The Eight

The Eight

1 Star

Gah. Heh…ok…breath…. Alright, I think I’m finally ready to write a review for this book. I’ve started several times, and it went something like this; “Hatehatehatehatehatehatehatehate!!!” So I had to get some distance from this story before I could really decide what made me so angry about it. Let’s look at the story itself, first off.

This book is one of the many that came out in the wake of The Davinci Code, touting jacket blurbs like “The next Davinici Code!” and “If you like The Davinci Code, you’ll LOVE The Eight!” Lies, all of them. But I digress. So I got this book from a friend with no real recommendation–he just handed it over and walked away. I see why now. The story is of a woman who gets wrapped up in a mystery. Over several thousand years, a set of chess pieces has been scattered all over the earth. It is rumored these pieces hold a great secret–one which kings have been attempting to harness since the beginning of time. The woman, an American computer contractor in Iraq, follows the clues in an attempt to unravel the mystery. She encounters danger and adventure along the way.

So, sounds good, right? That’s what I thought! That is, until I actually started reading it. The general premise is great–the mystery was interesting, the back story wonderful, the fact that it was a mystery through time just gave it that much more oomph. However, for some reason the author just couldn’t pull it together. A good adventure mystery needs to have pace–a focus on the excitement, buildup to a great payoff, a twist or two, and a grand ending that leaves the reader gasping for breath. This had all the set up for that, but none of the delivery. The author seemed to get bogged down in details–but the wrong details. I remember reading four or five pages describing a meal the main character had, with wonderful descriptions of the drinks and the food and the scenery and the in-house entertainment. All well and good, except it had nothing to do with the story line. No bit of information gathered from that meal ever came up again…the action happened afterwards.

What really irked me was after reading several of these scenes, the author completely crapped out on what could have been a great ride. She has a character enter a scene, and, in three sentences, describe a grand adventure the character embarked upon to find a missing piece of the chess set. Now, this would have been some great reading. There was a puzzle that needed to be solved, major obstacles, a pitched battle, a near death, and grievous injury. How wonderful would that have been?!? But no–instead we get pages about the texture of blended yogurt, and two sentences summing up a major part of the story line that happened somewhere else.

This happened several times. It was almost as if the author didn’t think she had the ability to really craft a great adventure, so relied on recaps to get the information across. Come on! If you’re going to write a mystery, at least do it right! It took me a long, long time to get through this book. I wanted to like it; I love the genre, and there is nothing better than a really great puzzle mystery. But the author just wouldn’t let me–I’m not sure you could write a worse mystery if you tried. If you see this book, run far, run fast, and pick up The Rule of Four instead.

–Adrienne

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Published in: on September 4, 2008 at 7:09 am  Leave a Comment  

From a Buick 8

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1.5 Stars

Oh, Stephen! You dissappoint me. You usually give me gripping tales of terror, or thoughtful insights into your methods, but this…no. I couldn’t stand this. I mean, it was no The Eight, but it’s not far off. I don’t even know how to describe it…Ok, imagine a good, scary book, then fill it with pages and pages and pages of super boring bits, and a badly formed scary bit, and you have this book. Oh, and take away the good part. Yep, that about sums it up.

So the story is basically this: a small town police station finds a Buick 8 which has a portal to an evil land in its trunk. The man who finds this car gets killed in surefire Stephen King fashion (I believe the words “skin peeled off” were used somewhere during the pages of description) , and his son joins the force to follow in his father’s footsteps. Each has an unfathomable interest in the Buick–which involves pages and pages of unreadable stories about dissecting aliens in dank bathrooms. It took me several tries to get through this book, and I finally just had to get the book on CD and listen while I was filling out evaluations for hours on end.

Overall, I didn’t like this book at all. Bleh bleh bleh bleh bleh. Yep, that is my final assesment.

–Adrienne

Published in: on March 1, 2008 at 9:18 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Dark Is Rising

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1 1/2 Stars

This book was dumb.

