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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Snark Week Double Down- Just STFU.



Time for round 2- today's topic!  Today is all about tired, saggy old tropes that need to be retired. What elements in books need to just go away.  It's a Sharknado of bad writing, stupid ideas, lazy plotting, corner cutting, and other things that go bump in the night.


Childhood abuse/sex abuse as a stand in for character development.  Authors everywhere- can we collectively agree that there has to be a better way to get people to empathize with your characters than by subjecting them to childhood abuse or sexual abuse?  Here's what I mean, so don't get it twisted- abuse happens, it is real, and it is terrible.  It is also not something that should ever be perceived as "everywhere" or "normal" and that's what it feels like when seemingly every book and every character has someone with this sort of back story going on that is never addressed outside of a revenge killing for the perpetrator or a magical healing through the power of glittery genitalia for the characters.  Breaking the cycle of abuse in real life is a little more complicated than three hundred pages between emotional wreckage and happily ever after.  Cheapening people's experiences by having a nebulous idea stand in for back story is just wrong.

Why should I trust you? Because you have to! This is a tricky storyline to work because it can get redundant in a hurry, and often does.  Our characters end up going in circles and the story descends into quicksand and I lose interest, which is sad.

Weird descriptions of body parts, both male and female. 

Phonetic spelling of accents.  Please.  We can trust that someone sounds British, or Scottish, or southern, or whatever, without you spelling it for us.

People who are really good at solving mysteries and really bad at everything else.  I'm in a book club where we read exclusively cozy mysteries, and this is an issue we have over and over again.  You get a detective who can look at a jar of jelly that's out of place and figure out the whole mystery, but she can't manage to notice that her milkshake brings two different boys to the yard?  Incidentally, I'm not making up the jelly jar thing, because that really happened in one of the books we read.  There's only room for one dysfunctional mystery solving gang in my heart, people.

Factual inaccuracies.  Especially if the rest of the story has been all about dropping little tidbits to prove just how many Wikipedia pages were used as research for the story.

Bad editing- spelling errors, grammar mistakes, etc.  Or oh lord, when a whole page is missing! I'm not saying I'm perfect and that my grammar and spelling always shine like the perfect angels that they are, but I'm also not charging you actual money to read what I have to say.  F7 is your friend.

I'm sure there are more, but you know what they say...

Snark Week Double Down- The Worst Books. The. Worst.



Aw crap, I missed a day!  Lucky for you, that means you get twice as many snarktastic, bite-sized witticisms from yours truly.  Try to contain yourself!

Anyway, the topic from yesterday was a feeding frenzy of the worst books I've ever read.  I have to say, once I stopped reading books submitted for review, the number of times I wanted to throw a book out the window went down dramatically.  I guess it goes to show that reading outside your comfort zone isn't always a good thing.

But wait, there's more!  Before this blog returned to its roots as a lark for my own amusement, after I finished books such as these, I actually put words into sentences to describe the pain of having read them!  It seemed like a good idea at the time.

With that said, here are, with linked proof and in no particular order, the worst books I've read.  No particular order because let's face it, there comes a point where rankings simply don't mean anything any more. Nothing means anything anymore.

Styx's Storm by Lora Leigh.  Ugh.  It started off bad, got worse, and never redeemed itself.  Admittedly, this is a series to read for entertainment and not for its...academic merits...but this is proof that everything can be overdone.  Oh, and that having an editor is a good thing.  Adding insult to injury is the fact that I paid money for this, and it was an ebook, so I can't even give the book away to someone and never have to see it again.  First world problems, I guess, but the terrible relationship, bad writing, horrible plot, and everything else made this a disappointment from start to finish. And can I just say, it says something that four years later, when asked to write a list of the worst books ever, this was the first one I thought of? Again, ugh.



Caleb by Sarah McCarty- Boy, nothing like taking high expectations for a fun book and dashing them to tiny pieces by having the characters talk things to absolute death.  And now that I look back at the cover of this book, is it just me or does it look like Photoshop did something painful to this guy's rib cage?








Desire Untamed by Pamela Palmer- I remember being SO ANGRY about this book when I read it back in my early blogging days.  This was back when J.R. Ward was becoming a thing so the lookalike books were starting out in full force.  This one was a nauseating hot mess.  I remember having to decide if I wanted to take time to review books I really loathed and thinking YES, the world must know what one person on the internet thinks of this book!  I don't know if it helped or not, but if this review saved one person from reading this mess, it was worth it.



