Book Review: The Broken Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin

The Broken Kingdoms, book two in the Inheritance Trilogy, resumes the story ten years after the events in The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. This time our protagonist is Oree Shoth, a young blind woman living in the Shadow, a city filled with godlings and priests, heretics and pilgrims. Oree may not have the power of sight, but she does have the ability to see magic and create a bit of her own. When she lets an odd, quiet man with strange magic into her life she becomes embroiled in a plot involving the murder of godlings. Along the way she learns the secrets of her own magic, and finds that she may be the only one to stop these murders before all of Shadow pays the price.

Now the big question regarding any sequel, is it as good as the first? Not quite. But I still immensely enjoyed this novel. The writing style is similar to the The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, and still lovely, but it’s slightly more contained. It’s first person again, with the same mix of plot narrative and stories of Oree’s past, but it has a little less of the ‘stream of consciousness’ style of the first novel. I still love N.K. Jemisin’s writing, but I think I preferred the more wild, uncontained style of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms.

Now when it comes to characters, The Broken Kingdoms does well in matching its predecessor. Oree is an interesting and unique protagonist. She may have a disability, but she is just as capable as any other heroine. She fights for for her independence and freedom throughout the novel. Plus, she is comfortable with her sexuality and her body, which is so refreshing to see in any work of fiction. Anyone who read the previous novel will immediately know the true identity of ‘Shiny’, Oree’s mysterious new companion. He is not that likeable and certainly not a hero, but he sees immense growth throughout the novel. By the end of the story he has changed, while still holding on to the core aspects of himself, or perhaps by returning to what he once was. There is a fun new set of secondary characters, mostly godlings with a wide array of powers and traits, as well as appearances by characters from the first novel.

With the shift to a new heroine we get to see the events from The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms from an outsider’s perspective, and with the jump forward in time we get to see the effect those events had on this world. Where the first novel is dark and sexy, this novel is more of a slow burn. The tone of each novel is truly an embodiment of the god at the core of each story. If you liked the world and writing style of the first novel, I think you will enjoy The Broken Kingdoms. In fact, anyone who had problems with the writing style of the The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms will most likely enjoy this novel more. In the end, The Broken Kingdoms solidified my new found fandom of N.K. Jemisin, and I cannot wait to read the conclusion of this epic fantasy.

The Best Picture Show: Thrillers

There is a new episode of my podcast, The Best Picture Show! 

In this episode we discuss a few Thrillers that have won Best Picture, Rebecca, The Godfather Part II, and Unforgiven. 

You can find the episode on iTunes:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-best-picture-show/id853568542?mt=2

Or on Podomatic:

http://tmarchese90.podomatic.com/entry/2015-03-23T08_44_31-07_00

You can also find us on Facebook, and let us know what you think:

https://www.facebook.com/BestPictureShow

Please check it out, THANK YOU!

A study in the re-watch: TVD Season One

Well, it is twenty-two episodes later and I have finished Season One of the re-watch (it is still slightly painful to type that “re”) of The Vampire Diaries! To be perfectly honest I am already well into Season Two. It turns out that just sitting there and allowing Netflix to auto-play the next episode is far less work than writing up a “review”. Who knew? With that being said, I am going to try to keep this review to Season One only. I think it is fair to say that this review will have spoilers (but honestly if you haven’t watched it yet, you probably never will). I think there are three key pieces to TVD: the characters, the romance (obviously), and the plot. Some of you may read that last one, laugh and say, “What plot?”. However, I would argue it is a pretty plot driven show. Whether you genuinely find that plot interesting, or simply want to see what ludicrous lengths the writers will take it to next (this applies more to later seasons), will vary depending on the viewer. Either way, plot is a reason to watch this show. Now on to some Season One specifics!

