Scathing Book Reviews of the Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien is many things to many people. To some, a fun fantasy. To others, the cornerstone of their reading list. To an unfortunate few, a way of life, and to Peter Jackson, an admirable achievement and cash cow.

I read the Lord of the Rings for the first time back about 1982, and my first thought was “Wow, this is amazingly similar to The Sword of Shannara!”. After I got a bit older I realized it was actually vice-versa. I’ve probably read it about 2 times since, once after the Peter Jackson Film came out.

Do I like it? Sure, but as I’ve matured, I’ve begun to look at it the way I do “Star Wars” – good, but embarrassing to think I once valued it so highly.  After all, in the end its just a fairy tale. These Scathing Book Reviews of the Lord of the Rings don’t “boo” it, but they’re like Gollum in that they give it a “Hisssssssss….“:

I could barely make it through the first novel. I found myself having to force my way through a sea of overwrought description. Tolkien’s writing style, if one can call it a style, is dull and overly wordy. His characters are flat, especially his female characters, who all just seem to be waiting by the sidelines for the men to come home. I couldn’t bring myself to care about any of them…

…and this from a reviewer that is, shall we say, a bit too well informed about Fantasy novels:

I cannot believe all the hype this series gets, it is a boring, stereotypical fantasy that leaves all its wizards being REALLY old farts with long white beards, diminutive characters in more way then one (Yes, I know that this was a really bad pun)I have never disliked a fantasy other then this one, and I have read more then enough to make this claim (well over 300 books of this genre in the last 5 or so years).

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i cried because i spent seventy dollars for this “classic” edition hearing how good this piece of crap was, so i was like, “hey, why not???” i struggled through the hobbit and the fellowship of the ring before i cried. another reason i cried was reason i cried was because THEY SUCKED!!!!!!!!!! i have read the sword of shannara by terry brooks and even though it followed the same plot, it was a billion times better than this piece of b.s.! I mean, what’s up with those defunktitated songs?!

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This book is not good, it is a neverending story to me. THe beginning was so sucky and did not make you want to read at all. I read Fellowship of the ring. I got to this council part, and i felt like I had had anough. I was like 200 pages through the book and all I had read was how the Hobbit walked through the jungle, and how good hid breakfest.

…and a negative comparison to the “prestigious” Dungeons and Dragons novels:

This book have no depth and noone can compare these with DragonLance ChronicLes or Dark ELf series.

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Scathing Reviews of The Dark Knight Returns, by Frank Miller

With the recent release of the movie The Dark Knight, it seems appropriate to take a look at one of the books that served as an influence. Yes, its time for Scathing Book Reviews of The Dark Knight Returns, by Frank Miller. If you were around in the 1980s and reading comics – uh, I mean graphic novels – you couldn’t escape the hype. The Dark Knight Returns was one of those books that made mainstream media mention in Time Magazine in other periodicals, because it made a big splash by “making Batman dark.”

Well I read it. And I have to say that even then, I couldn’t understand all the praise. Batman as a dark, grief stricken, unhinged creature of the night? Heck, that take on him goes back to the 1960s, with the writer/artist team of Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams. My first introduction to the character in any depth was in “The Untold Legend of the Batman” in 1981, which made the character’s craziness central to the storyline. Guess who was trying to kill Batman in that one – HINT, his initials are BW and he lives in Wayne Manor.

Anyway, while Frank Miller’s books are usually pretty edgy, he seems like an awfully nice guy in interviews. So I’ll have to say – like the author, and appreciate the book, but think its been overpraised. These Scathing Book Reviews of the Dark Knight Returns wish he would just leave Gotham for good:

The art is terrible! rather then giving it a dark feeling, it looks like something from a childrens book that might be called “The Rainy Day” or “the Wet Dog” it uses water colors and weird-shaped heads.

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I love the Bat, and I have tremendous respect for Frank Miller. I was crushed to find this book such a piece of mindless drivel, and frankly, offended. I have lost every bit of respect I ever had for Miller.

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I gave up after about 20 pages of not being able to tell what was going on because of how terribly sloppy the drawings are.

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While the book’s premise (Batman coming out of retirement to save Gotham from a disatrous crime wave) is worthy, Miller’s execution, as both a writer and an artist, sinks the book like a rock.

