Month: September 2015
Let’s stop attacking the work of a guy who keeps winning awards for his literary advocacy; in fact, let’s stop attacking people’s opinions altogether…
I read this blog post recently by someone who claimed he or she got into a literary “fight,” insinuating that he or she was insulted nearly to the point of instigating violence over a co-worker reading James Patterson.
No, intelligent, discerning reader with a sense of humor. No, I am not joking.
*insert incredulous look here* (on your behalf, dear reader)
The reason? Patterson doesn’t live up to this person’s literary standards because he does not write all of his books by himself, which, despite the fact that he credits his co-authors, is somehow a “scam.”
Like, didn’t I just talk about this issue of trying to shame other readers for not liking the “right” books or the books that you like? Yes. Yes, I did. But then I read this other blog post by someone else, and felt like I needed to talk about it some more. So, let’s discuss this other blog post a little bit.
First of all, since the author did not, in fact, engage in fisticuffs, he or she is probably not really that riled up. There are numerous instances in which literary proclivities have actually led to violence, including an incident in 2012 in the literary, educated college town of Ann Arbor. So, in this case….
Secondly, is having a co-author for your work a “scam?”
Merriam-Webster defines a scam as follows:
a dishonest way to make money by deceiving people
Is it dishonest to write your work with another person, if you credit that person? I would argue that it is more of a “scam” to have a book ghostwritten; most of us know that if a book comes out with a celebrity name on the cover, it was probably actually written by someone else. Yet we often do not know who the ghostwriter is. Then again, ghostwriting can allow a writer to gain experience and, if done well, can lead to opportunities with the publishing industry.
Co-authoring books, on the other hand, is something that a lot of people have done. From Rachel Cohn and David Levithan to Dean Koontz and Kevin Anderson to anthologies, co-authoring is a fairly common practice. Co-authoring allows people to learn from and work with other authors whom they greatly admire. It allows the craft to be honed and refined, it allows work to be written and released more quickly, and it allows the often solitary work of writing to become something collaborative and not-solitary. Not to mention, there is a long literary history of co-authoring work.
If we’re going to talk about scams, wouldn’t it be more prudent to discuss the James Frey fiction factories, the Assassin of Secrets plagiarism scandal, or the questionable release of Go Set a Watchman? How about Barnes & Noble’s recent advertising to purchase a new release from Lewis Carroll that was actually just a less revised draft of Alice in Wonderland?
I don’t see how writing a novel with someone else is a “scam,” and even if it was, don’t see any reason to verbally accost someone’s reading choices. People are different, and they like different things; it is okay to be different. In terms of literature preference, why does there have to be a “right” opinion and a “wrong” opinion? Isn’t okay to just have your opinion, and realize that not everyone is going to agree with it?
Yet, the blog post ends along the lines of:
Okay, my co-worker scored a few points on that one, but I still knew that I was right. I hate it when I lose an argument even though I’m right. That’s another reason I don’t argue very often.
What this quote says to me is that this person assumes that his or her opinion is validated, somehow “correct” as opposed to the opinion of anyone who disagrees with him or her. That viewpoint, my friends, is frightening. If you follow the line of thinking for this blog post to its’ logical conclusion, James Patterson books are not “valid” literature, “real” readers can’t read and enjoy the work that is published under his name, and if the “correct” way to read does not involve Patterson’s works, then why not just burn it?
I don’t know about you, but I’m against banning and burning books. I have a feeling a lot of blog posts this week will discuss Banned Books Week, so I’ll spare you a definition, but just use this movement as proof that A LOT of people, including me, are not cool with censorship. Burning books is not okay, banning books is not okay, and talking shit to your co-workers about their reading choices is also not okay. I mean, freedom of speech is important, too, so you can say what you want… but using your freedom of speech to inform other people that their reading choices, relationship choices, etc., are not “correct” according to you doesn’t mean you’re not being a jerk.
