Thursday Throwback!

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This post appeared last year, but I thought I would share it again here. Some of these books have been popular with reviewers, but I really didn’t like them.

Book Sins

I hate to single out books for hate, so I thought of a a way to do it without getting too nasty. You could still figure it out if you try, and if you really want to know, you could send me a private message and I’ll tell you, but I’m not trying to single out anyone for unfair criticism here. After all, it’s just my opinion. But there are some things that really bugged me about these books and I think it’s fair to warn you if you’re planning to read them.

  • A, S D by M K – cozy mystery. Tried too hard. Why do cozies do this? They remind me of the kids at school who want to be liked so much that they wear the latest fashion, attach themselves to the coolest crowd, and try to fool everyone into thinking that they belong. If you have to try that hard, you’re not cool. Your humor either works, or it doesn’t, and desperation is not helping.
  • TWWBK by KC – biography. Speculation. Look, either it’s biography or it’s fiction, but quit trying to be both. If you don’t have the sources to back up your guess work, just write it as historical fiction. Don’t try to sell it as non-fiction. You’re just irritating your readers.
  • A&TFK by SP – YA romance. General grump here. I think I was the wrong audience, but hey, tell your characters to quit whining already. You’re in Paris. That’s not too bad. Enjoy it already.
  • F by MRC – could you be more depressing? a druggie kills a kid and goes to prison? Why did I read this? My fault here, I should have expected it to be bleak.
  • Y by CK – thriller. This book does nothing by glorify stalking. It is disturbing and horrible. Why is this rated so highly? And why are some readers defending him? He’s a stalker, abusive, and a murderer. There’s no defense.

Those were my 1 star reads of the year. I may end up with more. Did you guess any of them? All of them? Some weren’t too hard.

 

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Astounding Antagonists – review

Astounding Antagonists by Rafael Chandler.

Dr. Agon, a megalomaniacal inventor with an arsenal of lethal gadgets. Motley, a wisecracking jewel thief with nothing left to lose. Chillpill, a cryogenic drug lord who just wants a normal life. Baelphegor, a demonic psychopath with an ugly score to settle.
They’re the most dangerous supervillains on Earth, and they’re about to pull off the perfect crime. There’s just one catch: if they succeed, they might accidentally save the world.
From the skyscrapers of Apex City to the gates of Hell itself, the Antagonists are pursued by violent superheroes and billionaire vigilantes. But as loyalties are tested and old hatreds are rekindled, the line between friend and foe begins to blur… 

I really expected to enjoy this one, but it didn’t work for me at all. There were a few characters I liked, but for the most part that were just really unpleasant. I hate books where I don’t like the characters. Then the superheroes and the villains all sit around discussing politics. Really? Socialism vs. capitalism? That’s your banter?

I think the author had some interesting questions in here, like what happens when the heroes get powerful that they can’t be controlled, what would happen to an average dude who got super powers, but it was just so preachy. I was so disappointed

Muirwood – a Review

The Wretched of Muirwood by Jeff Wheeler*

I have read Wheelers other series and enjoyed it, but I didn’t know much about these. When I saw the set at the thrift store I decided to snag all three. Later I read the rather tepid reviews. Readers described them as a rather predictable story of a Pig-Girl who saved the Kingdom, but I was kind of in the mood for safe and predictable, so I have it a try.

Lia is a Wretched, which is sort of like a foundling, except it’s an actual class in her world. One day a stranger arrives with an injured boy and asks her to hide him. She does. Turns out that he’s a knight in training and the evil Sheriff of Nottingham or so edging is looking for him. Meanwhile, Lia can do magic and stuff so she goes on this quest with him and fulfills her destiny and all that.

It was pretty unexceptional, but okay enough. Now I have two more books that I suppose I’ll read to see if it gets any better. We have yet to meet the Dude Who Wants to be King, but I guess he’s cooler than the actual 👑, so maybe that will be fun. IDK. I’m hiding from some real life worries in these books and I’m not up to any Serious Topics right now.

