A Week of Awful Books – Day 3

A few years ago, I brought home a box of my old books that had been taking up space in my parents’ basement. Inside was a treasure trove of late 80’s, early 90’s teen lit: Sweet Valley High, Baby-Sitter’s Club, Sleepover Friends, L.J Smith, Fear Street. There were so many. But best of all, my Christopher Pike books were in there! I was excited. I loved Pike so much as a teen. I remember hiding in the back of a bookstore with a friend reading the last Final Friends book because my library didn’t have it. My inner teen insisted that I re-read all these books. All of them. I had no choice.
So, grown-up-me began working my way from Kristy’s Great Idea to All Night Long to The Sleepwalker and my teenage heart was happy. Then I worked my way through all the Christopher Pike books that were in the box. They were not as great as I remembered but a lot of the ones I had loved were missing. Fortunately for me, this was around the time that all the trilogies and sagas from the 90s were being re-released in Omnibus format (like this awesome L.J. Smith Book).
Much to my delight, I stumbled across a few Pike books I wasn’t overly familiar with and snatched them up. Thus, we come to today’s awful, tear inducing read:

Remember Me Books 1-3 by Christopher Pike
remember me
When I started reading, I immediately knew I’d read the first book. And for all its flaws, I still enjoyed it. But the next two books… They were not only bad, parts of them bordered on offensive. If you commit suicide, you can only come back to earth crippled? Seriously? And once you come back, you won’t work, and will have to rely on someone else for everything… What exactly is the message supposed to be?

I used to work with people with spinal cord injuries everyday – they’re my co-workers. They were all successful, educated, contributing members of the workforce who not only ran departments but marathons. The idea that you can heal an injury through prayer and love is a slap in the face of every person with an irreparable injury. It’s essentially saying that they aren’t trying hard enough. This whole book was all new age mumbo jumbo about healing through faith. It’s books and ideas like this that make the entire alternative medicine industry seem like a bunch of hooie and invalidates any legitimate work they might do.

Shameful. That’s what it was. I didn’t even keep this book. I didn’t even donate it to the library. I literally just left it somewhere to get it out of my house. It broke my heart a little bit.


A Week of Awful Books – Day 2

Today, we continue our journey of awful reads by talking about genre. Genre labelling can seriously impact how a book is received. Fantasy. Paranormal Romance. New Adult. Sci-Fi. Dystopian Fiction. Literary. Chick Lit. Etc. Marketing can seriously influence who reads or avoids any given book it. I’m not super influenced by classifications; I like variety, but there are some I try to stay about from. New Adult is one of those, turning into a wasteland of awful before it even has the opportunity to become a real genre. But I’ll talk about that more later this week.

Apparently, there are some classifications I’ve never heard of- Christian Fiction is one of these. And it’s one that I would normally race from like an Olympic marathoner, and I’m not a runner. This classification instantly makes me think of the rapture and crazy stuff like The Left Behind series.
I’ve never read these, and I won’t be, but I’ve seen clips of the 2001 movie featuring 80’s tv heart throb, Kirk Cameron. These are not in my wheelhouse – at all! However, I am a fan of procedural crime drama (books, tv, movies) and that is how I came to own – that’s right own not borrow from the library – today’s horrendous read.

The Pawn (The Patrick Bowers Files #1) by Steven James
I was suckered in by the cover! I’d just finished The Rook by Daniel O’Malley (which I loved), and I having a love affair with the principles of chess being woven into book plots. I was looking through the cheapy-cheap books for my Kobo and came across the cover for The Pawn. Looks interesting. Oh, and it’s a mystery FBI profiler novel – even better. And look, it’s part of a series. And all the books in the series are named after chess pieces. Bonus, it’s on sale. I have to own this book. So, I bought it, added it to my library, and started a totally different book. I got back to this one several months later, so I needed a reminder of what it was about.

One of the things I don’t like about ebooks is that there’s no back blurb that I can reference. This led me to my ever trusty Goodreads where, upon loading, I noticed a classification I hadn’t seen in anything leading up to me buying this book – Christian Fiction. Uh oh. My hackles instantly rose. I felt like a cornered animal. I would not have bought this book had I known. But I spent money on it. I added it to my inventory. I must read it now. One does not buy books and then never even open them – right? Right!? So, I checked out some reviews, shelved my trepidation, and dove in.

Much to my surprise, it wasn’t the genre that was the problem. It was the awful prose and unrealistic characters. I only made it to the 10% mark in this book, and that was a struggle. The only reason I kept trying was because reviews had raved about how devious the villain was. I love me a good villain.
The real villain – the writing. It stabbed me directly in the darkest depths of my reader’s soul (that’s the kind of stuff I’m talking about). Did an editor even glance at this book? There were so many unnecessary sentence breaks and adjectives that you had to unfocus your eyes to find the important words – like those 3d pictures I could never make work.
(Apparently, this is one of these things: Jupiter, Flowers, Saturn, Rainbow, Star. I have no freaking idea)
Worse than that was the way the author wrote down to his readers. Insulting! The protagonist was such a pompous douche. The scene that finally did me in? When James wants the reader to believe that the police would have missed the fact that a murder victim was wearing an engagement ring and wouldn’t have tried to locate the fiance or even ask the family who it was until Bowers genius decided it was important.
A writer might have gotten away with that a few decades ago, but in this mystery/psychological thriller saturated market, that’s just disrespectful.

