These books are silly. They're candy. Alexia remains feisty (and I love seeing her run around town kicking ass and solving problems while hugely pregn...moreThese books are silly. They're candy. Alexia remains feisty (and I love seeing her run around town kicking ass and solving problems while hugely pregnant), Carriger's narrative voice is entertaining, and the supernatural/preternatural drama of the series is still interesting enough. I do find that I don't really care about the plot all that much, though, and if not in the right mood, the books can easily become irritating instead of amusing. Knowing that, I can save them for when I am in that right mood and enjoy them then. Just like candy, too much is not a good thing and it can't replace a solid meal, but I do like candy.(less)
Well, it's better than Twilight, but that's not saying much. I mostly just found it either boring or annoying. I am not feeling up to writing a cohesi...moreWell, it's better than Twilight, but that's not saying much. I mostly just found it either boring or annoying. I am not feeling up to writing a cohesive review, but I did take some notes while I was reading, so I'll share those.
A. There is just enough about this book that doesn’t make sense:
1. Kenny G - A vampire who has lived since the mid-19th century, traveled the world, and had so much good music to listen to chooses to listen to Kenny G? That's just ridiculous.
2. Everyone believes this virus theory (that vampires aren't really monsters but victims of a virus that makes them seem dead for a while and then leaves them with an allergy to sunlight, garlic, etc.), but they also readily accept the fact that the vampires live for hundreds of years. When Sookie finally realizes that the virus thing is bullshit, she is shocked, upset, and even vomits (252). I’m sorry, but how stupid is she? Shouldn't she have thought about this before? I mean, this is after she's been having vampire sex for a while.
3. “Autopsy reports from the three victims finally proved they had their full complement of blood when they were killed” (186). This is what decided everyone that vampires couldn't have killed the murder victims in the book. This just seems sloppy. If the vampires were going to suck them dry, that would be obvious without measuring their blood; if they were just going to have a taste, then it seems like that would be hard to tell. Blood volume per person is not a precise thing (as far as I understand it - please let me know if you have more information about this point) and these people did fight back and bleed in the process, so was that lost blood counted, too? Also, they died from strangulation and had been voluntarily vampire-bitten in the past, so what difference does this even make? This is just not good mystery-writing.
B. I hate the narrative voice. Sookie just isn’t very smart – or interesting. She complains about having to listen to other people’s boring thoughts, but that’s just what the reader experiences with her first person narration. It’s not thoughtful or clever or funny; it’s just there. What's more, the voice shifts pretty dramatically sometimes - almost like Harris has a different sense of Sookie's voice for the different genres she's attempting to bring together. Sometimes she's wry and sorta funny, sometimes matter-of-fact, sometimes poetic (in the way that romance novels do poetic), and I find it really distracting when the voice shifts dramatically from one to the other, as in this instance when Sookie is describing having sex with Bill while sucking his blood:
“Bill made a noise deep in his chest and convulsed inside me. I raised my head from his neck, and a wave of dark delight carried me out to sea. This was pretty exotic stuff for a telepathic barmaid from northern Louisiana” (197).
And, I'm sorry, this kind of thing is just ridiculous: “The pain made its way out through my eyes in the form of tears” (223). Just say "I cried" and be done with it.
C. Also, the novel involves a pet being killed – a pet who is no more than a pawn in this stupid plot. The cat, Tina, is mentioned maybe once early in the book when Bill notices it:
“You like this animal?” her asked, his voice neutral. “It’s my cat,” I said. “Her name is Tina, and I like her a lot” (48).
And so of course, nearly 200 pages later, the cat shows up again – dead. The dialogue and situation in the introduction of the cat is so awkward and pointless that it is clear something has to happen to the cat. It’s also clear, however, that this cat’s death is supposed to be meaningful just because since the cat isn’t really a part of Sookie’s life as we see it and the cat’s little impromptu backyard funeral is rushed through and then quickly forgotten about. It’s just sloppy and ineffective shorthand for “now things are getting more dangerous.” Although how this is more frightening than her grandmother’s murder and nearly being killed by a vampire I don’t know.
