Showing posts with label KM Montemayor. Show all posts
Showing posts with label KM Montemayor. Show all posts

Friday, June 3, 2016

The Spirit Chaser by Kat Mayor (or KM Montemayor!)

Rating: WARTY!

No! I'm sorry, but no. I had read about one third the way into this novel when I encountered this paragraph (below) and immediately quit it on principle. Note that this scene follows right behind one where Casey, the woman depicted here, has quit her job because she's been betrayed by Austin. She storms off to her office, pissed as all hell, and starts packing to leave. The guy follows her and manhandles her as described below.

He strode over to her, grabbed her by her shoulders, and spun her around. Her bag fell to the floor as he pushed her against the wall and planted his lips firmly on hers. Her eyes widened in surprise. Da-amn. He has strong lips. So strong, she could feel her toes curling. Casey was too stunned to protest. He took that as a green light and weaved his fingers through her hair without releasing any pressure from her lips. Not once did he try to stick his tongue down her throat, but that didn't stop it from being one of the most powerful kisses Casey had ever experienced.

You don't get to describe a guy in process of raping a woman and have the woman fall in love with him because of it, and then expect me to rate your fiction as anything other than trash. No, you don't. And this from a female author? Her toes curled? Seriously? I half-way expect this kind of garbage in the young adult world, but not in a mature novel for adult readers which is otherwise written reasonably well.

Austin has manhandled her before, and the appropriate response from Casey here would be to knee him in the groin, or punch his face, or at the very least wrench away from him or start yelling for help. This is a guy who has already proven himself to be a complete jerk and a dick, to have had no qualms about abusing her mentally, and for whom she has no love at all. Yet suddenly when he becomes brutal with her, she melts and succumbs to his "charms"? No! The bottom line here is that I don't care how well you write, you put this abusive trash in your story and you get an automatic fail from me. This kind of writing is a disgrace. It's worse than pornography in how it inexcusably disrespects women.

I'd already had several issues with this novel before this point, and this is the second of this author's novels I've read and been thoroughly unimpressed. It will be the last. Despite the problems though, I was still plugging away at it hoping for something better while fearing that Casey was too stupid to be worth reading about and that she and Austin, despite his appalling behavior, were sadly going to be paired off. I'd overlooked a couple of grammatical errors, such as "You're going to want you're fantastic job back" (where the second one should have been 'your', of course), because this was an advance review copy. While I appreciate the chance to review it, I don't appreciate this kind of abusive writing, which essentially instructs us that all any woman needs is some rough-handling and she'll fall for the guy who is abusing her. No!

The basic story sounded good. I'm not a believer in spirits or ghosts or demons, but I love a good story about that kind of thing, and there are not that many honestly good stories out there on these topics. This one is the first I've elected to read in a long time because of this, and it seemed like it might be a worthwhile read. The story is that Casey is hired as the resident psychic on a successful TV show, Spirit Chaser Investigations, wherein a team of people visits and films haunted houses.

After she does a walk-through of a purportedly haunted house and declares it a non-starter - there's nothing there - a dissatisfied Austin, the show runner with a deadline to meet, brings in another psychic for a second opinion, and shuffles Casey off for the day so she doesn't even know he's done this. He doesn't tell her until the last minute, right before the team watches the rough-cut of the episode they plan on airing, and Casey gets to see this other woman making up stories about bad events in the house, and going on about a civil war soldier, pretty much feeding Austin a total bunch of rot.

This is what happens when you let your dick think for you and bring in your old girlfriend to piss all over your current psychic. Casey naturally feels betrayed and storms off, leading to the sickening paragraph above. Evidently, she doesn't feel betrayed enough, because all Austin has to do is slam her up against a wall, force a kiss on her, and she's his BFF forever. I'll let you figure out what that middle 'F' means.

The issues I'd had with the novel before this were annoying but not automatic cancellations. There was too much trope, for one thing - purloined ideas from movies, such as that one of the haunted houses was built over a 'Native American' (that would be American Indian) sacred site, and the rocking chair which started moving by itself, and the house which has a façade that looks like an evil face: "The shadows cast a grinning humanoid visage against the façade, and the two upstairs bedroom windows looked like sinister eyes." I like my stories to be a bit more original than that, but I was willing to put up with it for a while at least.

I was even putting up with author foibles such as when Casey describes someone as her "New BBF" How can you have a new best friend forever?! It's a minor thing, but a lot of minor things add up over the length of a novel, such as the author's obsession with "granite countertops in the kitchen." Some parts were well written. I particularly liked this bit: "she spotted his most shameful secret. It was in the corner of his mind wrapped in the brown paper of guilt and tied with strings of self-loathing," taken from when Casey reads someone's mind (at their invitation). But there was nowhere near enough of that to overcome the deficits.

