Sunday, December 12, 2021

The Twelfth Day of Christmas

Rating: WARTY!

So the Twelfth and last Day of Christmas reviews is finally here! Yeay! My last ever! That's not to say I won't ever back to, perhaps, fix a review if I find a mistake in it, or maybe even add a note or an idea here and there if inspiration strikes me, but the grind of reading and reviewing, and writing and posting reviews is at an end, and it's such a relief to know I never have to do any of this again! From now on I read purely for pleasure. So this final day is a wish list if anything, and it's a wish for tired tropes and clichés to be banished from novels, TV shows, and movies. So this last day is a look at novels, plots, and genres which are essentially trope to the max.

Some tropes are expected in various genres - it's what genre really means I guess, but there's a difference between generically following conventions in a genre and in outright retreading previous stories that have already been done to death. Even the accepted standard tropes need to be busted to keep things fresh, and there's nothing I despise more than an author who robotically writes a cookie-cutter story that's really no different in any substantial way to anything that's gone before.

I was decided on this topic when I tried to read the novel titled Graveyard Shift by Angela Roquet recently, and it makes for a great finale to my twelve days. The novel was a grim reaper sort of a story where the reaper is a woman instead of the usual guy, and apparently there's more than one reaper.

The story reminded me a bit of Spongebob Squarepants which my kids used to watch. Though the stories in that TV cartoon concerned only sea creatures and it's set on the seabed under god knows how many fathoms of pressure, the characters all act and behave exactly like humans who live on land with an atmosphere of air - and they have day and night! Spongebob works at a restaurant where they cook food - on a flame...underwater! A viewer should expect kids' cartoons to be goofy like that, but this novel was for grown-ups, yet it was still that kind of stupid.

So this reaper has a ship - which she bought - bought - from a pirate with her co-owner, who is another female reaper. They have to ferry their charges across an ocean to an assortment of ports, so they're really the ferryman...woman, not the reaper. The ocean has pirates. Heaven has Saint Peter at the gate. Why is anyone needed at the gates of Heaven? Just asking. But every single trope is included and there's nothing fresh at all.

This is why I could not for the life of me understand the mentality of an author named Kimberly Frost - of whom I'd never heard - who claims this novel is "darkly comic and wildly imaginative." In fact it's neither. It's not remotely funny and it's as unimaginative as it's possible to get. This does have the advantage of informing me that I need never read anything ever written by the apparently delusional Kimberly Frost, so thanks for that heads-up at least!

The Harry Potter series was yet another fictional creation of this type, where women are witches and men are wizards and ne'er the twain shall meet! They all carry little wooden sticks which they wave while chanting two Latin words to create something out of nothing, and no matter how much magic they do, they never incur any cost for it. I guess that's what magic is, right: the ultimate free lunch, but if there's no risk and no cost, then where's the danger? Where's the excitement? Where's the compulsion to read? Fortuantely for Jo Rowling, she added enough new and original stuff that despite all of the tired trope, the stories were engaging - to millions! There's a lesson to be learned there.

You know the thing that's always fascinated me about this free magic crap in her stories, is that those who do dark magic typically seem to have to pay a price - using blood or even a severed limb, so it makes me wonder, which is the real evil side here: those who are willing to pay a price to achieve their ends and those freeloaders who take all their magic and don't pay a penny - or anything of value - in return for it?! I have one remaining question: if magic is achieved by saying spells in Latin, how the hell did they ever perform magic prior to Roman times, and before Latin ever became a language?

We see this same kind of garbage in vampire stories. The vampires are pretty much always timeless and ageless, with fantastical charms and winning ways, and it never costs them anything. They often have hierarchies and councils and all of them fall in line! There are no rebels. The older vampires are always depicted as more - never less - powerful. Why is that? Is it from the number of victims they take? Is it the sheer amount of blood they've drunk? Or is it merely the passage of years? It seems to me that if it's anything other than years, then any new upstart vampire could readily surpass an older one if he or she were willing to really go for it in drinking blood from numerous victims. No writer ever explores this because...we're gonna have to face it they're addicted to trope! (Apologies to Robert Palmer).

The werewolf novel writers are no different. They have the same tropes. Wolves are always in a hierarchy with an alpha male. This isn't how humans typically work. They tend to be much more democratic and cooperative, particularly females, so why are writers (and very often female writers at that!) always having females kowtow to the males? And how come the wolf part of them is so much stronger than the human part, in that they behave more like wolves than like humans - or even than a fifty-fifty mix of human and wolf? And why are these were-writers too cowardly to break these rules and write against trope? Is it because they're really were-chickens? Or is it because they write for an audience that's so brain-dead they swallow these tropes uncritically like a bunch of sheep doing grass in a meadow? You know, even sheep will surprise you when you find out more about them.

If any genre is irrevocably chained to trope, it's fantasy. Dwarves are always short, bearded and irascible. Elves are always tall, beautiful, ageless and skilled archers. Trolls and orcs are unevitably ugly and violent. Fairies are never to be called fairies - they're always 'fae'. Do these authors not know that 'fae' is a Scots word that is merely a variant of 'foe'?! It's also half of 'faecal' in the British spelling!

Another trope is that names typically have an apostrophe in them. Why? This same thing happens in sci-fi novels, but an apostrophe means one of three things in a word. The first of these is that there are letters missing, and the apostrophe marks the gap. A lot of writers of one sort or another, make the mistake of using 'your' as a contraction of 'you are'. The missing letter is the 'A' in 'are', and so 'you are' is contracted to you're. The apostrophe marks the absent 'A'. So 'your' is entirely wrong, unless you're using it in speech or in a text message sent by an illiterate, which would be fine because uneducated - and even some educated - people do that. It's a serious error to use that in your descriptive writing. The question here though, is why would anyone have letters missing from their name?

There's only one case where that happens, and that is, for example, in an Irish name like O'Conner, where the apostrophe marks missing letters of a sort. The origin of such names lies in the fact that this person is the daughter or son of Conner, and so is 'of Conner' which is shortened to O'Conner. But to randomly put apostrophes in a person's (see what I did there?!) name for no reason is the mark of a moron.

The third case of apostrophes comes from some languages where there is a glottal stop in a word, which when transposed into English will employ a question mark to identify the stop, or some other character. Hebrew employs the aleph ⟨א⟩ to achieve this aim. In some cases, like in the translation of Arabic into English, an apostrophe is used, but none of this applies to names used in fantasy stories so W'T'F?! It's pathetic and pretentious, and frankly? Stupid.

