Tag: Boring Book

One Summer, by David Baldacci

I can’t find a quote to begin this review with. Even though One Summer was preachy and spoke at length about life and what it is and what it’s not, and while all of it was written in large font, it turned my expression and my mind rather wooden.

rain-and-book-david-baldacci-one-summerJack Armstrong is dying. He’s 35 years old, married to his high school sweetheart, Lizzie, and has contracted a disease that remains unnamed from start to finish but is serious enough to kill him by Christmas. He’s marking his days off on a calendar, worried about his three children (Mikki, Cory and Jackie), writing his “final” letters to Lizzie. . Understandable. My sympathies. Out of the blue, Lizzie slaps Jack’s friend who makes a move on her – this scene serves no purpose (except maybe to show men can’t trust their friends *shrugs*). Anyway. Just before Christmas, Lizzie meets with an accident and dies. Her evil mom decides to send the children to live with their relatives because Jack could die any minute now. Can’t applaud her plan but nevertheless, understandable.

But as every bad movie and pedestrian-prose-filled-plot-driven book in history, Jack gets cured of… unnamed dangerous disease. Not understandable. While we are to assume that his recovery took some time and effort, the time spent on it in the book would lead you to believe it was almost instantaneous. He brings back his kids from wherever they’d been sent to. At this point, quite conveniently, they inherit a house in Channing, South Carolina (beachfront property, mind you) and new-improved dad, dad’s friend (not the douchebag from before), and three kids pack and move to the house (that they call the “Palace”) by the sea for the summer.

It’s rare that one could write a book about a tragedy and make it seem so… un-tragic. There’s hardly any conflict, and if it does arise, it’s resolved too quickly for it to have an impact. Right from the beginning, the book gave me this country-song-with-trucks-and-beers-and-blond-girls vibe, if you know what I mean. It’s so light and fluffy (like cotton candy if you will) – and I mean that almost literally – I already mentioned the large font. Add to that, each chapter is only about three pages long. You can rush through pages (and yet, at times it was so boring that it took me two weeks to read – that jar you see in the photo is what I place my “fines” in if I don’t finish a book in time)

The dialogues are so bad that had it tilted one degree over, it would go into the so-bad-it’s-good-category. Jack and Lizzie have been married since they were in high school, but it’s on his deathbed that he asks her how old her twin sister was when she died and what killed her. Sounds like a pretty important conversation to have been postponed for so long.
There was another dialogue between Mikki, the eldest daughter, and Liam, a boy she met during the summer that went like this:
“Your mom is really cool, Liam.”
“I don’t even remember my dad.”
Liam, kid, she did not say a word about your dad; what kind of a response is that?

One Summer had some really unnatural and disconnected dialogues. Real people just don’t talk this way. And, oh, because Mikki is a teenager, she adds “Like” everywhere in a sentence, like, after every, like, other word. Ugh, please!

The author has also been rather judgmental about the clothes his characters wear. For example, there’s a character named Tiffany Murdoch who’s a stereotypical mean girl. We know this even before she throws her mean weight around because she wears “tiny shorts” and other outfits described as “skimpy”. Her mother is just the same and wears clothes that “do not suit her age”. Wow, talk about all kinds of shaming. On the other hand, Mikki is real nice because she wears “knee-length shorts” and Blake Saunders (another minor character) tells her, “Other girls are easy to read. You’re not like them.” and she’s pleased as hell with her knee-length shorts-wearing brains.

Have I mentioned how much I disliked the prose? Well, I’ll just mention it again so you understand the extent of my pissed-off-ness. I mean, I couldn’t even find a quote to put at the top.

I’ve heard that this isn’t a typical Baldacci book. Unfortunately for me this is the first one I picked up. While his other works may fall into other genres, I don’t think there’s any cure for poor prose and bad dialogue (and mean girls in skimpy outfits). Reason enough for me to stay away.

