Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Promise Me Eternity by Ian Fox
My rating: 1 of 5 stars
Review posted at: The Owl Review
I was asked by the author to review this book for him and received a Kindle copy. This book starts off introducing the character Simon, Dr. Patterson, who is alone on a highway and is telling himself he must kill Carlo for Christine. Then it cuts to earlier in time and the story begins with the introduction of the character Simon.
Simon is a heart surgeon but is attempting to find a vaccine that creates eternal life. He spends all of his free time at home hiding from his wife in his basement, where he is transfixed on his test rabbit Dorothy, and this vaccine. The premise alone of this vaccine to prevent and stop aging is incredulous at best, but the story itself is told like a daytime soap opera. I had a very hard time taking the characters seriously or becoming interested in their plights because it felt like the story was told by a teenager who was attempting at speaking like an adult. It overall, felt a little bit cheesy.
I was beginning to feel like the author had an immense dislike for women as they were all bitter, nagging, obsessed with money, and ready to cheat on their husbands and partners. Then I realized that every character acted this way in the book. It seemed a bit silly as they were all obsessed with money, and all the women (except his wife) was attracted to Simon for no real reason. The women really did just want money, in fact, the character Christine is the book explained to Simon
"Women are crazier about money than men are. That's one of our problems." Apparently in the world of Promise me Eternity, they truly are.
It had a basic plot of Simon wanting to create his vaccine, and then solving why Simon was trying to kill Carlo on the opening chapter. The medical aspect of the story and the science behind a vaccine to "cure" aging isn't sound, but the story is told with the desire for the reader to take this all seriously, but unfortunately in a manner that expects us to take everything at face value. The plot line wasn't very strong, and the characters were all very flat with no description that created images in your head, or writing that brought them to life. Most of the women were described like this, "She was beautiful, with long flowing hair." One character wanted to win her husband back so she went and got a complete plastic surgery overhaul, face, body, fake breasts, as well as eye surgery so she could get rid of her "hideous glasses". She then started dressing in really tight revealing clothing, grew her hair out, got a perm so it wasn't straight (because short or straight hair is universally accepted, as well as normal bodies and wearing glasses... as ugly right?) and then snagged that doctor of a husband back. He left his pregnant girlfriend just to be with his wife since she was finally pretty. It was just ridiculous, and I could only imagine an over-sexed juvenile thinking this way. Overall, the descriptives were not detailed and focused on the story, many were just superficial, as were the actions of the characters themselves.
I found myself having difficulty in wanting to finish reading the story, and could not take the story seriously. In a few instances, the research was not sound. The story took place in Medford Oregon, and I've lived in Oregon for about 15 years, and have never heard of the beach town "Golden Beach", the nearest beach of a similar name is "Gold Beach" on the southern coast so I can only assume the author did not research this item, or stating that Medford is about an hour away from the beach, when it is about 3.5 hours from the coast because you cannot travel through the National Forest. These details make a story even more difficult to believe in, and is necessary for a writer to be taken seriously -- especially when the story is already as shallow as a soap opera. I would guess that since the author is foreign, writing about America normally can be a little bit inaccurate if the readers are unfamiliar with the areas.
Another aspect that I didn't understand was how the character Anita, being visibly pregnant - it wasn't described in the book as to what term she was in, or when she was due, or any other details like that, but, she was out drinking publicly in a restaurant and then fell asleep right away at home. This seemed weird since it's not common for American women to behave this way nor is it socially acceptable, regardless of what a womans preference is regarding drinking while pregnant, it's commonly accepted to be taboo. The author described it as though it was a normal thing for a pregnant lady to do. However, a little bit later in the chapter her boyfriend comes home and finds her drinking wine and demands to know why she's drinking while pregnant as though it suddenly is completely unacceptable. That made no sense in relation to her drinking at the restaurant.