Private dick stories is another genre where tired trope (read tripe) flourishes. Despite the fact that he or she is brilliant, unsurpassed, and miraculous in solving the most intractable cases, the private dick inevitably has issues which for the life of them they cannot solve. The story can never be about a successful detective agency because the writer then has to actually do some work to make their story outstanding, whereas if they make their private dick exactly like all other dicks who've come before it makes it a lot easier to ejaculate trope on top of cliché, and never actually have to do any of the real work of creating a unique and inventive story.

Another fine trope is the police detective, or alternatively, the special forces guy - always a guy - who has retired, but is so fucking capable and unique, and so utterly indispensable that no-one - and I mean no-one on the entire planet can hold a candle to them. So he - it's nearly always a he for the detective, always a he for the spec forces dude - has to be pulled out of retirement to solve a case or to fix an injustice because every other motherfucker on planet Earth is useless. Despite this, the special ex-retiree stellar credentials dude has issues just like the private dick. It's the one that got away, or the brother-in-arms he lost in battle who is on the spec dude's conscience; all tired, over-used and worn-out tropes.

What about sci-fi? Here, it's the trope of a small renegade group of space pirates or other such rebels which always has, and I quote, "a misfit crew." Immediately I read that in a book description, that's the end of all of my interest in that book! You know that, just like in the Firefly TV series, and in the Star Trek TV series for that matter, the misfit crew is going to be perfectly brilliant. The best pilot in the galaxy, the best engineer running the engines, the best military guy in charge of weaponry, etc. It's farcical - and it's boring. There's never anything at risk or even any excitement because you know for a fact before you even start chapter one or watch episode one that, in the words of Bob Marley in Three Little Birds, "...every little thing gonna be all right."

Star Trek is particularly pathetic because it's always the heroic, Mary Jane of a captain who goes. They always send all the senior officers on every away mission, which is frankly fucked-up in the head stupid, and begging for disaster. There's never anything at stake here, because you know that these pompous, self-satisfied dickheads will never come to harm. And where are the drones and robots? Despite society today being replete with robots and drones, Star Trek has zero robotics. Why is that? What are they afraid of? The closest they came to having one was the idiotically-named Commander Data, and he was turned into a running joke. Clown-mander Data, who is supposed to be trying to become human like Pinocchio, yet he has an 'emotion chip' that he can turn on and off at will? LOL!

Star Wars, the other dumb-ass space opera, took this clown robot feature to another level, going entirely the opposite direction by having numerous robots, yet making every one of them invariably be a complete numbskull. I can't think of anything more useless or laughable than the Laurel and Hardy pair of stand-up comedians that deservedly aren't even given names. Here's the weird thing though: when they made a living version of C3PO that they ridiculously-named Jar Jar Binks, then this character, which in every way was exactly like C3PO save being biological rather than mechanical, it was universally reviled. Go figure!

I don't watch Star Trek or Star Wars because they're such a tired joke, but I would watch a Star Wars where the first thing that happens in scene one is some impatient tough-guy blasting C3PO into smithereens as soon as he opens his stupid mouth, thereby eliminating that worthless piece of tedious trash permanently from the cannon. I'd pay money at a movie theater to see that Star Wars!

Moving on, the local interest story set in a village with a cast of 'zany' characters is the same thing as the sci-fi 'misfit crew' story to me. For me, it's a huge no-no when it comes to deciding whether to read a novel. I have zero interest in reading about a 'zany' group of eccentric people and there are so many such novels published that it's truly tedious.

Believe it or not, I actually enjoy a good romance story, but there are so few original and engaging stories out there as compared with the hoards of such books that seem to be nothing more than rubber-stamp versions of all previous novels, and which have tired tropes stacked-up to the ceiling. The woman who loses her job and her fiancé/boyfriend on the same day and goes running back to her home town is a piece of shit that's been done ten billion times too many. Even the very first one of those 'weak woman' stories was one too many. Another is the guy who comes back into his ex's life to win her back, and it's such a pile of horse dung that those books need to be burned if any books do. Yeah, he treated me like shit, but this time it will be different is a tragic lie women in dire need of psychiatric help tell themselves. It's called codependency. A variation on this is the regretted lost love, such as two that were in a recent audiobook flyer - the same flyer, essentially the same story: Sweet Talk by SL Scott has it that "Once college sweethearts, Danny and Reese eventually went their separate ways. Now, Danny is a top model who would do anything to win back the girl who got away." Barf! Kiss Me in Christmas by Debbie Mason claims that "Actress Chloe has locked lips with A-list Hollywood stars — but when it comes to her high school crush, Easton, she feels like she’ll always be an awkward schoolgirl. Can a little holiday magic change how he sees her?" Yuk! A third, and perhaps the most evil, version of this kind of story is the woman who is trapped somehow with the very man she hates, and yet inevitably falls in love with. Stockholm Syndrome anyone?

So here's my Christmas wish: please, authors, ditch your tropes and write something truly original, truly inspiring, and truly new and fresh. Pretty please?

Saturday, December 11, 2021

The Eleventh Day of Christmas

Rating: WORTHY!

What's with all this negativity! Today I'm going to look at eleven writing tips that are suppsoedly aimed at helping writers, and we'll see if they're really of any utility. You might have noticed that whenever someone puts out a book that purportedly tells you how to write a best-seller, it's always by an author you never heard of before; it's never by the author of an actual best-seller! Unless of course they seriously do what I jokingly do - which is call my one novel that sold any amount, my best seller! LOL! Well, it's true, right? Out of what I;ve written so far, it did sell the best!

So let's look at these writing tips and I'll toss in my two-cents worth for what it's worth. I've written over thirty novels, novellas, and novelettes, and if I say that each averaged a bare miminum of around 40,000 words, that's over a million words I've put down. I've also read, or tried to read, some 5,000 books at least, so that counts as some experience too. That sure doesn't make me an expert or a wizard prognosticator, but it does give me some amateur insights.

