Saturday, January 28, 2012

Book #3: "An Impossible Attraction" by Brenda Joyce

Godtopus bless the Romance novel.

Because after all that depressing, deep reading, sometimes you just need something mindless and fluffy to cleanse your pallet, you know? And when that mindless fluff just happens to be 99 cents as an e-book and a mere 200 pages, how can you resist?

This one kinda worked. It had your usual Bodice Ripper players: The poor damsel in distress, the rakish rich man with the dark past, a disapproving society and lots of longing glances and heaving bossoms. Not a lot of sexy stuff, though, for which this book loses about 50 points with me.

The damsel in distress is Alexandra Edgemont (Brenda Joyce loooves her some clunky names), an older (read: 25) spinster who has given up having a life in favor of taking care of her drunken father and two younger sisters. She's The Beautiful One Who Sacrifices All and Is Woeful and Always Crying Because of Sad Things. The stunningly handsome rake is Stephen...Covington? De Winterbottom? Doesn't matter. Clarewood, that's it. He's a fancy, rich duke who has a secret heart of gold and a way with the ladies. He sees poor, helpless, beautiful Alexandra at some ball and decides to make her his mistress, as he does. She immediately swoons into his arms (literally and hilariously) and falls in love with him on sight, even though he's heartless and unfeeling and doesn't have that much to fall in love with, honestly. So she decides to become his mistress, they have one night of mindless sex, then he gets angry because she lied about being a virgin (wait...what? so what?!) and kicks her out. This happens at least three times. I lost count.

It's all very ridiculous and overwrought, of course. Also flat-out hilarious in parts. Brenda Joyce just isn't a very good writer, and tends to fill her pages with ridiculous dialogue that sounds vaguely Olde Timey and is all just very silly.

My favorite part, though? I kept noticing how she kept repeating certain words, and much like Inigo Montoya I had the urge to shake her and yell "YOU KEEP USING THAT WORD. I DO NOT THINK IT MEANS WHAT YOU THINK IT MEANS" in her face. Like..."slammed". As in "Her heart slammed". Thanks to my handy and awesome little Nook, I did a search and found that, in a meager 200 pages, this lady uses the phrase "her [or his] heart slammed" a whopping 26 times (and only twice does she use the verb correctly). She sometimes does it twice in the same page! Another one? "Her heart lurched". LURCHED, y'all. I kept wondering if poor Alexandra just had a really bad heart condition, because that's just not supposed to happen to your heart, honey. I think you might be having a heart attack! The lurching thing? Used 20 times! I LOVED IT. There was also "Thundering", and "sinking". Lots of hearts doing things hearts just shouldn't do. I think Miss Joyce needs to learn some new adjectives.

So, you know. This book's just there. It's apparently part of a very long series, and definitely not one I want to read more of. I want my Romance Novels to have a little bit more Romance and a lot less disturbing things in it--like, say, less selling yourself to a man and then falling in love with him, or less loving him in spite of the fact that he's a total dickhead. That's just not right, people. Also: More sexy stuff. I don't care how hokey your dialogue is if you can at least have some fun sexy stuff.

That's way more words than this book deserves, but I had fun writing this. I'm still wondering why there's a British character named "Alexi", or what the main guy even looked like, or why Alexandra was so dumb. But it was mindless, silly fluff, which is just what I was looking for. And, seriously, I cracked the hell up every time someone's heart kept "slamming". Ten points for that!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Book 2, "No Lifeguard on Duty: The Accidental Life of the World's First Supermodel" by Janice Dickinson

Well, that was intense.

Before I'd read this, the only thing I knew about Janice Dickinson was that she was that one screechy, mean and altogether hilarious (and terrifying) judge on America's Next Top Model who was crazier than Tyra Banks. And that's saying a lot. I knew she had been a huge model in the 80s, one who currently looked like a terrifying alien spider wearing a woman's skin, and that that was due to extreme levels of plastic surgery. I had no idea she had lived such a damn fascinating life.

This is an autobiography, and it reads like Janice Dickinson herself: crazy, intense, crude, but definitely interesting. She's not the world's best writer (by far), but the brutal honesty of her writing can get you past that pretty quickly. She's full of horrifying stories about the worst parts of the 70s-- Studio 54 sex, drugs, sex, celebrities who take drugs and have sex, perverted photographers, the whole deal. But it's not just a story of a spoiled model, because Janice Dickinson has one hell of a dark past, and the entire book is peppered with a lot of regret and shame, which makes Janice Dickinson incredibly sympathetic sometimes. I wasn't expecting that.

