Posts Tagged ‘Book Reviews

07
May
18

Goodreads Review: Sleeping Beauties

Sleeping BeautiesSleeping Beauties by Stephen King
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I don’t know what went wrong, here. I suspect the youngest King sibling just isn’t up to the snuff of his father and older brother.

While reading this, I frequently felt as though the two authors were fighting for control. One would go off on a tangent of limited importance, often garbled by what felt like overblown political correctness, and in the next handful of pages you could almost physically feel someone grabbing hold of the helm and dragging it back to course… painfully, and not always successfully.

The premise – every woman in the world falls asleep and goes into a cocoon, what happens now? – is interesting enough, but I felt the execution was frequently lacking. Most sequences felt as though I’d seen them, in better shape, elsewhere; by the halfway point I was wondering if Owen dug through dad’s junk drawer, pulled out a pile of random first draft pages of other books – especially Under the Dome, The Stand and Cell – then asked dad to help him glue them together somehow. It sounds kind of harsh to put it that way, but…

I found the whole thing difficult to care about. There were dozens of characters, but unlike other King works where a large cast – like The Stand, ‘Salem’s Lot, or the Dark Tower saga – features, I had difficulty telling them apart. Most of them were faceless and interchangeable, and descriptives for the majority of them only came when a hammer was about to be brought out for a bit of virtue signaling. Clint and Lila are well done and interesting, but their marital conflict feels forced and stupid, and blows over way too easily, leaving you asking yourself what the point of it was.

The last gripe about the characters comes in the form of who one might arguably call the “main” character of the book; Evie Black. Without spoiling much, she’s the key to everything, and has the standard set of mystic mumbo-jumbo for the magic MacGuffin. She has the potential to be interesting, but despite having several chapters from her POV and multiple other characters commenting on her emotional state, we never really get to understand what she’s doing. She seems to be playing both sides against the middle for no reason, despite obvious distaste for it and sympathy on both sides. If there was some more insight into her motives, her nature, or what the hell she was actually hoping to accomplish, it might have been better off.

And then there’s the ending. We’re treated to roughly twenty pages of staccato notes on what everybody did after things were resolved, feeling like one of those 80’s movies that puts text over still images of the main characters, only even less satisfying. It’s not their fates that are the problem; it’s the presentation.

All in all, I feel this wasn’t really worth my time. It was… okay, at best. Maybe worth grabbing if it’s on the cheap or you absolutely MUST have everything King has written, but probably skippable otherwise.

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28
Jan
18

Goodreads Review: The Graveyard Book

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The Graveyard BookThe Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Gaiman does it again; as with most of his works, he sets a basic stage with a great deal of drama, then scales things back to a much more human level, spending much of the story’s time making you care deeply for the people you walk these strange roads with. Inevitably, as is Gaiman’s usual method, once you’ve reached the peak of that emotional investment, when you regard folks such as Bod, Scarlett, the Hempstock witch, and dear old (and possibly formerly murderous) Silas as your dearest friends, he lays you low with a swift punch directly to the feels.

The Graveyard Book despite its trappings of fantasy and high adventure as a young boy raised by ghosts probes the past, discovers how he was orphaned and hopes to gain vengeance against the one who harmed him, is at its heart a book about growing up. The wonders of childhood rendered commonplace until viewed through the lens of another, the desperate attempts to keep things the same even as they change, and the knowledge that eventually, everything fades. Buried in that melancholy, though, is a hopeful message: Life is for living; live it while you can. As one of the ghosts that form Nobody Owens’ extended family tells him, that family’s time is passed; there is no change for them, no truly new experiences to be had. His time to join them in that state will come one day, but for now he should live his life to the absolute fullest so he can ride with the Lady of the Grey with no regrets or fear.

Bod’s struggle with those concepts, alongside his troubles with things as mundane as the school bully and as fantastic as a troublesome spirit waiting for a master of unimaginable power known as the Sleer, is presented lovingly and beautifully, and lets the reader feel as they are in some way growing up with him; as the book opens, things are fresh and new, but like with age or the nature of the graveyard he inhabits, the shine begins to wear, rot seeps in, and all we can do is mourn for it.

As with anything Gaiman, I strongly recommend giving it a read. It’s very easily one of his best, and even adults can pull something from it, despite it being marketed as a book for younger audiences.

Just mind the Sleer. And ‘ware the Man Jack.

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23
Jan
18

Goodreads Review: Grumpy Cat: A Grumpy Book

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Grumpy Cat: A Grumpy BookGrumpy Cat: A Grumpy Book by Grumpy Cat

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Are you happy? Then you need to read this. Do you think the world is full of fun and happiness? It isn’t. Are you feeling miserable yet?


Good.

There isn’t really much to say; either you’re on the Grumpy Cat bandwagon or you’re not. If you’re aware of the adventures of Tardar Sauce and find them amusing, this serves to provoke laughter. The photobombs of Grumpy Cat invading assorted historical moments are one of my favorites, as well as her “To Do” list located about halfway through.

If, on the other hand, you find the negativity of Grumpy Cat to be a turn-off, or are one of the folks offended by her name or the shameless exploitation of a deformed animal for humor and profit, this book is not going to change your mind, and you should probably just continue on your path.

Either way, Grumpy Cat is pleased. Or would be, if she was capable of such things.

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23
Jan
18

Goodreads Review: Chasing the Dead

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Chasing the DeadChasing the Dead by Joe Schreiber

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Chasing the Dead is a bit of a grab bag. It starts off with an appropriately mysterious meeting between a pair of children, moves to a busy mother’s innocuous day that we know is leading to trouble, and then begins a fast-paced thriller chase that keeps inching up the scare factor.

