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Book Review – Day by Day Armageddon

510vg5q2bdilJ. L. Bourne’s Day by Day Armageddon is written as journal entries. The whole book is journal entries. Reading the book is liking reading a journal, because the book is written in journal entries.

I hope I got across that this book is written as journal entries because that’s the one and only interesting thing about zombie-tale Day by Day Armageddon. I’m not being too harsh either, since most of the marketing and blurbs about the book are about how it’s written. But, where as Max Brooks’ modern classic, World War Z, used a unique format to tell enthralling zombie stories, Bourne uses his style to hide a dull, plodding book.

The beginning of the book starts out strong enough, with an account of how the zombie apocalypse comes about and how it escalates. The cause and effect of the early chapters works because there’s momentum in the dominoes of the modern world toppling over. But, even then, cracks begin to show.

Bourne reveals his amateurish writing from the beginning. I don’t want to call it lazy, because laziness doesn’t complete a book. But, you can write a novel without having much skill in the art. There’s an overemphasis on descriptions, from locations to activities. As we follow our main character, every step he takes is accounted for, even if he does the same things everyday. Now, that could be interesting, as it could be an examination of how monotony can ruin a person’s psyche, especially in survival situations. That’s what Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend is all about and it’s fascinating.

Unfortunately for Day by Day Armageddon, Bourne isn’t up to the task. He rarely brings psychological ramifications to light and, when he does, they’re random and thrown away quickly. Thoughts like “Why am I still trying to live?” and “What’s the point of tomorrow?” are ignored as quickly as they arrive. Either Bourne isn’t interested in that type of story, or he thinks these quick snippets are enough.

Now, not focusing on the psychology of the character would be fine if that’s not the type of story Bourne wants to tell. But, I’m not sure what he is trying to say. Day by Day Armageddon isn’t an action story and it’s hard to feel tension when we know the character had to survive to tell the tale. It’s not a book about relationships falling apart or the evil nature of humanity. None of the characters have enough depth to invest in and there’s no dialog to learn from. There is a group of survivors who show up and cause trouble for the main group, but they’re taken care of without much fanfare.

Without any unique perspective or point of view, Day by Day Armageddon is just a daily account of someone taking the bus to the office. Except, even that type of story could be interesting if it had the right focus. Here, we’re reading about survival without purpose. The book doesn’t end with a cliffhanger or closure, it just ends. There’s no inertia given for the reader to want to continue the series. Bourne shows he has the commitment to write a book and get the technicality of it down, but he doesn’t have the skill to make it something worth reading.

If you’ve read more than the first book, maybe you can tell me if he gets any better as a writer. I doubt it, but I won’t be finding out for myself. Day by Day Armageddon is a book I wouldn’t recommend, even if you were desperate for zombie fiction. Maybe, when this book was written in 2010, we had less options and would read anything we could find. Today, you could spend years reading zombie apocalypses and never need to pick this up.

Book Review – Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

me_and_earl_and_the_dying_girlI think I’m learning I don’t care for Young Adult books. Which is too bad, since I’m in Youth Services at the library I work at, but books are like, twenty percent of my job. Math is even less.

The amount of YA books I’ve liked is not large. I Am Not a Serial KillerCinder and Adrift are the only ones that pop into my head. The rest have been fine, but not for me. I don’t think that’s a rag on the world of YA. I mean, I’m in my thirties. Some people love Young Adult books as they get older, some don’t. I’m in the “don’t” category.

I say all that to preference my dislike of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews. But, on the other hand, I don’t think I would have liked this as a teen. I would have found it pretentious. I was a wise soul, as a teen. That’s why I didn’t date a lot. That’s the only reason I didn’t date. The. Only. Reason.

Again, I didn’t like it. Andrews writes in a knowingly subversive style that is never as clever as he thinks it is. The main character, Greg, is constantly giving asides about the story, the structure, the roles of cliques in high school and it never worked for me. When Greg is recruited to hang out with Rachel, a former friend who is diagnosed with leukemia, the story wants to prove it’s not a meaningful one. Greg tells us he didn’t learn anything from Rachel’s leukemia. “This is not your typical teen drama!” the pages scream. Unfortunately, Andrews goes out of his way to remind us of this throughout the book that it becomes true.

