Sunday, June 30, 2013

Review: The Concubine by Jade Lee ★★

The ConcubineI feel like I've been reading this book forrrreeeeevvvveeeerrrrr. It's short. On my Nook it was less than 200 pages. But I just really could not work up any interest in the romance aspect of this book. I just find romances, at least those I've read (which is admittedly few) to be predictable in the worst way. I knew from the moment I learned who the dude in the palanquin was what would happen - it was just a matter of the details. I probably would have known before then if I'd read the book description... but I don't read those, usually.

Anyway. I actually thought that the Chinese political situation and process of finding an empress were the most interesting parts of the story, and I wish that these aspects comprised a bigger portion of the book. For all Ji Yue's abilities in observation and "being a political wife" - the political stuff was extremely limited. Saves room for talk of "jade stalks" and "dragon organs" I guess. You know, the important stuff. (Psst... Those are euphemisms for "penis".) *wink*

I also was bothered by the whole OMG-it's-so-amazing deflowering scene. These girls have guarded their virginity like their lives depended on it (which, I guess, in a way, was the case), haven't even SEEN a penis, let alone know what to do with it, and then Ji Yue, after having learned to give a blowie just the day before... "sits" on Bo Tao's Dragon rod or whatever like it ain't no thang. No pain, not even discomfort, and she just goes to town. I mean, it just rubs me the wrong way (geddit?) when fiction portrays the first time as this wonderful, amazing experience, especially for the girl. It's not. It is not a rainbow sunshine daisy unicorn experience. Usually it's painful, then uncomfortable, then messy, and then it's just over. And then there's the second time, which isn't much better. It takes time and repetition and practice to get to the OMGYES sex. It don't just happen when that hymen breaks.

Anyway. This was OK. Predictable, cliche, unintentionally humorous at times, but nothing special. I wish the history and politics were fleshed out more, as well as the characters' personalities. Their euphemistic sexy times parts were fleshed out quite enough.

NetGalley Review: Helium by Jaspreet Singh

HeliumDisclaimer: I received an e-copy of this book for review from NetGalley.

I was recently browsing around on NetGalley after, oh... Two years of inactivity there, or so. I saw this book, and it looked really intriguing to me. I loved the cover, and the book description sounded fantastic - a story about India's turbulent recent history, the assassination of Indira Gandhi... Intriguing stuff.

I really wanted to love this book. I was hoping that it would speak to me and allow me to learn something of what it was like to live through such things. I was hoping for this book to be beautifully written and expertly told. But unfortunately, almost immediately, I struggled with this book.

I ended up giving up on this at 20%. I just couldn't get into the story. I couldn't follow the narration - it jumped around, not only in time and memory, but between random, unconnected thoughts and observations. There are sentence fragments, sentences that seem out of order, and jumbled phrases that just don't make sense to me.

The writing and the style just didn't work for me. It's told in first person narrative, and I found it extremely hard to get into the main character and narrator's head. In fact, I didn't even know his name until around the 19% mark. (It's Raj.) Not that that's a requirement for me, but it does help to get to know the person I'm supposed to be closest to in the story. It also felt distant and cold, as though Raj's own history meant nothing to him. He describes witnessing a mob of men throw a tire over his teacher - his friend - and set him on fire as though it was nothing. He tells the story as though he's describing paint drying.

And intermixed in all of this is information about Raj's work in rheology - the science of flow.

But there seems to be no flow to this story. It's not fluid or smooth - it's choppy and jumps around seemingly without rhyme or reason. There are many words, and it's possible, even likely, that they'd come together in the end and form a cohesive whole, but even getting to 20% was a struggle for me.

Here's a quote to illustrate, from 8%:
"I shall never forget my last visit to his office. The 19th of October, a faultless day like any other. The laburnum quivered in the sun, I recall, so bright they hurt my eyes. I placed the borrowed item on his heavily cluttered desk; sheets and memos spilling over, glacial mountains and ice fields of exam papers and clogged lava flows of lab reports. Still weak, recovering from jaundice, I was in a way rediscovering the world; everything around me felt new and alien. Even the smells I took for granted in the past, and the dewy brilliance of objects. Without wasting words he checked if I had the energy to walk back to the hostel. I nodded. But he insisted on driving me in his white Fiat, which he drove slowly for my sake. On the way we talked about Maxwell's demons, he was also curious about my recently formed opinions and thoughts on Levi. I was unable to express myself properly. I said something about Levi's dark sense of humour. How he made use of snake droppings once to manufacture lipstick! Then we discussed briefly the chapter that left a huge impression on me. How the author had dealt with hunger. What really happened inside the 'concentration' camp. Up until that day the words 'dilute' and 'concentrated' were simply connected to the density of molecules in solutions (and not human beings). The writing had disturbed me, pushed me out of my comfort level. Those pages were set in a world I did not know."
This paragraph is just all over the place. It's random, and vague. It left me confused and didn't add anything to the story.

I'm sure that this book is amazing, or could be amazing, for the right reader. I don't think that I'm that reader. I no longer have the patience to wade through jungles of words to try to piece them into a story. I need more cohesion.

It's also possible that this is not the final copy as well. I am not able to find anything saying for sure whether this has been corrected yet, so it is likely it has not. If that's the case, further editing may resolve some of the things I struggled with. But as it stands, I just don't think this book is for me.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Library Sale... AKA: I DON'T Have A Problem!

So, yesterday, after breakfast, The Boy spotted a library sale. And then told me about it, which was his first mistake. He then had to wander around after me, bored, for not nearly as long as I would have liked, but out of consideration for him I cut it short to just an hour. 

It was $3/bag day. I got all of the above books in that bag. I would have gotten more, obviously, but almost all of the paperbacks were romances or Dean Koontz, or... Ones I already owned. *cough cough*

Here's my haul: 

The Thief of Always by Clive Barker
An ARC edition of Vurt by Jeff Noon (on of The Boy's favorites! Imagine that- he CAN read!)
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
*A Van Vogt Omnibus, containing Planets for Sale, The Beast, and The Book of Ptath
Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
The Sweet In-Between by Sheri Reynolds
Beware of the Dog by E.X. Ferrars
The Gravedigger's Daughter by Joyce Carol Oates
Sapphira and the Slave Girl by Willa Cather
Other Voices, Other Rooms by Truman Capote
Tinkers by Paul Harding

* I picked this up purely on a whim. I never heard of any of these stories, but it looked well read, and I always think that I should read more science fiction, and for about $.14, you can't beat the price. ;) 

These Is My Words by Nancy E. Turner
The Rainy Season by James P. Blaylock
The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin
Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin
Dixie City Jam by James Lee Burke
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexandr Solzhenitsyn
The Crisis by Winston Churchill
The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton by Edith Wharton
After the First Death by Lawrence Block
Ordinary Heroes by Scott Turow

Obviously, a lot of these books are ones that I wouldn't have likely ever read, or even heard of, otherwise. But getting 21 books for the price of a half off mass market paperback is a good incentive! 

After leaving the sale, we ran a few more errands, and stopped at one of my favorite discount stores, where I bought... yeah, more books. (I SAID I don't have a problem!)
I picked up The Illustrated Sherlock Holmes, which contains 37 short stories and a full novel. I also got The Haunting of Granite Falls by Eva Ibbotson, because a friend loves her, and I've never read anything of hers. And finally, an apparent steampunk book about Jack the Ripper called "Ripper" by Stefan Petrucha... because why not? 

... Now I just have to find a way to fit them onto my shelves. O_o