Top Ten Book Turn-Offs

I stole this from Merin at Read and Reviewed, because it sounded like fun. These are in no particular order.

1. Poor world building – If you’re going to dip your toes in a genre that demands world building, be it supernatural, dystopia, fantasy set in an alternate medieval earth – then go balls out and do it right. Nothing is more frustrating than an author hand-waving over important details of how their world works because they couldn’t be bothered to create them. And even if you do everything else right, this will kill a book for me.

2. Lack of character development. There’s nothing wrong with using a trope as a starting point, but you starting point should not be your ending point. Humans have hopes and fears and quirks and likes and dislikes. If your characters don’t, I don’t care about your book.

3. Books that are stretched to trilogies (or more) when the their isn’t story enough to support it and ultimately you dilute the books as whole as a result. Best example of this for me is The Hunger Games: the first book is fantastic and deserving of all the praise. The sequels, however, never live up to the initial book and honestly feel unnecessary. I will maintain to the bitter end that the first book could have held up as a standalone and that the first book is tarnished by the weaker sequels.

4. Books that are artificially short to stretch them to a sequel. I’ve read at least one or two books this year that were sub 300 pages in length that abruptly ended. It was clearly done to make two books out of one and it’s an insult to buyers to be forced to buy two halves of a book instead of the one.

5. Books that are unedited. I’m looking at you Anne Rice, Stephen King and Laurell K. Hamilton. It’s a familiar tale. An author becomes huge and demands all control over editing and are given it because they make the publishers lots of money. It also results in sub-par work because the author refuses to make changes that would be demanded of a lesser known author.

6.  1st person point of view. There is a time and place for it, but it too often seems to be used as a cheap short cut to making the reader feel emotions.

7. Love triangles in YA novels. Few people truly have them in real life, so why does it seem like 90% of female protagonists in YA novels have them?

8. Having to set aside logic to buy a story. (Illuminate I’m looking at you) Either you failed in your world building or your plot wasn’t strong enough to exist as a long-form story. Go back to the drawing board.

9. Books that have twists that are either given away on the cover and/or can be guessed in two chapters. Not everything has to be a surprise. Sometimes the better book is the one that says “Yeah, we’re going to go there,” and then goes there in an unique or interesting way.

10. Feminism that isn’t time-period appropriate. I am a feminist. I appreciate feminist protagonists, but authors need to keep in mind the period that they are writing in when they go there. A woman protesting marriage as Evil of All Evils in a world that is set in an equivalent of 14th-15th century earth? Bitch please. Women had no rights and owned no property unless they were widows with no male heirs. Marriage was literally their meal ticket, the food on their plate and the shelter over their head. So unless your world specifically allows for women to survive on their own it makes you seem like you’re hopping on the feminist bandwagon. It may not bug some, but it annoys the fuck out of me and is one of the quickest things to pull me out of a novel.

So there you go!

Good Reads #50: Inferno (Chronicles of Nick #4)

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I was hoping for something a bit better than this for book 50.

 

Newfound pet peeve of mine: when it is isn’t readily apparent that a book is a sequel. No one where on this cover, on the back cover or the dust jacket that this announce that this is the fourth book in a series. The way that the title page is designed you’d be forgiven for (like me) thinking that this might even be the FIRST book in the series. But nope! The only way you figure out we’re heavy into sequel land is either a) checking into Goodreads (how I found out) or by happening to stop on one of the inside cover pages and find a list of three other books. Oh.

But what’s this you say? “Didn’t you see the other books on the shelf, Carrie?”

Nope.

Being a new book, this was a top of the YA display at the library. Just recently I was at Barnes and Noble where they only carried the third (i.e. just released) book of a trilogy and didn’t even have shelf space for the others, so I’m not sure I’d have fared better there.

Why the complaint?

Because unless your books are a series like Breathless – erotica that have ties with characters who know each other but all focus on different protagonists – sequels are always better enjoyed when you are acquainted with the books that came before.

As far as being the fourth book in a series, this one is pretty newbie friendly. It doesn’t spell out things out, but the world isn’t so unique that you can’t more or less figure out what’s going on anyways. Our protagonist, the Nick whose life is being chronicled,  is a half human/half-demon. His demon half is supposed to be the “King Shit” the demon that all demons fear and want to kill. For his part, he’s been sending himself back in time to try and prevent himself from fully coming into his powers. He seems to be a decent enough kid, and I suspect that if you’ve read the other books you’d probably have a good investment in the character and want to pull for him. I personally had nothing against him, but again, without the first few books I didn’t have enough invested him to root for him, or at least enough to support the extremes that he’s taking.

