Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the category “1 star – a book you didn’t like”

loopyker’s #CBR4 Review #19-21: Various mysteries by Elizabeth Peters

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See my review comparing three Elizabeth Peters mysteries, The Jackal’s Head, The Night of Four Hundred Rabbits and Devil-May-Care at Loopy Ker’s Life.

Funkyfacecat’s #CBR4 Review #27: White Noise by Don DeLillo

I did not like White Noise (1985). I thought it collapses under the weight of its own shallowness, that the gradual leeching of humanity from its main characters as they become constructs, empty soulless parodies of themselves and white middle-class America in the mid-nineteen-eighties, also removes anything remotely interesting from their problems and lives and that that is the point. I can also never remember what happens in the final third of the novel and neither can anyone else I know who has read it.

Jack Gladney is a college professor of “Hitler Studies” who has invented a middle initial to create a sense of gravitas, who doesn’t speak German and never mentions the Holocaust, preferring to focus on analysing the significance of Nazi SS uniforms and the mechanics of parades that induce mass hysteria. His wife Babette teaches people to walk properly and their blended family mostly eats processed food and watches TV. Jack and Babette fear death; this fear dominates their lives, until an event that threatens their family and neighbourhood forces them to engage with this fear on a visceral level and by then I cared so very very little about any of this.

White Noise could have been an enjoyable satire for me had it not seemed obsessed with taking itself beyond satire into a world of simulacra and multiple layers of metaness and then into a life-sucking vacuum, and were it not so very dreary and repetitive. It’s all quite clever and post-modern, obviously, and occasionally provokes a smirk of recognition, and a comment on consumer culture and modern psychotherapy and all sorts of incredibly relevant things-I can see why people admire, even like it, but I felt that it was more concerned with playing head games than being literature.

Karo’s #CBR4 Review #25: Novemberasche by Anja Jonuleit

At some point over the last few months I started explaining why I chose each book I read (as if one ever really needs a reason), and with this novel, the backstory is the only interesting bit of my review. I found it on a doorstep, in a box labelled “Take me home” or “Please take”. I knew what I was getting into, since it was clearly marketed as local crime, with a butt-ugly cover, but honestly? How can you not rescue a book from a box on a doorstep? Funnily enough, only a few weeks later a friend asked me whether that was a typical German thing, leaving things you don’t need on your doorstep, and yes, it is. I love it – it’s like a small pop-up charity shop!

I took it home because it was a book (see above) and because I thought it might amuse me for a while. I’ve read local crime a few times before, and in most cases these are a laugh, with the author trying their best to cram in as much local colour as possible while not being particularly skilled in both crime writing and just plain… writing. (Before you hate me – I wrote one myself for NaNoWriMo, and I admit that mine is terrible, too.) Anyway. Novemberasche is set in furthest south-west Germany, an area I don’t know at all, and so the local colour obviously wasn’t meant for me. If anything, the descriptions of endless roads and roundabouts near certain supermarkets made me giggle. Maybe Aldi pays for namedropping in novels.

An amateur sky-diver dies when his parachute doesn’t open, and a high-school student is found dead in a graveyard, his wrists showing marks of barbed wire, and a small piece of paper is found stuffed in his mouth, with only 3 identifiable words. The sky-diver is the brother-in-law of the police inspector on the case, and so both cases are connected before we find out just how connected they are. Which of course is obvious before the book has even started. The inspector now has to deal with his heartbroken sister and her best friend Marie Glücklich (Yes. Mary Happy.), who OF COURSE has only just recovered from a previous run-in with the same inspector and a crazed murderer (presumably axe-wielding, and presumably called Hans Horrible). It’s all set up so neatly. Oh, and of course Mary Happy and Inspector Sommerkorn (It may sound German, but NOBODY is called Sommerkorn in Germany. It sounds totally made up while trying to be authentic.) are in love. But they can’t find the heart to confess to each other. I forgot what the case was all about. Oh yes, neo-nazi high school students, computer games and helpless parents. It doesn’t matter. We are meant to care about it just as we are meant to care about Mary Happy and her man, only we don’t. In the end, after having been saved by him, Mary-injured-in-hospital suddenly decides she doesn’t want him after all, because he’s “too narrow-minded”. Huh? If that’s supposed to be a romantic cliffhanger, it doesn’t work. Because I don’t care.

Worst of all, Novemberasche isn’t even over-the-top bad. There are no laughs other than the ridiculous names, an escape from a mental hospital, which turns out is just a case of getting up and leaving through the front door, and some very cliche stylistic means. It’s just the kind of book you read quickly and then put in a box on your doorstep.

loopyker’s #CBR4 Review #09: Answer Me, Answer ME by Irene Bennett Brown

In my online library, a quote described Answer Me, Answer ME as “An excellent portrayal of a young woman’s search for her true identity, a compelling story with just the right elements of mystery and romance.” Sounded like a potentially good, young adult book to me. I was sadly disappointed.

