**spoiler alert** I think this is the weakest Picoult book I've read so far - well, OK, Change of Heart didn't win a Pulitzer with me either. I go int**spoiler alert** I think this is the weakest Picoult book I've read so far - well, OK, Change of Heart didn't win a Pulitzer with me either. I go into one of her books expecting a certain amount of cheap romance and schmaltzy cliches, but I also expect both a real twist in the plot and a thought-provoking analysis on a current issue, but this one didn't really deliver.
Quick synopsis: the protagonist, having just come out of 8 months in jail for a statutory rape charge, shows up in a small town, and falls in love with the owner of the local diner. Then he is accused of raping another girl and the whole nightmare starts all over for him.
Pros: I love literary references and plot lines that are a commentary on other plots, so I really enjoyed the references to The Crucible, although I thought having it set in a town with a historic association to witch trials was laying it on a little thick. Another pro is certainly the fact that I raced through the book to get to the ending, but then I ended up feeling let down. I also like that Picoult left a certain amount of mystery about the supernatural in the book.
Cons: First, the unbelievable amount of sappy cliches, presumably meant to make the reader swoon in vicarious passion and pity. It felt like the romance parts of the novel were written by doing a search on the most popular cliches in trashy books, rather than out of any depth of understanding. And the corniness doesn't stop there - the author does everything possible to turn the protagonist into a naive Prince Charming, but ends up looking like a moronic Dudley Do-right. I was really hoping that he would turn out to be the rapist in the prior case, just to break the unrealistic and monotonous theme of "innocent man with the world against him". But of course, he and his lady love are perfect in every way. The author even goes into how he intellectually inspired all the inmates and managed to avoid being raped in jail. This is because he wouldn't be fantasy material for sentimentalists if he'd been homosexualized and degraded - but I think Picoult misses the opportunity to draw an intriguing parallel between a rape happening to him and being ascribed to him. It also makes the point that having enough dignity and personal strength will keep someone from being raped (wow, if only the victims in the book had known that).
The thing that really, really annoyed me was the fact that the "surprise" ending (that the victim is being molested by her father) is obvious from pretty early in the book, so I was just waiting for the satisfaction of seeing that revealed. Instead the book puts it in the very last paragraph and the molester goes unpunished. Presumably this is because the girl "deserves" what is happening to her (no effort is spared in making her out to be a spoiled, selfish and vindictive vixen - because of course, that's what teenagers from broken homes are when they act out). But the end message is that it's fine for the real crime to go unnoticed and unpunished - the important thing is that the two lovers are able to ride off into the sunset together....more
If I could take any book off the high-school curriculum, it would be this one. Look down on me all you want, but this is not "great American literaturIf I could take any book off the high-school curriculum, it would be this one. Look down on me all you want, but this is not "great American literature". Why?
1. It is as trite and cliche as most "coming-of-age" stories - I think we all got sick of those long before we hit our teens. This one doesn't even tackle the confusion of identity, sexuality, spirituality that most teen books cover. Let me put it this way: there are good books about racial issues, but if that's the only subject in the book, they become a one-trick pony.
2. The characters are one-sided caricatures who manage to stay the same from beginning to end.
3. Portraying the black defendant as a naive, simple, and innocent child manipulated by a scheming white girl is racist in itself - am I the only one to notice this? Uncle Tom didn't need to be relocated into the fifties.
I had to write this review simply because I can't stand by and watch this piece of sentimental trash be voted one of the best books of all time. I would dearly love to pull this book out of the high school curriculum and replace it with Robert Heinlein's "Stranger in a Strange Land", which used to be taught until enough parents became afraid that their children might actually think in school....more
It's going to take me a long time of going back and editing to fully describe all of my feelings about "Stranger in a Strange Land", but I had to starIt's going to take me a long time of going back and editing to fully describe all of my feelings about "Stranger in a Strange Land", but I had to start by adding 5 stars and going from there.
This is my favorite book ever, which means a lot because I've read a literal (no pun intended) mountain of books. No book, no person, no religion, no class, has ever influenced me as much as this book. I first read it when I was around 12 and sneaked it out of my Dad's collection - it was one of the Heinlein books that was "too adult" for me. I've read it at least once a year since then and I'll start reading it to my kids when they're in the womb.