The cast of characters of TVD can be pretty large, so I will just stick to the core set of characters:

Elena: Obviously we have to start here. Elena is the narrator as well as the audience surrogate. As the show opens she is a sad teenager trying to get over the death of her parents. One thing that comes up in many recaps and reviews of the current season of TVD, is a critique of how Elena’s character has become increasingly selfish and difficult to root for (and really kind of an asshole). I tend to agree with that sentiment, and I do even more so after going back and re-watching Season One. For the most part Elena is kind and genuinely cares for her friends and family in the first season. However, there are also some grating aspects of her character. Everyone is in love with her and sometimes it is difficult to see why. The only answer that’s really ever given is that she is nice, which is a great quality, but I don’t think it is going to have everyone falling head over heels for you. She also begins to put her boyfriend above everyone else as the season goes on, which is something that happens far too often in fiction. Speaking of the boyfriend…

Stefan: If I could only describe Stefan is one word it would be boring. He is just kind of a dud. His defining character trait at this point is that he loves Elena and would do anything for her. Oh, he also secretly has serious self control problems, combined with a holier than thou attitude. Awesome! I think Stefan is the opposite of Elena, in that his character gets better as the show continues. When we begin to see more of his flaws, it adds depth to his character and makes him more likeable. Whereas Elena’s flaws make her appear more shallow and far less likeable. I really don’t have much more to say about him. Wait, he is also brooding (the show loves to call attention to this in a ‘in on the joke’, snarky sort of way) and he hates his “evil” brother who is always ruining everything…

Damon: Stefan’s brother. The villain to Stefan’s hero. He is also probably the most interesting character in the show (at this point). A romance novel would say he has a devil may care attitude, and this has made him a fan favorite. At the beginning of the season he appears to simply be a murderous jerk who values nothing and is motivated only by blood lust. As the season wears on, we find that he is actually motivated by love (twisted love, but love none the less), and may even value friendship and his relationship with his brother. GASP! Most of this changed is sparked by his budding friendship with Elena.

Bonnie: Bonnie is Elena’s best friend and also a WITCH! She is just starting to learn about her powers in Season One. She is very suspicious (with good reason) of Stefan, and hates (again, with good reason) Damon. She struggles with her newfound power and relationship with the vampires throughout this season.

Caroline: Caroline becomes one of my favorite characters in later seasons, but in Season One she is portrayed as neurotic, clingy, and sometimes a bitch. She is manipulated by the evil brother above and jealous of perfect Elena. I’ll talk more about Caroline in later reviews.

Matt: Elena’s ex-boyfriend and  the love interest of Caroline. He is a football player with a bad home life. Matt is boring in this season, which is a common theme throughout the series.

Jeremy: Elena’s little brother. He is dealing with his parents death through drugs and partying. He’s a sad, emo loner. Jeremy dies several times throughout the series and I think he should’ve stayed dead on one of those occasions. He actually doesn’t bother me as much in this season because he is a peripheral character. He should have stayed that way (or dead).

Tyler: Matt’s best friend. The only bigger asshole than Tyler is Tyler’s dad. He is a very minor character this season up until the final episode, when we find out that he and his father have a SECRET! More on that later.

Alaric: The new mysterious history teacher who turns out to be a vampire hunter out for vengeance for the death of his wife! He also ends up dating Elena’s aunt. Alaric is yet another character who becomes more interesting in later seasons.

Now on to the romances, and in case you couldn’t guess this show is chock full of them! I have not decided if I am going to use the language commonly used when talking about romance in TV/books/etc. (especially teen/YA). Of course I am talking about the dreaded ‘ship’/’shipper’ and the name combinations (Stelena/Delena/etc.) we’ve come to know and love. Considering that I have already mentioned them, I am guessing it isn’t long before I devolve into using them. But for now I will use real, adult human language!

Elena/Stefan: On my first watch of TVD I enjoyed this romance, I still also enjoyed the Elena/Damon flirtations, but I was pretty on board with the Elena/Stefan romance. Maybe it is because I am older and wiser (code for more cynical and disillusioned), but upon rewatching I am just not that into it. They are sweet, sickeningly sweet. It is very much a typical high school ‘I love you now so I am going to love you FOREVER!’ relationship. Which makes sense for Elena, but Stefan is pushing 140 plus years, so I would think that he would know better by now (yes, he only ever loved Katherine. And yes, he spent years being a ruthless murderer not concerned with love. But still, his first love turned out horribly and he’s had a lot of life experience. Don’t be such a love sick puppy, dude). They do the whole break up and get back together thing a few times during the course of this season, but they always come back to each other because they are (currently) the OTP (God damn it! So much for avoiding the terminology. For those of you not “in the know”, OTP is a term used when describing a relationship between two fictional characters that is meant to be/written in the stars/whatever other romance euphemism you would like to use. It stands for One True Pairing. Now please excuse me while I go shame myself for using that phrase).

