Archive for February, 2016

26
Feb
16

The Bollywood Bride drinking game. CBR8 Review 12.

UnknownDrink every time Ria’s aunties do something charming. Think about how you wish there was more about this lovely group of ladies in the book. Wouldn’t it be nice to find out how their friendships came to be?

Drink whenever Jen and Nikhil are front and center in the story. Its their wedding. I’d like to know more about Jen. I know she’s a doctor and she’s uncomfortable in a sari. But what else makes her tick?

Drink whenever the book actually alludes to Bollywood and how that business works. Bollywood produces hundred of films every year and creates mega-stars, the likes of which I’m not sure we can fully understand. Like Brangelina x 100.

Drink whenever Ria’s aunt and uncle show how lovely they are. Their love for the three main children in this book is pretty spectacular, and I adored when the uncle told the story about meeting the aunt. I’d read a whole book about them and the auntie squad.

Drink whenever Ria’s hometown of Mumbai is actually described in any way whatsoever.

Drink each time Vikram’s mom does something that seems human.

Drink when the actual details of the wedding are described. It sounded gorgeous. I wish we got more of that instead of sex in a supply closet.

Drink every time important topics like mental health and adoption are discussed openly and frankly.

Drink whenever it is inferred that Ria is a great artist and yet then we don’t hear about it again for another 100 pages.

What’s that? Not drunk yet? I guess those things didn’t happen very often. How about with these rules:

Take a sip anytime someone exercises improperly.

Take a  sip whenever Vikram gets so unbelievably angry you wonder why he isn’t taking anger management classes.

Take a sip whenever Ria has the opportunity to tell Vikram something resembling the truth about how she feels, but pulls a Lady Edith and decides to keep her mouth shut.

Take a sip every time Vikram seductively (?) breathes on Ria’s lips.

Take two drops every time Ria says “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Take a drop when each and every opportunity they have for this entire mess to be cleared up is wasted.

Now call an ambulance and get your stomach pumped. You probably have alcohol poisoning.

 

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17
Feb
16

A lesson in separating the wheat from the chaff. CBR8 Review 11.

UnknownConstant Reader, there’s nothing I like more than a new book of Stephen King short stories. Ever since I was a little Scoots, I can remember paging through dog-eared copies of Night Shift, Skeleton Crew, and the Bachman Books have been tried and true favorites. Classics like The Mist, The Running Man, The Raft, Mrs. Todd’s Shortcut, and The Jaunt have been read over and over through the years. And more recently, we’ve seen great collections, like Just After Sunset and Everything’s Eventual, both filled with some excellent short stories that were scary, thrilling, and thought-provoking.

And here we have The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, the most recent collection of short work. And the first of these books that I don’t think I’ll buy a copy of my own so I can reread it someday.

Never fear, Constant Reader. There are some really good bits in here. If you are a fan of King and his short stories, this is still a must. But it was the first time when reading one of King’s collections that I kept putting it aside, and some of the stories I really struggled to get through.

But let’s talk about the good stuff. Because there’s lots of it here.

First of all, I loved how King wrote a brief introduction to each story, explaining what influenced him and how and when he wrote the story. And each story was dedicated to someone from a different part of his life, which I thought was lovely.

Some of the stories — Premium Harmony, Morality, Bad Little Kid — were a bit rough to get through. You knew at the start of the story that it wasn’t going to end well for these characters, and it wasn’t necessarily pleasant to read about how they ended up.

But there were some gems here, and I’d rather focus on those.

The Bone Church is a poem of sorts, King calls it a “dramatic monologue”, and it was scary and suspenseful. About a search for a mystical elephant burial ground in some un-named country gone wrong, with a drunk (and possible demonic) narrator, this is a quick, tense read.

Herman Wouk is Still Alive was classic King — everyday people going about their lives in Maine, unaware that a tragedy is about to occur. A van filled with women and children crashes and explodes on the Maine roadside, just where two aging poets are sharing a picnic and thinking about the passage of time. This one really stuck with me, particularly the part when Brenda — an out-of-work single mom — wonders about what kind of future her illegitimate children will have.

