Travis_J_Smith’s #CBR5 Review #169: Wednesdays at the Tower by Jessica Day George

Wednesdays at the TowerIn Wednesdays at the Tower, the castle’s origins are explained. Personally, I preferred not knowing the story behind the castle. You know, since as I said in my last review, that air of mystery, of being partially lost in translation, was the one and only appeal Tuesdays at the Castle had for me.

As far as I’m concerned, George could’ve held off on telling readers what made the castle what it is at least until a third book. Then again, perhaps all she wanted was an excuse to throw a cute, crowd-pleasing baby griffin in there, to deny Celie the help of others, with few exceptions, in raising him, thus making what would probably have been a smooth upbringing otherwise and making it stress filled.

The castle wants Celie to keep this griffin to herself… and a few select others. Anyone else it shuts out, and I mean that literally; Celie even thinks of telling her parents and doors don’t just close, they disappear. What could be the explanation?

Hm, griffins are all around Castle Glower. Do you think it could have something to do with its past? No, don’t speak such poppycock. It can’t be that simple. Nope, wait, it is. Through this griffin appearing (seemingly) at random, all your questions are answered. I say “your questions,” since there are a couple I had that George’ll probably leave unanswered. Put simply, I’d like the backstory to the backstory, but I doubt it’s forthcoming.

Which is most likely for the best; I wouldn’t want to go against my better judgment once more and read another book in this series, and I know I would if there were a third. So, in a way, I’m glad George (presumably) ended it here in the second book. She got the letdown out of the way before anticipation had built my hopes for the resolution up very high at all. Thanks to that, these two books of hers will be some of this year’s forgettable footnotes, rather than stand-out disappointments like, say, You Suck and Bite Me by Christopher Moore, which took a promising introduction in Bloodsucking Fiends and pile-drived it, leaving it so thoroughly concussed that it, and Moore apparently, no longer knew what it was. So, yeah, I’m thankful that George at least managed to inadvertently avoid that.

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Alexis’s #CBR5 Review #13

beautifuldisasterAKA how I learned not to trust raving Goodread reviews. Beautiful Disaster frequently shows up in “best of” romance lists and get’s 5 star reviews by many. Although contemporary romance is not my thing I decided to give it a try.

Mary Sue Abby is a pretty, quiet college student who, based on how often she goes shopping and/or is at the salon, has waaay more time and money than I did in college. Travis Maddox is a popular, muscular, sexpot who notoriously eschews any romantic entanglements. Also Travis pays for college by participating in an underground fight club. Because, of course he does.

Despite the bevvy of bikini-clad women available to Travis he is intrigued by Abby, because of course he is. Abby wisely steers clear of Travis until an ill-conceived bet results in Abby being forced to live with Travis for 30 days. Their mutual attraction blossoms but Abby fights it knowing that it will only end in heartbreak. Abby, however is, dating some hot rich dude (Parker but who cares) who is totally into her (because, of course he is) who amazingly is totally OK with the developing relationship between Abby and Travis because Abby repeatedly tells him that “Travis and I are just friends.” Which they are, until they have sex. So that’s a little awkward.

After that things get blurry – there are multiple break ups and make ups. Pretty forgettable and stupid until….

*SPOILER ALERT which you won’t care about because if you take my advice you’ll NEVER read this book*

Abby is a card shark. Her evil drunken gambler Dad shows up and will be KILLED BY A VEGAS MOB BOSS if Abby doesn’t fly to Vegas immediately and win enough at poker to pay off the Mob Boss. Abby comes up a few dollar short but after Travis BEATS THE MOB HENCHMEN TO BLOODY PULPS the Mob Boss hires Travis to fight in an underground Vegas match with a professional fighter in order to pay off save Abby’s Dad.

Luckily Travis is SOOO good that he has no issues dispatching the pro and he and Abby happily trundle back to college where they can bicker about if Abby’s latest fraternity formal dress shows too much skin.

Travis may be sexy but he’s also a caveman. He solves most of his problems by beating them to a pulp (in real life, Travis would be in prison.) If that doesn’t work, he gets drunk and has sex with strumpets.

Abby is a bore. Not only did the whole “card shark” angle come out of nowhere but it’s completely incongruous with everything we’ve learned about Abby up to this point, namely that she likes getting her nails done.

At one point Abby dumps Travis who is desperately heartsick for months. In the meantime Abby changes her mind and decides to get back together with Travis. Only because of stupidity decides to say nothing. Months later fates conspire for them to reunite and Abby finally admits that she decided to get back together months ago. Is Travis angry because he suffered needlessly for months? Does he recognize that his beloved has the emotional maturity of a four year old? Naaaahhhh….

They just fly to Vegas and get married.

I can’t lie – this was a compelling read that kept me up late. But let’s be honest, Beautiful Disaster is the book equivalent to Sharknado. It was horrible yet oddly compelling. After it was over I felt vaguely sick to my stomach and embarrassed that I had spent time on it.

(Phew…just squeaked in my quarter cannonball!)

Siege’s #CBR5 #10: Zombie by Joyce Carol Oates

(So clearly I am not going to manage a double Cannonball this year. Or a full Cannonball. Or even a half Cannonball. But BY GOD I will at least complete the quarter, so at least  have not totally failed.)

 

Joyce Carol Oates’s tale of Quentin P___ is unpleasant. And I know it’s supposed to be that way–after all it’s a dip into the mind of a serial killer–but it’s more than that. He is the antagonist of his own story, making the reader into the protagonist. You spend your time reading his diary, and begin to get the creepy feeling that this is something you should never have seen. Quentin is not likable. You don’t root for him as you do with Dexter or Hannibal Lector or even Patrick Bateman. Quentin is all the violence but none of the charm. I found myself rooting AGAINST him, rather than for him, and spent most of my time completely revolted. I suppose that’s an indication that Oates did her job in making this character so real that he overwhelms the reader, but success doesn’t necessarily lead to enjoyment, and this book left me with the strong desire to take a hot shower and never open it again.

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