I stumbled upon this website after reading a few reviews from some other bloggers. Blogging for Books is just like it sounds - they send you a book, you read it, and then you review it on your blog. It's sponsored by The Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House.
They offer a number of print books and ebooks. The print books are a bit limited, so you really have to jump on it if there's one that piques your interest.
The first book I've chosen to review is Bonita Avenue by Peter Buwalda. This fictional debut novel is based on a seemingly perfect suburban family living in the Netherlands. From the fly jacket:
"A riveting portrait of a family in crisis and the ways that even the smallest twists of fate can forever change our lives, Bonita Avenue is an incendiary, unpredictable debut about relationships torn asunder by lies, and minds destroyed by madness. "
My first thought after a few pages was "oh, this is set in the Netherlands? No wonder I can't pronounce half the names or towns." So off to Google I go to look up the Dutch towns on a map. I like to have a vision of where we are in a novel - it helps me "see" the action better.
Buwalda changes narrators each chapter, flip flopping from Siem Sigerius, to his daughter Joni, to Joni's boyfriend Aaron. This can be confusing at times. I'm on the fence about this writing technique because while it can be confusing, I feel like you also get a deeper look at each character. But it also dilutes the "main character" feeling. I felt like this book would be about Siem and his family, but it's about so much more that Siem takes a step back as the main character even though most of the story surrounds him.
I am not a fan of Buwalda's writing in this book. The story telling gets to be a bit much, because everything reminds the current narrator of another time or instance, and they delve into that so far that the reader sort of loses track of where we actually are in the present. Or even which present is the present? Then there are flashbacks within flashbacks that truly lost me. I just felt like there could have been some more editing that would have shortened things up a bit, but you wouldn't have lost any of the story.
Then there's the whole pornography topic. Boy, did that take me for surprise. Ultimately, the pornography is where everything starts to come unglued and the characters begin to unravel. Joni & Aaron's actions in their partnership show how something seemingly innocent (well ok, not innocent) that they thought they could keep secret can really lead to destruction. Psychological and physical. How moralistic of Buwalda.
The very end felt drawn out as Siem deals with his own moral guideposts. Without giving too much away here, he has to make some decisions that no parent ever plans on making. His struggle is palpable, but as a reader I just felt like yelling "get on with it already!" Then the book suddenly ends, with absolutely no resolution for the characters or the reader.
To say that I disliked this novel would be putting it mildly. But, that's why we read new things, right? Trying something new never hurt anyone. Except maybe the characters in this book.
If you'd like more info on the book, or would like to purchase it, check out the Random House website. For more info on the author, go here.
Although I received this book to review from Blogging for Books, all thoughts and opinions are completely my own.