Posts filed under ‘50 page fail’

Gosh darn rubber bands and shoelaces – “A Killing in the Hills” by Julia Keller

“A Killing in the Hills” by Julia Keller, Published in 2012

I knew this was going to go terribly wrong when the opening act of this book is three old men getting shot in a fast food joint and after reading this attempt at what should have been a riveting opener I thought “what’s on t.v. tonight?”

Ms. Keller is trying really, really hard to show the reader what a great writer she is and I have no doubt that is true. But her characters are so cliché it is just painful. Let’s review:

  • There is Bell, our heroine, a hard-working attorney trying to seek justice against all odds but still trying to overcome a storied past and a broken heart.
  • Carla, Bell’s angst-ridden teen daughter, who is on the brink of making bad life choices but can still be saved.
  • Sheriff Fogelsong, a good old boy with a heart of gold who has remained true to his sense of justice.
  • The elderly neighbor who is a sweetheart and in remission from cancer – she is obviously going to die about three-quarters into the book, I just know it.

While Keller hits some good emotions and descriptions in her book then she writes things like “the case…was a daunting one, fraught with moral and legal dilemmas as tightly tangled as miscellaneous string and single shoelaces and ancient rubber bands nested in the back of a kitchen drawer.”  I guess I was previously unaware of the close connection between jumbled rubber bands and moral dilemmas. Thank you Keller for your clever turn of phrase.  But even being annoyed with this type of writing, I kept reading, hoping the story would carry the day.

Then, around page 70, Keller writes “Fashion advice for this time of the year generally came down to one word: layers.  It was critical to have options. To not commit to anything you can’t shed the instant it doesn’t work anymore. Not such bad advice for a marriage, either, she thought.” And at that I laughed so hard my stomach hurt, I closed the book, and turned the T.V. on. while remaining vigilant lest my rubber band dilemmas get the best of me.

English: Rubber bands in different colors. Stu...

English: Rubber bands in different colors. Studio photo taken. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Other reviews to check out (they actually read the whole book and liked it):

From Reactions to Reading 

From Jenn’s Bookshelves

From Book’d Out

 

February 22, 2013 at 10:53 pm Leave a comment

Mr. Chabon is super cool and you get to read all about it – “Telegraph Avenue” by Michael Chabon

Telegraph Avenue” by Michael Chabon, Published in 2012

I will begin by saying I have not read anything else by Mr. Chabon but I do know he is beloved by the critics.  Here is the thing, it is okay to not like something by a beloved author (hey, critics I am talking to you).  Sometimes they mess up and just write something that is sub par. Sometimes they really mess up and write something awful. And sometimes I think they write a bunch of crap just to see if everyone will buy it.   Mr. Chabon, I bought your book. You are welcome.

Reading this book was much like listening to a song when the lead guitarist gets some solo time and it starts out okay but after about 5 minutes you say, with that irritated head tilt, “really?”  The somewhat main characters own a retro vinyl store on Telegraph Road, how “High Fidelity” of them.  I think the point of the record store is just so Chabon can showcase his obscure knowledge of music.

Most pages in this book are so dense, I would read a paragraph, get up, do a couple of things, come back and try again.  Do I really need a two page description about how to cook greens perfectly? No sir, I do not. My subscription of Bon Appetit has that covered.

Some of the characters were very interesting but the work I had to do to get to the story itself was just too much. And so I quit. After two hundred pages. What happens with Gwen’s baby? No idea. Does the record store close? No clue. Does Archie get stabbed by his business partner? I hope so.  But I guess I will never know. And I am okay with that.

December 12, 2012 at 10:15 pm 3 comments

“One day I will write about this place” and Emily will be cool enough to like it but not today.

So the New York Times review of this book started like this “Harried reader, I’ll save you precious time: skip this review and head directly to the bookstore for Binyavanga Wainaina’s stand-up-and-cheer coming-of-age memoir, ‘One Day I Will Write About This Place.'”

Wow, that is quite an endorsement. So of course in my nerdy excitement, I get off my lazy Sunday ass and reserve it immediately from the library, pick it up the next day, and start reading.  And I loved it…for awhile. But as I read this “amazing” book with it’s “phenomenal imaginary” I realized that I really didn’t like it. I kept trying, thinking “the cool kids like this so I will make myself like it.” But still, I would find myself avoiding this book and when I was reading I was looking longingly at the other books I would rather be reading.

Now let me be clear, the writing is wonderful.  Wainaina is truly a beautiful writer with an amazing story to tell. But I got lost in the technique and found that I really didn’t care about the story all that much.  He writes the way we all remember our lives – moments here and there. And while, he does follow a timeline it is just not enough to keep the reader with him. I will admit that I think this my fault as a reader. I need more help from the writer than I got here. But I do think that Wainaina could have given me something a little more anchored to hold onto. I confess, that like most Americans I need to learn more about the history of Kenya and South Africa, and if I am being truly honest every other country in Africa, South of Egypt. This is on my to do list, don’t worry.

In all fairness, I think everyone should at least try this book.  The question is really will you be cool enough to like it? Meanwhile, I have to go find my pocket protector and tape my glasses back together.

August 31, 2011 at 10:07 pm Leave a comment

An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin OR Navin Johnson gets a little big for his special purpose

An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin, Published in 2010

(So I read about 100 pages of this very short novel and still stopped reading it)

Dear Mr. Martin:

I am writing to let you know that sadly our relationship has ended.  When I got your newest novel “An Object of Beauty” from the library and noted that on the back cover you listed among your accomplishments the film “Bringing down the House” I should have known that this would all go terribly wrong.  Especially when it noted this film but not “The Jerk” or “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.” Heartbreaking really.

But feeling that our long relationship was worth preserving I started the book.  You created a character Lacey who has the depth of a Stepford wife. Her dream of a career in the art field and her actions to make success happen is about as interesting as I imagine the new book out about our nation’s forefathers’ gardening skills is going to be  (see http://www.amazon.com/o/ASIN/0307269906/sciencefriday for this fascinating topic).

I do have to say your clever laziness by not thoroughly describing paintings but instead just putting a picture of the paintings in the book is stunning.  If only more writers would just use pictures instead of those burdensome thing called “words” we could all read a lot more books – oh wait, you say that they are called board books for children? Yes, I will put “Goodnight Moon” on my to read list. Thank you kind sir.

But regardless, as you can see I am still locked into the world where you are talented. Like as a comedian, not a writer of literature. And how about if we apply this rule to all celebrities. Mariah Carey sticks with singing, Jennifer Lopez sticks with lip synching, and Billy Bob Thornton sticks with being creepy instead of singing or lip synching. I mean seriously, why is there a cork on your fork?

Sincerely, 

Emily Crabtree

 

July 1, 2011 at 8:25 pm Leave a comment


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There is some great literature out there, but there is a lot of bad literature as well. We shouldn't all have to read it. These are my recommendations and thoughts about the books I read.

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