reginadelmar’s #CBR5 review #43 Vuture Peak by John Burdett

I’ve read Burdett’s entire series of books featuring Sonchai Jitpleecheep, detective with the Royal Thai Police in Bangkok. The books include a whole host of characters, Sonchai’s mother who is a former prostitute and now madame, his wife Chanya, also a former prostitute and his corrupt boss Colonel Vikorn.  Sonchai is a practicing Buddhist who is often faced with hard choices between following his Karmic path and survival. I haven’t liked all of the books, the first Bangkok 8 may have been the best, but I always enjoy Sonchai.

Vulture Peak might best be described as a hot mess. The book begins with 3 corpses missing darn near everything: faces, fingertips and key organs.  Vikorn, now running for public office, puts Sonchai in charge of the case and  international human-organ trafficking suggested by this crime. Sonchai gets a black Amex card and travels to Hong Kong, Dubai and Monte Carlo, in pursuit of the Yip sisters, eccentric wealthy twins who appear to be at the heart of the crime ring.They are also compulsive gamblers, usually competing against one another.  While Sonchai is chasing down organ harvesters, his wife Chanya is writing her thesis about prostitution, which includes numerous arguments that many women enter prostitution willingly and are not exploited. Seriously, Burdett? Throughout the novel a rapist is also terrorizing women in Bangkok. The plot gets pretty convoluted, with the rapist and organ-harvesting story lines eventually converging and making little sense whatsoever. Everything gets wrapped up in the end in a most unsatisfactory manner.  Maybe it’s time for Sonchai to pursue another line of work.

Valyruh’s #CBR5 Review #98: The Kiss by Danielle Steele

I’m sort of embarrassed to review this, but this was the only thing available to read on the recent long bus trip I took, and I am so close to my double Cannonball as the holidays descend,  so I bit the bullet—and got a bad case of tummy ache as a result. Who reads this stuff, anyway!?

In a nutshell, the emotionally-abused wife of a super-wealthy prick of a cold-blooded European banker has isolated herself by obsessively caring for her sickly son, and her only phone friend is the married but lonely American billionaire whose wife couldn’t be more of a stereotype—fun-loving, party-going, bed-hopping and bored with her politician husband. The phone friendship goes on for years behind their spouses’ backs and love quietly blooms across the transatlantic cables. When the two super-rich lonely hearts get a chance to spend a few secret —but “innocent”– days together doing art stuff in Paris, mad love ensues—only to be cut short when a horrible car accident mangles the two of them, leaving him broken in body and her damaged beyond repair and in a coma. Lo and behold, love conquers all—he calls her back from death during her trip down the “tunnel of light,” and recovers enough to lie next to her hospital bed and hold her hand and keep her tethered to life through their love for each other.

Next chapter, she goes home to her hateful husband to care for her slowly dying son, he divorces his wife but keeps her as a friend and confidante, and we have to plow through interminable debates with himself, his therapist, etc. about whether he can sustain an erection long enough for him to consider himself a man (!) and fight for his true love. He also doesn’t know if he’ll ever walk again, and how could he burden her with that, anyway? Well, the legs and the erection, not necessarily in that order — need I say more? In truth, any one of us could have written the ending to this bad soap opera—no mystery there. In fact, I would say that the real mystery is how Ms. Steele continues to find an audience for this stuff. I couldn’t even wring out a single tear over this, and I tried, believe me.

Polyphonist’s #CBR5 Review #35: Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris

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I’d been meaning to read this for a few years now and I finally made the (mostly) wise choice to bring it with me for my family’s tradition of Black Friday Shopping. The original edition in paperback was slim enough to fit in my purse and made for easy and appropriate reading while waiting on insanely long lines in Walmart. The only thing that would’ve made it better was if I actually liked the book.

