Review: The Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler

44084930The Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler

Published on: March 10, 2020 by St. Martins Press

Buy this book at: Amazon | B&N | Book Depository

Synopsis: In Oak Knoll, a verdant, tight-knit North Carolina neighborhood, professor of forestry and ecology Valerie Alston-Holt is raising her bright and talented biracial son. Xavier is headed to college in the fall, and after years of single parenting, Valerie is facing the prospect of an empty nest. All is well until the Whitmans move in next door – an apparently traditional family with new money, ambition, and a secretly troubled teenaged daughter.

Thanks to his thriving local business, Brad Whitman is something of a celebrity around town, and he’s made a small fortune on his customer service and charm, while his wife, Julia, escaped her trailer park upbringing for the security of marriage and homemaking. Their new house is more than she ever imagined for herself, and who wouldn’t want to live in Oak Knoll? With little in common except a property line, these two very different families quickly find themselves at odds: first, over an historic oak tree in Valerie’s yard, and soon after, the blossoming romance between their two teenagers.

Told from multiple points of view, A Good Neighborhood asks big questions about life in America today―What does it mean to be a good neighbor? How do we live alongside each other when we don’t see eye to eye?―as it explores the effects of class, race, and heartrending star-crossed love in a story that’s as provocative as it is powerful.

Rating: 1 star

Review: I have been looking forward to this book for months. The synopsis  made me expect a thriller and a tragedy all wrapped up into one. I could not have been more disappointed. Not just disappointed but angry too. I was supposed to write this review on Saturday but it just turned into a non-coherent rant with language that would make a sailor blush. So I decided to give it a few days before I tried again.

Be aware, from here on out there will be all variety of spoilers. Mainly because I am hoping that after reading all of it, you won’t have the desire to read this piece of propaganda, masquerading as a novel.

This book was an agenda. The author has political views that she feels are very important. So she constructed a story around those political views in order to make her reader feel guilty about how they felt about the book. I despise it when an author feels they need to manipulate me into thinking their worldview is so superior to any other.

First off, for an author who gives such a long winded explanation in the Acknowledgements about how she researched African American culture in order to represent them properly in her book, she did a piss poor job. There are a total of two black characters, and the mother gets very snippy if you refer to them as African American because she’s Haitian American. But apart from the author telling me their race every ten pages or so there is absolutely nothing about them that gives me any indication they are other than white. Xavier has no personality whatsoever except for us to be told how smart he is, how asexual he is, how generous and kind he is. Frankly, she tried to make him a saint. And in doing so made him barely better than a cardboard cutout. She even has the character tell us how his friends thing he should act more like he’s from the “hood”. It was insulting.

Speaking of his mother, she is an awful human being. I could tell right from the start that I wouldn’t like her. I got the feeling that the author wrote herself into this character and then changed her skin tone. I could also tell that the author was setting her up to be as “perfect” as her perfect son, and that if I disagreed with her being perfect then I was a racist. I knew that’s where this was going, and in the end, it did go that way. But she isn’t perfect. She’s a horrible, racist, sexist bigot. She decides to sue her neighbor because in the process of building his home he inadvertently killed her tree. The tree had some deeper history and some story about the slaves who used to live on the property and such, fair enough. But then she goes to see her attorney and laments that she would have preferred to hire a person of color but the white guy has better environmental credentials. And then she speculates that he’s gay and it must be nice to be able to pass as straight, she can’t pass for something beneficial as a Haitian American, people just think she’s African American and that’s not beneficial at all. She approaches every white person in the book (which is apparently the rest of the neighborhood) with an air of “you’re looking down at me because I’m not white aren’t you?”. It doesn’t matter what the person does or says, she feels the same way. Later her son asks her if she’s suing both the husband and wife and she replies no, just the husband, she assumes that he is the one who made all the decisions. In the same conversation she berates her son for dating the white neighbor girl because she’s just “so very white” and that purity vow thing she did was bizarre.

But remember, you are told very clearly on every single page that she is the good guy. The fighter for justice! All the white people are horrible and just trying to ruin the lives of anyone non-white. Every single white person in this book was a pedophile, rapist, child abuser, sexual harasser, racist good ‘ole Southern boy. Literally every single one. And yet I found her just as offensive.

Also, pretty far fetched that anyone in North Carolina would be berating a teenage girl for a purity vow. Something like 80% of North Carolina residents are devoutly Christian. So that made absolutely no sense at all except to tell me that author thinks it’s weird and so it was weird to everyone else in the book too

So, then we come to the plot. Nothing actually happens until 75% of the way through. It involves Brad trying to set up Xavier for doing something awful, because then he can stop this nonsense of his step-daughter dating him and we all know everyone wants to pin it on the “black boy next door” right? Hell, even Xavier’s own attorney (who is an African American man) tells him that he’s just too non-white for it to matter that he’s basically a saint, he better plead guilty or he’s going to prison.

Brad is setting Xavier up for rape. Because his precious step-daughter (who he has disgusting sexual fantasies about) decided to have sex with her boyfriend. Brad calls the police and says, “OMG, this kid raped her!” And somehow everyone just goes along with it. Juniper tells everyone from the police, to the doctor, to the nurse, to the district attorney that she wasn’t raped. Every single one of them just pats her hand and says, “There, there dear, lots of rape victims don’t think they were raped.” Their basis for why it was rape is that he had a knife (for cutting up food since they were in the woods) and he brought alcohol (which they both drank). Now, as thousands of women can tell you, this is the exact opposite of any experience they ever had with reporting a rape to the authorities. But of course, Valerie has the answer for that too, it’s because her son is black…they want him to be guilty so they are all willing to set him up. I don’t buy it, not for a second. Many women can tell you that the average experience of reporting rape by a complete stranger is to be met with skepticism and even more so when it’s a romantic partner. “Come on honey, are you sure this isn’t about you being mad at him? Maybe he cheated and you’re upset.” The only circumstance in which rape accusations seem to favor the woman making the accusation is on college campuses. There you have insane laws, like in California, that if a woman has been drinking then it’s automatically rape, regardless of whether the male has been drinking or not. Men of every color are routinely run out of college campuses, with no criminal proceedings but their entire futures ruined over an allegation with zero evidence. But in the world of criminal prosecution the exact opposite is true. Yet, I’m supposed to believe that a “victim” can sit here and repeatedly tell everyone on the earth that she isn’t a victim and everyone just says “hush now dear, he’s black, of course it was rape.” Please. It was cheap and disgusting.

