Monday, December 13, 2010

Goodreads Snorting

Oh, lordy. Last night I sat here for two-plus hours wheezing suppressed laughter (suppressed, because JLA had gone to bed) over reviews at Goodreads. Mind you, the assessments I came across were for hugely popular bestsellers. No GR snark is going to have any measurable effect on these authors' careers. So I let myself be amused with a guilt-free conscience. (Actually, most of the reviews tickled me because of the way they were phrased, not because they were scathing -- although some were scathing and hilarious.)

What made me check out the responses to these books was a post at Katrina Strauss's blog. I've read the Glen David Gold novel, Carter Beats the Devil, but wanted to see what others thought of it. I've heard of but haven't read Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones, so wanted to satisfy my curiosity about that one, as well.

OMG! Buwahahahahahaha!

Here, first, are some comments about Carter Beats the Devil. Mr. Gold's book, a whimsical bit of historical/biographical fiction, has a higher overall rating than his wife's, which was vilified as much as it was praised. (I liked Gold's clever novel very much -- smooth writing, fascinating subject matter grounded in meticulous research, droll humor -- but agreed with readers who felt it was overpopulated with characters as well as subplots and, as a result, got bogged down in the middle.)

  • disbelief got tired of being suspended and just came in and crashed the party. [ROFLMFAO! The best line I've ever read in a review!]

  • This is another one of those books with a cover so intriguing that I always pick it up whenever I see it, only to put it back down after reading the description on the back cover and finding it not to my liking, then immediately forget that I was ever interested in the book at all, until the next time I see it, when I do it all over again.

  • Wow...that took me two WEEKS to get through. Either it was a very meaty book or I was very busy.

  • ...the Gaimenosity of this book scored very low... [I assume this reader is a fan of Neil Gaiman. Otherwise, the comment makes no sense.]

  • I found the 500 pages more than I wanted to know about life in the community of magicians so I stopped at page 194. Worth reading, however. [???]

  • Magic is indeed magic. The Prohibition was also kinda magic. Blind people are magic too.

  • Maybe he'll write a book about clowns next.

  • Like other man-authored sprawling novels with lots of characters (mostly men), this book starts out strong but meanders a lot in the middle (metaphor for life!)

  • I don’t know why, but for some reason I find magicians inherently creepy. Ergo, I didn’t enjoy, nor did I finish, this book.

And now, for Ms. Sebold's reviews:

  • One book, two rapes. How's that for a bargain? I almost said three rapes, but then I remembered that I was a consenting adult and did indeed willingly part with my ten bucks...

  • This was the book that made me realise the serious flaw in the theory that if lots of people you see on the tube are reading a book, it must be good. I would say with some confidence that this is the worst book I've ever read in my entire life. The only thing that kept me going to the end was sheer bloody-mindedness; a determination not to be defeated by any book no matter how brain-deflatingly awful it is. That said, the endless cloying sentimentality in this almost made me throw it in the bin on several occasions, and it contains the single worst simile I've ever encountered in an entire lifetime of book-reading: "Her heart, like an ingredient in a recipe, was reduced."
    [Here, by the way, are other horrendous similes mentioned by different readers: “Her pupils dilated, pulsing in and out like small, ferocious olives.” And the subsequent comment: What does that even mean? What the hell? Did she actually think this was good writing?
    “The tears came like a small relentless army approaching the front lines of her eyes. She asked for coffee and toast in a restaurant and buttered it with her tears.” Another bit of commentary followed this quote, but I neglected to copy it. It was funny, though.]

  • I only finished it so that no one could pull the old "But it gets better..." on me. It does not.

  • So over-the-top melodramatic I almost lost my lunch... twice. I should have known better: NYT bestseller list + Oprah recommended = ptewy!

  • I got about halfway through it, but only because I was listening to the audio version.

  • If you like this book, then you hate literature. It's that simple. I'm not joking. Do not read this book.

  • I HATED this book. Truly. I read it on a flight and I disliked it SO GREATLY that when I finally landed home at PDX, I threw it away in the women's bathroom, rather than trying to sell it at Powell's or giving to an unsuspecting friend.

  • So why is this innocent girl who died before her time using her best friend's body to have sex with her boyfriend on earth? Who the fuck does that? And who the fuck is okay with that? I don't care if the friend was okay with it, that's still fucking sick. And that Suzie would even think of and go along with the idea was just fucking... ew. Was it meant to be tragic and romantic? Because that was just disgusting. Also, Suzie, you're dating one hell of a fucked up guy if he's also okay with doing something like that.
  • I think I'll read books by people who have brains in their head from now on. One star was far too high a rating. Minus a star would be far too high a rating.