Other parts, for example, made no sense: "Her third eye showed her the dark mist overlying the upper floor." This was on a photograph she was looking at. I found myself taken out of suspension of disbelief to wonder how this worked exactly! She's not looking directly at the house, she's looking at an image of it, yet she still sees this misty aura around it? Is the photograph haunted?! Or is it that idea from the Doctor Who episode where the image of a weeping angel becomes an angel itself?

Given that there was a total lack of world-building here, the reader is offered no additional information at all about how any of this was supposed to work. Casey was evidently far too stupid to figure it out or even be curious about it, so we got zilch from her. After reading a few items like this, it felt to me like the author was simply randomly pulling trope ideas from the history of horror fiction, without doing anything to weld it into a coherent whole. She had some eastern mystic guy on the team, a Catholic priest, and an American Indian shaman (we never did learn what tribal affiliation he had, not in the portion I read). The whole thing was a pot-pourri of random elements, and the predictable result was that it stunk.

Some parts were just plain dumb and made the main character, Casey, seem tragically stupid - such as where Austin once again forces himself on her and overrides her own wish for lunch with his own plan. I was really starting to dislike him at this point. He whisks her off in his fancy car and she's having the wilts and the vapors over his driving! "For some reason, she'd always found it strangely powerful and sexy to watch a man drive a stick shift." I know the reason: she's simply that shallow! Maybe she does have these bizarre fantasies, but right after that came, "Austin downshifted as he approached a red light. Casey studied his movements. They were automatic. He didn't have to think about it. His right hand just knew what to do." Like this is some magical super power? No! Everyone who drives stick shift drives like this! That's what competent driving is all about.

I detest stick shift, but even I drive like this when I'm forced to drive such a vehicle, so this observation just made Casey look like a juvenile moron - or at best, someone who had led an extraordinarily sheltered life (which she had not). Another example of her lack of smarts is when she observes of Austin, "you should be the biggest skeptic in the world." Yet this is said to the guy who is running a show wherein he repeatedly reports on inexplicable supernatural phenomena! Just how stupid is Casey? Too stupid for me to want to read any more about her, rest assured.

I've never understood why it is that we have to literally get on our knees and beg for aid from a god which is supposed to be infinitely loving. Check this out: "Would you allow me to say a prayer of protection with you and give you a blessing?" This is not a problem with the writing per se because people really believe this stuff, but it gets worse. At one point the priest says, "The more people we have praying the better." Why is that? Does this god only pay attention if more than one person begs? Does he need a crowd begging on their knees before he will act? We learn, "If God had not restrained the enemy, you would still be trapped." but we don't learn why he let these people suffer before he so kindly stepped in and helped out. If he cares that much why isn't he smiting the demons instead of letting them punish people? Is this god a sadist? It was just one more example of how poorly the story hung together.

I quickly tired of the appalling abuse of vegetarians and vegans in this novel, too. Here's just one example of how they were repeatedly dissed: "Liv can make vegan cuisine and a few other Austin-approved dishes that don't taste like baked dog turds." Examples of such thoughtless writing were not uncommon, such as this one, on a different topic: "...he thought about placing the cool, metallic barrel against his tongue. He shoved it down his throat and pulled the trigger." I've never heard of anyone considering committing suicide by pushing a barrel down their throat. Aiming it up at the roof of the mouth, yes, but down the throat? Not so much! But maybe this tied in with Austin's perverse attitude towards sexuality. Who Knows. Maybe this novel should have been titled Fifty Shades of Spirit.

Out of curiosity (about this mixture of Eastern religion, Catholicism, and American Indian tradition, I looked up what kind of monsters and demons the American Indians have, and they're so pathetic as to be laughable. One of them, Aniwye was an Ojibwe legend of a large man-eating skunk monster which kills people by breaking wind at them, causing them to become sick and die! The 'demon' names are pathetic by themselves: Basket Woman? Perverted Merman? How about the 'Cannibal Dwarves'? Not much fodder there for your standard Catholic-based possession story which is, I assume, why we saw no such demons in the part of the story I read. Graham Masterton had the right idea in his 1977 novel, The Manitou, but ideas seemed very limited here.

So no, this novel is not worth reading, and I actively dis-recommend it. I do recommend sensitivity training for the author so we don't get any more novels of women being abused and the reader being expected to believe this is how romances really ought to be.

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Circle by KM Montemayor

Title: The Circle
Author: KM Montemayor
Publisher: Smashwords
Rating: WARTY!

DISCLOSURE: Unlike the majority of reviews in this blog, I've neither bought this book nor borrowed it from the library. This is a "galley" copy ebook, supplied by Net Galley. I'm not receiving (nor will I expect to receive or accept) remuneration for this review.

