Saturday, June 26, 2010

Reviews I Love, of Books I Hated.

Here are some of my more "passionate" reviews.

The Lady of the Sea - Rosalind Miles

This is one of my earliest reviews, (2005) so it doesn't have finesse, but I think it's funny.

1/5 stars

I felt obligated to finish the trilogy. It was a mistake. This book was so unbelievably boring. You see, Tristan and Isolde get separated. Then Tristan is beset by something and then Isolde whines to the Goddess, oh my love my love. Then they get back together, and then they get separated and then Tristan is beset by something and Isolde whines to the Goddess, oh my love my love. Repeat. It's horrid. I wish I could get a refund. Truly, don't waste your time. Try the Kushiel series by Jacqueline Carey, it's a way better investment in your time (and reading dollar.)

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Sometimes a book series just goes on too long. This is one of those times.

1/5 stars

Lean Mean Thirteen

I have been a huge fan of this series, and recommended it to many others. I've read almost every book in hardcover, so I don't say this lightly ... but this book was terrible.

There wasn't a single spark of originality. The Ranger/Morelli dilemma is tired, and frankly ... Stephanie Plum's lack of integrity on the matter is not amusing. It's been 13 books, make a decision.

Is it still funny to others when Stephanie blows up a car? It's not funny to me. Grandma... we get it, she's eccentric.

It feels like Evanovich is just filling in a template, and after 13 books, I'm done. I certainly can't see reading another 13 like this one. Evanovich owes it to her loyal fan base (who have made her a multi-millionaire) to put in a little bit of effort and creativity. We all know that Stephanie's mom irons when she's stressed, they have a family dinner on Friday night, Lula wears clothes that don't fit, and Joyce and Steph have a rivalry.

This series has gone Scooby Doo. I wouldn't be one bit surprised if the next book ended with, "And I would have gotten away with it if it hadn't been for those crazy bounty hunters."

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Even a favorite author can put out a stinker, and Cantrippy The Girl With No Shadow is just that!

1/5 stars

Oh ... thank God that's over.

I am a big fan of Joanne Harris, and I loved the movie Chocolat, and of course the book it was based on was good too (though I think the movie was better.) This is the "continuation" of the story.

Wow. It was so bad.

For reasons that are never fully comprehended, Vianne is fixated upon by a woman who wants to steal her identity. Because that's what she does. Steals identities, and sees colors and does cantrips. This woman, Zozie, is supposed to be so fun and hip and cool and interesting, but she wasn't. She was just awful. And also, all she did was see colors and do cantrips. And then she taught Anouk to see colors and do cantrips, so then Anouk was seeing colors and doing cantrips. And did I mention there was the seeing of colors and the performing of cantrips?

It was so boring, and I really didn't want to finish it, but I was 300 pages in before I was totally fed up and I felt like I was so far in it would have been a shame not to get to the rushed, entirely uninteresting, and predictable ending.

All the charm of Chocolat was missing, and the magic was jammed down your throat at every opportunity.

The book could have been 200 pages shorter, and you know, had about 700 less cantrips.

Incidentally, Harris's Five Quarters of the Orange was one of my favorite books read this year, so if you are looking to read Harris, I definitely suggest that one.

I still love Harris, and will continue to read her books, but this one was painful. I will now perform a cantrip to try to get it out of my head.

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Another series gone on too long - Outlander - A Breath of Snow and Ashes was self-indulgent blather. (This is probably my favorite review ever!)

2/5 (but I was being uber generous)

(Contains spoilers)

Up until this book, I have thoroughly enjoyed the Outlander series. This book was a disaster. Two things saved it from getting a 1 star rating. 1. I read the whole book (painful as it was at times) and 2. The last 300 pages (which I could barely enjoy because I was so irritated by the first 700.)

For the first 700 pages there was no story. Instead, we had an incoherent series of medical emergencies and miscellaneous tragedies cobbled together, featuring Claire as the hero and/or the victim. I mean, come on, Jaime is afraid of snakes but Claire isn't? Absurd.

