you’re looking for a book that will put you in a bad mood, I don’t see how you can go wrong with this one.
DARK DISCIPLE BY CHRISTIE GOLDEN
Dark Disciple takes place before Episode III. Created from unused Clone Wars scripts, it follows Jedi Master Quinlan Vos and bounty hunter Asajj Ventress as they team up to take down Count Dooku. The journey changes them both in ways they never saw coming.
In my other Star Wars reviews I’ve made it clear that I like Disney taking over Star Wars. I enjoy all the new movies, minus a few (okay, many) weird scenes in The Last Jedi (the Luke/Rey/Kylo scenes are the best in that movie). That Vader scene in Rogue One makes me cry tears of joy and I love the new Vader comics that I’ve read. And let’s be real, there were so many authors and books in the EU that everyone had their own idea of canon. I’m happy there can be an “official” Star Wars story that’s easier for fans to learn. (Darth Plagueis is the only EU novel that remains canon in my mind, and it will until Disney replaces it.)
Dark Disciple is the fourth novel I’ve read in the new Star Wars canon, and it’s my favorite by far. (I did love the Vader appearances in Thrawn: Alliances but I think Zahn likes his own character best so Vader seemed a little off there.) Dark Disciple is simply everything that a Star Wars book should be: established characters felt exactly like themselves, new/less well-known characters were developed perfectly, the pacing worked, and it gave me that sense of Star Wars-y wonderment.
*moment of silence for The Sleeper, that scene broke my heart*
I had two issues with this book but they were minor enough that I still rated it 4.5. The first was Ventress in the last ⅓ of the book; it focused a little bit too much on her love for Vos so she seemed less badass. But I liked her ending overall. Secondly, I was happy that the book didn’t rely too much on previous Clone Wars story lines and just referred to Ventress’ relationship with the characters in passing, like Obi-Wan. The issue I had was that Ahsoka wasn’t mentioned at all. It was like she never existed as a common person they all knew and so that felt wrong.
This is truly Star Wars media at its best. I highly, highly recommend for people who have watched Clone Wars and anyone interested in Star Wars novels.
Rating: 4.5/5 (Rounded to 5 on Goodreads)