Friday, August 21, 2015

Left Turn to Albuquerque

I’ve known the person who picked this book since high school. I can still remember the exact moment I met her because she walked toward me as if we were already friends – and we still are. We went to prom together. We danced at each other’s weddings. She is one of those friends whom if I saw her tomorrow, we could sit and chat as if it had been only ten days since we had seen each other instead of ten years. Which is why it pains me to say that, judging by her choice, she has horrible taste in books (sorry D!).

#59 – Wizard’s First Rule – Terry Goodkind
Recommended by: DR

                It was an odd-looking vine.

I was ambling along, mindlessly enjoying another fantasy adventure where a guy has to go on a quest to a land he doesn’t know, that contains magic, with a woman he doesn’t know (and subsequently falls in love with), and there are wizards, and good guys, and bad guys, and magic boxes and so on and all was well and good until, um, holy shit, did the good guy just murder a child? A CHILD? Sure, she was a spoiled brat who was going to grow up to be a masochistic murderer, but still, the good guy, the guy we are supposed to be rooting for, just flattened a little girl with one punch, severing her tongue, breaking all her teeth, and effectively killing her.


This is the exact moment the entire book went off the rails. The next few chapters dive into ritualistic torture, sexual torture, and flat out mental deprivation without batting an eye. The entire book up to this point is a standard quest in a middling fantasy story and suddenly, we are in American Psycho. Did the editor die? Fall asleep, drop his bookmark, wake up, and miss a few chapters? I was willing to ignore the dumb ass name of the main bad guy, the weird references to Alice in Wonderland and The Hobbit, and the fact that the entire book was one long, drawn out first act that jumped suddenly, and without warning, directly into the end of the third. I’ll even ignore the fact that everyone cried all the time and spent more time giving monologues than actually doing anything significant. But I cannot avoid narrative dissonance. One section of the book was so blatantly unlike the other that I feel like I might have been punk’d. Did someone cut and paste the torture porn part of their book into mine? I’ll never know, but if you think I will read any more books in this series, you are out of your mind. 

Friday, August 14, 2015

Life Me Up and Take me to the Garden

I haven't seen the lovely woman who suggested this book since I was in high school and I wouldn't be surprised if I never see her again. Through the beauty of Facebook, however, we have become reacquainted and I was beyond pleased that she decided to offer me a recommendation. This is a light read as it is a children's book (my daughter was thrilled I was reading it and highly recommended it), but it is a good one. 

#58 – The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
Recommended by: AC

When Mary Lennox was sent to Misselthwaite Manor to live with her uncle everybody said she was the most disagreeable-looking child ever seen.

This book is about a pair of children who discover a secret garden and it rejuvenates them completely. I read this for the first time when I was a child and was entranced by the idea of the garden. I found the children to be amusing, and I really rooted for them to fool all the adults and enjoy their garden. As an adult, I was actually horrified at the flat-out child abuse and negligence, let alone medical malpractice of the highest multitude! The kids are fed regularly, but beyond that, they are utterly ignored. It is criminal. The boy spends his entire life believing he is crippled when he isn’t. The girl is taught nothing because no one cares enough about her to bother. Yes, sure, the garden sounds lovely and the kids mental, physical, and emotional growth is quite nice, but maybe if someone had ever taken more than a moment of time with these kids, they wouldn’t have been such beasts to begin with.

(A side note – I actually love the musical that came out of this book. Looking it up for this blog, I was shocked to discover that the actor who originated Dickon is the very same actor who went on to create Hedwig. That’s quite a career path!) 

Friday, August 7, 2015

A Marital Disagreement

#57 - Guardians of the West – David Eddings
Recommended by: My Husband
               It was a late spring.

I have said quite often that my husband and I don’t share the same taste in books. Obviously, when it came his turn to choose a book for the list, he had a vast range to choose from as I’ve read almost nothing that he has read and vice versa.

The one he picked is dog-eared, with no back cover, and has been well-used. While it is the first book in a series, it the second series in which these characters are used. As a reader, this was similar to watching the “previously on” that occurs before a season finale, then jumping right into season two as if that three-minute recap of events, characters, and plot twists was all you needed to catch up with everything. It isn’t and it wasn’t.

As in all typical fantasy novels, characters had multiple names, all of the names have too many consonants and vowels in strange places, and no one is ever just named Ted. Everyone has a title that has multiple parts, there are always people in disguise, and while there are distinct rules of magic, they don’t always seem to apply in every situation. In short, I had no fucking clue what was going on in this book. I didn’t know what happened previously in the first five books, didn’t care what was happening in the one I was reading, and couldn’t care less what happened next because the plot device it all hinged upon was dumb and collectively ignored everything that had gone before hand.
Plus, the blatant misogyny about killed me. There is a character that is constantly referred to as the greatest sorceress on this world. What does she choose to do with her time? Play wife! No lie, she puts all of her powers aside to live in domestic bliss with a blacksmith. Who doesn’t prefer to make soap by hand when you could topple governments with a wave of the very same hand? All one queen does is cry. When another queen uses military terms, she is asked to stop because it is too distressing to men’s ears and when her plans are used, it is grudgingly at best. I know fantasy, especially old school stuff tends not to be very forward thinking in terms of gender roles but this was ridiculous.
A bigger problem wasn’t even that I was dropped into the middle of the story, but that deus ex machina was used so egregiously. It is by far, my least favorite plot device (a bitch to spell and impossible to pronounce.) Just once, in my literary travels, have I seen it used to good effect and that was when the author rather wittily made it an actual hand of an actual god. That, I can get behind. This sucked. 

But after learning why my husband picked it, I can’t really fault him. It was the first fantasy novel he read at the tender age of 12. It made an indelible impression on him and led him down the path to a lifetime of fantasy and sci-fi. I get that. I have lots of books that I read as a child that I don’t know if they are good or bad just because they are so much a part of me that I can’t readily distinguish between the two. So while I didn’t exactly pull my punches when it came to reviewing his book, I do understand why he chose it and I feel honored to be a part of such an important memory. I’m still not reading the rest of the series though.