Another Miss in the World of New Literature

23 11 2010

I was recently asked to review a copy of Dirty Little Angels by Chris Tusa.  Off the blurb given it seemed like it might be a decent read.

“Set in the slums of New Orleans, among clusters of crack houses and abandoned buildings, Dirty Little Angels is the story of sixteen year old Hailey Trosclair. When the Trosclair family suffers a string of financial hardships and a miscarriage, Hailey finds herself looking to God to save her family. When her prayers go unanswered, Hailey puts her faith in Moses Watkins, a failed preacher and ex-con. Fascinated by Moses’s lopsided view of religion, Hailey, and her brother Cyrus, begin spending time down at an abandoned bank that Moses plans to convert into a drive-through church. Gradually, though, Moses’s twisted religious beliefs become increasingly more violent, and Hailey and Cyrus soon find themselves trapped in a world of danger and fear from which there may be no escape.”  – LibraryThing

One of the editorial reviews on Amazon.com called it “the To Kill a Mockingbird of 2009”.  I would have to grossly disagree.  Though I think the idea seemed great and the characters are decently fleshed out, there is no real point to the story.   There is no “what it’s about” it’s a “who it’s about”.  Hailey is who it’s about, but I felt like she wasn’t real enough to really care about.  She walks through the story with no one really tying her down.  She has a brother, a set of parents, a best friend, etc.  but she has no one that is just hers that she really relates to and confides in.  Her first sexual encounter is rushed and done with her best friend’s boyfriend while the best friend was sleeping.  There was no thoughts to it, just impulse and no consequences.  It seemed surreal.

Also, calling Dirty Little Angels a novel is a huge stretch of the term.  At best it’s a novella, though it seems more like a short story that rambles.    If it says anything, I was reading and expecting the climax of the story to happen at any turn of the page; and then it just ended.  Looking back, I can find the climax; but it seems a little hollow.  I expected something more.

It really seems like it would have been a great story if given some more time, some more editing, and some more plot.  The story feels unfinished and hopelessly filled with product placement and bad decisions to make it seem more gritty and real.  Instead it feels a little fake, a little desperate, and very undone.  It could have been so much better, but I think the author lost his way a little and then rushed to hit the end for publication.   It could have been great.  Maybe not up there with To Kill a Mockingbird, but at least something more than an inflated short story with no point.





Not so in-Love, Charleston

25 08 2010

I joined a new website to review books.  It’s called Book Sneeze (see the new button on the right side of the page) and they let me choose a book, review it, and then choose another.  I get the books free of charge either mailed to me or in a PDF file.  All that they ask is that I give an honest review.  I am not obligated to like anything that they send me.  I get to choose, and the selections are limited, but I get to read free books as long as I tell them what I honestly think.  I’m sort of liking that.  I just finished my first book from them and though it’s not my norm as far as reading material, it was free and not terrible.

I read Love, Charleston by Beth Webb Hart in my free time at work and in the mornings before I went to bed.  All in all, about 4 hours of reading time.  The book purports to be a story about Anne, a bell ringer waiting on God to send her a man; and Roy, a South Carolina country boy-now single father and pastor moved to the big city.  A side story is supposed to be about Anne’s sister Lish, pregnant with her third perfect child, and Anne and Lish’s cousin Della and her marital woes and general dissatisfaction with life.  What the book ends up being is mostly about Della’s jealousy of Lish’s perfect life and Lish’s postpartum depression.  Anne is really a minor character.  Roy is in there a bit more as he has some interaction with everyone and thus is a little more present in the story. 

The characters themselves are real people.  I felt like I could have met people like them and been friends with them. 

  • Roy comes across as a great teddy bear of a man who’s lost the love of his life and worked hard to be a great pastor and teacher of God’s word while parenting his daughter Rose.  He’s just now to a point in his life where he thinks he might be ready for love again when God sends him a job in the big city of Charleston.  Roy doesn’t think he’ll fit in, but things fall in to place and he decides to make the best of it.  He is a very caring person, very driven by his love of God and his desire to spread the love of God to those who need him.  His heart breaks for his congregation and gets healed by meeting and falling in love with Anne.
  • Anne heard a message from God that said “Stay and wait” and took it to heart.  She waits, and waits, and waits.  She loves her job as a bell-ringer at St. Michael’s Church and even goes abroad to ring historical bells and learn how to be a better bell-ringer.  She’s really not all that present in the story.  She’s gone for around half of it and corresponds by letter and email with Roy. 
  • Lish is a small chunk of the story as well.  By appearances she has the perfect life.  She has her childhood home that she’s completely updated, a wonderful doctor husband, her perfect children in color coordinating outfits, and a bun in the oven.  She writes a newspaper column about raising a family that has been successful and has a great life.  After she gives birth she feels funny, which migrates to depression and psychosis.  Her ‘perfect husband’ tries to blow it off as exhaustion and Della has to step in and get her help for what is termed postpartum depression by the end of the book.
  • Della is our final main character.  I feel as if a great deal of the story revolves around her though it’s not really sold as such.  Della is working as a teacher while writing a book in her spare time.  She laments the fact that she cannot devote herself to her book full-time as she’s fearing being a ‘mid-list’ author and strives to be a money-making author.  Her husband is an amazing specimen of a man (he’s hot even in print!) that works as a freelance metal sculptor.  Together they have a daughter who seems pretty normal.  Though living the bohemian life without cell phones, a/c, money for an exterminator was cool when they were younger they now have a child who deserves more out of life.  Della also has a burning desire to have another child and is quickly approaching her 38th birthday.  She is tempted to leave her husband when she runs into an old flame, but in the true nature of Christian Fiction she thinks better and reconciles with her husband. 