I feel like there’s this trend, lately, to discuss what constitutes “good” erotica vs. “smut.” And it’s starting to piss me off. Let’s be real – what constitutes “good” erotica to one person is that that person likes to read it. Maybe it turned that reader on, or maybe it made them giggle, or maybe it caused them to furrow their brow and ask “Really?! Can people really do that?” or “Is that what having sex with an octopus would feel like?” The fact that something wasn’t written with the intent of becoming high-brow literary meat for academics to discuss via well-researched papers that are still primarily bullshit they think their professors will enjoy and that will consequently gain them an “A,” regardless of a wanton display of ignorance of history, philosophy, and sometimes, common sense, does not mean that people cannot enjoy reading it.
I mean, I get that it’s fun to make fun of Fifty Shades of Grey. I’ve watched and giggled at the Honest movie trailer, I’ve read Roxane Gay’s essay describing the book’s fun and foibles, and I have personally decided that this book is probably not one that will particularly interest me.
Yet, I have heard numerous people whom I respect and admire talk about how much they really enjoyed these books. And I don’t think I deserve censure for not wanting to read these books myself, yet I also don’t think any less of the people I have met or have not met who enjoyed these books. I heard that the grammar in these books isn’t particularly great, that the author embodies Anastasia’s subconscious in a way that makes me cringe, and that the similarities to Twilight are ridiculously clear… but so what? You can still enjoy them. I just don’t think that I would. That is okay. I’m cool with it, and you should be okay with it, too.
But Fifty Shades is a bit easy to point to, because of it’s popularity. We all know that a lot of people have read and enjoyed these books. We all know that a lot of people have read and not enjoyed these books. We can feel secure in our opinion on Fifty Shades, regardless of what that opinion is, because so many other people share it. What about the self-published indies that appear every day? Some of these books undoubtedly have poor grammar, ridiculous characters, etc. And it is still okay for you to like them, or not like them.
I don’t believe in making people feel ashamed of what they’re reading. So to all of the readers in the world, everywhere, I hereby proclaim: You can read whatever the fuck you want, and anyone who tries to make you feel bad about enjoying it is an asshole whom I encourage you to ignore.
A teenage boy is angry, sarcastic & misunderstood. Normal stuff, right? Well… not exactly. You see, Cameron Smith has Mad Cow Disease.
As you can guess, having a terminal disease that is basically eating away your brain is kind of difficult for a teenage boy to process. Thus begins a cross-country adventure with lawn gnomes, hypochondriacs, sex, beer, and physics. So much physics.
I liked it. Quite a bit. But I don’t think I would say I loved it.
Some people take issue with the beginning, because Cameron is sarcastic and apathetic and nervous, but I really liked the way the novel started. It pulled me in, and I was emotionally attached to the storyline.
While I remained emotionally attached throughout the novel, there is one overarching theme throughout that is really driven home and kind of irked me: Don Quixote.
Like, I get that Libba Bray is writing a book that could be described as a homage to Don Quixote… but did she really have to drive the point home quite so much? The classic novel and its’ themes are almost shouted at the reader throughout the book, because AREN’T WE CLEVER, GUYS?! READING IS FUN AND CLASSICS ARE GREAT AND I’M REFERENCING ONE OF THE GREATEST BOOKS EVER WRITTEN.
Aside from that one fairly minor point, the novel is fun and clever and full of crazy shenanigans. If you have not read it yet, I highly recommend it.
When I was in ninth grade, I had an English teacher – let’s call her Mrs. Proctologist (which vaguely resembles her actual name). Our first writing assignment was a Show, Don’t Tell assignment that had to be written in third person and very explicitly, you know, show rather than tell.
I didn’t do very well. I slipped into the character’s thoughts at one point, thereby using first person. And my description, while present, was not deemed enough. In particular, my character was a dancer who takes off her street clothes to take class, and puts them on again before leaving the studio. I still remember describing her Tommy Hilfiger sweatshirt in the beginning, and later merely referring to it as a sweatshirt – Mrs. Proctologist was not a fan of this latter reference, writing “what kind?” in angry, red letters that screamed off of the page.