D. The mixture of genres (paranormal, mystery, romance) just really didn’t work for me here. The mystery wasn’t very compelling and there was very little effort put forth to solve it. I mean, it was solved because Sookie managed not to get killed in the end, not because of any special effort on anyone’s part. The romance was off and on – sometimes Bill and Sookie’s relationship was center stage, sometimes it was almost maybe perhaps in the future complicated by Sam’s presence, and sometimes none of that was really there at all. And the paranormal elements – vampires, shapeshifters, telepathy – were mostly either fairly deep background and taken really for granted or explained over and over again instead of being developed further. It doesn't seem like Harris was ever really sure how these elements were supposed to come together or what kind of book she was writing.
I know others have had interesting things to say about the use of locale and social class in this book, but I just couldn't get past these irritations to be able to say anything thoughtful about those elements - though I definitely think they're worth noting.
Despite the overwhelming negativity of this review, it's not a horrible book. It's just not very good. It's an interesting combination of ideas that is sloppily executed. (less)
I'm torn between two and three stars on this. Ultimately, this book primarily functioned to make me want to go back and re-read Jane Eyre (a far super...moreI'm torn between two and three stars on this. Ultimately, this book primarily functioned to make me want to go back and re-read Jane Eyre (a far superior book). I got a couple of very brief snortlaughs out of Jane Slayre, but there wasn't nearly enough meat to the additions to make this worth reading and, in the meantime, the heart of the original text - the relationship between Jane and Mr. Rochester, Jane's internal drama, etc. - is either missing or seriously weakened in the update.
It is interesting to compare the characterization of the two Janes and the two Rochesters as artifacts of the ways cultural expectations and ideals have shifted since the 1840s. It's just not more than 2.5 stars interesting. (less)
This is somewhere between three and four stars for me. It is definitely worth four stars for the first 250 pages, which were compelling and gripping a...moreThis is somewhere between three and four stars for me. It is definitely worth four stars for the first 250 pages, which were compelling and gripping and had me racing through them at a bar while I waited for friends. The rest of the book is not bad but somehow lacks that sense of urgency--even though that's the post-monster-escape part and one would think that the constant threat of being killed by virals (aka lab-created vampires) would lend a sense of urgency. I found myself skimming bits of it, which is not a good sign. So, I guess I'd say that while the first 250 pages are 4 star material, the other 550 vacillate between 2 and 3 star material, only very occasionally edging up toward that fourth star again.
As many have already said, this is a good book that could be better if it were simply shorter. Less running around, perhaps. Fewer characters (who are clearly meant to be memorable but I don't recognize when they show up again a few hundred pages later). Fewer dream sequences. I will certainly be interested in reading the rest of the series, but I do hope they're not quite this massive.
Finally, this is terribly nitpicky and really the job of the editorial staff to ultimately correct, I guess, but "wretch" and "retch" = two different words. Someone needs to figure that out or stop trying to use those words. People were "wretching" a lot and every time it happened it knocked me right out of the story. (Also, "creek" / "creak" and even, once, "taking" / "talking.") I know there are a lot of words in there, but, seriously, all of them need to be spelled correctly. (less)
**spoiler alert** I read Stephenie Meyer's Twilight and Breaking Dawn a few weeks ago but haven't been able to bring myself to actually write a review...more**spoiler alert** I read Stephenie Meyer's Twilight and Breaking Dawn a few weeks ago but haven't been able to bring myself to actually write a review of Breaking Dawn until now. It has taken me some time to overcome my dread of re-visiting the book enough to write about it, come to grips with the awfulness of the book, and begin to recover from the experience of reading all 754 pages of it.
Breaking Dawn is most certainly one of the worst books I have ever read. The only book that has ever equaled it in terms of making me feel disgusted and dead inside while reading was Bret Easton Ellis's American Psycho--but in that case, the effect was intentional and artfully constructed. Breaking Dawn is disturbing for an entirely different set of reasons, one of which is its complete lack of either skill or redeeming factors. It is not redeemed by an incisive sociopolitical critique (like American Psycho) nor is it redeemed by the unintentional humor that pervades Twilight. Breaking Dawn is, even though much more actually happens here than in Twilight, a thoroughly dull book.
