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The Week in Books V

June 8, 2007

Not a lot going on here right now.

Chuck Austen is not a very good writer.  I wish they’d stop hiring him.  He writes like he moved his little action figures around and made them say things and there you go.  However, I read Day of the Atom because I had the first two issues lying around, so why not read the trade?  Well, maybe because the first two were awful.  Blehhhhh.

Next I read Christopher Moore’s A Dirty Job.  I…didn’t love it.  On her writing website, Jenny Crusie talks about why prologues are bad, and how if it doesn’t incorporate into the story, it’s not the beginning.  The thing with Moore’s book is that it feels like it’s ALL prologue until the very last part of the book.  It’s disjointed, time doesn’t move the way it should in a book–at one point, I was startled to learn that we’d moved five years through time.  Not a time jump, but that five years were passing as I read.  It sure didn’t feel it.  The other problem is that the main character is pretty dumb, and the climax is ruined by–well, the cover.  (See below for more on bad marketing.)  So either the main character, Charlie, is one of those TDTL (too dumb to live) characters you read about in romance novels, or we’re supposed to be surprised–but we’re not–or we’re supposed to know but…it just makes everything else seem worthless.  Sorry, Moore.  Let’s try again next week with something else.

Then I read The Pulse, Volumes 1 and 2, the much tamer sequel to Alias.  The first volume was good, but of course after reading Alias, it doesn’t seem like much.  The second volume was a tie-in with Bendis’s Secret War, so it’s not meant to be read alone.  And…I didn’t much care for Secret War.  I still like Jessica Jones, though.  It looks like the rest haven’t been collected, and if I want to read about Jessica…I dunno.  Bendis has a lot on his plate now, I suppose, changing around the Avengers like that.  La la la…now I need a new series to get through.  If only ILLiad had told me whether it found my third Starman trade…

I moved on, then, to more Jodi Picoult, this time Second Glance.  Picoult here seems to be channeling Alice Hoffman and adding in a ghost story.  Unfortunately, the book does not pick up until the very end of the first part, and the infodump of characters in the beginning only confused me.  However, the rest of the book moves seamlessly to an annoyingly unending end–the kind of ending like, as when you watch Spider-Man 2, you think that’s it but…no.  I hear that happens in one of the Lord of the Rings movies, but I don’t know which one.  Either way, it’s pretty annoying and this isn’t something I’ll be interested in rereading.  If I want Hoffman, I’ll read Hoffman.  If I want extra endings, I’ll rewatch Spidey.  Still, if extra endings and a cast of what feels like thousands being thrown at you in the beginning aren’t going to put you off, it is good reading otherwise.  You might like it.  There are a few chills and surprises to be had.

Next I caught up on DC’s Countdown.  The problem with this, as it was with the previous series, 52 (which counted UP), is that it will work better in a trade.  I think that DC learned with 52 that telling the story was more important than finding a cliffhanger every week, and that made for more compelling reading.  However, reading three at a time (which I did this week) barely whets my appetite.  However, these things just show up at my house; it’s not like I can just wait.  Well, I suppose I could, and I may.  52, after all, was much better in 10-issue chunks.

Finally, I knocked out Freshman Holiday this morning.  It’s a bit of a nostalgia trip for me, being that I read a ton of the Freshman books when I was growing up.  Even this one!  I found it for about 10 cents in a library book sale and I thought, “Oh, let me get it.”  Wow, it’s aged.  Everything’s “outrageous!” and “totally!” and the characters seem like cardboard cut-outs walking and talking maturely one moment and childishly the next.  If there were any depth to it–kind of a reveal on how 18 is that age where you’re not quite an adult, blah blah blah…but no.  The other thing that bothered me is that the bottom of the cover says “Paris sizzles when Lauren is kidnapped!”  Okay.  Sizzles with kidnapping?  I hope someone was fired for that.  Secondly, the back reads, among other trite things, “One of the dreamy guys KC, Winnie, and Kimberly fall for is holding Lauren hostage!”

Guys, Lauren gets kidnapped on page 231.  The books ends at 311.  That’s 230 pages of no kidnapping and 80 pages of kidnapping fun.  Why spoil the ending like that?  There’s enough drama in the book itself that it could’ve been sold as “Lauren and Dash go head-to-head over Lauren’s snobby parents…KC’s made her mark as a model in America, but will that be enough to cut it in glamorous Paris?…Kimberly’s met an American artist who infuriates her as much as he attracts her!…Winnie’s taking cooking lessons!  Will she have egg on her face?  There’s a certain bohemian writer making her souffle rise!”  (Okay, forgive me; I was out in the sun all day yesterday.)   But see?  Tons going out without giving away the kidnapping.  Bah, hamburger.  Then again, I bet it STILL beats Gossip Girl.  But not the Sisterhood.  Still, there’s no cursing and no sex (in this one anyway), so it’s kid-safe, if you’re interested in that.  I’m not sure I am anymore.

Well, that was…kind of a lame weak.  And I’m still trying to plod through the first Silver Surfer volume.  Tune in next week, when I make a….hey.  Did I forget one?  I DID.  I missed something on my usually-accurate list!

I also read Dead Clever, the first Lily Pascale book by Scarlett Thomas.  Now there’s a book that didn’t live up to the hype written all over it.   More marketing badness.  Let’s look at it, shall we?

Twin Peaks condensed into book form.”  -BBC Radio 4

Okay, no.  See, that suggests to me that it’s all sorts of weird, and it isn’t.

“A sassy character, fu
ll of contemporary hipness and uncurable curiosity
which, naturally, draws her to mystery like a bee to honey.” –Time Out (I don’t know what Time Out is, but it probably should be italicized, so there you go.)

Hm.  Okay, “hip.”  I’m not going to say that Lily is UNHIP.  But hip?  Like, really hip?  No.  She’s actually just kind of…there.  I mean, she just seems like a girl.  And yet “hip” is this word that people have grabbed onto.  The word “hip” is also used by The Times and something called Pulp, Channel 4, which makes me think that The Times and Pulp are both like the character in the book who uses the word “hip” without really knowing what it means.  Val McDermid of the Manchester Evening News calls Lily “[s]mart, strong and self-reliant.”  But Lily…is dumb as a bunch of rocks.  No offense, Lily, but COME ON.  She sticks her nose into something that’s not her business, she goes to places dumbly and gets into trouble, her cover stories are pathetic, and, oh, best of all, she finds evidence and doesn’t think to tell the police.  At all.  It makes you wonder if when Toby Litt from the Guardian asked “feisty heroine, or what?” that the answer might indeed be “or what.”  I’m not saying it wasn’t an interesting book, but I totally missed why all these people were glowing about it.  Is it because it’s almost a decade old?  Maybe because mystery readers weren’t used to young female heroines who weren’t Nancy Drew?  Maybe I’ve been watching too much Veronica Mars, which is indeed fantastic and makes Lily look like a clod?  I’m hoping to find more enjoyment in the second book, which I’ll be reading next week along with more Picoult (oh, you get into reading ruts too), something called Vacant Possession, and we’ll see if I get through the Essential Silver Surfer Volume 1.

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