book reviews

Hated the book, love the author.

Ranty Runt's Rants

Something devastating has just happened. I’d been waiting for a new book by one of my favourite authors, a long awaited follow up to a favourite novel. Once I had it in my hot little hands I cracked it open and started reading with glee.

Only to find I didn’t like it. The story was boring and then things got even worse. This author started to offend me. Casual racism and sexism. Rape culture being endorsed. I was positively seething. This wasn’t what I expected from one of my favourite authors. I started to hope that this was written by a ghost writer, and I couldn’t believe that I hoped that one of my favourite authors hadn’t written his book. I’d spent my hard earned on this, and it wasn’t worth it.

On top of the fact that I was offended to my very core, the characters were flat and one dimensional, the plot was badly constructed and boring. The novel read like a first draft. I knew that the author wrote a series of independently books that dealt with harder (as in violent) subject matter, but this book was a follow-up to one of his traditionally published novels. It was a follow up to a thriller that wasn’t overly sadistic. Violence is one thing, but torture and sadism for the sake of a thrill is a whole different ballgame.

I want to review this book. Usually I would have no problem giving a negative book review, I’ve done a few. But I’ve never ripped a book to shreds that was penned by one of my favourite authors. I’ve raved and recommended this author to lots of people on the internet and in real life, and I don’t feel right giving an honest review of this book when I’m such an advocate for this author. He re-blogs my reviews, comments on them and such. It just seems awkward. I’m not going to share the author’s name, but I’m sure if you’re interested you can wait for my review that corresponds with this discussion post.

I’m going to review the book. I’ve written some of my ideas, but it’s brutally honest. I was wondering how other bloggers deal with this conundrum when reviewing a favourite author. Do you still post detailed reviews of books that you’ve hated, even by a favourite author? Do you keep things short and sweet? Or do you just skip reviewing that title? Is there etiquette here? Has posting a negative review ever backfired on you? I want advice, my book blogging friends. Help me please.

Other installments in Ranty Runt’s Rants:

The worst time to love a reader
My personal war on romance
Breaking a blogging slump
Hated the book, love the author

Ranty Roundup – January

January was a strange reading month for me – it started off so strong, but then there was a period of about 14 days that I didn’t read anything. Not a single page. The month started off with a very successful Bout of Books readathon, in which I hosted a challenge and did a significant amount of reading. You can read my wrap of of that here.

A friend and I then drove to South Gippsland in Victoria (about a 13 hour drive) to go to a music festival. It was a camping festival and we did quite a bit of drinking and meeting new and wonderful people. We saw some of our favourite bands, like Parkway Drive, Stray from the Path, Confession and Neck Deep. Needless to say, I didn’t get to read a single word. Normally I would read while my friend drove, but I did most of the driving and we talked so much. It was just so nice to be able to have a pressure free weekend and be able to catch up with a good friend.

Anyway, onto more bookish things – my favourite book of January was without doubt Dispatches by Michael Herr. It was my classics club spin, and I had DNF’d it a couple of years ago when I just wasn’t in the mood for nonfic. It just shows that I am such a mood reader that something I DNF’d could then become a favourite after a couple of years. My other reads for the month were not spectacular, and I was quite disappointed with Dead Wake by Erik Larson, because I had such high hopes and expectations.

26005307


 

Books read in January – 7

Birthdays for the Dead – Stuart MacBride – 3 stars

Dead Wake – Erik Larson – 3 stars

The Devil’s Bounty – Sean Black – 3 stars

The Business of Dying – Simon Kernick – 4 stars

A Good Day to Die – Simon Kernick – 3 stars

Dispatches – Michael Herr – 5 stars

The Payback – Simon Kernick – 3 stars


 

Book Reviews

Dead Wake – Larson

In The Cold Dark Ground – MacBride

Ethan Frome – Edith Wharton

Dispatches – Herr

Review Spree – Lynn, Black & Kava


 

 

Challenge progress

Read my Books Challenge

The Business of Dying by Simon Kernick

1 book read in January / 1 in 2016

Classic a Month Challenge & Classics Club

Dispatches by Michael Herr – Reviewed

Series a Month

Dennis Milne series by Simon Kernick – read 3/3 books.