Considering how Adrienne raved about it, I was very disappointed. I have talked to her since starting to read the book, and she acknowledges that she was very young when she read it, and it does take place over Christmas, so she could understand if it didn’t do for me what it did for her.

Anyway, it’s about a boy who thinks he’s an ordinary boy but is really far from ordinary, and his adventurous twelfth Christmas.  Only it’s not written very well, and his adventures aren’t all that adventuresome.  Instead of actually doing anything interesting, the boy seems to just be along for the ride as a bunch of cryptic nonsense unfolds.  The surprises aren’t surprising.  The characters aren’t interesting.  And the plot isn’t engaging.  It tries to be all mystical, with a grand back story, but it just doesn’t work.  Imagine the first Harry Potter book, but written as badly as the movie was made.  That’s this book in a nutshell.

I suppose this might be a good book for kids, but it’s the first Newberry book I have read that was not enjoyable for me, the adult.

ben

Published in: on December 7, 2007 at 1:04 am  Comments (1)  

Summerland

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1.5 Stars

Ok. Gah. Alright. *Breath* Well. So there I am, perusing the children’s section (again) and looking for a brightly-colored, interesting cover with a grabbing synopsis to take with me back to my office. There’s nothing better during a busy day than to lose yourself in a fantastical world of magical beings and adventure. Best lunch ever! So I stumble upon Summerland, and it has all the required points: bright cartoonish cover showing a group of young people in a flying car, traveling over a countryside with the hint of fantasy and magic. The summary was even better–a young boy is dragged into the adventure of a lifetime when he finds a way to follow tree branches into another world. Ooohh! Neat! I bet there’s an unlikely hero, a coming of age, and a grand adventure! What fun! Isn’t it horrible when your hopes are dashed? Let me explain.

This book had it all–a beautifully imagined world populated by giants and gnomes and interesting beasts. The young boy from our time is, of course, the outcast with few friends and an inventor father, and he must travel into this new world to save his father from the canine threat that has kidnapped him for his mind. Fun! However, there was one major issue I had with the story–the author’s weird obsession with baseball. The entire book was based on baseball. The story starts with our young hero wanting to quit little league, and his father wanting him to stick with it. Not unsusual…baseball is boring, and the kid wasn’t any good. The first chapter is a tedious account of the little league game. We’re talking a hit by hit, play by play commentary, focusing primarily on how bad this one little boy is at the game. After untold pages of this, the game limps to an end, and we can continue our story…which involves the boy talking to his father about baseball, the father coaching the boy in baseball, the boy’s friends trying to help, and the coach yelling at the boy about baseball. Oh dear lord. It can’t get worse, right?

The story finally gets going as the boy’s father is kidnapped, and a gnome-elf thing approaches the boy and tells him the secret of inter-world travel. Then the boy is approached by a baseball scout. A scout. For baseball. I guess this is the Yoda-type character meant to lead the boy through his coming trials and tribulations. The scout explains mysteries of life to the boy using every baseball analogy in the book, then sends him on his way into another world, armed with a bat and glove. A bat and glove!

The boy proceeds to travel with his closet friends and newly found magical creatures through the new world, where they encounter lots of resistance and must overcome many hurdles. Do they do this by fighting? Wits? Sheer brain power? Of course not! Each and every problem is overcome by, wait for it, a game of baseball. Seriously! We’re talking “hey, a band of giants is going to eat us…let’s play a game of baseball to see if they will! The winners get to do whatever they want!” And are these games just mentioned in passing? No way! We get the hit-by-hit, play-by-play tedium that made the first chapter so damn memorable. Just kill me.

