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Search tags: 2-5-stars
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review 2017-06-25 23:21
Camino Island ★★☆☆☆
Camino Island: A Novel - John Grisham

Deadly dull stuff. I couldn’t bring myself to care about any of the characters, and the main character’s moral rationalizing was frankly laughable. I’m not sure why the author even bothered telling us about any of the criminals who pulled off the heist. The plot was… well, I couldn’t bring myself to care how it ended, if the criminals were caught, if the university got their manuscript back, or if the writer and the bookseller reconciled their relationship.

 

I think the only reason I even finished this book is that I was listening to it while on a long road trip and the book was marginally more interesting than just looking at 200 miles worth of grass and trees and cows, although the occasional horse pasture was distraction enough for me to have to rewind.

 

Audiobook, borrowed from my public library. January LaVoy provided a very good performance, considering the material she had to work with.

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review 2017-06-24 21:13
Confessional (A Blake Harte Mystery, #2)
Confessional - John A. Ashley,Robert Innes

As I said on my DNF review of the first book in this series, Untouchable, there are good bones here. I feel like this author has a lot of potential but just isn't getting any kind of guidance at all. He clearly doesn't have an editor. Some of the grammatical issues from the first book are improved on - mostly - but many others remain. Many of the character interactions are more or less well done, though the author could use a better grasp on basic human psychology to avoid cliche pitfalls. There wasn't much to the mystery. It's formulaic and predictable. I had the whodunit pegged from the second they showed up on page, and I even had the murder method more or less figured out from the get-go.

I figured foxglove/digitalis sprinkled on the communion wafers; murderer went with hemlock in the communion wine.

(spoiler show)

The ending was filled with all the bad cliches; I was cringing, y'all. I couldn't get up the energy to even be remotely concerned about the welfare of the characters. It was obvious what was going to happen and it was just boring.

 

So yeah, there are good bones here, and if this author can find himself an editor or two who really know what they're doing, I can see him writing some great stories. But as of now, with one DNF and one 2.5 star read, I won't be bothering with any more from this writer.

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review 2017-06-20 15:10
The Storied Life of AJ Fikry ★★☆☆☆
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry - Gabrielle Zevin

I sort of liked this book, until the 88% mark, at which the narrative took a turn that I found unredeemably distasteful. Until then, my thoughts about the book: This is a mildly interesting, if a little maudlin, romance about a grumpy lover of literary fiction (AJ) who is saved by love for the amazingly well-behaved and highly intelligent orphan (Maya) and the quirky bookseller (Amy). There’s an obvious bad guy caricature in the successful author (Daniel), who is a womanizing drunk, and his long-suffering and understandably bitter wife (Ismay) is AJ’s dead wife’s sister. The entire book (even the essay penned by one of the characters) is written in present tense, which serves no purpose other than to annoy me, but at least it’s in third person. None of the plot twists or big reveals were especially clever or surprising. Altogether, a three-star read, even with the long, drawn-out drama of the final chapters, which I suppose are meant to have the reader going through boxes of kleenexes. Or pressed linen handkerchiefs, given the fondness for vintage clothes.

 

I’m burying the part that dropped this into the 2 star range for me under spoiler tags: 

The backstory of what happened to Maya’s mother. Not that she was a fan of Daniel’s writing, or that they slept together and she got pregnant, or that he refused to acknowledge any responsibility for it, or that he never seemed concerned about her or his daughter. That’s just the tired old trope that goes along with his womanizing drunken author caricature. It was the dismissive way the narrative treated her. First the slut-shaming, that “she knew what she was doing” in sleeping with a married man, then excusing Ismay’s culpability in her death as it was understandably painful that she had to deal with the slut asking for money for her husband’s bastard child, when his own wife kept miscarrying and was cash-poor because all her money was invested in their fancy house. So Ismay steals a valuable book from AJ, then knowingly puts the young woman at risk of criminal charges by giving her unsellable stolen property to sell. Then she just shrugs and tells her to get lost when the girl finds out. So she (rightly) feels guilty that the desperate young woman committed suicide and her orphaned child was left in a bookstore, but then is absolved with the logic of, oh, well, it turned out for the best, since Maya had a pretty good life being raised by AJ instead of her own mother, and is credited for “saving” AJ’s life by giving him a reason to stop being a self-pitying drunk. “The End”, as far as the dead husband-thieving slut is concerned. Then we get another 50 minutes of glurge where AJ sells the book that contributed to Maya’s mother’s death, so he has the money to cover medical treatment, then rambles on about life and love and lessons for his daughter while he’s dying. Maya never finds out the true story of her mother, because it’s better to conceal her godmother’s selfish cruelty than for her to know something of the woman who birthed her and tried her best to care for her for the first two years of her life. Because it all turned out for the best, right?

