Ugh. Bad characterizations for most of the characters, all of the characters with the exception of maybe Lisbeth look they've stepped out of a 90's er...moreUgh. Bad characterizations for most of the characters, all of the characters with the exception of maybe Lisbeth look they've stepped out of a 90's era coloring book, and the dialogue (excepting the parts taken verbatim from the book) is AWFUL. But worst of all, Denise Mina has tamed this story to mediocrity. I'm all in favor of changing the story to fit the medium where it's necessary, but Mina seems to have made changes just to make things easier for herself. For example:
• Holger Palmgren doesn't have a stroke. He and Lisbeth visit merrily in the beginning of the story and discuss her new guardian, Nils Bjurman. This means that Lisbeth goes to see Nils Bjurman with someone still in her corner. The whole point of Lisbeth in the first half of book one is that there is literally NO ONE in her corner. She goes to Nils Bjurman because she has to. Moreover, if Palmgren had still been alive (as Lisbeth thought he was dead after his stroke in the books), she would very possibly have gone to him for help as she thought of him like a father. The entire rest of the book makes no sense with Palmgren still an active player.
• She tames Lisbeth down. Instead of her laptop being broken by a mugger whom Lisbeth then chases and attacks back, she gets knocked down by an old lady in the street and the laptop falls in a puddle. She also has Lisbeth nominally socially functional with people she interacts with, giving Plague social advice, actually exchanging words with Bjurman . . .
• When she's on the phone with Bjurman asking for money to replace the laptop, she starts crying, and a black mascara tear streams down her face. This is incredibly out of character. Lisbeth is stoic and badass and does what needs to be done. She doesn't stand out in the snow crying and feeling sorry for herself.
• She then goes grovelling for money from Plague, Mimmi, and Armansky. Again, not something Lisbeth would do.
• Mina skips straight over the BJ in the office and jumps right to Bjurman raping Lisbeth in his apartment. This takes all the agency away from Lisbeth's decision to tape her encounter with him, and if it does turn out that she caught it on tape, that doesn't even make any sense.
• Even in the middle of the brutal rape scene, Mina manages to make Bjurman less despicable by having him treat the rape like he thought Lisbeth wanted him, instead of the real motivation, which was he just liked taking advantage of her, assuming she was mentally challenged. She also makes him seem like a crappy D-movie villain, making him say things like "Are you read to party, gorgeous. Because I like to part-ay." I mean, what the fuck?
• The whole reason the Bjurman/Salander dynamic is so terrifying and frustrating in the novel is that Lisbeth is utterly at his mercy in terms of power, and Mina completely undercuts that dynamic, turning it into one of sexploitation instead.
• Lisbeth would never say things like, "Say hello to my little friend." Seriously? She does not do quippy. Did you even read the source material, lady?
• Mikael's sections are just boring.
That's not to say Mina didn't get some things right, but all in all, this is a pretty poor adaptation of a much loved story. If I had been a first-time reader, I'm not even sure I would have understood what was going on. Or if I did, cared at all. The bones of the story are all there, she just takes all the goodness out of it. My advice: don't bother.(less)
I could spend a long time whaling on this book. A long, long time. But I really don’t feel like ranting right now. So I’m going to try and keep this r...moreI could spend a long time whaling on this book. A long, long time. But I really don’t feel like ranting right now. So I’m going to try and keep this relatively short.
I read the first book in this series last year, and while I definitely thought it was underdeveloped, poorly structured, had half-baked dialogue, and characters barely past the cardboard cutout phase, it was still weirdly readable, mostly because of its whacked out pseudo-Bachelor plot. Let me explain.
The world of The Selection is supposedly a ‘dystopian’ young adult romance set in the distant future where a monarchy rules what was once America, and the population is split into castes, from 1-8, each caste responsible for different types of occupations. Our main character is America Singer (Yes, really), and in the first book she was chosen as one of thirty-five young women who the prince will choose from in a televised competition to be his future Queen. And of course America made it past the first round/book and is now one of The Elite, the final seven in the competition. This seemed like a potential goldmine of ridiculous cracky fiction. Like, with that premise, there’s no way it was ever going to be anything but ridiculous . . . except Cass writes it like she wants it to be the opposite. Like we should take a world seriously where China supposedly overthrew America because of debt.
It seems obvious to me what happened with this: Cass thought of a premise for a book series that publishers and book buyers couldn’t deny was attention grabbing, but couldn’t pull off the execution of it. It’s like she couldn’t make up her mind what she wanted her books to be about so she half-assed all of it instead of committing and fully doing just one thing. Her characters perform in governmental and social systems that have no basis in reality. One second, America is like I LOVE ASPEN! (her ex-boyfriend who is now a palace guard), and the next she’s like I LOVE MAXON!!! (the prince). And literally almost the entire plot is made up of that back and forth and back and forth. Not only is it staggeringly unoriginal, it’s actually boring, which is probably the worst sin a book can commit.