As the story takes more series turns, I found it hard to care because I was told so many times to not care. Greg is an unlikable character, one that characters find funny but never translated to a laugh from me. Greg will make a joke or say a line and the characters in the book will lose their minds with laughter. Without having any of it be actually funny, it just comes across as fake and that I can’t trust the judgement of any characters.

meearl-finalGreg and his friend (but not really), Earl, make movies. That’s a thing in the book too. At least, the book says it is. Really, their bad movies are regulated to a chapter of terrible movie title puns that make me feel like Andrews doesn’t have much of an imagination. The description of the movies aren’t funny, they’re boring and don’t create a sense of style, good or ill. Maybe Andrews is trying to show how bad these movies are by how not funny they are, but it comes across as page filler without purpose.

The book ends in cliches, reminding us how effortless The Perks of Being a Wallflower made it look. It also goes for a realistic ending that throws away any growth the characters should have gained. That’s Andrews’ point as well, showing us how it would really happen. But truth doesn’t always make for satisfying fiction. If the book had been more clever throughout, if it’s insights had been thoughtful, if the rest of it had worked in any capacity, it might have earned it’s subversive ending. Instead, it just makes for a dull read. The honesty and pain of The Fault in Our Stars seemed to rub Andrews the wrong way, making him jump and down yelling, “No, this way is better!” The movie might be better, if it takes out the inner monologue and brings any sense of humor to Greg’s bad films. I doubt I’ll be testing that theory any time soon.

Maybe I don’t like Young Adult books. Maybe that is the problem. But when I can read The Outsiders and Salt to the Sea and find them entertaining, I have to believe I can still tell a bad book from a good one, no matter the age range. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl did nothing for me and I don’t think there was a time when it would have ever worked for me. Non-dating teen or adult.

Book Review – The Woman in Cabin 10

28187230This is going to be short because I didn’t like this book from the very beginning. I could tell from the way paragraphs would read like so,

What?
Oh God.
How?

See. That’s annoying. It tells you nothing while acting like it’s intense. It’s not intense. It’s stupid. So is this,

What? What?

How was that? She said something and then repeated that something with emphasis. How would it be if you were reading a book that started every other paragraph like that? Cause I can attest that it’s the worst.

Let’s just get to what the book is about. A woman, we’ll call her Lo because obviously that’s short for Laura, is on a cruise ship and she hears a body fall into the water. Now, I know what you’re thinking, how did she hear a body fall in the water if she was in her cabin on a moving cruise ship in the middle of the ocean. Simply, she just heard it. She knew, instantly, it was not the sound of waves, or dolphins or a bag of oranges. It was a body.

19623651_321663711625305_7641638682427916288_nI don’t know how forgiving you can be but for me, I couldn’t get past the inciting incident. It reads incredibly childish and ruins the whole book for me. Because no one else believes Lo that she heard a body and all I could think was, “Well, yeah, no duh.” Why should they? Who would? And when Lo is mad at everyone for not believing her, she comes across annoying and fairly stupid. Oblivious, even. And she references Wikipedia ALL THE TIME. It’s her only investigation ability. Lo is not a likable character and since the whole book is told in her point of view, the relationship between story and reader is strained from the very beginning.

It’s a long book for how little actual mystery is present. It drags too long for a thriller. It takes a quarter of the book before Lo is even on the the boat, let alone for the obvious body-hitting-ocean sound to take place. The reveal isn’t interesting, the climax is underwhelming and I just wanted to close the book for good. There’s chapters that take place back on dry land that might hint at the outcome, but they’re underwhelming and fail to add any momentum.

I’ve said before I don’t love mysteries, but this is just bad literature. I know this was selling like crazy, it was on the New York Times Best Sellers list forever but it doesn’t matter. All those people got duped. This was not a dark and mature story akin to Gone Girl nor is it as intense of a mystery as Girl on a Train. I will not be trying another book that claims to be “in the style of” those titles again. I’m done. I’m out.