This book made me want to vomit. It was the single most racist piece of fiction I’ve ever read. The entire book was a lecture about how white people need to stop trying to intentionally ruin the lives of minorities. I can honestly say I will never pick up a book by this author ever again. I don’t need to be lectured when I read.

Review: The Swallows by Lisa Lutz

43744294 (1)The Swallows by Lisa Lutz

Published: August 13, 2019 by Ballantine Books

Buy this book at: Amazon | B&N | Book Depository

Synopsis: A new teacher at a New England prep school ignites a gender war–with deadly consequences.

What do you love? What do you hate? What do you want?

It starts with this simple writing prompt from Alex Witt, Stonebridge Academy’s new creative writing teacher. When the students’ answers raise disturbing questions of their own, Ms. Witt knows there’s more going on the school than the faculty wants to see. She soon learns about The Ten–the students at the top of the school’s social hierarchy–as well as their connection to something called The Darkroom.

Ms. Witt can’t remain a passive observer. She finds the few girls who’ve started to question the school’s “boys will be boys” attitude and incites a resistance that quickly becomes a movement. But just as it gains momentum, she also attracts the attention of an unknown enemy who knows a little too much about her–including what brought her to Stonebridge in the first place.

Meanwhile, Gemma, a defiant senior, has been plotting her attack for years, waiting for the right moment. Shy loner Norman hates his role in the Darkroom, but can’t find the courage to fight back until he makes an unlikely alliance. And then there’s Finn Ford, an English teacher with a shady reputation who keeps one eye on his literary ambitions and one on Ms. Witt.

As the school’s secrets begin to trickle out, a boys-versus-girls skirmish turns into an all-out war, with deeply personal–and potentially fatal–consequences for everyone involved.

Rating: 1 star

Review: I picked this audiobook up on a whim. I needed something to listen to while I was working and the synopsis sounded interesting. I saw some good reviews from people that I know and thought I’d give it a whirl. I have heard a lot of praise over the years for Lisa Lutz. In the end, hopefully this book is not indicative of her work in general or I don’t think I’ll pick up another.

To put it simply this was a book with a good idea that was made to be completely nonsensical. The story features approximately five narrators along the way and all of them are basically identical. I didn’t find anything that separated the characters from one another in personality or behavior. They also introduce us to too many other characters. Half the time I had no idea who we were talking about because they mention about fifty people but only ten of them are actually important so I have no idea who anyone else is.

There’s also a lot of filler in this book. Most of the first half of the book was loooooong conversations about teenagers hooking up, who was popular, and what everyone was wearing. I swear, if Gemma went on one more rant about her outfit I would have screamed. And it just went on and on and on. Literally nothing happened for several hundred pages except sex, clothes and parties.

I don’t mind a book that’s a slow burn but this was a snail’s pace. I didn’t even realize that the revenge plot was in motion until about four pranks into it, and Gemma blatantly calls it out. I remember thinking, “Oh, we’re already in motion with this? I had no idea!”

Ms. Witt was utterly useless. She acts like she stumbles on some deep, dark secret. But it must not be too big of a secret because eight different students tell her about it and at least half the staff knows about it too. This secret is also supposed to be indicative of an embedded institutional attitude of “boys will be boys”, but it’s only been going on for five years and when the rest of the staff find out about it they are horrified. So I would hardly call that an institutional issue.

Also, I have no idea why this was portrayed as some horrible abuse on women. Yeah, the boys are talking about their sexual conquests, pitting the girls in a contest that they don’t know about. It’s not right, it’s gross, but teenage boys are functioning at a maturity level of barely above caveman. You can force feed them as much feminism as you like, he’s still going to act like a rabid animal. Because he is. There was a single instance in the book of a girl being coerced into a sexual act she didn’t want to perform, the rest of the girls were either in a relationship (or thought they were, lying for the win) or were completely willing. So, shouldn’t the real lesson here be that randomly hooking up with boys gave them fodder to act like animals and girls should value themselves more than that? That’s the message I would want my daughter getting. The only valuable thing that Mr. Witt does in this book is tell the girls that they don’t have to perform sexual acts unless they want to, and all the girls act like this is some shocking revelation to them. That’s rather sad if that’s true of teenage girls these days.

Finally, the ending was completely ridiculous. It went to a place that made no sense at all. The girls had already won. They had made an end to the contest. They had punished the boys involved. But then we go to the absolute extreme anyway. Why? You already won. It’s not smart to keep fighting a war that has already been won. And in the end the girls complained a lot about the boys not taking responsibility, but they ended up doing something far worse and took no responsibility either. This book did nothing to further any conversation about bullying, feminism, or sexual relationships between teenagers. It was just bad.

Review: The Sisters Grimm by Menna van Praag

44428333The Sisters Grimm by Menna van Praag

Published: March 31, 2020 by Harper Voyager

Buy this book at: Amazon | B&N | Book Depository

Synopsis: Once upon a time, a demon who desired earthly domination fathered an army of dark daughters to help him corrupt humanity . . .