I did not enjoy this book because of it's superficial characters and shallow attitudes. It lacked needed descriptions and rich dialogue and details. Characters would be described like, "he lamented on this fact for ten minutes then went upstairs." I found there to be lacking details such as characters features, and behaviors, beyond soap opera sterotypes. In some cases it had details that weren't necessary to the story at all, like Edna, his housekeeper, having a whole chapter to describe her outside with her dog thinking what a wonderful person Simon was and how he couldn't have killed his wife. We already can see that Edna is clearly, and without any given reason, obsessed with Simon and thinks he is amazing. In other regards, there were points where the story wrapped things up without much ado at all.
I am confounded that the author describes that "enthusiastic readers write to him saying they can't put his books down and read them in a few days", as well as "Individual libraries have ranked his works among the top ten, sometimes even the top five most-borrowed books." I am perplexed, given that the books are ranked with less than 3 star rating overall. I just didn't feel that there was a caliber of writing involved in this story that shows a top-five book, or a book that will be enjoyed by those seeking a believable and quality novel.
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Friday, March 23, 2012
Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
My rating: 0 of 5 stars
Twisted. The writing in this book is sharp, much like the point of the story. It's gritty, and blunt, but avoids being vulgar... somehow. I had to keep reminding myself that a female wrote this and that the main character was female as well. Odd I know, but it just sounded so.... male.
Stephen King said that "(I) found myself dreading the last thirty pages or so but was helpless to stop turning them." I wouldn't say I was dreading them, more like wanting to keep reading to find out exactly what happened; it was definitely a page-turner for me, and especially towards the end.
For an authors debut novel, this is pretty good. It is likely to not appeal to all, as the subject matter and characters are pretty damn dysfunctional. As you start reading this, you may not really realize something is quite wrong with Camille, but you definitely begin to see she has her issues. She drinks way too much, behaves like a rough, and withdrawn male detective, even though she's a reporter, that's just the type of image that comes to my mind. She makes a lot of really bad choices, but as you learn more about her past, I really could see why in the hell she's so damn messed up. She's come back to her small town, Wind Gap, to cover the story of the second of young girls that have gone missing. One was found dead the previous year and one is just still missing.
As we go along with Camille on her journey to her home town, we are taken on a voyeuristic jaunt with her as she begins to succumb to her mamma's odd, cold, and twisted style of mothering. This time, as an adult.
Really, it's a great read that takes you into the messed-up minds of a family that looks so perfect from the outside and functions so so wrong inside. They live in the familys' Victorian mansion, and completely run the town, so no one questions anything they do really. I get the sense that people know what's really going on, at least to some degree, but there's too much denial going around for anyone to actually deal with anything. Not to mention all the wealthy, bored housewives are too drunk, and popping too many pills to even question how many backs they keep stabbing. There is such a thin grasp on what's actually acceptable and unacceptable in their realities that most of what wrong was done, they just don't even realize it's not how humans are supposed to behave or be treated.
It's a stark and pointed story. It has a great set-up and the plot kept me reading because I really did want to watch it unfold. It was a fast-read for me, it took about a day to finish. It didn't leave me feeling happy and warm, but I didn't find it repulsively disturbing. Just very very wrong, but absolutely tolerable. Sometimes books come along that you really just don't want to keep reading because they're too much. This never went off the edge for me, but was teetering enough that I was intrigued to discover the pathology of these small-town, ridiculously wealthy, disturbed people. In the end, it becomes the healing path for Camille as her entire childhood finally unfolds and she learns the truth.
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Monday, March 19, 2012
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I'm going to give this a try, after seeing it pop up on at least two Powell's Books top 5 lists. I initially had dismissed it from the bad reviews on here, but now considering since fellow Portlanders like it. Portland's weird, so who knows? Maybe I will like it. Maybe I won't. But now I'm going to find out for myself. Well, if I ever make it through the library wait list. Still a little wary of the circus aspect. However, I don't like tales regarding anything marine, and I ended up loving Drowned Wednesday.