  • 'Anguish Porn'

  • ...Anyone who finds Sebold to be an artful manipulator of prose or finds the last 50 pages of this book to be narratively or intellectually satisfying cannot possibly be playing with a full deck.

  • ...a heaping pile of unrealistic suburban vignettes that read like a watered down soap opera...

  • If Jodi Picoult and Nicholas Sparks had an awkward romp on the set of CSI: Pennsylvania circa 1973, this book would be their love child.

  • Sebold's concept of heaven takes cliche to a new level. It doesn't even try to stretch the boundaries of an infantile concept of the afterlife, which is limited to the fulfillment of sensory pleasures. Really? All you can think of is that the air smells pretty and there are lots of puppies?

  • The only way I could finish it was to turn the speed up to 2x on my player, so I could listen really fast.

  • I am trying to make sure my review doesn't sound like I guzzled two quarts of hateraid, so bear that in mind. I hated this lame piece of crap. Seriously, I get why the world wanted this kind of book, but I really don't get why it's become this omghugebestseller.

  • I'm not a book burner but I considered it. Granted, this is my roommate's book, so that would have been a dick move.

Now I'm laughing all over again! People sure do take their reading matter seriously.


Katrina Strauss said...

I've found a few GR doozies myself:

I go back and LOL at the one for the Bible when I'm feeling particularly, erm, sensitive. :D

K. Z. Snow said...

I saw that when you posted it!

There is a certain amount of solace as well as entertainment to be found in reviews of bestsellers. But unlike the minor leaguers in our circle, writers like Sebold and LKH are crying all the way to the bank. ;-)

Katrina Strauss said...

Yeah, we're just crying. LOL

Mem said...

Ha, ha! No NY Times literary establishment agenda in those Sebold reviews! These sound like some seriously pissed-off readers who want their refund!

Chris said...

Oh, those were delightful! Thanks for sharing, KZ. I'm mightily pleased that I had figured out the NYT bestseller+Oprah = shite thing before Sebold's book came out.

Chris said...

In fact, I was inspired to back to the book that turned me off the Oprah thing (Songs in Ordinary Time) and look at the comments on GRs. Ha!

"This is about the time I quit reading Oprah's bookclub books. I want to slash my own wrists after reading most of them."

Exactly so.

Amy Lane said...

*zomg* You guys are awesome-- SO needed for perspective, right? (Because like you said... LKH & Sebold are crying their way to the bank... and we're just crying!)

Katrina Strauss said...

I thought the Lovely Bones was an amazing book. But it was also an emotional read, one of the few that has literally brought me to tears, *several* times during reading. So it is not a light comfort read, and I've yet to bring myself to watch the movie. I recommend it for anyone in need of catharsis... or if you have something in your eye! (The latter was my excuse anyway.)

Tam said...

But did your eyes pulse like ferocious olives. WTF? Who knew olives were so aggressive and scary. I too figured out the Oprah/crap connection before I even read one. Yay me!

Those were funny and I do feel for the author (even if they are stinkin' rich) but the reviewers definitely had style and left an impression. Moreso than the book would have obviously.

K. Z. Snow said...

"Yeah, we're just crying."


The disgruntled readers really were pissed off, Val. They groused energetically about every element in the book. These quotes represent merely the tip of the ol' iceberg!

I've always been wary of Oprah's selections too, Chris. Of course, I'm wary of that whole show. My attitude might improve significantly, however, if she bought me a car or pimped one of my books. :)

Hi, Amy! It really is a pick-me-up to see that even highly acclaimed authors must take their lumps--some of which, it appears, are well deserved. (Holy crap, those similes!)

Honestly, Kitty, I don't think I could give Sebold's book a fair shake after hooting over all these criticisms. I'd just be waiting for somebody to butter her toast with her tears or turn her eyes into ferocious olives. (It's hopeless; I'm cackling just typing this stuff!) I, too, would have to turn up the speed on my player so I could "listen real fast." (Ahbbbbbbbwahahaha!)

Stacey said...

OMG, well at least they weren't feta or garlic stuffed olives, I'm not sure how I would have interpreted that.