Doing some research online, I found out that I’m very much in the minority with this opinion. This book is apparently “beloved” and a “holiday classic.” Normally, I like Sedaris’ work quite a bit so I was shocked with how much I couldn’t get into or find any kind of humor in most of this book. The most popular piece in this collection of essays is called “The Santaland Diaries” and that was the one I found to be hit or miss entertaining. The way he deals with working as an elf at one of the most hectic times of year in one of the busiest stores in the country is darkly fun. For instance, realizing that “Santa” is an anagram for “Satan”:

“Don’t forget to thank Satan for the Baby Alive he gave you last year”

“I love Satan.”

“Who doesn’t? Everyone loves Satan.”

Another good section is when he deals with people who say they’re gong to have him fired:

She said, “I’m going to have you fired.”

I had two people say that to me today, “I’m going to have you fired.” Go ahead, be my guest. I’m wearing a green velvet costume; it doesn’t get any worse than this. Who do these people think they are?

“I’m going to have you fired!” and I wanted to lean over and say, “I’m going to have you killed.”

His observations about the absurdity of the way people wait in crazy long lines to force their children to sit on a stranger’s lap, how they act towards the elves and Santas and their own children, are revelatory, acidic, and spot on from my limited experience.

However, the rest of the book? I just didn’t get it. I understand hyperbole, which I’m guessing is the point behind “Based Upon a True Story” and “Christmas Means Giving,” but I didn’t so much get dark humor from these as…completely depressing. “Dinah, the Christmas Whore” and “Front Row Center With Thaddeus Bristol” were…just kinda blah to me. With the latter, though, it was an interesting take on what would happen if a kid’s Christmas pageant was subjected to a real, scathing critical review. But I just…couldn’t connect to it.

Perhaps the most bizarre and unsettling to me was “Season’s Greetings to Our Friends and Family!!!” The condescending and horrific nature of the narrator was difficult to get through but the way it ended…I just don’t get it.

It’s likely this is geared towards a different demographic or something. I’m not sure. I just wasn’t much of a fan of this particularly book.

Popcultureboy’s #CBR5 Review #99: Tell-All by Chuck Palahniuk

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For me, Palahniuk has been off his game for a while now. The heights of Survivor are a very long time ago. But I thought I’d give this a whirl, since it sounded crazy and fun and silly. It’s incoherent and tiresome, utterly devoid of merit. The full disappointed review is on my blog here

KayKay #CRB5 Review #53 Into the Fire by Jodi McIsaac

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**SPOILER ALERT- some plot points may be insinuated**

This is not going to be my typical review.  This book was a complete disappointment.  The plot was forced, the characters were not authentic, and quite frankly- they were stupid.  I’m not sure how you trust a druid who just turns up, especially since you know druids are trying to kill you.  I’m not sure how you keep dragging your young daughter into dangerous situations.  What makes you decide to dig up a person to powerful to kill, and had to be trapped, just so he can tell you where a magical object is?  They even go to a tourist attraction, see that it is empty (which they all agree is highly unlikely) when they spot a person over by some trees that seemed to be calling Finn, they assume that person is a tourist- FOR REALS???

Sometimes so much love and effort is put into the first release (and this seems to be true for both books and albums) the second release pales in comparison.  In this case, I can barely believe the same author wrote these books.  To me, this is the worst book I’ve read all year (and I’ve completed my cannonball).

Jen K’s #CBR5 Review #102: The Expats by Chris Pavone

What a frustrating and disappointing book!  I wasn’t expecting great literature, but I really thought this would be a fun thriller or cat and mouse game set in Europe.  At the worst, I thought it might be a bit formulaic or have bad writing but it was worse.  It was boring.  A thrill-less thriller, an unsuspenseful suspense novel inhabited by a main character that could just as well be described as the dumbest spy ever.

Full review.

Valyruh’s #CBR5 Review #95: Never Go Back by Lee Child

The latest Jack Reacher novel is centered around a love interest! What?! Reacher hitchhikes his way from South Dakota to northern Virginia because the female Commanding Officer at the old military police unit he ran years earlier has an alluring “come hither” voice, and he just has to meet, dine and—he hopes—bed her. But when he arrives, not only does he discover that she has just been arrested for treason, but that he has not one, but two criminal complaints against him that could land him in military prison for a long time.Great set up, not so great follow up.

