Thursday, July 23, 2009

Kicking the bandwagon

Not that I like to stir up trouble, but I always feel compelled to dislike the things that everyone else likes. Like the "totally in" huge necklaces and gaudy baubles, or the huge rings (the ones that come up to my knuckles) worn on the index finger. Or the trendy, new haircuts. I feel morally opposed to the new and the trendy. Why should I like something because the girl next door likes it? And why should I follow the dictates and whims of society?

I find that the same happens with books, but on a deeper level. I don't hate books because everyone else loves it; I am more critical of books that everyone else loves, and usually don't feel the "oh-my-gawd-you-totally-need-to-read" compulsions.

And then come the books that everyone else loves... and for the love of pearl, I just don't see why.

Here are some of those books:

Janet Evanovich's Plum series - all of them. Bad books, uninteresting characters. Maybe it's because I think Stephanie Plum is a bit of a dipwad.

Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dark-Hunter series - I got through 4.5 and called it quits. Maybe it was because of the book I was reading. I didn't like Night Embrace - I didn't even want to finish it.

Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series - I can say that this one is the worst pseudo-romance I've read in a long time, and Bella to be the most idiotic "heroine" - ever. Twilight wasn't so bad (I'd give it a C), but New Moon - mother of pearl - was so bad, I am aghast at the fact that it was published - and then devoured by so many. !?!! Bottom line is: Meyer is not a good writer. The writing itself sucks! And Bela is an idiot. The cons outweigh the single pro: Edward Cullen.

Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings - I'm surprised I didn't like this one since I love fantasies, but I might be a little ahead of myself: I've only actually tried to read The Hobbit which is the prequel to the LOTR series, but The Hobbit was so boring, I gave up after 50 pages, and since that fated day eight years ago, I haven't been able to tell myself to give the actual trilogy a chance. Maybe I will....................

J. R. Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood vampire series: I read the first four, until Vishous's story. The first two aren't particularly stimulating and the fourth (V's book) was just awful. (However, Zsadist's was enjoyable.) After that, I had no desire whatsoever to invest any more of my time into Phury's story (which sounded dumb) or Rehvenge's story... or Xhex + John Matthew's story (if it ever comes to be that they are together). Goodness, I think I just gave myself nightmares by thinking of Xhex and John Matthew. (insert shudder here)

Other honorable mentions:
books that aren't ghastly but are, in this lady's opinion, overrated.

Julia Quinn's Bridgerton series: I read all eight and it wasn't horrendous. But it also wasn't great. It's a bit like the same story being retold eight times. They're books that are entertaining to read (no intense plot, no intense characters, no intense love stories..) but after you've read it, you immediately forget the characters' names and what the story was about.

Loretta Chase's Lord of Scoundrels: It was a good read, but not fabulous, as everyone else cried. Definitely not a must-read.

Lee Harper's To Kill a Mockingbird: What is all the fuss about? Sure, it's a good book, but it was s-l-o-w and meaningless until the last 1/4th of the novel.

Kim Edward's The Memory Keeper's Daughter: The ending felt so unsatisfactory.

Lauren Weisberger's The Devil Wears Prada: Funny, but not hysterical. Enjoyable but not read-or-die.

Lisa Kleypas's Smooth Talking Stranger: This won't go on the "what's all the hype about - kicking the bandwagon" list... yet. If the fourth novel is as bad as this, I will cry sad tears and put it there. LK, I have faith in you..!

Agree to disagree?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Emily Giffin: Something Blue

Something Blue: C+
Darcy Rhone
chick-lit, women's fiction

Giffin's sophomore effort-which tells the story that her bestselling Something Borrowed did from a different character's point of view-stars such an unsympathetic narrator that it's a little like reading a Cinderella story featuring one of the wicked stepsisters. Perhaps beautiful Darcy Rhone isn't really wicked, but she is one of the most shallow, materialistic, self-centered and naïve 29-year-olds around. Ostensibly a high-powered PR person in Manhattan (though she never seems to work), Darcy spends most of her time shopping, partying and getting ready for her wedding to perfect guy Dex. But an alcohol-fueled Hamptons fling with one of Dex's pals, Marcus, starts to break Darcy's perfect life down; and discovering Dex hiding in her best friend Rachel's closet really shatters it. Pregnant with Marcus's baby, Darcy decamps for London, where she crashes in high school pal Ethan's flat and annoys the heck out of him with her endless shopping and complete disregard for her impending motherhood. But after a good lecture from Ethan, whom Darcy has started to fall for a little, Darcy embarks on a self-improvement plan, thereby demonstrating she can think about someone besides herself...
(publisher's weekly)

The funny thing about this book is that I actually read it. Considering all things, I was sure I would fling it to my wall and have it be a thing of the past... and yet, there I sat, on my family cruise, flipping through the pages.

As you know from my (scathing? unpleasant? hate-love-hate?) relationship with the first novel in the series, Something Borrowed, that I pretty much hated all of the characters in this (and that) story. Rachel for being a vile home-wrecker (though the home was on its way to being wrecked), Dex for being a nimwad (who proposes to a loved one if the loved one isn't really loved?), and Darcy for being a superficial, callow bee-atch.

