Lord of the Flies (Book Review)

Lord of the FliesLord of the Flies by William Golding

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Well. I’d tried to get a couple of different spooky Halloween-y reads — I’ve never read The Haunting of Hill House, and I’d like to re-read Rosemary’s Baby — but the waiting lists are long. It had been a while since I’d undertaken a classic so I picked up this little one-day read, also attractive because the self-appointed Thought Police are always trying to pull it off shelves.

I finished it a couple of hours ago, and good Lord. Especially bearing down on Election Day 2016, few things are as frightening as the breakdown of societal rules and the takeover of basest human nature. This book seriously creeped me out. I’m writing this at 2 a.m. because now I can’t sleep.

Maybe I’ll see if I can be thermonuclear radiation for trick-or-treat.

Bookshelves: allegory, classic, literature-with-a-capital-l, my-dystopia-utopia, psychology, philosophy, sociology, post-apocolyptic, heebie-jeebies, nobel-prize, banned-and-challenged

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What Do Donald Trump and a Tudor Romance Novel Have in Common? (Book Review: The Queen’s Fool)

The Queen's Fool (The Plantagenet and Tudor Novels, #12)The Queen’s Fool by Philippa Gregory

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Bookshelves: abandoned, brit-lit, chick-lit, dnf, historical-fiction, i-am-an-anglophile, icky-romance, merry-olde-england, ugh, rapey-romance, was-the-editor-drunk

I started writing this review in a state of annoyance. I’d decided that this shitshow of an election has got me completely discombooberated and I was going to blame my dislike of this book on Donald Trump. Rest assured that my politics have nothing to do with the rest of this review, so carry on.
I was really getting into a bit of Tudor fiction that portrayed Bloody Mary as a sympathetic character instead of an insecure and vengeful woman who was lickety-split with a death warrant and kept her skin smooth by bathing in her victims’ blood. I was settling right in, with my blankie and my tea, for another I’d enjoy as much as I enjoyed The Other Boleyn Girl and The Boleyn Inheritance.

Alas.

The problem with this book started out to be the narrator herself, who is just not believable to me. Robert Dudley scoops a kid pretty much off the street and places her in Mary Tudor’s court as a spy, and Mary then sends her on to spy on Elizabeth, and both Mary and Elizabeth just blindly accept the little sneak and bring her close as a confidante? They seek her advice and spill their innermost secrets and want her by their sides during their darkest times, each knowing she’s loyal to pretty much anyone she meets, including their respective enemies, and was originally brought to each of them in order to watch and report?

That’s the setup. Mary, who received Hannah as a spy courtesy of Robert Dudley, packs Hannah off to watch and gather evidence that Elizabeth was involved in Wyatt’s Rebellion, even though she already has enough evidence to hang Elizabeth several times over. About a month later Elizabeth and Hannah have this exchange:

“Have you heard from Lord Robert? From any of the others? Is there no one there who will help me?”

“Lady Elizabeth, there is no one who can rescue you, there is no force that can come against your sister.”

“Well okay then, everybody calls me a whore, at least once a chapter, and even though I’ve already told you I was way too smart to put anything in writing, I’ll just turn myself in to be tried for treason, and meekly lay my head on the block, even though I’m Elizabeth I, THE MOST KICKASS QUEEN IN ALL OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION.”

I made that last one up, but you get the idea. I know Elizabeth really did submit to questioning and was held in the Tower for a while with her main squeeze Leicester, who also stirs the loins of our little spy Hannah. My point is that it’s frankly incredible that our 14-year-old female Spanish Jew refugee nobody narrator apparently has some acumen as a political strategist along with having the trust and ear of everybody who is anybody. Every time we see this, I’m just rolling my eyes.

Sometimes the writing just didn’t make sense. The heat from her hair misted the glass and She was as pale as her white dress when she first got into the litter, but she was blanched like skimmed milk by the time we had ridden down King’s Street. How is skimmed milk even whiter than a white dress? How is a woman’s hair hot enough to fog glass? Is her hair on fire? Silliness.

Another irritant, perhaps more irritating than they should have been, were the constant comma splices: He looked like a prince in a storybook, he was laughing. Those are two independent clauses and should be separated by a period, a semicolon, or some connecting phrase. It’s a style error that is no big deal now and then, but it is just all the freaking time in this book, and I grew tired of rereading sentences because incorrect structure was tripping me up. We have language rules for a reason. Most of these things should have been caught through competent editing.