 

February TBR

 

I’m not going to try and complete a series in February, rather I am going to focus on my steadily growing netgalley pile and clear my backlog. Currently I have 5 on my shelf that need to be read. My goal will be to read 4 of them at least.

I’ve also got quite a few books from the library that need attention, plus my monthly classic. So the following is my tentative TBR for Feb – however I’m not really expecting to read this whole list – maybe five or six from this list.

The Martian – Andy Weir

The Light Between Oceans – M.L. Stedman

The Innocent – Sean Black

One Hit – Jack Coughlin

The Wrecking Crew – Taylor Zajonc

Youngblood – Matt Gallagher

Islamism – Tarek Osman

Red Line – Brian Thiem

Agnes Grey – Anne Bronte

I am so so excited that I am hosting a readathon for Agnes Grey, it’s the first time I have ever hosted one, so I am so grateful to have people to share this experience with. If you want to be involved, feel free to sign up – it’s still early days!

Agnes Grey Readalong

Review: Dispatches by Michael Herr

26005307

Dispatches by Michael Herr, Picador Classics Paperback, 1977, p. 272.

5 stars.

It is really tough to review those books that touch you on such a deep level, change your thinking regarding a topic and leave you a different person. I read a lot of war and military themed fiction and non-fiction, and consider myself not an expert, but an enthusiast in this field. I had become jaded – since reading Matterhorn a couple of years ago, no war novel (covering a real life war) had come close to romancing me – and no non-fiction about war was as engaging anymore. Until I picked up Dispatches. It was a Classics Club Spin – and it just proves that sometimes you need a little encouragement to read books that might become favourites in the future.

I will try to offer my opinions and impressions of this book, but I can assure you that they will be childish, trivial and kitsch in comparison to the actual work reviewed. Dispatches starts with a chapter entitled “Breathing In” and as I started reading it I thought it was about literally breathing in the air in Vietnam. Herr uses the senses in exquisite ways to convey the story, and I just thought the chapter was alluding to that. Once I realised the final chapter was entitled “Breathing Out” I became sure that these chapters were in reference to death, and the writers’ brush with death and his survival. Dispatches talks about death in a unique fashion, treating it as a gruesome reality that is viewed by some as a spectator sport. It was only when I sat back and thought more about the book and the final chapter that it became clear that Herr was talking about things on a much grander scale, a much deeper scale, then I could fully appreciate.

The book holds its breath from the first page to the last – and it reflects the way that Herr sees his time in Vietnam.

He held his breath, and he ceased to exist outside of Vietnam, his time in the war there meant he had lived two different and completely disparate lives – the life ‘back home’ and the time in country, when he was holding his breath.

I also think it is in homage to the fact that the young men who were over in Vietnam stopped living as soon as they were in Vietnam, to the Americans at home they were fighting an unpopular war and were almost invisible – and soldiers deaths were often under-reported. They stopped living in the minds of their commanding officers, the brass and the politicians – they became bodies to be utilised in a grand-scale and ultimately doomed chess game. Most horrifying of all however, is that they stopped living in their own minds – Vietnam came to consume them, and for so many, death or serious injury was a welcome vacation away from their horrible reality, Herr describes more soldiers dealing with insanity and mental illness than soldiers processing their time healthily. Because in reality, how can you process a war such as Vietnam healthily?

Dispatches is not written from memories of a soldier’s time, Herr was a war correspondent who was sent to Vietnam for Esquire magazine. The soldiers don’t understand why he is there (he chose to be there, they were ordered), and it seems that the other correspondents working for the larger papers look down at him for writing for a ‘lesser’ publication. I just think that there is such an element of irony to Dispatches that most people won’t ever read those news reports sent back to the states (unless one is a historian, really) but Michael Herr’s novel is rightfully considered a classic and will be read by many generations in the future.

