Monday, January 24, 2011

The Book of Tomorrow by Cecelia Ahern

The Book of Tomorrow by Cecelia Ahern
Copyright 2011
HarperCollins - Young Adult/Paranormal
336 pages

He seems like a simple man, only I don't really believe that. Nobody who says a little as he does is as simple as you'd think.

--from p. 18 of The Book of Tomorrow (Advanced Reader Copy - some changes may have been made to the final printing)

"Right." He laughed and turned the engine off. "Let's go somewhere else."
"Don't you need the engine on to do that?" I asked.
"We're not driving," he said, and climbed around the driver's seat and into the bus. "So, let's see . . . where should we go?" He moved his finger along the spines of the books in the travel section and walked alongside them, reading aloud, "Paris, Chile, Rome, Argentina, Mexico . . . "
"Mexico," I said straightaway, kneeling up on my seat to watch him.
"Mexico." He nodded. "Good choice." He lifted the book from the shelf and looked at me. "Well? Are you coming? Flight's about to leave."
I smiled and climbed over to join him. We sat on the floor, side by side, in the back of the bus, and that day, we went to Mexico.

from p. 67 of The Book of Tomorrow, ARC

Tamara Goodwin has been spoiled all her life, living in a mansion with hired help, free to do as she pleased with her friends and given anything she desired. But then tragedy struck and now her world has been shattered. Her father's hidden debts have caused Tamara and her mother to lose everything after his death; and, they have no choice but to move in with Uncle Arthur and Aunt Rosaleen. Far from the city, isolated in the Irish countryside, Tamara's bored and frustrated. Her uncle hardly says a word and her aunt is oddly sweet, tremendously cagey and almost stalkerish, keeping Tamara away from her own mother, swooping things out of her sight, hushing conversations when she knows Tamara's around.

When Tamara meets a young man who drives the local library on wheels, she finds a kindred spirit and a magical book that tells her what's going to happen . . . in her own handwriting. A second boy also catches her eye in the ruins of the castle upon whose property they live. The two young men and a nun who knows the history of the ruined castle and everyone in town all help Tamara tolerate the place she lives. But, what is the secret Aunt Rosaleen is so determined to keep from her? The Book of Tomorrow is a story with a little magic, a touch of romance and a little mystery.

What I liked about The Book of Tomorrow:

I must confess, I started reading The Book of Tomorrow and immediately hated the heroine. She was a spoiled brat who deliberately made people uncomfortable and was determined to be unhappy in her new home. It's very telling that my son picked up the book and read a few pages but rejected it while we were sitting in a restaurant. He's one of those people who will read anything -- even the ketchup bottle -- when there's nothing to do but sit. But, he handed the book back to me, declaring it a "whining book". He preferred twiddling his thumbs to reading it.

That's exactly how the book feels, at the beginning, and I was tempted to throw in the towel, even though I love books set in Ireland. But, then the young man who drives the library bus came into the picture and Tamara found a magical diary. I was curious and I kept reading. It was mostly the magical book that kept me going -- the questions I had about it, in particular. The author dropped a hint that the nun knew something about the book and the castle. But . . .

What I disliked about The Book of Tomorrow:

To be honest, the idea was far better than the execution. There were hints that were not followed through, something very bad happens to one of the boys and he almost completely disappears from the picture (the one I liked the most, naturally), and in the end the entire mystery is explained all at once. Hints dropped throughout the book never entirely make sense. Tamara never actually sits down to write in the diary, which is I think one of the strangest things I've ever read in a book with some sort of paranormal aspect. Wait--she finds her own writing in a book, telling her what's going to occur, but there is never a point at which she actually writes a word? Yep, she only reads her own writing, never actually lifts a pencil or pen to the pages.