Honestly, I wouldn’t recommend them unless you were under 14. For everyone else, you’ve read this story before and seen it done better

Too Like Lightning – review

Too Like Lightning by Ada Palmer

I read this one because it won the Hugo award and it sounded intriguing. What a mistake!

Extremely ambitious, I’ll admit that. But the ending introduced a whole next level of violence and sexual dysfunction that left me completely disgusted. When I learned Mycroft’s story, about how he had been tortured and taught to torture, it made want to vomit. And this is the person the writer wants to be the protector of a friendless child? What the hell did I just read? I do not understand how this book is recommended for the awards. What is the matter with people.
It ends with a child facing either being murdered or being championed by those who have been taught to torture others for political reasons and to find sexual release in doing so. Not recommended for anyone!

Book Review – Flashback

The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands by Dr. Laura Schlessinger –

I would never have read this book if it hadn’t been chosen for my book group. Even now, I can’t believe I read this garbage! It should make for an interesting discussion!

The reason I gave it 1.5 stars is that she did actually make two good points (along with all the baloney).

First – your husband is not a mind-reader. Tell him what’s going on. Don’t expect him to guess and then be mad when he guesses wrong.

Second – if you are having trouble, talk to your husband first, then a therapist or clergyman. Don’t talk to your girlfriends. Male bashing is NOT the way to solve your problems. It may relieve a little stress and help you vent, but it will backfire and cause even more hostility. Your husband deserves your loyalty.

Other than that, I really couldn’t believe that this kind of stuff was being advocated in this day and age! For example, don’t expect your husband to help with the housework. After all, you don’t go to work with him and help him with his job, do you? (It’s not like women have anything to do besides stay at home and clean the house, right?) And don’t get too fat – you have no right to overeat. And don’t ever tell your husband no. He has a right to expect sex whenever he wants it.

As I talked the book over with my husband (of 26 years, almost. We must be doing something right!) we agreed that the most annoying part of the book is that she sticks men and women in these stereotypical gender roles and just leaves it at that. Men are big, dumb, simple creatures who basically want a hot meal, a hot wife, and a pat on the back. Women are supposed to be content to keep the house clean and please their man.

And yet, I see that other women have rated this book much higher than I have. What can I say? This is NOT the kind of relationship I want. It’s not the kind I want for my children. I want them to see a healthy partnership, where each partner is loved and valued as an INDIVIDUAL, not as a type, and where both partners are allowed, even encouraged, to express their feelings and desires and have them validated. Where there is a firm commitment to working together to solve problems when they come up, where neither partner is responsible for all the work in any category, but where flexibility is stressed. I DO NOT recommend this book in any circumstances. I think it perpetuates an unhealthy definition of marriage and if followed will cause a lot more problems than it resolves.

 


In this updated review, I want to include some information about the author. Dr. Laura Schlessinger is indeed a doctor, but not of psychology or social work. Her degree is in physiology. She is licensed in social work from the state of California, but only got some training in the subject.

She also had a conservative talk radio show that aligned with Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and the like. She’s had a messy personal life with directly contradicts the advice she gave in her column and show. She is an anti-feminist, in case you can’t tell. She’s also made anti-gay comments and racial comments, apologizing afterward, but with an air of “sorry you’re mad” rather than “sorry I said it in the first place.”

This was one of the most popular reviews I did at the time. It still makes me ill that she was able to profit from such negative and destructive advice. If you are hearing stuff like this, turn away. Marriage is a partnership between two individuals, not between categories or stereotypes. If you’re having trouble, talk to each other first, then to a credentialed therapist.

Review: Private

7134202Title: Private (Private #1)

Author: James Patterson and Maxine Paetro

Format: Audiobook

Source: Audible freebie

Setting: Los Angeles, present day

“Wouldn’t it be neat if there was a private investigation business that was WAY COOLER than the cops? With a super advanced crime lab that had all the latest stuff? And investigators who could carry big guns and didn’t have to follow all the police regulations? And they worked for all the big clients because they were so cool?”

