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BookRatMisty

BookRatMisty

First Daughter

First Daughter - Eric Van Lustbader I think there may have been a good story in here somewhere, but it was buried under bad writing and heavy-handed politics.Full review to come...Now!Alright.  Lately I've had a string of badish books and reviews, and I really don't like being mean (most of the time.  Maybe.)  The truth is, I want to share good books with you guys.  I want you to be able to find something your going to curl up in a big chair with a mug of cocoa and fall in love with.  But I'm not going to lie or sugar-coat how I feel about books on the off chance you may like them when I did not. So this review is going to be interesting.I think there ARE people who will love these; the Da Vinci Code sold millions, right?  (I hate to do an extended comparison between books, but there is certainly going to be that element in this one.) When I agreed to review these, I was sort of on the fence, so maybe this is my own fault.  I don't generally like thrillers and FBI-ish books, but at the same time, EVL took over the Bourne series and has sold millions, so I thought if I have to read one, maybe he does it right and would be the one to read.  And I do think he crafts a story fairly well.  I really liked Jack McClure as a protagonist, and I liked some of the elements of the story and the other characters, and the political intrigue aspect.  Because of these things, I think there are going to be people who will absolutely love these books.BUT.But, just as with Dan Brown, I just could not make myself like EVL's writing.  It was so heavy-handed and self-righteous and obvious, and it didn't give the reader enough credit.  EVL uses a lot of metaphor (a lot of metaphor), and though some of them hit the mark and are excellent, a hell of a lot of them were reminded me of high school/college kid metaphors: strange and grandiose, sounding cool but meaning nothing.  I maybe could have gotten past this flaw if that were the end of the metaphor debacle, but the fact is, EVL  didn't trust the reader to be able to get his meaning -- or didn't trust himself to convey it, perhaps -- so he piled on more and more of them for each descriptive bit, until it got to the point that I wondered just how long the stories would have been without them.  There is a great bit of under-used writing advice from Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch: "Murder your darlings."  No matter how great you think it sounds, or how cool it seems, or whether it fit before you changed things and was just so stunning an image to you, you've got to be willing to leave things on the cutting floor when you are editing writing.*(from here on out, I am speaking directly about First Daughter only, as I was still making note of things at that point, so they are handy to use to point things out)In First Daughter, there is a lot about religion.  Now, normally, religion (in general) and zealotry and hypocrisy (in particular) are very interesting subjects to me.  I am not a religious person myself, but I find religions fascinating, and I like to read about them, good or bad, on occasion.  First Daughter was first published right at the cusp of the 2008 campaigning, and it shows.  There is a lot of self-righteous, hypocritical, bumbling far right (them) versus normal, moderate lefties (us) in the book, but it is so beaten and beaten, and such a thinly-veiled parody/attack on the Bush regime that it's almost insulting.  To me.  The liberal as shit, anti-Bush, rat-owning, pierced loudmouth.  It's another example of not trusting the reader, so you make things obvious and lead them to the conclusions you want them to draw.  It meant that the characters turned into caricatures, and when that happens, I tune out.The other big thing that really bothered me was the constant shifting between the present and flashbacks.  (Last Dan Brown reference, I swear: This reminded me of Brown's stupid tiny little chapters that switch and switch and switch so that it "keeps you on your toes" and keeps the mystery mysterious; translation, pisses Misty off.  Have the balls to tell a straight-forward story that doesn't pander or rely on gimmicks.  <-- tirade directed at Dan Brown, not EVL).  Setting aside that all of the many unlikely connections in McClure's current case to his somewhat cliched and bizarre past, the shifts were just sort of strange and, though they sometimes kept the story interesting, they also sometimes made it hard to follow, or disrupted the flow and made me lose interest.  I found myself liking the past sections more than the present, but it was the shift between them that really irritated me, and for the longest time, I couldn't figure out why.  Genius that I am, it came to me: the sections in the present are told in past tense (Jack did this), and the sections in the past are told in the present tense (Jack does this).  How loopy is that?  It just made the whole tone read kinda funny, and once I noticed it, I couldn't get past it.Now.***  There were a few things I liked.  Jack has a lot of interesting things going on in his life, and a really interesting past, so he makes a good lead.  Also, he has dyslexia, which he has worked hard to manage, but which also gives him an advantage in his work.**  I thought it was an interesting character-builder, and gave McClure a relatability and memorability that I did like.  I also like the sort of Stockholm Syndrome aspect to the story.  Well, let me clarify; I liked that the element was there, but I thought it could have been handled better, and that some of the elements in the build-up of SS seemed forced and even farfetched.  But I did think it was a nice layer, once it was obvious that was where it was going (though before that, it had me rolling my eyes).Alright.  After all of that, I may have scared a lot of you off of these books, but really, I think there are going to be people who are into this genre who will really like these.  They're not great literature (and for me, they're not even good fluff), but if you go into it knowing this is what you're in for and wanting something over the top and a bit mindless in an adult, political kind of way, then this will probably fit the bill.*I would have went in with a machete in this case**I don't know how accurate the portrayal of dyslexia was, and I certainly could have done without being told a million times that he had it, that it made him think a certain way, etc.  Once or twice is enough, please, Mr. Van Lustbader; give your readers some credit for not being total morons incapable of remembering a piece of information.***Okay, but really, I have one more negative side-note.  There were a lot of pop-culture references that felt to me like they were tossed in but not really understood.  LOTS of references to current indie music, but they felt forced, like EVL googled and inserted thusly.  Though I like seeing bands I listen to name-dropped, and I like pulling up lyrics and considering how a song may fit into a story, I don't like feeling like they are used as a disingenuous ploy.  Maybe I am being silly here, but that was how I felt.