As children, Goldie, Liyana, Scarlet, and Bea dreamed of a strange otherworld: a nightscape of mists and fog, perpetually falling leaves and hungry ivy, lit by an unwavering moon. Here, in this shadowland of Everwhere, the four girls, half-sisters connected by blood and magic, began to nurture their elemental powers together. But at thirteen, the sisters were ripped from Everwhere and separated. Now, five years later, they search for one another and yearn to rediscover their unique and supernatural strengths. Goldie (earth) manipulates plants and gives life. Liyana (water) controls rivers and rain. Scarlet (fire) has electricity at her fingertips. Bea (air) can fly.

To realize their full potential, the blood sisters must return to the land of their childhood dreams. But Everwhere can only be accessed through certain gates at 3:33 A.M. on the night of a new moon. As Goldie, Liyana, Scarlet, and Bea are beset with the challenges of their earthly lives, they must prepare for a battle that lies ahead. On their eighteenth birthday, they will be subjected to a gladiatorial fight with their father’s soldiers. If they survive, they will face their father who will let them live only if they turn dark. Which would be fair, if only the sisters knew what was coming.

So, they have thirty-three days to discover who they truly are and what they can truly do, before they must fight to save themselves and those they love.

Rating: 1 star

Review: ***Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Netgalley and Harper Voyager!***

The first thing that drew me to this book was the cover. I mean, look at it. It is probably one of the most gorgeous book covers that I have ever seen. Then the title. The Sisters Grimm. Immediately my mind is drawn to fairy tales. I love fairy tales. And I love fairy tell re-tellings. But this book is a perfect example of a good idea that got beaten to death with poor writing and poor execution.

***SPOILER ALERT: Be aware, this is a spoilery review. The ranty ones typically are.

The basic idea of this book is that a demon (Wilhelm I think his name was) has fathered thousands of sisters Grimm on earth. I am not sure if this is metaphysical thing or a biological thing, but some of the daughters have mothers who are also Grimm sisters. So, ew, I imagine at some point in the history of this world we had some incest. As children, the Grimm sisters can come and go from “Everywhere”, a magical forest, as they please. But as they age they forget this place until about a month before their 18th birthday, which is when they start to remember and get their powers back. Wilhelm also has soldiers, who are transformed into babies from stars (WTF?), and their life’s mission is to kill Grimm sisters on their 18th birthdays. Then something about the Grimm sisters who survive have to choose good or evil and then their father kills them if they choose good and then….well, the author didn’t both to tell me what happens then.

That was my first big problem with this book. Despite being 400 pages long, the author didn’t bother to explain anything to me. I have no idea how the world works, how the magic works, why things are this way, or what the rules are. I am not even clear on what the sisters’ powers are. Scarlet can start fires, Liyana can telepathically listen in on other people’s minds, Bea can transform things with her mind. And I have no idea what Goldie can do except mentally tell people what to do and they sometimes listen. And all of them have other powers that randomly appear and don’t seem to relate to anything else they can do, at all.

Since we’re talking about the girls, let’s talk about how utterly devoid of personality all of them are. I honestly could not tell the difference between any of them until someone used their name or until Bea or Liyana would occasionally throw in a non-English word into an otherwise entirely English conversation….seemingly in order to remind me that they were the book’s representation of other ethnicities and cultures.

Now let’s talk about the technicals of the writing. It was bad. It was the single most confusing book that I have ever read. There are SO MANY narrators. Everywhere (yes the forest is a narrator), Goldie, Scarlet, Bea, Liyana, Leo, Wilhelm, Liyana’s aunt….and I am pretty sure there were a few others in there that I’m forgetting too. Between these narrators, some of them are told in first person, some in second person, and some in third person. And the narrator changes approximately every page and a half. With me so far? Now let’s throw in some chapters in the past for some extra fun so that we have past tense, present tense, and future tense. It was so difficult to read. It gave me a headache when I actually tried to concentrate on who was speaking and what time period we were in.

I also don’t appreciate what the author did to poor Vali. He was a nice guy. And despite the book’s message of empowerment, all Bea did was belittle the poor guy. She called him fat, called him all sorts of other names, made fun of him for being a virgin and then ultimately killed him! Then she has the nerve to get upset about him dying because she didn’t mean to. Way to go Bea, you bullied him to death. The author did him dirty and I am still mad about it.

I finally gave up on this book after 245 pages. My brain couldn’t handle it anymore and I found that I really didn’t care how it ends. Leo is not going to kill Goldie, Goldie will probably choose good. Liyana and Scarlet will probably die because they were entirely expendable in the rest of the book so why not? And Bea will probably live and choose evil. Or maybe all four of them survive and choose good in order to challenge their father. But really, who cares? The author hasn’t made me care about their upcoming battle or told me why the outcome matters, so why should I spend any more of my time finding out?

Review: Don’t Look Down by Hilary Davidson

45170307Don’t Look Down by Hilary Davidson

Published on February 11, 2020 by Thomas & Mercer

Buy this book at: Amazon | B&N | Book Depository

Synopsis: Jo Greaver is a model of success. Young and ambitious, she’s built a thriving beauty business from nothing. But she has secrets she’ll do anything to keep buried. When her blackmailer offers to meet, Jo expects to pay him off—but gets a bullet instead. Bleeding and in shock, Jo flees with no one to turn to.

When NYPD detective Sheryn Sterling and her partner, Rafael Mendoza, find Andray Baxter murdered in his own home—shot through the heart—everything points to Jo as the killer. Her blood is at the scene, and so are disturbing photos of her taken as a young teen. But Sheryn has doubts. Was the kindhearted Andray really a criminal? Why did he repeatedly report finding spyware in his apartment? Was there something shady about Jo’s sister dying a year earlier?

Something’s not right, and it’s up to Sheryn to piece together the sinister puzzle, no matter the cost.