Well, yeah, I guess that would be neat. Not very believable, but neat. And I would read that.

“Wouldn’t it be great if we had a whole bunch of diverse characters that all have sexy secrets and every one has this like, diverse background that we’ll go into in complete detail, like an Irish secretary who is working on her citizenship? And a quirky scientist guy who does his own forensic exams? And a damaged main character who inherits the whole business from  his criminal dad and has to fight with his EVIL TWIN BROTHER???”

Um, I guess so. Evil twins are kind of over done, but…

“And would wouldn’t it be EVEN BETTER if the crime exposed the rotten underbelly of Hollywood with the mob and prostitutes and drugs and serial killers after school girls and a conspiracy to undermine professional football?”

Wait, how does football fit in to this?

“Wouldn’t you totally read that?”

Not on purpose I wouldn’t.

“Oh, so we’ll just throw it all in there a little at a time, so you’re already hooked on the story and you have to read it to see what happens. Wouldn’t that be super cool?”

Nope.

Standalone: Book Review of Crimes Against a Book Club

I saw this great idea over at bookslayer33414407reads, to focus on Stand Alone books once a week or so. I’m making this one my first entry.

Title: Crimes Against a Book Club

Author: Kathy Cooperman

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Source: Kindle First book

Format: Ebook

Synopsis:

“Best friends Annie and Sarah need cash—fast. Sarah, a beautiful, successful lawyer, wants nothing more than to have a baby. But balancing IVF treatments with a grueling eighty-hour workweek is no walk in the park. Meanwhile, Annie, a Harvard-grad chemist recently transplanted to Southern California, is cutting coupons to afford her young autistic son’s expensive therapy.

Desperate, the two friends come up with a brilliant plan: they’ll combine Sarah’s looks and Annie’s brains to sell a “luxury” antiaging face cream to the wealthy, fading beauties in Annie’s La Jolla book club. The scheme seems innocent enough, until Annie decides to add a special—and oh-so-illegal—ingredient that could bring their whole operation crashing to the ground.

Hilarious, intelligent, and warm, Crimes Against a Book Club is a delightful look at the lengths women will go to fend for their families and for one another.”

My view:

This sounded like it would be right up my alley. I love my book club, I love humor, I love caper stories, so this seemed like a natural for me. And there were definitely parts I liked. But the parts I didn’t like really bugged me!

I could totally sympathize with Annie. I have three kids with medical problems and the bills can be overwhelming. My kids sometimes wonder why we didn’t take vacations to Disney, why we didn’t sign up for dance lessons and music lessons and have nice cars. Easy – all our money went to medical bills. The idea of coming with some crazy scheme to finance a new therapy – sign me up.

And I appreciated that they weren’t taking money from other cash-strapped moms, but from the upper crust, the ones who want whole heartedly support conspicuous consumption. I got a little tired of how outstandingly attractive Sarah was, how she only had to show up and everyone wanted to talk to her, to be her. You know, she’s been on hormones to get pregnant. That makes you gain weight and get puffy.

My real problem was the secret ingredient. SPOILER:

It’s cocaine.

And that’s my biggest complaint. Annie comes up with this brilliant scheme to make her skin care creme more attractive, to give it that extra something. I was expecting something kind of like this, but really? Has she never heard of the health risks? She takes a few really basic precautions, like telling Sarah not to sell it to pregnant women, but that’s about it. What about those elderly women? What about those with heart problems? It’s so unbelievably stupid for such a supposedly smart woman to do. And then when the consequences inevitably hit, I just had to roll my eyes. There was a lot of potential in this one, but in the end, I just couldn’t buy it. Sorry, but not recommended.

Book Review: Family Tree

Title: Family Tree

Author: Susan Wiggs

Heard about it: on Goodreads

Setting: Los Angeles and Vermont

SPOILERS!

Annie Harlow grew up on a sugar maple farm in Vermont, but she’s enjoying her new life in LA, married to a charming husband, working at her dream career, and at last, expecting her first baby. Then the world comes crashing down on her — quite literally. A piece of equipment falls on her head, causing TBI, traumatic brain injury. Annie wakes up in a hospital to find that everything has changed while she was asleep, including her. She’s back home in Vermont and now she has to rebuild her whole life.

