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.
May 3 - May 12, 2011
A Discovery of Witches
Despite the danger from opposing forces, a Vampire and a Witch fall in love. OR Two wieners make shit difficult for everyone because of conveniently ridiculous circumstances.
I've never really read paranormal romance; the paranormal is cool, but the romance is always too... mushy for me. I mean, I have read the Twilight series, but in my defense, so have a billion other people. And I'm totally willing to admit that I LOVED Twilight, but I assume that has something to do with Stephanie Meyers selling her soul to the Mormon Devil.
Now, after reading A Discovery of Witches, I've come to the conclusion that this book is pretty much Twilight, but with adult protagonists, and two swear words. Does this sound familiar? " 'There's a lot I don't understand about all this, Hamish, but there are three things I do know... I will not give into this craving for her blood. I do not want to control her power. And I certainly have no wish to make her a vampire.' " That's kind of similar to Twilight's "About three things I was absolutely positive. First, Edward was a vampire. Second, there was part of him — and I didn’t know how potent that part might be — that thirsted for my blood. And third, I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him." Coincidence? I think not. Now throw in the fact that our overbearing vampire Matthew is waiting to go all the way with his beloved simpering Witch Diana, and you have some striking similarities. I've already read Twilight; I don't need to do it again.
Another downfall is that the writing isn't that awesome. I mean, it's generally written well enough, but there are some issues. The pacing is brain-jarring. The first half of the book is draggy as fuck, with little action or excitement. The we read the second half, which is pretty much all action (and makes for way quicker reading) but it's all crammed in there with so many competing elements that it's hard to keep everything straight. There has to be a happy medium between boring as hell and too much shit to comprehend properly! Harkness also feels the need to go into every little friggin' detail about EVERYTHING. Crusty old architecture (snooze) crusty old school history (snore) even the exacting process of putting on riding gear - "The vest was snug and hard - but it wasn't as bad as I expected. The hat interfered with my ponytail, and I slid the elastic band lower to accommodate it before snapping the chin band together." Really? Is THAT how you put a hat on? I had no idea! I'm mesmerized! Harkness also mentions Matthew's eyebrow "rising into the shape of a question mark" no less than three times, with nearly the same wording each time (and clearly Matthew has never had Botox, if he can do THAT with his face).
And when she describes Miriam's "flat black curls" I was totally confused. How can a curl be flat? Is Miriam made out of paper? Is she the undead version of Flat Stanley?
Also, when Matthew says, "I don't want you near me when I'm angry." all I can think of is this guy -
I could have lived with all that lameness, if so much of it hadn't been so friggin' slow and uninteresting and I could find nothing else focus on. Maybe the author was just trying to build up our emotional investment in the characters?
BTW, the characters mostly sucked (with the exception of Juliette, the insane vampire assassin). Diana started out nervous and standoffish, and suddenly (literally, in the space of a paragraph) she this simpering idiot who literally has to be carried through most of the rest of the book and acts like a huge cunt to her family, all because she realizes she's in love with a Vampire. In fact, an exchange between Diana and her aunt sums my feelings up perfectly - " 'You've known Matthew for a few weeks. Yet you follow his orders so easily, and you were willing to die for him. Surely you can see why Sarah is so concerned. The Diana we've known all these years is gone.' 'I love him,' I said fiercely. 'And he loves me.' Matthew's many secrets - the Knights of Lazarus, Juliette, even Marcus - I pushed to the side, along with my knowledge of his ferocious temper and his need to control everything and everyone around him." That sounds EXACTLY like something a battered woman would say. If some broad said that to me, I'd be all:
On the other hand, Matthew is pretty static. He skulks around, keeps secrets, stalks Diana, gets all moody over previous lovers, and treats Diana like a child. He says he loves her hair because "It's imperfect, just like life. It's not like vampire hair, all polished and flawless." He KILLS and SUCKS THE BLOOD OUT OF A DEER, and Diana's all, "Shush deer, he needs to kill you to show me how dangerous he really is. Just go quietly, because this is really romantic, and I'm totally turned on right now." The she kisses his bloody mouth, and compares her eating an egg sandwich to what he just did. Maybe it's just because I'm a vegetarian, but I think that's gross.
But in all fairness, I was able to breeze through the latter portion of the book because it was just a bunch of action packed fluff. I was able to just accept the flaws and just go with it, and I even kind of got lost in it for a bit, until way too much stuff started going on and I started to auto-pilot. But I know that it's the first in a trilogy, and Harkness wants us to want to find out what's going to happen next, so I can't really blame her for leaving so many loose ends.
