Another “Don’t Want It to End” Book

We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver has been on my bookshelf, unread, back in Coquitlam for a while. I always meant to read it after I first found it on the Pop Crunch list for The 10 Most Disturbing Books of All Time, but I never got around to it. You know what they say about borrowed things versus things you actually own; if you know the book is going to be yours forever, you’ll just put off reading it.

This book, for me, goes on my list of books that I wish “would never end.” I’m enjoying the book so much that I want to just go on reading it. Not very many books make this list. Some other books that were on my “Please Never End” list:

There are a few more books that I can’t recall off the top of my head, so I’ll just get straight to the point of this short post: being able to enjoy a book so much that you don’t want it to end is something that I hope I never lose.

Don’t Go by Lisa Scottoline

I started this book with high hopes, as the premise of the story sounded very interesting.

The hook of this story was done early, and now I know why; it needed a reason to make the reader keep reading despite all the terrible plot devices that followed.

Through out the story, the actions of the characters felt forced; it was very evident that their decisions weren’t natural reactions to the events that befell them. It seems that character development and the integrity to remain true to a character’s personality were forfeit for the purpose of driving the plot forward. And here’s why:

**SPOILERS BEYOND THIS POINT**

The hook was quite well done. It was easily the best part of this novel. Having an unknown person walk in and leave Chloe for dead made me want to find out exactly who it could have been.

Then Dr. Mike comes home… and therein starts the string of unrealistic events. The author reveals tidbits of Danielle (Chloe’s sister)’s personality. At times she seems controlling (over Emily, Dr. Mike & Chloe’s baby daughter) , at others she seems pathetic (when dealing with her own husband, Bob).

A long string of characters are then introduced. They are all one-dimensional characters with no depth. Their only purpose is to drive the plot forward.

Through it all, I kept reading because I wanted to find out what type of person would have left another person dying. The “whodunit” hook kept me going. I ignored the poor plot devices.

Then… you find out. Dr. Mike makes a decision that lands him in the right place at the right time to hear the killer’s confession.

While it is conceivable that the killers were these characters, it feels poorly done. The author seems to have run out of steam with the whodunit plot line and simply rushed to the finish. The characters that the negligence & murder were pinned on were simply never developed at all, so it makes it difficult for a reader to understand their purpose. They were just another plot device. Ending the “whodunit” plot on poorly developed characters robs the reader of the satisfaction of concluding the mystery.

Then comes the dénouement… somehow after Dr. Mike solves the murder, every unfortunate circumstance the author piled on him miraculously evaporates. He’s not charged for attacking Pat (who is not mentioned at all in this part. His parents are both going to end up in jail and it’s as if Pat never existed). His in-laws suddenly feel differently about him (after finding evidence of his addict behaviour) and want to give him his baby back. Stephanie the lawyer somehow became his new romantic interest…. It’s as if the author felt bad for forcing readers through the disappointment resolution, so she thought giving us a happy ending would make us feel better. She failed; the unrealistic nature of “and they lived happily ever after” just made a disappointing read even more pathetic.

The ONE thing that kept me reading ended up failing the story. The author has some skill in driving plot. But without believable characters, a structured plot is just a skeleton of a story. There is no flesh, no color, no depth. This book was overall, very disappointing.

My Story

I finally started it. All the random memories, along with the feelings associated with them, are now being recorded on virtual paper.

It’s something I was afraid of doing before. I was afraid of being absolutely honest even when it was to no one in particular. The fear of offending someone else’s sensitivities gave me pause.

But I’m ignoring all of that now.

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I finished the series a best friend got me for Christmas. The Legend Trilogy by Marie Lu. Not the best writing I’ve ever come across, not even the best story. It wasn’t terrible enough for me to just abandon reading half way through. The ideas it put forth was familiar and the execution of it was admirable. I just didn’t feel sympathetic to the story or the characters–and I generally grow attached to books that CAN make me feel something.

I started another series that I came across while shopping for Steak. The book aisle at Stop & Shop is directly facing the meats. Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. Now this book is more up my alley. It’s horrifying at times and it reads as it the author drew the story from genuine feeling. The writing is fluid and the story enjoyable. There are certain areas of the book where it feels like a heavy-handed plot device inserted to get the characters from point A to point B, but it doesn’t distract enough from the story itself.

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My family. How do I explain this? I changed my facebook profile photo to one of my younger self propping up my baby brother. The only comments this drew were from my mother and my aunts.

My mother: “You miss your brother.” What she’s really trying to say is that I don’t miss her.

My other aunt: “Good! Now when you come back you should continue to love your brother oh!” ……………

Why is my choice of living in a separate area from family viewed as desertion? Why am I accused of loving my family less simply because I live in a different area from them? The idea of what “family” means for my Chinese relatives prevents them from understanding this, but their lack of decorum is preventing them from keeping their thoughts to themselves.

There is nothing like being guilt tripped by one Chinese mother. I’m being guilt tripped by multiple because apparent my mother’s sisters all band together when it comes to their children’s wrong-doings. Let’s quadruple the guilt power, shall we?

So that’s today in my life.

Cheap Classics

I acquired three Classics for $10. Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, Emma, and Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle.

I’ve read Pride quite a few times already, but I thought it would be handy to have a small copy to take with me on hand–simply because I never know when I’d like to re-read it again. I’ve never successfully finished Emma, but now I plan to.