Rating: 1 star

Review: ***Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you NetGalley and Thomas & Mercer!***

In the interest of full disclosure, I will tell you that I did not read the entire book. I read to 150 pages and I just couldn’t stomach it anymore. Reading it was painful and I just couldn’t do it. And since I am about 98% sure I know how it’s going to end, there really wasn’t much to keep me reading any further.

This book is just not good. It’s not a good character story nor is it a good police procedural. I am not an expert in the law or police procedure, by any means, however I have read enough books and watched enough Law & Order that I know how these types of books should work. I have a basic understanding of the law and how it works and this was not even close to being accurate. This case would get thrown into the nearest paper shredder and the detectives would be berated in open court to handle a case this way.

Also, consider this your ***SPOILER WARNING***

 

Three prime examples that the author has zero idea how the police actually function:

  • The detectives go to the office of a suspect and state that they need to speak with said suspect, the fill-in receptionist advises that the suspect is not there but her office is that way so feel free to wait. Apparently this is a good enough cause for the detectives to search the suspect’s office. They do not have a warrant. They have not obtained permission unless you count the receptionist and yet they snoop through everything and decide to obtain a warrant for the suspect’s home once they find something. That is called an unlawful search and any evidence obtained in said search is automatically inadmissible in court, except in this book.
  • They go search the suspect’s home and find her boyfriend there, they do not escort the boyfriend outside or to a specific place while they conduct the search. He just follows them around from room to room, offering an opinion on what they find and being asked leading questions about their investigation. Apparently in this book a search warrant also means that you get to search anything in the home and seize anything you feel like. That isn’t how search warrants work. Typically search warrants indicate exactly what sort of evidence you believe that you will find or that you believe is relevant to the investigation. For example, a murder weapon, belongings of the victim, etc. You don’t just get to snoop and seize things on a whim because they might pertain to your investigation. Also, one of the uniform police officers is asked to crack open a safe. Which he does, in just a few minutes. Is safe cracking a typical skill for a beat cop?
  • When they find the suspect they are unconscious from blood loss. The suspect is taken to the hospital for treatment after being placed under arrest. The detectives then literally have a conversation of “Do you think we have to Mirandize her again? I don’t think it counts if they’re unconscious.” No, it doesn’t count. But apparently this is also a book that a suspect is taken into custody after suffering a gunshot wound that has left them unconscious from blood loss and they are expected in court the next day to be arraigned.

Also, on to another rant. This felt like a social justice rant. Every other page you have the African American detective making some observation about how awful things are for minorities in New York City and how wonderful white people have things. For example, “That’s assuming that the DA will arraign a wealthy white woman for possession of an illegal firearm, which isn’t likely.” Spare me. In case Ms. Davidson hadn’t noticed, she is white. And lecturing the reader about racial injustice. Personally, I am so white that I practically glow in the dark so I understand that I have very little perception of what minorities in this country experience on a day to day basis. I found it condescending for a white woman to be lecturing about the plight of another race. A plight that she does not understand.

Finally, this story is predictable. I knew how this was going to go by page fifty. All it took was one line (not a direct quote, I can’t be bothered to find it again), “If I had to pinpoint my blackmailer I would have said Lori in a second, but Lori had been dead for eighteen months.” Well there you have it folks. Two possibilities. Either Lori is not really dead and exacting revenge for some past slight. Or Lori is actually dead and someone close to her is exacting revenge for some past slight. I really don’t need to slog through 300 more painfully bad pages to find out that the ending is exactly what I think it is.

 

Review: Extinct by Charles Wilson

extinctExtinct by Charles Wilson

Published May 15th, 1997 by St. Martin’s.

Buy this book at: B&N / Amazon / Books a Million / Book Depository

 

Synopsis:

From the Gulf of Mexico’s warm shallow waters…to the deepest parts of the Pacific…terror comes to the surface…

Six-year-old Paul Haines watches as two older boys dive into a coastal river…and don’t come up. His mother, Carolyn, a charter boat captain on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, finds herself embroiled in the tragedy to an extent she could never have imagined.

Carolyn joins the marine biologist Alan Freeman in the hunt for a creature that is terrorizing the waters along the Gulf Coast. But neither of them could have envisioned exactly what kind of danger they are facing.

Yet one man, Admiral Vandiver, does know what this creature is, and how it has come into the shallows. And his secret obsession with it will force him, as well as Paul, Carolyn and Alan, into a race against time…and a race toward death.

 

Rating: 1 star

 

Review:

This book was a serious letdown. I was told that it was different from other books in the “giant shark killing people” genre. But it’s not. It is exactly the same as every other book on the subject out there, but with even more confusion and irritation.

Let me start off with a bit of a rant. I NEVER EVER EEEEVVVVVEEERR want to see any of the following in a monster megalodon shark killing people book/movie again:

 

1. A story about the megamouth shark or coelacanth. Anybody who has ever read a single one of these stories knows those stories already! We already know about how the coelcanth was thought extinct for millions of years until one was caught in 1938. I could recite the story for you word for word with the amount of times I’ve heard it in these books. And we already know that the megamouth shark wasn’t even known to exist until 1976, and so the existence of one giant shark without anyone knowing means it’s possible for the megalodon too. I KNOW THESE THINGS, STOP TELLING ME!

2. Also, can we please stop telling the story of the shark attacks on the Jersey shore in 1916. First, I know the story like the back of my hand. But also, can we please stop saying that it was a great white shark that was responsible. Some of the attacks took place in a river. The only shark known to mankind who can survive in rivers is the bull shark. The attack pattern fits a bull shark. Most scientists have been split more than 20 years ago that it was not a white shark but a bull shark, even though officially the attacks are still recorded as white shark attacks. But seriously, stop it already.