Reacher leaps into action, and rigs an implausible escape not only for himself, but for CO Susan Turner, and the two go on a cross-country run together while they try to figure out who’s out to get them, and why? Of course, they are a perfect match of intrepid, fearless, and dedicated, but we somehow know they won’t go off into the sunset together because what would author Child do for his next in the series? In the meanwhile, they have the army, the FBI, the local DC police and four military-like goons on their tail, but every close encounter ends with Reacher handing out broken arms, skulls, legs and fingers like candy, and adding another piece to the endless puzzle they are trying to solve.

The plot itself is ridiculous, [SPOILER HERE] involving a couple of old guys in the upper echelons of military intelligence running an opium den for rich old Washingtonians like themselves, but the repartee between Reacher and his lawyers, Reacher and his pursuers, Reacher and his possible daughter, and Reacher and his lady love almost make it worth slogging through this one. Almost. But not quite. The plot outline held lots of potential, but the story comes off as just plain silly. Note, this is from a die-hard Reacher fan!

Sorry Mr. Child, but it’s time for a reboot. Maybe you can foist this one off on Tom Cruise and call it payback for the terrible job he did with “Jack Reacher,” the movie.

Badkittyuno’s #CBR5 Review #79: Dan Gets a Minivan: Life at the Intersection of Dude and Dad by Dan Zevin

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Blech.

I downloaded this audiobook from my library because I like to have funny stuff to listen to at the gym while on the treadmill. I figured this little memoir about a “cool” New Yorker who gets married, starts a family and moves to the suburbs would be cute and funny. I can relate to minivan-related humor.

So wrong. First of all, his narration style is incredibly dull. It’s very obvious that Zevin is a writer, not a stand up comic. So monotonous. Strike one. Then, within about 15 minutes, Zevin refers to a female police officer as “Officer Butchie”. Strike two. About thirty minutes later, he’s bitching about going to court due to the (totally justified in my opinion) ticket that the cop wrote him, and he remarks several times on how he’s the only white guy at this court, and he feels left out because he doesn’t have a do-rag. Strike three. Boring, misogynistic, homophobic and racist? No thank you. If you’re going to be offensive, at least be funny about it.

reginadelmar’s #CBR5 review #35 Just one Look by Harlan Coben

This “thriller” got passed around amongst the readers on our trip. It truly is a page turner, three of us read it lickety split. Grace is an artist and mother of two working from home.  She’s still using film rather than a digital camera which sets up the plot.  She picks up a package of prints and out pops a photo that is about 20 years old. In the photo she sees her husband Jack and three other people, one woman has been x’d out. Oh oh. Jack disappears shortly thereafter, there’s a vicious North Korean assassin, a benevolent mob guy, and a questionable US Assistant Attorney.

While this was a page turner, the resolution of the various mysteries wasn’t the most satisfying. The last chapters provide the missing information that tie up all the loose threads. The problem is that the underlying “crime” seems rather trivial for all the havoc it causes 20 years later. Oh well. Read this in airports, on a train or a plane. 

 

Travis_J_Smith’s #CBR5 Review #165: Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

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Violence against one’s children, I feel, is never the answer, but Harriet the Spy had me rethinking that stance. I don’t have it in me to wail on an adult, let alone a child; however, if I were to father a child like Harriet, I would consider putting her up for adoption because a) I couldn’t be trusted not to take the belt to her and b) I have clearly failed as a parent and so she’d be better served being raised by someone else more qualified. She makes that red-headed demon from the Problem Child movies seem like a parent’s dream (think Roald Dahl’s Matilda) by comparison.

Alright, I might be overstating my point a wee bit, but Harriet was the literary equivalent of that little girl who spent what must’ve been something like half of my nine hour shift the other day at Walmart letting loose uninterrupted ear-piercing screams that could be heard from one end of the store to the other. She is a hateful, spiteful hell spawn incapable of learning the error of her ways, largely due to having mostly absent parents who foist her off on a therapist the second things get out of hand. Continue reading