I was really looking forward to this book after the chapter in Laymon’s essay collection about the trials he had to go through to get it published. It’s about a black boy in Mississippi who finds a book that tells a parallel story about a black boy with the same name (and friends and family) but in a different year. There’s a hole in the woods that allows time travel, the Klan, family secrets revealed, and a few interesting discussions of race (and a bit about gender). (There’s a black man who gets killed by the Klan after making a come-on to a 16-year-old white girl. Of course, killing him was an evil but a female character notes that it’s messed up for a grown man to be talking that way to a girl.) Anyway, by the end, I was frustrated with it and I realized why: It’s just like when someone goes on and on and on about a crazy dream where all these fantastical and nonsensical things happen — it’s interesting to them but not to anybody else.
The book reads like a crappy Bruce Willis movie and, indeed, it was made into one. Every character is drawn from movie cliches, starting with the brilliant tough-guy cop who was devastated by a previous case gone bad and now must come out from his emotional hiding to save his family. But crappy action-thrillers have a way of pulling you forward by sheer momentum of the plot so there’s three stars. But it gets docked a star for also having that action-movie cliche of the women characters being non-existent or there to be rescued like damsels in distress — only men do anything important in this book. And it gets docked another star for holding back an absurd secret that one of the characters was hiding until near the end; it completely removes the plot from reality and is just stupid. Fortunately, this is an early Crais book and he gets better. Bechdel test: miserable failure.
Smart, young woman tries to put her ugly beginnings in rural poverty behind her by coming to the big city, where she becomes a prostitute. Written with style and intelligence but the story is merely OK. Would've been better as either a short story or a full novel because we don’t learn much about her after the initial introduction and yet it seems so much more could've been said.
Another wonderful entry in McDermid's series about psychological profiler Tony Hill, who is hospitalized throughout much of the book after being hit with an ax by a patient, and detective chief inspector Carol Jordan, who is faced with the case of a star soccer player being poisoned and evidence suggesting there might be a terrorism angle. This one isn't as gruesome as some of the other books because it's not about a sexual sociopath. But if the plot sounds boring — and it does to me — it's interesting in its look at terrorism security, poisonous plants and soccer fandom. It does discuss the endings of the first and fourth books but not so explicitly that it would ruin reading them after this, but the characters will resonate more if you start earlier. Bechdel test: A+.
An Israeli human rights lawyer who argues on behalf of Arab residents is given the job of approving who, when and how the government tortures. Meanwhile, her son is kidnapped by Muslim terrorists. Nice set up, bad execution. There's a twist that's obvious from the first page and has been done better before. Maybe if the story had STARTED with that twist ... Also problematic is how the lawyer casually tosses aside her ethical beliefs and life's work without much consideration. The characters are mostly shrill caricatures: dirty, lying, murderous, Jew-hating Muslims; lying, murderous, Muslim-hating Jews who nonetheless must do what they do because they are on the side of angels against evil; liberal, nonsensical hypocrite Jews who protest on behalf of Arabs; and a loving, generous old Arab woman who plays a woman-of-color Mammy character. There's also a thriller rescue plot that is tension free. The only good thing about the book is its interesting details of the Israeli security state. Bechdel test: pass.
I needed a quick, fun action book and this fit the bill. It’s pure pulp fiction. Former porn star Angel Dare is waitressing under a fake name in a nowhere diner after confronting a sex-trafficking ring in the series’ first book (“Money Shot”) — when in walks an old boyfriend who promptly gets shot and, as he lays dying, asks her to protect his son. The kid is an up-and-coming MMA competitor involved with bad people. It’s like a B-movie film noir, only sex positive. That said, there’s a creepy sexual encounter — that is emphasized as creepy by the author — that I will never be able to unknow, although I’d like to. Nothing like Mo Hayder creepy but creepy nonetheless. Bechdel test: pass.
It was quite long and yet it held my interest ... and yet I would've been fine not reading it. Rich white kids at a preppy New England college do lots of drugs, drive drunk and kill, all without consequence, except for their own angst. Tartt being friends with Bret Easton Ellis at Bennington and exchanging early chapters of this with his “Less Than Zero” makes sense now. Gratuitous references to ancient Greek writers. Bechdel test: fail.
I love Tartt's voice. Her reading of "True Grit" is great. Here it takes some getting used to because the book is written in first person from a male narrator's point of view. But she clearly understands the characters and helps make the novel better than it is.
I gave up after about 8 hours. This is almost identical to The Stand, only really weak. The cliches of the magic Negro and The Chosen One, to name just a few here, are so generic that it's hard to take the book seriously. The supernatural elements are perfunctory. But I think the main reason I decided life was too short to finish this is that I didn't care about any of the characters and the writing is business-like with no genuine sense of wonder about the apocalypse.
This is the first Harry Bosch story I thought was worthless. An anonymous tip breaks open a cold-case involving a couple of murders involving a switchblade used on gay men. No real twists or investigatory hurdles, just a straight line from A to B. Bechdel test: Fail. You know, it makes me realize that I didn't care for the last two Bosch books, "The Drop" and "The Black Box." The new Mickey Haller book — "The Gods of Guilt" — was great, among his best, so maybe Harry's character has run his course. Connelly keeps threatening to have a case featuring Bosch's daughter, maybe it's time. (That said, the two Bosch short story collections — "Angle of Investigation" and "Suicide Run" — were very good.)
Although it has the same name as the Sandra Bullock movie and features a female astronaut lost in space, it bares no relationship. It’s a medical thriller set on the space station where a mysterious illness causes everything to go wrong that could go wrong. I read it because Stephen King listed it as one of his favorite books. It was solid and exciting from start to finish, but not great by any stretch. Bechdel test: pass.
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