Good Graces

Good GracesGood Graces by Lesley Kagen

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book left me feeling confused. It was a rollercoaster, but for the wrong reasons.

I didn’t pay too much attention to it when I started it, and I was 30% of the way into it before I discovered it was actually a sequel to a book I haven’t read. It set itself up well enough, but a lot of things were half-explained and I expected them to be important when they were actually just callbacks to the first book. No big deal, I was able to follow along easily enough.

The first 50% of the book was quite good. The narrative voice is really well done, and the time period is described very well. If you lived during this time period I could see it quickly becoming a favourite. I, however, did not live in that time period, and it started to get pretty old. It was laying on layers of nostalgia that simply didn’t resonate with me, although I appreciated the detail of it.
The next 30% or so of the book dragged on to the point where I almost quit, except that some of the reviews said the ending was really surprising, so I decided to tough it out. It was a real slog, let me tell you. I skimmed a lot and I kept seeing the same shit repeated over and over again. There were parts where the main character would experience something, and then on the literal next page she would repeat it all back to herself. It was a struggle not to just skip right to the end.
Then, in the last 20% or so, things picked up. It was almost as engaging as the first half, except that the voice had lost all of its charm and was merely becoming grating.

And then the ending happened. I don’t even know how to feel about this. I made a prediction somewhere near the beginning and I fully expected it to be how the plot would play out—the fairly obvious main villain would turn out to be a red herring and it would end in a predictable cliche fashion full of shades of grey and moral lessons. Instead, the ‘shades of grey’ prediction turned out to be the red herring, and the big bad guy was the obvious cardboard cutout evil villain the whole time, and by the way, he’s even more comically evil than you thought! I suppose that’s one way to write a twist.

But mostly, I’m confused about the ending. Spoiler time:
They murder the main villain (I suppose it’s technically homicide if they didn’t INTEND to do it but… they did set out to take him down and it just went extra sideways), destroy all the evidence and bury his body, then go to a block party where everyone is like “I wonder where he got to? Oh well”. There are no further repercussions and they sleep soundly because hey, that guy was bad, remember? He deserved it.
These protagonists are 10 year old girls. The ending had a lighthearted tone. I don’t even know. I’m all for a morally grey or even a morally reprehensible character/ending, but I feel like that wasn’t intentionally the aim here. It feels like a “yay we win!” sort of ending and it felt really out of place.

But I suppose it wasn’t entirely out of place, since Sally clearly has an abusive relationship with Troo. I found it kind of off-putting, to be honest, and if that was the intention then well done… but it doesn’t necessarily feel like that was the intention.  Compare with Cruddy, which I just finished reading (funny these two ended up back to back… must have grabbed them from the same genre bin or something).  In Cruddy everything is morally reprehensible and bleak and shitty (well, cruddy) and it’s really super obviously supposed to be that way so it makes sense and it makes a point.  In Good Graces, it’s just confusing.

The slog in the middle lost it two stars, and one more for the confusing message at the end. I don’t really know how to feel.

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Cruddy

CruddyCruddy by Lynda Barry

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is disgusting, disturbing, and fucked up… and I loved every minute of it. I had no idea what I was getting into when I picked it up. I read Lynda Barry’s illustrated syllabus and really liked it, so when I saw Cruddy I thought “Oh hey she writes books too?” Turns out she doesn’t write many books but what a book she wrote.

You often find a lot of authors are masters of one thing and then everything else is sort of propped up on that thing. Since she’s primarily a cartoonist, I thought maybe these books would be an experimental foray into something different, maybe a little threadbare or grasping. The imagery is incredible, and you might think “well yeah but she’s used to portraying things in a visual medium” but it wasn’t just that. I enjoyed every facet of her writing. Some of the word choices are things I would never think to make, but they were so effective. I was continually impressed by how vivid everything was. Vividly disturbing, with a whole extra layer of fucked up on top. It was really something to experience.