All of the foregoing was the annoying part. Now we come to the part that just plain pissed me off, and so I climb up on my soapbox. The icky romance just has to descend into rapey romance, the woman pulling away until the man pushes her up against a wall and she decides she’s hot for him after all. Oh, since you shoved your hand down my bodice even after I said no, because I’m a slut who’s asking for it even if I don’t know it until you convince me, then you’re right, I want you, so, so, so bad. WHY MUST YOU DO THIS, PHILIPPA? Young women are, presumably, reading this book, and this dreck is informing their worldview of what love and romance are supposed to be and what their own decisions and desires are worth. When women say no and men force themselves anyway, it’s not because the women are just completely irresistible and the men are just so deeply in love. Nope nope nope-ity nope. It’s because the men are rapey pigs. Mmmkay? (On second thought, maybe I wasn’t done with Donald Trump.) I’ve got two concepts for you here, Ms. Gregory: “rape culture” and “misogyny.” Publishing this kind of crap contributes to both.

I am so disappointed. Dnf-ing at 41%, and I’m not sure I’ll return to this author.

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Stick It

“Becca, could you check please that list over there and tell me who’s the settlement contact for the Seventh Federal District Court? “

“For which state? ” Becca snaps, annoyed at. ..well, annoyed at pretty much anything Jane ever says, Jane has noticed.

“Indiana,” Jane answers patiently, “in the Seventh.”

“You need to check your basics first, sweetheart. Indiana’s not in the Sev — oh. “

Jane mostly succeeds at keeping her voice neutral as she repeats,  “Could you give me the contact name, please?”

alexas_fotos-pixabay
Alexas_Fotos/Pixabay

This is a vignette from The Life and Times of Jane Doe. It is part of the Six Sentence Stories weekly flash fiction blog hop. This week’s cue was “stick.”

Fun flashes from other writers can be found here.

 

Almost There!

By the time I have my next shrink appointment. One more menstrual cycle, as one woman put it. The next time I renew my bus pass, pay my rent, pay my health insurance premium (thank you again, President Obama), renew my prescriptions. By the time my birthday gets here, when I next need to freshen my hair color, when it’s once again time to reset all the clocks because Somebody Up There still thinks DST accomplishes anything. By the time I have read and discussed this month’s selection for book club. ..

When any of these have come to pass. ..

This thrice-cursed shitshow of an election will be over.

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1293182/Pixabay

Can I hear a great big “Hell yeah!”

Raptor Rapture (Jane Doe Flash Fiction)

Carrot Ranch October 19 flash fiction challenge: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a raptor.

The sensation of flight is exhilarating. Jane tries to laugh aloud but the wind jerks the sound from her mouth and the air from her very lungs. She lazes, riding a current, the land below a patchwork quilt seamed with roads and rivers. The world shimmers around her. She relaxes into floating free.

Then below – movement.

Tendons stretch, tail lengthens, head lowers, cruel beak leading the way as the downward streak begins. Air thunders by as prey looms closer, unaware yet.

Jane sighs and stirs in her sleep, Troubles twitching next to her as if joining in the hunt.

kdsphotos-pixabay
Kdsphotos/Pixabay

This flash is a vignette from The Life and Times of Jane Doe. More fun flashes from other writers are at the Carrot Ranch link above.

 

Mashup Book Review (Goliath and In a Dark, Dark Wood)

This is a mashup book review. I read more than one book at a time regularly, but this is the first time I’ve reviewed them together, so we’ll see how this works.

In a Dark, Dark WoodIn a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Bookshelves: brit-lit, chick-lit, everyone-loved-it-but-me, i-am-an-anglophile, mystery, thriller, creepy-horror-stuff

Goliath (Leviathan, #3)Goliath by Scott Westerfeld

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Bookshelves: abandoned, alternate-history, brit-lit, defying-gender-roles, dnf, fantasy, steampunk, ya

I stopped reading Goliath just past halfway through, because it wasn’t thrilling me and another book was calling, a supposedly spooky story, perfect for a rainy Friday evening coming up on Halloween. It’s not unusual for me to read two books at once, but that’s a print-vs-Kindle thing, and an insomnia thing.