When Tamara causes one guy to drop out of the picture, it's by doing something she knows is wrong. So, as a heroine, she's not only a spoiled, spiteful, horrid person but she doesn't really transform. There are hints of improvement but there's no lasting redemption. I think a blogging friend who chose not to review the book because she couldn't think of anything positive to say about it was right when she called it, "a hot mess". Close to the end of the book, Tamara the Narrator says, "I spoke with venom," and you know she's still the same old brat. She doesn't even have the sense to solve the mystery on her own.

The bottom line:

I read all of The Book of Tomorrow and was massively disappointed. The best thing I can say for it is that it's a quick read. The story is flawed and incomplete with a too-easy mystery solution and a dreadful heroine. There are several holes in the plot -- bits that don't make sense if you question them too deeply and I always do that. I don't know what Cecelia Ahern's fans will make of it, but I think they're the only people to whom I'd recommend this book and only because I assume a few people will want to read it merely because they like Ahern's writing. I loved P. S. I Love You and am listening to it on audio. There is some similarity in that Tamara, like the heroine in P. S. I Love You, is grieving. I cut her a little slack at first, thinking she would improve. But she didn't and The Book of Tomorrow is a big disappointment.

My thanks to HarperCollins for the Advanced Reader Copy of this book, which I will pass on to a friend.

Tomorrow's book is unfortunately also a DNF, but I promise you I gave it a fair chance. I'd rather read 75 pages and abandon a book than read the entire thing and realize how much time I've wasted. I'm too old for that. My Thursday post will be about either Paris Was Ours or Brownie Groundhog and the February Fox -- two books I absolutely loved.

And, now I leave you with a photograph chosen to color-coordinate with the cover of The Book of Tomorrow, some orchids I spotted in Hawaii in 2007:


©2011 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

10 comments:

  1. I usually enjoy Cecelia Ahern's books (except for The Gift), but this one sounds like one I'll pass on. (It's the second such review of this book that I've read today.) Sorry you didn't enjoy it more.

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  2. Melissa,

    Well, if nothing else I learned from it. I haven't written fiction in a long time, but The Book of Tomorrow reminded me of a few things to pay attention to. :)

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  3. Sorry it didn't work for you.

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  4. Kathy,

    Well, you know, it's no big deal to me. Not every book is for everyone. :)

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  5. For a not-positive review, you did an amazing job of finding good things to say about it, and being fair. That was lovely to see. I still might look for this book, just to see how not-good it is, and the errors in the writing - as a writer, sometimes these are good to see, too.

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  6. Susan,

    Well, thank you! I tried, but I think it's the books you don't love that are the hardest to write about. The last thing I want to do is skewer somebody who worked hard at telling a story.

    Yep, I thought about that, too -- reading the book wasn't a total waste because I learned a little something about what not to do when writing.

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  7. This book sounds good. Too bad it was a disappointment. :( This isn't an author that I would normally read, but I did read P.S. I Love You and like it well enough. Maybe one day I will try her again. I had thought maybe this book, but I will probably pass.

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  8. Kelly,

    Doesn't it sound wonderful? I think it could have been tidied up, actually, and made into a better book. But, the heroine's sass really needed to stop, at some point. I have a copy of Rosie Dunne that I'm pondering -- keep, get rid of? I think P. S. I Love You was good enough to give her one more chance.

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  9. I tried to listen to P.S. I Love You, but gave up after one disc. Just couldn't get interested and didn't care for the reader. I still want to rent the movie, though, as I hear it's very good (for chick-lit!).

    Gorgeous orchid!!! I tried to grow one once... My mom is much better at keeping those things alive. ;)

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  10. Les,

    I don't care for the reader, either, but she's not bad enough to drive me nuts. I'm on the 3rd disc. I guess I'll have to bring it into the house, now that I've graduated from physical therapy and don't have an excuse to listen to audios in the car (the only time I'm in it long enough is when I drive to the Jackson metro area).

    Isn't that pretty? I'm an orchid flunkie, myself. I've killed three of them, to date. I kept one growing for nearly a year, but it only bloomed once.

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