I listened to the audiobook, but I don’t think that made a difference to my experience of the story. I can’t imagine even the best narrator in the world making me anything but sorry I wasted my time. The only difference is that I didn’t notice that the second “me” in the title is written “ME” until looking it up to write this review.

A young woman, Bryn Kinney, is on her own after her grandmother’s death. Now at only 18 years old, she is wondering if her grandmother, the woman who raised her, was really in fact her biological grandmother at all and if she has any other family out there somewhere. She has never known who her parents were, so she sets off an a quest to search for answers about her past.

Read the rest of the review at Loopy Ker’s Life

loveallthis’s #cbr4 reviews 06, 07, 08: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, The Wee Free Men, The Dovekeepers

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(cross-posted from my blog.)

06 / The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

So, this was incredibly charming. I haven’t read much of Alexie’s fiction, though I enjoy the smart, snarky, understanding voice in his nonfiction and journalism.

The plot doesn’t much matter in this book: Junior lives on the Spokane Indian reservation, but he goes to school with a bunch of white kids. Hilarity, depression, struggle, heartbreak, and triumph ensue.

I’d gift this book to a kid about Junior’s age – it’s a funny, sweet, yet mature look at what it means to be a kid who seriously doesn’t fit the mold.

Four stars. Totally enjoyable.

07 / The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett

Hoo boy, I did not like this book. I’m all for fantasy, but give me some stakes. “I live in a world you don’t care about! Wait! Little people!” (For magical little people done weird but right, check my upcoming review of 1Q84.)

I felt terrible, since Pratchett’s supposed to be fantastic, and what kind of nerd am I, etc. etc. but I had to skim to finish this one.

One star. Not for me.

08 / The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman

I was so excited to read this book: my mom, an avid reader and total stacks-of-books-by-the-bed, weekly-library-trips inspiration, recommended it highly. I was taking an upcoming trip to Israel and knew I’d visit Masada. The stars were aligned.

Nope! This was so boring! What’s going on? Boooo, Alice Hoffman. Boo.

Lots of desert wandering, lots of sleeping with people you shouldn’t (and just in a sad way, not in a sexy way), lots of kids dying. Bad streak: had to skim to finish this one too.

Two stars for the doves. It’s not history class.

taralovesbooks’ #CBR4 Review #47: Sister Sister by Andrew Neiderman

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Cannonball Read IV: Book #47/52
Published: 1992
Pages: 292
Genre: Horror

I picked up this horribly cheesy novel at the used bookstore for $1. It’s not worth even that probably. I actually forgot I even read this until I was looking through my Goodreadsaccount (add me!) and realized I never wrote my CBR review for it.

It was a pretty forgettable novel, so forgive me if this review is somewhat vague. The plot follows a school teacher who gets a really good paying job to teach a set of conjoined twins. The twins (named Alpha and Beta…seriously) are locked up in a lab and have never been outside their small apartment in there. They’re pretty much treated like lab rats.

Read the rest in my blog.

Malin’s #CBR4 Review #103: Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson, also known as the worst book I read this year

Marianne Daventry is an innocent 17-year-old whose mother died the year before in a riding accident. Her father’s scarpered off to France to grieve, her twin sister’s in London with family friends enjoying a season, while poor little Marianne is wasting away with boredom at her grandmother’s in Bath. Her gran, a cranky and unpleasant old biddy, decides to disinherit her no good scoundrel nephew and bestow her fortune of forty thousand pounds on Marianne, as long as the girl will learn to behave like a proper lady (she likes running about out of doors without a bonnet, and prefers the countryside to town life – dreadful stuff).

Marianne clearly needs role models, and is shipped off to Edenbrooke, the estate where Lady Wyndham, a bosom friend of Marianne’s mother lives. Marianne’s twin sister is besties with Lady Wyndham’s daughter, and the girls are set to return to the estate from London, so Marianne will have some company. On the way to Edenbrooke, Marianne’s carriage is set upon by a highwayman, and when her coachman is shot, she has to drive the carriage to the nearest inn by herself (this was one of the few useful and admirable things the girl did in the entire novel). At said inn, she’s insulted by a gentleman, because of her dishevelled appearance. Once he realises that she is of good standing, he apologises for his incredible rudeness and instead proceeds to condescendingly take matters completely out of her hands. He insists that they be on first name basis, and refuses to divulge anything about his identity.

Once Marianne arrives at Edenbrooke and promptly falls in the river, twice (because she loves to twirl uncontrollably to express happiness, and apparently never looks where she does this), she discovers that Philip is indeed Lady Wyndham’s second oldest son. They two strike up a highly unlikely and inappropriate friendship, and just before Marianne’s twin Cecily is about to arrive complications rear their ugly head when it’s revealed that Philip’s older brother died a few years back, making him the lord of the manor, and the man Cecily has set her sights on as a future husband. As Marianne apparently always gives in if her slightly older sister calls dibs on something, this means she has to give up on Philip. Oh noes! How can this conflict ever be resolved!?!

