I really, really wanted to like this book. Before I get virtually assaulted by all those out there that loved this - please know that my review of theI really, really wanted to like this book. Before I get virtually assaulted by all those out there that loved this - please know that my review of the book has zero, yes ZERO, correlation to the politics of the war or my thoughts on Chris Kyle the Navy SEAL. I think, regardless of his politics or the politics of the War, he was willing to lay his life down for his fellow soldiers (I am using the term to generically refer to all military personnel) and all Americans and for that he should be respected, supported and honored. Each and every member of the US military, fighting for the rest of us, is a hero to me. And I am happy to tell them that every chance I get (and wish there were better ways to show them too).
Instead, what I am saying is that for a book that had two other "writers" helping, this was an awfully written book. It was so hard to read. It was choppy, filled with terrible grammar, run-on sentences, time-lines that were hard to follow, inconsistent levels of description (and I don't mean that he went light on details that might be classified - that's totally ok with me; what I mean is that it was hard to paint mental pictures because in some cases I get so many details the story he is telling gets bogged down while in others, he might as well have just said "I went to Iraq and killed people. The end.") especially with respect to the settings. The picture could have been painted so I pictured more of what a town looked like, even in general terms, but sometimes we got that and sometimes we didn't. Oh and did I mention the atrocious grammar and the resulting writing style?
I wasn't expecting Pulitzer Prize winning stuff. It was an autobiography. But when I realized that there were two other's credited, one of which has written a fair amount of other stuff, I expected more. They should have done so much more, they could have done so much more, to make this more readable. The repetitive nature of some of the little details left me wondering on more than one occasion if I lost my place and was rereading something by accident. I was so disappointed, it was a long read. I really wish that the writers who were assisting Chris had done more to make this something that was written better.
I am not going to comment on the story, per se, because it's not fiction. So there isn't really much to critique from a story development perspective. Sure, we could hash things out over story choice a little. Or we could criticize the amount of detail in some of the stories. But in the end, it was his story to tell and I was left with a profound sense of sadness knowing that someone who sacrificed so much for his country and fellow soldiers won't be around to watch his children grown up.
What I will note is that the book made me angry. Again, not because he was a little prejudiced (so many people are and I am sure being in the War, seeing all that he saw and experiencing all that he experienced probably lead to him making some of the broad categorizations of those he was fighting - never having been through what he went through I refuse to judge him for those comments or choices of words) and certainly not because he believed in following orders, doing his job and protecting fellow soldiers. And it wasn't that it is propaganda (don't get me wrong, propaganda is a part of politics but I don't fault the book for that because it was propaganda written by a soldier telling his story and if that is propaganda to folks, then so be it). No, I was angry because I saw the movie then read the book. And I was left wondering why oh why did Hollywood butcher the story? Was he not heroic enough? Was his willingness to give his life for fellow soldiers not enough to honor? Why did Hollywood need to craft such a different story and change so many major details? I am truly disappointed. Comparing fiction like Divergent to its movie is one thing. I can hate the adaptation but when all is said and done they are still both works of fiction. From the American Sniper official movie site: "From director Clint Eastwood comes “American Sniper,” starring Bradley Cooper as Chris Kyle, whose skills as a sniper made him a hero on the battlefield. But there was much more to him than his skill as a sharpshooter...Oscar-winning filmmaker Clint Eastwood (“Million Dollar Baby,” “Unforgiven”) directed “American Sniper” from a screenplay written by Jason Hall, based on the book by Chris Kyle, with Scott McEwen and Jim DeFelice. The autobiography was a runaway bestseller, spending 18 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, 13 of those at number one." Ok - it doesn't exactly explicitly say "the true story of Chris Kyle". But the tag line, "The most lethal sniper in U.S. History" and all the press certainly implies that it was closer to real than fiction. And for one of the review lines that the site is touting to be "Clint Eastwood has realized the full potential of thais riveting story"... well, I expected the book to mirror the movie. And I am not mad at the book - as that was the true story. Instead, I feel cheated out of the additional wonders that could have been on screen had the movie stuck to the book better.