Cons: Heinlein fan that I am, I recognize the flaws in "Stranger" as typical of the author: sexist to the point where you want to throw own of his own lengthy hardcovers at his head. Yes, that bothers me a lot. But one of the nice big words I learned in high school was "epistemological bias". It means that an author is influenced by the time and place in which they are living. Heinlein has the combined influences of fifties-era America and a history in pulp sci-fi (not generally known for its enlightened treatment of female characters). It offends our modern sensibilities. Look past it.
Another con that I know bothers a lot of people is Heinlein's writing style, in which he typically makes one character the mouthpiece of the writer. Annoying? Then skim those passages and realize that an author sometimes wants to be in their own book.
Pros: How to start? Read this book and hate it, but at least hate it for a good reason. Read this book with an open mind and it will give you a lot to think about. Read it at a young and influential age (as I did) and it will change your personality - for the better. The best thing about Heinlein is that he is unafraid to question. There is a quote somewhere in the book (or maybe one of his others) that "the only true crime is to believe anything on authority". Heinlein looks at religion, sex, human society and removes the barriers that say "do not question - doubt is bad". Using the perspective of a human facing his first contact with humanity lets you look at the world without a lifetime of conditioning to make you take it for granted....more
Like many of the other reviewers, I found this book annoying and perplexing, and yet still liked it. Part of the confusion to me, I think, was that ILike many of the other reviewers, I found this book annoying and perplexing, and yet still liked it. Part of the confusion to me, I think, was that I was listening to it in audiobook form, so I couldn't really control the speed. I liked the premise of the ending, but like most of the rest of the book, I REALLY could have done with less long, metaphorical description. The whole book felt to me like the author sketched out the skeleton of the plot, decided it was too short, and then asked a 10th grade English class to fill in the rest with flowery prose about spring. What is this trend toward thick description? I just finished a few Stephen King books (who admits he sometimes has "diarrhea of the pen") and now I'm wondering if I'm the only one who wants stuff to happen in books, instead of reading an entire chapter describing the protagonist's drive to work.
Still, the book kept me interested and reading, and I like the way it focused on the victims of the school shooting and their whole lives, rather than specifically on the shooter and the event....more
I just finished this book and would have thrown it across the room if it hadn't been an audiobook**spoiler alert** SPOILERS!! Entire ending revealed!
I just finished this book and would have thrown it across the room if it hadn't been an audiobook playing on my laptop. Very basic math, Coben: to be in the SS in 1945 a man would have to be born in, say, 1920 or earlier, which would make him at least 90, which makes him a bit old to be a Walmart greeter, let alone a sandy-haired villain masquerading as an EMT. To my mind, all the good points of this book are negated by a plot hole through which you could drive a WWII-era Panzer. And to be honest, there aren't that many good points.
We all know that YA literature can be genre-transcending and wonderful. Or it can make you want to gouge your eyes out to protect them from literary enucleation (see my review of "To Kill A Mockingbird"). This one falls somewhere around average. Coben can still write a page-turning plot, with the trickles of easily misinterpreted clues and characters that rapidly shift from hero to villain and back as you learn half-facts about them. But this is definitely one of his weaker books. He replaces the beloved characters from his Myron Bolitar series (come back, Win! you were always fun!) with far less memorable ones. The author seems to like to paint himself as older than he is by portraying high school in a way that only shows up in fiction, never in life - the bullies and the nerds are absolute caricatures (I half-expected the former to offer the protagonist a "knuckle sandwich"). Ditto for the strippers, the bouncers, pretty much everyone who wasn't a main characters (and some who were) - utterly flat, one-sided, stereotypical.
In a word: disappointing. If Coben had to finish the Myron Bolitar series (and we were all getting tired of hearing about how people get old and depressing), I wish he could have written some stand-alone novels instead of plunging into a new YA series tangentially related to the old one. Oh, and check out the author's website - they recorded the most ridiculous "trailer". For a book! What is wrong with the world, that we can't read a few paragraphs without the encouragement of dramatic music and voice-overs?...more
**spoiler alert** SPOILERS!! Speculations on ending!!
Pros: very well written Victorian-style language. A few interesting characters and some good psyc**spoiler alert** SPOILERS!! Speculations on ending!!