Really, I know this book is an epic. It's long and involved, and has multiple plots that could go in just about any direction. If it was horror, I'd totally be into it. But it's not. To me, it's a Twilight ripoff paranormal romance. And I generally don't enjoy that kind of stuff. But I can see how other people totally could.
Feb 22 - Feb 25, 2011
Jamie McDonald euthanizes his terminally ill wife via a pillow over her face; Cam McDonald euthanizes his terminally average marriage via a love affair with a mysterious nomad. Judgment ensues.
It's not often my book comes with an official "Reader's Club Guide" to help me evaluate my reading experiance. Let's go through these Q's and explore our A's, shall we?
1. To what degree is the title a metaphor for this novel?
Mercy is not a motherfudgin' metaphor for this book. It is a legitimate feeling/action that occurs in this book over and over again. Theme? Yes, definitely. Metaphor though? Not in the least. Fuck you, Reader's Club Guide, for starting off like a pseudo-pretentious asshole, right out of the gate.
2. Are Jamie's actions justified? What about Cam's? Allie's?
Jamie's actions, I feel, were justified. I've had to put down a beloved pet before, and animals inspire a lot more feeling in me than most people do. I think I could put down a dying loved one if they were begging for it. I'd make them sign a goddamn contract, though. Cam, however, is an asshat, and a pansy to boot. Philandering is a quality that will put you in my bad book, and hiding it so as to have your cake and have sex with it too? So despicable. Not in the least bit justified. And Allie? What did she do; try to help someone and find evidence that true love does exist? She's a woman. We're programmed to eat that shit up for breakfast. Justified due to gender.
3. Who is the author of the "notes"between the chapters? Who are these snippets addressing? Did you believe this throughout the book?
I have to assume it's some sort of mystical time-traveling robot that has nothing to do with this story, because those segments were confusing as hell. If I had to guess though, I'd say Cam. Which makes me dislike him even more, because they seem to be written from a "down the line" perspective, which means he's still griping about the one that got away.
4. Jamie says, "You know it's never fifty-fifty in a marriage. It's always seventy-thirty, or sixty-forty. Someone falls in love first. Someone puts someone else up on a pedestal. Someone works very hard to keep things rolling smoothly; someone else sails along for the ride."Do you agree?
Truer words have never been spoken, but the best relationships are the ones that have an ever changing balance to keep things fair.
5. In what ways does Mia's memory of her parents' love influence her relationship with Cam?
I think Mia is just outright fucked, and EVERYTHING she does is influenced by her parent's relationship.
6. Who is the most selfish character? The most selfless?
The most selfish? Maggie. Duh. She was DYING, and she asked her heart-broken husband to suffocate her to death because she wasn't willing to do the job herself. Selfless? Jamie. He KILLED a broad. And consequences be damned! Most (?) of us aren't capable of that. Well, 9 out of 10 of us, anyways.
7. In what ways are Cam and Jamie similar?
They were both brought us with traditional values, but participated in non-traditional acts. And they're both Scottish gingers. Ugh.
8. How is Cameron MacDonald like his namesake ancestor? How is he different? To what extent does the Scottish history of this clan affect his decisions?
I think all that was just thrown in to fluff the reading experience up and give Cam a false sense of morality and heroism so as to make his downfall all the more shocking.
9. What is the significance of the moments in MERCY that are magical or somewhat unreal?
To be honest, that shit confused the hell out of me, and I promptly disregarded it.
10. There is a catch-22 in Mia and Cam's relationship… they have each fallen in love with a person who would no longer exist if they were to run off together. Do you agree or disagree with this statement, and why?
I agree, because nothing is ever as perfect it seems to be, and while the relationship was incredible for them at the time, they knew, once it became real, it would be weighted down will all the trappings of a normal relationship. Or maybe I disagree, because they were both cowards, and that was just the excuse they used so as not to take full responsibility for their actions. If it was really true love, they would have been together, no matter who they disappointed, and consequences be damned!
11. Is there a hero in this book?
Why, the first Cam McDonald, of course! He had a sword!
12. What attracts Allie to Jamie? To Cam? What attracts Mia to Cam, and Cam to Mia? Do you believe that we try to find parts of our personalities that are lacking in the people we love?
Allie is attracted to Jamie because, to her, he represents what she's been seeking; true unadulterated love. Allie is attracted to Cam because of his strength and stolidity. And his gun, I assume. Weapons make babes hot! Mia's attraction to Cam is based on her desperation, insecurity, and parental related issues. And possibly true love. And Cam's attraction to Mia is based on her mystery, and his yearning for adventure. And that love thing. And I think we are attracted to people different than ourselves, because we all want to feel complete.
