Feb 18 - Mar 3, 2013
Thomas M. Disch
Billy was just an ordinary boy, until he discovered a talisman that allowed him to control sickness and health on anything alive. Now, Billy has all the power he needs, and woe to those who cross him...
Uggghhhh. This book was so FRUSTRATING. It started off so well, too; great premise, decent writing, awful scenarios, the works. A kid with absolute power? Making everyone who give him guff pay? Oh, don't think they won't pay. Casual racism? A kite flying excursion gone terribly awry?! ABUSIVE NUNS?! All of those things were awesome! Except racism, obviously. But casual racism... well, reading about people who just shamelessly make remarks like that in a regular setting is incredibly novel to me. No one talks like that, outdated book! Are you going to talk about tram rides to the cinema for a Nickelodeon, too?
Anyways, all these things made for a really great buildup for the first half of the book and I was stoked to see where all this was leading...
And then it turned out to lead no-damn-where.
Basically, Billy grows up and the latter part of the book is set in the near future, where things are mildly future-y but not really. He turns out to be a boring, non-evil doctor who barely wields his awesome power stick, and about a billion more characters get introduced. Once that happened I wasn't particularly interested in picking The M.D. up, so I kept putting it down for longer and longer, so when I finally did get to reading it again, I was pretty much confused and frustrated and bored. I finally forced myself to finish it, which wasn't so terrible because as I said, the writing was good. Really good, actually. Disch definitely has a way with words, I just wish he'd use them in a scarier way. Less this:
And more this:
Jan 3 - Jan 4, 2012
K. A. John
In the tiny Irish village of Wake Wood, the residents welcome newcomers only if they're a certain type of people, as they live in a very... special place. Patrick and Louise have just lost their daughter in a horrific accident, and are living shattered shells of their former lives, barely hanging on to any semblance of their former selves. And Wake Wood is welcoming them with open arms.
This book is what would happen if Pet Sematary and Village of the Damned got together for a cheap one night stand and had a baby made of paper and ink. Literally. Only the names seem to be different. I mean, I don't think I can really complain; when I read the synopsis on the back of the book, I thought, "This sounds just like Pet Sematary! I LOVED that shit!" and then whisked it up to the insane Boxing Day line-up at Chapters, where I then witnessed a crazy lady scream, "I'm not leaving without my KKKOOOOOBBBBBOOOOO!" and then got chased by the managers and security as she ran screaming through the store, and eventually got dragged out to the waiting police. It was a good time.
The problem is, because I've already seen and read Pet Sematary, and seen (but not read) Village of the Damned (I've actually seen that one multiple times, because hot ass Kirstie Alley is hot) I was easily able to predict where the story was going. I mean, I pretty much figured out where shit was going once I read the back, so I just had to wait for the book to catch up with my *ahem* stunning intellect, which, luckily, didn't take too long. It was a super quick and easy read, and it required very little brain power to get through it, so even when I gapped out over the course of a page or two, all I had to do was a quick re-skim to get the gist of what was happening. I literally blasted through this in less than 24 hours, which is pretty fuckin' good for me these days. Hey, I have a busy social life, including themes such as ferret playdates, Thirsty Thursday, and recovering from Thirsty Thursday.
There was enough blood and guts and horror to get me interested, and it was weird enough to keep me going. There was most definitely some bizarre scenarios being played out on the regular, and I like weird. I wouldn't have been interested in the first place if there was no weirdness to draw me in. And I have to admit, K. A. John can paint a ruined, crushed, and utterly destroyed female protagonist pretty damn well.
The part that bothered me the most though ( besides the blatant disregard for animal welfare) was that it ended so abruptly and without explanation. It was as though the author was under deadline, was supposed to have the last 50 pages done for the next day, got shit-hammered (possibly at Thirsty Thursday?) and threw the epilogue together while she was hungover. It made little sense, and would have benefited from longer treatment.
My opinion? A good beach or camping read, but hardly literature.
Dec 10 - Dec 28, 2011
The Prodigal Hour
Published July 1, 2011
What if you could stop time, travel through it, and change the past? Would you do it? And what would be the final repercussions? Chance Sowin is about to find out...
This story reads like an adolescent hyperactive genius wrote it. Really.
The main idea, time travel and altering history to create alternate realities, is AWESOME. Unfortunately, I'm not well-versed enough in science or science fiction to understand all the technical stuff. I mean, this is an excerpt from the book:
"Quantum mechanics is full of dynamic flexibility, thought experiments in which cats in safes with poison vials and unpredictably radioactive atoms propose greater logic problems than Zen koans. Consider again an electron the certainty of which, in terms of speed and position, can only be determined by firing a photon - a tiny quantum of light - at it, and then realize that doing so will alter both."
