Posts Tagged ‘disappointing’

This review was originally posted at West of Mars. It is being posted here, at its new permanent home.

I don’t remember where I first heard of Farai Chideya’s Kiss the Sky. I do know I had really high hopes for this story, of a woman struggling with herself and her music career. Sophie is the sort of character you initially want to root for: she’s divorced from her music partner, but they’ve found a way to co-exist — maybe they are even comfortable with their status. She’s got a cool job, at least when the book opens, and she’s willing to work to regain what she had, musically.

It should have worked. Even the fact that Ms. Chideya is a Harvard grad who has a published a number of non-fiction books should have been enough to save this one.

I was shocked to see how many sentences started with a verb. Went to the club. Stepped outside for a smoke. (Now, I’m making these sentences up, so don’t go looking through the book for them) Yes, okay, maybe some of this is establishing Sophie’s voice, but frankly, it was too much. It became annoyingly repetitive, and it got in the way of the story.

This wasn’t as horrible a thing as I had first feared. Sophie is a mess: she’s bulimic, broke, and bull-headed. She’s so far in denial about her life that I couldn’t spend time with her. I had to put the book down.

It’s one thing to want to read an autobiography about someone who’s a bigger train wreck. We have a reason to want to like them — we have heard the music they make. There’s a connection there.

Thus, in fiction, it’s imperative for the reader to be able to relate to a character who has large amounts of baggage. We need to like them, care about them, root for them. They need to have some sort of drive, some sort of forward motion — either about them or their plot. If it’s going to be a plot-driven book, the character shouldn’t get in the way of that. Sadly, Sophie does.

I needed a reason to like Sophie. But I find myself intolerant of women characters, especially, who are broke but continue to spend money as if it’s no big deal. And then the sex scene with Leon… really, I had to ask if Sophie had any self-respect whatsoever.

If she doesn’t respect herself, why should I?

Kiss the Sky became a Did Not Finish.

This review was originally posted at West of Mars. It is being posted here, at its new permanent home.

My book club read Laurie Gwen Shapiro’s The Matzo Ball Heiress. We loved it; it was a great romp through a fun story, and one most of us in my book club could relate to … in one way or another.

Then I picked up The Anglophile, her follow-up. I didn’t love it.

So what possessed me to pick up her first book, The Unexpected Salami?

Well, Matzo Ball was that good. And as a bonus, The Unexpected Salami has a rock theme: Rachel, our heroine, turns tail and runs home when the drummer of the band she’s been living with gets shot.

Definite rock theme there, especially when The Tall Poppies go on to have moderate success.

All the elements are there! A book by an author who’s penned another book I loved. Bands. Music. Rock and roll. What’s not to like?

Well, Rachel, for one. She’s whiny and so totally unlikeable, getting to the end of the book was difficult. It was a slog, a chore. It was, at times, torture. I kept wanting to smack her and tell her to grow up, get a clue, take some responsibility already. Not something you want to be reading as you’re trying to relax, unwind, and get ready for a good night’s sleep.

Since this is Rachel’s story, liking her is absolutely necessary. And since I couldn’t do that, I hated the rest of the book, too. It might have worked — part of the plot is her indecision about the men in her life — with someone who had at least one redeeming quality.

No go.

I’m now 2 for 3 with Ms. Shapiro’s books — and that 2 stands for dislike, not like. Loving that sophomore effort… I’m thinking that was the anomaly.

If you disagree with me and you thought The Unexpected Salami was great — or even good — leave your link in the comments. I’ll list any links here, and if you’ve written a really great review, I’ll link to that on the Rock Fiction page, too.

This review was first posted at West of Mars. It’s being reposted here, at its new permanent home.

I’d figured that with such a great title, there was no way this book could go wrong. So I bought it for myself at, a place where I’ve found many a gem. I mean, when you added in the back cover copy with the title…

“Eliza is looking to date a rock star — though she uses the term loosely. None of her boyfriends has been famous. Most have unbearable habits and overbearing mothers. A few only played show tunes. Still, they’re intense. Pierced. Tragically stubbled. With a predilection for dressing in black. Eliza finds them deep — in theory, anyway. But in reality, none comes close to the object of her original rock-star crush: actor/crooner Jack Wagner. When he latest catch turns out to be another mama’s boy, Eliza begins to realize love is nothing like her favorite ’80s song.”

Looks like fun, right? And totally relatable, since I came of musical age in the 80s, myself (which sorta explains why I am so devoted to Metallica these days).

The problem here is twofold: one that this reads like one of those wandering, narrative memoirs that is more of a telling of the author’s life than anything with a point. And two — perhaps because of the thinly veiled autobiography — it’s hard to get a fix on Eliza. At one moment, she seems to be sixteen. At another, I’d think she was in college. In fact, she is neither. Even the writing is problematic: at points, it screams of coming out of a graduate program’s fiction workshop whereas at others, it is unremarkable and serviceable.

And so is Eliza. She’s a typical girl who you might have found in Singles, or Reality Bites. While both movies had okay soundtracks (the former better than the latter), that was about all they had going for them.

I can’t remember the last time I was THIS disappointed in a book.