13. At the end of chapter 17, Cam "wondered how he had so quickly gone from holding everything he wanted in the palm of his hand to having absolutely nothing at all. He wondered how he could have been so blinded by something shiny and new and elusive that he couldn't at least give equal credit for the strength of something stable, and strong, and his." Do you think his feelings are heartfelt? Do you agree?
I think Cam is just a red-headed redneck that gets WAY too much credit. His feelings are only heartfelt insomuch that he's probably emo. And I don't agree. If you really love a person, you're not going to be blinded by shiny shit. Close you eyes, for Christ's sake! There's a reason why our parents told us not to look at the sun!
14. Why did Picoult choose to make Jamie a pioneer in virtual reality?
So he can be more perceptive to Maggie's ghost?
15. How has Jamie changed by the end of the book?
He begins to take a healthy interest in his own welfare. When he killed Maggie, he didn't give a fuck. When the final decision to his fate is being handed down, he definitely gives a fuck. Also, in the end, he sees dead people, which was never mentioned before. If it was continually happening, it probably would have been brought up.
16. What will happen to Cam and Allie? To Mia? To Jamie?
Do I look like Jodi Picoult to you? I don't have the foggiest. If it was my book, Cam and Allie would go through a messy divorce and he would be cowardly-slut-shamed out of town while she engaged in introspection, pottery classes, and a lesbian fling with Cam's mom. Mia would find herself in a sticky situation or two, slowly growing older and more desperate for love, until she's murdered by an angry wife with a double barrel. Jamie would grow crazier and crazier, until he kills himself. And that's why I don't write other people's books. I would ruin them. You'd hate to see my "Hop on Pop - Part 2".
17. Is this novel about love, or loyalty? Are they the same thing?
Love is what binds you to your soulmate, no matter the cost. Loyalty is what keeps you at a crappy job you hate until you die of ulcers at 40, or eat a pube sandwich at your favorite restaurant.
The whole time I read this book, I was agitated as shit. Cam's infidelity seemed to have no real reason behind it, other than a need to escape his responsibilities under a thin veneer of "love". Hell, Mia even admitted that it wasn't Cam she wanted, but Allie's life! And for all their talk of LOVE, they didn't even own up to their actions by BEING TOGETHER! So NO ONE is happy! They took all those stupid risks, and hurt Allie for pretty much no good reason. And was there some magical subtheme I was missing? And WTF happened to Mia? I found myself wondering about so many loose ends, and I don't know if that was a good thing, or a bad thing... it means I want more from this book.
Also, by the last 20 or 30 pages, I was gearing myself up for the big BANG signature of Jodi Picoult's books. When it didn't come, I was disappointed (where's the twist?) but relieved (no sappy ass predictable cry fest).
It was a stirring book, no doubt. It mostly stirred my rage.
Feb 5 - Feb 17, 2011
Joan Frances Turner
Published September 2010
In the near future, zombies, although still terrifying, have become a commonality. However, where our story begins, the Zombie Plague is evolving into an epidemic of far greater consequence, for us and for them. And did I mention, the zombies are emo? Now THAT'S a terrifying plague of the undead!
Like a Libertine college student with a successful career ahead of her and a dopey boyfriend who can't work a condom, every brain cell was screaming "ABORT! ABORT!" before I was halfway through this story, it was so dull and insipid. But, like a Catholic schoolgirl with overbearing parents and a boyfriend who really REALLY loves her, I let my moral complex get the best of me and I carried on until the bitter end.
I haven't NOT finished a book since I was 16 (it was Kushiel's Dart - long book, longer story). Honestly though, this has to be the most disappointing zombie book I've ever read. I mean, our author graduated from BROWN and HARVARD LAW. Are they letting just anyone in, now? Because this book had to be written by the saddest, most lonely emo EVER. She made ZOMBIES EMO. All our undead characters did was stand about mournfully or indignantly (or indignantly mournful) and talk about their feelings and the shitty situations that suck for them. "I'm so angry the new leader killed the old leader." "I miss being alive, and my family; if only I could see them again..." "One of our zombie companions died; lets bury him and have a funeral and cry about it." "Eating people just feels so wrong!" ad nauseam. You know what zombies should be talking about? BRRRAAAAIIIIIIIIIIII-IIIIIIIINNNNNNSSSS.
The only emotional plot line of any interest was the zombie romance (for the obvious reasons, of course; i.e. zombie fetuses) and it didn't even pan out (and don't get me started on how much that unexpected exit disappointed me).
The book only started to pick up three quarters of the way through with the somewhat original storyline arc, but by then it was too little, too late for an attempted redemption.
This was probably the saddest excuse for a zombie novel I've ever read. You could easily replace any word related to the word "zombie" with "emo" and any reference to flesh eating with drinking black coffee and smoking cloves and menthols. GOD, this book was lame.
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.