Once again I have a novel with a prologue which I once again skipped. Prologues are all about telling, aren't they and I'm just not into them. This is the first Smashwords published novel that I've reviewed as far as I remember (the novel interior says Smashwords, the net Galley page says Create Space). K. M. Montemayor is a Texas author who has a really cool website, but I could not get on board with this novel. I think it had a lot of potential, but I don't think the potential was realized.

This novel is book one of a series, and it's blessedly told in third person for which I applaud the author heartily. It's tempting to rate it a worthy read for that alone - a young adult novel told in third person? Unheard of in this day and age! On the other hand, it's yet another YA trilogy with a circle on the cover, and that's never a good sign in my reviewing experience.

In the end, I could not give it a passing grade and I'll tell you why right here. This was a novel I couldn't properly get into and after about five chapters I could not bring myself to read any more. It was too simplistic for me, too young and too shallow, and it was far too focused on teen romance for my taste. In short, it wasn't at all what I'd expected to find based on the book description.

Set in the 1980's for reasons which were not apparent to me in the portion I read, this novel is about Liliana Garcia, something of a loner girl in high-school, who is on the 'drill team' yet isn't a part of the crowd. The first chapter lays out her life - which sadly seems to render her more of an appendage than a person.

Lilly's mom is a single mom who still has not got over separating from Lilly's dad. This is why, Lilly surmises, she works two jobs - doing something unexplained on weekends and also working the evening shift at the hospital where she's an ICU nurse, to occupy her time. What was confusing to me in this first rush of information was the time-line. We're told it's the last week of summer break, but apparently it's the last weekend; then suddenly it's school and band practice and there's a new guy in the band - a senior year transfer in. I got confused by how rapidly that went by.

On reason that this was hard to get into is the episodic nature of it, and the jumps in time between each episode. In each chapter, we're treated to a series of vignettes separated by triple asterisks, and that gave the novel a disjointed feeling to me, more like a dream than a narrative, or like looking at a series of snapshots in a photo album instead of watching a movie.

For senior high-school students, Lilly and Claire seemed rather juvenile to me. Despite their being seventeen, Lilly's friend Claire gushes over her boyfriend's purchase of a charm bracelet for her as though she's twelve, and Lilly's entire repertoire of thought is confined solely to how attractive people are. She's so shallow that eyeglasses are a huge turn-off for her. Charlie wears eyeglasses.

The big twist here is that this new guy, Charlie, hasn't transferred in from another high-school so much as transferred in from outer space. He's an alien supposedly here to learn what 'Earthans' know about space exploration, what kind of technology they have, and to prevent humans from learning about Charlie's own Sentrian civilization.

To me, this made no sense! Surely the best way to prevent humans from finding out about Sentrians was to keep the heck away from humans rather than send people to live amongst them? The best way to learn about Earth's activities in space, and human technology was to read about it in books, newspapers, and magazines. There's no reason whatsoever to have anyone go to high-school!

Besides, if the Sentrians have the technology to transport themselves over trillions of miles of space and seamlessly integrate themselves into human life undetected, what on Earth (literally) do they have to worry about? Clearly their technology is far beyond that of humans. I didn't get what their problem was at all.

I don't get the use of the term 'Earthan' either. Why not simply call them humans, or use whatever name they have for Earth in their own language? These Sentrians inexplicably all seem to have human habits, human names, and human customs whilst at the same time seeming baffled by human language and customs. That made no sense to me, either.

Sentria is evidently based on a Soviet Union mentality, which may be why the author set this in the eighties, but if Charlie thinks that humans have it free and easy, he's clearly spent zero time in the Islamic republics or in communist states! Why is that? Why did he come to the US in the fifties and right back there again in the eighties? If they already knew about human technology from the fifties visit, whence the need to come back at all? This was one more in a growing list of questions I had. Admittedly I didn't read much of this, and perhaps at least some of these questions were resolved later, but by that point I had no interest in pursuing them, nor any faith that the romance would allow these questions to be answered.

There's one section about Sentrians loving Earth coffee, but being unable to grow the plants on Sentria, and being unable to brew the coffee with Sentrian water. This, I'm afraid, is patent nonsense. Water is water no matter where it is in the universe. It's H20, dihydrogen monoxide, and that's all there is to it, but that's not the biggest problem here.

There's actually a good reason why humans can assimilate coffee and that's because we 'grew up together'. That is, we all share the same basic genetic code (with obvious differences). We evolved together on the same planet from the same genetic roots. Animals on Earth have evolved enzymes to consume Earth vegetation (and other Earth animals). It's a complete and tightly-integrated eco-system. There's no reason whatsoever to believe that we could automatically eat and enjoy, and digest and garner nutrition from, alien plants and animals any more than aliens can avail themselves of ours.

If this novel had been written without the romance and for a younger audience, I think I would have had fewer problems with it, but as it was, the science was still not quite right, the plotting didn't mesh, and this isn't something I got anything out of, so I cannot recommend it.