A circus has a weird place in my mind. It's a colorful, brightly obnoxious, cruel place for animals and circus folk alike. It's loud, and sticky, it's in my face, it's over-priced, and under-thrilling. I'm not a fan of the circus. There is also the newer, beautiful, artistic, eye-candy circuses. Beautiful, interesting, but too costly for my taste. This story, has made me see the circus in a third light. A different and much more enjoyable view than I've ever had regarding circus life or circus folk than I've thought I would dream of. Although it eventually drew me into this world of black, white, night times, magicians, and interesting folk, I do not think it became real enough to convince me that I might want to live through this fairy tale.
I had a little trouble getting into this story initially. Partially, I really disliked how cold and bland the characters felt at first. The heartless-ness of Celia's father, and how joyless she was. After reading for a little while further, I realized that while the prose is beautiful and very enjoyable to read, the characters and the writing itself is not very emotional. It made them seem like little paper people that were having odd and unusual lives. This is actually much how they appeared to me during reading the story, so that was fun but also a bit bizarre really, in itself.
There were lots and may I say, lots, of descriptives and even unnecessary little one-page random descriptives that appeared to be completely unrelated to the story, in the book, just to add to the bleakly whimsical aspect of this novel. It was beautifully covered in striking art and solid black pages and striped, and that certainly will stand out to many readers as they pick up this lovely-looking black & white little (kinda normal sized actually) book. All of this will make for a very quirky and unusual ride for many readers, and it may be these odd qualities that endear it to those readers as well.
For me, I felt it was lacking of much plot, but I did enjoy reading it just the same. Honestly, that's curious right there. Enjoyed, but didn't love. It was of course, a game. A contest between two students to prove whose teaching methods were superior. The stage was the circus, and the players were doing their best along with all of the unknowing pawns (casualties). I did not connect to the characters however, and as much descriptives that were in the book, it was all just too disconnected in emotion to be able to leap through the pages and find an identifiable place in my heart and mind.
It is an interesting tale, that will end up being usually a love it or hate it type of book. I found that I just did not care too much what happened to the characters in this tale, but the words were beautiful, if not lacking much compassion, along the way. For that, I did finish this novel.
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Monday, March 5, 2012
The Wolf Gift by Anne Rice
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Minor note: The cover.... what the hell is going on with it? When I brought it home I teased with my husband that it looked like one of those self-published covers that has a generic picture and solid block coloring and a title. Plus, the wolf pictured on the cover doesn't jive with how the Man Wolves are described in her story. They are clearly described as maintaining their own distinct human eyes which makes them very shockingly not like regular wolves. Just confused why that wouldn't be more important since the cover should correlate to the actual novel's descriptions. Okay, now the review....
I wasn't sure what to expect when I picked up this book, given it's mixed reviews. Maybe a little more slanted towards the negative, in actuality. I was going into it with an open mind, and hoping that it delivered that Anne Rice I was fell in love with reading years ago.
Some stories drag you away slowly from your everyday life, they capture your dreams and ideals of a perfect world, in which you can feel the emotion and atmosphere flowing out of the story and into your own head. You become one with the book, and you don't want to put it down because it feels too good to not live inside it's own little world. I started feeling like this when I picked up the book, but sadly, as I read on, I just started feeling like I was not inside the story, but outside, reading about one's perfect, and completely unrealistic fairy tale. A great book brings you in, and suspends any disbelief you may have about the situations, like feeling that it's completely logical to expect to meet vampires, or werewolves along your city or forest travels.
Some aspects that immediately made it a bit harder for me to get invested in this story is that it's hard, for me, to relate to a 23 year old guy named Reuben that drives a Porche and has trust funds, and is immediately contemplating purchasing an immensely stately mansion. He grew up in a great house in San Francisco with a scatterbrained professor of a father, and a determined surgeon of a mother. Can everyone else relate to that? Well, maybe if the characters are written very well and you are forced to relate to them because you cannot not become involved with them.
