Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Hit by Melvin Burgess

Book:  The Hit (Take it. Live it. Do it)

Author:  Melvin Burgess 

Grade:  D

Recommended To:  I would only read this book if I had one book left to read to achieve my Goodreads goal and I didn't have any other book options. 

I got The Hit from my friend who received an Advance Reader Copy on Goodreads.

The Hit is completely misdirected.  It had a decent premise, but it fails to deliver on that premise which is disappointing but unsurprising.  With a cover like that, no one thought that this was going to be a "bestseller."  Also, no one believes that Mr. Burgess' first book, apparently titled Junk, was also a bestseller.

So, the cover ain't doing it for me.  The content was even worse.  This book features a drug called Death which gives the person one week to live, but that week is the best week of the person's life.  The main character, I've already forgotten his name, takes the drug and then uses it to convince his girlfriend to sleep with him.  Death apparently also makes the user lose all moral sense.  They also steal somethings, drive a fast car, and then she gets kidnapped.  Then it starts to get really weird because naturally the people that take Death regret it and start riots because they have "nothing left to lose."

The book gets really crazy with the introduction of an underground terrorist cell that kidnaps people and manufactures fake Death which is loosely related to a crazy guy who likes to paralyze people at the C4 vertebrae, but can't get it right.  WTF am I writing?!

I'm sure you can already tell that this book ain't great.  The plot is incredibly weak, the characters are stupid (no really, they are actually dumb), and this book did not deliver on whatever weak promises it plied me with.  This book gets a D instead of an F because it was short and I didn't have to suffer reading it for very long and because the premise on the back cover was intriguing.

Melvin, this is a miss.

Happy Reading!!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Clifton Chronicles by Jeffrey Archer

Books:  The Clifton Chronicles.  There are four books in the series, the newest was just released and I finished it in three days.

Author: Jeffrey Archer 

Grade:  Variable:  From B+ to C+ 

Recommended To: Fans of British writing.

I picked up the first three books of the Clifton Chronicles on Amazon for two bucks apiece.  I hadn't heard of Jeffrey Archer before and after reading the first book, I blazed through the rest. I couldn't possibly parse out the stories for complete reviews of each book now, so I am combining them all into one review.  I thought these books were delightful!   The grades do not necessarily reflect how much I liked reading this books, but let me explain.

This is a British family saga story.  It is about Harry Clifton and his life from boyhood at an English prep school on a choral scholarship to his eventual adult life as a married man with children.  Then, the story branches out and includes the lives of his best friend Giles, his mother, his children, his wife's siblings, etc.  Each family member is devoted to a few chapters that eventually advance the story.  Occasionally the chapters retell a portion of the story from a different perspective.

First, these books cannot be described as well-written.  But, there is a vast difference between passable writing, a literary genius, and books that are just plain terrible.  Archer's series is an example of the first.  These books are not literary works, but Archer can put together a sentence and he can keep a story moving.  Think Daniel Silva or John Grisham.  These authors do not write prize winning literature, but their writing is decent enough so that I keep buying.

Second, is Archer writing something totally new and fresh?  Probably not.  But, his characters get themselves into scraps and scrapes and come out somewhat fresh and changed, which can't be said for some other writers (AHEM, Veronica Roth).  I know, I know, you want to know why on earth I like these books since I'm usually the most critical of flat characters and overdone plots.  But, I found the situations interesting.  The books keep pace very well.  They don't lag or drag.  The reader knows exactly who to root for at all times, so the reading is fast and easy.

Third, although Archer uses some of the same literary devices again and again, I oddly wasn't bothered. Just about the only device in Archer's arsenal is the cliffhanger.  Almost every chapter ends with a cliffhanger. I admit, it is repetitive, but the story kept moving and Archer resolves almost all of the cliffhangers by the next chapter or book.  Instead of becoming irritating, I found the cliffhangers endearing and a minor hurdle for the sake of the story.

Ultimately, these books kept my attention and made me laugh.  For example, there is one scene in the most recent book where the wife of one of the "bad" characters leaves her husband and takes only the left shoe of all of his shoes.  That's hilarious!  I found myself chuckling out loud several times while reading these books because of the crazy situations that the characters find themselves in and because of the revenge exacted.

Are these the best books ever written?  No, of course not.  But, are they fun, lighthearted, easy reads? Yes!  And I absolutely recommend them for summer reading.

Happy Reading!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Boys in the Boat by Danial James Brown

Book:  The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and their epic quest for gold at the 1936 Olympics. 

Author:  Daniel James Brown 

Grade:  A 

Recommended to:  Everyone. This is a non-fiction must read. 

I can't say enough good things about this book.  The Boys in the Boat is the story of the Washington team that rowed their way to victory at the 1936 Olympics.   The story is primarily told from the viewpoint of Joe Rantz, one of the boys in the boat.

I know nothing about rowing.  And, I always thought that rowing was one of those sports for eastern uppity colleges. This book taught me a lot about rowing without being boring, the fatal flaw of non-fiction writing.

 This story is very American.  It is a book of struggle, perseverance, and it is the exact opposite of my perception of rowing.  The Washington boys all came from rough beginnings.  They worked long hours at crappy jobs to pay for college, aced their classes in order to stay on the rowing team, and rowed in freezing rain, snow, and ice to become the world champions.  That sounds like a spoiler, but it isn't.  There's zero chance that Mr. Brown would have written about these boys if they had failed to make it to the Olympics.  

One of the best parts of this book is Mr. Brown's ability to capture the suspense of a rowing race.  He is inside the head of the coxswain and the rowers.   He writes as though the reader is there listening to the race on the radio or watching on television.  It is an incredibly talent that is particularly useful in sports stories, especially racing sports.  I couldn't put this book down, especially during a race sequence.

The book also included short chapters about the enormous propaganda campaign waged by Hitler, Goebbels, and a filmmaker that I hadn't heard of, Leni Riefenstahl, who created an entire Olympics to fool the world into believing that Germany was peaceful.  Those portions of the story were also extremely well written.

In my opinion, this book rivals the big non-fiction thrillers, Unbroken and The Devil in the White City.  This book is at least equal in quality and caliber, if not better.  I absolutely recommend it to everyone looking for a good sports story

I'm sorry for the massive delay in posts and updates.  I'm going to write a bunch of posts tonight and slowly release them, so hopefully I don't get behind again!   We have been very busy with the house and work has picked up.  So, I'm definitely going to make this blog a priority again!

Let me know what you think of The Boys in the Boat and Happy Reading!