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Posts Tagged ‘Harper Collins Publishing’

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West

In Book Reviews on September 8, 2013 at 6:00 am

Wicked

Harper Collins Publishers 1995

If I had to describe this book in one word, it would be this: Trippy.

I had so many conflicting feelings about it. And before you ask, no, I haven’t seen the play. Nor have I read The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum.

I picked up this book because I think it’s interesting to see things from the villain’s point of view. I’m not actually sure what I was expecting when I started reading this, but it certainly wasn’t what I got.

There were times when I couldn’t figure out whether or not I liked this book. It left me feeling both frustrated and enchanted at the same time.

Nutshell blurb: The story follows the life of Elphaba, aka The Wicked Witch of the West, from her birth up until the point where Dorothy flings a bucket of water onto her.

So here are the things that I didn’t really like about it.

The first thing I didn’t like is that the beginning of the book is from the pov of her parents before our protagonist is born. And then we move on to her years as a toddler. I find this to be an exceptionally tedious device. I want to jump right in with the main character. I don’t mind a little bit of back story. She was born green and had pointy teeth. Her first word was “horrors”. That’s all very interesting, but I need to feel that a story is going somewhere. We spend almost a fifth of the book with her parents.

The second thing I didn’t like was that I didn’t feel much of a connection with any of the characters until really late in the story when I finally got a sense of who Elphaba really was. There were a few times when I questioned whether or not I wanted to finish reading it and a few times when I almost put it down.

The third thing I didn’t like is kind of an extension of the first. Remember when I said that I need to feel that a story is going somewhere? Once we reached the halfway point, I had some serious questions as to where the story was going. I don’t like it when stories are predictable, but I feel like there needs to be some goal that the main character is trying to reach. It was very frustrating to have no sense of what Elphaba was trying to accomplish at certain points in the book.

Now on to things that I liked about it.

It was an incredibly complex world with a lot of political intrigue. I mention this not because I’m particularly interested in political intrigue, but because the assumption might be that as this story is based on a well-loved children’s story, it might be light on the details. However, this world is vast and interesting with characters that aren’t fully good or fully evil.

Another thing I liked was that Elphaba really became human to me in the latter part of the book. She wasn’t evil, but she had a very strong sense of justice which made her do things that were evil. You could totally see why she did them though. She had a good heart but continually failed at things that she tried to accomplish which made it easy to relate to her. But then sometimes her motives were unknown and downright creepy. I mean, what would possess someone to sew wings onto monkeys?

One thing I’d like to point out is that it would be easy to think that it’s a YA book, but I think that it’s most certainly adult material as it’s got a bit of sex and a hint of bestiality in it. (Yes, it really does.) From what I’ve read of the reviews, a lot of people bought this book because they saw the play first. These are the people who seemed to be most disappointed with it.

I think that you’re going to have to make your own minds up about this one, my friends. I ended up giving it 3 out of 5 stars on Goodreads just because it has baffled me so much. I waffle back and forth as to whether or not I liked it. I’ve been thinking about it ever since I finished it, so I’m leaning towards liking it. It’s not one I’ll read again, however.

Have you read this book? I would love to know what you thought about it.

Ring

In Book Reviews on June 2, 2013 at 6:00 am

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Originally published: Harper Collins 1991

“Aren’t you afraid? Hey – shouldn’t you be afraid? The angel of death might be coming to get you.”

Ummmmm…no. I wasn’t afraid at all. In fact, this was the least terrifying horror novel I’ve ever read. I thought that it would be more appropriate to put it on the Crime/Thriller shelf. There is absolutely no sense of immediacy ┬áin this book and much of the “horror” happens “off-screen”.

It felt like more of a detective story to me. I was actually tempted to abandon it but I ploughed on and I’m almost glad I did. The last 30 pages or so were the most interesting part of the entire book. (Please be advised that there are spoilers ahead.)