Even at the time, I realized that was bullshit. Just because the reader can’t be bothered to pay enough attention to an initial description doesn’t mean I need to recount it in its’ entirety every time the same item is used again. Giving additional information about the item, perhaps, and maybe that’s what Mrs. Proctologist was trying to get at, I’m not sure. But the thing is, there is such a thing as too much information. Sometimes, you should tell.
What got me thinking about this issue? Elyssa Friedland’s Love and Miss Communication.
There are many problems with this privileged-white-girl novel about a lawyer in NYC who gets laid off but receives a generous enough compensation package to allow her to snub her friends electronically by refusing to use the Internet for an entire year, which is almost impossible for the average person who gets laid off from employment, since much of the job-seeking process these days occurs on the internet.
Evie, potentially the most annoying protagonist on the planet, is so hung up on her ex that she vomits all over her computer upon realizing he married someone else a few months after breaking up with her… supposedly because he doesn’t believe in marriage. And at first, yeah, sure, you feel kind of bad for the chick. Until you keep reading and realize she is the most self-absorbed asshole on the planet, and then you realize, of course this chick can’t find anyone to put a rock on her finger.
Because, you see, that is what this book is about. The fact that marriage is something beautiful, rich, smart girls need to feel fulfilled. I mean, there are characters who are like, “Of course, Evie, I wouldn’t care if you never got married, if you didn’t care so much.” Except the characters saying this are all happily married women themselves, so the idea being espoused by these words doesn’t really seem to hold much weight.
Evie is a cliched stereotype who doesn’t understand why everyone doesn’t just fall all over themselves loving her, and go out of their way to keep her in the loop because she’s so addicted to the internet she can’t use it without throwing up all over everything.
One of the problems with having such a self-absorbed protagonist is that as readers, we are forced to endure learning the about the agonizing minutiae that Evie is so attuned to herself. So, we get to learn that Evie’s glad she put in the extra effort in appearance (about which we are also told, in detail) before every date she goes on with her future fiance (which, frankly, isn’t a spoiler, because if you don’t realize who she’s going to become engaged to from her first meeting with the guy, then I will be very surprised) because he is wearing insert every detail of his outfit, including his shoes, here. Like, you would think by the third date, she would be aware that this guy tends to dress well for dates, and she should probably follow suit.
In between Evie’s riveting inner dialogue, we get fascinating actual dialogue such as the following exchange:
‘Evie, I’d like you to meet someone.’ Aunt Susan was beaming.
F – .
Susan must have brought a boyfriend with her. Another crunchy hippie to smell up Tracy’s car. She looked past her aunt, trying to catch sight of the dreadlocked Phish-T-shirt wearing middle-aged man…
‘Evie, this is Wyatt.’ Susan wheeled over a stroller that was positioned a few inches away from her. She turned it so the baby faced Evie.
‘Wyatt is my son,’ Susan said…
Evie was stunned. She had to be hallucinating.
‘Aunt Susan,’ Evie said, speaking cautiously as she focused her eyes on the baby nuzzling her aunt’s neck. ‘Wyatt is black.’
*insert slap of fictional character’s face here*
I know it’s a bit old-fashioned of me, but I like being able to like the main character most of the time. Particularly in a rom-com. Particularly when that rom-com has very little that is funny about it. And I feel that, perhaps Evie could have been a likable character, if the author hadn’t decided to splash her mental and verbal diarrhea all over the book so that we got a “feeling” for the character without actually being told what Evie is like.
Instead of creating a likable character we want to root for, we know that Evie’s a self-absorbed, racist snob. Probably not what Friedland was going for. I think Evie is an example in which we are given so much information about the character, the result is antagonistic to the author’s intent (about which I am presuming and may be entirely wrong), the result may in fact have turned Evie into a character that was also not the character the author meant/wanted/needed to write.
Do you have an example where Show, Don’t Tell is, perhaps, the wrong advice? Have you read Love & Miss Communication? I would love to hear your thoughts!
I’ve decided to jump on the Top Ten Tuesday train, and not only because it’s an alliterative phrase. It’s also because the meme, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, focuses on book-ish things, and as a writer and avid reader, I like book-ish things, and have opinions on them. This week’s topic is Ten Finished Series I have YET to Finish.