There are some decent side characters here, many of them super-handsome, super wealthy blond demon types. I liked the characters themselves, but got to call out the obvious fanservice when it shows itself.  Just saying.

As far as YA books good, this is a kind of middle of the pack book. It’s not great, but it certainly isn’t awful. I wasn’t drawn in enough to go and try and pick up the first three books, but if you’re out of stuff to read the first one, Infinity,  might not be a bad way to go. Fans of the author (her author page on Good Reads credits her with 30 different titles) will surely enjoy this book as you figure that someone with that many books under her belt is probably writing in a fairly formulaic way, especially since most of those books all seem to be tied into each other in one way or another. This reminds me a lot of Laurell K. Hamilton: at this point in the game  you’re either going to enjoy her as an author or your going to stay far far away. You know where you stand.

Verdict: Borrow It, but start from Infinity. I’d have gotten more out of this book if I had, and I think you will too.

Did Not Finish: Paris

ImageThis book is Dense. The capitalization there is deliberate. When I say this book is dense, think Tolkien or maybe more appropriately, Victor Hugo. While not quite as self-indulgent as either of those authors, his narrative is still just as complex as these two other authors. In the first 105 pages (all that I made it through) we meet the following:

  • Two generations (one in the 13th century, one in the 19th century) of de Cygne nobles
  • Two generations (again, one in the 13th century, one in the 19th) of Jewish money lenders
  • A family that believes in the ideals of the Revolution (and has a grudge on above noble)
  • A bourgeois family (including the husband, his ex-mistress, his wife, and three kids)
  • A working poor family (including 2 parents, 2 sons and a daughter)

Have I mentioned that this is only the first 10% of the book?

Even when we’re in the 19th century for the bulk of the narrative, we’re still moving around in time – there can be years between chapters. It is also my understanding by the end of the book we work our way up into the 20th century. Have I mentioned that any one given chapter can focus on multiple families? No?

If I took a picture right now you could see my brain leaking out of my ears.

This is not a light read. This is you have to go slow and keep track of a lot of shit. A outline or a flow chart might not be a bad plan. I read for fun. This isn’t a fun. It’s almost work. It didn’t make me want to find the time to keep reading. And since I am reading for fun, that makes a book a pass.

Is this a bad book? No. I’d even handily agree that it’s better written than a lot of the books I have finished. There’s without question an audience for this book. I’m just not it.

Good Reads #49: Hex Hall

ImageAhhh. This was the kind of read I needed after Rampant. Light and frothy. The kind of book that’s easy to read in a day or two, that you enjoy while you’re reading it, but maybe don’t necessarily remember it a day or two after you finish it.

The premise of the book is fun enough: Hecate (Hex) Hall is basically a reform school for witches, shifters (both were and shape varieties) and fae who got into trouble in the human world and are sent to live/study there until they turn 18.

Like in Harry Potter, none of their classes are “traditional” in any means, focusing on history and classification of the “Prodigium” as they’re called. Unlike Harry Potter they don’t study magic because…? Except when it comes to the dance when the witches get to learn how to make their own dresses. Yeah. That part of the book has some problems for me.

Regardless the real focus on the book is the relationship between the protagonist Sophie and her classmates. She has a vampire for a roommate and when her roommate is being blamed for the murder/near murder of classmates she goes out and tries to figure out what’s really happening.

Ultimately it’s one of those books that the plot exists, it’s solid and even a little interesting, but you’re really reading it for the characters.  And if you pick up the book with that expectation in mind, you’ll probably enjoy it.

This is the first book in a series. Will I pick up other books in the series? Yeah, probably at some point when I don’t have anything else to read. It just wasn’t quite strong enough to make me want to go out and read them now and I suspect that for those who read a ton, it won’t be that compelling a read either.

Verdict: Borrow it

Good Reads #48: Rampant

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In the interests of disclosure, Rampant is not a book that I would have normally picked up. The cover art would have never grabbed my eye (for this is a book I would have had picked up wandering the shelves, so cover art is important here) nor the cover blurb grabbed me. But this was a bit of a unusual case for me. I’d been in line at Dragon Con, waiting to get some autographs and I look over and there’s a few smaller tables set up with some authors sitting there. One guy has 95% of the people waiting and gets moved to another table by himself and then there were the two women sitting there, maybe getting 1-2 people every so often. I’d just finished the book I’d brought with me, and the women were selling copies of their books at the table so I figured why not check them out? This was described to me as being about “killer unicorns” by the author which amused me at the time, and for $10 I figured why not give a chance.