The thing that I think this book did do well was show how important soldiers are to one another. It helped explain some of the brotherhood that comes from being on a battlefield together. It also put me through a range of emotions as I read about all the things he saw and was a part of. I think that a movie deserved to be made out of this story - but I wish it was actually of this story. And I wish the story was written better. Because it was better than what was written here.
This installment was… frustrating. Yes, that’s probably the best description for about three-quarters of this Dulcie adventure. Downright stupid fitsThis installment was… frustrating. Yes, that’s probably the best description for about three-quarters of this Dulcie adventure. Downright stupid fits not quite the other quarter. Because there is a dash of revolting thrown in that absolutely must be accounted for. Revolting. Yes, that is correct. You aren’t reading a typo or a misstatement. But I will get to that in a few.
First, the frustrating. The bad writing is starting to surface. I am not paying attention to things like the active vs passive voice switches, the run-on sentences, the bad grammar (because while bad, it feels like natural speech versus a well written book so it actually, to me, reads ok if I think of these as little plays in my mind and all the words are just part of a natural conversation). No, I am talking about the characters. Dulcie seemed like a pretty cool girl in the first book. And she was even better in the second. The third book didn’t add to her coolness factor, but it didn’t detract either. This one, however? Oh my goodness is she a blubbering idiot. She is delusional, whiny, self-contradictory (at one point she thinks that she never gave up fighting to get out of her situation, but caving to each and every demand and command isn’t exactly fighting) and she becomes so irritating. Not to mention the story itself – her lies and that Knight knew but was lying too and all the manufactured drama/stress because both characters are liars… well, I can only take so much of that internal struggle from our “heroine” before it gets old. Really, really old. Like ancient Babylonian times, Noah’s Ark kind of old.
The stupid. Dulcie went from being a pretty with-it law enforcement agent to a complete moron. Zero to stupid in less than 10 seconds, flat. The Flash has nothing on her. That’s not great character development. That’s exactly the opposite of what I want to read. Had she started out a walking talking potato it would be one thing. But she is supposed to be this kick-ass regulator and she was smart enough to eventually figure out the deal with Quill in the first book. While here, Johhny Bravo is an Einstein in comparison. When characters don’t learn from their mistakes, it can be frustrating. When they are as idiotic as Dulcie is in the book… stupid is too smart. How can she not think of any options - none, zero, zilch. I thought of 15 within seconds and I am really not all that creative. I know that there needs to be some sort of tension or obstacle, but we could have gotten to the same end point in a number of other, totally valid and less moronic ways. The character didn't need to become a walking lobotomy.
More stupid. The title. A play on Wuthering Heights, I get that. But where, oh where, is the relationship? Other than a play on the title just to play with the title. I was wondering this with the prior installments, but here it was too much to continue to ignore. There were also a number of book-to-book inconsistencies that I picked up here. For example, she had returned from the Netherworld a day after meeting her father, which was mere hours after being at Gabe's where she took a shower. But here, her return, she says she hadn't taken a shower in Hades knows how long. Ok, this isn't exactly plot risking inconsistency, but there were a fair number of them here and I wonder if the author and/or editor just fell asleep at the helm. Lazy and... you guessed it... stupid!
Even more stupid. While we needed to see how the “relationship” between Dulcie and her father was going to impact things – and they were for sure going to impact things – was there a race going on that someone failed to mention? The speed with which this story takes place, from Dulcie getting home to getting her job back to ending the way it did, remember the Flash? This element of the pace makes him look like a tortoise. A man who is supposed to have been a master criminal and all around tyrant for at least a hundred years can’t take a few days or weeks to give his new plant time to get settled and work through a workable solution? Tosh! Poor planning on the author’s part if you ask me.