Tell me I'm not justified in having trouble with that.
And hey, I'm sure there's sci-fi lovers out there that will read that excerpt, then sigh pitifully and lament "All the pretty ones are stupid..." as they work on their Sex-Bots (I hope). But my science learning basically stopped at particles, light, and energy. I was more of a gene-mapping gal, myself. So when I'm faced with a multitude of words I don't comprehend in a formation I can't really fathom, my mind starts to wander, and the next thing you know I'm thinking about ponies and the colour blue.
There's also the fact that this story was all over the place. Two different plot lines? I can follow that. But two plot lines that travel forwards and/or backwards in time to various events and occasionally converge on themselves from slightly different viewpoints? Oh my. There was just so much going on that I had trouble focusing and there I am again !BAM! blue ponies. There was also a specific plot line (that I won't reveal for fear of spoiling it) that, while interesting as hell, seemed like it was either A) tacked on, or B) meant to be a way bigger chunk of the story but was then reduced, when it should have totally been expounded upon. Really, this book could have been split up into two or even three books and it still would have been amazing. I might have even preferred it that way, because there was so much to take in in so little time, that I didn't really get a chance to invest myself in the characters as much as I would have liked to.
And I have to point out the fact that, while I thought this would be a boy book, this was totally a romance in a boy book disguise. I can't tell if the cynic in my is disgusted or the ovulating female in me is enchanted by the "Love Conquers All" theme. To be honest, it's a daily battle between the two. "Don't give that homeless guy change, he'll spend it on drugs!" "But he's got a dog with him! He'll use the money to buy dog food!" In that case, the ovulating female always wins.
There was also a slew of highly dreaded editing errors (mostly in the first half of the book) to drive me mental, but I suppose at this point it's just par for the course. I find them everywhere now, it seems, so I just roll with it, and keep a pencil (for paper books) or pen and notepad (for digital books) handy to mark them down. Because I'm fucking neurotic like that.
But for all my bitching and moaning, this book has got a really REALLY cool idea driving it; and while I was reading, I found myself thinking, "This would make and EPIC movie!" So I definitely liked it. But if I was smarter, I bet I would have liked it more.
Sep 26 - Sep 29, 2011
A group of (possibly sexy?) teens decide to take an experimental "vacation" in an isolated underground chamber; soon they realize they're running out of food and water, they can't escape by themselves, and no one knows where they are...
This is a really hard book for me to pin down. I like, but I don't.
The premise is totally intriguing: trapped in an inescapable situation, with no foreseeable rescue, what lengths will people go to to survive? Honestly, it's one of my favorite scenarios to read about, because there are so many variables when it comes to how characters will react. Conserve your stockpile of goods and dole them out equally to ensure the continuation of the group? Or bludgeon your companions (and any other threats to your immediate progression) to death and hoard all the resources to ensure your own survival? And what happens when these character types meet? I find it all utterly fascinating.
Also, the twist at the end was definitely clever, even though I was expecting it, as I've seen (and greatly enjoyed) the movie. I wasn't exactly sure what would be coming, though, as I've learned that even if it happens in the theatrical version, nothing like that may happen in the literary version. Especially if the literary version comes first. And although that held true in this case, where the twist ended up being different, it was still pretty satisfying. I guess when I read the book, and then watch the movie, I find myself hollering at the screen, "Where the hell did THAT come from?! This is totally inaccurate!" while I shake my fist indignantly and spill my popcorn. But if I watch the movie first, and then read the book, I find myself going, "Well... where's all the action? What's with all this inner blah blah blah and contemplation?" Stupid action filled movies, desensitizing me to the subtleties of the written word.
My main issue with this book is that there were so SO many loose ends, and nothing was made particularly clear, both plot-wise and writing style-wise. The constantly shifting narrative drove me frickin' bonkers, and while some of the non-Hole bits were insightful, I found it to be mostly unnecessary (for me) filler. The ending certainly added some substance to some of those narratives, but that didn't make the actual reading experience any more interesting. I think I'd rather watch the movie again.
Sep 9 - Sep 21, 2011
The Law of Nines
A regular every day normal guy:
... finds himself at the center of a mystical battle. With no information and little preparedness, he must defend himself, as well as a mysterious and beautiful woman who swings from throat-slitting to sobbing at the drop of a hat (but don't all women?) and not one, but TWO worlds; all from the evil manipulations of a highly organised and ruthless group of bad guys numbering in the probably hundreds, with sophisticated and well-thought out (and already partially implemented) designs for World Domination. In the real world, regular every day normal guy would be toast. But this is fantasy. ROMANTIC fantasy, at that. So clearly, we're reading with some liberties here... I like things. LOTS of things. Doritos Sweet Chili Heat chips immediately come to mind when pondering things I like. My husband, most days. Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones. BOOKS. Cara. Bob Ross' mystical painting and happy little bushes. I could go on and on. But there are also things I don't like. Olives. People who are ambling along slowly in front of you and suddenly stop for no reason. Pina Coladas. Walks in the rain. Actually, my friend Adam wrote a book full of things not to like, and I agree with lots of them.