Goodreads | Amazon

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The Lost Flamingoes of Bombay, by Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi

“A human being was composed not only of everything that he possessed but also of all that he had lost.”

rain-and-book-lost-flamingoes-bombay-siddharth-dhanvant-shanghvi-sreesha-divakaranAs a book blogger, you’d think my job would be to tell you about good books, give reccos, tell you how a certain book made me feel (which varies from speechless to nauseous). Imagine my surprise then when over the last few weeks, people texted me to let me know they missed my reviews of terrible books.

When you know you have an audience, you give the audience what they want. Or so pop culture dictates.

The Lost Flamingoes of Bombay is a book that you don’t really need to read. Think of all the crimes committed by celebrities/politicians/sons-of-the-baap-in-tu-jaanta-hai-mera-baap-kaun-hai, blend in a little bit of this, a cupful of that, and you have a mishmash of a “novel”, allegedly “fictional”, that gives the tabloid treatment to serious issues.

Let me begin by saying how smitten I was by Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi’s first novel, The Last Song of Dusk. Set during the pre-independence era, that melancholy novel with its palaces and magical realism, tragedies and romances enthralled me. Maybe it’s just grown grander in memory. Maybe if I go back to it, I’ll read it without the rose-tinted glasses. Or maybe, it really was as good as I remember it to be.

If his name wasn’t on the cover in big bold letters, I wouldn’t have believed it was the same author that wrote both these books. Why, Shanghvi, why? How, Shanghvi, how?!

Summary: Karan Seth, your everyday small town boy, is trying to make it big in the everyIndiannovel glittering city of Bombay as a photographer. His boss gives him an assignment he considers impossible at first – photograph the reclusive, eccentric Samar Arora, a former pianist. Karan not only finishes the assignment (I mean, obviously!), he also gets invited into the inner circle of Samar, his boyfriend Leo, and his best friend, movie star Zaira (small town boy growing wings among the rich, sad, and famous).
Karan is also pursuing a personal project – to capture the city through photographs. It is then that he meets Rhea Dalal, a bored housewife and amateur potter. Rhea and he become friends, and later lovers.
In the midst of all this, we find out that Zaira has a stalker, Malik Prasad, son of a powerful minister of the Hindu People’s Party (I mean, riiiiight).
Several subplots begin. None end.

Characters: Kindergartners often draw crude stick figures and label them “Mom”, “Dad”, “Sun”, “Hen”… You couldn’t tell, but you still give them an “Awww” for effort. The characters in The Lost Flamingoes of Bombay are much like those stick figures. You know them because their names are next to them in dialogue. There’s no depth to these characters, and if there’s no depth, we really cannot expect any growth either. These characters are none-dimensional. Instead of their names, had Shanghvi identified them as the photographer, the pianist, the potter, the actress, the novel would’ve worked just as well. Some minor characters flit in and out to increase the tabloid realism quotient – like Rocky Khan, who in a drunken rage drives over people sleeping on the pavement. I kept waiting for Rocky to shoot some endangered animals as well, but that never happened.
Several characters show up. None do much.

Narrative: If the characters have no merit to speak of, then rest assured this isn’t a character-driven novel. You’d assume then that it’s a plot-driven narrative.Well, you’re wrong. For a narrative to be plot-driven, it needs to have a plot.
Several incidents occur. None to drive anything anywhere.

POVs: You’re on a bus to Goa. You’ve settled into your comfortable seat, the in-bus entertainment is, for a change, playing something decent instead of the same Govinda movie from the 90s. You’re looking forward to your vacation, when suddenly the driver announces, the bus is now headed to Lucknow instead and for the rest of the journey, only Hero # 1 will be played. On loop. That seat isn’t too comfortable now, is it?
Imagine three characters narrating the story (if you’re thinking, that’s not too bad – wait, hear me out); so imagine three characters narrating the story… in the same PARAGRAPH! You’re cruising along with Karan, nodding along (or not) to his monologue, when suddenly Zaira offers you her thought bubble. How very jarring.
Several thoughts and POVs. No insight.

