Getting Past Book Three (An Argument for Trilogies)

November 23, 2012

I am completely depressed because I just finished books 5 and 6 on the Bibliophile Mysteries by Kate Carlisle and they were...not good. I finished book 6 a week ago and I am still bummed, let me tell you.

This series is not a super-fantastic font of fabulous reading, but books 1-4 were decently-written, light and fun mysteries with a splash of romance. The heroine, Brooklyn Wainwright, is a book-binder and restores books, teaches classes, and has fun with a funky family and friends. You learn a bunch about rare books, book-binding, paper-making and related talents, and I have a total weakness for that kind of thing. Yeah, I am One of Those People. I enjoyed A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness, not because of the popular vampire element, but because I am a sucker for characters who spend hours at the Bodleian library at Oxford.

I know. It's a problem.

Brooklyn finds herself in the middle of a murder mystery in book 1, and acquires hunky boyfriend, former MI6 agent and current owner of an international security company Derek Stone by the end of the book. So, we are all set for a series of mysteries with Brooklyn and Derek teaming up to discover dead bodies and find the murderer, all within 250 pages or so.

Sounds good to me. I spent books 1-4 enjoying libraries, rare book collections, book-binding, Brooklyn and Derek and their friends and family, and, of course, a few murders.

I downloaded books 5 and 6 last week and looked forward to reading them during a long weekend trip to Pennsylvania. Lots of car time to fill. One Book in the Grave strains even my limits of credibility - and I am pretty forgiving. Friend who has been dead for 3 years turns up not-so-dead? OK. Reason for faking his death? Anonymous threats to his fiance. He couldn't keep placing her in danger. Huh? The story goes downhill from there. And book 6 was even worse. Peril in Paperback sets itself up as an update of And Then There Were None and epically fails. Nothing in this books makes sense. Logic-challenged elements include police who can't get to the house to investigate the murder or even collect the body; Gabriel, Brooklyn's mysterious, espionage-inclined friend shows up at the house for no apparent reason; an unrelated-to-the-characters-or-the-plot orphaned baby is delivered to the door for Brooklyn's lesbian friends. Derek also shows up because he misses Brooklyn, and he is all rumpled on arrival since he drove a Jet-ski to get there. Whoa, what? Yeah, it's winter in Tahoe, snow on the ground, Jet-Ski. And his clothes are not wet.

And in all the WTF-ness, I pondered the whole series idea and decided that the magic book number is three, Harry Potter being one possible exception. I've read a lot of book series, it turns out. J.D. Robb In Death series? Ugh. Checked out after about book 4. Laurie King's Mary Russell books - same thing; God of the Hive was awful (first 3 or 4 books are fabulous though, highly recommend). George R.R. Martin? I got halfway through the latest Song of Ice and Fire</em> - and halfway was 450 freakin' pages - and just said, I can't do this.

Meg Gardiner's Evan Delaney series was great and creepy and fresh - and she stopped at book five, which may have been smart, despite the fact that she stopped so she could concentrate on her Jo Beckett series, which isn't nearly as good. Jim Butcher's Dresden Files. Karen Marie Moning's Fever series. Clan of the Cave Bear books by Jean Auel. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon - now there is a classic example of a series that needed to end 3 books ago. And the first book was So. Damn. Excellent. Gah!

Anything written by James Patterson.

The Chronicles of Narnia! Did ANYONE really read The Silver Chair after about page 10? No. Don't lie. You know you didn't.

Not that stopping at three is the answer - as illustrated by Fifty Shades of Grey, some authors needed to stop at one. Or none. But think about it. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins - didn't care for how she wrapped it up, but she wrapped it up in a trilogy and didn't leave anyone thinking it should have been shorter (or longer, for that matter). His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman. The Millenium Series - aka The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - by Stieg Larsson.

The Lord of the Rings...although, really, am I the only one who skimmed big gobs of The Two Towers?

And then there are the authors who take YEARS to get to the next book. I'm talkin' about you, Patrick Rothfuss (Kingkiller Chronicles). And you, Scott Lynch (Gentlemen Bastard Series). Geez, don't even get me started...