There is a happy ending in the end, but it still seems unfinished.  The book is not long and it truly seems as if Ms. Hart got tired of writing and just decided to wrap it up quickly and end it.  I wanted more of the courtship of Roy and Anne.  I wanted a more in-depth look at Lish and her pregnancy and postpartum depression.  I also wanted more about how everything turned out in the end.  So much was left unfinished.  Roy and Anne aren’t married, Lish is still out of it, Della and her husband are reconciled but still taking care of Lish and their life is still on hold.  I needed more to be happy with it. 

I might read another book by Beth Webb Hart.  If it was free also.

Giveaway!

  • If you would like to read this book and don’t want to buy it, leave a comment.  On the first I will use random.org to choose a random winner.  You’ll have the book by the end of the month.  If you’re local to me, I’ll drop it off a lot sooner.  If I have to mail it, you have to wait until payday.  *Update!  Since there’s not much interest yet and I’m trying to plug this on a few more blogs I’m extending the giveaway to the end of September with a winner to be drawn October 4th (my birthday!) via random.org and to receive the book no later than October 31st (providing I get contact info no later than October 10th).  Good luck! 

**Disclaimer:  I received this book for free from Thomas Nelson Review.  I am not paid to review it good or bad.  I am only asked to give it an honest review, which I have done so.





Quirk Fail Plus a Giveaway

20 06 2010

I was sent an advance release copy of Android Karenina from Quirk back in late May.  I was to read it and post a blog about it June 8th and there would be links and drawings and such just like last time with PPZ:DOD.  I failed to make that deadline due to moving, however it was really Quirk’s fault on many levels.

Issue #1:  I was given around 2 weeks to read and blog.  Usually that timeframe would be sufficient for me as I read through things fast, but AK was LONG! (Also it was based on Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina— a book I have yet to make it more that 40% of the way through!)

Issue #2: I moved during the last week of May/first week of June.  Moving, reading, and blogging do not go together (especially when they shut off the internet a full week early and have yet to give a sufficient deal to reinstate service at the new address).

Issue #3:  Android Karenina is based on Anna Karenina.  That should be proof enough of the impossibility of the deadline.  Quite honestly, I made it through nearly half of Anna Karenina before putting it on indefinite hold–Android Karenina made it through chapter 3 before I gave up. 

Conclusion: I love Quirk, but this was a fail on many levels.  If anyone wants to give it a go, I’ll send them my copy as I don’t think I’ll ever get to it.  Reply/comment with a name and email address and I’ll use a random number generator to “draw a name out of a hat” on the 4th of July (low traffic on the site due to recent hiatus makes me think I should have a nice long window for entries) and email and post the winner on the 5th.





All for the Best In the Best of All Possible Worlds

12 03 2010

Voltaire wrote Candide (or All For the Best or Optimism) in 1759.  The novella is a satire about Candide, a naive young man, and his many adventures and mishaps.  Candide has grown up not having to think about anything and being taught by Pangloss, who believes that everything that happens is for the best. 

Through the story Voltaire parodies many different situations and hardships for Candide to experience.  Through various mishaps, conscription into the army, and losing both money and his love, Candide keeps a positive outlook and keeps to Pangloss’s ideals. 

I found myself reading the book quickly, yet feeling like it would never end.  Naive Candide made me want to strangle him and beat some sense into his head.  Many of the other characters also lacked redeeming qualities.  The whole story could be summed up in: Naive whiner loves someone above his station and is run off.  Said whiner trusts others without question and is thus conscripted into the army.  Once getting out of the army he goes from mishap to mishap, finds and loses people from his past again and again, and makes bad choices.  In the end everything sucks, but he still thinks it’s the best that it can be. 

I don’t think I’ll bother re-reading it.  I know it had some great historical significance as  “Leibnizian optimism”, the Seven-Years War, and the 1755 Lisbon Earthquake all occurred in Voltaire’s time.  To me, it seemed a bit clichéd and without any contemporary purpose.