Where a skilled writer's ability might approximate a chisel (or some other tool capable of fine, detailed work)--able to create unique and significant details to identify and enrich characters and to guide the reader through narrative developments without flashing every plot development a hundred pages in advance--Meyer's writing ability approximates the delicacy and complexity of a sledgehammer. The characters lack any kind of human complexity and the plot is utterly, utterly predictable. Cory didn't even read any of the books, just listened to my frustrated summaries as I read, and he was able to predict several major plot "twists" in advance. In Twilight, perhaps Meyer's instrument was smaller if still blunt, an instrument that allowed for the occasional odd or funny moment; Breaking Dawn clearly represents a move to a larger instrument, however. Perhaps, through some manipulation of time and space, she used a copy of her own monstrous book to beat the story into its blunt, awkward, and unwieldy shape.
Or perhaps she just sucks.
In lieu of an organized review of the details of Breaking Dawn, this will be a rant in list form. Here are some of the things that I hated about the book.
1. One of the features of the werewolves in the book is that they imprint on a person and fall completely, irreversibly in love with that person, no matter who they are or how old they are. Some grown werewolves imprint on children and then proceed to just hang out with them (like babysitters), waiting for them to be old enough to get involved with romantically. Creepy much?
2. Edward and Bella finally have sex. To this I have two objections. The first is that Meyer is a tease. She has led us on for three gigantic, horribly written books, waiting and waiting for them to get married so they can go ahead and get it on. And then when they're finally married, honeymooning, and they have sex, Meyer doesn't describe it. I suppose I can understand her not wanting to turn a series for young adult readers into erotica, but she could've given us something. The second is related to the violence of the consummation of their relationship. Because Edward is a vampire (superstrength and all) and Bella is still human, he practically breaks her during sex. She awakens the next day bruised all over. The only way he was able to avoid killing her was by tearing apart the bed instead. Their responses are telling: Bella continues to not be concerned about her own physical safety and wants to do it again; Edward simply avoids it and refuses to have sex with his bride, even though she wants it.
3. Bella gets pregnant with a monster baby, immediately falls in love with it, and won't let the vampires help her or get rid of it because she knows it. At this point, the book becomes a very weird statement on pregnancy. Even when it's dangerous and life-threatening, the narrative seems to say, motherhood and maternal feelings trump all. The mother's safety matters not all compared to the sanctity of the life inside her, no matter how small or how monstrous.
When you loved the one who was killing you, it left you no options. How could you run, how could you fight, when doing so would hurt that beloved one? If your life was all you had to give your beloved, how could you not give it? If it was someone you truly loved?
This quote from the preface illustrates pretty clearly the book's position on Bella's relationship with both Edward and her child. Her love for them is so soul-encompassing and all-consuming that her own well-being, her own life, matters not at all. Now, I'm not a parent, so I will not presume to speak on the subject of the protective love a parent feels for his or her child, but to attach this kind of self-denying love to a fetus (which Bella does) is, I think, taking it too far.
4. Bella finally becomes a vampire. As it turns out, this solves all of her problems. Instead of dealing with the change in a complex way, focusing on what she has to give up or the pains of adjustment, she turns out to be awesome at being a vampire, leading the reader to wonder why we shouldn't all want to be vampires. She's not glittery and beautiful like the rest of them, she has superstrength and speed, she can see so much more clearly how beautiful Edward is, and the sex is incredible. Plus, as a vampire, she is totally able to save the day at the end of the book when the bad vampires come to kill her family.
5. There is plenty more of Bella being googly over Edward. Before she figures out what her special vampire power is, she even thinks to herself that maybe her power is to love Edward more than anyone else could, ever ever ever! And she thinks that's okay. ::barf::
6. As for the big showdown at the end of the book, can anyone say anticlimactic? It takes forever to lead up to, with way too much attention paid to intervampiric politics, and then when it finally arrives, it's mostly a bunch of vampires standing around talking at each other for a really long time, followed by . . . nothing. Bella is able to effectively protect her vampires and werewolves and so the bad vampires just go away. No fighting. No killing. Everyone lives happily ever after. Boring! I was really ready to see someone die at this point. Preferably Edward or Bella. Instead, I get this conclusion:
And then we continued blissfully into this small but perfect piece of our forever.
I guess if you like the characters, this is a good ending, but I thought the characters were flat, vapid, and quite frequently disturbing. They would've benefitted from a death or two in the family.(less)
**spoiler alert** After hearing so much hype about these books, I figured I'd use part of my holiday break to indulge my curiosity and see what all th...more**spoiler alert** After hearing so much hype about these books, I figured I'd use part of my holiday break to indulge my curiosity and see what all the fuss was about. I still have no idea why people like these books.
