May 28, 2018

Book Update

I recently updated my Sweet 16 Current or Recent Reads, and most additions were mediocre or just plain bad. But one rolled the highest rating.

Gabrielle Zevin's The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry (Chapel Hill: Algonquin, 2014) tells the story of a man whose future destroyed his future. It's a novel about the meaning of life and the importance of community, seen mostly through the eyes of the family(!) living above a small local bookstore. The ending is bittersweet, but you'll love it, as well as the interesting twists and turns that got you there. Fikry rolled a ⚅.

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness (Candlewick, 2010) is a haunting book. I suppose that sounds more positive than I intended. Perhaps I should've said I am haunted by how bad and how ugly this book was. I truly wish I hadn't read it. It is unnecessarily cruel, and if you have an iota of love for dogs, you must not pick up this book. Also, it's part of a series, and is anything but a stand-alone-novel. Having no redeeming qualities, Knife rolls a ⚀—but only because I can't find a dice with no numbers on it.

There was a time when I loved Clive Barker, but for some reason I hadn't read his Books of the Art. It's supposed to be a trilogy, but the third book hasn't been written yet. So I suppose I've read the complete non-trilogy, having finished The Great and Secret Show a little while back. Everville (HarperCollins, 1994) is a worthy sequel to Show, but that's not saying as much as one might hope. Hidden somewhere in all the mayhem, I think there may have been a plot—I'm almost sure I sniffed one on the wind (or, in this case, on the maelstrom)—but it was all so confusing. And it was just too ugly for my tastes. I suppose the older I get, the less unpleasantness I can handle. But here's an example of why I probably will never pick up another Clive Barker novel: In the midst of all this rack and ruin, a couple to whom the reader is kindly disposed makes love in the sea. And that's fine. It's just that one of them had just had his genitals mutilated, and possibly the very last thing on earth I ever wanted to hear about was how his mangled penis bled when he had sex, bloodying up the water they were in.

It didn't roll the lowest possible rating, because Barker really is a decent writer in the end. But Everville wasn't for me.

Somebody named "Cardeno C." wrote McFarland's Farm (Romance Authors, 2014) as part of a trilogy called the Hope Collection (named after the semi-fictional town* in Arizona where the action takes place). It was a pleasant enough romance, but it was in reality a short story that needed to be treated as a novel. Even so, had it been fleshed out more, it probably couldn't have rolled above a ⚃. As it is, I gave it a ⚂. The romance is pleasant, the characters likable, and the backstory deep enough that I might read the other two "books" in the series... but that's only because I can do so for free through my Amazon Unlimited® account.

The cover of Kerstin Gier's Ruby Red (NY: Henry Holt 2011) claims that it's an international bestseller. I can believe this only if I consider the fact that there are millions upon millions of people on earth who don't speak English and had no idea what they were reading. Those of us who do speak English, however, regretted having been sold this book. The plot can be characterized by one word and one word only: formulaic. The characters are whiny and shallow, and the ending totally predictable. If there was a single plot twist in there, I didn't notice it. In the end, Ruby rolled a ⚁ only because it wasn't interesting enough to cause the nightmares of a ⚀.
* There really is a place in Arizona called Hope (basically an R.V. park with a church). It seems unlikely that the author of this series realized that (though a very quick check with either Google maps or Wikipedia would've informed him) but anything's possible.

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