The Mission by Jason Meyers
Kaden Norris's life is shattered when his older brother -- his best friend and hero -- is killed in Iraq. All Kaden has left of Kenny is a letter, urging him to break away from his sheltered life and to go to San Francisco to visit his cousin, James.
Kaden is blown away as James introduces him to a life filled with drugs, sex, and apathy. He goes from extreme high to extreme low, having no idea what to expect. And when Kaden uncovers secrets about his family that have been kept from him for years, his entire world comes crashing down. This may not be the trip his brother had envisioned for him, but it's one Kaden will never forget.
DNF at page 270 out of 361
This book reminds me of The Catcher in the Rye, but somehow even less profound. After 270 pages, not much had happened besides Kaden wandering around San Francisco being stupid and reckless and thinking it made him "rad." I have honestly never heard the word " rad" used so often and so unironically before reading The Mission.
My biggest problem with this book was that I didn't like any of the characters at all. More than that, I just didn't care about them. James Morgan, who could have been a very complex character, only waltzed into the story occasionally to add a bit of drama before becoming irrelevant again. Caralie, the only character I liked even a little, was oversimplified and sexualized.
Kaden's characterization was lazy and conflicting rather than complex. He's described a being both a timid kid with self-esteem issues and as a confident tough guy unafraid to dress like a rapper in rural Iowa. All of Meyers' descriptions of Kaden are scattered and contradictory. He's described as poor enough to wear a coat he found in a parking lot on one page, and fifty pages later as "well-off." He's afraid to kiss his girlfriend but has no issue hooking up with unknown girls.
And every single woman in the book is described in terms of her body. Even Kaden's mother. It was honestly gross, and combined with a disturbing amount of slut-shaming, is a huge reason I'm not finishing this book.
Maybe the end of this book is great and does something to negate the crappiness of the first 300 pages, but I really don't feel like slogging through another 100 pages of drunk, high assholes arguing with each other and acting like that's the best way to live to find out.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
Abandoned: Page 183
Mikael Blomkvist, a once-respected financial journalist, watches his professional life rapidly crumble around him. Prospects appear bleak until an unexpected (and unsettling) offer to resurrect his name is extended by an old-school titan of Swedish industry. The catch—and there’s always a catch—is that Blomkvist must first spend a year researching a mysterious disappearance that has remained unsolved for nearly four decades. With few other options, he accepts and enlists the help of investigator Lisbeth Salander, a misunderstood genius with a cache of authority issues.
Quite frankly, I hated this book. It’s highly praised and rated, but it wasn’t for me. I was drawn in by the adventure-hinting title and the promise of a kickass girl fighting crime. At the point where I gave up on the book, neither had been delivered. Eventually, I got too frustrated with it to continue.
The first several chapters were laden with technical details about business, finance, and corporate sabotage that were hard to follow (they referenced a lot of famous Swedes, who I did not know of) and not wholly necessary. The chapters could have been summed up in a few pages or less. I kept reading only because I hoped that the book would pick up.
It didn’t. The theme of dense, dry, and boring writing continued throughout the novel. Some of the issues I had with the writing may have been caused by the book being translated from Swedish, which it was written in. But that doesn’t account for the numerous bad transitions from Mikael’s point of view to Lisbeth’s, or for the fact that it read like a textbook. Although if you’re interested in bizarre Swedish families or corporate sabotage, you might find it interesting. Besides the unnecessary amount of details, the novel also had a lot of “product-placement.” Every time a character went shopping, the brand of practically everything was given, and when Lisbeth wanted to buy a new computer, Larsson turned into an Apple spokesperson for half a page.
The title of the book led me to believe that Lisbeth Salander was the main character, when in fact she was barely a side character and hadn’t even been connected with Blomkvist or into the main story by the time I abandoned the book. When she did appear, she was practically lifeless and had pretty much no personality. She was sold as anti-social and ruthless, but she came off as a coma patient whose body hadn’t caught up with her brain.
Out of all my problems with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, its offensiveness was probably one of the biggest. A lot of the female characters are depicted negatively, especially Lisbeth, who despite being healthy if not robust in the mental health department, was referred to quite often as “retarded.” She was also described as “anorexic” in one paragraph, but the next explained that she didn’t have an eating disorder and ate like a horse, just weighed 90 pounds anyway. The worst offense against Lisbeth was her rape, which Larsson handled awfully. Lisbeth doesn’t even react. If you’re going to write about rape, at least show how traumatizing and awful it is, don’t imply that it’s “the norm”!
If that weren’t bad enough, the original title of the book was Men Who Hate Women, which, I think, is a much more accurate description of the novel.
The Alchemist by Paul Coelho
Paul Coelho’s story is about an Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago who travels from his homeland in Spain to the Egyptian desert in search of a treasure buried in the Pyramids. Along the way he meets a Gypsy woman, a man who calls himself king, and an alchemist, all of whom points Santiago in the direction of his quest. No one knows what the treasure is, or if Santiago will be able to surmount the obstacles along the way. But what starts out as a journey to find worldly goods turns into a discovery of the treasure found within. Lush, evocative, and deeply humane, the story of Santiago is an eternal testament to the transformation power of our dreams and the importance of listening to our hearts.
To give fair warning, if you liked this book, I highly suggest you don’t read my review of it. And if you haven’t read it yet, spoilers.
Because, to be honest, I hated The Alchemist. I disliked almost everything about it. The relationships between the characters were so unrealistic - I can’t even describe. At one point, Santiago meets Fatima, who is apparently his great love. He hasn’t spoken a single word to her yet, and he knows he’s irrevocably in love with her. So what does he do? He marches up and says “I love you.” That might have been okay (not good, but okay) if she hadn’t told returned the sentiment. If a strange guy you’ve never met before walks up to you and confesses his undying love, under no circumstances do you reply “Love you too.”
Then there was the scene in the marketplace, where Santiago just hands a guy his money and then wonders why his “new friend” is running off with it, and shouldn’t he wait up? Or the scene where Santiago is talking to the wind and the sun, and then he is the wind - Sorry, Coelho, you lost me.
I understand that Coelho was trying to impart some deeper meaning - spiritual, religious, whatever - on us, but The Alchemist just didn’t do it for me. There are plenty of books that manage to convey deep messages while still having believable storylines and characters who don’t turn into wind.
Ex Libris, Veritas
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As Simple as Snow