  • Write What You Know About. I call bullshit on this one. Here's how I know: Did Stephen King ever know a girl in high school who could move things with her mind? Did he ever meet a classic car that was haunted by a ghost or meet a gunslinger from a parallel world? The answer to all these questions, as I'm sure you already know, is a resounding 'No'! He never did. So how is he writing what he knows? Did Jo Rowling ever spend seven years going through the British schooling system among a bunch of witches and wizards? Nope. Did Stephanie Meyer ever meet a vampire or a werewolf? Sha right! Did Ian Fleming ever travel to exotic countries on spy missions durign the Cold War, battling master criminals? Nah! Did Suzanne Collins ever have to fight to the death in a vicious contest representing her district? No, she did not. None of these people were writing what they know. You know what they were all writing? What they could get away with! That doesn't guarantee sucess, and you will look like an idiot if you write outside your comfort zone without researching your topic properly, but you do not have to stick to writing what you know! You're writing fiction for goodness sakes! It's all made up. You don't have to write what you know, you just have to look like you're writing what you know, or at least make it so enthralling that your readers won't give a shit that you're making it up as you go along - which is what all of us are doing anyway!
  • Show, Don’t Tell. This one I can get with, but again, you're the writer. You're in charge. You get to decide how much you tell, and how much you show. That said, it is tedious to be all Tell, William! It's called info-dumping, and no one wants that. But back to Stephen King. I'm not a fan, but this is a guy who's made a career out of info-dumping every character's entire family history even unto the third and fourth generation of those that hate me! This guy cannot stop himself from telling up the wazoo, and he seems to have made a fine career out of it.
  • Allow Yourself to Make Mistakes is a very misleading piece of advice. If you make those mistakes in your first draft, don't sweat them, but they had better be long gone by the time you self-publish your novel. Even if you publish with Big Publishing™ your editor will not catch them for you, nor will your beta readers. Only you cna prevent fiction fires I've seen far too many novels from the publishing establishment with the most egregious mistakes in them ot ever trust those fuckers. So yeah do whatever it takes to get your first draft written, inlcuding wiritng nonsense, ignroign msitakes and skippign gleefully over plot holes and deus ex machina devices, but be damned sure you edit it fully and in detail, and you fix every pothole on The Road to Wigan Pier before it ever sees the light of publishing.
  • Read So You Can Write is another decent one. But your reading needs to be smart. If you're wanting to write in genre X, then read the best writers who have come before you in genre X. That doesn't mean you can't read other genres at all - sometimes a little cross-pollination is good for the soul of your work, but do read the best - and then do not copy them! Your work needs to be original, not a clone, not a cookie-cutter replica, not a retread. If you are widely-read in romance genre, do not set your next romance in space unless you also read some sci-fi first, otherwise you'll look like an idiot. The same goes for creating a modern day western - read some fo the classic westerns! You already know about the modern day so yourle covered there. The same applies to any cross-genre writing. Being an expert in one does not necessarily equip you to tell a story in another, even if you're transposing a genre with which you're intimately familiar.
  • Write and Write, and Write. Apart from reading, the next best way to become good at what you do is to write. Don't imagine you have to work at writing your epic novel every single day all the live-long day. Some will advise you to write every day. but that can be soul destroying if you're going through a bad patch. Don't be afrair to 'bunk off' as the Brits say. Do be afraid to quit and never get back to it. One way to avid this is to write something different if you feel like you're getting bogged down. It doesn't have to mean starting a new novel, which coudl prove to be a serious distraction from getting that first one finished. It doesn't even have to mean writing something fictional. You could just write down what you did that day and elaboate on it. Or you coudl write what you'd really like to eat for dinner if your budget were limitless, or where you would spend your next vacation if the same financial restraints were gone. The point is not to get burned out. Forcing yourself to write, like itl;s a pchore or a punishment is the worst thign youc an do to yourself. Writign needs to be a joy if yourel goignt o makle a career out of it, so write that joy. A relaxed attitude doesn't mean you can afford to be totally lax. At some point you will need to knuckle down and get it done. But you do nto ahve to flag yourself. If you find you do, then you're fpding it worng! Yourel weigther wiritng the worng nvoel or takling the worng approach to it. Maybe it's not a comedy. Maybe it's a horror show. Or vice-versa. This is not a piece of furniture in a packing crate. It's not lead-crystal glass. It will nto break if you open it from the other side, get it wet, or drop it! Do not be afraid to stand it on its head to figure that out.
  • Write Even When You Feel You Have Nothing to Say. This sounds like the opposite of the previous observation, but the thing is, if you really want to write, don't stop yourself by saying, "I don't have it, I'll just take today off." Use the mood! Go ahead and write, even if it doesn't fit with the rest of the story. Even if you edit the whole thing out on the penultimate read-through. If you feel the need to write, then get our of your way and let yourself write, even if it's nonsense. Even if it's a different story. Even if the chacter you killed-off two chapters ago wants to resiurrect themselves because they still have something to say or something to do. It's fiction, but it does need to breathe and move and have its being.
  • Don't let your first draft depress you! William Shakespeare never did. He edited like crazy and he's considered a genius. I don't know if I agree with that, but he certainly has longevity doesn't he? And he made a living from his work during his lifetime, so he definitely had the write idea. Get that first draft done, employing whatever techiniques it takes to get you to the end. Let it sit. A good pot of tea has to brew for a while. Then taste it and see how much sugar and milk - if any, you need to add. Maybe it needs lemon, or orange, or honey? Those are the rewrites and they're much easier and more fun than the first draft, believe me. Book editors don't know how easy they have it.
  • Write What You’d Like to Read. This was the idea that Marvel Comics' Stan Lee had, an he was a genius, but I'm not sure it's great advice. I mean it's a wonderful thing to be original, but that's not what readers are buying or publishers are publishing in this era of endless cloned YA trilogies and so on. It's really frustrating, which is why I self-publish. I do write what I'd like to read. I write what's missing from the cookie-cutter world of cloned literature that's so pervasive these days. it doesn't mean it will ever sell, not while readers are sheep and follow the crowd everywhere regardless of how boring and tedious it is to do so.
  • Keep a Notebook Handy. Bullshit! No one in their right mind uses a notebook and one is useless when you're driving. These days you can send a text or an email to yourself (or anyone else!) even while driving - hands-free, that is! DO NOT text and drive using your hands! But if you cna send mail or texts using voice only, then while still focused primarily on your driving, by all means send your ideas to yourself as a text or an email, because while you will remember the best and most exciting ideas you have - they will come back to you even if you think you have forgot them - you will also forget a lot, and especially the details that sounded so good the night before, or that you worked out while waiting at the red light!
  • Be Disciplined. I'm not into BDSM; nor would I need to be to write about it (LOL!), but writing discipline is another thing. It's back to thart idea of forcing yourself to write every day which we already decided is not a charmed idea. However, you do need to nudge yourself often and make yourself write most days to get that first draft done, no excuses. This is where the dicipline comes in.
  • Have Fun! None of these so-called writing experts will tell you that, but it's really the most important advice of all. If you're not enjoying what you're doing, you're either in the wrong profession or, purely in the realm of writing - you're writing the wrong story, or the wrong plot, genre, characters, location - something! You need to have fun or you're going to be a miserable writer and your readers, should you garner any, will know it.

Friday, December 10, 2021

The Tenth Day of Christmas

Rating: WARTY!

