Monthly Archives: January 2013

Books! Philippa Phones It In #cbr5

In last year’s Cannonball Read I didn’t review books that I didn’t particularly like. I tend not to give up on books (except Twilight) because I obsessively like to finish things, but I couldn’t bring myself to write a few of those reviews.  This year I am going to do a full Cannonball if it kills me, so here is my first negative review for CBR5.

Generally I don’t mind Philipa Gregory’s books. She doesn’t write particularly good historical fiction compared to some other authors, but her books make for nice escapes if you like history. They aren’t horrible bodice rippers and they do have some truth. They also don’t make you weep too much for the state of fiction (unlike Twilight). So, yes, I’ve read a few of her novels. 

The Kingmaker’s Daughter (The Cousins’ War #4) continues a series on the women of the Wars of the Roses. They do not need to be read in order as each book tells the story from one woman’s perspective. Honestly I think it is a really cool idea, but the books are a mixed bag. The White Queen is the best so far. The Lady of the Rivers and The Red Queen were fine, but had issues. This one might frankly be the worst.

Part of the problem might be the lack of source information for the main character, Anne Neville, who marries King Richard III. Gregory’s attempt to fill in the blanks mostly falls flat. She tries to make it exciting by having Anne victim to overbearing parents, including a mother who inexplicably forces Anne to deliver her sister’s baby in a storm on a boat, but I was really bored with most of it. The character isn’t interesting enough to make the slow times around her more engaging.

In addition, Gregory just blasted this novel out without any concern for, well, the reader. There are continuity issues that even I noticed (Anne steps down from a mounting block twice in one paragraph). The narrative is repetitive and grammatically problematic. Every sentence ends in a comma, what do you think of that, this writing style gets annoying, seriously. And did I mention repetitive?

Finally, the series phenomenon is killing me. Between Pure, The Century Trilogy, All Souls Trilogy, and the ongoing Cousins’ War (a fifth is in the works), I have my reading lists locked up for the next few years. The obsessive side of my personality is having a hard time disengaging (except Twilight, nixed that one early on).

While you don’t have to read these books in order, I had to rack my brain to remember what the heck happened with the other women. Part of this is my fault. You know you read too much fiction about a historical time period when they all start to run together. But much of this is the publishing industry’s laziness. They capitalize on a good thing and keep it going whether it should die a quick death or not (die! Twilight!). That’s not Gregory’s fault really, but it is yet another reason I disliked this one.

Anne was dull dull dull and Philippa seemed to phone this one in. Meh, back at ya.

Books! The Neverending Saga of Nicholas Flamel #cbr5

I’m ahead of the game for Cannonball Read this year! Go me. The Sorceress

First off, a warning. Even if you find The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel’s storyline frustrating or don’t like the writing, it is very easy to get sucked in to the series and keep reading. And there are six books. Approach with caution.

I came across Michael Scott’s series while trolling our public library eBook website for something new to read. Granted the series had very mixed reviews but the story sounded, well, bearable and light. Good my-brain-is-fried end-of-the-semester reading.

I just finished book #3, The Sorceress, and the truth is I have to find out what happens! And I’m starting to hate myself for that. Luckily the series has ended (at #6), so at least I don’t have to play the waiting game as with almost every other book known to modern publishing (I’m looking at you Julianna Baggott). But, anyway.

This is the story of twins who fall unwittingly into an evil plot to end the world by bringing back the “Dark Elders” who once ruled what we call Atlantis. The twins are protected by an alchemist named Nicholas Flamel and his wife Perenelle, a famous sorceress. They are pursued by, well, every baddie on earth, but mostly a magician named Dee, Machiavelli (who strangely still goes by Machiavelli), the crow goddess, the cat goddess, and a guy with antlers on his head. In each book they run into a new group of good guys and gals including (but not limited to) Joan of Arc, a ninja chick named The Shadow, and Shakespeare. As you can imagine madness ensues including the destruction of Notre Dame’s gargoyles.

bunny!

bunny!

I can’t really pinpoint anything I liked or hated about The Sorceress because everything is starting to run together. Literally the story just keeps on going like everyone’s favorite pink bunny. I also don’t want to give too much away in case you decide to go down this rabbit hole. Overall the writing isn’t great, the story is hella convoluted, and Edith Hamilton is probably rolling in her grave when it comes to the abuse of mythology. But, honestly, I can’t put it down.

Before you run out and read #1, it is my duty to warn you that the series has absolutely no connection to Harry Potter (Nicholas Flamel is mentioned at some point as Dumbledore’s friend). Nicholas Flamel was a real person who just happened to be used by both authors. Scott never meant to capitalize on the success of Harry Potter, I’m sure. ;) And all of those disappointed HP fans on Goodreads should probably read a book summary before going all rabid in their reviews. I’m just saying.

Overall reading this series is like buying white fudge covered Oreos. I can’t stop eating them, but I will hate myself in the morning for it.

Books! Winter of the World #cbr5

A new year and a new Cannonball Read. Here’s my second go at 52!

Winter of the World by Ken Follett is the second book of the Century Trilogy. I wish I had a review of the first book, but in brief it chronicles the life of four families starting around the turn of the century up to the 1920s. These American, British, Russian, and German families are witnesses to and at times active participants in the world’s major events.

Book two takes us through the World War II and the 1940s with the same families and their offspring. Whereas I felt the first book was rushed in trying to cover so many years (without being over 1,000 pages), Follett seems to slow down a bit through this chronicle. Rather than skipping over several years as in the last book, the war years take several chapters each. The book and the reader benefits from this slower pace.

The difficulty of these books is that you have to suspend disbelief a bit when it comes to the intertwining lives of these characters. It just happens that members of these four families are direct witnesses to Pearl Harbor, the making of the atom bombs in both the US and the USSR, the rise of Hitler, the Battle of Midway, and more.

The biggest criticism of Follett’s writing is that his characters are one-dimensional. Some men are evil, do bad things, and get their comeuppance; some men are good,  beaten up, suffer, but have a good life in the end, scarred but much wiser. The women especially tend to be either saints or tarts. However, his characters are a bit more complex in this book, especially the females, but they still serve mostly to encourage the action on or to serve as witness to events.

Having said that Follett can set a scene well and make it believable. He also knows how to give background information without it seeming stilted. While he will never be my favorite writer, his descriptions of Pearl Harbor and other battles were quite riveting page-turners and despite the length (almost 1,000 pages) I will return for the third book.

And speaking of that third book I’m really curious what he will cover. He calls it the century trilogy so I assumed he would go up to 9/11, but it seems his concern is more with the Cold War. Even so, 1950-1989?! That’s the same period of time covered in the first two books. So, you know where to find me next fall.

Historical fiction at its most magisterial. Don’t be afraid of its length as it has its gripping, page-turning moments. If you have wrist issues, I would get the eBook version. The hardback is quite a brick.