Thanks for compilation, hon, I was laughing my a$$ off. :)

K. Z. Snow said...

Seriously, Tam, if you ever need a laugh, check out some of the reviews for bestsellers at Goodreads--especially the ones with literary pretensions. What's that phrase Kris uses? Readers love to take the piss out of books like that.

(That didn't sound right...maybe because I'm not from Oz.)

K. Z. Snow said...

Welcome, Devon! Glad you got a chuckle or two. (Try going to the source. You'll fall off your freakin' chair after you pee on it!)

K. Z. Snow said...

Chris, that book you mentioned? Heh, I had to go check it out.

"By page 600, I was ready to physically hurt people...and there were still 152 pages to go!"

Damn it, now I'll be up 'til two again!

Jenre said...

LOL, thanks for starting my day with a laugh, KZ.

I liked The lovely Bones! I read it a while ago though.

Chris said...

KZ: I kept reading the friggin' thing for two reasons:

1. It was for book club. (And is but one of the many reasons I quit book club.)
2. Surely something good had to happen to these people at some point?!

Re: #2? No. Nothing good happened. In fact, on the very last page, in the very last paragraph, things got worse. It was a soul crushing read.

K. Z. Snow said...

Oh, a lot of people quite liked that book, Jen. There were many fours and fives among the ones and twos. It's just that the people who didn't like it were so much more...emotive. :-D

Chris, I noticed that a number of readers kept plugging along for the same reason you did: they couldn't believe the book was 752 pages' worth of depression. Oops!

Katrina Strauss said...

There are actually some lighthearted and humorous moments mixed in there. Basically, it's a GenX childhood story detailing your usual 80s family fallout, but from the perspective of a murder victim watching it from afar. I LOL'ed in between sniffling a few times. I'm weird like that, though.

Katrina Strauss said...

Let me clarify before I'm accused of smoking crack (which maybe I should)... it takes place in the 70s and 80s, with the events of the 70s leading up to shit hitting the fan in the 80s, which was the case for a few of us who grew up during those years.

K. Z. Snow said...

Yeah, I kind of got the gist of the book between the rants. It clearly wasn't ALL bad, 'cause plenty of people seemed very moved by it.

I just finished Frank Tuttle's Markhat Files (a Samhain book). Have you read his stuff? Very imaginative, kind of tongue-in-cheek urban fantasy sans any odious UF heroine. Some readers have compared Markhat to Harry Dresden.

K. Z. Snow said...

Oh, I mentioned this book to you when we were discussing the romance thing (as in, Tuttle doesn't do romance, which is one of the many charming and refreshing things about his stories).

Katrina Strauss said...

Ah yes, I recall you telling me about that one! It sounds interesting and different, two things I look for in books!

Kris said...

Very, very funneh.

Kayelle Allen said...

ROFL! In the case of the second listing, I think the reviews might have been more entertaining than the book, at least for comedic value. I would hate to have those kinds of things said about my work, no matter how high on the bestseller charts it was. Ouch!

K. Z. Snow said...

Hi, Kayelle! How nice to see you here!

No doubt the reviews are funnier. The book sounds like a major downer. But if I were that author, I wouldn't be agonizing too much over the opinions of disgruntled readers. Y'know, big fat royalty checks and movie options are probably a damned effective balm for the ego. ;-)

Eden Winters said...

I'm going to have to save this link. The next time I think I've received a bad review I will use these for comparison.I'll probably feel much better afterward.

K. Z. Snow said...

Eden, wow! I'm thrilled you stopped by!

There's a lot more where this came from, believe me. Goodreads has Listopia lists of worst books (even broken down by genre), worst characters, etc. But as I said earlier, the authors who garner this kind of attention can at least find solace in their royalties. Not so for us small fry. :-/

Cryselle said...

OMG, I have a shelf marked 'I want those hours of my life back' and this sounds like it would go right there.

K. Z. Snow said...

Welcome, Cryselle! I love the name you gave that particular shelf. :)

Tracy said...

lol omg that was funny. Some people are so very imaginative in the commenting.

I didn't read Lovely Bones but I saw the movies and it was just weird. Less graphic, I would think, than the book.

This was hilarious:
I only finished it so that no one could pull the old "But it gets better..." on me. It does not.

Actually they all were. :)

K. Z. Snow said...

Hi, Tracy! I hope you and your family have been having a great holiday season.

It's always therapeutic to laugh, as long as it's not over someone else's misfortune. Since these two authors have enjoyed considerable success, I don't think they feel too beaten down by negative comments on Goodreads. ;-)