I also don't like the fantasy or romance genres, and the idea of smushing them together generally repulses me. So surprisingly, I did not NOT like this book. I don't know if I'd go so far as to say I LIKED this book, but I certainly didn't hate it. After an excruciatingly
slow start, it picked up some steam on page 116. Exactly page 116. It rolled along for a bit, got mushy, got exciting, got REALLY mushy, and then finished exciting (though a little anti-climatic). But the final scene was HELLA unrealistic. Not because it's a fantasy book; I can deal with that. It was unrealistic because... well... normally I don't like to discuss specific plot points in a book because I don't want to ruin it for someone who is thinking of reading it. But I can probably discuss this in the broadest sense without spoiling it. But just in case... SPOILER ALERT! As I was saying, the book ended on a terrifically unrealistic note for me, because if the woman you love if a super-important leader of a dramatic and violent political rebellion and she's going back to her world to incite upheaval, there's NO WAY she can make any kind of promise to come back to you, and there's no way you can believe it. She'd be more likely to take a mystical arrow through the face or have her organs melted by wizard fire. Or at least suffer a hand-to-foot spell. Wizards are crafty like that.
No one wants a dame with feet for hands, a vice a versa.
Scratch that. Someone out there does, and I'm sure if I typed that into Google I'd find all kinds of sick shit and the people who love it. But not everyday normal guy; he wouldn't be down.
It seems this was written with a romantic idealist in mind for a reader, and I am not one of them. Fair enough. I KNOW I'm not one of those people, and therefor I understand that this book was not geared towards me. I am not the target audience, and I get that.
So I was able to enjoy it for the most part, although it seemed... kind of weirdly British to me. There wasn't as much action as I would have preferred, and too much mush. All the characters seemed to take things in a fairly deadpan manner. Our protagonist was riddled with anxiety but still very monotone, and not super exciting. Our lady protagonist was a lot more... manic, at least. Stab stab, cry cry, stab stab, cry. Women!
Also, there were also a couple of awkwardly worded sentences that piqued my interest:
"As they raced away slowly down the street..."
"There could have been no better comfort in the face of all the difficulty they faced."
And the phrases "... jumbles of rock..." "...rock jumble..." and "... the jumbled, weathered rock..." were used over the course of two pages. But I'm just being persnickity.
This struck me as a bit of entertaining fluff, and while not my cup of tea (Two more lumps of blood and semen, please!) I can see how people who like this kind of book, would like this book.
And just so you know, this is the first Terry Goodkind I've ever read, so maybe I'm missing some epic Sword Of Truth references. People hype the fuck out of those books, and this wasn't so bad that I would refuse try the series out. But I'm not exactly chomping at the bit for it, either.
Apr 12 - Apr 18, 2011
An affluent weirdo obsessed with a local girl decides to kidnap her; that way, she'll see just how much he loves her, and fall just as in love with him! FOOLPROOF!
The Collector was very... intriguing.
First off, the two opposing narratives (first Fred the kidnapper, then Miranda the kidnapee) differed so vastly that it really was as though they were written by two different individuals. Fred kept things moving along at a swift pace - all action and dialogue, no real extended forays into thoughtfulness. Just the facts, ma'am (from his perspective, anyways). And truly, a kidnapper's point of view (especially one as deviant as Fred) is going to keep you interested, to say the least.
At the polar opposite sits Miranda; she almost bored me to the point of tears. I mean, Good God, is that supposed to be what the mind of a young woman is like?! If her internal monologue had been, instead, a running external dialogue, I would have shot her in the face.
The endless mooning over a crusty old artist and constant analyzation of ideals and the self... ugh. It made the latter half of the book draggy as fuck.
Yet somehow, once I finished the book, Miranda had garnered my sympathy, because for all her irritating thoughtfulness, it ended up proving that she was just a regular girl, like every other just out of the teen years, know-it-all, passionate 20-year-old... who just happened to be locked up in a madman's cellar. Fred, on the other hand, had evolved from a bumbling lovesick Stooge to what, in the end, he truly was under all that chivalry and politeness - a sick psychopath intent on owning his 'dream girl' that really only existed in his own mind; his ideal, as opposed to the person Miranda was in all actuality. Really, it was never going to work out. He's apples, and she's kidnapped oranges.