Then, about halfway through, it starts falling apart. It begins to introduce more overtly supernatural elements – which isn’t really a problem, in my view – and makes it more apparent that our plucky heroine is not dealing with an I Know What You Did Last Summer revenge scenario. Then we get mired in a twenty-page info dump that seems heavy-handed and ultimately useless; leaving certain aspects unrevealed would have been more satisfying in certain ways, I suspect. Worse, it doesn’t explain – or provide an adequate one – certain aspects of the mythology that seem as though they would be just a teensy bit more important. The final showdown is an unintelligible mess that left me rereading the pages multiple times, trying to visualize how the actions described actually occurred… I still don’t think it works the way it’s presented. Tack on a suitably sequel-baiting “dun-dun-daaaaaah!” epilogue and we’re there.

The writing is done well enough for the most part, but the writer’s over-reliance on metaphors – including one memorable line describing “a high, sick stench that defies metaphor” – starts to grate after a while; the constant present-tense, while doing an admirable job of keeping the tension level high, seems out of place in some sequences.

Overall, I don’t regret reading Chasing the Dead, but it’s not something I’d go out of my way to recommend or read again, either. It was an easy way to spend a few bathroom breaks, a quick read, offered a couple of cheap thrills, and will ultimately be forgotten.

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21
Jan
18

Goodreads Review: Second Sight

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Second Sight

Second Sight by Judith Orloff

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

What to say about this one… hmm. Well, coming in I was expecting it to be a little flowery, a little off; looking at the cover should tell you that much, and I wasn’t disappointed. Still, I was expecting to hear at least a little about the struggles to merge the physical and metaphysical, to learn how Dr. Orloff had developed her psychic talents and how they would best be put to use in treating people, especially those with mental illness.

What I got instead was a lot of discussion about how psychic healers used to be a lot more respected, were way more important in the past, and how medicine needs to get together and start getting psychic. Actual practical applications or stories were rare, and the few that were in here were so bizarre, perfectly detailed and just so happen to fit exactly to the circumstances or apparent point that they felt falsified and forced.

The discussion about her family life, the mother who denied the psychic (despite every woman in the family having it, including dear ol’ mom) and the final acceptance of it alongside sharing all kinds of secret psychic stories from her childhood and before – that then leads into the predictable pages explaining the true power of the sacred feminine and how it runs in her family’s bloodline as a blessing and a message that must be carried – start really pushing the boundaries of belief and the credibility I was willing to extend to the work, alongside bloating the good Doctor’s sense of self-worth.

Further in, we’re treated to numerous discussions of her meditation sessions, including one in the woods where she explains in detail how leaning against a tree leads to the most explosive orgasm (her words, not mine) of her life. Then we finish up with a couple dozen more pages explaining that it’s very important to merge the psychic with the medical to truly help patients, without giving much in the way of specifics (other than a passage about a gynecologist she knows who has an intuitive healer in the office who helps diagnose patients before they’re even seen by the doc, and performs laying on of hands to patients who need it.)

All in all, it was a lot of floaty, hippy-dippy stuff and anecdotal evidence that doesn’t provide much in the way of evidence or serious discussion about the viability of psychic healing merged to an unbelievable biography that droned on for nearly 400 pages with little to no payoff. Don’t recommend it.

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14
Jan
18

Goodreads Review: The League of Regrettable Superheroes

The League of Regrettable Superheroes: Half-Baked Heroes from Comic Book HistoryThe League of Regrettable Superheroes: Half-Baked Heroes from Comic Book History by Jon Morris

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An enjoyable trip down the darker corners of memory lane that many comic book fans would probably have preferred to leave alone, The League of Regrettable Superheroes has a few winners, cast from the limelight for reasons that have nothing to do with their ridiculousness – Rom the Space Knight comes to mind – but is mostly chock full of folks like Dr. Hormone – with magical hormone powers that let him live forever and become a giant Nazi-crushing machine – and U.S. 1 – who can psychically command his big rig to fly into space.

Organized by the various ages of comics, and never short on laughs or glances of shame, this book will make you glad the assorted comic giants decided to stick with folks like Batman, Superman, Spider-Man and Captain America. Because lame as some of them have been over the years, they’re at least better than Doll Man, Thunderbunny or Fatman the Human Flying Saucer. (And yes, those are all real.)

Worth a peek if you have any interest in comic books, their culture, and where they’ve been in the last several decades.

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09
Jan
18

Goodreads Review: How to be a Ghost Hunter

How to Be a Ghost HunterHow to Be a Ghost Hunter by Richard Southall

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Claiming to be any fresh ghost hunter’s essential how-to guide, the book itself reads more like a checklist of basic information; that in itself isn’t necessarily a crime, but when it’s information that could be found nearly anywhere with a quick Google search, it seems superfluous. The use of sometimes-confusing language (when discussing EVPs, for example, we refer frequently to “ghost recording,” which does not reference the act of recording the EVPs, but rather to a type of spirit) and occasional errors in the “recommended gear” section (the one that really jumped out at me was stating that the use of “Microsoft Photoshop” could be helpful) didn’t help much.
Overall, there wasn’t much substance here. Certainly nothing that warranted a whole book. A brief pamphlet or a simple web page could have conveyed the same and not felt padded, plus would have given more opportunity to fix errors or update as times change.

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