I have to admit, I’m not entirely sure what this meme is saying – ten series the author has finished writing that I intend to read in its entirety but haven’t yet gotten around to? Or ten series the author has finished writing that I simply have not read in its entirety, whether or not reading the entirety of the book series is intended by me or not. Since I don’t tend to finish book series, however, particularly since whenever it seems a series is “finished,” the author(s) often start up again (a la Pretty Little Liars) or only tangentially move on from (a la Beautiful Creatures vs. the new one with Ridley or the City of Bones series vs. the Clockwork books that are, like, the same thing, but in a prior time period b/c steampunk is cool).
Anyway, here are 10 of the series which I have not yet, and might never, get around to reading in its entirety:
- The Hunger Games series
I know, I know. It’s Katniss! I don’t have a problem with The Hunger Games being derivative, or popular, or not well written. While I have heard these complaints from others, I rather enjoyed the first book in the series. I thought it was pretty engaging, did not have a complaint about the writing style, and I liked this book. I just didn’t like it enough to want to keep reading the trilogy. Particularly when I can just go to the movie theater, and see Jennifer Lawrence play out the books while skipping over some of the more boring and tedious parts.
- The Last Vampire series
Ah, Alisa Perne. I was a huge Christopher Pike fan when younger. Huge. And The Last Vampire series was, deservedly, one of his most popular. Those six books just kept getting crazier and crazier, and giving us more and more of Alisa, until, finally, the story was resolved in a beautiful, resolute ending.
Or maybe not so resolute, since once the Twilight movies started coming out, everyone remembered how much they liked vampires, and began buying up eighties and nineties series that the rabid Meyer fans would falsely accuse of plagiarizing their beloved author whose debut novel came out in 2005. The Vampire Diaries was popular again. The Last Vampire series was popular again. And then – the publishing houses began delivering more novels to the series that initially ended before this new millennium even began.
I don’t actually know if the newer “Thirst” novels are written by Kevin McFadden, the original Christopher Pike, or not, but they shouldn’t exist. I tried Thirst no. 3, a continuation of the Last Vampire series, which they renamed and gave ugly new covers to make it seem like a new series, with Thirst no. 1 containing books 1-3 of the original series, and Thirst 2 containing books 4-6. It was awful. Luckily, my brain has blocked out most of what this continuation did, and all I can remember is feeling very, very sad, that the publishing industry had decided to ruin one of my fondest childhood memories. I will not be reading Thirst 4 & 5, nor any additional continuations, if there is a plan to continue them. I will try to salvage the remaining joy that was reading a Christopher Pike novel when I was… younger (wouldn’t you like to know?), and be on my way.
- The Twilight series
I have read the first novel in this series – twice, just in case my expectations were ridiculously high the first time and it biased my viewing excessively unfavorably. The ideas are fun, even if it does seem likely that Stephenie Meyer’s “dream” in the field may have occurred sometime during or after reading Charlaine Harris’s work Dead Until Dark. The writing style is not for me. I know a lot of people have derived enjoyment from this series; I am not one of them. I also feel that the poor writing highlights the wrong aspects of this dangerous, unhealthy relationship that has, what, like an 80-year gap emotionally and intellectually? Involves controlling behavior by the older male in the relationship, who feels he has to “save” a sixteen year old from her own relatively normal feelings and urges?
The interesting thing is, even though I only read the first novel in this series, I noticed glimpses that both the author and the clumsy protagonist herself realize this relationship is dangerous and unhealthy — I think these instances of awareness are clouded, however, by the poor writing. Like, ooh, this much older guy is “perfect.” Sure, a lot of sixteen year old girls might feel that way. But does a perfect guy really crawl through your window and hover over you while you sleep? Should you feel physically frightened when you’re around a “perfect” guy? No, because this love interest not only isn’t perfect, he’s not even human.
But when I try to discuss this aspect of the novel that interests me to a rabid, or even mild, fan of the series, I don’t think a single one of them has ever even noticed that Bella feels physically threatened by Edward, but allows her romantic inclinations to override these feelings. Not one.
