1. Belle de Neige by Belle de Neige
Classic self-published book cover: hard-to-read fonts, some ropey Photoshopped shadow and a nice bit of underboob action. You wouldn't get that through a publisher.
I've been a reader of the Belle de Neige blog for a good while now. She's always been a good writer with interesting angles on life and ranting, so I was the ideal audience to read this book. However none of that left me expecting a book of the quality this one turned out to be.
Often books produced from blogs are just a series on loosely connected articles, and they're not much of an enhancement on just reading the blog itself. Instead of just dressing up and recycling her blog posts as is the tradition, she's gone back to the start and written a proper book. It's the story of her first year as a seasonaire and that overarching storyline makes a huge difference. Some of the ideas in her old posts have been included along with some other choice anecdotes, but they've been integrated directly into the flow of story to enhance it rather than dominate it.
But what takes this from being just a competent book to be a really great book is that running through it all is a level of depth you just won't be expecting if you've just read the blog, the book description or looked at the muggy book cover. Try this for a first line:
Deaths, and therefore funerals, come when you least expect them.
Now that's how you start a book.
One of the main threads that runs through the book is the story of Belle and how she deals with the death of her best friend just before she starts the season. How she writes that in terms of how it is gradually revealed and conveyed makes this book.
But don't get me wrong, this is not chick lit. This might be a book that forays into serious issues in a sensitive manner, but all the rest of the content is pretty much the exact opposite. If Belle de Neige was hired as an Olympic commenter, within moments of her starting, and if you happened to have your windows open, you would actually be able to hear the chilling echo of thousands of Daily Mail's readers heads exploding. Here's an example...
Next morning I wake up in his bed with something that smells suspiciously like puke in my hair and a large, pink piece of chewing gum wedged inside my arse crack.
Yup, she's a classy lady with a nice turn of phrase. Here's a little recollection on her fellow chalet maid...
"Why don't the lifts go up both sides? It'd make the queues smaller."
Yes, as I have said, this is the sort of fuckbucket that tour Operators employ to cook your food.
"OK" he conceded and started shagging me again. And then stopped again and looked at me fondly. "I love being inside of you." he said passionately. "It's like being part of a nice, big, warm....sausage roll!"
Now how can you resist a chap like that?
On ski resort culture...
Legends abound. According to folk lore, there was once an 18-year-old girl named 'Harriet the Chariot' who slept with a total of two hundred people during her time as a Chalet Bitch. If I've got my maths right, that must mean she was bonking about two a day. Every day.
On ski resort weather...
Watching a ski resort get rained on is like watching a child's sandcastle get pissed on by a drunk old man.
Your eyes are all swollen like little squirrel cunts.
And while we're on the topic, perhaps the peak of her achievement is managing to fit in an entire chapter all about the word cunt, that isn't at all out of place..
Part advice book, part diary, part exposé, part therapy and part diatribe, it's clear why it's been written anonymously. Nothing is left out, no people or feelings are spared, there are not editing compromises to make it more mundane and as a result it's great. The book is riddled with vomit, drugs, booze, poor life decisions, sex and dirt, it makes the Helgasons look like polite little school boys. (Note to Lobster, if you ever get into book sponsorship, here's where you should start)
I wouldn't want to stay in her chalet, but I'd be there for the party.
This is one book you really can't judge by the cover. It really undersells itself and over delivers - something that might not have happened if it had gone through a publishing house. It's easily the best book I've read with anything remotely to do with snowboarding and it's one of the better books I've read outside of that. I don't know why it did get professionally published, I can only suspect that it's got something to do with the cunt chapter.
Buy it immediately. Here it is on Amazon UK and Amazon US
Seeing as I've spent some time bashing the cover I thought I'd make some alternatives. Maybe one of these can be used for the reprint or the movie...
Fear and Loathing in Val d'Isère
It was just like The Wolf of Wall Street, with the exact opposite amount of money.
Or how about a cross between Chalet Girl and Nyphomaniac?
I also read...
Snowdays by Larry Moller
Here's the idea in a nutshell.
