Sadly, 2015 was not a good year for my reading. Life got in the way, as it usually does, interfering with the better things, like writing and reading and enjoying being alive–HA! But, I did manage to squeeze out a few novels, most of which, unfortunately, just didn’t really do much for me.
So, here’s a quick rundown:
- The Crystal Shard by R.A. Salvatore: I mostly felt this book was derivative of other high fantasy and mythology-based works. While Icewind Dale is a gorgeous land that I really enjoyed reading about, everything but the battle with the dragon appeared as pale as the tundra’s rolling hills of blizzards when compared with the tales from the Dark Elf Trilogy.
- The Godwulf Manuscript by Robert B. Parker: As a crime fiction enthusiast, I felt it was time to dive into the catalogue of one of the genre’s biggest names. I had always heard he was among the all-time greats, so when I found myself incredibly bored with the slow-pace and painfully over-detailed descriptions of unnecessary people during the first part of the novel, I chalked it up to the fact that Parker was a pioneer of the modern portion of this timeless genre and that the novel was showing its age. As it wore on, I did find that I enjoyed the novel and definitely planned to look past the archaic style and remember that the clichés I was seeing were actually created by this writer. It is a decent novel, though not timeless, and I will be reading more of Parker.
- Vampire$ by John Steakley: Hands down the absolute worst atrocity I have ever seen penned. This book is both sad and laughable and I cannot see how anyone could enjoy it. Not only is it adolescent, it is riddled with plot holes, bad grammar and poor character development. There is nothing enjoyable about this pile of trash. I will never read anything by Steakley, again.
- A Time to Kill by John Grisham: Maybe my favorite book of the year. This one made me a John Grisham fan right out the chute. He managed to entwine political drama, excitement, romance, mystery, and legal-suspense-thriller all into one perfectly written, well-informed modern masterpiece that had me never wanting to put the book down. Grisham does not hold back with expressing his disdain for the politics of his initial profession as, through the eyes of small-town lawyer, Jake Brigance, he explores the injustices of the spinning wheel of the law that only favors those who grease it up, while fighting an uphill battle against big-time corporate opposition and manipulated media frenzy. It’s one man’s struggling conscious against a whirlwind of anger and hate, and it definitely makes for an unforgettable read. I think this book is a modern classic.
- The Dragon Reborn by Robert Jordan: Part three of the Wheel of Time series. I found it to be slightly better than the second installment but quite inferior to the first novel. Though it carried the tale forward better than the second and seemed to have less filler, it still doesn’t recapture the magic and adventure of the first. The development of the Left-Hand Path mythology Jordan uses, splicing it with LOTR elements and components that are familiar with late-80s/early-90s RPG video games, garnered more interest from me than The Great Hunt. But, if the next volume isn’t more engrossing, I may find my relationship with this series standing above the same precipice as my relationship with The Sword of Truth series: about to take that last plunge.
- The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling: Rowling spends a lot of time creating a tangled web of characters (none of whom are very likeable) to cover up for a lack of any real reason to even write this book beyond trying to prove her literary skills can reach beyond low-fantasy writing. My opinion is that even though she does, at times, manage to capture a Dickens-esque quality as far as satirical observations of humanity, she is a very far cry from being even in Dickens’s league and should probably go ahead and write more Harry Potter-related tales. Although she was able to showcase a very sharp and clean literary prose mostly absent during much of the Potter series, the book climaxes in typical bleak Rowling fashion and I felt pretty empty for having wasted my time.
- The Lost Book of Enki by Zecharia Sitchin: The last couple of years have seen my outlook on faith and religion undergo some drastic alterations, mostly due to finally embracing that which was always there but I was too afraid to explore. This book, for that, was an interesting read. I don’t know how much of it is accurate, but I find that the possibilities discussed make a lot more sense than some more widely accepted ideas. I’ve read Sitchin’s critics and I’ve read his supporters, and still don’t feel anyone really answered the questions as to whether or not we should take any faith in the alleged revelations contained within this work. I don’t know if any of his detractors are any more credible than he, so their opinions really don’t mean much to me.
- A Case of Need by Michael Crichton: I don’t know if this was supposed to be a medical drama or mystery suspense novel, and I don’t think Crichton ever quite figured it out, either. There were too many underdeveloped characters to really distinguish who was who and too much dialogue between them to keep a comprehensive flow of the tale’s unravelling. I liked the ending, but that was about it. It was a very bland read written in a seemingly rushed and unfocused fashion.
- A Drink Before the War by Dennis Lehane: This was among the best books I read all year. It’s tough, compelling and a real page-turner. Lehane went a little bit too deep into the subplots, but created a very solid duo of protagonists with quite a powerful punch at the end. The surroundings were seedy and gritty and Kenzie and Gennaro fit right in as the underdog warriors caught in a political crossfire. A lot of good characters, some serious intrigue, and the right amount of bullets to make this novel a sure shot on the bullseye.
- The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky: I possess a slight affinity towards Russian literature. This one is among the best in that arena. The way that a seemingly idiotic man has the knack to dig passed the falsehoods people put up, and the pointless customs of certain supercilious circles, and see people and circumstances for what they truly are, and to be able to articulate the observations in simplistic but profound manners, while tearing the truth of logic and illogic from these facades, is a testament to the opinion that one has to be either base or mad to venture through life without a masked ultimatum. I think the author really attempts to call shenanigans on the established ideas that prevail by painting a man with no pretentions as the hero who seeks to unveil the inaccuracies behind the preconceived notions of the ruling class. The Prince, in the end, symbolically suffers the breakdown as, in my interpretation, one who sees with eyes not so muddled by pride and prejudices cannot bear the weight as the lone genuine individual in a society rife with frivolous deceit and disingenuous, egotistical folderol. Perhaps, on the surface, this may seem as an insult to myself, but I quite connected with Myshkin as I, too, often view societal customs as trivial and unnecessary. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel as it resonated greatly with me. A definite strong point to close out the year.