This woman holds nothing back. She fully admits to being spoiled, arrogant and shameless. She's seen everything and done everything (and everyone!) and doesn't care who knows it. There's something disarming about that much honesty. And she admits to her worse mistakes, and how none of the sleeping around, the drugs, the fame, ever made her very happy, because of how messed up of a childhood she had. The whole thing definitely shows you the dark side of celebrity and fame: when you have everyone around you telling you how perfect you are (because it'll make them money), why would you want to do anything differently? It's a terribly dark world, and the fact that she survived a whole lot of horrible things is proof that she is one tough, tough chick. And you gotta admire her for it.

I don't know who I'd recommend this to, but I'd definitely say it's worth a read. There's a lot of darkness in the book, but there's also oodles of dirty celebrity tidbits and funny stories. It's definitely memorable. I know I'll never look at Liam Neeson the same way again.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Cannonball 4, Book 1: "Interview With a Vampire" by Anne Rice

Maybe the third try (for me) is the one. The one where I finally review every book I read this year. Come on, Fig. Do eet.

There were two questions constantly running through my mind as I read this book. One: Why am I reading yet another book about vampires? And two: Why is it that people who write about vampires always have the whiny, boring vampires as their protagonists?

As to the first question: I don't know. I suppose after reading the shitfest that was Twilight, followed by the campy fun of the Sookie Stackhouse series, I wanted a different take on vampires. Something serious and dark, more along the lines of Dracula. So based on vague recollections of people telling me this was good, I picked it up.

As to the second question...hell, I don't know. Anne Rice, like Stephanie Meyer (ugh) and Charlaine Harris (in the first Sookie Stackhouse books, at least) decided to tell us about the constantly conflicted and whiny vampire. Like Edward and Bill, Louis is the one vampire in the world who isn't happy about being vampire and who refuses to have any fun while being an immortal, impossibly beautiful and powerful being. Why? Why spend eternity grieving about your basic nature and being miserable about who you are? Just walk out into the sunshine one day, kill yourself and save us all from having to read about your misery. Let the fun, crazy vampires like Lestat be the main characters of the story--they're so much more entertaining to read about.

The plot here is your basic Vampire fare. Louis is a vampire telling his story to a reporter sometime in the late 20th Century. He was originally a wealthy plantation owner living in New Orleans near the end of the 19th Century. He had a pretty good life until his brother died in a silly accident, which led Louis to become all depressed and emo-like, wanting to die but lacking the courage to kill himself. Along came Lestat, a batshit-crazy vampire who one day decided to make Louis his companion, mostly because Louis is rich. Lestat is outright evil and conniving, and pretty soon Louis gets tired of his company. But he still sticks around, whining and complaining about being a vampire, feeding off rats and other animals because he can't stand eating humans. He mostly just sits around and whines, waffling about good and evil, life and death and a whole lot of other very boring stuff. After a while he makes a young child, Claudia, into a vampire, who pretty soon gets sick of all of Louis' whining, too.

There's just so much whining. And what's most infuriating about the book is that the characters surrounding Louis are almost all fascinating in their own right. But, instead of focusing on them, Rice decides to just let us hear Louis complaining and wringing his hands about the things that they do. Claudia is a particularly interesting character--she's a monster trapped in a child's body, unable to change or grow and hating Lestat and Louis for it. She wants to do a lot of things--to take advantage of her immortality and learn more about vampires, while Louis just wants to sit there and...I don't know, whine some more. They travel to Europe and meet more vampires, most of whom end up getting quickly tired of Louis' whiny bullshit. Just like I did. Because it just doesn't stop, and pretty quickly I learned to just skim over long passages of Louis questioning the meaning of life and vampirism, because I wanted to get to the good stuff where the actual vampires do something.

It's just not a very good book. It suffers greatly from the fact that Rice picked an incredibly boring character as her narrator and protagonist, one who gets very tiring very quickly. And there's just too many passages where Louis just sits there thinking about being a vampire, instead of just being one. The story is slow and dry, only getting interesting when other people intervene--it's never Louis who does anything worth reading. I guess this might appeal to some people; those who want to philosophize and really think about what it means to be a vampire, but I'm just not one of those people. Or rather, I think there's ways to make this interesting, but Anne Rice just didn't do that for me. There's actually some good scenes in the book, but in the end they're too few and far between to make the book a compelling read.

I think my experience with Rice's vampires ends here.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The End of Cannonball 3: Lists and lists and more lists

Cripes. Well, so much for keeping up with reviews this time. I kinda suck at that.