For the Tenth day, let's talk about interminably resurrected fairytales, shall we?

Beauty and the beast Did you know there is over TWO HUNDRED retellings of this fairytale out there? That's pretty much 200 too many. Here are some I've had at least a passing acquaintanceship with:

  • Rebel Rose by Emma Theriault is one I ditched recently.
  • The Scarlet Rose by Valia Lind is one I Non-Reviewed.
  • Rose Daughter by Robin McKinley is anotheer. Notice a commonality here?
  • Beauty and the Professor by Skye Warren.
  • For the Wolf by Hannah Whitten seems to me to be another one. Maybe not. Maybe it's just a Red Riding Hood redux, but if it was a mix of the two at least that would be something new, right?
  • Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge was one I actually liked, believe it or not.
  • Beast by Christine Pope, who has three strikes against her for me. I've tried three of her novels and haven't liked a single one of them so I'm done with her as a author.
  • Bellamy and the Brute by Alicia Michaels is another a reviewed negatively a year or so ago.
  • Uprooted by Naomi Novik is another bad one.
  • Of Beast and Beauty by Chanda Hahn was another yawn.

Cinderella> has literally scores upon scores of re-writes. It's tedious.

  • Cinderella Screwed Me Over by Cindi Madsen. The title is, I admit, mildly amusing even though it makes no sense, but this is another one that I reviewed negatively.
  • Cinderella Assassin by Allie Burton is a Non-Review for the stupid book description.
  • Midnight Wings by Ariele Sieling yet another Non-Review based on the dumb-ass book blurb.
  • The Dragon Choker by Stephanie Alexander was another fail.
  • Cinderella Is Dead by Kalynn Bayron. How I wish that were true! But Cinderella will never die.
  • Cinder by Marissa Meyer was a winner, but it still had serious issues. And I quickly gave up on the series it started.
  • The Shadow in the Glass by JJA Harwood - another loser.
  • Cinders by Cara Malone. WARTY!
  • Ella the Slayer by AW Exley. Warty to the max!

Thursday, December 9, 2021

The Ninth Day of Christmas

Rating: WARTY!

This list of Young Adult novel tropes and clichés first appeared in my parody novel Dire Virgins. This is why you will find references here to names of characters appearing in that parody, such as eLess, Mox, Tatu, Toby-Ass, Tokina, and so on.

Your main character must be a female, typically fourteen to seventeen years old. My main character, eLess is perfectly in the sweet spot here as indeed are pretty much all of the successful Hunger Games rip-off novels.

The Main Female Character (MFC) must be homely and plain in appearance, but not outright ugly, and she must know this about herself only too well. eLess knows this intimately about herself as do most MFCs in nearly all YA trilogies and series.

Nomenclature (part one)
The MFC must have a long, if not outright spectacular name, but the name must be shortened to something cheap and nasty to infantilize her. Hence eLess: the perfectly-demeaning name. Note that if your MFC or her parents (if in existence - see Parental Units, below) fails to shorten it, one of the inevitable two guys (see Inevitable Triangle, below) must shorten it for her, or give her a demeaning pet name. 'Stiffie' is a good demeaning name and has the advantage of being rife with double-entendre.

The MFC pretty much has to be a loner, virtually, if not actually, hence eLess, although surrounded by members of her fiction in this novel, is the only one (so she initially believes) from Abjection, and she's the smallest, which both isolates her and contributes strongly to the necessary infantilization and marginalization of your main female characters.

The MFC has to have extraordinary issues - that is, she must have mental problems which aren't normal for a child her age. eLess, for example, is haunted by her betrayal of Abjection.

The MFC must arrive at a new faction/group/school/town/tribe. This facilitates her both being a loner, and being 'special'.

The MFC has, or soon ends up with, a quirky side-kick (who I tend to like far more than the main character!). In eLess's case, this is Tokina, the token black girl (see Tokenism, below)

Parental Units
At least one parent, preferably both, is not in the picture. The best way to do this is to have them killed off tragically, or stupidly, as I do with both eLess's parental units.

Older Influence
This isn't really critical, but it can add a certain poignancy to your fiction, especially if you kill off the older influence. So your character might be unusually close to an older relative such as a grandmother. In eLess's case, the older influence is Tatu who gets killed off, which is sad, but only because she's the only Asian in the entire novel.

Betrayal of your MFC
Yes, your MFC must be betrayed in the novel, but it's also very effective to completely undermine your novel by creating a purportedly strong main female character, and then undermining your work by depicting all other female characters in traditional gender rôles as though it's the 1950's.

Male Influences
The MFC's father cannot ever be the biggest male influence in her life. That's a huge mistake, because we know that this never happens in real life. No, your MFC must have at least one, preferably two, preferably slightly older guys who can completely overshadow and very effectively replace the father figure. The guys must be hot and if she's going to have two, they must be polar opposites who immediately show an unnatural interest in her and quickly become the controlling power in her so-called life; never underestimate the importance of this. Your MFC cannot, I repeat absolutely cannot be allowed to take charge of her own life or even have a life outside of the pernicious influence of at least one guy. This is critical. Never forget that she's not a woman but a girl and therefore must be controlled by a guy at all times. eLess, as you know, is entirely under the power of Toby-Ass aka 10:4 and it's just a wall that she is.

Age of Male Influence
The guy is typically the same age, but preferably somewhat older in order to become her symbolic (if not with some bollocks) father as well as her lover. Why is that wrong?

Even societies in the most chronologically distant fantasies have electricity. It's between the MFC and at least one guy whenever they touch. It's shocking, I know, but you cannot forget this, otherwise you risk your MFC operating on her own and that would never do. You must amp it up by having your MFC recharged at regular intervals. It's currently how these trope MFCs are controlled, rather like the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park are controlled by withholding an enzyme. Your MFC cannot truly have any power; YA insists that women aren't wired that way.

At least one of the guys must be brooding (no word on when the eggs will hatch) and secretive, preferably both.

The MFC must see the guy without his shirt on, and quite soon after she meets him. If you can have him stripped down when she meets him, this would be perfect. Why? Read on....

The guy is muscular
In stripping the guy, the young, impressionable, female readers get to see his 'chiseled abs'. 'Chiseled abs' are critical because you know that no guy who lacks them is of any value whatsoever. In fact, such sickly and worthless guys need to be exterminated ASAP. The Nazi's had it right with their ideas of Aryan perfection, which you will see running rampant in all YA fiction rip-off trilogies. Also, if you can actually use the word 'chiseled', do so.