As a small note, I quite enjoyed that Fred was a butterfly collector. It paid a neat little homage to Lolita, as the two of them share a similar protagonist - an outwardly seeming normal man driven mad by lust for a girl. It tickles me just right.
The Collector was ultimately a shocking book, and for two main reasons. The first is because, up until the very end, I had no idea how it would turn out; I tip my hat to the author for being very clever in his writing and keeping me guessing. Bravo. But I am even more so shocked by the subtle evolution of the characters, and my unexpected change in feelings towards them. It was thought provoking, if a little flighty at times. I enjoyed it well enough while I was reading it, but found even more satisfaction considering the whole shebang afterward.
Jan 6 - Jan 11, 2011
In the future, the population is made up of mindless zombies (check) giant TVs that stupefy the nation (check) a nation as a whole that refuses to question authority (check) and firemen that set things on fire (they're called arsonists in our current time).
Do teachers made you read certain books in High School English class just to feel clever? "Now that we've finished the novel, boys and girls, I'd like to let you in on a little secret... This is no Science Fiction future; this is a metaphor for US!" And as a collective gasp and stunning round of applause fills the Headmaster's mind, in reality, there is nothing but crickets. I never read this in school (we read "Deathwatch" which I thought was terrific) but I figured it out pretty easily. I mean, really, the theme seems to be that not reading makes you complacent sheeple (sheep + people = sheeple) and ultimately, easier to destroy.
To be fair, this theme has proved timeless, as it is applied still, as it applied 60-some-odd years ago, when this came out. The bit between Montag and Beatty especially, regarding how everything had to be condensed, brightened up, filled with noise, and animated to keep anyone's attention at all holds particularly true. From Nursery to University and back to Nursery, and all that jazz. We do live in a society where we absorb info in lightning quick bytes, and glowing screens are slowly turning us into mindless, showerless zombies. Fair enough, Bradbury, point taken.
I have a few problems with this book though; mainly that it's not believable. The characters and actions all seem so flat, so one-dimensional... Beatty is the only one with any true passion (he also seems to be the most well-read out of the lot of them, to boot... connection? I think so). And the scenario of books being outlawed? Pshaw. That is so last century, and far be it from modern society to equate itself with the Fuhrer. It seems far more likely that books would just... fade away; eschewed in favor of more glowing screens (Kindle, anyone?) like TV, computers, and phones. Books would become passe and the government wouldn't have to do shit about them. Of course, twenty years later, they'd become trendy again... Seriously, neon Ray-Bans and scrunchies are here... again.
This story had so many important threads - the evolution of Montag, society's downfall, the war, the secret uprising, but nothing was really focused on adequately enough for me to care much. It just went pew! pew! pew! from one thing to the next (which was something that I think Bradbury was trying to make a negative point about... I don't know if that's supposed to be ironic or what...).
It was a great idea, but I'm just not a fan of the writing style. It just seemed to have no heart. Or it was too British. One of the two.
Nov 23 - Nov 30, 2010
Handling the Undead
John Ajvide Lindqvist
Published October 2010
In Sweden, the dead are coming back to life. Not eating people. Not hungering for juicy, delicious brains. Generally, they're just hanging out. Living people, predictably, aren't taking it too well.
I had high expectations for this book, and I wanted to like it (who purposely chooses to read a book they think they're going to hate?) but this just fell flat for me. First off, it was uber monotonous - besides the lifeless (ha!) zombies, the rest of the characters were just your average people struggling with average obstacles. If I wanted a book about EMOTIONS and STRUGGLE I'd ask Oprah for a recommendation. Which, if I'm in the mood for that kind of thing, I might.
But I wanted ZOMBIES. The Undead. Not the apathetic Reliving. Maybe the Swedes are just like that.
The only character I really liked was Mahler, but I grew to find him less appealing the more I read. He went from Shabbily-Heroic to kind of... Whiny-Wiener. I thought characters were supposed to Evolve, not DEvolve. Sad-Dad just got Sadder. Old Biddy and Emo Girl faded out. And the Reliving just laid there. It wasn't exactly riveting stuff.
However, there were a few notable scenes; there was gore in the form of accidents and stowaways, a few heart-string tugging scenes both sad and sweet, and it was written reasonably well (though I caught a few editing errors).
It just had too many plot lines for me to focus properly; really, I could have done without Flora and Elvy altogether (sorry ladies). And the biggest problem for me - it was way too ambiguous. Maybe I'm just a dolt who slept through the last 50 pages (guilty as charged, actually) but I didn't really get a) why it all happened in the first place, b) what it all meant, and c) where it could possibly go from there. I'm sure it was a grand postulation of life and death and what it all means, but, like I said, Oprah will hook a sista' up when I'm in that kind of mood.
But, whatever. I can still appreciate a good book, even if I don't personally like it.