Thursday Three #50

More recent reads, so there will be spoilers!

  1. Love Lies Beneath – Ellen Hopkins. I read this book’s sequel first (by accident) and enjoyed it only because the main character is delightfully evil (so evil, in fact, that she doesn’t realize it). This book provided more backstory on the character, so some of her evil actions from the sequel made more sense in context. There’s nothing “intellectual” about this book; it’s all about pleasure and enjoyment. And that’s fine. My brain’s fried anyway.
  2. Love Is Red – Sophie Jaff. This book was pure awesome, and (but wait! there’s more!) it’s the first in a trilogy, which is even more exciting. The novel can best be described as a murder mystery mixed with fantasy and romance, but that doesn’t do it justice. Some parts of it were a little confusing because of the writing style, but I’m hoping that the next two books clear it up for me.
  3. Day Four – Sarah Lotz. The sequel to The Three and far better than its predecessor. Lotz’s style reminds me so much of Stephen King, and in a good way. This book is far less political than the previous one, the characters are drawn better, and it’s set on a cruise ship, which is never a good place to be when a norovirus outbreak happens or when little ghost kids start wandering around. You want horror? This is some pretty good horror. I wonder if there will be a next book…

Should’ve Known Better…

SPOILER ALERT!

So I made the mistake of picking up one of the “staff picks” from the library, which was E.K. Johnston’s Exit, Pursued by a Bear. First, it’s a YA novel, and I used to read them a lot because I write in that genre. I don’t read them much anymore because I can’t stand the subject matter and the push for YA novels to be more “inclusive” and “diverse.” I doubt I’d let my son read YA until he was old enough to realize the agenda behind most of it. Not even books are safe from this culture. Bleh. Anyway.

Exit, Pursued by a Bear (named after that famous stage direction from Shakespeare) seemed like it would be good, even reminiscent of Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak (a classic of the YA genre). It focuses on a character called Hermione Winters (another Shakespeare reference, although because of the popularity of the Harry Potter series, one would think that character name is forever associated with that series and therefore unusable), who’s a cheerleader and is raped at a party at cheer camp after inadvertently drinking something spiked with roofies.

This is going to sound terrible of me, but I didn’t sympathize much with Hermione. Even after the rape, she seemed so put together, so mature, and so adult. I didn’t think that was realistic, especially given what she had been through and the difficult decisions she had to make. Had I been in her position at her age, I would have completely fallen apart. I understand that the author wanted to create a strong character, but I felt like Hermione was too strong to be easy to relate to or realistic. Her parents and best friend stuck by her and supported her in her decisions; nobody really seemed to oppose her, but I think this was done because she already had enough difficulty (i.e., dealing with the rape and its aftermath).

The book’s jacket and blurb gave no indication that it would involve abortion, but it did. After realizing she is pregnant as the result of the rape, Hermione gets an abortion. It wasn’t described in gory detail, but it was just enough to make me feel incredibly uncomfortable, which was probably the author’s intent. I kept waiting for her to suddenly change her mind and not go through with it, but that never happened. My opinion on abortion is that it’s abhorrent, so naturally, I thought the author could have had Hermione consider other options before choosing abortion and being completely and totally sure of herself—much more like an adult than like a teenager.

During the course of the book, we also find out that Hermione’s best friend is a lesbian, but this doesn’t really have any bearing on the plot. I think it was done for effect, just to show that the author is “hip” and “woke” and “with it” because it’s hard to find a YA book without some kind of LGBT representation.

I read the acknowledgments, which revealed that the book was written in response to a bill to “recriminalize” abortion in Canada. The author admits she was “angry” when she wrote it, and boy, does that show. Perhaps she should have cooled off a bit before writing something with such an obvious agenda.

I will say that the book ended nicely (but may not have been terribly realistic) and gave Hermione some closure. Will I read anything else by this author? Probably not, but only because her other books don’t interest me. The writing itself was good, if a little bland, and the author used that irritating YA trope of putting everything in first person present tense. 

That will be the last time I read a “staff pick” at the library. Most of them are obviously political, but this one didn’t seem so at first glance. I was tricked. 🙂

A Bird in the Hand Is Worth Two in the… Box?

SPOILER WARNING!

Bird Box is a popular thriller movie on Netflix starring Sandra Bullock. My first instinct when hearing about a popular movie is to wonder if it was based on a book, then if it was, read the book. I won’t watch the movie unless it’s something I really think I’d like.

Yes, Bird Box was indeed based on a book by Josh Malerman. I wrote briefly about another book of his in one of my Thursday Three posts, and that was one of the reasons I wanted to read Bird Box: I liked that other book quite a bit.

In brief, the book takes its readers through a horrifying end-of-the-world scenario about a mysterious creature that, when seen by humans, makes said humans go insane and commit suicide. Sounds happy and sunshiny, right? Of course not. But as you can imagine, Bird Box was a difficult read for such a short, fast-paced book. I almost put it down because the creepiness of the situation made me so uncomfortable… and the only reason I ever put a book down is because it is hopelessly boring and I can’t force myself through it.

However, I pressed on with Bird Box, mostly to find out exactly what the creatures were that were causing all the madness. Alas, I found nothing. We never do find out. This is reminiscent of H.P. Lovecraft’s works, where the creature is awful beyond comprehension—so awful that the author can’t even describe it. That technique always seemed like a cop-out to me. You’re the author, right? You’re supposed to describe the thing and allow the reader to see it!

The characters didn’t impress me. The heroine, Malorie, was brave beyond anything that could have been considered realistic. She raised two babies from their birth until age 4 without them ever opening their eyes (lest they see the awful, terrible, very bad creatures), without having any contact with any other human beings, and surviving on only the most minimal provisions. It was outrageously unrealistic, almost to the point of being offensive, as was the giving birth scene. The postpartum depression must have been almost as bad as being attacked by one of the creatures. (Hmm… maybe the entire book was an allegory about the terrors of pregnancy and the postpartum period? That would be an interesting analysis…)

Also, because Bird Box is a horror story, online reviewers made the inevitable comparison to Stephen King. I don’t see how anyone who has read anything by Stephen King can make that comparison. Perhaps the only way the two books were similar is that terrible things kept happening. I would say that Bird Box is more of a thriller, and most of Stephen King’s books are way too long and slow burning to be thrillers. King is also much, much better at character development and keeping plots realistic (but still horrifying).

I can’t recommend this book, unless you’re a huge fan of the horror or thriller genres. It just didn’t work for me. Even so, I will try another book by Malerman, because the other book I read from him was just that good.