As this book is currently one of the finalists in the Goodreads Choice 2012 awards, and has a huge number of positive reviews both there and here on Amazon, I decided to give it a try. Many of the reviews compare the writing to that of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer, and all I can say is that both women must be spinning in their graves. Or possibly “twirling” like the heroine in this preposterous story.

It’s labelled as a “proper romance”, because there aren’t any graphic love scenes, but the behaviour of the hero and heroine is deeply improper from the moment they first meet. As the heroine is an inexperienced young girl from the country, her ignorance and foolishness might be explained away, but the so-called “gentleman” hero should know better than to encourage the girl to call him by her first name, flirt inappropriately with her in private and in front of his family. At one point, Philip encourages Marianne to take a nap outside, while he sits around watching her (Edward Cullen alert!), and subsequently claims that “she snores like a big, fat man”. If that’s the makings of a “proper” romance, give me the kind with sexy times every day of the week.
The first half is full of badly done exposition, the author overuses adjectives, and in pretty much every scene, all the characters seem to feel an excess of emotions from joy to anger to despair, if the descriptions of their feelings and facial expressions is to be believed. The book is wildly melodramatic, and might have been better if it was written in 3rd person – but sadly, it’s not.’
Then there’s the plot, highwaymen, falling into rivers, inappropriate flirting and banter, dreadfully characterised supporting characters (both Marianne’s twin sister Cecily and Philip’s younger sister Louisa are total mean girl bitches for most of the story, only to make a total turnaround and become super supportive and helpful “fairy godmothers” in the wrap up of the story), kidnappings, random due (inside in the common room at an inn – how do you even go about that?) – it may sound exciting, but most of the time, it’s just dull, and there’s a limit to how far I can suspend my disbelief.
I fully understand that readers may be looking for clean, chaste Regency romances – but do yourselves a favour and read something by Jane Austen or Georgette Heyer novel instead. This is simply a very poor excuse for a novel, pretty cover notwithstanding.
Cross posted on my blog.

Alli’s #CBR4 Review #49 – Ordeal by Linda Lovelace

 

I don’t know why I thought this would be a good book to read. Temporary insanity I guess? I generally like to read stories of survival, of triumph over adversity so maybe that was why. Maybe because it is being made into a movie, I usually like to read books before the movie comes out, but having read this there is no way I am going to see the movie.
For anyone not aware, Linda Lovelace was the star of the famous 70s porn movie “Deep Throat”. This book tells the story of how she met a man, Chuck Traynor who eventually forced her to become a hooker at gunpoint then held her captive for several years and made her do so many awful things including being in adult films.

Mrs Smith Reads The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown, #CBR4, Review #23

Apparently I am not alone, click the image for another, more comprehensive review of why The Weird Sisters was so bad.

Looking at the reviews of The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown, I feel a little out of sync. It seems like everyone who read it, loves it and I most definitely did not love it. I did not like the three sisters, I didn’t like their parents and I most definitely did not like the choral voice of the narrator, since I was constantly trying to figure out which “sister” was doing the narrating when speaking about “our” experience.

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

Valyruh’s #CBR4 Review #89: Saving Fish From Drowning by Amy Tan

Ms. Tan’s first “political” novel is unfortunately not nearly as successful as either The Joy Luck Club or The Bonesetter’s Daughter. Presumably intended as a political satire, Saving Fish From Drowning is the tale of a group of hapless well-to-do American tourists who get kidnapped by a hidden village of Burmese peasants, and the cross-cultural misunderstandings that erupt on both sides. The tale is narrated by the ghost of 60-something Chinese-American socialite and art patron Bibi Chen, who was to have guided her friends on their tour of China and Burma (now known as Myanmar) but was found murdered on the eve of the trip. The friends decide to go anyway, with Ms. Chen’s spirit watching over them and occasionally intervening on their behalf, and with their liberal American ignorance of the rest of the world fully loaded with the rest of their luggage. Bibi’s murder is entirely incidental to the story, except that it provides us with an exotic storyteller–an awkward formula right from the beginning, I felt.

The tour group includes one teenager whose love of card tricks captures the attention of a lookout for the tribe, a pseudo-Christian cult which has been looking for the return of their Younger White Brother ever since a card shark and shyster turned himself into the village’s God many years earlier, before disappearing. Their hope is that this new “God” will channel power to turn the village invisible and enable them to escape the Burmese secret police which is hunting them as a “rebel force.” Tan’s improbable plot unhappily brought to mind a silly Carl Hiaasen romp dressed up as political commentary, and her characters are largely caricatures, perfect for poking fun at but hardly engaging.

The story is mildly entertaining, but Bibi’s periodic divergences into the political situation in Myanmar, Chinese history, and such are heavy-handed, as if Tan couldn’t decide whether to write a political diatribe or a slapstick comedy. As it turns out, it was both–and neither.

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