Yes, I’m off on one of my digressions, which are part of my reviews because bits of regular life mix inextricably with the books I read because books are such an integral part of my life — but this digression might be useful. I suffer from what may be the worst case of insomnia ever; we’re talking sometimes as little as ten minutes of sleep a night, for years now. Talk about fried. I tried a no-screen rule–no phone, no Kindle, no television, no computer–within an hour of going to bed. It hasn’t cured me, but it’s made a noticeable difference. I like my Kindle because it’s compact and lightweight for lugging around the entire Puget Sound area as I go about my day, and I only read print books before bed, so – two books at once, quite often. I’m sure you’re thrilled to know my reading mechanics, but if you have sleep issues, perhaps the no-screen deal can help you.

Anyway. Both books were print, so that wasn’t it. Goliath just wasn’t holding me. I loved Leviathan, and Behemoth was decent, but this third installment was proving ho-hum. I am annoyed at feeling roped into reading yet another trilogy that could have been tightened up into one really excellent book. Stop the trilogy craze already.

Keith Thompson’s illustrations are still wonderful, but I loved Leviathan‘s cover the most, pure steampunk with no people.

So, wanting a Halloween -y spooky story that would make me sleep with the light on (it’s the weekend) I turned to In a Dark, Dark Wood. Hmm. It’s like And Then There Were None meets Basic Instinct, only everybody’s 12. So many times I wanted to slap them all.

This book promised to scare the crap out of me, and it utterly failed. It was okay, an entertaining enough thriller-mystery without a whole lot of either thrill or mystery. There are plenty of plot holes, the characters are rather cardboard (and I don’t mind an unlikable/unreliable narrator as long as it’s not Mary Sue, so we’re okay here), and some premises are not quite believable. Still, it drew me in enough to finish it, and the writing is competent enough.

I do think Gillian Flynn should get royalties every time a new book is touted as the next Gone Girl, because that’s a tough act to follow.

Love the cover.

I learned something new when I read the range-keeper ‘s statement about getting a lot of trouble with hen parties, and I was thinking, what? Since when? Google gave me several ads for it, all in the UK. My American brain is having trouble processing clay shooting as a bachelorette party thing, in a country without the stupid random gun violence. You Brits do stuff right.

New words: sat nav. I’ve always just called it GPS. Sat nav sounds cooler, like you’re actually in a cockpit. More Brits doing stuff right.

So then I went back to Goliath, thinking I’d finish it, but instead I diddled around reading some of the reviews, wondering if it was only me who found this third installment so lackadaisical, and saw someone mention that the perspicacious lorises don’t really figure in the grand scheme. Say what? I love the perspicacious lorises! They should matter, dammit.

*wanders off to read Philippa Gregory on Kindle and Gay Talese in print*

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The Girls by Emma Cline (Book Review)

The GirlsThe Girls by Emma Cline

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Bookshelves: chick-lit, coming-of-age, feminism, fictional-history, hashish-and-flower-power, popular fiction, mfa-style, true-crime, women

I have mixed feelings about this book, a fictionalization of a young girl’s flirtatious affair with the cult that would “murder the Sixties,” as Steven L. Jones wrote. The book is not so much about the Manson family and the Tate-LaBianca murders as it is about a young girl’s adolescent whinging (which we all went through, I’m not holding it against her) and how she was able to find a cult like that so attractive. Susan Atkins, aka Suzanne, is the star of this show.

Fourteen-year-old Evie Boyd has an odd awareness of every nuance of the world around her, for one so disconnected from it. Cline has an uncanny ability to capture the essence of a moment, to distill sensory input down to its ions. At times it is evocative and lovely. At other times it makes the story move very slowly, and keeps it from being the psych thriller I was hoping for.

The whole feminine thing? Nailed it:

That was part of being a girl–you were resigned to whatever feedback you’d get. If you got mad, you were crazy, and if you didn’t react, you were a bitch. The only thing you could do was smile from the corner they’d backed you into. Implicate yourself in the joke even if the joke was always on you.

And:

At that age, I was, first and foremost, a thing to be judged, and that shifted the power in every interaction onto the other person.

What annoyed the crap out of me were all the incomplete sentences. Freakin’ everywhere. I actually read a lot more of this book than I had to, because I kept rereading fragments trying to find what I’d missed to make the sentence complete, then realizing oh, yeah, she’s doing it again. It’s not quite as irritating as Marisha Pessl’s thrice-cursed italics, but close. I’m deducting a star because of this annoying creative choice. We have language rules for a reason, Ms. Cline.

I found out about this book through book club, but I couldn’t get a library copy soon enough for the discussion. I’m not sorry I read it, but I’m glad I decided to miss that meeting and passed on buying the book. Oh, and I love the cover.

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