Tag Archives: Twilight

BOOKS THAT DISAPPOINT


While browsing through the Quora site  – an excellent site, by the way, which frequently deals with two of my favourite topics : books and cats  – I came across an article inviting comments about books that disappointed, and read the first fifteen comments with a sense of absolute kinship. The Quora  readers list of Books that Disappoint was a mirror image of my own list. Top of the pops was The Monk who sold his Ferrari  closely followed by Paolo Coelho’s The Alchemist.  My own personal top baddies, closely followed by rude remarks about The Celestine Prophecy.  Absolutely.

I was happy to note that Quora readers panned the Twilight series and the 50 Shades of Grey series for really bad writing, and one brave soul even had a go at the sainted David Foster Wallace, who is usually lauded to the skies.

One surprise on the list was the inclusion of Zen and the Art of Motor Cycle Maintenance which is by now a cult classic, but it failed to meet a new reader’s expectations. I recall reading the book many years ago and being blown away at the time.

I n 2012 I bought From Elvish to Klingon, an on-line purchase that was a major mistake. With on-line purchases, this occasionally can happen. One reader’s review can be another reader’s poison (to mangle a common catch-phrase).When I was a kid I read ALL the Dr Doolittle books and was inspired to be a polyglot, just like him. Granted, he was talking to animals, but it’s the idea that counts. Because I absorbed the local Chichewa language through my pores as a toddler, and because my first school was a convent run by French speaking nuns, who were determined to drum French into our uncomprehending little skulls, and because I learned Latin and Afrikaans at high school, and because I knew at least six Portuguese words, I thought I was well on my way to achieving my youthful goal. Later in life I learnt Italian and re-learnt French (use it or lose it, and the saying is true) and even later on, had an unsuccessful stab at Mandarin, so a book on languages intrigued me no end. lIj daj . And that’s Klingon for ‘forget it’(If I’ve looked up the correct phrase). It was a Bad Idea.

Another new, hot favourite on my list is Graham Swift. I read Wish you Were Here,  and deeply wished I wasn’t. I had to force myself to finish the book, spurred on by the chorus of praise from other Book Club members. Swift may be a Booker Prize winner (1996 – Last Orders) but he ain’t my cup of tea. His endless repetition and circular movement through his characters’ heads, the minute examination of every thought, the replay – OVER & OVER AGAIN – of events and dialogue, on and on and on: just exhausted me.

The story lumbered to a climax, which I couldn’t call gripping – it just came as a relief that the whole dreary saga was at an end. I deeply dis-enjoyed the book.

Which goes to prove that you can’t win them all, in the world of books and reading. Not to mention life!

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RECENT READS


TWILIGHT by Stephanie Meyer

My bookish friend Norma and I were discussing the popular series of vampire novels for Young Adults, written by Stephanie Meyer. Neither of us had read any of her books, and were wondering what made them such a huge success. So I read ‘Twilight’ for research purposes. My curiosity is now satisfied. However, had I not seen the movie version, I don’t think I would have persevered with the book. I enjoyed the movie, which I saw prior to reading the book. There were pages and pages of dialogue consisting of vapid teenage mumbling or angst, which didn’t advance the plot one iota. Teenage preoccupations and obsessions are not very interesting at best. But then, I’m not a teenager. The dialogue reminded me of murky marine encrustations on a sunken ship’s hull. The best thing about the books are the covers. They are dramatic, sexy and striking in their black, red and white artwork. In fact, the book covers are absolutely brilliant. What a pity the contents don’t follow suit. Again and again the author has her characters sighing, or (worse yet) smirking, followed by numerous repetitive descriptions of the Vampire’s marble beauty, perfection, glorious eyes, etc. etc. I discovered to my utter amazement that the author is a Mormon, and attended BYU (Brigham Young University). I wonder what the Mormon position is on the topic of the Undead? Much has been made of the Abstinence Factor in her novels, it’s been hailed as a bright beacon of purity in the hormonal swamp of teenage lust. If we’re talking about lust and the Undead I’m much more enthusiastic about Anne Rice’s vampire novels – they have a lush, erotic sensual quality which is truly bewitching. And the quality of the writing is a hundred times better. No more Stephanie Meyer for me. Lead me to the Vampire Lestat, please ..

THE GIRL OF HIS DREAMS by Donna Leon

Another Inspector Brunetti detective novel, set in Venice. It’s as much about the city, its streets and canals, its citizens, its food, as it is about the actual crime. In fact the crime only appears on page 99 of this 276 page book, which is an interesting approach for a crime novel. A sub-theme to the murder of the gypsy child was a religious fraud scam, which I thought was quite daring for an Italian based novel. The info and the chapters on the “nomads” (PC-speak for Gypsies) was fascinating. They really are a tribe outside of middle class European life, and slip like water through societies’ nets of rules and admin. I loved the portrayal of Brunetti as a family man. He’s always nipping home to lunch, and the reader is given a rundown of the dishes prepared by his wife. We also hear about his kids’ homework, and school life. Donna Leon gives plenty of domestic and local detail which give her novels authenticity without the ponderous thoroughness of Stieg Larson. It sounds as if I’ve really got it in for poor old SL : not so – I thoroughly enjoyed his Millenium Trilogy, but phew! they can be hard work.

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