Fifty Shades of Boredom

October 4, 2012


I wanted to see what all the fuss was about - Fifty Shades of Gray, the ebook, self-published (and, back in the day, free) sensation by E.L. James that so rocked the nation with all kinds of revelations about the female sexual psyche. All us wimmin, we're reading books that have sex scenes in them! Who knew?

I like a good romance novel myself, so I logged into my account on the Midwest Library Collaborative and put my name on the waiting list. "You are patron 980 out of 1012." Wow. I have never, ever, seen a waiting list that long. I calculated that I might be able to download the book in about 2 years, thought about giving up my virtual place in line, but shrugged and thought "Eh, what the hell."

While I was waiting, I found a sample chapter somewhere online and read it. The experience made me even more content to simply wait a few years to read the book. Anastasia and Christian...well, fifty shades (less, really - maybe, like, 10) of gray could describe their personalities and the prose, IMO.

Imagine my surprise when I got an email this weekend that I could download the book.

Imagine my further surprise that I am on page 170 and bored out of my mind.

You would think the sex scenes would save it. Well, I am here to tell you, that is just wrong-headed thinking (ha.). As a reader of romance novels, I can assure you that the sex scenes are best when you know who the characters are, and the scene is set up carefully and written well. None of those things have happened so far in this book. Christian is a successful, wealthy owner of his own business in Seattle, but I have no idea what his business is. Anastasia is graduating from a college in Portland and is looking for an internship in Seattle. Don't know what kind, don't know what her major is other than it must be literature or something because she likes "classics." But they are hot for each other, hoo-boy, yeah. Except I don't care. Because the author hasn't invested in making me care.

But I am reading this so you don't have to, so I shall bravely carry on. Heh.

However, if I have to read  another 215 pages of Anastasia biting her lip or looking up through her lashes, or Christian being beautiful (and big - why are they always big?), I'm gonna...I dunno. I can't throw my ereader against the wall and I'm not much for puking.


You know when you do something - oh, like, say, READ A 385 PAGE BOOK  (ereader pages, your results may vary) - and you will never, ever get those hours back again? Yeah. That.

I've got Gone Girl queued up on my reader fer cryin' out loud.

So, ya'll know this is supposed to be a kinky BDSM book, right? That would be Bondage Dominance Submission Masochism (and variations thereof). Zero explanation of this type of relationship, absolutely no context provided, other than The Contract. Christian wants a contract for these activities, and we get to read the entire thing not once, not twice, but three times.  Anastasia bites her lip because this beautiful man wants her. Christian wants to fuck her every time she bites her lip. We have spankings, hair-pulling, cable ties and some kind of riding crop thing, and it's tedious. I keep thinking maybe an implement failure on a massive scale will end it all for both of them, but no such luck. They don't even use the carabiners on the ceiling of the Red Room of Pain, with all of their risky possibilities.

You want to read it now, don't you. But like every other discussion, article and analysis about this book, my post is way more interesting than the actual novel. And infinitely better-written.

Christian is "fifty shades of fucked up" by his own admission, and that alone should be fascinating. Except it's not. Because other than the mildly kinky sex, there are very few indications of his fucked-up-ness and none of it is explored.

And now I've exceeded the Livingston Post's hard limit on the f-word. Fifty Shades of Grey exceeds my hard limits for "inner goddess," "beautiful man," "big," "wet," "confusing," "panting," "mercurial man," "overthink," "I wish I knew what you were thinking," "Holy crap" (seriously, Ana's favorite expression apparently - bad news for a lit major) and a panoply of repetitive adjectives and phrases.

So, as you rush out to a local library that hasn't chosen to pull this book off their shelves in a misguided effort to protect the innocence of women everywhere, don't say I didn't warn you. You definitely have better things to do with your time.

Reading Bad Books. It's Good For You, Right?

March 2, 2012

I was one of those annoying children who knew how to read before I hit kindergarten. I don't think my dad realized he was creating a monster when he sat me in his lap with a Dr. Seuss book and started pointing out letters and words, but the end result is that I read quickly and I read many books across almost all genres.