I wished that I had kept track of the myriad illnesses and medical miracles that our Claire tackled. She delivered a dwarf baby, performed hemorrhoid surgery, grew her own penicillin, made her own ether, saved a whole whore house from syphilis, stuck a needle in Jocasta's eye to relieve her glaucoma pain, treated a dysentery outbreak, made a malaria rub, and performed an appendectomy. And that's just what I can remember off the top of my head. Always ready with just the right herb, or supplies. I think Gabaldon must have gotten a medical encyclopedia for Christmas.

Speaking of the dwarf baby, it was completely irrelevant to the story. (Not to mention the ridiculous, and story irrelevant, induction of labor.)

One can only suspend disbelief so long with a book that reads a lot like historical fiction. I suppose it's one thing for Claire to have sex with Jamie 24 hours after she has been raped, but when Lizzie married both twins because she wasn't sure who she had gotten pregnant by ....

From an editorial standpoint, I'm fairly certain the editor must have been so bored they only pretended to read the book. Timelines were all over the place, at one point Amy's second child was completely missing from the story. Not just absent from that chapter, absent from existence. The novel was written in the first person of Claire but there were sex parts with her daughter Bree. I think when your daughter starts having sex in your novel, it's time to drop the first person. But that's okay, Bree didn't have too much sex because she was busy building indoor plumbing, inventing matches, and brewing her own paper. I don't know how she found time to get kidnapped by Stephen Bonnet yet again.

This book was sloppy. It said to me that Gabaldon is convinced that her readers are so interested in her incoherent blathering, they will read anything. She couldn't be bothered to write a story, and give us some characters we might actually like. She was too busy trying to impress us with her knowledge of medicine. I don't care what happens next in the Outlander series and I won't be reading anymore. This was a true disappointment.

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I don't want to give this book any distinctions, it already got a big one ... The Pulitzer, but it's possible I've never hated a book more.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

"Brief" and "Wondrous" = LIES!

1 star uno

Wow. Hated this book.

Oscar Wao is obese, lonely, a sci-fi geek, and a virgin (natch) of Dominican descent. The story is sort of about him, but mostly about his family (there are parts about his sister, his mother, and his mother's parents.) And it's narrated (at times) by some appalling ghetto-speaking "playa." (I mean a player, not a beach.)

The writing is dreadful.

There are 3 1/2 page paragraphs
Spanish never translated to English
Extremely long historical footnotes in minuscule print
Switching of 1st person narrators so that when somebody says "I" you have to try to figure out who it is
DIALOG IS NOT IN QUOTES .... one day, I'm going to write a book, and not use quotes in my dialog, and then I too can win a Pulitzer
Fragmented sentences GALORE (clearly he turned off the thing in MS Word which tells you - politely - "fragment, consider revising")
Frequent use of "Negro, please" (or its less pleasant, but same meaning, alternate) as a rebuttal statement
an odd aversion to personal pronouns

One part of the book takes place in the late 1950's in Dominican Republic. If you've ever seen the movie In the Time of the Butterflies, this part of the book takes place during this horrid dictator's regime. And Oscar's mother is involved with someone close to the dictator. And this passage appears:

Now check it: the truck held a perico ripiao conjunto, fresh from playing a wedding in Ocoa. Took all the courage they had not to pop the truck in reverse and peel out of there.

Now check it????? I'm surprised he didn't start out with a "Yo" and follow up with a "My Bad"

Also during this period:

Home girl was 'bout it.

This is typical of the writing:

Ignored her, ignored me. Sat next to her brother, took his hand.

That kind of writing isn't clever ... It's lazy. But I suppose it's nothing compared to:

I didn't have no medical. (This was narrative, not dialog.)

I hate this book so much that I've taken it personally. Like it was written and won a Pulitzer just to piss me off.

So why did I finish it? I was hoping for some redemption. And I got just the briefest glimpse of it ... but it was in no way wondrous.

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