Thursday, January 10, 2013

End of 2012 Book Post - Warning: It got ugly

After 2011's amazing year of reading 55 books throughout the year (not counting comic books) I thought 2012 would just keep rolling and I would read some more great books.  However, with some misjudgements and some questionable book club choices, it ended up being just a mediocre year of books.  Of course there were some great books that were read like 1Q84 and learning about Ann Pratchet but overall I was a little disappointed with my choices in 2012.  None more so than the final month...

1) Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde - Robert Louis Stephenson (92 Pages) - C
For my constant reader, you will remember that while walking my dog Renly a few weeks ago, I stumbled upon someone throwing away a ton of books.  Since I had never read Dr. Jekyll and remembering how much I enjoyed Frankenstein earlier in the year, I thought I should read more classics.  
The book was very short and only took two days to read so it wasn't totally bad.  The biggest problem(s) I had was that it was just forgettable.  
I was stricken by how different the book was then I expected it to be.  I know the basic story (as most people that are aware of any pop-culture), but the actual book was more boring that what I expected.   I remember reading that The Hulk was based on the concept of this book, so was surprised to read that the evil embodiment that was Mr. Hyde was SMALLER than the normal, good-natured Dr. Jeckyll.  I thought it was a smart concept that the reason for Hyde being smaller was because he represented the evil side of Jekyll, and since the doctor was not a bad man, only the smaller, evil side of him remained behind to become Mr. Hyde.  I also thought it was funny, given the time the book was written, that people seemed to be scared of science and what they don't understand.  The science of the book seemed laughable at times, but again that was a product of the times.

2) Breed - Chase Novak (310 Pages) - D
Wow!  Don't trust the blurbs!
I have been jonesing for a Stephen King book.  More specifically I have wanted to reread his vampire novel Salem's Lot since I didn't like it much when I read it, but since his son Joe Hill appears to have a vampire novel coming out soon, I wanted to compare/contrast them in my head.  But I don't have that book, and instead was in the library and came across this book with a blurb on the cover from Mr. King saying how much he loved it.  In my mind, if it's good enough for Stevie, it's good enough for me, so I rented the book. Oops!
The story focused on a married couple that was having difficulty getting pregnant so they go to Slovakia (or Slovenia) for an experimental procedure and long story short: something supernatural happens to them and their children. 
Jump ahead 10 years, and now they twins that were born from this procedure are scared of their parents and run away from home, but the parents use their preternatural abilities to try and find their children.
I may even be making this book sound better than it even was, and I know I'm doing nothing.  I researched the author after and found out this is a pseudonym of some guy that actually writes romance books and he was trying to branch out into horror and knew his audience shouldn't be reading this.  In my mind, no one should!  The only bits I enjoyed was a since most of the book takes place in New York City, I enjoyed the local flashes.  The biggest problem as a New Yorker was that it felt like it was written by someone that had never lived in New York, but instead just wrote it while looking at a google map of Manhattan.  
I read this book, so you don't have to.  You're welcome.

3) Damned - Chuck Palahniuk (247) - D+
I've read almost every book Chuck Palahniuk has written, and with Damned, I may have read my final book of his.  It's not that the book was bad, in fact by the time I got to the end I was actually smiling and giggling a little at it, but for the first 200 pages or so I found myself asking myself "what's the point of this book?"
It was a comedy that wasn't funny.  It was an homage to Are You There God, It's me Margaret while being the story about a 13 year old girl living in hell by opening every chapter with "Are you there Satan, it's me Madison..."
There were some parts of the book that I understood his social commentary: Since hell is the invention of Christians, only the truly devout Christians go to Heaven and are bored.  Otherwise, everyone else is stuck in Hell including Ghandi and Socrates.   I also laughed at the realization that everyone in Hell has to have a job and Madison gets the job as a telemarketer that only calls people during dinner was funny, until I thought about how outdated the concept of telemarketing is in the cell-phone age.
I was bored by the descriptions of Hell and the rivers of blood and perpetually ever-filling oceans of semen and mucus.  I just couldn't figure out the real point of the book, and since this is the 2nd or 3rd Palahniuk book that I decided to read by my own volition and have not enjoyed, or did not finish I think I've decided that I either "grew out" of his writing style or he's gotten worse. I hope it's the 2nd option, but either way, nothing can take away the enjoyment I got from Fight Club and Invisible Monsters which I remember as being great books.  But it's also possible that with all of the reading I've been doing over the past 13 years since I first read Fight Club, my tastes in writing may have changed.  Maybe I'm even *gasp* growing up!  Probably not.  But maybe.

4) Geek Love - Katherine Dunn (347 Pages) - C-
This is a difficult book for me to review.  It was our latest Book Club selection and I had a hard time ever getting into this book.  The main issue is that Aubrey and I had one copy and I worked around her (slower) reading style.  I started the book, then while at page 90 or so, I handed it to her.  She leaped in front of me before taking a break and giving it back to me.  I bypassed her and then gave it back before finishing up.
With all of these stutters, I had a hard time finding the "voice" of the novel and the narrator in an already unconventional and strange book.
The other thing was that I was surprised about how many similarities this book had stylistically to Damned and other Chuck Pahlahniuk books just with a female touch.  It had the similarities of seeming to be shocking for the sake of being shocking and having numerous quirky/strange characters.
The story of the book is even very strange.  It centers on a family of circus performers.   The parents owned the sideshow and decided to use drugs and (potentially) incest in order to create their family of freaks.  If the babies were born normal, they were immediately aborted, the ones that lived on were the freaks.  These include Siamese twins, a hunchbacked albino (our narrator), a boy with flippers instead of arms and legs with delusions of grandeur and a seemingly normal boy named Chick where something invisible makes him special.  And this is just where the oddness begins.  
Dunn also has a writing style which does not mesh well with my reading style.  In my opinion she over-wrote this book with flowery words to describe the insanity that was going on in this circus, but that was more distracting than anything else. 

That concluded my 2012 reading.  Now that that is over, I am hopeful that 2013 will be even better.  So far this year is proving to be a good one, but that is a post for another day...

1 comment:

Jennifer P. said...

Oh boo! Vin would be very disappointed to read your review of Chuck P's--he's his absolute favorite. I'd love if you did a post on your favorite reads of all time. And I'm looking forward to your review of Freedom--I noticed you finished it on Good Reads, and I have it lying around the house already. Interested to hear how you liked it.