Original Sin by Allison Brennan- This book marked the first appearance of the Shutuposaurus here on the blog, a feat which has never been repeated.  Ugh.









The Host by Stephenie Meyer- My review of this horrorshow appears to have been sucked into the black hole of the Internet, but the deep hurting of this snorefest will live on forever.






Oh, the agony!  Which books make your list of worst ever?

Monday, August 11, 2014

Like a Great White Snark on Snark Week


So the lovely Rachel at Parajunkee knew I was coming, apparently, and baked a cake, because it's Snark Week!  It's time to cut loose and get snarky, with a different post each day on a different topic.  The snark usually flows pretty freely around here, because that's how I roll, but now it's like a convention! Hooray!

With that said, it's time for the gloves to come off.

 Things That Piss Me Off

1. Rafflecopter Rabies. I'm not talking about the actual software or site, or whatever, I'm talking about the fact that it's EVERYWHERE.  I don't want to follow your facebook/tweet your twats/instagram your lunch/comment/like you/send you a birthday gift/whatever.  I don't care how awesome your prize is.  I don't care how many easy entries you have.  The mere presence of eight hundred ways to enter your giveaway has made me not want to do any of them.  Sorry not sorry.

2. You lack a sense of humor and it shows in your writing.  Yes, you.  You don't have to share my sense of humor (although it's nice if you do) but if you don't have one, I can't relate to you. Don't give me that business about wanting to write a book or wanting to break into publishing or wanting a pony.  There are plenty of ways to be creative and be an individual without being generic.  I hardly think being dull as a beige room is going to help your creative career.  

3.  You have continued sending me review requests even though the review policy says I'm not accepting them. Double demerits if you sent me the email but addressed it to someone else.

4. Why does everything have to have a password now? I think I just became old.

5. That moment when you realize that all your blogging gripes that immediately come to mind are things that happened in 2013.  

So what about you? What really grinds your gears?


Friday, July 11, 2014

Review: My Boyfriend Barfed in My Handbag, and Other Things You Can't Ask Martha

Title: My Boyfriend Barfed in my Handbag...And Other Things You Can't Ask Martha
Author: Jolie Kerr
Page Count: 256 pages
Publisher: Plume
Genre: Nonfiction
Copy for review obtained via the public library

Back Cover Summary:
The author of the hit column “Ask a Clean Person” offers a hilarious and practical guide to cleaning up life’s little emergencies

Life is filled with spills, odors, and those oh-so embarrassing stains you just can’t tell your parents about. And let’s be honest: no one is going to ask Martha Stewart what to do when your boyfriend barfs in your handbag.

Thankfully, Jolie Kerr has both staggering cleaning knowledge and a sense of humor. With signature sass and straight talk, Jolie takes on questions ranging from the basic—how do I use a mop? —to the esoteric—what should I do when bottles of homebrewed ginger beer explode in my kitchen.

My Boyfriend Barfed in My Handbag proves that even the most nightmarish cleaning conundrums can be solved with a smile, the right supplies, and a little music.
*****

I don't honestly remember where I first heard about this book but I'm glad I read it because it was super fun!  I know, I know, the phrase "super fun" isn't one you're likely to associate with a book about cleaning and stain removal and all that jazz, but it's totally the truth!

The book tackles a variety of topics, from which cleaner is best for which surface, to stain removal (and I do mean stain removal- if it comes out of an organism, Jolie Kerr talks about how to get it off your stuff,) to laundry strategies for various fabrics, to getting rid of odors, to sanitizing surfaces, the list goes on. There are plenty of charts that organize the information for easy reference later, and plenty of letters to the author that lay out the kind of nasty, nasty messes that people need to clean up.

This would be a great book to give to someone who's now in charge of their own chores- first apartment, etc. It's written in such a style that a person wouldn't be offended by getting a book on how to clean (there's never a moment where a person feels like they're dirty) and this is an area where you don't know this information until the situation is at hand, so to speak (how do you get nail polish out of carpet anyway?)

A big part of that is the writing is effervescent and fun, and the tone is lighthearted throughout- people are nasty, it's true, and the important part is to get the mess taken care of, isn't it?

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Review: Shield of Winter

Title: Shield of Winter
Author: Nalini Singh
Page Count: 431 pages
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: paranormal romance
Copy for review was purchased by me

Back Cover Summary:
Assassin. Soldier. Arrow. That is who Vasic is, who he will always be. His soul drenched in blood, his conscience heavy with the weight of all he’s done, he exists in the shadows, far from the hope his people can almost touch—if only they do not first drown in the murderous insanity of a lethal contagion. To stop the wave of death, Vasic must complete the simplest and most difficult mission of his life.