Language: Oh my God where do I begin! Tell me where do I begin! Ok, I’ll begin with this:
“Glee dripped out of Natasha like precum.” (my apologies if you’re reading this at work)
How about this:
“Minister Chander Prasad had a habit of scratching his balls so savagely that his pubic lice experienced multiple orgasms.” (apologies for that as well)
I’d stop, but let me squeeze just one more in:
“The words escaped the Judge’s mouth involuntarily, like a premature ejaculation.”
I’m done.
Several metaphors. None non-sexytimestype.

What’s the bottomline then? It’s unoriginal, too familiar, too verbose, too purple, too pretentious, too preachy. Should you read this book? Do your pubic lice a favor – don’t.

Goodreads | Amazon

 

 

I Hate Everyone But You, by Gaby Dunn; Allison Raskin

I Like Every Book But This.

hate everyone but you - rain and a bookRemember back in 2014-15 when my book reviews used to be snarky and I ended up offending a bunch of authors? Yeah, good times. This book makes me want to go back to who I was back then.

This book has good reviews and in particular, I fell for the one by Francine Pascal, whose books I devoured as a teenager. Given the premise, I should have loved this book: Two best friends starting off their first semesters at college and starting a “long distance friendship”. The book is written as a series of texts and emails exchanged between the two and even talks about issues that a lot of teenagers face. Did I mention both best friends are feminists? In theory, this should have been a good book.

But here’s the thing: almost all of it is problematic. On every level. I could take each of the aforementioned teenage problems and dissect it to present to you its offensive bits. But should I give this review any more time than it deserves? Should you take longer to read my review than I took to read the actual book? No and no. I’ll just address a couple of them here to make my case and let you decide for yourself.

Frankly, it’s my personal belief that for fiction to be realistic, it can be raw and flawed and the characters can be unlikable etc. That aside, you know that feeling you get when you read about a character and feel they’re a token character? The character is present throughout the novel, but just isn’t… represented correctly? In this book, Ava Helmer suffers from anxiety and OCD, Gen has come to the realization that she’s bi. While reading I had two thoughts

Thought # 1: Are these characters here solely to bring these facts to the front? Because a) there’s no other character development so this basically becomes their identity b) if yes, couldn’t this have been dealt with more depth and sensitivity (and sensibility) instead of just skimming the surface.

Thought # 2: This representation is so damn offensive and the portrayal is complete rubbish. Ava uses her anxiety to act like an utter douchebag. People, anxiety is something that some of us real people live with and try hard to cope with (I know I do). It isn’t a convenient excuse to be rude and judgey. As for Gen’s sexuality – I get that she’s experimenting and doesn’t wanna be tied down etc., but that isn’t an excuse to hook up with basically anyone (including her transphobic teacher) and it is certainly not an excuse to cheat. Gen represents a trope that is SO not okay – one where bi and non-monogamous people take everything as a license to cheat. Nope, not done. It’s like a narrow-minded straight person wrote this character (and incidentally, I came to know a lot of this is autobiographical, so I’ve NO idea how that happened). And may I add, Ava’s ignorance of bisexuality was SO cringeworthy.

I don’t even know why this book has side characters; they were all useless – present only to show who hooked up with whom. Ava and Gen’s friendship was a little too much for comfort. Actually, let me rephrase that – Ava’s clinginess and Gen’s apathy was hard to read about.

Goodreads tells me a 2* rating means “It was okay” and I guess, to be generous or whatever, it was. With that said, I wouldn’t really want a teenager or young adult to read this book. Poor representation of the LGBT community; poor portrayal of those with mental illness.

Goodreads | Amazon

Disclaimer: I received an ARC from Netgalley/St. Martin’s Press. The review is honest and unbiased.

Paper Hearts, by Ali Novak

paper-hearts-ali-novak-rainandabookHave you ever read a book in which all the characters seemed like filler characters? That’s what Paper Hearts felt like.