Yeah.  Sad to say, there was probably a reason that table wasn’t getting many visitors.

First, the premise. It’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Killer Unicorns. It’s not a bad premise. It’s execution though is just kind of there and there are some questionable choices. For example, powers only work when in direct proximity of the unicorn. So they have super speed if one is nearby but not if there aren’t any to be found. It’s just…odd. I think she was trying to be different, but it didn’t quite work for me. Moreover, I’m wondering if aiming it at the YA crowd was the right choice. While I don’t think you could have made a compelling “adult” tale out of this (unicorns just aren’t scary, no matter how dangerous you make them), I’m thinking tweens might have been a better fit. They might be more open to this premise than teens would be. But by the same token, there are several very frank (but never tawdry or graphic) discussions of sex and sexuality in the book. While they mostly work, those conversations firmly push the book out of being appropriate for that age group. This is definitely a book that’s more for the older end of the high school crowd who I don’t think will even bother picking it up. It’s just over all in an awkward spot.

Second, character development (the teens). For the most part, these are one note girls. One’s formerly homeless and takes pills. Ones a snob. One is the Hermione/Willow nerdy/know-it-all but without any of the redeeming qualities that helped soften that side of them. Astrid, our protagonist, has a bit of arc, but it’s actually kind of sad to see the change in her. Yes, she’s embracing her destiny, so to speak, but I can’t help but feel that she’s lost something in the process. It’s so rare to get books where the female characters are trying for things like science or medical careers, so to see that character get shot down when she tries and ultimately (and seemingly) abandon that desire to become a warrior it’s just disheartening. But while the girls are mostly one note, the adults in this series are AWFUL people. For sake of this discussion, I’m going to focus on Astrid’s mom, but rest assured, there really aren’t any adults here that you genuinely feel are people that should be watching over these kids.

Astrid’s mother. Oy vey. Over the course of the book she does the following:

  • Send her 16 year old daughter (against her daughter’s wishes) to Italy to train to be a unicorn hunter with a man that she has never met on line (and in fact, she was talking to another 16 year old girl unknowingly)
  • Continually berate her daughter for not wanting to do this, telling her to give up her dreams of being a doctor because that’s not what she’s meant to be.
  • After her niece gets date raped by her boyfriend who was paid by a man who wanted her to no longer be able to hunt unicorns (and no, I’m not kidding, this is a legit plot point and Astrid, the main character, was also supposed to meet this fate. See what I mean about not being a tween appropriate book?) the mother reacts as follows:
    • Happy that her daughter has less competition so that she will shine brighter compared to the other girls
    • Says that date rape was her niece’s fault and that it would have never happened had she “stayed in her place” and done as she was told. Yes. She fucking slut-shamed her own flesh and blood and blamed a 19 year old girl for not wanting to be cooped up 24/7 let alone be forbidden to have any kind of romantic entanglement EVER. Right.

I swear, I disliked her mother from the get go, but when that happened, I wanted to deck her. I can’t even. The author has, intentionally or not, made the mother a fucking psychopath devoid of sympathy or human emotion.  She only even begins to realize how fucked up this is after she has really good reason to believe that Astrid is dead at which point she tries to commit suicide by unicorn. Nice.

I’m honestly not even sure what Diana Peterfreund was trying for her. I think she was going for a mother trying to live vicariously through her daughter. She couldn’t do this herself, so she wanted her daughter to uphold this legacy. The book paints her as obsessive, but obsessive in kind of a mostly harmless way. By the end of the book, Astrid admits that her mother’s ways perhaps aren’t so bad and that they’ve helped the girls in training. But my personal interpretation? This woman was so narrow in how amazing she thinks this opportunity is that she literally blinded. She’s obsessed in the worst possible way and doesn’t deserve to be a mother. The other adults in this book aren’t any better. No one seems to have the interest of the girls at heart, and all seem to be using them in some way, shape or form. The “best” of the adults is still woefully under qualified to be doing what he’s doing though at least his reaction to the date-rape is so much more compassionate and human.