Caroline/Matt: Caroline has many boyfriends over the course of the series and I would like to take this moment to address all the hate towards her because of it. She is young, cute, strong, and will (eventually) live forever. She can have as many boyfriends as she wants! Get off her back and quit slut shaming (this also applies to all women in real life). With that out of the way, this is Caroline’s least interesting relationship. For approximately one second I thought this relationship was cute, but then it is simply used to make Caroline seem extremely jealous and insecure, so I was no longer on board. Also, as mentioned above, Matt is boring. Moving on.

Elena/Damon: I know not technically a relationship yet, but I forgot how much sexual tension there is right from the get-go. They are merely friends this season, but even that is interesting. It goes from fear/hatred to acceptance/liking, back to hatred, and finally settles on friendly “platonic” love. It’s nice and their scenes are some of the best of the season.

Let’s close this review out with some plot talk! Season 1 is probably the slowest moving TVD season plot wise. It spends a good deal of time setting up the world, and on Elena finding out about, and then dealing with, Stefan’s vampiric state. Then we have some vampire hijinks (including Matt’s sister being turned and ultimately killed), a secret council made up of the town’s founding families hell bent on destroying vampires, a vampire hunter history teacher with his own agenda, and of course bickering between the Salvatore brothers. All of this leads up to the big reveals of why Elena looks like Katherine (Damon and Stefan’s former lover and the one who turned them into vampires), who Elena’s biological parents are, and what the council plans to do to rid the town of vampires. Like any soapy drama, Season One of TVD leaves us with a juicy cliffhanger: Katherine is back! Yay for doppelganger shenanigans! The plot will thicken in Season Two (and continue to thicken until it reaches the consistency of three weeks old bad milk) and I will be writing about all the juicy (rotten) details!

Overall: Season one has a slow start but I think the latter third of the season makes up for it, and clearly it held my interest enough to compel me to watch Season Two (this may say more about me than about the show however). It is has the outlandish plots points and cheesy romance I’ve come to know and love from TVD, with some added heart that may be missing from later seasons.

Rank: Well this is the only one I’ve reviewed thus far so… season 1 is NUMBER ONE!

Lingering Question(s): So what happened to the whole Damon controlling the fog and (possibly) turning into a crow thing? We’re just going to drop that and never bring it up again? Okay, probably a good call.

Book Review: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin

For me this is one of those books. I stayed up far too late to finish it, I fell asleep thinking about it (I am fairly certain I had dreams about it), and now it is well into the next day and I still cannot get it out of my head. So what else is a girl to do but write a review? The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms has a setup that may feel familiar to fantasy fans. Yeine, still reeling over the recent death of her mother, is summoned by her estranged maternal grandfather to the seat of the kingdom, where he rules with ruthlessness and a set of very powerful weapons. There, he names her as one of his possible heirs. Intrigue, political maneuvering, betrayals, and ultimately self discovery follow.  Include a mythology about the Three Gods and their fate (a war, resulting in one dead, one enslaved, one left to rule alone), make those gods central characters in the story, and you have The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. I am greatly simplifying here, but those are truly the key points you need in order to know if you will be on board with the story, and the key points necessary for this review.

What is it about this novel that did it for me? There are many things, so I will try to keep it to a short few. First, there is the writing, both the prose itself (which includes lovely passages like, “I am not as I once was. They have done this to me, broken me open and torn out my heart. I do not know who I am anymore. I must try to remember”) and the structure of the narrative. The story jumps backwards and forwards in time and is told in a mix of styles, plot narrative, childhood stories, and inner thoughts. This could have resulted in a confused jumble, instead it all comes together in an incredibly beautiful way. The world building specifically, an element so crucial to fantasy, is dealt with mostly in the form of the stories and myths Yeine has been told throughout her life. This is what hooked me immediately, the lovely writing combined with intense, first person storytelling.

