360 to Paradise by Casey Marx
My rating: 1 of 5 stars
I found this book to be a very depressing read. While it is full of expletives from start to finish, in order to add the touch of “reality” required in a novel about drug dealing, precocious language, salacious sexual behaviour and unrestrained violence, I found little within its narrative that was of literary value. The characters were not developed enough to inspire or produce any kind of empathy in the reader – unless, maybe, the reader was an emotionally challenged teenager. We are left at the end of the book with a sense of hopelessness for the future of contemporary youth and society. I felt that the book tends to sensationalise all the distasteful aspects of youth culture without attempting to put forward anything positive. It reminded me of Salinger’s “Catcher in the Rye” but without the humour or the literary excellence.
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Descriptions of Heaven by Randal Eldon Greene
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The book commences with a brief exposition about a monster that is supposedly found in a nearby lake to Robert, the main character. He is a professor of linguistics and he relates the book throughout, which I felt was a problem. While one could occasionally enjoy some of the articulation and eloquence that frequently flowed from the professor’s lips I thought it was overdone. It is expected and enjoyed when you read a nineteenth century classic but within a short contemporary tale about incurable cancer? – then I have my doubts. Many of the sentences were far too long and often overburdened with too much description, verging on verbosity.
Robert’s wife, Natalia, is the one dying and, while he struggles to explain events and the concept of Heaven to their son, Jesse, he has to cope with his own grief about his loss and lack of understanding of “Why?”. The whole topic is bound to cause strong reactions in the heart of any compassionate reader and overall I found the quality of Greene’s writing did much to convey an atmosphere of despair and grief, with very little hope or joy for the future. For me the main problem with such an excess of flowery prose was that it continually distracted from the essence of the story – love, life, loss and the inevitability of death. It made me suspect that the point of the book was to display a love of language and to demonstrate the author’s skill through its narrative style; the latter of which I have no doubt. Unfortunately, this reader found many of the long descriptions tedious and irritating which clouded out the inevitable emotions that would, and should, emerge from such a plotline.
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