For if the Psy race is to survive, the empaths must wake…

Having rebuilt her life after medical “treatment” that violated her mind and sought to stifle her abilities, Ivy should have run from the black-clad Arrow with eyes of winter frost. But Ivy Jane has never done what she should. Now, she'll fight for her people, and for this Arrow who stands as her living shield, yet believes he is beyond redemption. But as the world turns to screaming crimson, even Ivy’s fierce will may not be enough to save Vasic from the cold darkness…
*****

Is there really anything left that I can say to convince you to read this series if you haven't already?  This is installment thirteen and it's just as captivating as the first.  The overall story keeps evolving and adding layers without losing cohesiveness, and it's apparent that the big conflicts that have been brewing since page one of the first book are coming to a head.

One of my most favorite things about this series, out of many, is that you never know which details are going to come back from previous books and be pivotal elements in the story you're reading now.  For example, at the same time that I'm writing this review, I'm listening to the second book (Visions of Heat) as an audiobook, and in that book Sahara Kyriakus is mentioned one time, in one line.  I don't think we hear her name again until she shows back up as the leading lady in book 12 (Heart of Obsidian.)  This is insane, in a totally fun way.  Details like that coming back in a logical way makes for a really cohesive, thorough and engaging story, and is also a reason why you should get to work listening to the books in this series as audiobooks, my thoughts on which will be the subject of another post entirely.

Anyway, the starring couple this time around are Vasic and Ivy- Ivy is new to us, but Vasic has made several appearances in previous installments so we knew we were getting broody, broody backstory when his turn to be the star finally came.  Indeed, we certainly did- Vasic has been an Arrow for 25 years, which means he was brutally trained as a child and has been assassinating, covering up assassinations, and making people/evidence/information/whatever disappear since then.  He is clearly portrayed as a good man who has been forced to do bad things; as a result, he doesn't think he's worthy of anyone's love or affection and that the only way he can atone for his past sins is to exit the world, stage right.

Good thing Ivy has other plans.  Ivy is an interesting character because she's been rehabilitated, which means she's experienced the psychic wipe that's only been a threat to other characters in the past. She's experienced the worst thing, short of death, that could happen to a Psy, and not only has she survived, but her family has rallied around her and gone off the grid to support her and prevent anyone from ever hurting her again.  She's experienced loyalty firsthand, so she's fully conscious of the choice she's making when she throws her lot in with Vasic (and she does throw her lot in with him- hope that wasn't a spoiler.)

Our cast of characters is up against some pretty gruesome stuff in this installment as the deterioration of the PsyNet takes a deadly turn.  There had been a lot of rumors circulating that this was the second to last book in the series, and I can see, based on the events included here, why people might think that- the author wrote a blog post (What's Next for the Psy-Changeling Series) that dismisses that as pure rumor- I know I'm happy about that!  Through it all, though, the message of this story is that you have to choose to be happy, and be judged by your actions of today.  Vasic didn't have a choice about the things that he was forced to do in the past, but he does have a choice now.  Ivy isn't about to let him back out and be noble when he needs to grab life by the short and curlies and decide to be a better man.




Wise words, indeed.  Thank you, Zombie.

I'm excited that we'll get another Psy-Changeling story this year when the Night Shift anthology comes out this fall, and incidentally, that anthology is one of my most anticipated books for the rest of this year.  The good times just keep on rolling at this point!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Sci Fi? Romance? Comics? Count Me In!

Hello friends! It's been awhile, hasn't it? Yes, yes it has. I wanted to share this excellent project with you, as summer approaches and fun, engaging reads are the name of the game:



Yup, a comic anthology featuring stories that blend science fiction and romance.  Yum!  I backed it simply on the artwork but I'm looking forward to a diverse selection of stories as well.  As of this writing it's 73% funded with 10 days to go, so there is still work to be done.  Check it out!


Saturday, January 25, 2014

Thinking About...The Professional by Kresley Cole


I've been going back and forth about what I want to write about this series since I finished installment three last Monday.  I hadn't even planned on reading this when it first came out back in December but ended up giving it a shot when a significant chunk of it was free from the author as a teaser.  I originally wasn't a fan of the serial release but the fact that holiday hysteria occurred in between the various release dates meant that the wait wasn't that much of an issue.  I was reasonably confident that I would at least enjoy the writing in this story, because I love both the IAD series and the author's previous historical releases, so I figured all would be well.