Something Borrowed ends with the calling off of Darcy and Dex's wedding, Darcy pregnant with Marcu's child (Marcus, as you know, was Dex's best man and the one she had been cheating with while Dex was with Rachel. Egh...), and with Rachel and Darcy's friendship in the pooper.

Something Blue starts out with Darcy still being her usual, selfish, spoiled (but beautiful!) self. In reality, 3/4 of the book is about her, her selfishness, and her spoiledness. Realistic, I suppose. Though I would expect any normal human being - after having experienced the kind of drama (and trauma?) she went through to critically analyze herself and to examine why things happened the way they did... Darcy doesn't.

She proves to be an insecure individual who thrives on the attention of others to feed her "ego." She fools herself in thinking she's in love with Marcus, so that her child will have a father, and so she will have someone to lean on.

Eventually, Darcy's idiocy drives Marcus away (and let's be honest here, Marcus was no fine catch to begin with..). He tells her, in no short words, that he wants out of the relationship, and that he can care less about the child whose DNA he's supplied half of.

Panicked, she decides to go to London and stay with her (and Rachel's) friend, Ethan. She packs her bag with the largest misconceptions of London and of motherhood and jets on over to Ethan, who is less than pleased to see her; Ethan (correctly) remembers Darcy as the selfish, spoiled, likes-to-party, center-of-attention (but beautiful!) girl.

Once in London, she spends most of her savings buying designer outfits, trying to fit in, assuring herself of her beauty, despite the ever increasing baby bump.

It's not until 3/4 of the way through the novel that Darcy miraculously comes to her senses, with the help of patient Ethan... and a little bit of blossoming love..

As with Something Borrowed, Something Blue is a book that uncovers human nature to its dirtiest and grittiest, and is shows, perhaps, the most honest part of ourselves. It makes you think and it exasperates you.. and shows you the consequences of reality.

Read with caution!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

BBC's Big Read

I am marking the pitiful low numbers of books (classics? semi-classics? popular novels?) that I've read. It is my goal to read every single book on this list before I die... even if it kills me. Which, in retrospect, it probably will since I don't even want to touch Tolkien's books. Bleh!

BBC's Big Read (2003)

1. The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien
2. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
3. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman
4. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, JK Rowling
6. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
7. Winnie the Pooh, AA Milne
8. Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell
9. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, CS Lewis
10. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë
11. Catch-22, Joseph Heller
12. Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
13. Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks
14. Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier
15. The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger
16. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
17. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
18. Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
19. Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Louis de Bernieres
20. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
21. Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
22. Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone, JK Rowling
23. Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, JK Rowling
24. Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, JK Rowling
25. The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien
26. Tess Of The D'Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy
27. Middlemarch, George Eliot
28. A Prayer For Owen Meany, John Irving
29. The Grapes Of Wrath, John Steinbeck
30. Alice's Adventures In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
31. The Story Of Tracy Beaker, Jacqueline Wilson
32. One Hundred Years Of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez
33. The Pillars Of The Earth, Ken Follett
34. David Copperfield, Charles Dickens
35. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl
36. Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson
37. A Town Like Alice, Nevil Shute
38. Persuasion, Jane Austen
39. Dune, Frank Herbert
40. Emma, Jane Austen
41. Anne Of Green Gables, LM Montgomery
42. Watership Down, Richard Adams
43. The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald
44. The Count Of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas
45. Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
46. Animal Farm, George Orwell
47. A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
48. Far From The Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy
49. Goodnight Mister Tom, Michelle Magorian
50. The Shell Seekers, Rosamunde Pilcher
51. The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
52. Of Mice And Men, John Steinbeck
53. The Stand, Stephen King
54. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
55. A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth
56. The BFG, Roald Dahl
57. Swallows And Amazons, Arthur Ransome
58. Black Beauty, Anna Sewell
59. Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer
60. Crime And Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
61. Noughts And Crosses, Malorie Blackman
62. Memoirs Of A Geisha, Arthur Golden
63. A Tale Of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
64. The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCollough
65. Mort, Terry Pratchett
66. The Magic Faraway Tree, Enid Blyton
67. The Magus, John Fowles
68. Good Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
69. Guards! Guards!, Terry Pratchett
70. Lord Of The Flies, William Golding
71. Perfume, Patrick Süskind
72. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Robert Tressell
73. Night Watch, Terry Pratchett
74. Matilda, Roald Dahl
75. Bridget Jones's Diary, Helen Fielding
76. The Secret History, Donna Tartt
77. The Woman In White, Wilkie Collins
78. Ulysses, James Joyce
79. Bleak House, Charles Dickens
80. Double Act, Jacqueline Wilson
81. The Twits, Roald Dahl
82. I Capture The Castle, Dodie Smith
83. Holes, Louis Sachar
84. Gormenghast, Mervyn Peake
85. The God Of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
86. Vicky Angel, Jacqueline Wilson
87. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
88. Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons
89. Magician, Raymond E Feist
90. On The Road, Jack Kerouac
91. The Godfather, Mario Puzo
92. The Clan Of The Cave Bear, Jean M Auel
93. The Colour Of Magic, Terry Pratchett
94. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
95. Katherine, Anya Seton
96. Kane And Abel, Jeffrey Archer
97. Love In The Time Of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez
98. Girls In Love, Jacqueline Wilson
99. The Princess Diaries, Meg Cabot
100. Midnight's Children, Salman Rushdie