A Week of Awful Books – Day 1

I used to be one of those people who had to finish every book I started. Even if it was horrible, I forced my way to the end. A couple years ago, I decided that this was a rubbish idea. Why was I punishing myself and rewarding the author? This is a ridiculous system. Why am I reading this? Really.
I gave myself permission to decide something wasn’t worth my time and stop reading if I wasn’t engaged after the first third of the book (this marker got shorter as books got shittier).
Today, I was reviewing my Goodreads list and realized that I have a lot of these books. It’s kind of my public duty to ensure other people are made aware before they subject their eyes/brains/time to these books.
These reviews will be super short – cause remember – not worth my time.

The first book in a week of awful books is…

Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape by Jenna Miscave
I took a course in university on the Sociology of Religion: Sects and Cults. It was amazing. My prof was something of an expert on Scientology and the material was fascinating. Not in the ‘holy shit, I have to run out and join this thing’ kind of fascinating (although, I somehow know where my local scientology recruitment centre is located), but in a what about this actually makes people want to join in kind of way. The whole thing seems pretty wackadoo to me. I’m an atheist. This means that in my experience all religious writing is fictional. It is someone’s belief system, but it isn’t mine. There’s more than just the back story that makes Scientology a greater curiosity; it’s all the requirements on everyday life.

So, when I saw this book at the library, I really wanted to read it. An inside look at a so called religion (whose classification as a religion seems to fluctuate from year to year) that’s gotten so much media and appears to have some seriously crazy rules about everything? Yes, please. Obviously, I know the book is going to be skewed. It’s being written by someone who refers to leaving as a harrowing escape. But it’s going to have some juicy tidbits. I was expecting cheesy movie levels of enjoyment. Whether or not it was all true, it’s going to be super entertaining. Right? Wrong! Oh so very wrong.

Yes, there was a lot of information in the book. The work style camps for the kids. The complete separation from their parents. The disassociation from anything outside the religion. Good stuff. But the writing is hands down one of the most atrocious things I have ever read. So bad. The editing and storytelling is so bad that I was constantly pulled out of the book to work my way through what they were trying to say – and that pisses me off.

I would rather drown in Thetans than be forced to finish this book. Why searching for images, I did find a super interesting blog called Leaving Scientology that looks much more like what I expected to get out of this book. I’ll probably be giving that a read at some point.

When Reading is Not Enough

Today’s post is short and sweet. I’m heading off to meet with a local writer-in-residence to discuss/get advise about writing and publishing. I’m both excited and nervous (I’m always nervous when people I don’t know read my writing). Reading just isn’t enough all the time. Most of the time. There’s just too much stuff going on in my head. It has to be written down or I will lose my ever-loving mind.
My fellow writers, you know what I’m talking about.

It’s Not Easy Being Green – or is it… (@hankgreen @realjohngreen)

My lovely friend, Stephanie rarely steers me wrong (convincing me Game of Thrones was worth my time, getting me to watch The West Wing several decades too late, explaining complicated political procedures with ridiculous names) and today is no exception. She took me by the virtual hand and walked me over to the vlogbrothers channel on YouTube.

I’ve seen some of John Green’s videos before (it took me far too long to realize this was the same John Green as the author) but I’ve never went looking for Hank Green’s videos. But, she knows me and my OCD and sent me Hank Green’s rant about books and he’s basically my new favourite person.

Why can publishers not make it easier for readers to recognize a series!!! Yes, this is a three exclamation mark issue. Why do I have to scour the book to find the chronology? Or worse! Have to go on the internet. Just put it on the book. It’s not hard. Tiny little number on the side. It can be done. Like Gail Carriger did with The Parasol Protectorate. See.
Sidenote: if you’re a fan of steampunk/urban fiction, this is an excellent series – read it (there are five books plus a secondary YA series. I had to scrounge this image off the internet since I’m not at home to take a picture of my own copies).

And if a book IS part of a series, for the love of reading, make all the books the same! I want them all to look the same – homogeneity is good in this case. They need to look pretty on my bookshelf. I want to be able to run my fingers along the spines of a series and absorb the love. If they’re all different sizes and colours and whatnot, it doesn’t feel the same. It just doesn’t. They might as well be different books. A book spine can compel me to pick something up almost as much as the cover. Get it right!

There are so many more things that are wrong with the way books hit the shelves, but back to the Green brothers. They’re rad. They’re smart. They’re witty. They’re geeky. I want to be friends with them. They are the one and only YouTube channel I’ve ever subscribed to. And yes, I know I’m late to this bus, but you’d be surprised how often that ends up being the case. If you love books, passion, and self-confidence, check them out.