Next, this story is sexy. No, sexy isn’t the right word, perhaps sensual is better. Whatever you want to call it, it really works. The love story, though it seems too simple to call it that, is wonderful. It wasn’t what I was expecting, and it’s a bit different than anything else I have read, even in fantasy. One of the reasons this sensuality and romance works so well is the characters. Yeine is both a great protagonist and a good audience surrogate. She is an ideal combination of strong and smart, but also lost and trying to find her way in this world, which is in some ways as new to her as it is to the reader. The cast of secondary characters adds a wealth of depth both to the world and to Yeine’s character (especially Sieh, the centuries old godling who takes the form of a child). The counterpart to Yeine is Nahadoth, the Nightlord, who is probably the most intriguing  character in the entire novel. I won’t say more than that he is both hero and villain, and I found myself devouring each of his scenes. There is also a bending of gender stereotypes and a defiance of heteronormative culture embedded in the DNA of this story. Add all of this up, and you have one sexy, or sensual, tale.

Some may find the structure of this novel confusing or distracting, but if you are willing to dive into this world, I think that the way the story is told will only add to your enjoyment of the novel. The only disappointment I felt was near the end of the story, when it became apparent that this set of characters would likely not be central to the next chapter of the series (though I am certain/hopeful that they will resume a larger role in the final installment). I found myself wanting more of these characters, for the story to continue exactly where this one leaves off, but I am definitely willing to settle for more of this world and more of N.K. Jemisin’s compelling writing style. I will be eagerly picking up the next installment, hoping that it can recreate the magic of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms.

The Podcast

As I mentioned in my inaugural post, in addition to my written musings on pop culture ephemera (I feel that here I should note that I definitely stole that phrase from NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast cohost Glen Wheldon. I couldn’t help it, I just love it so much), I also verbally express them in a podcast that I record with two good friends called The Best Picture Show (available via iTunes and Podomatic Podcasts, sorry had to due the required plug). I plan on posting links to new episodes here on the blog so I wanted to take some time to describe what the podcast is about and what led us to start recording. So join me, on a journey through the history of my love for podcasts!

It was spring semester of my senior year of college when I first discovered the wide world of podcasting. My first podcast love? The aforementioned Pop Culture Happy Hour. PCHH is a weekly podcast put on by NPR which, as the title suggests, focuses on anything and everything pop culture. I stumbled upon it simply by searching “pop culture” in the podcast section of iTunes. One episode and I was on board with this whole “podcast thing”. The thing that I initially loved about podcasts, and that I still do love about them, is that they can be about anything. If there is something that you truly love, there is probably a podcast about it. And if there’s not, then you can start one. Another thing to love is the personal touch of the podcast. Listen to a podcast long enough, and you’ll feel like you know the people who create it. Something about the nature of podcasting seems to make people truly be themselves, probably because you don’t really ever make any money from it so you do it purely because you enjoy it. I imagine that it also helps that most are audio only, there is something about not being visual seen that makes people say things they truly mean (see any comments section anywhere on the Internet). These two things combined make podcasting feel like a very personal medium.

This enjoyment of podcasts led to a desire discuss podcasts with others. Which more often than not resulted in blank stares and confusion, but occasionally it resulted in recommendations of new podcasts to try out. And so my podcast subscriptions grew, Savage Lovecast and Doug Loves Movies got added to the rotation. Then the podcasts I listened to would mention yet more podcasts, Comedy Film Nerds, The Dork Forest, the suite of How Stuff Works podcasts, all added. Some of these podcasts have ended (RIP Popstuff), some I have lost interest in (though I still immensely enjoy Dan Savage I no longer listen to the Savage Lovecast on a weekly basis),  some I still pull up occasionally (Stuff You Missed In History Class), and others I never miss a single episode (Pop Culture Happy Hour, Doug Love Movies). In other words, podcasts became like any other medium I enjoy, with me employing the same habits and enthusiasm as I do movies, TV, and books. Of course that meant that I started talking about podcasts with my friends, primarily my best friend Maija.

This led to off hand remarks like, “We should start our own podcast. Wouldn’t that be fun?”. Maija introduced me to her friend Tony, who also loves podcasts and was going to school for film editing/directing because he loves movies so much he wants to make them for a living. Then it became, “We (Maija, Tony, Alex) are going to start a podcast”. A few brainstorming sessions later we had an idea, we would watch every film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture and discuss what we thought of them. We came up with the perfect title, The Best Picture Show, and a format for the episodes, each episode would have a theme and we would pick three films (one from the early years, one from the middle years, and one more recent) that fit within the theme. And another podcast was born.