BUT! I did finish 55 books this year. I squeaked out the 56th at noon on January 1st, so I'm not counting it. I'm still pretty damn proud of myself, because reading 55 books in one year, while working all kinds of hours and trying to keep the house from becoming too chaotic can be pretty damn hard sometimes. But I made myself read at least half an hour before going to sleep and another half hour when I wake up, and it worked out pretty well. The one thing that saved me towards the latter half of the year was getting a Barnes and Noble "Nook" e-reader, which is an incredibly beautiful thing. I never knew just how amazing it was until late one night when I had finished Catching Fire (the 2nd book in the Hunger Games Trilogy) and I was itching to read the next I just went to the B&N store on the Nook and bought the next one. Right there. From bed. At 2 in the morning. Five minutes at the most. TECHNOLOGY! HOLY SHIT!

So, anyway. I still want to try and finish the reviews I have left. I'm pretty sure I'll join the Cannonball again for its 4th iteration, but I want to get #3 done and over with before I do.

Here's some quick End-of-the-Cannonball Lists!

Best Books of 2011:

1. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
2. World War Z by Max Brooks
3. Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Friend by Christopher Moore
4. The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins
5. A Song of Ice and Fire by George RR Martin

Lessons Learned: I love series. And damn, there's some good Young Adult reading out there (both my #1 and #4 are so qualified). I also like zombies and funny books.

Best Series of 2001, Because Damn, I Read a Lot of Series This Year:

1. A Song of Ice and Fire by George RR Martin
2. The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins
3. The Southern Vampire Series by Charlaine Harris
4. The D'Artagnan Romances by Alexandre Dumas
5. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

Lessons Learned: Second verse, same as the first. I also like how this shows that my tastes in reading are pretty damn eclectic.
Worst Books of 2011:

1. The Constant Princess by Phillipa Gregory (GAWRGH)
2. Misfortune by William Stace
3. Dead of Night by Randy Wayne White
4. Diary of a Manhattan Call Girl by Tracy Quan
5. The Ministry of Special Cases by Nathan Englander

Lessons learned: I hate bad historical fiction, and I hate being bored by books. Also: there's a lot of bad writing out there and I'm glad I avoided most of it.

Tear-jerkiest Books of 2011, AKA: Books That Feel Like a Punch to the Gut:

1. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
2. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
3. The Pianist by Wladyslaw Szpilman
4. Schindler's List by Thomas Keneally
5. The Man in the Iron Mask by Alexandre Dumas

Lessons learned: Good lord, woman, stop reading books about the Holocaust. Also: Keep a box of tissues by the bed.

Biggest Disappointments of 2011:

1. Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman
2. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

Lessons learned: Not everything Neil Gaiman does is gold.

Biggest "Wait...Did I Read That? I Totally Forgot:

1. Misfortune by William Stace
2. Lisey's Story by Stephen King
3. Fool by Christopher Moore

Lessons Learned: Zzzzzzz.....

Best "Damn! White Suburbanites Have it Tough, Yo" Books of 2011:

1. Little Children by Tom Pirrotta
2. Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
3. Needful Things by Stephen King
4. One Day by Dave Nicholls
5. The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson

Lessons Learned: The problems of suburbanites can make for really awesome books.

Favorite Heroines of 2011:
1. Katniss Everdeen, The Hunger Games Trilogy
2. Sookie Stackhouse, The Southern Vampire Series
3. Elizabeth I, The Life of Elizabeth I
4. Arya Stark , A Song of Ice and Fire
5. Liesel Meminger, The Book Thief

Lessons Learned: Chicks are awesome, man. Modern literature really is creating some badass females, and I love it. Also, Elizabeth I kicked all kinds of ass.

Favorite Heroes

1. Tyrion Lannister, A Song of Ice and Fire
2. Biff, Lamb
3. Oskar Schindler, Schindler's List
4. That One Yonkers Dude from World War Z
5. Athos, Porthos, Aramis and D'Artagnan: The Three Musketeers

Lessons Learned: Duuuuuudes. Dudes are cool.

Favorite Villains of 2011:

1. The Zombies, World War Z
2. Everything, Catch-22
3. Leland Gaunt, Needful Things
4. The Capitol, The Hunger Games Trilogy
5. Lord Voldemort, The Harry Potter Series

Best Comic Book, Not That I Read A Lot of Them, But This One Is Still Awesome:

1. Hark! A Vagrant! by Kate Beaton-- you can read her comic on her website. Do it!

Lessons learned: Kate Beaton is amazing.

Best People on the Internet for Recommending Books:


Lessons learned: Listen to Pajibans when it comes to books.


Damn, I love making lists.

Anyway, here's to some good books in 2012!