**spoiler alert** First some background: I discovered Pat Conroy many years ago when I was assigned to read The Lords of Discipline for summer reading**spoiler alert** First some background: I discovered Pat Conroy many years ago when I was assigned to read The Lords of Discipline for summer reading in high school. I absolutely loved it and was completely moved by it. About three years later I read The Prince of Tides and enjoyed that as well, although not quite as much. Sometime around that period I read The Water is Wide, a different sort of book, but also deeply engrossing.
Since then, I've been hesitant to read more Pat Conroy. I thought I might be too old, or have read too many of his books, to still enjoy his over-the-top melodrama. But a couple weeks ago I was in the local bookstore and saw South of Broad, it just called to me somehow.
Well, either I am too old for Pat Conroy, or this book is way worse than the others. I was not impressed.
For a book that was primarily supposed to be about deep friendships, I felt like we didn't get to know a lot of the characters very well, or understand why they were friends. I had no handle on who Molly was, other than "privileged white girl," and don't really feel or understand the attraction between her and Leo.
I also didn't feel like I knew anything about Starla, Leo's wife. She was a mountain orphan girl who Leo suddenly liked after her crooked eye was surgically straightened. They apparently got married and she apparently went crazy. Or maybe she was crazy all along. Who knows? I had no understanding of her character or their relationship. What was the initial attraction? What was their early marriage like? When and how did her mental illness become apparent? It felt like Pat Conroy just said to himself, "Let's see, I guess I'll have him marry ... the cross-eyed girl. Sure. And because my main characters can never be happy, I'll make her insane."
Somewhere in the middle of the book, I actually thought to myself, "What is this book about, exactly?" It seemed like A Bunch of Stuff That Had No Point. I had no idea where it was going ... or if, indeed, it was going anywhere.
Many many people have already said that the constant banter between the friends was ridiculous.
I feel like this book could have been much better if the character and situations had been reduced by about two-thirds. What exactly was the point of the suicide of the brother, to be suddenly explained in the last ten pages? Did the story really need that? Did we need interracial football teams and mountain orphans and murderous rapist fathers and ... well, you get the point. If just a handful of these characters and situations had been in the story, they could have been much better developed.
What did I like? I enjoyed the love story of Leo's parents, and I thought the description of the hurricane and its aftermath was gripping.
In a weird way, I'm glad to see other people strongly dislike this book. Otherwise I would have just assumed that I had horrible taste for books when I was younger.
I heard author Elle Casey on The Creative Penn podcast a week ago talking about how she wrote and published a book roughly every six weeks and she didI heard author Elle Casey on The Creative Penn podcast a week ago talking about how she wrote and published a book roughly every six weeks and she didn't even outline or plan her plots, just came up with the characters and then sat down and started writing.
I wanted to read one of her books to see what a popular book written in six weeks looked like, and one of the reviews said this book was like Sophie Kinsella's style, so it's the one I chose.
The first section of the book is told by Leah's perspective, the second by James', and the final section goes back and forth in their perspectives. I nearly quit reading before I got to the middle section because I could not stand Leah. She seemed like the most rude, arrogant, unpleasant person I could have the displeasure of meeting. Funny thing that almost everyone she encounters in life is an a-hole, a bitch, a moron. Rules don't seem to apply to her and she lied constantly. I just couldn't see her as someone to root for.
The book improved in James' section, because I liked his character a lot more and was moved by the whole situation with his family. And then when Leah "came back" in the story, I didn't mind her quite so much as I did before.
I'm guessing I'm just not the target audience for a book like this. Maybe I'm just too old. I mostly skipped through the sex scenes, I thought the whole book went on too long, there was too much bad language, and I couldn't figure why they were making such a big deal about the ring in the first place. Don't want the ring? Return it to the jeweler and go on with your life.
There were parts of the book that were a little amusing, but nothing that actually made me laugh out loud like Sophie Kinsella's books do.
I am still in awe of Elle Casey for constantly cranking out books that people love. But I don't think I'm going to read the other books in this series. ...more
I picked up and considered getting The Girl With All the Gifts in the bookstore three different times before I finally went and bought it. The cover aI picked up and considered getting The Girl With All the Gifts in the bookstore three different times before I finally went and bought it. The cover and blurb really intrigued me, but I was hesitant to get it because it was so vague that I wasn't sure what I was getting into.
In the end, intrigue won out.
Aaaand ... it turned out that I was right about my concerns. If you haven't already heard, (view spoiler)[ it turns out that this is a zombie apocalypse novel. (hide spoiler)]
As many other reviewers said, the beginning of this book was fantastic. I couldn't put it down. But then, after the group left the compound, I had a sneaking suspicion that the story would start to drag, and drag it did.
What's a shame is that I still think it could've been a pretty good read. Yes, the characters were flat stereotypes, but considering the situation everybody was in, I found each of their viewpoints interesting at times.
But the book was just too long for the story it was telling. By the time I got to the last hundred pages, I just didn't care anymore. I bet it could have been half the length and much more effective.
One good thing, I guess, was that it got me to read a genre I never would have chosen otherwise.
Normally this isn't the type of book I would choose to read. I'm not really a Stephen King fan. I don't think he's a bad writer, but I'm not into horrNormally this isn't the type of book I would choose to read. I'm not really a Stephen King fan. I don't think he's a bad writer, but I'm not into horror and gore, which is what I always think of when I hear his name. Plus the cover on this one looked ridiculous.
But an old college roommate of mine who has good taste in books told me that it was one of her favorite books, it wasn't gory at all, and I should ignore the horrible cover.
It was a short book, so I went ahead and read it.