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This is full of tired cliches of ‘the gritty and dark hero’. I nearly puked reading this book. One of the most overrated comic books ever written by man or beast. Plot? SUCKS. Characters? SUCKS. Writing? SUCKS. Art? SUCKS.

…and from the inevitable ALL CAPS Department, with a great point about the virtue of having Robin along:

WHAT IS THE POINT OF HAVING A 12-YEAR-OLD (OF EITHER GENDER) COMING ALONG WITH YOU, WEARING BLINDINGLY BRIGHT CLOTHING AND LEGGERY. FRANK MILLER SAYS IT’S TO MAKE BATMAN LOOK BIGGER, BUT I KNOW THE REAL REASON; TO DRAW GUNFIRE AWAY FROM BATMAN.

Scathing Book Reviews of Jonathan Livingston Seagull, by Richard Bach

Jonathan Livingston Seagull, by Richard Bach is like Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, a book that is emblematic of the 1970s, but is still read today. Its one of those books that I’ve heard of but never read, and like many who lived in Chicago in the 80s and 90s, was continually reminded of due to the presence of Rich Melman’s restaurant “Jonathan Livingston Seafood“. There was also the Jonathan Livingston Seagull Movie which I came across on Cable some years ago.

I remember seeing an English Major reading the Book back in College, and its apparently assigned reading for Junior and Senior High Schoolers. If I ever do read it, hopefully it will answer the burning question “Why do Seagulls like Parking Lots?” These Scathing Book Reviews of Jonathan Livingston Seagull think that the Seagull is really a Dead Duck:

For a long time I had suspected that America was a nation full of pathetic people desperately striving to improve their lives. This so-called book has confirmed my suspicions.

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This book is a piece of trash. I feel that nothing other than such a blunt remark justifies my feelings towards this mish-mash of bogey, high-faultin’ pretention and early 70s self-help gibberish. Clearly, this tripe hooked on to the swinging trend of cascading times when mid-life crisis was hitting people from 16 to 76.

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I found myself laughing out loud on numerous occasions over the course of the book… Not because the author wrote something witty or clever – but because the book continued to reach new levels of stupidity.

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To pad out this lame storyline, Bach gives us a bunch of grainy pictures of birds. Too bad he doesn’t have the guts to show us birds pooping on a statue, having found TRUE enlightenment.

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The only good thing you can say about this book is that it is short, so it doesn’t waste as much time as it might.

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In the miasma that was the 70’s lies this book, an embarassing reminder of the culture of self-actualization that permeated that era. Deep messages? Please… After being asked to write a paper on the meaning of the “Stairway to Heaven” lyric(!), having to read this book was the last straw for our 11th grade Language Arts class.

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This is a simple story. So simple in fact that you wonder why the writer got paid for it.

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A friend loaned me this book once when I was going through a very rough time in my life. Somehow, the book made me feel worse, so you may wish to hold off giving a copy to someone diagnosed with depression.

…and this review, excerpted at length. I’ll lay odds he’s an Ayn Rand enthusiast:

This slimy collection of self-important piety and nonsensical bilge is one of the most horrific encapsulations of what is rotten and bad in western society today. In it, a sentient air-rat decides he’s much too important to deal with small minded concerns ke making a seagull’s living eating fish. He decides he’s some kind of artist. He meets an asian air-rat who is of course much more wise and deep than his own whitebread air-rat self, and becomes some sort of super spiritual air-rat. Not content to jockey around the entire universe like some kind of air-rat version of Padre de Pio, he returns to earth to lord it over the other air rats with his superior spiritual pose.

Scathing Book Reviews of The Odyssey, by Homer

The Odyssey was written by Homer. If you say that to anyone born after 1980, they’ll immediately imagine Homer Simpson in a Toga, or Ulysses fleeing from the Cyclops, tripping and saying “D’oh!”. Now before you dismay over the decline of Western Civilization, remember that from 1900 to 1988, when someone said “Homer”, the average person’s first thought was Baseball.

That said, have I ever actually read “The Odyssey”? Bits and pieces of it in other works, but never the whole thing all the way through, and I’ll wager that most people haven’t. Watching that Armand Assante Odyssey TV Miniseries doesn’t count, folks. These Scathing Book Reviews of The Odyssey try to persuade you that it’s not a trip worth taking:

This book sucks. I dont care if Homer was blind or not this book is like 900 pages too long. I could tell this story in about 10 pages. Homer taking all long to say stupid stuff. Teens if you are reading this all I have to say is CLIFF NOTES CLIFF NOTES you will pass the test, unless you are in AP classes. The teachers expect kids to read cliff notes trust me my moms a teacher. P.S this book SUCKS

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Although it may seem intriguing, this book can drive one to the brink of insanity.