Sadly the back cover was the only bit of the book that was concise in any way. The first five percent of the book was dedicated to drearily describing the two main character's drive to Mount Baker. That doesn't even include any background to the characters or a starting point to the journey, we just pick up on them somewhere on their way. I can now confirm that starting a book with the details of a commute is a really horrific idea. Here's the best bit of that swathe of tedium:
In the background the wipers go swish, vish.
And there lies the next big problem, and this is a big problem for a book: the writing. Here are a few other examples and bear in mind here that the main character doesn't have Tourettes.
"Ohh, loo, koo, koo, ca, koo, koo, koeew," I holler, at the top of my lungs issuing a challenge to race.
I imagine Vic Wild used this technique to win his two Olympics golds
"Wheew," I remark to myself. "No line and there's Darrin waiting for me."
...he said, talking to himself
The race is important but we have to also get the biggest sponsors; Burton, Vans, Sims they will line up like dogs for this.
Have dogs ever been renowned for being good at lining up?
We are about halfway to the top. On the right side of the road rises a behemoth. Bigger than all the rest it rises from a forest of giants. I silently give my oath of passage, "Oi, Oi, Oi," whispering, making the hang loose sign with my free hand. Darrin stops singing and also whispers an "Oi," and makes a hang loose sign. It's a tradition.
Two things: 1. How can you silently whisper? & 2. WTF?
Those passages are at least interesting because they are so bonkers, but unfortunately the rest of the writing is just endless swathes of dull. I'm going to give one example here to give you a sense of what I waded through and I'm sorry if this pushes any of you into a coma.
My musing is interrupted by the approaching unloading station. We didn't strap in because this run is flat at the top and must be skated. I get off the lift, swivelling and tucking my back foot into the space between my front foot and back binding. The first ten feet is steep but if you don't keep your speed up down this incline then you have to skate even further. Dropping in, I wobble then flatten out, gaining speed quickly, too much speed, my board wobbles harder. I fight to control myself with the toes of my front foot, putting pressure on the edge. We reach the bottom of the ramp barely avoiding wiping out on the turn. Then we skate nu pushing our boards with our back foot until we reach the downslope.
That was a whole paragraph dedicated to telling you about how the character got off a lift. A whole fucking paragraph! And it's like this the whole way through.
One of the problems with snowboarding is that it's so difficult to describe what happens during you day in a compelling way. I went up the hill, I went down the hill, I did a jump, it was good. It's hard to make it any more interesting than that, it's as impossible as painting a rainbow. Ignoring that fundamental problem, this guy ploughs on endlessly despite all evidence to suggest it isn't working. And that's just the problem with describing snowboarding, Larry Moller then also tries to do describe in detail the experience of even less interesting things, like being on a lift, driving a campervan or having lunch. And that's just trying to polish a turd, nothing is safe from being over-explained to death.
But, this writing isn't just tedious, it's wet. He's studiously avoided anything that even remotely resembles a swear word. Time and time again, he's veered spectacularly away from anything that remotely reflects the way people actually talk. Here are some of his most extreme efforts...
My mom's brownies are frick fracking killer.
Dude, you snore like a ding dang freight train.
Heck yeah that's fricking awesome!
What the fetch are you talking about?
I don't know what the fat you are talking about.
Those guys are frixk, fracking, fakwads!
Oh my lordy lord! What the fat, we got dirty dogged.
The problem is that Larry Moller might actually be the nom de plume of Ned Flanders.
Unfortunately this isn't going to be a complete review, because I can't rate the story story itself. It was your standard snowboarders versus skiers bollocks for the part I did read, but never made it to the end. It was actually hard to follow the story through all the chaff. For the first time in my snowboard book reviewing experience I didn't make it through this one. I just couldn't. I've read some awful books over the years, but this is by far the dullest. I can only assume that a shit load more really dull occurrences were described and that in the end something overwhelmingly dull occurred.
To summarise; this book needed a lot of editing, the writing was poor, wet and amazingly dull, it started badly and the story was progressing badly before I was forced to give up before I killed myself.
Here it is on Amazon
Recommendation: Frick this ding dang book, buy Belle de Neige's one. Here's another link so you can buy that one instead.
You might notice that I promised three books and only delivered two. I have read the third book, but for reasons that will be come horribly apparent, it really has to be dealt with separately. Something to look forward to if you're a fan of snowboard book reviews.
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