The introduction to this book, which I read after reading the book itself, is enlightening. Kevin Powers was a serving soldier in the U.S. Army when he read Dispatches in Iraq and while reading his very harrowing introduction, one his passages made clear to me why Dispatches is such a hard hitting book:

“What readers of Dispatches have is meaningful reportage about death. It is in my estimation the most lucid, resolute, and compassionate writing to have ever been done on the subject. It sets aside every manner of illusory thinking that would distract us as readers from the fact that war is in the simplest terms an industry of which death is the sole product.” p. ix

Dispatches is one of the best books about war I have ever read. (And I’ve read dozens, maybe even hundreds) It’s a firm favourite for me, and I will certainly be revisiting it in the future.

Review: Black Ops by Stephen Leather

24417606

Black Ops by Stephen Leather, Hardback, July 2015, 400p.

4 stars

I pre-order every Stephen Leather book that is published, and Black Ops validated that somewhat expensive luxury to me. Black Ops is everything a thriller should be – fast, tight and exhilarating. I’ve felt that the last couple of Spider Shepherd books have been fun and enjoyable but starting to play by a familiar formula. Stephen Leather writes books to that formula better than any other author, in my humble opinion, and that is why I enjoy these books so much, but Black Ops broke from that formula slightly and shines because of it.

Personally, I loved that Black Ops had so many plotlines and was more intricate than most other thrillers, despite this, I didn’t find it hard to follow or heavy. The multiple subplots were excellently handled and juggled for maximum thrills. I loved the involvement of Liam, Spider’s son. Every time Liam is involved in a plot, I feel like the drama is notched up another level. Of the cast that were included in this book, all my favourite characters got parts with the exception of one tassel shoed American.

Much of Black Ops seemed to be concerned with building up the character of Lex Harper, who I do really enjoy – and I am hoping that Lex gets spun off into his own series. However, I’m always concerned that it will mean I don’t get to see my favourite characters feature in their own books. I want Lex to be a spin off series, not a replacement one! So I’m a little anxious about that. I also love all of the job offers that Spider had thrown his way through the last couple of books, so maybe we would see him in that side career that is being constantly hinted at? That would be interesting, but I’m afraid a little out of character. This review most likely makes little sense to someone who hasn’t read any Spider books.

I powered through Black Ops during some of the busiest weeks of my year, and it was the perfect break from stress. I really struggled to decide if it was a four star or five star read for me, but I usually reserve 5 star reads to my favourite of my favourites – and although I did enjoy this book it didn’t quite make it to that level. I’ve rated a few Spider books 5 stars in the past, and recommend this series to anyone who likes fast paced thrillers, my only advice is to start with the first book, Hard Landing, because there is quite the retinue of characters in the later books.

Review: Split Second by Alex Kava

19250151Split Second by Alex Kava, paperback from library, 2001, 408p.

Alex Kava’s Split Second is the second book in Kava’s Maggie O’Dell series, and was an enjoyable read. I did prefer the first book in the series, and felt like Split Second was weaker, like so many second books are. It took me awhile to read it, even though it wasn’t a hard or long read, because I kept getting distracted by other books.

Maggie is a good character, and I do like her, although sometimes I want to smack her over the head for stupid decisions that she made. I find this with most crime series, that the main characters usually make reckless decisions because it is fun to read about the aftermath of these actions.

The plot in this story wasn’t my favourite. The serial killer seemed to be a caricature of the worst serial killer you could imagine, and the police’s inability to stop him when he was being reckless annoyed me. I love Kava’s writing style and her characters, but this plot just didn’t capture me.

I have the next book in this series on my bookcase to read, and I will be giving O’Dell another bash, but I just hope that the plot of the third book is stronger than that of Split Second.

Review: Head in the Sand by Damien Boyd

cover56989-medium

Head in the Sand by Damien Boyd, January 2015, aARC from netgalley, 209p.

3 stars

Head in the Sand is the second book in the DI Nick Dixon series and I really enjoyed it. The plot in this novel was interesting and well thought out, and I hadn’t figured out the whodunit part until the end, when I rolled my eyes and had an ‘of course!’ moment. Although this was an interesting mystery, the characters really didn’t get to shine – which was my main complaint with the first book in the series too. However, I think reading them one after another is a great idea because it builds up the characterisation.