I loved the concept of the werewolves in this story. I just didn't feel like I connected to the characters, nor did I believe that the characters could actually not come through in every endeavor they attempted. Every character in this story just had too much money, and enough connections that I didn't believe there were any true challenges for the characters to overcome. Take for example, Reuben has as much money as he needs, and a huge mansion in the forest/hills to retreat to after every attack. When he wants to take his Porche for a drive to "hide out" in any motel he wants to, he does. He gets every woman he attempts to get, and his current girlfriend is so down with Rueben that she's comfortable that he slept with Marchent the first night he went away for his Nideck Pointe story, plus she's very comfortable in just letting Reuben text his breakup after he sleeps with another woman he finds in the forest. I suppose that's because although she loves Reuben dearly, she just doesn't love him enough to not sleep with his best friend Mort and split up with Reuben and stay friends. Luckily, she's a up-and-coming hot shot lawyer who's smart as hell so she doesn't need his trust funds and mansion.
My largest complaint with this story, is that it ended up just being lackluster in it's execution. I found myself realizing I could have put it down and probably forgotten about the characters because I didn't end up believing in them during the novel. Even the boy, Stuart, that Reuben accidentally turns into a werewolf after rescuing him after a gay-bash attack, is a 16 year old whiz that already graduated, and grew up wealthy, and is famous for going after his Catholic high school for not allowing him to take his boyfriend to the prom. Is there anyone that doesn't make 6 figures, drive a Mercedes, Jaguar, or Porche (yes, fine, I know, you're saying Jim, Reuben's older brother and religious viewpoint of the story, because he's a priest who gave up his trust funds and Mercedes to relate to the poor more easily) and just have life come easy to them while they figure out what the heck they want to do with their lives? Ah, to just waste away my days enjoying gourmet meals, ordering anything I might need on a whim (flatscreens, orchid trees, Bose boomboxes, iMacs, everything and anything), while doing anything I want and pretending to be in so much dilemma.
The characters are just not realistic. They sound like the writing of someone who has never had to work a day in their life and thinks everyone's biggest quandary is whether mom will be upset we spent our trustfund on this new mansion we visited and suddenly cannot live without. I really wanted to love this story, but there's not enough grit within this beautiful story to make me feel like these are real people that I care about making it. Everyone always gets what they want in this book, with really no consequence. It's hard to feel emotion for people that do whatever they want, and get whatever they want. It's so tidy there's nothing for them to truly overcome. That's probably the best way to put it, right there. Even in the end scene, with Felix & Thibault, they just wrap everything up with the evil doctors and the sheriff and it gives us as the readers, absolutely nothing to root for. We know it'll be perfect. Reuben gets everything he wants, always.
Were the Vampire Chronicles this tidy and unrealistic, but I was just too young and idealistic to realize this? I'm not sure, it's been so many years I'm now not sure if this is how Rice always wrote, or her writing is just too simplistic and unrealistic in it's attempt to get me as a reader, to believe in it. She still writes in a beautiful flow, and makes everything seem dreamy. But even my dreams have more substance of reality wrapped up in their fantasy.
I saw one reviewer state that they thought this was a very prudish Anne Rice. I wasn't sure I agreed with that at first, but I do feel like, in contrast to her previous novels, this definitely is prudish for Rice. She's normally unabashedly descriptive in the sexual encounters, but this time she sets them up, then switches scenes so nothing really happens. She does spend more time describing the violence the Man Wolf dishes out, and how much he relishes eating humans and sucking the marrow out of their bones, than showing any inclination towards descriptive lovemaking. Maybe there really is a huge difference in her writing this time around.
In the end, I read it, it was a great concept, but it was delivered in a manner which was just not exciting, or enveloping enough for me to love it, or believe in it.
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