“The Door” by Magda Szabo

The Door

(Author: Magda Szabo) + (Year: 1987) + (Goodreads)

(Around the World: Hungary)


Review:

While on a trip to Budapest, I decided that to help my “Around the World” book challenge, I should buy a book written by a local author in each country that I visit. The Door was one of two books that I got there (the other one being Satantango). I had really high hopes for The Door because of the slightly mystical and fairy-tale-like description.

It was not meant to be.

The Door is a dreary book. The premise was good, but the same can’t be said about the author. Magda Szabo, to me, was not all that she is claimed to be. It seemed like she tried to make the narrator her own self, except that she went heavy on the bragging, which was very annoying. Her character is so very sophisticated, educated, smart, talented. Well… Emerence, the housekeeper, sometimes tells her that’she’s stupid and childish… But Emerence doesn’t mean it, she loves her. Right?

However, nothing is more annoying than the main character of Emerence. Emerence is as bipolar as they come. Szabo would have you believe that she is a saint, that she is a genius, misunderstood, clever, with impeccable taste, etc, etc, etc. However, Emerence is so self-contradictory that the author’s descriptions fall very short. For example, Emerence is supposedly a reserved woman of few words, who likes to do her work, but doesn’t like to show affection. Two pages later: everyone in town loves Emerence who is everyone’s confidante. People come to visit her day and night and sit on her porch for hours to talk to her, get advice or help, gossip. However, Emerence is also always working and she is never actually home. She sleeps on the loveseat for a couple of hours and then goes back to work. She’s so busy that even the people who pay her to do the housekeeping sometimes don’t see her for days on end.

So… how does that work exactly?

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In general, the book was highly repetitive, the same episodes went on and on and on and on again, until the reader was perfectly able to construct the steps on their own. Also, considering how many times the author revealed small details of the ending, at some point it was so obvious that the actual ending felt dragged out for no reason. Like the narrator’s endless visits to the hospital. I will not reveal spoilers, but for 50 pages the exact same thing was happening and the only difference between every few pages were the narrator’s ominous musings and attempts at being philosophical.

There might be many great Hungarian books, but I would not say that this is one of them.

“New Boy” by Tracy Chevalier

(Author: Tracy Chevalier) + (Year: 2017) + (Goodreads)


Review:

This is the description that I read and therefore decided to read the book: Arriving at his fifth school in as many years, a diplomat’s son, Osei Kokote, knows he needs an ally if he is to survive his first day so he’s lucky to hit it off with Dee, the most popular girl in school. But one student can’t stand to witness this budding relationship: Ian decides to destroy the friendship between the black boy and the golden girl. By the end of the day, the school and its key players – teachers and pupils alike – will never be the same again.”

Add to that the fact that New Boy is a retelling of Othello, and you have a pretty curious premise for a book. Right?

In reality, the initial idea of the author was not necessarily bad. Some of the points that she made were also pretty valid and interesting. Ones such as racism, politics and hormone-based relationships.

However, the fatal flaw of the book was the fact that it takes place in a single day in the sixth grade. The story of Othello has no place among such young children, and neither do the author’s musings on politics, race and sex. I was a child not that long ago and I do remember what my interests were in the sixth grade. I can assure you that it was not kissing boys, thinking about “going all the way”; or about radicalism, the void between being a child and being a teenager and how to abuse my teachers.

“(…) [they] had only kissed when they played spin the bottle during recess – and then only twice, as it was shut down by teachers once they found out what was going on. But her response to O was not experimental. This is what I have been waiting for, she thought. This.

Really? You’ve been waiting for meeting a boy in the morning in the playground and becoming his girlfriend by lunch? How long has the waiting been going on for? The entire 12 years of your life, or what?

It’s in no way realistic that such young children would be experiencing any part of this book, which renders the book itself not as good as it could have been. The reason for that is that it takes a toll on the reader to try to accept the book as a union between its content and the figures that are enacting it. Yes, Chevalier has a good point about, say, racism in schools in America, especially so in the 70’s. But would the situation really look like that in a group of such young kids? Would they make up sly and elaborate plans to destroy each other? More so, would this story really have the time to develop in the span of a single day? Or would O and Dee’s relationship really happen the way it did? Would it happen at all? Because even the most outgoing of kids at that age from my school in the 2000’s were not really kissing, dating and discussing sex, unless it was rumors about which of the much older kids from the school are doing it.

Therefore, New Boy was just so implausible to me that I couldn’t enjoy it without groaning and rolling my eyes at scenes that were so out of place and unrealistic.

“Halo: The Fall of Reach” by Eric S. Nylund

(Author: Eric S. Nylund) + (Year: 2001) + (Goodreads)


Review:

*** 1.5 stars ***

Well… at least I tried.

I have a friend who is a big Halo: The Fall of Reach fan and in his attempt to get me interested in the story, he convinced me to give it a shot.

I really, really tried to like the story, the book, the writing… I couldn’t.

Halo: The Fall of Reach to me was poorly written and rather dreary, shallow and messy. Many events came to be in the book, but the story moved so little in terms of world-building. Yes, of course there were big events, but most of them were battles between the Covenant vs Deus ex machina. And my curiosity about the essence of this world was hardly nourished.

For starters, the core of the story were the war and the creation of the Spartans because of the war. But those two ideas were developed in such a strange way that I couldn’t really make myself take the story seriously. The Spartans were described in very contrasting ways, which could make sense if developed properly (the people who support the idea of the Spartans’ creation – the Spartans themselves – the horrors of their creation – the people who would like to see them fall), however the majority of these contrasts were written in a very off-hand manner, so it just seemed like that was “writing for the purpose of filling pages” in between epic battles.