Hate = Love
The girl and the guy hate each other on sight but this 'hatred' is really just another word for instadore. Some people employ the term 'insta-love', but it's not actually love, so my phrase is much better. Note that this is in full compliance with the long established principle that guys have been taught to employ, which is that 'No' and 'Yes' are interchangeable, and can actually mean the same thing, especially when said by a girl. There is no such thing as rape in a YA trilogy, so feel free to have at it, as indeed should all your male characters, and especially if they're 'dumb jocks' because no jock can be smart, and no girl can be a jock!

The guy is troubled
At least one of your YA guys must be deeply troubled over something (which can, in the end, be completely trivial), but only your special girl can wheedle out what this trouble is.

n Each Other's Arms
Your MFC must end up in at least one of your guy's arms because of some ridiculous happenstance which literally throws them together. The train rides in Dire Virgins are the engines of this locomotion, and accomplish it admirably and keep things on track.

The Weak Girl is Injured
No matter how special your MFC is, she must be injured to show how tough she is - because toughness only equates with physical injury - never anything else. Once you have her injured, you can immediately negate this purported toughness by having your guy rescue her and nurse her to health. The guy must take care of her even when a parent (if in existence), or her bestie, or even competent and willing medical personnel are available, because no matter how special your MFC is, the guy is more important, and much more heroic than your MFC can ever hope to be. Never forget that.

Aryan Supremacy
The guy's eyes are Aryan blue. Period. No exceptions. No brown eyes. If you have two guys and insist upon giving one of them another color, make them green. Brown eyes, like brown skin are verboten in YA fiction except as minor throw-away characters. And you know that.

Hair Apparent
At least one of your guys must have hair falling into his blue eyes. I cannot overstate the importance of this. If you have the two polar opposite guys, then it must be the lower-class, bad-boy guy who has the blinding, eye-piercing hair.

The Inevitable Triangle
Two guys are better than one, and some of the ground rules listed here will have to be adjusted to make room for two guys. In this case, both guys are unnaturally and/or irrationally attracted to plain vanilla MFC instantly, and for no reason. The two must be polar opposites, one 'good', and one 'evil', yet the MFC loves them both equally and cannot possibly choose between them, often going back and forth between them as the plot dictates. She cannot survive without either of them. One of hot pair must be clean-cut, spoiled, wealthy, self-absorbed, and he is brooding, with a dire secret, whereas the other guy is lower-class, works with hands, has chiseled muscles and hair falling into his eyes, and he is brooding, with a dire secret. There can be no exceptions to this rule. This bad guy must touch the MFC inappropriately, and talk to her like she's his property, and she must never see anything wrong in his conduct. If he's an adventurer, his name must be Jack. At least one of these guys must stalk or at least creepily follow the MFC all around; he's always there, yet she finds no problem with this, nor even when she discovers he's watching, or has watched, her sleeping. The MFC is overcome by the wilts and the vapors and/or is unnaturally and/or irrationally curious about at least one of the trope dude(s), each of which also has non-standard issues just like the MFC. At least one of these guys has some dirt on the other which he fails to share with the MFC because she's just a girl. At least one of these guys, preferably the 'good' guy, must have gold flecks in his eyes.

You cannot possibly have a YA trilogy without having at least one (and preferably more) girl(s) who are outright bitches and who completely detest the MFC for no reason whatsoever. These bitches must serve no purpose at all other than to be bitchy. Ideally, one of the bitches has some sort of hold over, or dirt on, or a previous/ongoing relationship of some kind with trope guy.

If it's a school setting, the school lunches are invariably nasty.

As if YA trilogies aren't already embarrassing enough, at least one of the trope guys must catch the MFC doing something odd/ juvenile/ embarrassing/ sentimental. Ideally, this will be in an intimate situation where the girl is at least partially undressed, or is wearing a swimsuit. This activity is readily tied to the next one in the list for even greater trope and cliché.

Caught in the non-act
The couple is caught in flagrante delicto by the bitchiest girl in the faction/ group/ school/ town/ tribe, who now has 'dirt' on them. This is best used where the 'dirt' she has is so harmless or mild that it's quite plainly stupid to even make an issue out of it.

Evil That's Not
The MFC must, at some early point in the story, suspect at least one of the guys of perpetrating some evil act that turns out not to be evil, or that turns out to have been unavoidable (for example to prevent a greater evil), or he was set-up.

Out of Character Experience
Rather like the fictional out of body (OOB) experience, your MFC has to be presented with a challenge or opportunity that if she were playing true to her established character, she'd avoid in a millisecond, but which she takes on anyway.

Nomenclature (part two)
Minor characters must have calculatedly super-kewl names that border on the absurd. Don't even think about looking up likely names to match the birth year of your characters so you get something that's actually realistic. That's just plain stupid. Instead, come up with the most out-of-the-ordinary names you can possibly think of, no matter how stupid they seem. One easy ruse is to use family names as first names for characters, so names like Anderson, Bailey, Carter, Conner, Cooper, Ellis, Emerson, Kennedy, McKenzie, Morgan, Parker, Preston, Quinn, Walker, are perfect, but note that you can never shorten these names. McKenzie, for example, is never called 'Mac', Kennedy is never 'Ken', Preston is never 'Prez', Conner is never 'Con', and no two characters can ever have the same name because this never happens, even in real life.

You're Special
The MFC must be somehow special, even in a novel that isn't fantasy or magical. She must have powers or traits which make her highly desirable for admission to clandestine organizations, or to save the world even though she's just a kid.

Don't Go There!
When it comes to 'don't go there' you must always go there in YA fiction. It's just stupid not to. If the MFC is warned away from becoming involved in a new, preferably risky opportunity/ endeavor/ activity or from visiting a location, she must ignore all warnings no matter what, and do the very thing she shouldn't, even if it's completely against character and makes no sense. Preferably she should be encouraged to do this and accompanied by the bad leg of the triangle. If you're really good, you can turn this event into a rift between her and the good guy, thereby artificially raising the melodrama of your novel.

No Adults Allowed
Whether she started out as a loner or not, your MFC must end-up in teen group which has little or no adult supervision. Indeed, no teen in your novel can ever really have adult supervision.

Young Girl
This group she hangs out with behaves uncomfortably below the chronological age of its members, and your MFC sees no problem with this no matter how grown-up and responsible she was beforehand. If you write this properly, you can make her naughty behavior be the cause of an accident, preferably occurring to the good trope guy who is heroically trying to save her from herself, and his resultant injury then causes her all manner of deep guilt.

Kissing (part one)
Kissing and intimacy must be indiscriminate and shameless. The MFC must end-up kissing at least one trope dude quite early in the story - preferably the bad guy.

Kissing (part two)
Shortly after that first kiss, your MFC must shamelessly kiss the other trope dude.