We have Felicity, the so-called MC, who is really stupid and needs obvious things spelled out for her. With a brain as slow as hers, I’m surprised she gets to be a character in book (that was written and published) at all.

The male lead is Alec Williams, member of the “world famous” boy band The Heartbreakers. Like every YA hero since the dawn of time, he’s the brooding, reserved kind and only the female lead can “save” him. How Felicity would ever accomplish this with her terrible IQ is beyond me.

We have Asha, the “hot best friend”, and token POC character. Actually, I’m not sure of the POC bit – Asha sounds like an Indian name, and she wears saris (what teenager wears a sari to a masquerade ball!?), but her surname is Van De Berg, which is… Dutch? It isn’t important whichever way, cos we don’t have any background info or character development.

Then there’s Boomer, and all we know about him is he loves cars and Asha.

Plus some of Alec’s band members thrown in for good measure.

The story begins with Felicity telling us her sister’s been missing since four years. Conveniently, around a few pages in, she finds out her sister had actually been writing to her. She decides to go search for her and Alec (whom she’s only met twice before) offers to drive her all the way from LA to Seattle. Lots of random stuff happens, like water gun fights, hide and seek games. You know, usual stuff that happens in YA novels. Not. (Seriously, what 20 yo plays hide and seek ffs!)

There is nothing about this story that’s believable. It is full of grammar errors, but since this is an ARC, I’m willing to give it the benefit of doubt on that front. It ends abruptly and then you begin lamenting all the time you wasted on this.

A little note about the blurb I saw on Goodreads – it mentions Felicity’s best friend Lucy, who has some plans and designs of her own; there’s no Lucy in the whole book.

Rating: 1/5

Goodreads | Amazon

I received an ARC from Netgalley/Sourcebooks Fire. The review is honest and unbiased.

 

 

Sad Girls, by Lang Leav

rainandabook-sadgirls-langleavAt the outset, let me mention I didn’t finish Sad Girls. Let me rephrase that a little bit – I couldn’t finish Sad Girls. I rolled my eyes so many times while reading about the lives of these (terribly sad) girls that I was worried they would fall out of their sockets. At one point, I rolled my eyes so hard that I think saw the edge of my brain!

Some may argue it is unfair to review a book that I abandoned midway. You wouldn’t be wrong – it is unfair. But here are my reasons to go ahead with my thoughts anyway.

To summarize, Sad Girls is the story of Audrey, who lied to her friends about their classmate Ana and the lie spread like fire. Unable to stand the rumours, Ana committed suicide. At the funeral, Audrey meets Ana’s boyfriend, Rad (I tell you, I hate even the names of the characters in this sad book). Audrey and Rad hit it off instantly, and decide to leave the funeral and hang out elsewhere.

All of these people live in a small town where everyone knows everyone’s business (to a level that can only be described as creepy). The whole town is now talking about Audrey and Rad (if the hot topic in your town is the whereabouts of two teenagers, you need to move to a better town). They are even talking about it in the grocery store, where Audrey’s mother hears about it. She forbids Audrey from speaking to Rad, but hello, rebellious, angry, mother-resenting teenager at work here. Later, Audrey’s boyfriend (oh, did I not mention that she already has a boyfriend?) gets uncomfortable and tells her not to see Rad again, and she reluctantly agrees. The more she stays away from Rad, the more she misses him, and the more she feels her current boyfriend is “not the right guy for her.”

From a literary standpoint, Sad Girls has way too many issues to even keep a track of. The plot is blah. The dialogues just keep running one after the other. They are inane, the characters drone on and whine on. The language sounds like it was written this way to appeal to the YA crowd, but most YA isn’t written half as badly. Young Adult books aren’t supposed to be stupid; you don’t need to dumb anything down for its audience – but that’s how it is in this excuse of a novel. There are characters in this novel who don’t have much to do. They sit along in the sidelines, mouth a few dialogues, create a bit of drama, cry a few tears, speak a few pretentious profound things, then just vanish. Sad Girls is a literary fiasco.