Dixon is one of those characters who I struggle to get a reading of, I’m not sure if I like him or dislike him. He is brilliant at getting the bad guy, but he often doesn’t share his thinking or hunches with the others on the team. He is often rude and short with people, and expects everyone to immediately be doing what he wants them to do, even if he hasn’t told them what that is.

This book also saw DC Jane Winter become a better developed character, but I still see her as being used as a foil to Dixon than being able to contribute to the plot individually. I’d like her to become more central to these stories, and I feel like this book could have been even more interesting if it had been written from her point of view – but of course that is preference and I’m sure many readers will fine Dixon’s story to be more interesting.

Damien Boyd has a very succinct and clean writing style that is easy to read. These books are short, which means there isn’t enough room for characterisation, because most of the words are given to the somewhat complex plot. Personally, I’d still prefer more character building, but our picture is becoming more defined because we are gaining more opportunities to ride along with Dixon and Winter, and I will continue to pick up these books because they are very enjoyable!

Weekly Review Spree 8/3/15

18660669Vampire Academy – Richelle Mead – 2 stars

I started off really enjoying Vampire Academy, and was really intrigued by the premise. However I started to feel like the novel was juvenile with emotional hooks that completely missed their intended target. I went from tolerating Rose (and possibly identifying with her) to finding her horrible, manipulative and petty. I don’t like the way teenagers are portrayed in this novel, they get no respect. If there was more character development and Rose went from being horrible, manipulative and petty to being less of the aforementioned traits I could have enjoyed it, but by the end of the book the only change was that I added selfish to the list. The characters seemed to think they were great people, and were always the victim, and while that mentality can be interesting to read about, Mead seemed completely oblivious to the way her characters come across. I feel like character progression will happen in future novels, but I’m not willing to read them to find out. I’m starting to realise that most of the YA I enjoy is of the bildungsroman variety and not just a way for teenagers to get their M rated sex scenes with the stereotypical ‘tall, dark and handsome.’

16059717Close to the Bone – Stuart MacBride – 4 stars (also could win an award for favourite cover – look at the spooky pretty!)

Close to the Bone would have to be my favourite Logan McCrae novel I have read to date, mainly because it is more about the personal lives of the police officers than previous instalments. For the first time I hated Logan in this book, but I then felt so sorry for him a little later, so manipulative of my delicate emotions, Mr MacBride! The crime was interesting, and they discussed slash fanfiction, which made me chuckle and reminded me of my youth when I was obsessed with X-files fanfiction. I did miss Logan’s reporter friend and I felt like the situation with a certain someone was left unresolved, but hopefully that will be reconciled in the next novel? Also, I cried like a baby at the conclusion of this novel,  not something I do with every crime novel I read.

16183104Partners in Crime (two short stories) – Stuart MacBride- 3 stars

As I have been reading the Logan McRae series I was excited to find this collection of two short stories available for kindle. I didn’t like either of these stories as much as I enjoyed the previous short story I read, The 45% Hangover, but they were interesting and funny. If you have half an hour spare, and are already a fan of the series, then they are worth your time, but they wouldn’t make a good introduction into this world.

 

19065866Red Stripes (short story)- Matt Hilton – 3 stars

Yet another short story, this one was a Joe Hunter yarn. It wasn’t thick with plot or characters but it was packed with action. Oh! So much action! I really do enjoy Joe Hunter stories and was very relieved when Mr Hilton announced on his blog that the next Joe Hunter novel will be out mid this year, now I just have to wait, and while I am waiting, I will read his collection of other Hunter short stories.

Other Bookish Stuff

I didn’t make it to Geoffrey McGeachin’s event that happened during Adelaide Writer’s Week, which makes me a little sad – but I wasn’t feeling well enough to go, and I’m trying hard to not push myself physically.

Exciting news for this week is that C.J. Box’s new novel, Endangered, is out on the 10th, I’ve preordered it on kindle (thanks for kindle vouchers, lovely family), and can’t wait to read it!

I’m currently reading Fire Force, which is book 2 in the ‘Death Force’ series, and am loving it so far. The only problem is it seems to be a completed series with only 3 or 4 books, and I know I’m going to want more.