My First Scathing Review: The Priest and the Peaches

My First Scathing Review: The Priest and the Peaches

So, here’s the next book for the 2012 TBR Pile Reading Challenge.  It just came out in December, but I’d planned to read it over Winter break, and just now got around to it.  Boy, do I regret that…

Title: The Priest and the Peaches

Author: Larry Peterson

Release Date: December 2011

Genre: YA Historical Fiction

Publisher: Tribute Books

Where I Got It: received an ebook copy from publisher in exchange for honest review

Score: 1 out of 5

The Priest and the Peaches has a premise with potential: set in the Bronx in the mid-1960s, in the story of five orphaned children who try to pick up the pieces after their alcoholic father dies (3 years after their mother and grandmother had died), leaving them with almost no one to turn to.  Except the local priest.   Throughout, the children see various “signs” that they take to be messages from their father, reminding them how he wants them to live their lives, with the basic motto of L-Y-N: “Love Your Neighbor.”  In the meantime, they must deal with pushy relatives, and busy-bodies who think the younger children should be split up and put into foster care.

This book tries to convey an uplifting message of hope and love and sticking-together-through-thick-and-thin, and all that fun stuff.  It is also heavily influenced by Catholicism (not a problem in and of itself as I am, myself, Catholic).

But.

But.  I couldn’t finish this book.  I couldn’t do it.  I got about 1/3 of the way through by sheer will power, having wanted to give up after the 3 chapter.  I don’t believe this has ever happened to me before, and I feel bad about it, but I honestly could not get through this book.  And I’ve been trying to for THREE WEEKS.  It is simply badly and amateurishly written.

There are many problems with this book.  The writing is stilted and clumsy, with awkward (sometimes flat-out incorrect) use of punctuation, that makes it difficult to decipher a sentence.  The dialogue is extremely awkward.  In several places it was just bad, and wholly unbelievable.  There is far too much head-hopping: in just the first few pages (and I mean pages on my Kindle, not even book-sized pages), we get a look inside Joanie, Teddy, Dancer, and a random doctor.  By the end of the 3rd chapter we’ve also jumped into Sarah’s head, Scratch’s head, and the Priest’s head.  I wanted to shake the author and tell him to PICK a perspective and STICK with it!  There was also a lot of really bad attempts of humor that were so forced and so NOT-funny, that I physically cringed on several occasions.

Worse yet, and by far the most annoying part, was the amount of info-dumping.  In Chapter 6 I made a note to myself: “oh look, info dump number 1 million!”  Obviously, a bit of an exaggeration, but not by much.  This book comes down to a series of badly-written info-dumps broken up with bits of badly-written dialogue.  I’m sorry, but I’m not kidding.  Rather than letting the characters grow, letting the readers slip into the world like slipping into a pool, the author simply keeps dumping buckets of water over ours heads: Look, here’s the entire life history of this character!  A couple pages later: look, here’s the entire life history of THIS character and this one isn’t even a main character, he’s a walk-on, walk-off drunk the dead father knew from a bar, but I’m going to tell you his whole life story anyway!  On and on and on.

On top of that, the narration telegraphs all over the place where the reader should be getting a message, or what should be foreshadowing, or “look, this is an ironic tie-in!” with things like: “they were about to find out how much they did not know…” and “little did they know that…” and “he would come to regret that choice in time…”  And these things are ALL OVER THE PLACE.

I kept going, hoping it would get better.  Hoping it would pick up.  Hoping the plot and/or characters would be interesting enough to keep me going.  But no.  A little over a third of the way through, and barely anything of note has happened, the characters are still just as flat and obvious as they were on the first page (the eldest brother who takes charge, the eldest sister who’s been playing mother for the last three years, etc, etc, etc).  I’m sorry, but if you’re a third of the way through a book and nothing has happened (excepting the father’s death right at the very beginning), well, then you’ve got a problem.

I tried, folks, I REALLY TRIED to give this book a chance.  I hate giving scathing reviews, and this is actually the first time I’ve had to do it, but I HAD to do it.  To be honest with myself, with the author, and with all of you, my readers who might have lynched me if I’d sugar-coated this review, and you went out and read the book and hated me for it.

So, in a nutshell, save yourself some pain and frustration, and don’t read this book.  If you’d rather see for yourself, you can find the book on Goodreads.

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14 thoughts on “My First Scathing Review: The Priest and the Peaches

  1. Wow! I don’t think I’ve ever heard you hate-dump on a book like this EVER, except for maybe that bibliographical textbook that one time… Aaand maybe a few other books that are coming to mind.

    I’ll be sure to avoid this one. I’m sure after 1 to 2 paragrphs of bible thumping I’d have dropped it anyways. 😄

    (Short because its sent from the train 10 seconds before disembarking)

    • I feel really bad about it. I don’t want to be mean about it. But I promised myself that if I was going to do these book reviews, I had to be completely honest about it, or it wouldn’t be worth doing. You know?

      In all fairness, while the author should have had the self-awareness to know this was not ready to be thrown out to the wolves, the publisher has to take some of the blame. SOMEONE at Tribute Books should have realized that this book needed a LOT of work, and then SAID so.

  2. *fans hand in front of face* whew…I can smell the smoke from that burn all the way over here in Ohio! But you did tell me it was going to be scathing, and you definitely delivered, haha.

    I understand not wanting to criticize a fellow artist, especially in a public forum. We’ve conversed about that before, in my reluctance to do so on my own blog (and I’m still reluctant considering that when I offered a small amount of criticism I basically lost an editor over it).

    But I think you did a good job with this post because it’s honest. At least you thought highly enough of the author to give him an honest, if negative, review. Obviously you thought better of him than his editor, beta reader, agent, and whoever else read the work before it was published. Based on your review, it sounds to me like they would rather assuage their own feelings of guilt about criticizing him than tell him his book was profoundly flawed.

    You got further than I did – I probably wouldn’t have finished the second page, haha

    • Lol! I really wanted to read the whole thing. Just in case. Just so I could be extra sure that my critique was fair. But I just couldn’t do it. I was cringing and snorting my way through what I did manage to read. And really, it’s a well-known fact that if you haven’t gotten your readers happily hooked within the first 20 pages, or at the very least within the first fourth of the book, then the chances are the rest of the book won’t be worth reading either.

      • Ha! It would have been funny to be the next room over while you were reading what you did read. You should have read it in public somewhere, just for the looks people would give you for all the snorting and/or cringing. They would either think it’s the scariest or the most hilarious book ever written, depending on which they catch you doing 😛

        I kinda feel bad for the author. The people around him really let him down, I think. Unless they genuinely thought it was a good book, in which case I’m not optimistic as to their future success as a publishing company haha.

  3. Hey, it happens. There are always books that end up with scathing reviews. In fact, all books do because it just didn’t appeal or didn’t do this or that. And there’s something cool in the fact that you were honest enough to say you didn’t like it. I know that’s not easy.

    • Yeah, I probably couldn’t do it if I was face to face with the author. Though… maybe… dealing with student writing and having to explain to students why they just got a D or F on a paper is certainly making that a little easier. Well, sorta…

  4. due to the fact that I haven’t read the book…

    “You KNOW its bad when the BAD review of the book… sounds more interesting than the book itself.”

    Trev!

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