Book reviews

I haven’t really paid attention to my GoodReads posting of my novel, New City. I was perusing GoodReads this morning though, and noticed that somebody had posted a review! I was pretty excited to read it, until I saw that it was basically someone calling me out for giving it a five-star rating. Which, I mean, I totally did. I was the first person to rate it. Why would you want to read a book if even the author was like: Well, it’s kind of meh. Anyway, I was shamed enough to take down my rating, but was happy that it didn’t affect the rating itself of 4.71 stars (not bad, eh?). Although then I realized my rating as an author didn’t have any influence on the average rating. So why should it matter that I’m proclaiming it to be an awesome book? I think I’ll put my five-star rating back up. I stand behind it. Or is this a totally gauche thing to do? Thoughts? (Also if you’ve read the book, would love it if you could give a rating, or even better, a review!)

Here’s what I’ve been reading. I’ve read some not-great books lately, but then I rewarded myself with Amy Poehler’s very sweet book, so that was great. I’m going to post that review last, so you have to slog through the not so good, just like I did.

Party Games, by R. L. Stine

Book description: Her friends warn her not to go to Brendan Fear’s birthday party at his family’s estate on mysterious Fear Island. But Rachel Martin has a crush on Brendan and is excited to be invited. Brendan has a lot of party games planned. But one game no one planned intrudes on his party—the game of murder. As the guests start dying one by one, Rachel realizes to her horror that she and the other teenagers are trapped on the tiny island with someone who may want to kill them all. How to escape this deadly game? Rachel doesn’t know whom she can trust. She should have realized that nothing is as it seems… on Fear Island.

My review: Anyone who knows me or has been reading this blog long enough probably knows I also work on another blog, Shadyside Snark, which is devoted to R. L. Stine’s teen horror series, Fear Street. I work on it with my sister, and since 2008 we’ve recapped every single one of the books in the Fear Street series, no mean feat since there are like a thousand of them. Imagine our incredible delight to learn that Stine was coming out of retirement and starting to write NEW Fear Streets.

Party Games is the first in the new series, and it didn’t disappoint, at least not for me, anyway. It seemed to really set up the series, introducing new characters, getting us into the new world of Shadyside. One where the Fears live out in the open on Fear Street, billionaires that seem to run the town, including the son, Brendan, who is popular, cool and probably a complete psychopath. There is a hint that there might be some paranormal activity, but mostly it’s goofy slasher-thriller type stuff, and just great. I said wtf out loud several times, which is par for the course when you’re reading something as incomprehensible as these books. I loved it. If you want to read the my full recap, you can find the post here.

Original Sin, by P. D. James

Book description: The Peverall Press, a venerable publishing firm occupying a mock-Venetian palace on the Thames in London, has a new managing director, the brilliant but ruthless Gerard Etienne–a man with enemies. When Etienne is found dead in bizarre circumstances, Commander Adam Dalgliesh is faced with a plethora of suspects–and a murderer prepared to kill again.

My review: This book, I’m sorry to say, was one of the most boring books I’ve ever read. It was torture to get through. There were endless pages of useless description, and lengthy paragraphs revealing the background stories of characters who were then never heard from again. It took half the book to just build up the setting before the real action actually happened. I’m not sure why I kept with it, other than I didn’t really have another book chosen to get into afterwards. If I had a juicy pile of books I was excited to read, there is no way I would have finished this. I’ve heard that P. D. James is some kind of literary treasure, but she’s not for me. I never seem to enjoy her books, and they aren’t weighty enough to be worth the trouble. You know, sometimes you don’t enjoy a book, but it’s important or is teaching you something so you’re reading it for that purpose? James’ work is escapism, and for me escapism should be entertaining in some way. Especially if it’s going on 600 pages and is not a page turner.

Yes Please, by Amy Poehler

Book description: In Amy Poehler’s highly anticipated first book, Yes Please, she offers up a big juicy stew of personal stories, funny bits on sex and love and friendship and parenthood and real life advice (some useful, some not so much), like when to be funny and when to be serious. 

My review: My sister described this book as not really funny, but very sweet, and she was right. When I read Tina Fey’s Bossypants (which of course Yes Please is going to be compared with, I’m not going to feel bad about doing it), I couldn’t stop laughing out loud. I read the entire thing on a flight to Toronto and was crying with laughter, I’m sure some people thought I was disturbed. But this was different. It showed Poehler as a tough, sweet, awesome feminist with such a great message. The stuff she wrote about her sons made me teary (I’ll blame the pregnancy on that one). Often it seemed like a compilation of famous people talking about how awesome Amy is, but in a way that didn’t come out as super braggy (or was at least self-aware of its bragginess, as she constantly mocks herself for name-dropping). I really enjoyed it – it’s an easy read an has confirmed my thought that Amy and I need to be best friends.

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