Kissing (part three)
Your MFC must slut-shame all other girls who do the very same things she is doing, but your MFC must remain a virgin no matter what.

Your novel must be racist or bigoted. Extra credit if you can do both. Thus, Dire Virgins has only good, honest, decent white folk in it, but it has two token people of African descent: Mox and Tokina (hence her name), and one Asian, Tatu, because of course tattoos and drugs can only be dispensed by Asians.

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

The Eighth Day of Christmas

Rating: WARTY!

Today features eight stories from Tales From the North Road, every one of which was warty! This was one of those compendia of short stories designed to showcase the work of several writers who, judged from their names, are Scandal-navians! It so happened that this particular volume had eight stories, every one of which was warty, so it's perfect for today!

This was one of those volumes where a contents list made at least some sort of sense because there were eight different writers and no sequential path through the stories. They could be read in any order. The problem as usual was that once you got to a story, there was no way to get back to the contents by, say, tapping on the chapter heading to return. On the e-reader I was using, you have to tap the screen, then slide the bar back to the left to go to the start, and there's no way to gauge where you are exactly. It's clunky and pathetic in today's world.

Here are the stories:

  • Eden by Andreas Christensen is a story of a generation ship that has been zooming through space for two centuries at least. He talks of a "starry nigh sky" - something a spell-checker will not catch, but the thing is, he also says no one alive on the ship had been born when it left on this journey, so the character's 'reminiscences' of blue sky, trees and that starry "nigh" sky were bullshit since he's never seen them himself. But he also talks of being a prisoner of war who was brought aboard more dead than alive, which is utterly ridiculous and flatly contradictory. I gave up on this garbage.
  • The Curse of the Elf Prince by Linn Tesli begins with barely intelligible flowery language and opens with this elf who is spying on female elves who are swimming nude, and his only interest is in their bodies. That's not the image you want to present of your main character. I quit reading this one in the second paragraph.
  • The Fugitives by Theresa Marie Sanne was first person, so I never even began reading it. First person most often sucks and not in a good way.
  • From His Taste in Wine by an author with the stupendous name of Ole Åsli had the word 'hobbling' in the first sentence and 'halfling' in the second which told me exactly what this story would be like. I quit it right there.
  • Point of Return by Paul S Land is about the eponymous location being invaded by what sounded like a Viking hoard. As soon as I read "We must send for help from Deephold..." I quit reading this because it was clear right then how uninventive and trope-ly boring it would be.
  • Angel in the Snow by Laila Sandvold Macdonald made such a big deal of the 'it' in italics, that was pursuing this guy escaping through a snow-laded pine forest that it became quickly tedious. I know it's a short story, but this farcical laboring of it pissed me off so much that I quit reading after the fourth or fifth mention. It had become a joke - like this was a parody rather than an actual story. Is it hardly surprising then that Macdonald is the one author of these eight whose name is omitted from the contents list?! LOL! The story was also one continuous paragraph because of poor formatting. Even the bolded header for part two was right there inline with the rest of the text. Somebody screwed up royally.
  • 2100 by Matts Vederhus was a story I quit reading in the second paragraph when I read: "Suddenly Anne Cathrine [sic] appeared in his side view. She had blonde hair that stretched to her shoulders. Her breasts were the size of small watermelons." Note that this isn't some character saying this, which would be fine because there are guys who reduce women to purely skin-deep. No, this was in the author's own hand in a descriptive passage, so clearly women in this author's world are nothing more than fuck-dolls. That was the end of that story for me. I must confess to some intrigue however, by the employment of the phrase "small watermelons." Why not large grapefruit? Or even just 'grapefruit'? Is it the idea that melons is a sad euphemism for breasts that drove this? That, too, is as informative as it is condemning.
  • The Revelation by Alex Tovsen was first person so I didn't even start on that.
  • One collection, eight stories, all warty to the max. Here endeth the eighth lesson.

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

The Seventh Day of Christmas

Rating: WORTHY! (The First Two) WARTY! (The Last Five)

Nenek Tata and the Mangrove Menace by Judith Vun Price, Jacqui Vun

From an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

This is, I think, to be my last advance review copy book. I've now completed 1,400 such reviews through Net Galley, as well as others from other sources, and it's high time to retire from this - which really does nothing to help me at all - and focus on my own work for a change.

I can't think of a better book to end that streak on than this one, which was a truly fun and educational book set in Borneo, where older couple Tata and Jantan, of the family Nenek, are starting their day to the unnerving news of a storm brewing. The story is told very well by, I believe, Judith Vun Price, and illustrated exquisitely by, I believe, Jacqui Vun in bright colors and playful illustrations.

They start this ~35 page book and their day enjoying their coffee, and then they split up, with Jantan heading to town on his bike to purchase some supplies, and Tata doing an assortment of chores in their homestead, including feeding the ducks, chickens and pigeons, as well as her pet cat, which is actually a clouded leopard kit.

Next she has to cut some juicy grass for the buffalo and finally, she must go empty the crab traps. Unfortunately, this is when she encounters the horrific mud-beast which follows her home! Her brave antics and the resolution to the story are amusing, educational, and highly entertaining.

This was a great story and it contains a glossary at the end to clear up any confusion from some of the local terms used in the story. I enjoyed this immensely and commend it fully as a worthy read.

Harry's Lovely Spring Day by NGK, Janelle Dimmitt

Riffing off the town mouse and the country mouse idea, this is a meticulously drawn (by Dimmitt) and nicely-written, short picture book about Harry Mouse who becomes homeless and is helped a little by Katie Mouse (no relation). Katie lets him have her umbrella and raincoat on a nasty night because she's going to the country. Harry is so happy the next day that he seeks out Katie in the country and has quite the chore in tracking her down. The book was fun and pretty to look at. There's no indication where the story takes place but to me the illustrations had a distinct French flavor to them, although I can't really pinpoint why. But the book told an interesting story for young kids and I commend it.

The Haunted Hotel by Wilkie Collins

This was yet another in a forlorn and long line of attempts to read the classics. It met pretty much the same result: tedium. The story was boring, drawn-out, rambling, and going nowhere. I made it barely a quarter of the way through before I gave up. At least it gave me an idea for a story so it wasn't a complete waste of time, but whether I'll ever write that one, is an open question.

It's hilariously subtitled "A Mystery of Modern Venice" given that it was written in 1878. Doubtlessly Venice was modern back then just as it is now, but it amused me. Quite literally nothing happens in this novella in the first six chapters and apparently not for considerably longer even than that from what I've read about this book, but I can't really comment past the point I read.