Basically, Twilight could have been better (editing, anyone?), and I’ve heard the writing style is pretty much the same throughout the series, so I’m steering clear of the remainder of this series (although I will probably watch all purple-lipsticked RPatz and KStew versions of them, because that’s just fun).
- The Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy
Similar to the series I just talked about, with the exception that I haven’t actually read this trilogy. Basically, I have read and heard enough about the book to be fairly certain I would, at the least, dislike this book, and more likely, not be able to finish. Personifying the protagonist’s subconscious, poor grammar, and pulling in a contract you got off of the internet several times because you ran out of plot? Doesn’t sound like the book for me.
I did watch the first movie, however, possibly the biggest waste of 90 minutes of my life. So. Boring. If you insist on watching it, bring a friend, lest you lose consciousness and need resuscitation.
- The Divergent series
Okay, truth be told, I haven’t read any of the Divergent series. I have only seen that awful movie featuring that once precocious, knocked-up teen on ABC Family, who is now bringing her expressive face to action movies with a flair that makes the stupid things she says all the more powerful and potentially damaging to the young audience who comprise the initial audience for this book series.
Based purely on this awful movie, however, I plan to stay away from this book series. I know dystopian was all the rage when this came out, and kudos to Veronica Roth for getting a book deal while she was still in college, but the premise seems far too simple for me to take seriously.
I’m not just going to accept that most people can associate so strongly with a particular characteristic of their personality, that they allow it to completely define who they are – even if they do live in shitty circumstances. People have brains, and it is generally unwise to underestimate them, or to assume you know the way in which someone else perceives the world. This series seems like it’s entirely premised on the idea that people are stupid – oh, but wait, there’s some teenage girl who’s going to show them the way out of the Dark Ages because she is so special that she has more than one personality trait? Sorry, just not buying it.
Maybe I completely misunderstand what this series is about, but there are so many great books out there, I’m not going to fret about keeping this one off the “to-read” list.
- The Immortal Witches series
Long-time readers of my blog (which I just started this summer, so, you know, “long-time” readers might be a stretch, but I appreciate you guys!) might remember when I reviewed the first book in this series. I was not a fan. Particularly of the ending. If an ending doesn’t grab me, then I feel no need to continue reading the series.
- The Sweet Valley High series
When I was in second or third grade, I began reading the Sweet Valley High series, and ate up the ghost-writer-produced madness that was the world of the supposedly small town of Sweet Valley, where kidnappings, robberies, opportunities to meet or become celebrities, abounded, and the characters were strictly defined though the characters often acted outside of this definition of what was “normal” for them. You can only imagine how disappointing high school was for me. Not a single person tried to kidnap me, or ask me for help writing an article for the school paper my school produced twice each semester for the “journalism” class I wasn’t in. I didn’t meet anyone famous, I didn’t become “discovered” as actually being gorgeous and the lead singer for a popular band. Suffice to say, actually living in a small town is decidedly less exciting than your average Sweet Valley High book. Yet I have always secretly loved a bit of the escape, of returning to the world of the beautiful, popular twins, where crazy shenanigans will occur but every book will end with a happy ending.
Having said that, I seriously doubt I will ever have the time and energy to hunt down all the 152+ books written in the series. Nor would I want to. I might give Sweet Valley Confidential – essentially the 10-year high school reunion, for those who haven’t heard of it – a try.
- The Dollanganger series
Like many, if not most, young girls, I went through a V.C. Andrews phase. The gothic drama of these books was addictive, and I read many of the books the author penned herself, and the ghostwriters penned afterwards. I read the first two, and got halfway through book 3, of this particular series, which was fatally drowned during a vacation via road trip with my family years and years ago. I had always intended to purchase another copy and finish the series, but now find… I just don’t want to.