But it’s also bleak. Even though it has its share of black comedy, this is probably not a book to read if you’re feeling down. It’s a snapshot of a miserable world full of miserable people who are fucked up because of the shit they’ve gone through and they’re getting by as best they can because there’s really nothing more they can do—this is it. Addiction, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, child abuse… everything is laid out bare and unflinching in Cruddy, and the vivid descriptions bring it home in full colour.

I can’t give this book enough stars. It needs to be experienced.

About Time

My husband wanted to watch a Sci-Fi movie, so I went to all my usual recommendation places and stared at the usual list of movies we’ve already seen, interspersed with the occasional new arrival of an incredibly shitty looking movie with a rating of less than 2.  Of course there won’t be any (good) sci-fi movies that we haven’t already seen!  If there had been, we would have seen it in the theater.  But then, ranked pretty highly on the rating predictions (on TWO sites, no less.  TWO SEPARATE SITES thought I would like it), was “About Time”.

“I found a sci-fi movie we haven’t seen!” I called.
“Great, let’s watch it.”
“But you won’t like it!”
“…”
“Not only is it a rom-com, it’s a british rom-com!”
“I wanted a space movie.”
“You said sci-fi!  Look, it says sci-fi right there.  There’s time travel!”
“…….”

The premise of the movie is that a man discovers he has the ability to go back in time, and he uses it to try to make his life better.  The blurb says that he uses his time travel powers to make a girl love him, and it makes it sound like a comedy of errors where he fucks it up over and over again until he finally hits the right combination of actions to really hit it off romantically.  Which, to start with, is kind of creepy but it has some comedic potential, right??  In reality, that takes like 20 minutes and then the rest of the movie is about his relationship with his father.  So… that was kind of odd and unexpected, but at least it didn’t make the movie bad.

Lemme tell you.  Do not watch this movie if you have no tolerance for plot holes.  That’s sort of a standing rule with time travel movies, I suppose, but damn.  The very first thing his father says to him is “You can’t go forward in time, only back.”  So, not even five minutes later, he goes back in time, tries it out, and then immediately pops back to the moment he was at before.  Dude.  That is TOTALLY GOING FORWARD IN TIME.  You broke the rules ALREADY!  What they meant to say was that you can only travel to a moment you’ve already lived through, up to and including just a few moments ago, I guess.  But it still annoyed me >:(

The one that actually annoyed me, though, was when he tries to go back in time to stop a major event, only to discover that travelling past the birth of his child changes the exact sperm that was used to create the child, therefore changing his baby (unacceptable, after you’ve spent three years bonding with it already, I suppose).  This is the artificial limiter the movie uses to impose some sort of price on time travel.  If you have a baby, you can’t go back anymore because you’ll change it.  But, only that one sperm.  No butterfly effect on all the other shit going on, just the sperm is random.  So, horrified to learn that his child might not be the same child, he undoes what he did and sets everything back to normal.

Wait wait wait wait wait wait wait.  How did you set it back so that the exact sperm to make that exact child happened all over again?  God dammit, movie.  We’re not delving into parallel universes or some shit now, are we?  Don’t make me think about this shit >:(.  *shake fist*

I did actually enjoy the movie, but I feel like I was lied to by the description, which only actually described the exposition for the plot.  The movie didn’t really know what it was or where it was going until about halfway through, and it suffered a bit for it.  And then it lost a few points by going off the rails of preachiness at the end.  Yes, we get it, you don’t need time travel to have a wonderful life and you should enjoy every moment and blah de blah blah, let me go wipe all this sap off.  Like, it wasn’t sappy the whole way through, but it took a big huge cannonball dive into the tank at the end, jesus.

Apart from ALL of that bitching, though, it was pretty okay.  Maybe three stars, right smack in the middle of “okay”.  Which is less than both of those sites seemed to think I would like it.  Hopefully those sites have learned a little more about me, this day.