Wednesday, June 8, 2011


First off, at The Book Book I usually write my review very soon (often immediately) after reading the book, so you get my knee-jerk reaction. This time, a couple weeks have passed, so you'll be getting my impression over time, what stuck with me and what didn't.

Second, Moonrat previously reviewed ROCK PAPER TIGER for this blog, thereby saving me the need to write an in-depth plot summary. You can read that and her thoughts here.

Now, let's begin.

This book follows Ellie Cooper, a 26-year-old American Iraqi war vet, as she grows up. Yes, grows up. Ellie may be smart (she's learning Chinese quickly) and tough (or is it numb?) from her time in the military, but when we meet her she's a woman who rarely takes action in her life--she merely reacts, if she does anything at all.

This inertia contrasts with her wry observations and likable personality. She's fun to be around, when she's not struggling with her PTSD. And while she may not realize it, she's a strong person. When she tells one character he's "an asshole" you will want to reach through the book and give her a high five.

Ellie finds herself stumbling and limping through China, pursued by various guys in dark suits. Some are from the government while others work for independent organizations and those are often scarier. Despite her best efforts to disappear, she's suddenly getting a lot of attention. The pace quickens, and everything builds towards what I expected to be a crazy, government-conspiracy type climax.

But that is not quite what you get. And, honestly, it was disappointing. I think as long as you go in knowing that, however, then you can still really enjoy this book. Just remember that (in my opinion, anyway), this book is about Ellie's internal journey, more so than it's about her external journey through China. She is not a badass heroinne in this book. She's got potential, but she's also got PTSD and a tendency to mix beer with percocet. The end of this book is only the beginning for Ellie. In fact, I would welcome a sequel!

Bonus factor: China. You've heard it before, I'm sure: China China China. But, it's true. As corny as it sounds, I really felt like I'd been to China for days after I read this book. A tough, sometimes fragile China that's a work in progress.

Much like Ellie.


JenniferWriter said...

Anyone know how to delete comments? I can't seem to figure it out.

moonrat said...

Donnne. I don't know why that guy keeps spamming us.

Thanks for the review (and the link-back!). You know I love this book so it's so interesting to hear your take and gratifying to have someone to talk about it with.

I actually liked the ending a lot, but this has definitely been a point of contention among other readers (c.f. online reviews etc). From my perspective, the note Brackmann ends on is perfect, if not completely satisfying. (Just like life? ;) Or would that be the opposite?)

So ... wanna go to China?

JenniferWriter said...

Thanks for deleting that spam comment, Juliet.

I actually liked the tone of the ending. The climax was more my problem. I think so long as you go into the book with the understanding that this is not a story of global proportions, you will enjoy it.

China? Yes, please.

Lydia Sharp said...

I keep seeing this book everywhere. Not my usual thing, but I'll give it a chance just to see what all the fuss is about. :) Thanks for the review!

JenniferWriter said...

Definitely check it out, Lydia. It took me about 5 - 10 pages to really get into it, but after that I found it to be a fast read. I hope you review it on here as well!