And don’t even get me started with the battles. There was so much… I would say, “military jargon”? Just commands, terms, words that may make sense to gamers, but not to a casual reader… More so, however, the battles were lead solely relying on miracles, a.k.a deus ex machina. Half of the battles scenes between generic ships and ship crews went on like this:

“- We have to fight!
– Sir, they are turning around!
– Oh no, we will die!
– At least we are going to die in honor!
– There’s nothing more to do! We will die!
– UNLESS! Turn the ship, yeah, hit them Covenant bitches, uh uh, how do you like me now?!
– Oh sir, you saved us! How did you come up with this brilliant plan?
– Nah, it wasn’t anything special.”

In general I just couldn’t get engaged in the story. Not my cup of tea at all, I admit, but I still thought it might surprise me. It didn’t.

“The House” by Simon Lelic

The House(Author: Simon Lelic) + (Year: 2017) + (Goodreads)


Review:

The House was, at first, a suspenseful and quick read, and I managed to get through the first half in a matter of hours.

However, that was the moment I realized that this book is not going to live up to my expectations and that it’s not at all what it seemed to be at the beginning.

Judging by the description, I expected a truly “grisly” story with many twists and turns. Yes, there were twists, I will give you that much. But there was nothing very grisly, as there was also nothing very scary. And ultimately, the climax of the book was so ordinary and unpredictably predictable that I kept reading expecting something more to happen, because this just could not be it. It was. The book ended and I could not, for the life of me, believe that this was the actual event that we had been waiting for.

The things that The House did wrong for me were, as follows:

  1. After reading the book, I saw that many people highly appreciated the prose. Which part, though? Half of the time the characters were chatting among themselves. That was the first thing that made an unpleasant impression on me. The chapters were going back and forth between Syd and Jack and the two of them were bickering and correcting each other, mumbling, leaving half-finished sentences… I just imagined the two of them in person and they seemed like the two most annoying people that could have been telling this story.
  2. The abovementioned Jack and Sydney were such horrible people! How could any person actually root for a spineless momma’s boy and a bitch who is coked out of her mind? Seriously? Both of their narrations were of childish, immature people, who are barely hanging on the balance of their existence, both asocial, awkward and troubled. And what’s more: neither one of them actually achieved any personal development at any point in this book. Jack was annoyed that Sydney was doing drugs, but he didn’t actually try to stop her, he kind of just offended her on the topic. And Sydney did all sorts of despicable things which he just accepted because he lacks backbone. That never changed either.
  3. The villain of this book? Also the two supposed main characters. The person who was accused of being the bad guy was just so unconvincing and had such a minor presence, that I just couldn’t accept that this is actually happening and that that person is actually the direct cause of all of the events. The supposed villain’s indirect effect on the story is completely palpable, that much I can say. But at no point did they seem like they actually belonged in the present-time events in the book.
  4. The ending: generally, I support justice and retribution. So if I had known how the story ends before reading the book, I would have expected to like the ending. Yet, I absolutely did not. What happened did not seem like justice. It seemed like the origin story of yet another villain, or villains. I believe that out of the ending of this book, and namely the effect it had, or did not have, on the main characters, only more evilness and insanity could arise. No, thank you.

“Wraithborn” by Joe Benítez

Wraithborn(Author: Joe Benítez) + (Year: 2006) + (Goodreads)


Review:

I’m giving this book 2 stars only because I saw that there was a story hidden somewhere deep down there.

The abovementioned story is a very simple YA plot: a girl who just wants to mind her own business is drawn into a world of darkness where she has to learn to fight against evil, when all she wants to do it continue her life as normal.

This arc has been used only a million times in YA novels, but if they continue drawing readers, including myself, then that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

However, everything goes downhill for Wraithborn after this. The plot doesn’t have anything that sets it apart from other similar books, the heroes are in no way charming, the villain is powerful only in words and offers no real plot twists or challenges, and last, but not least, the artwork is very unappealing.

Melanie, the main character, is very, very hard to like. She’s weak, lacks will power, and is very self-centered (although here we have to mention that many teenagers are self-centered in general). But the thing which bothered me the most about her is the fact that she’s not a person who wants to help others. She prefers staying off the radar and protecting her own ass. Then, a jump to the future, and she has been completely transformed into a savior of the defenseless. I’m not buying it.

Story-wise, Melanie would not have survived at all, had there not been deus ex machina in every single issue. Every time she is in trouble, there’s a masked warrior coming to her rescue, and in very special occasions, she has magic mojo that she can’t control just bursting out of her. Valek somehow knows that he needs to find her, and also guesses every time she would be in distress, and even though they barely talk, aside from battle grunts, by the end of the volume they have developed a special bond.

skai-jackson-mhmm

I won’t even bother commenting the other characters because they are so shallow and only there so that it seems like there’s some characters.

What bothered me the most, though, is the art. The women are almost naked, always, they have identical faces (which makes it hard to understand what they mean when they say that Melanie is unattractive: She looks just like the rest of y’all?), and they all look like sex slaves. Now, I have nothing against sexy, but there’s sexy as in sultry and/or erotic, and sexy as in just cheap. I would not say that Valek, fighting alongside his sister, whose panties are there for all to see, is sexy. I would say that is kind of bothersome, actually.

2712956-kiara__s_on_the_attack_by_joebenitez

Classy: the man and the woman on the left, Valek and Kiara, you might have guessed, are siblings.

Bothersome is also the fact that although Melanie is the hero of this book, and apparently she is to become a big badass sometime in the future, on all of the covers she is just hanging there while almighty Valek is behind her back in a fighting position. Because even when girls are strong, they still can’t make it without a guy to protect them. Great message! Not.

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The cover of issue #5. As you can see, Melanie is a fierce warrior, she needs no man, and she… Wait. She’s just standing there looking confused and defenseless in the shadow of a strong male.