Then Dulcie’s libido needs some help. Sure, in the PNR genre the libido is the elephant in the room and characters are often overcome by it, unable to silence their inner voice telling them how bad they want to jump bones and eventually the fail to control their urges, heating up pages (or chapters depending on how good the author is). And often, characters think the coupling isn’t smart (ok, always not just often – but this is where the couple’s struggle to be together, the he’s too good for me, I am too damaged, I can’t… comes from) and that tension or obstacle is necessary to the plot. When done right, it makes the steamy scenes steamier and the happy endings happier. When done right, the reader gets to sigh a sigh of relief that the characters have coupled and beaten what-ever was keeping them apart. But when done wrong, the characters are stupid, whiny, self-centered annoying reflections, with the emotional range of a teaspoon. But the teaspoon is Nicky Ferrante compared to Dulcie. While her libido puts Charlie Harper to shame – as absolutely all reason and any teeny tiny sense of intelligence disappears instantly every time Dulcie gets too close to Knight since she automatically stops thinking even semi-coherent thoughts about anything other than lust. Dulcie is the poster child for Lust. And it became really tedious and boring in this installment. Especially given the revolting - and unfortunately, her inability to do anything other than lust after Knight, while being self contradictory in the same thoughts doesn't appear solved even at the end of book 5.
The revolting. This was the worst part of this book. By far. The cliffhangers in this and the last book sucked. The fact that I idea I might get a slightly more sexy version of the cozy mystery was burst worse than on over-inflated balloon sucked. All of the stupidity and frustration noted above sucked. But what sucked the worst was **spoiler ahead** the scene towards the end between our 2 main characters – Knight, who I was really starting to like, and Idiot. Where they are fighting and he goes from being a good guy to a rapist. Yep. He does. Just like that. He is all over Dulcie, she is telling him no repeatedly, and he reads her body language and decides that she doesn’t mean no when she says it, she really means yes. So he forces himself on her. It doesn’t matter that she eventually says ok – it never should have gotten that far with these characters. I have read books with rape elements or scenes. And typically there is a reason for the scene. Here – I think the author just flipped her lid. And, the way the characters handled the situation subsequently, made me ill. I had to put the book down and re-read a number of times to make sure I really read what I thought I did. (Compounding this is the fact that in the following book, which I will review in the next few days, the author even does some victim shaming. That too was revolting.) And the larger lesson of it’s not the victim’s fault and no means no, no matter what (I counted 6 times she explicitly said no or stop or don’t do this and a number of others where she had that thought) and that rape isn’t the same as passionate sex (which is one of the explanations for the whole thing later) and that no man can read the mind or in this case body of another to change no to consent. Never mind that she eventually, begrudgingly, says she wants to have sex – since it is after he has already penetrated her. His response at one point to why he is forcing himself on her is “because I can.” WTF??? Let that sink in. Is my revulsion misplaced? The more I think about it, the more revolted I am. And the more disappointed in the author I am (especially after reading Malice in Wonderland, by the way… but I won’t spoil that one in this review).
This is NOT ok. Glossing over this by the characters, is NOT ok. Ending the book on this note, between these characters, is NOT ok. Turning the hero into a monster like this, for no apparent reason, is NOT ok.
So where do I stand? I definitely need to reclassify these from the mystery to the PNR. I am terribly disappointed that the individual mystery per book is not the way this series went and it took this ugly dark twisty turn. And I read book 5 (Malice in Wonderland). Not because I was really psyched to after the way 4 ended (and that is such a shame because I was really enjoying the series up until this point) but because I was curious as to how the author would handle things and I felt like I couldn’t let it end on such a sour note. We’ll talk about my disappointment and more of the frustrating and the stupid in the next Dulcie review.