3. I realize the the Marianas Trench is a fabulous place to say that a 100 foot long shark has been hiding for millions of years, and that’s a find theory. However, then the shark comes back to shallow water and hasn’t evolved in the last however many years to reflect their new environment? They still have exactly the same coloring as a great white, which is a shallow water predator. But I have a feeling that over many millions of years spent in deep trenches with no light, these predators would have changed and evolved their coloring and hunting patterns. Why would they still need to be able to use their eyes for sight? Living in the Marianas Trench they would have no need for sight. Why would they still have dual coloring, they don’t need to disguise themselves from prey because there is no light for their prey to see them.

4. Please please please stop giving killer sharks families that they go on revenge sprees for! Sharks do not have families. Sharks do not have mates. Sharks do not care for their babies. They get pregnant (often violently) and then they give birth and the babies are on their own. Expecting me to believe that a whole family of sharks is out there and getting revenge when one of them is killed is so laughable. Two second on Google would tell you that it was stupid and ludicrous.

 

Alright, now that I’ve had my little rant, lets move on to the flaws in the writing of this book:

 

1. I did not know until 200 pages into this crappy book that it actually was taking place in different places, Florida and Mississippi. That is not the mark of a good author. I thought they were in Florida and all of a sudden someone mentions Mississippi and I had no idea where that came from.

2. I have the ability to suspend my disbelief a great deal, but I couldn’t with this. There was two 25-foot megalodons, one 50 foot megalodon, and two 200-foot megalodons….but they only manage to eat about 10 people total. What the fuck is up with that? And why are these mega-predators eating scrawny bony little humans when there are whales and seals to be had? And if these sharks had so much food to eat in the depths, why come to the surface at all? Again, no logical sense made.

3. Switching between different character POVs literally every 4 paragraphs is not an effective way to tell a story. All it did was confuse me. It took me almost the whole book to figure out who all the characters were because I never spent more than a page with any of them. Boring, and annoying.

 

If I want a giant killer shark book that is at least funny in its stupidity I’ll go back to the MEG series, because this sucked.

 

Review: Marrow’s Pit by Keith Deininger

marrows pitMarrow’s Pit by Keith Deininger

Published March 11th, 2014 by DarkFuse

Buy this story at: Amazon

 

Rating: 1 star

 

Review:

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you DarkFuse!

 

I have some problems with this short story. Actually a lot of problems. But my biggest one is that I’m fairly certain this story is a ripoff of another short story, The Machine Stops by E.M. Forster. Let me just show you what I mean.

Here is the synopsis for Marrow’s Pit:

 

Built to encompass the entire range of lifeless mountains, it had always, relentlessly, clanked on and on. Within, vast halls and endless corridors were filled with the sounds of metal on metal, with hissing steam, with squealing gears. In the eyes of its citizens, it was sacred, deified, omniscient. Enshrined in their mythology for innumerable generations, it had gone by countless designations, but its truest name was perhaps its plainest: the Machine.

For Ballard, the Machine is a place of tedium, and ignorance, and cruelty. He sees little use in his mundane job and secretly questions the purpose of the Machine. When tragedy strikes, Ballard is forced to embark on a paranoid journey that will take him outside of the Machine, and everything he’s ever known, over the edge into darkness, past the point of no return…toward the blackness known as Marrow’s Pit.

 

And here is the synopsis for The Machine Stops:

 

The story describes a world in which most of the human population has lost the ability to live on the surface of the Earth. Each individual now lives in isolation below ground in a standard ‘cell’, with all bodily and spiritual needs met by the omnipotent, global Machine. Travel is permitted but unpopular and rarely necessary. Communication is made via a kind of instant messaging/video conferencing machine called the speaking apparatus, with which people conduct their only activity, the sharing of ideas and knowledge. The two main characters, Vashti and her son Kuno, live on opposite sides of the world. Vashti is content with her life, which, like most inhabitants of the world, she spends producing and endlessly discussing secondhand ‘ideas’. Kuno, however, is a sensualist and a rebel. He persuades a reluctant Vashti to endure the journey (and the resultant unwelcome personal interaction) to his cell. There, he tells her of his disenchantment with the sanitised, mechanical world. He confides to her that he has visited the surface of the Earth without permission and that he saw other humans living outside the world of the Machine. However, the Machine recaptured him, and he has been threatened with ‘Homelessness’, that is, expulsion from the underground environment and presumed death. Vashti, however, dismisses her son’s concerns as dangerous madness and returns to her part of the world.

 

Is it just me or do those two things sound like the exact same story? Yeah, it did to me too. But The Machine Stops did it better.

This could have been more appropriately titled, Desperate Househusbands or a Lifetime Movie called The Cheating Wife. That’s all we hear about. The Machine and Marrow’s Pit are hardly discussed at all. It is never pointed out how Ballard’s tragic mistake is uncovered by the general populace, only that it is. We are never told about why his life is so unsatisfactory, or why that’s the Machine’s fault, but it is. We spend most of the time with Ballard running around having visions of his wife, hearing her voice in his head, and generally being terrified of everything. It was boring.

I cannot recommend this book. Go read The Machine Stops, it is a much better story.

 

Review: Chance by Kem Nunn

chance Chance by Kem Nunn

Published February 18th, 2014 by Scribner

Buy this book at: Amazon / B&N / Book Depository / Books a Million

 

Synopsis:

In an intense tale of psychological suspense, a San Francisco psychiatrist becomes sexually involved with a female patient who suffers from multiple personality disorder, and whose pathological ex-husband is an Oakland homicide detective—from a Los Angeles Times Book Prize-winning author.Dr. Eldon Chance is a brilliant, lonely, forensic neuropsychologist with a long track record of getting involved with damaged, complicated women. While apartment hunting after separating from his wife, a series of bad decisions leads to Chance sleeping with a patient named Jaclyn Blackstone. Unfortunately her ex-husband is an Oakland homicide detective and the jealous type. Meanwhile, Dr. Chance meets a young man who goes by “D”; Chance believes he is a war-veteran, but he is in fact a deranged loner and self-styled Samurai skilled in the art of the blade. D is fascinated by Chance’s tales of his tormented and increasingly dangerous affair with Jaclyn and advises him that her ex-husband will find a way to destroy Chance.