The seven kids will beget seventeen, and the seventeen will beget seventy, and the seventy will beget two hundred. She can see a ragged fool’s parade marching into the future…

Obits was much more fun, but in a ghastly way. Young Michael Anderson is a writer for a TMZ/Perez Hilton type website, and he writes nasty celebrity Obituaries. And one day he discovers that maybe he might have the ability to do more than just write obituaries AFTER the fact…and that maybe his writing could potentially CAUSE a death to occur. What does a normal guy do with a power like that, and how does it not drive him mad?

My favorite story was the heartbreaking Under the Weather. Brad is an advertising executive, known for his creativity and business acumen. Brad’s wife is sick, and he suddenly finds that he can no longer see the difference between reality and the better, more creative version that he’s created for himself.

The rest of the stories are a mixed bag. Some are quite strong — UR, Summer Thunder, Batman and Robin Have an Altercation — and worth a read. Some are more fluff and filler, and I’ll forget about them as soon as I bring the book back to the library. But I always appreciate Uncle Stevie’s efforts and will continue, as always, to be a Constant Reader.

 

17
Feb
16

Too bad the insides weren’t as good as the pretty cover with a cute title. CBR8 Review 10.

imagesI was walking around the library, looking for something to read over the long weekend, and I saw this cute book. It had a cheery, bright colored cover and a cute title. What could go wrong?

Seriously, I was almost a third of the way through this, thinking to myself that although it was a quick, easy read, I really wasn’t enjoying it, and it was driving me crazy that it reminded me of something. I finally realized that it was by the same author as last year’s Dear Mr. Knightley, a book that I had high hopes for, but that failed me in the end.

This book gives me similar feels.

Lucy is a 20-something who lives in Chicago, and works in a super-popular antique /interior design shop. She is in charge of all of the rare books in the store, and everything that comes out of her mouth is book-related. She speaks in book quotes and compares everything to things that happened in books written hundreds of years ago. To me, this doesn’t seem realistic or healthy. But I went with it.

Lucy has a meet cute with James, who is shopping for his grandmother. They fall in love, talk about books, and then suddenly break up with James finds out that Lucy has a kind of awful and unforgivable secret.

But James’ grandmother takes a liking to Lucy, and brings her along on a shopping trip to London and the British countryside. Weird and contrived, I know. But still, I went with it.

And in the end, all is forgiven, and everyone has learned an important life lesson about themselves and their loved ones because LITERATURE. And this is where I couldn’t take it anymore.

Lucy was an abhorrent character. There was literally nothing about her that made me like her. She was manipulative and shady and I never once felt bad for her that she was dumped by James. I did feel bad that she had been abandoned by her con-man father, but it seemed like her mother was a strong woman who did her best by Lucy. And Lucy didn’t seem to appreciate that one bit.

What I did love about this book is all of the tidbits of information I learned about literary England. As Lucy toured Bloomsbury and Westminster Abbey in London, the moved north to the Brontes’ home up in Haworth, and finishing up in Bowness on Windermere, I googled along every step of the way. I learned about the Bronte family, Beatrix Potter, T.S. Eliot, and C.S. Lewis. And I’m glad that I did, as some of the stories were fascinating, and the scenery was beautiful.

Katherine Reay has a third book — once again about young women obsessed with classic literature, but this time with CANCER. I think I’ll skip it.

 

11
Feb
16

The last one was fun. This one felt more like homework. CBR8 Review 9.

Unknown-3Remember a few years ago when the ridiculously fun Crazy Rich Asians came out? And we all devoured it and laughed and said, well, that was crazy but it was fun, and then forgot about it?

Well, our favorite (and lots of our not-so-favorite) crazy, rich Asians are back in the sequel. China Rich Girlfriend is still the story of Rachel and Nick, and how their marriage has broken apart Nick’s family. But this book is about soooooooo much more. And I don’t necessarily mean that in a good way.

Not only do we revisit every single character from the first book, but we meet lots of new characters here. And we jet from Sinagpore to Hong Kong and China every few pages. And its hard to keep up. And somewhat unpleasant, to boot.

The shocking excess from the first book are still here, and even MORE excessive, if you can believe that. In this book, we meet several of the new class of Chinese billionaires — those with so much money that its honestly unconceivable. But I didn’t enjoy their tales of outlandish spending and waste. This time it was more uncomfortable than laughable.

