Category 52 in 2013

52 Fridays – 3; The Mistress of the Art of Death

mistress of the art of death

I thought I liked medieval novels. I thought I liked characters and stories out of this time period. Oh right, I do like those things, I just don’t like Mistress of the Art of Death. This book is wretched. Seriously, I’m not even sure I have much else to say about it. I know that all over the internet it boasts a whopping 5 star review, everyone raves about the character development, the dramatic setting, the strong, independent, bold main (female) character, etc. But I swear to you this was the most painful 400 pages I have read in years.

– Spoilers –

The plot was convoluted, the characters were obtuse, the relationships between them were ill defined and implausible, the setting was drab and un-engaging. I mean seriously. I really wanted to like Adelia, “doctor to the dead”, the rich adopted daughter of a renowned Salerno doctor. At first she seemed truly self-reliant, recognizing the disdain for her gender in the regions and time period she was living in, but not allowing herself to be tamed. She had a sharp tongue, a determined attitude and a callous resilience to the testosterone driven men recently returned from the Crusades. It all falls apart about two thirds of the way through (I can’t even believe I made it that far) when she (instantly? as in, the course of one to two pages) falls in love with the man she dislikes the most. What. The. Hell?

Additionally the killer she is sent to find, uncover, convict, whatever, is found around the same time as this love is revealed and gets the backseat. We spent 300+ pages trying to find this guy and now he’s hardly worth the paper and ink? I want to know why he did it, what, where, when, who, how? You know the drill, Ariana Franklin! Don’t leave me dissatisfied and longing for explanations and answers! Or do. You know, whatever you want I guess.

Bottom line? It’s all very contrived. I can see that there must be a population of readers that’s into this kind of thing (I mean, it is a National Bestseller and all (then again, Twilight still sells a billion copies a day, so what do I know?)). Ugh, I can’t even come up with a small, fleeting amount of joy that I got from this. It was Abramham Lincoln Vampire Hunter bad but on steroids.

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52 Fridays – 2; Flowers For Algernon

flower for algernon

For week two of my 52 in 2013 project I chose to read Flowers For Algernon. In one word the book is spectacular. It’s sad, moving, enlightening and really it’s just so damn human I can hardly stand it. I cried through the last ten to fifteen pages and didn’t even try to hide it. When Jason asked why I couldn’t explain it. The main character, Charlie, clearly shows everything about the human condition and it’s revealing to see myself, my friends, my family and everyone else in my life so clearly reflected.

The story centers around a mentally challenged man in his early 30s. His IQ is in the 60s area and he lives alone while working for a local bakery that’s owned by a family friend. He is approached by his teacher, Alice, who instructs a mentally retarded adults class, about being part of “an operashun” to “help [him] get smart”- and operation that has already been “proven to work” in the mouse Alegernon, Charlie’s lab-animal counterpart. What follows is the “progris riports” of Charlie as he survives the surgery, with his IQ soaring into high 180s range. He faces the challenges of becoming intellectually superior to everyone in his life while struggling with the immaturity of his emotional state. He becomes selfish and hard to tolerate straining the relationships of what he used to cherish as friendships. The humanity of his story is overwhelming.

It surprised me to know that it was originally published in 1959 (over 50 years ago!). The author, Daniel Keyes, was so insightful, guys, seriously. As we reach an age where medically and scientifically we are on the cusp of being able to synthetically create life we need to start evaluating not only our intellectual and emotional maturity of ourselves individually, but also as a nation and species. Are we ready to handle the awesome power that comes with the ability to negate retardation, increase our IQs limitlessly, and become the gods of our world taking on the responsibility of creating our own life forms?

This book causes you to take a good, hard, long look at where we are and what our next steps should be. I highly recommend this one and won’t stop singing its praises any time soon!

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52 in 2013 – 1; Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter

vampire hunter

It’s been a goal of mine for many years to read one book a week for an entire year, to make for the impressive statistic of fifty-two books in so many weeks. I have failed each and every time. I’m not sure if it’s the books I choose, the lack of motivation after a couple of weeks or what but I have yet to see this challenge through to the end. I’m hoping to end the losing streak here in 2013.

I’ve gotten a little behind already being in week three with only one and a half books complete, but I know I can catch up and make it happen.

I started this project with Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter. What can I say? The title intrigued me. The book, on the other hand? Not so much. I give it an overall rating of probably 2.5. My GoodReads review says:

While I appreciate the fact that this is not a shiny “vampire” novel I’m not sure how much I really liked it. At points it seemed forced, the writing was a bit juvenile and the opening was a stretch. It only took about four or five hours so I don’t feel like I wasted time but I didn’t get much out of it either.

I’m not sure I’ll read anything else by the author, Seth Grahame-Smith, and have actually removed Pride and Prejudice and Zombies from my to read list (which actually needs quite the overhaul).

On the whole I don’t believe I would recommend this book and don’t really feel like my ten dollars was well spent. I plan on donating my copy to the library or Goodwill (unless anyone here requests it, in which case email me and I’ll get your address!).

Outside of that I would love some book recommendations! I’m always looking for new reads and am pretty willing to try anything at least one. Let me know!

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