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It was tedious, boring, and extremely conceited.

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I couldn’t even get past the first ten pages with any comprehension of what this was about. I reread lines half a dozen times with no idea of what Fagles [the translator] was talking about. What the heck is “hearth smoke”? What person alive says “that nonsense coming past your teeth”?

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The general plot is rather repetitive. Odysseus overcomes a challenge on an island, and while leaving via boat, a storm takes him to yet another island, where the process is repeated. This makes the story predictable and less interesting.

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I pity all of those souls who have to endure reading this utter rubbish. Every time I attempt to read it, it puts my wee self to sleep. This book is so boring, and I can not fathom how people (even though if they are pretentious secondary school teachers or literature lecturers)can still find this enjoyable.

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If you’re going to read either The Iliad or The Odyssey, and you’re not a 2700 year-old Greek or Trojan, buy a Cliff Notes to help fill you in.

…and this Book Review that faults Homer for a lack of originality:

I feel like I heard this story many times before. Not cutting edge. Lots of interesting characters though. Unreallistic platitudes as they relate to the human condition. Homer has a lot of growing up to do.

…and this great review by a Freshman in High School:

I thought this story was very gross. I mean come on. We are having to read this book in freshman English. Actually our teacher reads it to us, but it is still disgusting. We are also having to watch the movie of this, talk about gruesome. It’s like Scylla comes out of the water and chomps these people out of the ship and blood showers everywhere. I almost threw up every day when we watch this movie. We watch a little each day. I am over there about to puke up my toes and everybody else, all the boys anyway, are saying how cool it is. My boyfriend just laughs when I tell him I almost threw up in there, he is a freshman, so he has to watch it also. I’m sure he thinks it is awesome,but I don’t.

Scathing Book Reviews of The Expectant Father: Facts, Tips and Advice for Dads-to-Be, by Armin A. Brott

The Expectant Father: Facts, Tips and Advice for Dads-to-Be by Armin A. Brott was one of those books I read while my wife was pregnant with our son. After almost eight years of fatherhood, let me tell you, reading books about parenting isn’t going to hurt, and it might even help, but there’s nothing like on the job training to help you learn to appreciate the smell of a healthy poop or the sound of a snoring infant.

What’s my review of “The Expectant Father”? Well meaning, but ineffective, like a lot of Dad books, and more than a few parents books (and parents) too. These Scathing Book Reviews of The Expectant Father are pregnant with criticism:

So far, I’ve waded through dozens of hints of how to share in my wife’s experience – making a plaster cast of her belly, taking bottoms-up photos to record her progress… My wife would kill me. Then there’s the chapter suggesting sneaking the placenta out of the hospital for a ceremonial burial.

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If you are the type of guy who feels like saying to your wife, “Hey, I’m pregnant too” then by all means, read this fluff.

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I quit reading after he devoted a whole page to saying that he took his placenta home, stored it in the freezer (along with some of his friends placentas…) then buried them and planted a tree over them. Hope he doesn’t grab the wrong item when going in for leftovers…

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I got this book from my wife and after reading it, I wished she hadn’t spent the money on it; burning the money would have been a better use for it.

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I got this book for my husband, hoping it would help him to understand and participate in our pregnancy. Instead, it has turned out to be a source of comic relief! That anyone can take this book seriously is laughable.

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If you need a book to explain to you that you will soon no longer be the center of your pregnant wife’s universe, you need some serious counseling.

…and this, which equates the Neanderthals with “The Greatest Generation”. That explains a lot about the VFW hall (I kid, I kid):

this book is writen by a caveman for cavemen. If you found this book helpful you should not be having a baby, or you live in the 1940’s.

Scathing Book Reviews of “The Secret”, by Rhonda Byrne

The Secret, by Rhonda Byrne is a book I skimmed and put back down at the Bookstore. It’s got a catchy title, one that just begs you to open the faux leather copy and to pore through the faux parchment pages, but alas, I found nothing there that seemed to be new. The Secret boils down to “Want anything bad enough and it will come true in mysterious ways”. This is in a lot of “self help” books, and it is called “The Law of Attraction”.