It made me feel ... confused.
Not because the plot was difficult to follow, but because I had a hard time understanding exactly what kind of book this was, and where exactly it was going.
The cover, including the tag line, "Who dares to enter the funhouse of fear?" makes it sound like silly horror book. The fact that it's labeled a "hard crime" book at the top makes it sound like a murder mystery/crime detective story.
But it's mostly a coming-of-age story about a older man waxing nostalgia about the summer he mourned over a lost love, had a job that gave him meaning and purpose, and got laid for the first time. Oh, and every now and then there's a brief mention of a ghost and a murder that happened years ago.
A really weird combo.
Despite this, I was enjoying for it for a while. There's something about SK's style that's very appealing in a way I can't quite explain. But then I happened to pick up a Jen Lancaster book and set Joyland aside for a while because I felt like reading it instead. It took me a long time to get back to it, and I finally had to force myself to just because I didn't want to leave it unfinished. So I'm not sure what that says. Maybe just that it's hard to get back to a book after you leave it.
A few negatives that jumped out at me: 1) I've never worked at an amusement park, but I find it hard to believe that workers are going from dressed up as characters to operating a ride to who-knows-what-else all within days or hours. How could a place that needs to pay close attention to safety be so unorganized and chaotic?
2) Did anyone else find it jarring that the sweet, sheltered ten year boy had a casual conversation full of swear words with an adult he basically didn't even know? That totally did not fit, IMO.
3) The ending was total deau ex machina. -- still kinda sweet, though.
I don't know. I was torn between three and four stars. I liked it enough to consider trying another one of SK's books. Any that are good, but not too gory?...more
I started my Jen Lancaster reading experience with Such a Pretty Fat, which I thought was hilarious. A few months later I read Bitter is the New BlackI started my Jen Lancaster reading experience with Such a Pretty Fat, which I thought was hilarious. A few months later I read Bitter is the New Black, which I didn't like quite as much (odd, since most people claim that is by far her best.)
And now I just completed her second book, Bright Lights, Big Ass, which I also liked a little more than "Bitter."
Technically, this book is about "tales of living in the big city," but it's really "stuff that happened to me over the last year." One could argue that explaining why you love Target and describing your pets' antics does not a book make, but Jen somehow makes it laugh out loud funny and realatable.
Unlike a lot of reviewers, I think I would like Jen as a person. She is a self-described narcissist, but there are little hints here and there that a lot of that is bravado and exaggerated for humor, and that in truth, she definitely has a vulnerable and "gosh I am really a total idiot sometimes" side. Maybe I am giving her too much credit, but that's the way I like to picture her as I read.
What I didn't like as much:
* It would have been better if it was a wee bit shorter. Since there's no real plot, it starts getting tedious toward the end. I thought the story about Jen and her husband playing punching games was particularly boring and didn't seem to fit.
* I don't mind the foul language itself, but at times it's way too much. We get it, you have a foul mouth aren't afraid to be incredible vulgar, ha ha. Move on already.
* Nitpick that drove me crazy: I'm not a southerner and don't say "y'all," BUT I have lived in the south my entire life. I can assure you that people NEVER EVER say "y'all" when speaking to/about one person. She has a character do this repeatedly in the first chapter and it makes no sense. If that character had been talking to me, I know I would look around the room, be slightly confused, and/or even ask who he meant.
Bottom line, this is funny and easy to read. Don't be expecting a plot, anything deep, or clean language.
I'd really like to try Jen's fiction but am a little afraid too, since I haven't heard great things about it.
I started this book and enjoyed it at first because I thought it was going to be a quirky, humorous story about the life of a personal chef, the experI started this book and enjoyed it at first because I thought it was going to be a quirky, humorous story about the life of a personal chef, the experiences specific to that job, and the colorful cast of characters she works for.
When I finally began to realize that it was not quite that, I continued reading (often skimming, especially toward the end) because I was having fun finding the book's flaws and sort of "playing editor."
** MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD**
1. First of all, am I the only person who really has a hard time liking a character (both male and female) who is over the age of 35 and has a one-night stand with someone they picked up at a bar? Just, ugh. That immediately makes me see the character as foolish, shallow, and kinda skanky. And I do NOT find it romantic.
2. Um ... does neither the author or her editor understand what a rhyme is? I'm sorry, but "Gemma" does not rhyme with "Jenny." Now, "Penny" would have rhymed with "Jenny." In fact, if she wanted to create the mild joke of having the main character's name rhyming with "Jenny," I have no idea why she didn't just switch the names.
3. Humor can be a tricky thing. I think humor always has to be a little bit grounded, a little based in reality and something you could sort of picture happening, to be effective, and the scenes where Gemma goes on interviews is an epic fail in that area. A guy is wearing half a clown suit, for no explained reason, "wants geraniums," whatever that even means, doesn't realize this is a job interview (??), and hates people who don't like dogs (or something.) That doesn't even make sense. Similarly, is there anyone on the planet who would hire a personal chef thinking they were hiring her to also have regular sex with them? Without ever saying that to the person before the interview? Even if such people existed, would they start suddenly undressing during the actual job interview?
4. Some of the wording was really clunky, stuff like, "she smiled appreciatively." Just. No.
5. The controlling wife character, in particular, was so over-the-top that it was almost impossible to picture her as a real person. You could probably say this about most of the characters, but it particularly grated me with her.
6. I got a little tired of hearing everybody fawn over how the main character was the best cook in the world, like she was some sort of amazing superhero or something. Please.
Why two stars instead of one? I did like the breezy, conversational tone (although it often got clunky), and it was mildly humorous in some spots.