As Detective Blackstone does indeed threaten the doctor, Chance and D plan a counter-strike. Meanwhile Chance continues his steamy affair with Jaclyn Blackstone (or is it one of her multiple personalities?) But the sexually voracious “Jackie Black” has a story that is far more complex and darker than he could have ever imagined…

Gritty, twisted, and impossible to put down, the surprises keep coming in Chance until the final page has been turned.

 

Rating: 1 star

 

Review:

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Scribner!

 

I feel so deceived by this book, it is a classic case of false advertising. So for my review, I will go through the synopsis sentence by sentence and tell you how it was a lie.

 

 

In an intense tale of psychological suspense, a San Francisco psychiatrist becomes sexually involved with a female patient who suffers from multiple personality disorder, and whose pathological ex-husband is an Oakland homicide detective

 

First, that sentence is just too long, 33 words for one sentence. But anyway. Yes, the psychiatrist does sleep with a female patient, twice in the entire book. But it is not really his patient like the sentence implies. He sees her one time before referring her to another therapist. That’s the extent of their relationship until the doctor crosses every professional boundary there is to intentionally inject himself into her life. And ex-husband is subjective because they are still married but separated.

 

 

Dr. Eldon Chance is a brilliant, lonely, forensic neuropsychologist with a long track record of getting involved with damaged, complicated women.

 

I can’t really say whether Chance is lonely or not, all we hear about is his bitch of a soon to be ex-wife, his furniture and his obsession with Jaclyn. And I definitely wouldn’t call him brilliant because he violates the tenets of his profession in such a way as to potentially lose his license forever, puts himself in the line of fire of a maniac, and then commits several crimes. Sounds like something of an idiot actually. And if a track record can be made with a whole two instances over a lifetime, then sure he has a track record. But personally I think twice every does not really a pattern make.

 

While apartment hunting after separating from his wife, a series of bad decisions leads to Chance sleeping with a patient named Jaclyn Blackstone.

 

Apartment hunting…..sort of. He talks a lot about apartment hunting, but he doesn’t actually do it until about 300 pages in.

 

 

Unfortunately her ex-husband is an Oakland homicide detective and the jealous type.

 

Again, not an ex-husband….separated only. And Jaclyn claims he was horribly abusive and controlling, that’s just a tad bit different than jealous.

 

Meanwhile, Dr. Chance meets a young man who goes by “D”; Chance believes he is a war-veteran, but he is in fact a deranged loner and self-styled Samurai skilled in the art of the blade.

 

Because Dr. Chance is an idiot and just automatically believes everything that everyone tells him. Also he “meets” him when D creates pieces to attach to Chance’s furniture that will allow him to sell it as authentic instead of the duplicate that it is. We heard about that at length, for many chapters.

 

 

D is fascinated by Chance’s tales of his tormented and increasingly dangerous affair with Jaclyn and advises him that her ex-husband will find a way to destroy Chance.

 

Can you really call it an affair when they actually meet or speak less than 10 times, have sex only twice, and don’t really have any emotion toward each other except Chance’s obsession. Again, not an ex-husband, estranged husband.

 

 

As Detective Blackstone does indeed threaten the doctor, Chance and D plan a counter-strike.

 

Except that they have very little evidence that the detective has done anything except make a few veiled threats. So you have Crazy 1 and Crazy 2 plan to attack someone who hasn’t really done anything that they can prove. Great plan geniuses.

 

 

Meanwhile Chance continues his steamy affair with Jaclyn Blackstone (or is it one of her multiple personalities?)

 

Hardly steamy, the sex scenes were “fade to black…..so this is what happened during the time we didn’t see Chance. Vague details….vague details….his prostate is sore.” Wow, I am so turned on right now! /sarcasm  And who really cares if she has more than one personality, the author barely mentions it so why should it matter to me?

 

 

But the sexually voracious “Jackie Black” has a story that is far more complex and darker than he could have ever imagined…

 

Well….not really. Complex and dark if you imagine that she had a history that she didn’t tell Chance, to whom she spoke only a handful of times. Oh the horror! Also, this pissed me off. It implies that she is setting him up somehow, or has a larger plan at work than what she reveals, or is seducing him for some darker purpose. Except she isn’t. It’s exactly the way it appears to be.

 

 

Gritty, twisted, and impossible to put down, the surprises keep coming in Chance until the final page has been turned.

 

Gritty…not really, try boring and overloaded with details that don’t matter. Twisted, I guess so but only if we’re counting Chance’s psyche. Impossible to put down….actually I couldn’t wait to put it down. Surprises until the last page! The only surprise was that Chance got exactly what he wanted. The story ends and there are no repercussions at all for any of the bad choices he made. Gee, great, feel surprised? A HEA ending for a scumbag.

 

 

 

 

What You Don’t Know About Religion (But Should) by Ryan T. Cragun

religionWhat You Don’t Know About Religion (But Should) by Ryan T. Cragun

Published March 15th 2013 by Pitchstone Publishing

Buy this book at: Book Depository / Amazon / B&N

Synopsis:

What is a religion? Why are people religious? Are religious people more educated than nonreligious people? Are religious people more moral, more humble, or happier? Are religious people more or less prejudiced than nonreligious people? Is religion good for your health? Are people becoming more or less religious? Studying religion as a social phenomenon, Ryan T. Cragun follows the scientific data to provide answers to these and other questions. At times irreverent, but always engaging and illuminating, What You Don’t Know About Religion (but Should) is for all those who have ever wondered whether religion helps or hurts society—or questioned what the future holds for religion.

Rating: 1 star

Review:

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

There are really only a few things you need to know about this book:

“I could have approached this book that way (highly scientific and detailed), But had I done that my audience would have dropped considerable. So I did simplify things.”