What bothers me most isn’t the above points though. The literary reasons aren’t why I decided to go ahead with this post in spite of not finishing the book. My biggest problem with this book is how it trivializes things like suicide, panic attacks, anxiety, depression etc. We live in a world that’s finally waking up to the true horrors mental disorders and of late a lot of emphasis is being given on seeking out help and getting the right treatment. As someone who has suffered from depression, I find it most irritating when a book – especially a book whose targeted audience is of the age that’s most vulnerable to these disorders – treats it like it’s a silly thing. Nope. Not done.

This isn’t just me getting triggered either. Lang Leav is a subpar writer with a ridiculously wide reach. Her audience mostly consists of an impressionable crowd – is this the message you want to give them? I mentioned in my review of Lang Leav’s book The Universe of Us that she confuses abuse for love. In some of her other works (I refuse to call it poetry) as well she has glorified sadness and grief. I understand that some good art comes out of pain, but to glorify it? To be so addicted to it? Not a healthy message to send out to the world.

I never had much respect for her (so called) “poetry”. After reading whatever I’ve read of Sad Girls, I have no respect for her fiction either. What I do have is anger and disappointment, but I’m gnashing my teeth and swallowing it for now.

Note: An ARC of this book was available on NetGalley. The opinions expressed here are my own. 

Goodreads | Amazon

The Legend of Lakshmi Prasad, by Twinkle Khanna

“The weather forecast in the Indian Express had predicted a week of sunshine but on the day that Elisa Thomas was getting married for the third time to the same man, it began to rain.”

image2

You know when you’re at the checkout counter at the grocery store and you see a row of Tic Tacs arranged neatly? It’s some new flavour that everyone’s been talking about. You’re almost sure you won’t like the flavour, but then, curiosity messes up with all your better decisions.

Do you see where I’m going with this?

Twinkle Khanna’s memoir, Mrs. Funnybones was an instant hit that placed her firmly very high up in the literary circuit. Suddenly she was the “new big name” in Indian literature. Now, I’m not saying the book didn’t deserve to be a hit. I quite enjoy Twinkle Khanna’s columns myself (although they took me quite by surprise in the beginning to be honest). But when it comes to writing fiction, nope, she isn’t cut out to be a fiction writer. A one-word review of this book would be: boring.

The Legend of Lakshmi Prasad is a collection of four short stories, mainly centred around women. The first story, from which the book derives its title is about a young girl, who lives in a village where daughters are considered burdens (story of nearly every part of India). She comes up with a revolutionary idea to change this.
The second is Salaam, Noni Appa. It narrates the story of two sisters, Noni and Binni. Binni, the younger one, loves to follow fads and trends, and Noni, having nothing better to do, participates in her sister’s newest interests as and when they come. When they decide to join yoga classes, Noni finds herself attracted to their instructor, a married man with a shrill, ill-tempered wife.
The third story, If The Weather Permits is the story of Elisa, who gets married multiple times, each time to a terrible person. Every time she returns home, her father insists that a “man is a man is a man” and she must find the right one and marry soon. The story reminded me of Susannah’s Seven Husbands by Ruskin Bond and I liked the irony at the end. I would’ve liked this story even more had it not been for the racist stereotypes used to depict the Malayalee family – I found this to be the only decent story in this collection but it got ruined because of this. However, I have to say, the opening line of this story is the one noteworthy sentence I found in the whole book (quoted on top).
The final and the longest story, Sanitary Man in a Sacred Land is based on the true story of Muruganatham Arunachalam, who is most well known for making low cost pads in a village in Tamil Nadu. In the fictionalized version, the protagonist is called Bablu and lives in a village near Indore.

The premise and the intent of each of these stories is good. But the execution is terrible. It reads like a children’s book of parables, with rigid beginnings and equally rigid endings, often with a moral. Twinkle Khanna’s signature sarcasm is missing in these stories, resulting in dull writing and narratives that sound more like the summaries of the stories than the stories themselves. The very same plots in the hands of a different writer would have had very different results.