This is all an attempt to quit my reading dry spell. I sped through the last three books I read because they were difficult to put down. I spent most of my days looking forward to free time for reading. The magic ended after I put down John Grisham’s The Racketeer (I knew what Bannister was up to the whole time, by the way).

I attempted, for the N’th time, to begin reading A Time to Kill but I was foiled yet again by the descriptive rape at the beginning of the book. Other seasoned readers may suggest that I skip that chapter entirely and simply begin reading from after the rape, but that would be admitting defeat. Skipping any part of a story would be as if I never started that story at all.

I’ve been having some success with Emma this time around. I found it very difficult to relate to the character and theme in my previous attempts–a difficulty I suspect was due to my lack of life experience. This time around I found myself continuing to read the book while walking on the sidewalk (a dangerous habit).

Here’s to knocking off another great book on my list!

All That I Am by Anna Funder

Here is another book crossed off of my reading list. A fantastic book–definitely joins the ranks in my personal reading history with The Time Traveler’s Wife and My Sister’s Keeper. What Anna Funder did with All That I Am absolutely blew me away.

What these books have in common for me is the after-reading-glow I experience when I’ve finally finished these books. It leaves me thinking and I end up reading the acknowledgements in my desperate need to feel somehow even closer to this story.

I rarely ever summarize a book I’ve read, but here it is.

All That I Am is a novel of the story of Nazi Germany told through the eyes of two different–and real–people. Ernst Toller and Ruth Blatt. While Funder takes fictional license to each of these character’s narratives, it is with much research of the historical facts from these two people’s lives.

While googling her book, I found a few comments and ratings on GoodReads.com. I was surprised that there were readers who took issue with the time lapse in the story and somehow they felt it was unclear; I can only assume these readers are used to reading Goosebumps or Twilight. I felt the the narrative switch is quite clear in the entire novel. There was always a clear distinction between present narrative and past narrative by the use of present tense and past tense.

The only reason I can think of the time line switch being confusing for readers is if the reader itself lacked the common sense knowledge of WWI and WWII. Common sense knowledge such as the general time line of when each War took place. Therefore, I do not think the book itself needs to make any apologies.

One of the many aspects that made this book so important to me is the writing. Funder is a poet, a storyteller, and a mistress of prose all at the same time. She understands the balance between Action and Narrative of a story incredibly well and her use of this balance in her story is one of the best I have seen in all the fiction I’ve read. Another comment on GoodReads.com mentioned that while the book was wonderfully written, the reader had a difficult time getting into the story. This was not so for me. I was immediately drawn into the book by the first paragraph, and the enchantment did not end for me until the very last sentence of the short biography blurb of Funder on the back cover of the book. I attribute this enchantment to Funder’s masterful use of action-narrative-action-narrative balance in her writing.

I also have to admit–my obsession with this book may have to do with my interest in both WWI and WWII. An interest that was peaked by Mr. Edgett, my Grade 11 History teacher. Even though his pits were constantly drenched–something we got to see every time he raised his arm to pull down the World Map–Mr. Edgett captivated me with his re-telling of the famous Schlieffen Plan. It’s amazing that this man was able to make a normally boring subject come so alive for 16 year old me. Mr. Edgett didn’t focus on the date of each event, instead he glossed over it and emphasized how each of these events were connected; in short, he showed us the bigger picture.  

I still remember the mock run of the Versailles Treaty as well as the Nuremberg Trials. I was paired with my friends Kris and Jenn and we represented England. The two of them convinced me to be the Monarch of England (a useless figurehead) while they represented the Parliamentary Government.

Eleven years later, my fascination with both World Wars has not died. During university my passion for the analysis of these events was crushed by the mindless memorization of dates and names–facts that supports the study of history while distracting from real analysis. The professors of history always seemed uninterested in sharing their theories and their analysis of these events–instead they stood on the podium and rattled off dates and names like bored auctioneers who hated their jobs. It was obvious that the part of giving lectures to undergrads was the most tedious task of their professorship and they had no passion for it. Instead, they were more interested in passing their knowledge down to a select few students who managed to maintain enough wonder to carry their study into a Masters degree.

And who can blame them? How is it possible for one person to make such a connection with hundreds of students whom they saw for 120 minutes a week when they can make much more intimate connections with 10 students instead?

Here I go again, off on a tangent.

Funder has reinvigorated my passion for history by her story telling. She has reminded me that the study of history is not just about dates and names, but the study of all that has gone before–and perspective. I’m very grateful to have read this book.

Next on my list? Ernst Toller’s I Was A German of course.

Bret East on Ellis Screenwriters 50 Shades…Why Have You Stooped So Low?

50 Shades of Backlash – http://pulse.me/s/pVTdw

Please, jebus, why???

How did the genius creator of American Psycho decide to put his name on such poorly written work?

All That I Am

When you are in love with someone you cannot see around them, you cannot get their human measure. You cannot see how someone so huge to you, so miraculous and unfathomable, can fit, complete, into that small skin. — all that I Am by Anna Funder.

Fifty Shades of Shit

It sucks. It fucking sucks. I skipped a bunch of shitty writing to the porny parts, and even the porny part sucks. If I were a seventeen year old, I’d probably eat this book up. But I’m not seventeen. I’m 26 and my sex life is much sexier and pornier than this piece of shit book.

How is it so successful?

OH yah. Because seventeen year old girls nowadays think reading any piece of shit book makes them smart.

I fucking hate Twilight.

This review expresses more accurately what I feel about these books.