In a novel titled 'haunted hotel' one expects there to be some sort of a haunting quite early in the story but no, there isn't! This doesn't even occur in the first half of the story, so I understand now, and even then it's questionable as to what's going on. Personally, I suspected that the disappeared man might well not have disappeared at all, but still be hiding out in the hotel and this is why it appears haunted, but I have no idea if this is the case.

There's no scene setting here. I'm not one for eleborate descriptive prose, but here we don't get any at all! We just get places named without anything supportive. The only real description I read was of a woman who visits this doctor right at the start of the story. She says it will take five minutes of his time, but it ends up consuming him, pretty much, and then either I missed them as a result of glazed-over eye syndrome, or both of these characters simply disappeared from the story. Maybe they reappeared later, past the point at which I quit, but I honestly do not care. Neither was interesting or appealing.

Everyone is stupid in the story. When his Lordship dies, it's written off as bronchitis despite his wife's (non-)brother avidly experimenting with noxious chemicals. It's like the author insists upon sending you a telegram whenever he's planning something, just so it doesn't take you by surprise.

There were so many interchangeable characters introduced in such a lethargic way that I honestly lost track of who was who, which did not help of course! Given all the issues mentioned here though, I can't commend this remotely as a worthy read based on what I read of it. It told a profoundly boring story, and it completely failed to pique my interest.

Lady Audley's Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon

Written in Victorian times, this is both contemporary - for when it was written and historical, for when I read it. Those are the best kind of historical novels for they are authentic. Despite that, this was another forlorn attempt at the classics. I do intend to continue these occasional forays, despite being sorely disappointed most of the time, as I was this time. I didn't finish this one for the reason that it was tedious to read. It also seemed obvious to me that Lady Audley's secret was that she was the wife of adventurer George, who had gone to the antipodes to seek his fortune. The moron had not written a single word to his wife back in England, so she had thought him dead and consequently accepted an offer to marry Lord Audley, abandoning her son in the process. When George returns, he's told she's dead and buried. This is purely conjecture on my part. I do not know if it's true and I really don't care whether it is or not. This gave me an outline of a novel I could write myself, but whether I will or not remains to be seen. As for this one, I can't commend it based on the twenty percent or so that I read.

We Didn't Give Up by Richard Carlson

This is an English Welsh bilingual story about a mommie duck and her three ducklings, who are trying to take a walk to the pond, but the gusty wind keeps blowing them back. However, they do not give up and make it safely there in the end. Each part of the story is told first in English and immediately afterwards is repeated in Welsh. I do not speak a word of Welsh although I love the accent and have been to Wales several times. It's a sweet place to visit with lots to see. I have to say this is far more of a language tutorial rather than a picture book since the illustrations are very rudimentary and not in color. They're just simplistic and rather repetitive line drawings, so the purpose here has to be for the languages rather than the arts, and that said, the story is simple and repetitive. You'd think this would make it a lot easier to match the Welsh words to their English counterparts, but it really doesn't because there's no color-coding of matching words which would have been really easy to do. Without that we have to guess, so, for example, the Welsh word for pond appears to be pwll, which as far as I can ascertain without actually consulting a native Welsh speaker, is pronounced rather like 'pool' which is really easy to remember. The word for bridge is 'bont' which reminds me of 'pont' which is the French word for bridge, so for me, not a stretch! The thing is it could have been a smarter book, better laid out and better organized and failing that, and as simplistic and scrappy as this is, I really can't commend it at all. The author seems to be making a point about determination, but there's also such a thing as admitting failure and giving up. There's no shame in that and sometimes it's by far the more intelligent option!

Daughter of the Gods by Stephanie Thornton

This audiobook was far too fictional. Yes, Hatshepsut had a sister named Nefrubity, but it's not known how she died. It's assumed she died young since there is mention of her and then abruptly no mention of her. She may have died as an infant or toddler, whereas this story has her as the older sister nobly saving Hatshepsut's life when the latter was foolishly trying to hunt a hippo. It's highly doubtful that any of this is remotely close to the truth since the Egyptians above anyone would have known how thoroughly dangerous and unpredictable the hippos were, and no one but a congenital idiot - which Hatshepsut was certainly not - would go off alone trying to bag one, much less a child. That turned me off the story because it felt like such a cheap shot. What made it worse though, was that there was nothing interesting going on. Not even the hippo fiction was very good and I quickly lost interest in the story and DNF'd it. I can't commend it based on the part I heard.

Midnight Wings by Ariele Seiling

Ariele Seiling again. That name amuses me. This is yet another retelling of Cinderella, which I trashed in a non-review. Typically I have no interest in ever actually reading such a book, but it turns out this one was on offer for free as a loss-leader, so I decided to test my theory and see if the book really was as bad as my non-review painted it, and sure enough - it was! It just goes to show that even an admirable attempt to take Cinderella sci-fi, cannot make a good novel out of it if the author doesn't have the chops to really make the story different. I have now read two (at least!) sci-fi Cinderellas, both of them were part of a series, and while the other one was much better than this one, they both suffered from a lack of imagination on the author's part when it came to Cinderella and her prince. Both of them literally had a prince and the gist of the story panned put exactly as it had in the fairy-tale. Boring!

In this one, Cinderella (called Eleanor here for unknown reasons, and going by El), lives on a space station with two step-sisters and a stepmother, all of whom are unrelentingly evil in the sense that they have zero regard for Cinderella and literally dump chores on her unrelentingly, yet she was also supposed to have a full-time job as a mechanic - and have some free time to go sit in the community greenhouse to get some peace and quiet - like there was none to be had at home when her family was all asleep. This endless tedium and repetitive cruelty made for a boring read. The bizarre thing was that this family had at least one servant and yet Cinderella was still doing all the chores! I'm like, what the fuck was the servant doing? Sitting on his ass all day? It made no sense.

Neither did the sci-fi setting. The space station is ruled over by a queen; the prince being her son of course. Why was there a queen in charge of a space station? How the fuck would that ever happen? There was no explanation for this - or for anything else in this entire story. World-building was non-existent, which really wasn't surprising since the whole story was only 100 pages long. It was literally a prologue to draw readers in to buying the rest of this series, so it was barely a story at all, and since we already know how it's going to end, you'd think the author would put in a twist or two here and there to stir things up, but she never does. It was like an animated cartoon for children with farcical 'set-backs' and almost instantaneous resolutions. And Cinderella is such a Mary Sue. No matter what happens, she comes out on top notwithstanding the chores. Actually, on reflection, it's more like the first rough draft of an outline for a story. It's not a story in itself.