A disappointment, this. I bought it on a whim while at the checkout counter of my favourite bookstore. And that’s where it will go back on my next visit.

Goodreads | Amazon

 

The Fire Child, by S. K. Tremayne

27874165You know this story. You’ve read this cliche before. A not-so-well-off photography professor Rachel Daly* meets an extremely wealthy man several years her senior. David Kerthen** is widowed; his wife Nina died in one of the mines on his thousand-year-old family property. He now lives with his eight year old son Jamie***. Rachel falls in love with David (of course) and even more so with his pale-faced, raven-haired son. Following a whirlwind romance, the two marry and Rachel leaves her poverty-stricken London life behind (to the envy of her friends) and moves to the Carnhallow House with David.
The Kerthens are an old family, who owe their wealth to their luck with the mines in the area. They were cruel, and did not care about those who lost their lives in the mines.
Caught in the memories of an old world is David’s mother Juliet. Through her, Rachel learns of the legend of the fire children. Soon after, Rachel’s stepson Jamie begins to act strange. He’s convinced that he’s a fire child and that his mother is coming back. Rachel herself begins to feel Nina is in the house – she can sense her presence, see her, smell her perfume, hear her voice, and what not.

*Has sad eyes
**Is a “‘broken’, womanizing lawyer”, who’s interestingly very much devoted to his first wife (no sign of any womanizing) and is very inarticulate for a lawyer.
***Kid can’t spell “write” but can spell “dinosaur”

The beginning of the story felt a lot like Rebecca to me. In fact, there’s this line in one of the chapters “Last night he’d [David] dreamt of Carnhallow again.” which, I know I’m probably looking for connections here, but it sounded a lot like the opening sentence of Rebecca to me. But that feeling quickly passes.

At the outset, let me mention, this is not a bad story. On the whole. But it’s been executed poorly (“poorly” being the kindest word I can think of right now). For one, it drags on and on and on and then leads to a laughably rushed ending. Why does it drag on? Because every third paragraph is a description of the sun and the sea and the mines (or, in the latter part, the snow and the sea and the mines) At one point, a character goes on to describe in detail the view from a supermarket. Just… why? We get it, it’s lovely, move on. Repetitions aside, there are these annoying inconsistencies throughout the book. I may sound nitpicky, but on one page Rachel tells us she does not tan, but she describes her “tanning shoulders” a few pages later. Minor detail, yes, but such things rub me the wrong way.

Everyone in this book is an overthinker and an overreactor. Either I’m missing chunks of the story, or these people are plain crazy. They go from state A to conclusion Z without analyzing (or at least merely considering) B to Y in between. For example, when Juliet describes the legend of the fire children, Rachel reads a lot into it and acts terrified. I went back to Juliet’s line a few times to check what I missed. Why did I feel Rachel’s reaction was unwarranted? Similarly, on what basis did David hire a detective to get details of his wife’s past? What convinced him she was hiding something? And here’s another inconsistency – he tells her to go through Nina’s old notes to restore the house, but when she does so, he’s convinced she’s snooping and trying to get him into trouble. So much goes unexplained, and yet we’re given such unnecessary detail about the bloody sunshine, FFS!

(Oh, by the way, the detective’s report adds even more cliches and stereotypes to this already unoriginal set of characters)

Gonna sound nitpicky again – my copy is an ARC, so I understand this will probably be fixed in the final – but there, were, bloody, commas, everywhere! It got so annoying, pausing where no pause was needed.

Now, why I said this is not a bad book is because there were parts of it that were genuinely spooky – and that’s more than what I can say for the new crop of horror/thriller writers. But nothing ties up properly – the motivations, the backstory, none of it. It is all implausible, and I can’t, for one second, believe the plot in its current form. It’s amateurish to the worst degree. All that foreshadowing (again, done badly) leads to no resolutions and by the end, you have a lot of unanswered questions looking up at you like a bloody hare in your hands.

Note: I received an ARC from Netgalley. This review is honest and unbiased.