No, I swear to God that particular misspelling actually is in the book. But just remember, this book was written for dummies, that will be important later.

“Our new world needs tolerance.”

“When I was religious, I was very arrogant.”

“If you’re on the fundamentalist bandwagon, it’s time to get off……We nonreligious will inhereit the earth, but we won’t share it with fundamentalists.”

“What I hope to have done with this book, however, is undermine and destroy the appeal of religious fundamentalism.”

“To my mind the scientific research suggested to me a logical path – to reject religion. You need not do that. You could choose the best religious alternative to that: liberal religion. I can respect that choice.”

“After people read this book, they should view religious fundamentalists with sympathy and a bit of scorn.”

“Religious fundamentalists are detriments to society and they should be treated as such. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting that we round them up and lock them away – that would be awful and is unethical. I’m suggesting that you should think about religious fundamentalists as though they are misogynistic, racist, homophobic Luddites, because they are.”

“…but you can pity then, and frankly, I think it is perfectly fine to tell then that you do. Tell them that you feel sorry for their choice to oppose the qualities of a progressive, modernized, advanced, democratic society. It’s time that religious fundamentalists were considered socially deviant.”

So, am I the only disturbed by these quotes? Tolerance huh? Yes, this is a very tolerant book! It will tell you for 250 pages that the highly religious are dumber, less well off, less educated, more prejudiced, more violent, misogynistic, homophobic, hypocritical, arrogant racists. I wanted to give this book a fair shot, I really did. The author is a former Mormon, and so am I. I was a fourth generation Mormon, born into the faith and I stayed long past the time I started to have doubts. I finally left the religion and frankly it left a bad taste in my mouth. So I wanted to agree with this author! And I couldn’t! Because I have never read a more prejudiced and hateful book by a more arrogant author in all my life.

This book was purported to be about the social science of how and why people are religious, and whether or not religion is really such a benefit to people’s lives as it claims to be. This intrigued me. But what I got was “look at this graph, this is what that graph tells us. now look at this graph, this is what it tells us. shit, religious people suck!” And rinse and repeat for 200 something pages. I learned nothing about religion and everything I ever needed to know about the author’s character.

Now, by this point the author will probably tell you one of two things about me (and he admits it in his book). If I don’t agree with his points then:

A. I am a religious fundamentalist who just is socially deviant and can’t understand simple logic, even though the book was written for dummies. Everyone should point and laugh at the idiot with a God.

B. I didn’t read the book all the way through and so therefore I failed to grasp it.

Let’s address this. First, I did read this pile of garbage until the very last sentence. And I learned nothing and have thoroughly wasted my time. Also I am one of the people who would be classed as “non religious” in his book. I am now a Pagan and have been since a few years after I left the Mormon church. I have faith in many things and I practice my faith in private, but I do not participate in a religion with others.

Save yourself the time and find an actual book about the science of religion, because this one is just thinly veiled hateful spew about religious people and religion in general. Oh, who am I kidding, there is no veil!

Flash Point by Nancy Kress

flash pointFlash Point by Nancy Kress

Published November 8th, 2012 by Viking Juvenile

Buy this book at: Books a Million / Book Depository / Amazon / B&N

 

Synopsis:

Reality TV meets a chillingly realistic version of America—and the fame game is on!

Amy had dreams of going to college, until the Collapse destroyed the economy and her future. Now she is desperate for any job that will help support her terminally ill grandmother and rebellious younger sister. When she finds herself in the running for a slot on a new reality TV show, she signs on the dotted line, despite her misgivings. And she’s right to have them. TLN’s Who Knows People, Baby—You? has an irresistible premise: correctly predict what the teenage cast will do in a crisis and win millions. But the network has pulled strings to make it work, using everything from 24/7 hidden cameras to life-threatening technology to flat-out rigging. Worse, every time the ratings slip, TLN ups the ante. Soon Amy is fighting for her life—on and off camera.

 

Rating: 1 star

 

Review:

Short version – This book sucked.  Nothing happens.  Not a damn thing.  Then suddenly the author seems to remember they are writing a book to interest people and something happens.  Then the book is over.  Save your money and buy a book where something, ANYTHING happens.

Long version – I was really looking forward to this book, it’s embarrassing just how much.  I wanted to love it so much that I pre-ordered it months before it was released.  Then I started seeing a lot of bad reviews and had an “uh oh, did I screw this royally?” moment.  The premise interested me because it sounded a tiny bit like The Hunger Games but in a more tame fashion.  Interesting, and I was willing to give it a shot despite my sudden misgivings.

I have seen people speculating that the grammar or spelling errors might be because they got an uncorrected ARC copy…it wasn’t.  There were many times when I did a double take and said to my book “what the hell is that supposed to say…because it definitely doesn’t say whatever it is!”.  I got annoyed that they kept calling Kaylie different names.  One paragraph its Kaylie, the next paragraph (no joke, literally the next paragraph) it was Kayla. It confused the hell out of me.  There were enough characters for me to keep track of, I didn’t need one with two names.

Amy was an idiot.  A irredeemable idiot.  First, she applies for a job without having any idea what the job is.  Who does that?  Idiot Amy does.  Then, she signed a legally binding contract for the mystery job without even bothering to read it…or even skim it!  It was at that moment that I knew Amy and I wouldn’t get along.  But not only was she a complete moron, she was boring too.  I sort of agreed with the emails she got later in the book that said she did nothing and was a waste of air time.  She was a waste of book time too.  And she treated her sister like shit, then I branded her total Grade A bitch status.