I’m torn whether this one counts for the Read Diverse Books challenge. Annie might be a minority, but I’m not quite sure on that part. The author never makes it clear, just says that she’s “too ethnic” to be on camera (according to a network, not the author). But the TBI does cause some major soul searching on Annie’s part as she has to relearn how to talk, walk, and survive on her own.

My problem is that the brain injury is treated so lightly. Yes, she is in a coma for an entire year. But so what? Does her family have a financial crisis because of this? Do they have to take out a second mortgage? Are creditors hounding them for payment? No. Is her family feeling the terrible strain of having to oversee her care while living their regular lives? Are they fighting over what should happen next? Are they exhausted from being at the hospital night and day? No.

And how about Annie? Does she suffer any lingering mental or physical handicap from her – let me emphasize here – TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY? No, not really. She’s even DRIVING a couple of weeks after going home. Seriously? Is she disfigured, scarred? Her muscles are atrophied, which I would expect, but the more serious problem is – wait for it – HER MANICURE IS RUINED!

OK, I know that TBI is a real thing. But this is not anything like realistic. It’s the absolute opposite, in fact. And given that, it really didn’t matter to me that the descriptions of Vermont read like a travel brochure, or that all the cooking in here made me crave maple syrup. I just couldn’t get past the ridiculous plot. I kept skipping all the flashbacks to see what happened right now, but Annie never had to deal with anything like what the real consequences would be.

I am NOT recommending this one. It has good reviews, but I just can’t bother with a book or an author who doesn’t do more research.

Currently reading The Wright Brothers by David McCullough, and I’ll tell you what, you cannot accuse the man of skimping on research.

 

Some Brief Reviews

Still reading and still writing. I’ve finished Chapter 1 in my book, and it’s off to a solid start. Of course, the beginning is always easier. But I’m happy so far.

Reading is not going as well. I made a very nice exchange lately, 3 bags of books, most like new, donated to the new library in the next town, and then I bought 2 bags of old mystery paperbacks from my library. I’ve already finished 2 of them, and neither one was very good. But it was kind of fun, in that they were authors I’d never tried before, and I like trying new authors, even if it doesn’t pan out. So here are the reviews:

Wycliffe and the Guild of Nine by WJ Burley

Apparently the last in a series about a British police detective. The story is pretty solid – a woman who lives at an artist’s colony in Cornwall is found murdered – but the whole thing is a little dated.

After Francine inherits a bunch of money, she is found dead in her cottage. Was it the money? Or was her murder related to her involvement in the murder of her father years ago? The characters are not very believable, but the whole thing was interesting, very unlike any other mystery I’ve read. But it was written in the 80s and it shows. Police procedure has changed so much, plus Wycliff is all upset about his – GASP! Female Boss. Um, what? I can’t take you seriously right now.

Not sure I’d recommend this one. I like British police mysteries, but I don’t think I’d read more by this author, even if I could find one. 2.5 stars

Alibi in Time by June Thompson

Inspector Rudd, #7

Very unpleasant writer Patrick Vaughan is found dead from a hit and run. After a lot of talk, a lot of detail about what the police are doing and thinking and eating, we find out he was murdered by *SPOILER ALERT* the doctor who found the body. Because, well, he had it coming. There’s more to it than that, but everything is so slow and again, so dated. 2 stars.

But I can end this up on a high note!

Eric by Terry Pratchett

Once again, a great Pratchett book. I love this guy! Eric is a 14 year old boy who tries conjuring a demon. Instead he gets a semi-competent wizard, Rincewind. He makes his 3 wishes, but none of them turn out quite the way he had expected. I laughed out loud all through this one.

*Update*
Just listened to this one and it is still freaking hilarious. I loved it as an audio. The whole view of Hell as a bureaucracy is just brilliant. Give me fire and brimstone any day! 5 stars. Really.