Here I feel I should give a huge shout-out to Tony. Not only does he have the equipment that allows us to record, he also effectively acts as our producer. He does any necessary editing and uploads all of the episodes to iTunes. Without him there would be no The Best Picture Show. Now, back to the story. Our first theme was Movies Through Time. We recorded shortly after 12 Years a Slave won for 2013, so we decided to discuss the most recent winner (12 Years), the first winner (Wings, 1929) and the one that falls most closely to the middle (The French Connection, 1971). Maija and I were incredibly nervous when we recorded that first episode (which is pretty adorable considering the likelihood of anyone ever hearing was very small. Even now only a handful of people listen, but we are proud of that handful!). There may have been several restarts due to nervous laughter and stumbling over words. Eventually we hit our stride and began discussing the movies just like we normally would if we weren’t recording. Which was the whole idea behind the podcast in the first place, we already talk about these things, why not record it and throw in on the Internet!

Since then we have definitely perfected our podcast (notice I say our podcast, not the podcast. I would never claim that we are making the perfect podcast). We have a rhythm now and the conversations feel more organic. Most importantly, we have fun making it. We are seeing a lot of great movies (along with some not so great ones) and having some really cool discussions. We don’t have thousands (or even hundreds) of listeners, but some people we really love and respect listen, and that means so much to us. The best part however, is that we wanted to start a podcast and we did. It is a real thing. It is on iTunes and anyone can go download it. And that, well that’s just pretty cool.

You can catch up with The Best Picture Show on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/BestPictureShow

And, of course, you can download it via iTunes:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-best-picture-show/id853568542?mt=2

A study in the re-watch

Note: this post was written back in January but is being posted now, in MARCH. Just go with it.

I started doing something that I am slightly embarrassed to admit. This is really saying something because I have always been a loud proponent of the idea that there is no such thing as a “guilty pleasure”. If you like it, you like it and who cares if other people do (or don’t). What’s “good” is a value judgement. It’s going to be different from person to person, and even what appears to be the shittiest of media is going to have some redeeming quality. For example, one could watch Keeping Up With the Kardashians as a study of our society’s obsession with fame and celebrity. Or you could simply watch it because you find it funny, therefore if gives you pleasure, and isn’t that what pop culture is all about? (Note: I personally don’t watch KUWTK, I just think it is a great example, and believe me there are other widely mocked television shows I enjoy immensely).

So if I can find redemption in Keeping Up With the Kardashians what could I possibly be ashamed to admit? Well…I started re-watching The Vampire Diaries. Now I have never really been embarrassed about watching this show. It has had its ups and downs (granted its never been awards worthy or of the caliber of say a House of Cards or a Breaking Bad, which yes I have never watched Breaking Bad but everyone swears by it blah, blah, blah), but it has always been entertaining. Whether I am genuinely invested in the storyline, laughing at the ridiculousness of the plot, or simply watching to read the humorous online recaps, I am getting some sort of enjoyment out of it. It’s the re-watch that I have mixed feelings about.

Re-watching (or re-reading or re-listening or re-anything) should be reserved for your favorite things. The things you love so much that you get something out of each re-watch. For me, a classic list of re-dos is: Parks and Rec, Friends, Veronica Mars (especially season 1), Arrested Development. See a pattern there? Mostly comedies and mostly shows that are widely beloved by everyone. Again, not that it matters who or how many love something, if you like it then own it, but somehow a re-watch feels different to me. That’s two (or three or four or however many) times as much time and energy invested in something, and with all the various forms of entertainment available to us today (I have also continuously lamented the amount of culture I “have” to consume) you have to really love something to be willing to allow it to take up that precious space in your pop culture calendar.