Nick’s mother, the unbearable Eleanor, finally figures out who Rachel’s father is. And unsurprisingly, he’s one of the richest men in Asia. As Eleanor tries to weasel her way back into Nick and Rachel’s life, we meet Rachel’s new dad, his wife, his playboy son, Carlton, and Carlton’s absurd fashionista, Instagram famous, billionaire girlfriend, Colette.

And I don’t know why this story wasn’t as fun to read as the first one. But reading about someone buying out entire boutiques in Paris, and then refusing to pay for valet parking gets old after a while. This one felt more like assigned reading.

And so, I treated it like homework. Whenever Kwan mentioned something about a specific area of China/Singapore/Hong Kong, I looked it up and learned about it. For instance…the “tiny” black and white bungalows that all of the top families in Singapore live in? They look like this:

Unknown

 

Adorable and charming and tiny, right?

And the great lake in Hangzhou where Rachel goes to meet her friend? Stunning.

Unknown-2

 

So, I’m glad that I learned a little bit about some of the background in these books, but I think I’m just tired of the sheer, unapologetic excess. I know Kevin Kwan is still trying to make a statement about the new state of economics in Asia. But I’m just not sure what that statement is.

09
Feb
16

Story and characters pretty good. Editing not so much. CBR8 review 8.

UnknownNow that Bunnybean is tearing her way through the Lunar Chronicles books, I figured I might as well try and finish up the last book (I don’t count the new book of “related short stories” that just came out), Winter.

I wasn’t all that excited about reading it, to be honest. I loved Cinder and Scarlet, and really liked Cress. And then I read Fairest. And I despised it. It really almost ruined the entire series for me. It was so heavy-handed and annoying, I honestly didn’t care about any of it anymore.

And I have mixed feelings about Winter, now that I’m finally done.

As this is the last book in the series, I’m too tired to explain what’s going on. If you’ve read these books, great, keep reading. If not, stop reading this, and go out and read Cinder. You won’t regret it.

What did I like? Well, the basic plot was fine. We needed some closure on all of the main characters, and of course we needed to make sure that something terrible was going to happen to nasty Queen Levana. And we got all of that.

All of our main characters, plus a few new ones, stood up to various evils in order to bring down Levana and bring harmony to relations between Earth and the Lunar colony. Seriously, something terrible was thrown at our heroes pretty much every chapter, and yet, they kept at it, never stopping until Cinder (aka Princess Selene) is able to take her rightful place on the Lunar throne.

I liked that nothing came easy to this bunch, and that Cinder and her friends end up making a lot of mistakes along their way, mistakes that even end up costing the lives of some of their allies. And that they actually learned something from these mistakes, and changed their approach to getting Cinder on the throne.

And I’ll be honest…while I really didn’t much care about whether or not Cinder and Kai or Scarlet and Wolf ended up together, I was nervous about Cress and Thorne. I’m glad we got a happy ending for those two.

What didn’t I like?

Well. How much time do you have?

First of all, Princess Winter. All of it.* Ridiculous. No.

This was a character that I understood the need for, but just didn’t work for me. And Jacin? Yes, I get that they’ve been friends forever. And I understand that she’s a beautiful princess. But their romance was really just a bit icky.

*I will give Winter a pass on one subplot — the alliance of the wolves to the rebels. This was actually ok.

But my major problem with this book was the editing. This book was over 800 pages long, and it felt like it. There were plot points that were repeated again and again (really, how many times can characters wonder about whether or not they should escape in tunnels? Or how many times do we need to be told that Levana is using her lunar gift to manipulate the masses? SO MANY TIMES, I GUESS.), and entire scenes that were completely unnecessary. If it had been half as long, I think I would have liked it a lot more.

Sloppy details bugged me so much. On one page, we have Scarlet, recently rescued from the menagerie. She hasn’t bathed or done laundry in ages and her trademark red hoodie is filthy. When she meets up with her friends, she is constantly fidgeting with her hoodie strings. They offer to wash her dirty sweatshirt, and then put it in the laundry. Over the next few pages, Scarlet is STILL described as playing with the hoodie strings in great detail. And then the clean sweatshirt is given back to her. So messy and such bad editing. If Scarlet had just left her hoodie alone, we could have cut 25 pages.

Sad that such a wonderful story ended on such a low note. I’m glad I read Winter, but wish it had been a stronger entry in the series.

 

 




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