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Book Review: Two Short Reads

Whether worried about taxes or finals, spring is a busy time of the year, and reading the latest award-winning novel can feel like an insurmountable task. If you still want to read in your limited free time, check out these new releases well under the usual 300-page length.


Jenny Offill

Hardcover, 207 pages

Publication Date:  February 11, 2020

Publisher: Knopf

Genre: Contemporary fiction

I am not sure I knew what I was getting into when I picked up “Weather.” I had heard and read a lot about how Jenny Offill is one of the best current writers, and praise for her 2014 release, “Dept. of Speculation,” was all over the internet. All I knew going into “Weather” was it centered around a librarian who agrees to answer mail for a popular podcast and gradually becomes intrigued with what makes people like conspiracy theorists and doomsday preppers tick. I also knew ahead of time “Weather” is written as a series of small vignettes.

It was a good thing I knew what the plot was supposed to be before I started reading, because the book itself rarely addresses any sort of plot and I would have had a hard time piecing it together on my own. “Weather” focuses more on the experiences of Lizzie, a probably depressed and aimless librarian, as she tries to figure out herself and her life while worrying about her recovering-addict brother and climate change.

The vignettes are written in a bleak, barely informative style, creating a vague image of what is going on in Lizzie’s life but nothing beyond that. I found myself feeling sad after reading a few pages, because of the hopelessness presented by Lizzie and the unsatisfying experience I had reading about it. Here’s an example of the writing style to help you understand what I mean:

“I am charmed by her. She seems practically like a transcendentalist. I take another sip of her grass drink and think maybe it is giving me some kind of burst of energy.”

The whole book is written this way. It was strange, neither plot-centered nor character-centered, and I was happy when it was over.


Nino Cipri

Paperback, 144 pages

Publication Date:  February 25, 2020


Genre: Science fiction

Back in 2016, I read “Horrorstör” by Grady Hendrix, where retail employees at Orsk, a copyright infringement-free version of IKEA, have to discover what is causing strange damage in the store at night. Surprise: this IKEA is haunted. I ended up really enjoying “Horrorstör” because of how great Hendrix is and how innovative a book about a haunted Swedish furniture store was.

Last week, Nino Cipri’s “Finna” came out. In “Finna,” retail employees at LitenVärld, a copyright infringement-free version of IKEA, have to find someone who disappeared in the store. Surprise: this IKEA has wormholes.

“Finna” shares many differences with “Horrorstör,” but I could not stop myself from thinking the idea of an otherworldly IKEA is less original the second time around.  “Finna” is good, but I did enjoy “Horrorstör” more, mainly because there was more story to the latter. I usually express the opposite opinion, but I feel like “Finna” would be better if it was longer. The two main characters, Ava and Jules, have an interesting relationship dynamic I wanted to see more of. The book ends on a cliffhanger, but why stop there? Why not keep writing about what happens? I certainly wanted to read more, and I think a longer book would have improved my overall enjoyment of “Finna.” As it is, it feels like part of a story, but not a complete one. I did like it more than “Weather,” though.

Paige Holmes is a senior journalism major from Topeka, KS. Reading is her favorite thing to do because it teaches one how to think, imagine and live. Paige believes there is no better way to learn something or be entertained than by reading a book. Her favorite genre of books is fantasy/thriller and her favorite book is ‘Opening Moves’ by Steven James.

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