Category Archives: Bad

I prefer Halloween and Harry Potter

I read the book “The Magicians” by Lev Grossman on recommendation from a friend, who I quote now: “It’s like Harry Potter but with sex, booze, and drugs.” You had me at like. So I jumped aboard “The Magicians” train like it was the Hogwarts Express.  Like Harry Potter, the book was about young adults realizing they aren’t quite like their peers and are invited to a special school that us normal folk can’t find by stepping off an imaginary train platform or between a NY suburban park’s hedges.

But even when combined with like-magicked kids, they are still their old entitled, skinny-jean wearing, melodramatic selves. It’s like Grossman set out to create a hero for emo kids. And this is where the commonalities end.  Where Harry Potter has consistent characters throughout and generally follows a well laid out plot toward a common, well communicated goal, Magicians does not. I think our man Lev was sipping a bit too much of the ol’ pumpkin juice. Characters came and went in this book like Jesus on Easter. It’s like Grossman wanted to write down the craziest thing he could think of that day, and when he ran out of cohesive thoughts, abruptly solved the dilemma and ended the chapter.

By the end of the book, our “hero”, Quentin, has finally realized what his quest is and it’s a lovely segue for book two.  I, however, think it unfair that you write such a large book with the sole purpose of setting the scene for your next one. That’s called a Foreword. Great marketing ploy though. Cause now that I’ve come this far through your warped and twisted mind, I am going to crawl through the creepy attic space that it is until the end.

I guess one doesn’t have much time for food and drink when they are busy being blasé, but “The Magicians” made me think of absinthe and the candy from Halloween that your parents wouldn’t let you eat because there’s razor blades in it.

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Cheese balls and sequels

I apologize for not posting in almost a month.  It’s not because I wasn’t reading over the Chaosmas holidays. In fact, I’ve been stock piling book critiques over the past couple weeks much like I was stock piling cheese balls and Bailey’s. Now that it’s the New Year I’m going to work everything out of my system, beginning with the regurgitation of my readings; easier to burn off and didn’t taste nearly as good. Fact: Books have less calories than cheese balls.

Both books I finished over the break were parts of a series. I read the fourth and final book in the Wicked series, titled Out of Oz, and almost went out of my mind with boredom at some parts. I debated blogging about this series finale because it may deter some of you readers from ever picking up any of the first three books, which would be a mistake. I also can’t tell you much about the book without giving away secrets from its predecessors.  But then I thought it’s like letting you eat your turkey dinner backwards, with your pumpkin pie dessert first, and who wouldn’t love that? Although, in this case, the best book of the series was your appetizer, Wicked, so I wouldn’t want you to get your fill of the finale and not make it back to the beginning. Maybe it’s called a starter for a reason. Hmm. It definitely was the best book of the series and whet my whistle to come back for seconds, thirds, and finally this fourth. (Is this a food blog or a book blog?) But, just like after that fourth helping of stuffing, this book made me good and ready for a nap.

Although Gregory Maguire has quite the imagination and turns what you think you know about wicked witches and talking lions on its head with clever personifications and namesakes, (yes, I only just pieced together the cleverness of the girl who BLEW in from Kansas being named Dorothy GALE),  large chunks of the book are a snore fest.  What I do love about the book is that it’s not your typical good vs evil story where loveable Munchkinlanders slave away until a naive teenager with a heart of gold and voice of angels drops in and saves the day. In fact, this ironically named Dorothy Gale can’t carry a tune, and the main character munchkin needs his mouth washed out with soap.

The story follows Rain, a third generation descendant of the Wicked Witch, through her travels across Oz during a time of political turmoil and struggling with accepting her rightful place on the throne. The book does tie together many loose ends left in the other stories and brings together an almost complete cast of the series’ misfits. I finished this book about the same time I finished the Christmas leftovers; all those turkey sandwiches and sweets you swear you’ll never eat again, but you do. Every year. So as bad as I made this book out to be, if a fifth one came out, I’d eat it. I mean, read it.

The next book I read was the sequel to The Maze Runner by James Dashner, called The Scorch Trials, or as I like to call it – the second book in the poor man’s Hunger Games series. If you don’t know what I’m referring to when I make mention of the Hunger Games, watch this, then read these, then thank me and I’ll see you in line on March 23.  I don’t care that you’re an actual adult and not a young one, you will love it, devour it, and be hungry for more. (I have a fixation on food today. I must finally be going through holiday treat withdrawal.)