Most responsible self help books – and anyone that has a few years on them – will tell you that sometimes, wanting, no matter how much, isn’t going to cure your Dad’s alzheimers, your sister’s cancer, your daughter’s stutter. These things CAN be cured or dealt with, but before anything can happen, you gotta want it, but wanting alone it isn’t always enough. It reminds me of the old lottery joke:

Morty, a deeply religious man, had long prayed to win the lottery to get him out of financial trouble. He prayed to God every night to win, even as things got worse and worse. After losing his job, his car and with his wife about to leave him, he prayed one last time. “God, please, I’m in trouble. I lost my job, my car, and I’m about to lose my family. PLEASE God, let me win the lottery.”

Suddenly God Himself appeared before Morty, long beard, white hair, deep voice, shining light, the works. Morty said “God, you’re here! Does this mean I’m going to win the lottery? God said, pleadingly “Morty, meet me halfway on this. Buy a Lottery Ticket.”

My advice? Know what you want, be open to getting want you want in more than one way, and then ACT to get what you want, with the faith that you’ll get it. Anyway, these Scathing Book Reviews of The Secret think one Secret to success is to not read the book:

“Greetings, friend! Do you wish to look as happy as me? Well, you’ve got the power inside you right now, so use it! Send $1 to Happy Dude, 742 Evergreen Terrace, Springfield. Don’t delay; eternal happiness is just a dollar away!”

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The first step in increasing your wealth is to take the money you would have spent on this mindless drivel, and put it in your pocket. See? You’re doing better already.

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Rhonda Byrne is a smart woman. Why? Because she is swindling the American populace into buying her garbage.

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P.T. Barnum, you are vindicated once again… If you really want to learn something simple enough for kids but eternally true and useful for adults try the children’s classics “The Little Engine That Could”, and “Stone Soup.” These books have true wisdom and pretty pictures too.

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It did not help me at all. I feel stupid for buying it. it felt like it was writen in two weeks. It had no real debth

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Comparing this book to a pet rock would be insulting the rock.

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Norman Vincent Peale repackaged for the pedestrian New age generation.

My thoughts on “The Secret” to success? You didn’t ask – St. Iganatius Loyola said it best: “Pray as if everything depended on God and work as if everything depended on you.”

Scathing Reviews of Watchmen by Alan Moore

Watchmen, by Alan Moore is an award-winning graphic novel currently being adapted into a “Watchmen Movie” by Warner Brothers. We will all know this and more by the time the Studio’s marketing machine finishes it job, and will no doubt be giving each other Watchmen DVDs during Christmas 2009, and probably even Watchmen Watches.

I read Superhero comics back when it was originally published, and finally read it in the 1990s, whilst sipping a Grande Mocha at my neighborhood Barnes & Noble. My impression? To use a fanboy term – “Meh”. I appreciate the effort, and understand its industry impact, but I think its a bit overpraised. Here are some other Scathing Reviews of Watchmen that would encourage you not to Watch the Watchmen:

There are people around who insist on comparing this stuff to great works of literature. I wonder if they ever read any.

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The art is subpar, the cliches glaring, and the “mature humor” nearly as subtle as Roseanne.

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The artwork is gross and uninteresting, the characters, at least in the first 60 pages, are completely boring, uninteresting and hollow. And there’s not a moment of comic relief.

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The story was incredibly average. The art was mediocre at best. Alan Moore’s writing is eloquent but an eloquently written boring story is still boring.

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Teenagers, poorly-read and possessing malnourished tastes in prose, [are] predictably awestruck… They thought it was ‘realistic’; they thought this was ‘great literature’.

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I did not care about the characters at all. Who cares! Oh boo hoo I am a brooding super hero. Feel my pain?

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It is the kind of thing that is trying sooo hard to be deep and witty, but fails miserably because of a lack of ANY REAL STORY… Moore seems to want to remind you on every frickin’ page how clever his “real super heroes” idea is. First of all it ain’t and secondly WE GET IT ALREADY NOW DO SOMETHING WITH IT.

…and, for what I hope is the first and last time that I know of, a link between Citizen Kane and Watchmen:

I would not really call The Watchmen the “Citizen Kane of graphic novels.” It is more like Tarentino’s movie, Pulp Fiction, multiple plot lines, hip references, and plenty of gory violence and power trip fantasies to satisfy a basically adolescent audience.