Mr. Morris’ Rating: 7/10
You ever start reading a book and after only a few pages you stop and think, “Holy crap. This is maybe going to be my favorite book of all time”? It’s happened a few times for me in the past, and I love feeling like I’ve found THE PERFECT book for me. I had the same feeling through the first 80 or 90 pages of The Beautiful Land – and I was really truly believing it this time! – but then the novel fell into the pitfalls of a predictable storyline. Still, there were many above average moments in the writing, and Alan Averill does a great job in somehow making the outlandish plot still seem tied to the real world.
I think my main problem with the book lies in who the target audience might be. Judging by the content and synopsis, The Beautiful Land certainly seemed like it is adult fiction but there are too many cliches and far too obvious plot twists that might cause an older reader to have an over-the-top-eyeroll moment. At times it felt like I was reading YA but there was far too much adult material (ie: profanity and horrific moments) within. There are also a few too many “deus ex machina” moments, conveniently helping the characters along their way to success. You’ll know what they are if you’ve read the book.
Overall though, there are enough moments where, as a writer, I can take in and enjoy regardless of the other literary deficiencies. Like I said, the beginning is fantastic and the ending is beautiful, just as the title has led us to believe. I look forward to future books by the author.
Mr. Morris’ Rating: 7/10
While there’s not too much of a story to speak of here (ie: plot, acts, character arcs), this is was an extremely enjoyable book from one of my favorite authors.
As the back of the book reads: “This novel contains much talk of bodily functions, improbable sexual content, violent death, nuclear crisis and elaborately inventive profanity: Viewer Discretion is Advised.” And the warning is definitely not kidding. This is a much different Douglas Coupland than we’re used to seeing/reading, without any true social commentary or any attempt whatsoever at achieving literary glory. But you can tell he’s having FUN. And that’s the point of it. There’s nothing to think about aside from how ridiculous the tale is. Our hapless protagonist – Raymond Gunt – lives through an endless stream of bad luck, but as the title implies, we’re not really rooting for Raymond anyway. It’s absurdly enjoyable to be witness to so much misfortune being dumped on one individual.
Worst. Person. Ever. is crude, crass, vile, insulting, obnoxious and offensive. But it’s also funny. Very, very funny.
Mr. Morris’ Rating: 5/10
The problem I had with this book was trying to identify the correct audience. If it’s aimed towards younger readers (which I believe it is) then the length of the novel may be a bit bewildering and there is quite a lot of political jargon amongst the denizens of Wildwood. If it is meant to be enjoyed by older readers I fear it is simply too predictable with far too many character/plot cliches. Also the main character, Prue, really doesn’t have much depth and we see far more change in the characters around her.
Colin Meloy is an excellent writer however, and aside from a Wildwood sequel (which is coming), I would still not hesitate to read what he comes up with next.
I can say that the artwork does add a lot to the story and was a welcome addition.
Mr. Morris’ Rating: 5/10
This review is going to require some math, so here we go. Follow along:
Two Stars for the absurd humor, plus Five Stars for the heartbreaking ending, plus Two Stars for Shteyngart‘s frenetic originality, minus Four Stars for the post-apocalyptic insanity in the middle that only seemed to detract from the heart of the novel = A Five Star Rating.
Mr. Morris’ Rating: 6/10
Maybe I should have actually read the dust jacket. The one blurb that I did read about this book did not mention anything about the main character’s journey from our world to a fantasy Tolkien-esque world. If it had, I probably would not have been as jazzed as I was about reading it, nor as let down by The Other Normals as I was.
I can say that it is a decent (if predictable) character study of an awkward pubescent teen, and I would not hesitate recommend the book for libraries, it just was not to my own tastes. It is also a fast read (let’s face it, this is really a 200-page book lightly sprinkled over 400 physical pages). The RPG aspect was original and had my interest right from the start, though did not go as far as it could have. I found myself writing a similar book in my head and imagining where I would take it. The dialogue was excellent, and the characters were easy to get to know. Ned Vizzini is a very accessible writer for the YA audience.
Mr. Morris’ Rating: 9/10
Oh, that ending could have been so much better! Actually, the book would have been near perfect without that last chapter at all. Aside from that, my biggest complaint was the character of Reiko; she just didn’t add anything for me and her whole story really just bogged down everything else around it. Take her right out and I think you’ve got a much stronger novel. (This of course is a pretty general, sweeping statement, but she certainly did not need to have so big a role. At least in my opinion.)
I was so close to giving this the 10-star treatment, but as it is Norwegian Wood is only near-perfect for me. It’s been a long time since I’ve gotten choked up from a book and it felt great. At least when I read this a second time (and I’m sure I will) I’ll know what parts to skip.
Haruki Murakami has really hooked me so far (1Q84 and Norwegian Wood), and I’ll be looking forward to another of his works. Kafka on the Shore, here I come!
Mr. Morris’ Rating: 8/10
Dare I say this novel was a bit predictable? Before you get on my case, let me add to that by stating I’ve probably never enjoyed a book I found so predictable as much as I enjoyed The Book Thief. It’s a solid read, well deserving of all the hype it’s garnered. Still, I found myself only slightly disappointed by a few minor points. For one, the narrator is none other than Death himself, which I found extremely annoying and gimmicky at the beginning. However the voice grew on me, and the further I read the more I realized it’s a better story with Death at the helm instead of a generic third-person narrative. I could have done without his smattering of short, bold notes every so often. You’ll know which parts I mean if you’ve read the book.
So why was this book predictable? **SPOILERS ahead!**
Well, you know there’s going to be a kiss between Liesel + Rudy at some point, it’s mentioned a number of times throughout, and by the time it does happen you’re not really surprised at all. This is World War II, so you also know that the bad stuff is coming at some point. And boy does it ever. The Jew hiding in the basement is a predictable scenario as well, though the relationship between Liesel & Max was still endearing.
Okay, I get that Liesel’s stealing of books was a parallel to Death’s taking of souls, but I never found the book-stealing aspect of the story all that engaging. I don’t know, maybe I’m an emotionless robot or maybe I just expect too much from a much-lauded novel.
Overall though, this is a strong book, perhaps a bit long-winded, and it crosses reader demographics – being perfect for lovers of literature of any age.