What The Scorch Trials lacked in comparison to HG, and even to its debut novel, was firepower. Not literally. This book takes place in a vast dead land with sun so hot this readhead’s UV 60 wouldn’t cut it for 5 minutes, and violent lightning storms that target and fry unsuspecting visitors. So yes, ample actual fire, not enough power. In the first novel the teens are forced to work together to solve a deadly maze where they’ve been dropped by a Big Brother-like organization with their memories wiped clean. It’s non-stop death defying (and death fying) drama. This second book? More error than trial.

I like my sequels like my cheese balls; huge, mouth-watering, and leaving your stomach tied in knots. But if you like yours quick and easy, and you’re in to young adult, then get your mind outta the gutter (and off of food!) and into this book.

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Too many cooks spoil the book

When I think of the word “commencement”, I think of a beginning; a start to something fresh and new and maybe even grand. So you can imagine my surprise  confusion  chagrin utter disappointment when it took about 230 pages of my time for this book to even start.  I chose “Commencement” by J. Courtney Sullivan on a recommendation from a fellow readaholic who I will now be removing from my Christmas gift giving list.  I was told it would be a fun and easy read about college girlfriends transitioning to real life and overcoming the  jobs and distance and boys between them.  I guess that is another definition of commencement, but I’m still holding the “horrible title chooser” moniker over J. Courtney on this one.  Oh, and don’t worry, there will be a dig at her name further into this post.

I especially enjoy reading books with a heroine.  A female I can relate to.  And a great author is someone who can make any old reader connect with any old heroine, whether she’s staying at home raising a family of 4 or slaying medieval dragons in a breastplate.  (I’ve just given someone somewhere an amazing idea to write a book where the heroine performs both of these feats.  Guaranteed best seller.  Go forth and write. I may even post about you someday. You’re welcome.)  This novel had 4 heroines and every chapter was told by a different one of them.  Death by format, perhaps?  Regardless, when I start a new book I’m scouring those first few paragraphs to see who it is I’m going to have an intimate relationship with for as long as it takes me to finish its pages.  That one, not necessarily, but more often than not, main character, who, by page 57, you’re skimming through her conversations with friends because you already know how the sentence ends.  By page 134 you’re celebrating when she finally tells her boss where to shove it, and all through pages 255-282, sobbing with her as she is dumped by Mr. I Wanted It To Be Right.  I don’t have enough girly emotions to equally distribute my sentiments between four!  Nor did I find I particularly related to any one of these girls.  What do I have in common with a perfectionist with mommy issues, a southern belle turned lesbian, a feminist extremist who alternates between dreadlocks and a shaved head, and a sarcastic, non-practicing Catholic school girl with a drinking problem who aspires to be a novelist?  OK, so that last one isn’t too far off, but she probably had the least screen time of any of them so my point still stands.

The author has definitely spent a lot of time in the company of females and I don’t dare venture a guess on who out of this clique of girls she has drawn on her own experiences to create.  (She does call herself J. Courtney Sullivan after all.  It couldn’t be more obvious unless it was hyphenated.)  I just don’t think she has spent a lot of time in college.  Where on earth did she go to school that this eclectic bunch of misfits would ever form a cohesive girl band?  College is basically high school but with way more booze.  I also don’t think she spent a lot of time flushing out her story line for the novel and instead focused intently on getting down and dirty with character development.  Well, the reason for developing the character is so that we know who it is out there doing stuff.  Lady, you forgot the doing.  She did touch on a lot of women’s issues taking place all over the world that most people turn a blind eye to, but more importantly those that happen in our backyard.  And they were told through varying points of view by women living at complete different ends on the spectrum of feminism.  There is definitely a place for such serious topics but I don’t believe it to be bound by a Tiffany blue cover.  Or maybe that was the blue icing on the cake for the author to drive home a point and I’m not deep enough to get it.  Nah.

It’s time to put an end to my one week stand with “Commencement”, and in true dramatic chick lit fashion, the only way to get over one relationship is to begin, or commence, a new one.  Bring on my next victim!

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