Jan 25 - Jan 27, 2013
The House of Gentle Men
Deep in the woods lies a house where men and women go to ease their pain and bask in comfort; where men atone for their sins and women forget those committed against them. But for one couple, the sin between them may be too great to bear...
I have to admit, I was a little disappointed by this book. Reason number one was that for some reason I thought this was a post-apocalyptic thriller/love story. I just have to assume I was high on bath salts when I came up with this theory.
The House of Gentle Men is actually a historical fiction piece, so my bad. The other reason I was bummed was because I LOVED Hepinstall's two other books. LOVED. And this was nothing like them. I definitely didn't get what I expected. It was definitely an interesting premise: dudes comforting ladies to make up for the wrongs they'd done. But there was a whole slew of unbelievable shit going on as well, from magic angel babies to what ended up happening with our protagonists. Let me tell you, THAT was some fucked up shit. And parents worry Twilight sets a bad example for their kids. Yeah, I had some problems with our main characters, but the secondaries were all cool as shit and deliciously twisted. So that was a saving grace. The writing style was a little different; totally readable, yes. I dig whizzing through a book (not on one, though). But it was a little frou-frou fancy for my taste and a little flat on the dramatic stuff. Still doable, though. Definitely not bad. The House of Gentle Men was a good way to pass the time, but I much prefer her other books. If you can find them, The Absence of Nectar and The Prince of Lost Places will blow your socks off. Just read them indoors, so you can easily recover said socks.
July 9, July 19, 2012
The Domino Effect
In New York, Danny is growing up and learning the difference between what's right and what's wrong. But learning something and actually applying that knowledge are two entirely different matters, and when Danny is sent away to a new school, he's forced to decide whether he's ready to step up to the task...
Right off the bat I have to warn you that this isn't my usual subject matter. I don't often read general fiction (I already have my own boring regular life to deal with on a constant basis) and the same goes for YA (my young adult life is not something I revisit with rose-tinted glasses and therefore can't identify with a lot of YA protagonists) so The Domino Effect was a double-whammy of "Outside my Comfort Zone" reading material. Don't worry; I packed a sweater.
The writing itself was decent and totally readable - no profusion of editing errors, with a straight-forward and to-the-point style. Definitely doable. And the beginning of the book caught on like a runaway train; super quick without any unnecessary wordage. I was totally psyched to rock and roll.
But I found it lost momentum as we got into Danny's senior year. I suppose after blasting through all of his schooling leading up to that set me up to think the action would continue to be non-stop, but when it turned out the majority of the story focused on his final year, it threw me for a bit of a loop. I have trouble shifting gears, especially from a preferred method of storytelling (fast and dirty) to something I have a little more trouble with (slow and gentle). Not only that, but there were multiple plot lines (trouble in the neighborhood at home; budding relationships at school; inner struggles) that didn't seem to come to any real conclusion (ran away; superficial at best; no real logical resolution).
Plus, from a purely personal perspective, Danny's relationship with Brenda really irked me. The conclusion just seemed totally unrealistic. Danny was pretty girl crazy but professed to love Brenda. So why'd he make the final decision that he did? And he didn't really understand her (at best) and otherwise treated her pretty fuckin' shabbily. So why did she make the decision that she did? Sigh. Maybe I've been out of high school for too long and this is just how dumbass teenagers act nowadays.
You know what I liked best about this book? Danny's dad. Give HIM a book!
Apr 8 - Apr 15, 2012
Secrets From the Dust
A young Aboriginal girl is apprehended from her family in the Outback so she can can lean the particulars of becoming "civilized". She is moved from place to place, never fitting in, and finds that in trying to become more like "civilized folk" she can never change who she really is, but she can lose her Aboriginal identity. She begins to hopelessly drift, until she's forced into an explosive confrontation...
This was quite the departure for me, literally speaking. No gratuitous blood and guts, no perverse erotica, no best seller hype... just a story I happened to choose because, honestly, I thought Cara would like it. But I ended up reading it instead.
I actually really liked it. Colour me shocked (and with regular face paint instead of viscera and bodily fluids)! Though at first I found the writing and characters to be a little unnatural and a bit wooden, after a chapter or so either I relaxed or the author did, because I just sort of fell into the reading experience.
It's strange - I could identify with the protagonist Margaret on one level (my mother was mostly native but my father was German, so I was a little... pale... to fit in well with my predominantly Native neighborhood) but on another level I found myself growing less and less fond of her as the story unfolded. Somehow, she evolved into a more detestable character, though her upbringing had a major hand in her personality change. However, on a personal level, I don't believe someone has to become a product of their environment, and not every Aboriginal with a hard life has to become a drunk. Hell maybe I just really wanted Margaret to persevere, and was disappointed when she acted less than noble.
I found the setting utterly fascinating. Because I was born in the 80's and in Canada (Hello, melting pot!) I've never really experienced, in any way shape or form, violent racism. Sure, there was schoolyard name calling and snubbing, but nothing like what I read in this book (or been told by some of the kick-ass old timers I know, come to think of it). Hell, my High School formed an anti-bullying league BEFORE it was cool:
So to read about such blatant and widely accepted racism and hatred is absolutely fascinating because as unbelievable as it seems (that shit would NOT fly where I live) I know it actually happened. Weird.