The plot was just so dull.  9 out of the 10 scenarios were laughably stupid.  The book jacket says that they kept upping the ante until Amy and the others are fighting for their lives both on screen and off screen.  Wait, hold on.  Where is THAT book?  Because it sure as shit isn’t the book I just read!  The scenarios were all boring and much the same.  I didn’t see any upping the ante at all.  Then suddenly we get to the last scenario and they are breaking the law and trying to kill people.  What the actual fuck?  Boring to illegal in 2.5 pages!  But by then I didn’t fall for the bullcrap because I’d seen the same tactic in the 9 other scenarios so that made it not only implausible but also predictable.

Stupidest love triangle….square….ever.  So not only did the love triangle suck but they tried to make it a love square, which was weird and made even less sense than the love triangle.  Naturally one of the guys was the pretty boy who everyone falls in love with.  The other guy I actually liked.  But only one of them ever seemed to be interested in Amy at all, but Amy was only interested in the other guy until he did something she didn’t like and then she was all over (literally) the guy who had been flirting with her from day one.  Then they tried to throw in another person and it just got weird and stupid and I didn’t believe any of it at all.  Amy was boring, the other girl was a manipulative bitch.  What’s to like?!

And now for some notes for other authors to learn from this train wreck:

1. When you are writing a dystopian novel in which everything has changed drastically from the way we know it, explain how that happened!  And exactly what happened!  Just referring to everything as “pre-Collapse.” isn’t helpful.  I don’t know what the fuck the Collapse was or did!?  Tell me for the love of almighty Goddess!  Just a few paragraphs to explain the backstory would have been sufficient, or a prologue.  Anything!

2. Stop with the love triangles already.  Seriously, it’s gotten old.  And if you have to do it, can you at least make it interesting?  A 3 girl love triangle?  A 2 girls, 1 guy triangle?  A 3 girl love triangle?  At this point I’d take just about everything other than 2 guys head over heels in love with the most boring girl on the planet.

3. Unless your book is a comedy, if I’m laughing to the point of tears you’ve failed….badly.  Take heed.

4. If you are going to give your heroine some kind of special power, at least tell me what it actually is.  I read an entire book and I have not a clue about what Amy’s phantoms were or what purpose they served.

5. If you are writing in a character who is giving your heroine hints about what’s to come as a warning, please make sure those hints make sense.  Maybe it’s because Amy was an idiot that she didn’t get it earlier, but I didn’t get it either.  Two vague words does not a warning make.  Make it clear or I really won’t give a damn.

6. Please, stop the endless lists of designer brands.  At a certain point I start thinking that they are paying you for product placement.  Then I start to giggle.  Then when I get tired of giggling, I just skim the rest of your shitty tome.

7. If your own characters tell me how much something sucks, don’t write it.  Otherwise I will sit there and nod and go “yep character A, you’re write that’s fucking stupid.”

Don’t buy this book, I beg you.  If you absolutely have to read it then get it from the library or a friend who already wasted their money on it.  It’s not worth it.  It’s not even worth the paper it’s printed on.

Lost Souls by Lisa Jackson

lost soulsLost Souls by Lisa Jackson

Published March 25th, 2008 by Kensington

Buy this book at: Books a Million / Book Depository / Amazon / B&N

 

Synopsis:

Kristi Bentz wants to write true crime. All she needs is that one case that will take her to the top. She finds it when she enrolls at All Saints College after learning that four girls have disappeared in less than two years.

All four girls were “lost souls”–troubled, vulnerable girls with no one to care about them, no one to come looking for them if they disappeared. The only person that believes Kristi is her ex-lover, Jay McKnight, a professor on campus. The police think they’re runaways, but Kristi senses there’s something that links them–something terrifying. . .

As Kristi gets deeper into her investigation, she gets the feeling she’s being watched and followed–studied, even. Then the bodies start turning up, and Kristi realizes she is playing a game with a killer who has selected her for membership in a special club from which there will be no escaping death.

 

Rating: 1 star

 

Review:

Lisa Jackson, what is happening with you? You’ve made me sad, very sad.  I have been a fan of this series, and another of hers too, from the first book.  The last book in this series disappointed me but it still had a few strong points.  This book not only was disappointing, there were no strong points.  Every sentence of this book reminded me of every other book in the series so far.  And Kristi just irritated the living hell out of me.  However, I am getting ahead of myself.

Let’s address Kristi first.  In the beginning I liked Kristi quite a bit.  She was intelligent, sassy, street savvy, and one of the better characters in my opinion.  But somewhere along the way Kristi lost her brain.  It might have fallen out her ear when she was abducted by a serial killer in the last book.  I’m just not sure what happened.  First, she seems to have trouble remembering whether she likes her stepmother or not.  In one paragraph she says that she likes her and just a page later she says that they don’t really get along too well.  Well, which is it?  Then she moves and becomes obsessed with missing girls at her college.  Gee, that sounds smart!  Next thing you know, she’s running around doing all those TSTL things that make me despise so many YA heroines.  For the record ladies, it is NEVER a good idea to walk home in the dark when you know someone is watching you just because you’re too stubborn to let your ex drive you home.  Things like that made her really get on my nerves.  Also ignoring her instincts.  Her instincts are excellent for sensing trouble, unfortunately she’s too stupid to listen to them.   She actively recognizes that her instincts are correct and then disregards them.

The plot has been done so many times in this series.  Kristi must have a serial killer attractant tattooed on her ass, because she seems to be the perfect victim type for every serial killer on the planet.  Which brings me to another plot point.  The actual whodunnit was not that great of a reveal.  One part of it was painfully obvious, to the point where the characters were making observations about how obvious it was.  The other two were so obscure that not a single clue was given through the entire book over who it was.  But in the end there was nothing about the plot that was different or new and exciting.  It was just like all the other books in the series except more boring.

One last annoyance, isn’t this series about Bentz and Montoya?  We hardly saw either of them at all.  Kristi should never have been a main part of this series because she just isn’t interesting enough.  All the good people got taken out and the book suffered for it.