Pros: very well written Victorian-style language. A few interesting characters and some good psychological-thriller elements. The book is written from the perspective of several characters, and I thought that was well done, since my opinion of the characters (and my mental picture of them) changed with each perspective. I love the "unreliable narrator" technique, which was enough to earn the book an extra star on its own, although not nearly in the class of "The Turn of the Screw" or "The Haunting of Hill House", to which I saw it compared. Quick recommendation to readers who love this genre: "We Have Always Lived in the Castle".
Cons: Unfortunately, quite a few. The pacing is terrible, which does not reflect, as some readers have suggested, a Victorian style. The first half of the book is unbelievably slow. I kept wanting to scream "something happen! For the love of God, move the story along!". Then the last maybe 5% of the book dumps far more confusing and contradictory half-facts on you than you can handle and you are left confused and annoyed.
I hate loose ends. No, I don't mean the "mystery" of what happened to Joseph Barton. It seemed to me that the author was more or less telling you he was killed by Constance and hidden by Nora. But there are so many red herrings and half-mysteries that I was waiting for the end to see resolved. I feel like if an author keeps mentioning something it must be significant, so I was frankly expecting the mysterious London murderer to have some connection to the story. All those early references to hands coming to nothing! Joseph "loses" periods of time and that isn't significant enough to be explored? What is in the presses he keeps in the basement? What are the "symptoms" that Angelica is suffering in her 30's, to be seeking psychoanalysis? So many questions and instead of answering them the final chapter introduces a pile of new hints and implications about Constance's childhood!...more
Great story! "Noir" usually isn't my thing, but I thought this was really fun. I love the way the protagonist writes in cliches and homey expressionsGreat story! "Noir" usually isn't my thing, but I thought this was really fun. I love the way the protagonist writes in cliches and homey expressions while contemplating violence. I recommend it on audiobook, since the Texas accent really adds authenticity.
I can also affirm that no fictional animals were harmed in the writing of this book. I love horror, psychological thriller, etc. and rarely mind graphic violence against people. But if a flashback of the murderer's childhood involves him torturing cats or something I always tear the headphones out of my ears until it's over. This probably says things about me, but who cares. Anyway, no human-on-animal violence in the book. Unless you are a vegan and object to steak and eggs for breakfast....more
I think we all have days when we wake up hating the world and wanting everyone in it to be as miserable as we are. For me these days usually coincideI think we all have days when we wake up hating the world and wanting everyone in it to be as miserable as we are. For me these days usually coincide with the first two of my period. This book is perfect for those times. Also for right after (or before) a break-up or when you specifically dislike someone and want them to suffer in fiction. Gorge yourself on schadenfreude! Warning: I don't recommend reading the entire book at once or undiluted by other books, as you may end up feeling disgusted with yourself.
So, the plot is pretty cliche: woman married into a wealthy New England family, thinks she has everything, finds out husband is cheating, world falls apart, blah, blah. There's also the "secret from her past" - passages from the point of view of her crazed blackmailer, which I found unreal and boring. The thing that I love about this story is that the protagonist is so unfailingly stupid and whiny that you want bad things to happen to her, which the book certainly delivers. There's a long wind-up to the point where she finds out about the affair, and since the reader already knows what he's going to tell her, this just makes you impatient for the bomb to drop. I was listening to the audiobook, and found Nora (not the reader, just the character) so irritating, that when it finally hit her, I was celebrating in a very undignified, unfeminist, "take that bitch!" kind of way. It just goes on like that. She does annoying, stupid things which make you groan with frustration, then celebrate once the excrement hits the ventilator. Anyway, not a book for people who are perky, chipper and 100% mentally well-adjusted. Great book for the cynics, and for the times when you meet someone stupid, smug, and successful, and wish for a little come-uppance.
Also, the eponymous "Last Secret"? Obvious from the beginning. How long the affair was going on is a huge hint....more
Wonderful book! I very rarely give 5 stars, but this one had me enthralled from beginning to end. I'd recommend waiting for a gray, rainy day to readWonderful book! I very rarely give 5 stars, but this one had me enthralled from beginning to end. I'd recommend waiting for a gray, rainy day to read this, as with all true Victorian gothic. If you spend a lot of time on this site, then you're probably bibliophile enough to enjoy the intertwined fictions and histories. Call it a "metabook" - a book about books, a story for anyone who was ever scolded by a teacher for trying to read a paperback during class....more