There is a plot here, but let’s be frank. The plot doesn’t matter. It’s there. It exists. But amongst characters that are either mostly one dimensional and flat or awful human beings, a conceit that is cooler in theory than in execution and some incredibly painful dialogue there is absolutely no reason to read this book. The only credit I will give the book is that I (aside from the date rape) the discussion of the pressures a young girl faces to give it up to her boyfriend are well done. That good will though, totally abolished by the rest of it. Also: the book is kind of boring and I only finished it because I don’t like to full on rant unless I’ve read something cover to cover.

Very few books make me want to rant, but fewer still make me this genuinely angry (50 Shades was the last to do so). This book went from mediocre and dull to flat out offensive. Not something to aspire to, and I’m pretty sure this would end up on a worst of the year for me list.

Verdict: Skip it.

P.S. I did attend a panel at Dragon Con where she was a panelist where she seemed thoughtful and well spoken, and it’s clear she did do some homework here. I genuinely don’t think she meant to be offensive, but I can’t help but feel that that is how it came across.

Dragon Con: Day 3 and Day 4

So the con has come and gone. Ultimately, my feelings towards this convention are as follows: the convention has some good bones to it, but it’s just so over crowded that it makes it so difficult to see things.

For example: panels at this con are typically a full hour in length. Because it takes so long to load/clear the panel room, his panel was 45 minutes long. It’s one of those things where while you can respect why they clear out the panel rooms, clearly the con has gotten so big that it actually impacts the panel length itself. Not so cool.

I went to two YA panels. They were okay. The one I was more looking forward to; about new YA books coming out; was a bit of a let down. It felt like an hour of two ladies reading summaries. I can do that on my own. I was hoping they’d highlight the real high points, you know? Today’s panels were about Prenda and the porn troll law-suits and one with the voice actors behind Pinky and the Brain. Both were good.

And that’s it as far as actual panels went. I did manage to go to Masquerade on Sunday. It was fun, but I’ve seen better. There is some truly amazing cosplay going on at the con itself, but the level wasn’t quite there during the show. There were no real surprises in the winners. But then, most of the prizes were $50 of “dealer bucks.” Only the first place was any decent at all ($500 & some XFINITY gear) but definitely not something that is going to attract the big-time cosplayers.

I will say that I found that Masquerade had one tradition I rather liked – apparently while they break for judging, they ALWAYS show the Duck Dodgers cartoon, and everyone always joins in yelling “Duck Dodgers of the 24th and a half century!” (complete with finger pointed in the air) whenever Daffy says it. It’s cute and it’s neat 🙂

And a totally random aside: by Sunday we had the shuttles figured out, which helped a ton.  The shuttle drivers were (for the most part) pretty awesome people too. Like on Sunday, the “express” bus agreed to take me (and eventually a half of bus worth) of people back to our hotel simply because I was waiting for the shuttle and she had no one else on the bus. That kind of generosity did help with the frustrations of the system, but without question there are kinks that need to be worked out still. Apparently they had a new person working on that this year, so hopefully he figures it out for next year. THAT SAID. Staying in the host hotels would have been nicer though; me and my roommate agree that we’d been more likely to check out the night events if we’d been there. We were just far enough away that it was too easy to come back and not want to go back out again. It’s one thing when all the effort you have to expend is in waiting for elevators. Its another when you have to either wait for a shuttle to appear at a random time or hike it. It was much harder to hike it the later in the day you got.

Ultimately my feelings towards this con are as follows:

There is a good soul in this con. I can see how a lot of people would fall in love with it. There are definitely some unique programming tacks here. The crowding issues and the disparate locations undermined that uniqueness. What good is it to have a track on Urban Fantasy if you can’t get to the hotel where its held or don’t want to risk heading over when you have another panel right after at the first hotel?

I also have lingering reservations about how the con is run – everything from the SDCC bashing (minor, but this shouldn’t be a condoned Thing) to (much more importantly) how things like fire safety regulations are more treated as suggestions than things to follow. I get the sense that the con is reluctant to shed its hotel con past, but the truth is is that it is so large that it needs to. Unless they follow through with a meaningful attendee cap, the crowding problems are only going to get worse and worse and worse. In speaking to various long-term vets of the con, a cap has been promised for years, so it seems unlikely that they’ll actually go through with it.

Logistical gripes aside, the programming wasn’t quite there for me this year. It’s always a crap shoot with cons and I know this. But other cons I’ve been to, I’ve had more options that sounded good to me. I’m glad that I went, but next year it’s time to experiment with new things 🙂

Now is the time though to get to exploring Atlanta. Yay!