Well, the story ends in good fantasy fashion, with the boy growing up and magically becoming a baseball master, and everyone lives happily ever after. Except me. Because I just spent a million hours (this book was around 700 pages long) reading a book that had all the potential of becoming a great new fantasy, but ending up being bogged down in endless baseball descriptions. Now, I don’t really like baseball, but I don’t outright hate it. Sure, there are usually other things I’d rather be doing than watching a game on TV, but I’ve been to many a game live and it can be a fun outing. It’s not just the fact that the book was full of baseball. That could have worked, had the author spent less time explaining every single moment in the countless games, and used it more as a theme. He started this in the beginning, when he had the Yoda-scout explain that baseball was a way to live a slow summer afternoon. That was nice. I didn’t even mind the scout thing and the analogies between baseball and life. There was a great story in there…it was just impeded by all those innings and details about pop flies and stolen bases. It could have been so much better!

My final word on the matter (maybe): if you love listening to baseball on the radio and you love fantasy books, buy this one immediately. If you’re more concerned about a well-written story that moves, avoid this like the plague.

–Adrienne

Published in: on August 12, 2007 at 8:59 am  Leave a Comment  

Don’t Leave Me This Way

1 1/2 Stars

Meh. This is the epitome of the SLM and I hated it. The characters weren’t memorable, the story was mundane and the ending was obvious. I suppose if you find it left on the airplane and you don’t have anything else to read except that boring airplane magazine, then you should pick it up. Unless the airplane has the Skymall. That shit’s the bomb.

–Adrienne

Published in: on July 18, 2007 at 5:42 am  Leave a Comment  

Artimis Fowl

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1 Star

I like books. I like books of all kinds, and I very seldom hate any of them. I hated this book. For some reason, this book has generated a rabid following and fans are insistent about it’s fine qualities. They all lie. This book was horrible. It’s about a very young genius/millionaire/uber-villian who does his best to wreak havoc for no apparent reason. I guess I was supposed to like Artimis. I found him annoying, grating and just mean. Maybe because I hate those qualities in people, but I really hated them in this anti-hero. Bleh. I don’t give books 1 star very often, but I have to say this book earned it.

–Adrienne

Published in: on July 17, 2007 at 10:18 pm  Comments (1)  

Wrapped Up in Crosswords

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1 1/2 Stars

This should have been a silly little mystery. It was billed as a silly little mystery. It was shelved in the mystery section. It was part of a series of silly little mysteries all involving crossword puzzles and the same characters. It was written by a silly little mystery author. The publisher said it was a silly little mystery (without the “silly little” part, of course). It wasn’t a silly little mystery. It was feel good fiction. Weird, I know. The story is about an ex cop and and his crossword writing wife. They own 2 dogs, who inexplicably begin talking among themselves during the story. Maybe this is part of the series–I don’t know. I haven’t read any other books in this group. Anyhow, the ex-cop joins his old partner and the forensics guy to pick up gifts for needy children. They dress as Santas. Did I mention it’s christmas time? The whole time, the ex-cop worries about what to get his wife for christmas. He hits upon an idea, and decides to work it into a crossword puzzle for her. The dogs begin talking at this point, and worry that their master is going to get their mistress a pair of love birds. They spend the rest of the book trying to dissuade their master from doing so. Then there’s a strange matchmaking session thingy…the local rich lady decides to use the traditional gift exchange to fix up the widowered hardware store owner and a despondent local woman. I guess it works. They don’t really talk about it much. There is a bit of a mystery–three convicts escape and head into town. They tie someone up, there’s a moment of mistaken identity, and then their caught. This bit doesn’t really seem to fit with the story and really occupies only a few paragraphs in total. It was actually like 3 separate stories were thrown haphazardly together into one book, but the author decided not to really develop any of them. Maybe there was a deadline coming up? Eventually christmas arrives and the main characters give each other their gifts, which, of course, are hidden in crosswords that you have to figure out to find out what they’re getting. Thank goodness the author put the answers at the back of the book. I’m not looking forward to reading the rest of this series.

Published in: on July 17, 2007 at 7:45 pm  Leave a Comment