On top of that, Australia is such an amazingly beautiful yet harsh locale (though I've heard it's supposed to be similar to Canada) that the setting is another factor of interest altogether. I can see why the author was so keen on the subject.
I suppose I might have been happier with the reading experience if Margaret had stayed a spirited Aboriginal girl who continued to stick it to the man, but A) it still might have ended just as tragically, and B) I might have jadedly said the book was too idealistic. We'll never know, though, will we?
All in all, it was a fascinating story featuring a protagonist that I didn't necessarily like, but understood well enough.
Mar 17 - Mar 18, 2012
When the Mob terrorizes and destroys a family restaurant, the lone survivor decides to take matters into her own hands. But the man she's hired to take care of business has ties of his own to the Mob, and more importantly, the Mob boss' daughter...
You know, this was a great fuckin' book.
By the end I was completely blown away; but I wasn't quite impressed at first. Though the beginning was pretty intense, once we got into the protagonist's story, I thought his voice was sterile and he moved events along too quickly. But while I was mentally bitching about those qualities, the story was also speeding along like a runaway motherbitch and I was totally snared BECAUSE of those qualities. No frou-frou soliloquies, no meandering notions; just the facts, ma'am. Which actually made it remarkably easy to stay engrossed (and therefore kept my mind from wandering) because the protagonist hasn't been reminiscing about how the quality of the midsummer sky reminded him of the relationship he had with his daddy... for 12 goddamn pages. I grudgingly began to appreciate the character's style, though I lamented the lack of action.
Buy, did I ever have it coming for me.
When the action hit, it was fast and furious. But not 2Fast 2Furious.
It was then that I realised that I had been party to one hell of a buildup (sneaky, I didn't even know I had been invited until I was there!) and the attitude of the protagonist, which I had deemed somewhat flat at first, made him all the more terrifying for all the trauma he encountered, and continued to encounter.
By the end, Skin Games had delivered one hell of a whallop, and as I turned the last page I found myself crying like a bitch; or like a fat kid over a dropped box of jelly donuts (true story, I had them balanced on my bike handlebars, I hit a bump, and !BAM! there went all the donuts); or a sports fan that had their team lose to Oakland:
Or like a dad that just found out his son still loves him:
Or like a kid who has to turn off the XBOX:
I honestly don't know what it says about our society that there are countless YouTube videos of people crying. Weird. But I digress.
It could have used a little more embellishment - more details, more depth. I like longer sentences and the occasional sprinkling of exclamation points. But the story as is stands amazingly well, and I'm not sure any changes would actually improve it.
See, the whole tone of the book is set by the protagonist, and he's one cold ass motherfucker. Right from the beginning he's calm, cool, and collected. As an initial introduction, he's not terrifically endearing. When I started the book, I wasn't too keen on him, and therefore, felt somewhat detached from the story. But as the story progressed, and he began getting mixed up with scarier shit, I found myself drawn in by how he kept it together in situations where I would have been... well, crying like a bitch; once I finished, I was totally fucking fascinated and more than a little torn up inside. And I don't think our protagonist flinched once throughout the whole story... well, maybe once. Ugh. Seriously, the ending was one of the most gut-wrenching, squirm-inducing pieces I've ever read.
Hell, I think maybe the author could have just be fucking with us - "I'll start off calm, lull the reader into a false sense of security, and then !BAM! donuts everywhere! I mean, !BAM! I punch the reader in the face with more violence and heartache than an entire season of Gossip Girl! Metaphorically, of course." Well played, Mister Pepper. Well played.
Basically, the things that I didn't like about Skin Games at first seemed to, in the end, make the story what it was: a damn fine piece of reading. It wined me, dined me, pulled out the gimp mask and bent me over the table in a corner booth, and promised it would call me later.
Get it. Read it. And try not to cry like a bitch.
Jan 17 - Jan 25, 2011
Published October 1991
A retired cop hunts down bad-guy types, vigilante style... and still manages to find love with a no-nonsense lawyer-type! Outstanding!
CRIME! DRAMA! ROMANCE! HOOKERS! This story has it all! Even a misplaced set of quotations marks! But with a title like Forced Entry (and a cover like that) this book is bound to satisfy.
Literally, I chose this book based on the title/cover combo. Totally looks like a dude trying to pry into/escape out of a gaping butthole (more on that in the new "Literary Hilarity" section). The story itself is a lot more meh. In fact, it's hardly remarkable.
It appears as though I stepped into a series of some sort (again, this shows how little research I did on this book before buying it... I just needed the double entendre in my life) and middle books are never that great. The retired cop, Moodrow, wants to help some upper-middle-class types because one of them is related to a chick he's banging. Reasonable. But Moodrow, he's pretty... dull. Like, in the way that he's only described as "big" and "a retired cop". That's it. The author spends more time on the bit player junkies and whores, whom which make up the majority of the only remarkable bits. There was excess amounts of New York landmark name-dropping which I couldn't care less about, and weirdly cheesy bits, like the romance between Moodrow and Betty and the last scene between the Jackson Arms resident and the Super. Lame-O. And once I realized it was a series, there was no doubt that our protagonist was going to live to fight crime another day. The preview for the next book in the back kind of queered the deal on that guessing game.
It wasn't terribly written, and it was graphic enough often enough to keep me superficially entertained, but all in all, it amounted to just a filler book.