It might be because I’m a little older, and definitely because my interests have changed as I have matured, but I find that I don’t want to read about terrible things happening to people who are powerless to stop them. Although I applaud the now deceased Andrews for using fiction to process the difficulties that she endured from being in a wheelchair. I wonder how her writing would have changed, had she lived longer. Perhaps her work would have matured in a way that parallels my interests. I do feel that Andrews had a talent, but her subject matter is simply less appealing to me now.
- The Blue Bloods series
The first time I read Blue Bloods, I thought it was a great book. Then, I read the sequel, and I was… less impressed. But it ended on a good cliffhanger. Then, I read the third novel in the series, and I was dragging myself through it, don’t remember anything about it, and realized this series probably isn’t for me.
More recently, I re-read Blue Bloods, and still appreciated a lot of the world that de la Cruz created, but realized that the writing style wasn’t very fluid, the characters were not as fleshed out as I remembered, and…. basically… I think I was so enamoured with the ideas that de la Cruz was writing about that I didn’t pay much attention to the writing.
- The Ghost Hunter Mysteries series
I really like Victoria Laurie’s first Abby Cooper novel, It has an interesting protagonist, who is a psychic, which is treated in a manner entirely different from the way I have seen it treated before, and it takes place in Royal Oak, MI, which is near-ish one of the areas where I grew up. As a result, I was so excited to learn of Laurie’s ghost hunter series, which features a medium and (surprise!) ghosts and such. Since I have a thing for the paranormal, and I was a fan of the way Laurie handled a psychic P.I. in her other series, I was psyched for a great book.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t stand the protagonist. M.J. Holliday was a very annoying character to spend an entire book with, and I’m a little fuzzy on the book details, but I feel like the mystery wasn’t particularly compelling, either. Thus, I will not be continuing the series. The thought of spending 8 more books with M.J. Holliday (so far) makes me cringe.
Those are 10 of the book series I don’t plan to finish – what about you? Is there a series I didn’t mention that you think I should avoid? Do I plan on not finishing a series that you love? Talk to me about it in the comments below! I would love to hear from you. 🙂
You know that spark you get, sometimes, when you walk past a hitherto unknown stranger? Where your eyes lock, and your pulse quickens, and your lips pull up into a small smile as you think to yourself I want to be with that person…
..and then you meet that person, and their smile is cute, their talk is witty, and before you know it, you have a significant other…
But then, after those first hunger pangs have been satiated, you realize that this person you thought was so amazing is actually kind of boring and dull and bad in bed?
And you realize, that spark you felt upon locking eyes with this person lied to you, and now you need to end this relationship so you can sob into a pint of ice cream before putting yourself together to meet the true love of your life?
That’s sort of how I felt reading John Locke’s novella Promise You Won’t Tell?
Part of a mystery series featuring spunky detective Dani Ripper, Locke’s work starts off as a ridiculously compulsive read, with quirky, quippy dialogue that proceeds at a fast pace and barely makes sense. This description may not sound like a compliment, but it is. I loved the zaniness of the story, the liveliness of its’ characters, and rubbed my hands with glee as I thought to myself I will never know where the hell this story is going… It’s fun, after all, sometimes, to read a mystery that is… you know… a mystery.
… But then, the actual plot for the novella started, and immediately, the novella became less interesting. First, there is the subject matter of the novella, which sounded like it might be intriguing, but really, was just a constant reminder that a lot of men suck and as a result, a lot of girls get really hurt. I could go into further detail about some of the specific problems associated with the multiple molestation issues dredged up in this short work, but that would involve a lot of spoilers, so I will just point out that there is a lot of molestation in this book.
Ultimately, Locke’s book starts off strong, which in essence creates a promise which, unfortunately, Locke fails to deliver. Locke’s writing starts off so strong, and there are brief moments of ridiculous, sheer insanity that show glimpses of what Locke’s work could be… of what, to be frank, I want it to be. Perhaps some of Locke’s other work is more coherent, delivers a consistent level of quality and sensibility. Or perhaps Locke’s future work possesses these qualities, and this work is a stepping stone onto bigger and better things. I definitely wouldn’t write Locke off completely because of this book, I just don’t know that I would recommend it.
Have you read this novella, or had a similar experience with your reading? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!