So do I feel that way about TVD? Not exactly. What are my reasons for rewatching then? First, I am kicking off the new year with a strict budget plan in hopes of making 2015 the year of savings (with the goal of making 2016 the year of travel!). This is relevant because there are many movies currently out that I want to see (in some cases need to for podcasting purposes, yes I am that cool), but I am waiting for Redbox releases and perfectly timed matinees to fit within the budget. So I need something to take up my at home because I am being fiscally responsible time. I am also an avid reader, but there are times when one wants to read and there are times when one wants to veg out in front of the bright, moving pictures box. Second, I am caught up on all the current shows I am watching and it is currently the dreaded mid season break. Now I could spend this time watching some of the series that I have been meaning to watch, like the aforementioned Breaking Bad, but that seems like…work. I fully realize that sounds like a ridiculous, lazy, first world, overall stupid reason. I also know that there are other options like GO OUTSIDE, but I live in Minnesota and it is January (yes, yes I know, LEARN TO CROSS COUNTRY SKI, SNOWSHOE, but no thank you). Or, interact with other humans, which I do, but sometimes other humans suck and all you want to do is sit unshowered in your apartment for a day. Also, remember 2015 is the year of saving so that 2016 can be the year of taking on the world. So for the purposes of this essay, let’s pretend consuming various forms of popular culture is the only option. In sum, it is winter, I am trying to save money, and I would like a comfort food of television to get me through a few (cold) months. So, a rewatch of TVD!

To make myself feel better about this decision I am going to write about it! Which now that I am doing it I cannot decide if it makes it better or more pathetic (eh, I’m over it). I hope for this to be somewhat interesting and humorous, no promises though. I don’t think I will go episode by episode because that would be ridiculous but I am about halfway through season one so I think I will write a reaction soon. This was simply the long winded introduction/self esteem boost. More to come!

Book Review: The Paying Guests

I only knew the bare bones of the plot of this novel before I began reading it and I definitely think that is the best way to go into it. There are some lovely and exciting twists and turns which I believe would be best enjoyed if you did not anticipate them. With that being said, I am going to only give a very brief synopsis of the plot in this review, I want everyone to enjoy this novel as much as I did! The Paying Guests tells the story of Frances Wray, a young woman in post World War I England, who is struggling to keep herself and her mother afloat after losing her father and brothers during the war. Added to this is the discovery that her father did not leave their finances in the best of order prior to his death. In an attempt to keep their home and some semblance of their old life, Frances and her mother take on a young married couple as boarders, Mr. and Mrs. Barber (the titular paying guests). The story starts at a slow simmer, taking us through the development of relationships between these characters. As the relationships intensify, the heat gets cranked up, all the way to a terrifying climax. The second act of the novel explores the aftermath of this climax and how it affects the characters. Though the heat definitely gets turned down, the tension carries through the end of the novel. I think that is the best I can do without giving away too many details. Trust me its all worth it, the slow simmer, the climax, the tension, they all come together to create a lovely, engrossing novel.

It isn’t just the structure of the novel that made me enjoy it as much as I did there are many other compelling things about this story. Frances, for example. We experience the story through her eyes and she felt so real to me. She is a complex, flawed character, and even when I didn’t agree with her actions, I understood her motivations, and that makes for a great protagonist. I also love a story with a strong sense of time and place, and The Paying Guests certainly delivers on that front. Even if you don’t have a great deal of knowledge about post WWI England, you can’t help but feel that atmosphere surrounding the novel. Being on the brink of changing times, this is shown mostly through the relationship between Frances and her Victorian-minded mother. Post war frustrations, Frances repeatedly voices her opinion on the pointlessness of the war and the high price England paid to participate. And of course there are the fun references to sculleries, hat pins, and waved hair. All of these elements combine to give the novel that  true sense of time and place, and I immensely enjoyed being immersed in that world.

In addition to everything mentioned above, The Paying Guests also has some lovely, poignant writing. One passage the stands out to me as a great example happens early in the novel when Frances takes a trip to London.

“She loved these walks through London. She seemed as she made them, to become porous, to soak in detail after detail; or else, like a battery, to become charged. Yes, that was it, she thought…it wasn’t a liquid creeping, it was a tingle, something electric, something produced as if by the friction of her shoes against the streets. She was at her truest, it seemed to her, in these tingling moments – these moments when, paradoxically, she was also at her most anonymous.”

The one thing I could see being a struggle for some readers with this novel is pacing. It definitely has a slower start, and I have read some criticisms about the last 100 pages or so being quite sluggish. Though I can see some merit to these criticisms, I loved everything else about this novel so much that even the slower parts of the plot were engaging for me. I didn’t find my interest waning once, and by the time I reached the end I found myself wanting more time with this place and these characters. So if a deliberately paced, post war novel with a complex female character, and a twisting plot at its center sounds like your cup of tea, pick up The Paying Guests. I don’t think you’ll regret it.