(spoiler show)

 

Audiobook, borrowed from my public library. Scott Brick gives a fine performance. I picked this book up on the recommendation of a co-worker, who loved it.

 

Previous Updates:

 

6/19/17 52% http://sheric.booklikes.com/post/1572298/the-storied-life-of-aj-fikry-52

 

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review 2017-05-10 03:56
The War of the Worlds
The War of the Worlds (Atria Books) - H.G. Wells

I'm sure if I were alive in 1897 when this was first published, the long drawn-out passages of endless details would've blown my socks off. H. G. Wells certainly did have a healthy imagination, and the average reader back then wouldn't have anything to compare this to. The details would've been necessary. But in a world where we have thousands of alien invasion books and movies, including that recent "adaptation" of this book with Tom Cruise and Dakota Fanning, I found myself wishing that Wells would stop setting the scene and just get to the point already.

 

The first several chapters are all setup. When the action finally gets underway, it's well-written and well-paced, and the vividness of Wells' writing is appreciated then. And then the action will be over and goes back to its previous dragging pace. The narrator is never given a name, nor much of a personality since he spends most of his time describing what everyone else is doing. He's just a TSTL dude from a podunk town outside London, and he's clearly not prepared for these alien shenanigans. 

He really is TSTL. He gets his wife out of town after the killing starts, and then he GOES BACK for no other reason than to see what happens. The fact he doesn't die disproves Darwinism.

(spoiler show)

 

I found myself comparing this to other alien movies I've seen, and figuring that Independence Day is the closest update of this book. (I can't comment on the Tom Cruise and Dakota Fanning movie, since neither of those actors inspires me to go to the movie theatre.) I also wondered what a movie would look like if it was actually set at the same time as the book in the late 1800s - and then remembered Cowboys and Aliens. :D

 

The narrator, James Spencer, was decent. He was easy to follow along though his dialogue was stilted. The cool thing about him is that his voice had a very Cecil-esque tone to it, which made me really wish that Cecil Baldwin, who voices the podcast program Welcome to Night Vale, would narrate this story at some point. Given its broadcast history when Orson Welles decided to update the story in 1938, it just seems too meta to not happen. 

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review 2017-03-11 03:09
Just Juliet
Just Juliet - Charlotte Reagan

This was just okay. It was all very...nice. And simple. And low angst. All problems were safely in the past. All new problems were easily surmounted and quickly put behind them.

 

The first third was promising. Lena finds out she's attracted to a girl, doesn't freak out, does some googling and instead of going GFY figures out she's bisexual. So that was good. The James's are a great, fun, close-knit family. Lena and Juliet's first date was pretty rad and adorable.

 

And then it just sort of meanders and keeps going way past the point it should have ended because there really wasn't much of a plot. It goes through all the tradition coming out tropes - telling the bestie, telling the family, telling the world - but there's no real emotion to anything. We're told what Lena's feeling, but I never felt it myself. Scott and Lakyn were...confusing. Scott is a well-rounded character and very mature and provides Lena with some good advice. Lakyn, who has been through some terrible times, is shy and a jerk and whenever he speaks, I kept seeing him as twelve instead of seventeen. But as a couple, other than being the cute gay couple, they didn't really add anything to the story.

 

The writing is technically pretty good, though dry, just a few stray typos and just one or two questionable word choices. There's a lot of telling in the later part of the book, versus showing. The characters are pretty one-note, and the way Lacey, the "token black kid," is introduced doesn't get improved upon as the story progresses. I know all these kids are, well, kids, but even my friends weren't throwing around this many sexist slurs when we were that age. Every single time any girl (usually Lacey) did anything questionable or assertive or not-nice, she's described as bitchy. Really? I don't know if the author is aware of the "black girls are more promiscuous" stereotype, but Lacey unfortunately inhabits that too. And the gay "jokes" were pretty terrible and also usually spoken by Lacey. Lacey just gets terrible treatment through most of the book. For a "gay friendly" book, there is a lot of low-key homophobia. 

 

This started promising but just became meh by the end and I had to force myself to finish.

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