Twilight is a teen romance about a klutzy human girl who falls in love with a sparkly vampire (in the sunlight, "his skin . . . literally sparkled, like thousands of tiny diamonds were embedded in the surface"). She's 17 and he's nearly 100, but that's not a problem because, of course, love conquers all. He could kill her in any number of ways at any moment and is frequently tempted to do so by the smell of her human blood, but, again, that doesn't matter because love conquers all. They're both insufferably shallow and stupid but we're not supposed to care because they're in love and, yes, love conquers all--even when this love is based only how amazingly good-looking Edward is or on how amazingly good Bella smells.
Here's the book in a nutshell: Bella doesn't fit in. Edward is good-looking. They are drawn to each other. He saves her life. He tries to warn her about how dangerous he is and she refuses to believe him. He saves her life. He warns her about him and she dismisses his warnings. They kiss. Vampire baseball (seriously). More warnings and dismissals. He saves her life again. They go to prom and are happy together. It's repetitive, predictable, and trite. I've read fantasy and I've read romance novels and this somehow manages to combine the worst of both genres.
What's more, there are some seriously creepy things going on here. It is creepy that at no point is the appropriateness of a romantic relationship between a 17-year-old and a 90- or 100-year-old questioned. Edward may look 17 like Bella, but he has been alive since the beginning of the 20th century. And he's hanging out at a high school flirting with teenagers (or at least the one). Creepy! Plus, he can't read Bella's mind like he can everyone else's, but he still manages to follow her and keep track of her at all times by reading others' minds. This is ostensibly for her own protection, but it's also creepy, stalkerish behavior, behavior that is justified as romantic in this context. Add to this the fact that he watches her sleep every night (as a vampire he doesn't sleep, so what else is he supposed to do?) without her knowledge and frequently responds to her disagreeing with him by telling her to stop being difficult or silly and we have the beginnings of a controlling and abusive relationship here, not the beginning of a great love. At one point, she tells him that he wouldn't want to know everything she was thinking and his response is typically creepy:
"I do want to know what you're thinking--everything. I just wish . . . that you wouldn't be thinking some things."
This reveals a desire for total control as well as some serious boundary issues--both of which are things I would run screaming from if I encountered them in real life. I would certainly not find them romantic.
I can say only two positive things about Twilight: 1) the writing is at times so bad that it's funny; 2) it's not as mind-meltingly horrible as Breaking Dawn.
Wait. Those aren't really positive. Oh well.
Here, for your edification, are some samples of the writing style of Meyer's novel, chosen based on how hard they made me laugh:
"I couldn't feel anything but despair until I pulled into the familiar parking lot behind Forks High School and spotted Edward leaning motionlessly against his polished silver Volvo, like a marble tribute to some forgotten pagan god of beauty." (Okay, so this is actually from the teaser chapter for New Moon, but it's such a great example of her style I had to include it.)
"A howl of rage strangled on the angel's lips."
"Then he slumped forward, into a crouch I recognized, and his pleasant smile slowly widened, grew, till it wasn't a smile at all but a contortion of teeth, exposed and glistening."
"For almost ninety years I've walked among my kind, and yours . . . all the time thinking I was complete in myself, not realizing what I was seeking. And not finding anything, because you weren't alive yet."
"...the fabric clung to his perfectly muscled chest. It was a colossal tribute to his face that it kept my eyes away from his body."
It may be unfair to put this last bit forth as a criticism of the book when I haven't written a book myself, but I really do feel like if I were willing to put in the hours it would take to simply sit down and put words on paper, I could write a book at least this well-written, likely with better pacing and characters. At quite a few points during the book, I recognized my high school writing style in Meyer's overwrought prose and inability to determine what details are important and which are just in the way.(less)
I don't normally enjoy vampire tales; I Am Legend is a striking exception. The book is less about the horror of the creatures themselves and their mon...moreI don't normally enjoy vampire tales; I Am Legend is a striking exception. The book is less about the horror of the creatures themselves and their monstrous acts, less about the escape from them, than it is about the personal struggles of the protagonist, Robert Neville, and the broader forces--cultural and biological--that create monsters like the vampire. The book is about despair, fear of difference, and the birth of hatred and of legends.
On a related note, I am curious to see how the inner focus and thoughtful speculation of the book will translate into a Will Smith movie, but my hopes are not high.(less)