The parts that don’t involve the world’s worst love triangle are completely underdeveloped, the most egregious of these being the part where America learns tragic secrets about her country and how the monarchy got founded, but Cass barely spends time on it, which makes it come off as even more unbelievable than it was going to be anyway. And then there’s the competition itself, which is basically a joke and almost entirely wastes the potential of its concept. America and the other contestants are stuck with these really weird tasks that make me feel like Cass has absolutely no idea what running a government actually looks like. America has to throw a diplomatic brunch? Or she’ll be kicked out? What? And don’t even get me started on the “rebels.”
I feel like I should give you examples but a) I returned the book to the library, b) I finished it like three weeks ago and I can’t remember all the details, and c) I feel like it’s more important that I devote my energies to sitting on the couch all day watching Orange is the New Black. Anyway, don’t bother with this series. It’s not even the good kind of bad.(less)
When I was nine years old, I wrote a story called "The Two Trees," which in addition to being basically plagiarized from a number of sources (most not...moreWhen I was nine years old, I wrote a story called "The Two Trees," which in addition to being basically plagiarized from a number of sources (most notably The Ordinary Princess, but also a smidge here and there from Aladdin the film and The Farthest-Away Mountain), was obviously written by a nine year old. Like, if you would have picked it up and read it completely out of context and then somebody asked you to list off three things that described it, the list would look something like this:
1. Princesses are neat, 2. Good handwriting, 3. Obviously written by a nine year old.
Unfortunately, Tiger's Curse reads like it could fit all three of those descriptors, too. Publishing is in a really sad state if someone who writes like I did at nine years of age can get published, when so many really talented authors receive rejection letter after rejection letter. If the industry was working the way it's supposed to, this book never would have made it to print.
You guys know I mean business because this is a one star review, and I NEVER do that. Pretty much if a book is even halfway competently written and I enjoy myself while reading it, it gets four stars. It's really not that hard to get four stars from me, even three if I can appreciate what an author has done, but it's just not my thing. Two stars is usually reserved for things that I'm morally opposed to or repulsed by (i.e. the anti-feminist awfulness of New Moon). But one star? One star means something went wrong on the chain of command. One star means this book never should have seen the light of day.
Let me be clear here: I don't have anything against Ms. Houck as a person. I'm sure she deserves wonderful things. She's a very nice woman. I know this because I met her, and she signed my book. This is actually why I bought the thing in the first place. She happened to be at my Barnes & Noble doing a signing, and I just happened to win a free t-shirt* in a raffle, so I thought what the hey, let's get a signed copy, you'll probably love this, you big sap. I certainly didn't anticipate having the reaction that I did. Because let me tell you something: this book is worse than Twilight on just about every level**, and that is not an exaggeration. In terms of characterization, description, plot development, pacing, and my God, dialogue, Twilight looks like Shakespeare in comparison to Tiger's Curse.
I mean, where to start with this book? I had such high mediocre hopes. The plot--eighteen year old American falls in love with an Indian prince who's cursed into the form of a tiger--sounded suitably ridiculous, and I appreciated that it was set in India, and that there were no vampires in it***. From there, it went downhill fast: The book has no overt structure, scenes do not flow one into the other with any kind of purpose, and there is no regard whatsoever for what I'm going to call "depth of time," for lack of a better term -- events in the novel just happen one after another, because the author needed them to, not because they fit organically in with the story. One minute something is happening, and the next, something else, with no connection in between. All of the characters come off as shallow and two-dimensional. We hear what they're thinking very literally, but we never feel it. (This is how I know my issue with this book is the writing, and not the story: good writers are supposed to make you forget you're reading.) Our main character Kelsey is emblematic of everything that is wrong with this book. Ms. Houck seems to think that telling us what color ribbon she ties in her braid every morning is riveting, character-telling stuff. But it just comes off as immature. What eighteen year old ties colored ribbons on the end of a braid? More importantly, what narrative would ever think that was important? But the biggest problem with Kelsey is that she comes off as incredibly stupid, when she's not supposed to. She travels to India with a man she's just met, she gets incredibly close to a dangerous wild animal with almost no narrative justification, and her decision making skills when it comes to prince-in-disguise Ren are non-existent****.
I think it's important to note that I'm 100% positive that Ms. Houck did not mean for her characters or her story to come off this way. Unlike Stephenie Meyer--who Ms. Houck not coincidentally lists as an influence--Ms. Houck has no agenda to push, and her characters are attempting to stand for something important. I can tell that she wants Kelsey to be viewed as a strong, independent young woman. She just has no conception of how to WRITE her that way. Or write at all, really. Reading Tiger's Curse, I was actually BORED, and there was some crazy shit going down. It was like reading a bad fanfic. Description, inner monologue, dialogue, all of it: flat. Immature. Just plain bad writing. I don't know of any other way to convey this without sounding like an asshole.