I've said it before and I will say it again, books are like food in a lot of ways. The creator can possess all the requisite technical skills that wouI've said it before and I will say it again, books are like food in a lot of ways. The creator can possess all the requisite technical skills that would, in theory, make for a great creation but there is always room for failure because the creator is still human and can make mistakes. Or, the execution might also be flawless, and the consumer hates it because we each have our own personal tastes. This is true with food, music, art and yes, books. I sometimes gander at reviews by others when deciding what to read next. While I tend to take suggestions from friends or folks I know share my tastes more seriously, I sometimes just need some third-party sources. I knew I was going to read Great Hexpectations but when, and if I read something else first, was totally influenced by reading a few reviews of the books on the top of my "to-be-read" stacks (since I have a number of them). I realized when looking through the goodreads reviews that there is such a huge disparity out there when it came to this book and its quality. It has happened plenty of times: I totally fall for a book (or series) and others think it is less appetizing than Hilly finds Minnie's chocolate pie (if you've seen the movie, you know which pie I am talking about...). And it happens with books in all sorts of genres and those written by a range of authors - both established and new - critically acclaimed and not. Although critically acclaimed is also relative since critics too are people whose views are subjective and influenced by all sorts of things - so I don't put too much stock in "critically acclaimed" as a result. This book, of this series, struck me as a particularly good example of this duality - tons of 5 stars and tons of 1 stars. It was such a love-it-or-hate-it response.
For me, it was a solid 4 stars (remember, goodreads 4 means "really liked it"). Sure, it has some issues. But I am not reading F. Scott Fitzgerald. It was entertaining, fun, cute, a little steamy and filled with lots of the things I like when reading. Not to mention, it did the job. It was an escape from the day-to-day of reality. As a lawyer by day, mother by day and night, martial artist/instructor by hobby, there is so much seriousness in my life already. I often find my colleagues look down at my reading choices because they aren't haughty enough. You know, I am not reading the so-and-so non-fiction NY Times #1 book about the most depressing human rights whatever.... zzzzzzzzzzzz....... I read enough big words in my day job. I handle enough serious issues every day at work that when I read, I want to escape reality and laugh and smile and not have to think too hard or much about what I have just read. Great Hexpectations, like the first two Dulcie books, squarely fit that purpose. And I am enormously grateful for that.
This installment was "more serious" (relatively speaking) since there wasn't really much of a mystery to solve but we find Dulcie off to rescue Knight after he has disappeared. But it was still a cute little escape. I mean how serious can it really be when we are talking about a drunk goblin, a fairy who doesn't know how to use her wings, and a vampire that tries to get sex through a contract? It was nice to see Dulcie and Knight consummate their relationship - and admit to loving each other. And, it had a funny little twist at the end, with a hell of a cliffhanger. I am just glad that the next installments (books 5 and 6 anyway) are already published so I can pick them right up and I don't need to wait for what happens next. Yes, the twist/cliffhanger didn't require a CIA analyst to figure it out or predict it. But, it didn't feel like a sure thing either. Marvin's failure to blow up Earth with his Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator was a guaranteed. Everyone knows that Bugs will spoil his plans - we know that from the moment we first see Marvin. But the only thing I felt was as inevitable as Bug's saving of Earth was that Knight would someone end up freed. So, it was enough suspense for me to keep things interesting. My biggest issue with this one is the name. I followed and go the references in the first two installments. Here, "Great Hexpectations".... not so much. Anyone who knows the genesis of the title (besides what appears to be the author's attempt to use "Literature" titles and twist them for this series) or the explanation/relation to the story, please feel free to let me know. And that's a tiny issue. Regardless, me and my tastes are looking forward to Wuthering Frights.
Not a review - but a note. There was a little sex in this story. Wouldn't you know it - right after I go and declare that it fits more with a cozy since innuendo and threats is as much action as we actually see... the author goes and gives us two pretty good hook-up scenes. First is steamier than the second, but they are definitely there. And the mirror is definitely foggy after them. I may re-classify, I may not. We'll see after I finish the next one....more