All was well, for the most part.  The classic Kresley Cole snark was present in force and it was fun to read it coming from someone who wasn't a thousand year old immortal.  The story was decent- the focus is definitely on the evolution of the relationship between the two leads with a little bit of Russian mafia whatnot thrown in to break up the sex scenes.  The sex scenes comprise most of the word count and are not for the faint of heart or fans of blush romances.  I've not read Fifty Shades or anything by Sylvia Day (hard to believe, I know) but fans of those series would find a lot to like here, I think.  Overall each installment brought a pleasant read and the price tag for each one ($1.99) was easy to handle.  Most of my famous authors have first release in hardback at this point so an inexpensive Kindle book is a fun event indeed.

And yet...there was something about this story that left me with a funny taste in my mouth at the end.  Not disappointment, per se, more...a feeling that the dust hadn't quite settled.  I was surprised- normally I finish a Kresley Cole book and I'm ready to stand up and shout hooray and go back and read everything I own from her backlist in one sitting without blinking.  I was puzzled, and it took a couple of days for me to put my finger on what the issue was for me.

Spoilers ahead.  Ye be warned.

The first person narrative in these installments was challenging for me- I admit I got a little tired of Natalie's me, me, me after awhile.  We didn't get the point of view of any other characters for comparison so I felt like a lot of other story elements were there to account for the fact that the sex between Natalie and Sevastyan wasn't completely 24/7.  There were a lot of other avenues I would have enjoyed exploring, and the descriptions of the settings were so lush and vivid that I wanted to know more about that stuff instead of dealing with Natalie's relationship problems.

I had issues with the addressing of Sevastyan's past history as well.  Here's where it's about to get really spoilery so you have absolutely no excuse if you keep reading.  It turns out that Sevastyan's childhood was even more horrific than we had imagined previously- physical/verbal/sexual abuse, homelessness, and eventually the event that saved him was being assumed into organized crime, where he's been ever since.  He has strong opinions about the implications of his sexual proclivities and we know from part 2 that he was reluctant to indulge in those proclivities with Natalie, even though she was raring to try them all out and it would have been completely consensual.  We knew he had issues- we didn't truly grasp how serious those issues were.  The climax of the story is a scene between Natalie and Sevastyan where he finally discloses all of these things to Natalie in an effort at full disclosure to save their relationship.  I wasn't cool with the fact that he disclosed these things under duress, from Natalie.  If the gender roles were reversed and he had pushed and pushed for Natalie to either disclose every detail about her past or face the fact that the relationship was over, I would have said he was an abusive misogynist and thrown the book across the room. I was pretty close to doing that here too.

The resolution of these issues is, for me, where the author's skill as a writer really shines through.  Right when I was about to get upset and disconnect from the story, Natalie realizes the position that she has put Sevastyan in.  It hits her like a bolt of lightning- what she's asking from him is huge, and forcing him into a corner isn't something that would make the basis of a good relationship. Even though the topic is something they would eventually have to explore, forcing someone to tell you about their past under duress isn't cool.  It's not enough that she's offered to let him know every detail of her past, because her past isn't all that scandalous. His is.  She also has to confront the reality that although she may have a lot of vicarious sexual experience and he has a lot of actual sexual experience, neither one of them knows jack squat about having actual, successful adult relationships.

Also, and it might have been explained in the story, I didn't get a clear picture of how long these two knew each other- I can understand attraction being immediate, but I wasn't sure if they had known each other all that long, and if maybe these big revelations would have come more naturally with a little more time or a little less stress, like fewer people getting murdered and all that.

Anyway, the big revelation for me as a reader was the realization that the author had done a really great job of portraying Natalie exactly as she was billed- 24 years old, not a lot of life experience, stepping into several totally new worlds all at once and realizing abruptly that none of those worlds is as it seems on the surface.  Natalie was very multifaceted and it was okay that there were facets that I didn't care for.  Real people are hard to classify as totally likable or totally unlikable.  It's easy to portray someone as a hero or a villain but harder to put them somewhere in the middle.

The door is definitely open for more books in this series so it will be interesting to see what develops from here.  I'd be open to possibilities, and the adventure of trying something new from an author I really love cemented for me the fact that I really love her writing.  Now, I can more clearly identify what it is I love about it.  What's not to like?

Have you read this series? What did you think of it?
 
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