Dawn of the Boredom

3 03 2010

I was super excited to receive my advance copy of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls.  I started reading it right away and was at once amused to see the Bennet girls younger and first learning of the zombie plague.  There was quite a bit of humor throughout the story and I thought that perhaps this would be a great prequel experience. 

I was disappointed.  Not only did the plot leave something to be desired, the characters themselves were so poorly fleshed out as to have been mistaken for the undead themselves.  Jane was simply a shy, demure, insipid character with no admirable qualities.  She was so far from the Jane we love in Pride and Prejudice she could have been a completely different character.  Kitty and Lydia were nowhere near as giggly and vapid as they became throughout the original story.  The biggest disappointment was in Elizabeth Bennet and that whereas she should have had some of the spark of her future self, she had none.  Elizabeth is portrayed to be the most adept pupil, however the growth of her quick tongue in completely overlooked.   

I expected PPZ:DOD to take me to the beginning and show me how the Bennet girls became the women that they were.  I wanted to see the beginnings of the zombie plague in regency England and understand how that impacted society (or did not impact society).  I wanted the book to hold true to the basics of Austen’s literature.  I did not get any of those things.

The most fun I got out of the book was explaining the cover to my coworkers as they were unschooled in Quirk Classics. 

 

Good news for readers, if you want to win some free Quirk stuff, click HERE and mention my blog (with URL please!) and get entered in the drawing.  Please don’t think that Quirk stuff stinks just because I didn’t like this book.  I had great reviews for their other books. This one just didn’t do it for me.

If, despite my warnings, you’d like to get a copy of PPZ:DOD, most bookstores and Quirk themselves are taking pre-orders.

Happy reading!





Self-help book as a movie?

5 02 2010

May 5th, 2008 I read a great book called He’s Just Not That Into You by Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo.  It was a humorus self-help book written by two of the writers off of Sex and the City

Now I don’t normally read self help books, but this was loaned to me by a co-worker with the words, “You really need to read this”.  I decided that it couldn’t hurt anything, and the chapters had interesting titles.  “He’s Just Not That Into You if He’s Not Calling You…Having Sex With You…Having Sex With Someone Else…Only Wants to See You When He’s Drunk…Doesn’t Want to Marry You…Married…etc. 

Basically the books is about how women are always making excuses about how men are acting.  They hear stories about a friend’s sister’s hairdresser and her man who was a total flake that finally woke up and manned up.  Women need to quit thinking that this is the rule.  It’s not the rule, it is the exception to the rule. 

Now tonight I watched the movie He’s Just Not That Into You.  It was based off of the book, but where the book was all about women learning that they were the rule and not the exception to the rule they learn instead that they are the exception.  What the…?  A great cast of characters all played around at being the stereotypes from the book and pretty much everyone lived happily ever after.  The girl who obsessed over guys and her guy friend who tried to set her straight ended up together after he turned as obsessive as a female then they lived happily ever after.  The man who didn’t want to get married proposed to his girlfriend of 7 years.  The young singer left a perfectly good man to try to get with the married guy (who really did throw away his marriage). 

To sum it up: I’m disappointed.  A book that had such a great message was reduced to Hollywood drivel. 

Women, we are the rule.  If a guy is acting like a douche, he is a douche.  There are no exceptions.  We need to pretend that those stories about how some guy changed are just more tales of Prince Charming and pure crap.  Don’t fall for it. 

We should also forgo watching movies based on self-help books in the future.





The Memory Keeper’s Daughter

28 01 2010

My most recent read was The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards.  To be honest, I was a little disappointed.  I had expected something a little more “Cider House Rules”  as far as the controversy goes.  I’d heard it was all about giving up a less than perfect baby and having a set of twins growing up not knowing each other existed.  Paul Henry with his doctor father and homemaker mother growing up as a normal kid and Phoebe growing up with Down’s Syndrome with Caroline, her father’s former nurse, for a mother.

The basic plot is a linear timeline through twenty-five years with flashbacks here and there into the past of David Henry (the father).  Most of the story is how the Henrys fell apart after the birth due to a secret and inability to communicate.  On the other side of things, it showed how a new family can form and adversity can be challenged and overcome in the story of Caroline (the nurse/adoptive mother) and Phoebe (the unwanted baby); though adversity is a VERY small part of the plot. 

The book had a great idea.  If the characters had a little more dimension (hello, the nurse gave almost no thought or care to packing up her things and a newborn child and moving away on a whim) and if the story focused more on Phoebe and her trials and tribulations growing up and less on the Henry’s family I think the story would have been awesome.

Add to my disappointment that there is a Lifetime movie of this.  Very few good books become Lifetime movies and that should tell you something about a book when it is.  (Only exception to this are the Nora Roberts movies in my opinion).