Nutshell blurb: A reporter tries to figure out the cause of death for four teenagers who mysteriously die all at the same time. He ends up watching the same video they did which tells him that he’s going to die in a week. He enlists the help of his best friend to find the curse-breaker.

This book is pretty much a description of two men running down leads in order to save their lives (because yes, the best friend watches the video too).

The thing that I disliked the most about this book is the casual sexism which is pervasive throughout and had absolutely no bearing on the story. It seemed as though the author’s personal feelings about women bled through into his writing. (And lemme tell ya, that was pretty much the only thing that bled in this book.)

Last week I wrote about Professor Moriarty: The Hound of the D’Urbervilles that featured his henchman, Sebastian Moran as the protagonist. This guy is rotten and has no compunction about killing anyone. He certainly isn’t a women’s libber but it’s pertinent to the story. In Ring, women were objects of desire or dippy filler characters which had to be there to make the story move forward.

When I say “casual sexism” I mean that it seemed to flow naturally in the prose without the author being consciously aware of it. Here are a few gems from the main character:

“Asakawa was lost in thought, and didn’t want to be bothered. He wished his wife would act like her name, which meant “quiet”. The best way to seal a woman’s mouth was not to reply.”

“Housewives were susceptible to the ‘matter of life and death’ ploy. Whenever he needed to save time and get one moving, he found that the phrase had just the right impact.”

These may not seem like big deals, but the book was riddled with dismissive sentences like these which pretty much alienates half of the population.

About halfway through the book, his wife and daughter end up watching the video and he becomes angry. He gives her some vague explanation and she doesn’t pursue the matter. She doesn’t want to hear too much. She takes the baby and goes to her parent’s house for the rest of the book. Naturally, she wouldn’t have any input which would help her husband break the curse. She’s just a dumb housewife.

Let’s talk about his best friend for a moment. He’s an admitted rapist and he’s happy to tell our main character all about his exploits. The main character despises him for his behaviour, but shrugs it off as not being his problem.

Which leads me to the question: What is up with rape in Japanese media? I find it baffling. Yes, it’s going to happen in stories. It seems to be a part of human nature that these horrible things will happen, but sometimes it seems to be part of the story even if it doesn’t need to be. (Please see my Goodreads review of Paprika.) The other book I’m reading right now has a secondary character in it who was gang raped (which, thankfully happened “off-screen”). The main character spent a good portion of the story trying to avenge her, but in Ring nobody cares. It’s just something that happens. If there’s a pretty girl, someone is going to want to possess her (and not in an oooh oooh, I’m poltergeist kind of way) and inevitably she gets raped. And then we get to read paragraphs about the how the rapist justifies it. She obviously wanted it, he was doing her a favour, etc, etc…

These stories piss me off.

So now that I’ve had my rant, let’s talk about the last 30 pages or so which made me rethink some of the things I thought throughout most of the book. (And again, spoilers…)

So the rapist dies and one of his students tells us that he’s actually never had sex with anyone. So was he lying about raping women to impress/scare his best friend? Was he trying to look edgy and cool?

The thing that I find interesting about this situation is that the author has used the story to manipulate me into feeling something. Whether it’s anger, sadness, disgust, despair, I can respect that. Just to be clear, I’m not talking about the inherent misogyny that pervades the writing. I’m talking about a plot device which has made me rethink what I originally thought. According to his student, he was a nice guy. This made me think about her as a character witness. Is she reliable? What’s special about their relationship that would make her think that he’s a gentle, non-offensive person?

Unfortunately, this does not redeem the story entirely. I felt as though it wasn’t written with me in mind, but I’m glad that I finished it because it made me think about it in more detail when I nearly wrote it off completely.

The story continues in the next book, Spiral and there was a taster chapter at the end of the book. Again, there’s a gorgeous woman who is so achingly beautiful that some random stranger wants very badly to reach out and touch her. *sigh* I’ll probably give that one a miss.

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