The best present I ever got was a Nook Color and access to the Midwest Collaborative for Libraries, which is like free candy 24/7. With digital holds (they send you an email when the book is available) and no overdue books (they just disappear after the 14 day checkout period), I can scarf down books like pretzel M&Ms. So I do. And some of them are really really bad (the books, not the pretzel M&Ms).

I was thinking about the awful books today because I just wasted a couple of hours recently on two books. I didn't finish the one, and wish I hadn't finished the other. I will never get those hours back now. Kraken by China Mieville had such promise. I love science fiction, and this book about a giant squid specimen disappearing from a London museum, the apparent victim of a cephalopod-napping by a mysterious squid worshipping cult  - how excellent does that sound? And the first few pages were totally bizarre and great, we meet the curator hero (and how often do you get those?) and the Architeuthis dux disappears...and then characters started piling in and the dialog began. Bazillions of characters across so few pages that I couldn't keep them all straight. Acres of dialog that said absolutely nothing, and was annoying and unrealistic on top of that. I got to page 56 and gave up. I may need to try again, because for some reason I am fascinated by the idea of a squid cult, which probably says something unflattering about my personality.

Then there was Prey by Linda Howard. The title makes you think of Patricia Cornwell, right? Or maybe Michael Crichton. Well, don't think those things. Tedious, repetitive, sexist and unbelievable (and that's really something, considering I was all OK with the idea of a squid cult in London). Pages and pages of everyone's innermost thoughts, and none of them worth the pages they are written on. Nasty hunk o' ex-military man Dare (yep, that is seriously his name) has been stealing Angie's wilderness guide business away. Except maybe it's her fault because she can't figure out how to advertise and use the web, plus she's a woman and probably should stick with photography trips. She has one last hunting trip, two guys who want to hunt bear - but it turns out the one guy has been embezzling the other guy's company and needs to shoot him so no one ever finds out. Because that's what you do when you are an embezzling accountant. They go up the mountain with Angie, find pieces of some guy who got torn apart by a bear, the embezzler shoots other guy, and the man-eating bear shows up and eats the dead guy. Angie, smart girl that she is, runs away into the dark and stormy night. Murdering embezzler tries to find her, can't, and RETURNS TO THE CAMP WHERE THE BEAR WAS. Why? Because the keys to the getaway vehicle were in dead guy's pocket. Yes, yuck. Our heroine has managed to hook up with Dare - who was sent to keep an eye on her by her realtor who just had a bad feeling about this guide trip. If you guessed that the realtor is male, you are too smart to be reading this book, and apparently smarter than me, but then, I am providing a valuable service by reading it for you and telling you to stay away.

Dare, naturally, has a little cabin nearby and they are stuck there for a few days because 1) it's raining, 2) Angie has a sprained ankle 3) they have to have mind-blowing sex because she has a world-class ass. They also decide that they should get married and merge their businesses. All in 3 days. I am not making this up. Angie and Dare eventually start back down the mountain, the murdering accountant finds them and shoots Dare, but then man-eating bear shows up and eats the accountant, and Angie, good little shot that she is, shoots the bear. What a woman! I was hoping the bear would eat everyone, maybe by page 123, and amble off into the sunset, but no.

And in the "disappointing" category is Death Comes To Pemberley by P.D. James. I wanted to like this book - P.D. James is a great writer of classic British mysteries and she sets this one at Pemberley with the characters from Pride and Prejudice. But is was very...meh. One part that almost hit awful was when Darcy gives this 5 page angst-ridden monologue about everything he has done wrong in life, and Lizzy just sits there and sympathizes. Six years of marriage apparently dulled her wits significantly. The old Lizzy would have smacked him.

But I did read some good books lately - The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane</em> by Katherine Howe, The Innocent by Taylor Stevens (The Informationist was good as well), <Heart of Steel by Meljean Brook, Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson, The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch. I must also mention the wonderful book The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, the current Livingston Reads! selection - just get the entire trilogy. Trust me on this one, you will need to know what happens to Katniss and company.