So how did this book get published in the first place? Ms. Houck self-published it as an e-book on Amazon, and enough brain-dead pre-teens downloaded it to draw the attention of movie studios, at which point Barnes & Noble's new YA imprint, Splinter, bought the rights to what they obviously perceived as their chance at the next Twilight, the next Hunger Games. And to that I say, good luck to you, but you know what might actually be a good idea? Publishing someone who can actually write. Also, stop trying to find the next "_____". FIND SOMETHING ORIGINAL AND GOOD AND PUBLISH THAT INSTEAD.
There is no next Hunger Games. Publishers aren't even going to see that next thing coming, and when it does, they're going to copy the hell out of it, too, because it's easier, less risky financially, than taking a chance on something that might actually be good. At least Tiger's Curse, as poorly written as it was, was attempting to be original (as original as the teen supernatural romance genre can be, anyway). There's a lot of good information about Indian culture in here; Ms. Houck clearly did her homework. However, her characters spout it off at the most awful moments. It's never organic -- hello, Expositionville, Expositiontown, located in Exposition-nation. And that's really the biggest problem the book has. It's all concept, but no follow through. Don't even bother trying to read this for kicks, like I did with Twilight. It's not that kind of bad. Don't believe me? Pick up the book at random and turn to a page, any page at all. Chances are, you'll see what I mean.*****
- - -
*So I won this t-shirt, and I was like YES. FREE T-SHIRT. And when I went to claim my prize, Ms. Houck asked me which t-shirt I would like: the one with one tiger, or the one with two, and OBVIOUSLY I picked the one with TWO TIGERS, because why would you have a shirt with just one tiger on it, when you could have a t-shirt with TWO TIGERS instead? No brainer. **No fictional character will ever do as much harm to the cognitive development and cultural landscape of teenage girls as Bella Swann has in the past five years. If this book had been well-written, Kelsey would probably whip Bella's ass five times in a row. As is, she's nothing more than an empty, shallowly disguised author stand-in. ***Unless you count kappas. ****Let's play a game called PREDICT WHAT HAPPENS IN THE NEXT FOUR BOOKS: 1) Each book will involve finding one item to break the curse, 2) Kelsey will become confused and fall "in love" with Ren's brother, Kishan, and Ms. Houck will spend multiple books with her puzzling her way out of this "dilemma," 3) Ren will become either insanely jealous and fight with his brother, or nobly fall on his sword to give his lady love what she wants, or both, 4) Somebody will be coincidentally related to somebody else, 5) Kelsey will coincidentally be the reincarnation of somebody we've heard about, or at least be related to them, 6) Kelsey will save the day, 7) Ren and Kelsey will get together and live happily ever after. See? You don't even need to read the rest of the books. Ten bucks says I'm right on this. *****I feel bad about this review, but I really needed to say it. I'm incredibly frustrated that some editor didn't sit down with Ms. Houck and try to help her salvage something out of this, because I really think it could have been a great story in the right hands.(less)
The most poorly written, ego-maniacal, self-important, masturbatory piece of shit that I have ever read. Horkheimer and Adorno? If you were alive, I w...moreThe most poorly written, ego-maniacal, self-important, masturbatory piece of shit that I have ever read. Horkheimer and Adorno? If you were alive, I would punch you both in the testicles.(less)
There were about five sentences worth of brilliance in the entire book, but they are hidden neck deep in a muggy mosquito...moreEven worse than I remembered.
There were about five sentences worth of brilliance in the entire book, but they are hidden neck deep in a muggy mosquito filled bog of awfulness. Please, take my word for it, stay far, far away from this book.(less)
Probably the only reason I gave this book two stars is because of the David Duchovny song. Without this book, Bree Sharp could have never written that...moreProbably the only reason I gave this book two stars is because of the David Duchovny song. Without this book, Bree Sharp could have never written that immortal lyric: "David Duchovny, hovering above me, American Heathcliff, brooding and comely."
Bella is stupider, Edward is still gorgeous, but way more controlling, and Jacob is better than all of them. So, of course Bella is still helplessly a...moreBella is stupider, Edward is still gorgeous, but way more controlling, and Jacob is better than all of them. So, of course Bella is still helplessly and brainlessly in love with Edward and breaks Jacob's heart at the first chance. It's a mess, but I'm still addicted. Two stars this time, though. The novelty's worn off.(less)
Let me just say something: this is the only Maguire I've ever finished, and I've tried all of them. The only reason I finished this one is because of...moreLet me just say something: this is the only Maguire I've ever finished, and I've tried all of them. The only reason I finished this one is because of my love of the musical, and sheer force of stubborn will.
I loathe Gregory Maguire. As an author. And maybe as a person, if you are equating a person's writings with their soul, which I do. He takes all the fun out of fairy tales, instead turning them into boring creepy horrible snobbishness. True story: the only author that can make creepy things boring.
If you know me at all, you know I tend to find the best in every book I read and that I tend to LOVE things easily. This book had such potential, and I was SO excited about it, and just BLERG. Boo, booo, boooooo.(less)