Everyone on the space station supposedly has a 'social standing' score and because Cinders's sisters have trashed hers, she has a social standing of zero, which means she has no prospects. When this happened, how, and why, are completely ignored in this story! There's nothing about it other than a passing mention. Why there are even such scores on this space station isn't even touched on. Her means of getting out from under all this comes in the form of her penchant for playing "jet fighter" video games at which she's very good. When does she have time to play video games with all her chores? Again, this is completely glossed over, but evidently she's had sufficient time to become an ace. There's no explanation for why the callous step-sisters let her use their accounts, nor for why she doesn't have her own. Again, like everything else in this story, it's skimped and skimmed.

El meets the prince - who is unknown to her, in one of her greenhouse visits late at night, She's sitting looking for some peace and quiet and this asshole just busts in on her unapologetically, acting like a clown with no regard for her solitude, and she doesn't even resent him for it. The bizarre thing is that she doesn't recognize him. There are apparently not that many people living on the space station, and only one of them is the prince - who must have his face all over the media - yet idiot El doesn't have a clue who he is. It's nonsensical.

Of course she meets him again in her job because she's working on fixing his fighter "jet" naturally! And of course she doesn't know it's his. Unnaturally. Why the prince is flying fighter "jets" is again glossed over. Yes, royals do train in the military, often, but they do not, after their training, go on active service, putting the royal lineage at risk. On the contrary - they're protected from it, so the prince being an active duty pilot made no sense, especially since he was so bad at flying - repeatedly damaging his fighter - which is why El is working on it. Note that the Cinderella character in the other sci-fi I read was also a mechanic. Clone much, Ariele?

Her chance to make a name for herself comes in the form of a contest, open to all citizens regardless of social standing, to find new "jet" fighter pilots. Why they need pilots instead of being able to use drones or AI is yet another topic which is completely glossed over. Why are there no robots in this high tech space station society? Who knows? On the same topic of technology, this ignorant author has no clue that jets don't work in space. They would not be called jet fighters, but that's how they're consistently referred to. Why do they have these and why are new pilots needed? There is no war going on - or if there is, it's never mentioned, so why this urgent need for fighter pilots? Again, the story is silent on the topic. Again, it makes no sense.

There are so many ridiculously artificial (non-)barriers to El getting into the contest and the whole story is ridiculous at this point. "Friends" come out of the woodwork to help her, like woodland animals helping Snow White. It's asinine. And of course she ends up entering the contest quite magically. Yes, of course she's outstanding and of course she becomes a pilot.

Of course her social standing score is wiped clean, but what that means is a mystery sicne it's already at zero. Isn't that wiped clean? LOL! The idiot prince never once questions why it was so bad or how it was possible for evil stepsisters to trash someone's score like they did. No one pays any penalty for their evil at the end, either.

The whole story stunk from start to finish. I would have DNF'd it were it not so short. It's a horrible story and I actively discommend it. It's like the author not only wants to rip-off a tiresomely retreaded fairy-tale, that's been done to death already, but she also then wants to completely skimp on doing any real work to get it up and running as a viable story. On top of that, she wants us to buy her stuff based on this shitty example, when clearly she has no interest in doing any work to actually interest us in reading more. I don't get that mentality at all. To me, that was the only alien thing in this story! And the story completely confirmed my 'non-Review' assessment of it. QED! I rest my case.

Thus we are finished with Day Seven.

Monday, December 6, 2021

The Sixth Day of Christmas

Rating: WARTY!

Today on this sixth day, we look at poorly chosen topics for stories, the most egregious of which is a young woman losing her virginity. This is always about women because with men, there's never an issue. A woman on the other hand is presented as a different species where her entire worth is contained within her virginity. She has no other value. The word 'virgin' or its derivations are not mentioned in YA. It's always 'V' - like we daren't even really talk about what this is, so we'll use a code word...letter!

  • V-Card Sharing Spaces by Alicia Michaels. This could have been on the first day of Christmas since it's a first person voice story - inevitably - but Alicia Michaels already appears on that day for a different first person voice novel! It makes a reviewer wonder if she has some sort of a disorder which prevents her from writing in third person. This novel could also have been on the dumb-ass book covers fourth day of Christmas, since the cover of course is never going to show her hymen, or any of her hips or legs. It shows only her innocent face and her top sliding off her shoulders. But here it is because of the topic.
  • A Virgin for Two Brothers by Jenika Snow. I hereby pledge to never read anything written by this author. This is a story told more than once by different authors where a virgin auctions off not only her virginity, but also in this case, her hand in marriage, and she's 'bought' by not one, but two men - brothers - so how the marriage is going to work is anyone's guess. Yuk. Just Yuk. And barf. There's the in-built assumption in these stories that some guy who's willing to buy a woman is automatically going to be her best choice for a partner. How fucked-up is that?
  • Cowboys & Virgins by Alexa Riley is a bundle that includes "dirty alpha cowboys" and "innocent virgins ready to ride." Seriously? How innocent are they if they're ready to ride, and what is the 'innocent' virgin contrasted with? The guilty one? The rakish one? The slutty one? What a load of horseshit.
  • Pretty Virgin by Alexa Riley (again) is another obnoxious title - telling us, hey, not only is she a virgin, but she's also pretty. No brown paper bag needed. That;s two strikes: Alexa Riley should be thoroughly ashamed of how she treats women.
  • His Virgin Acquisition by Maisey Yates is no better. She seems to have made a career out of writing this garbage. Now a virgin is a business acquisition.
  • The Virgin Scorecard by Lauren Blakely. Just the title of this is enough to make me nauseated; there's no need to read the blurb or have any clue what garbage is inside the covers. This same author has cloned this novel into at least a couple of others which are, as judged solely from the titles, exactly the same story over and over. Other titles include "The Virgin Game Plan," and "The Virgin Rulebook." All of these idiot books feature a buff-looking guy - and probably the same guy - topless on each over, because clearly the woman isn't important. Only her pussy, which is obviously represented by the 'V' in 'virgin'.
  • Virgin by Radhika Sanghani is more first person bullshit - a story where the blurb claims she's gasping for it - sex, that is, because she 'hasn't done it' and she so desperately needs it. "Anyone out there want sex? Anyone? Hello?" the blurb asks. It's as pathetic as you can get. "Hey, what have I got to lose?" she asks like a fucking idiot. Well her disease-free status is the first thing that comes to mind....
  • The Virgin Who Bewitched Lord Lymington by Anna Bradley is one of five clone books I list starting here.
  • The Caveman's Virgin by Sam Crescent and Jenika Snow (yes, the same Jenika Snow) has a buff guy with a shaved chest on the cover who looks nothing whatsoever like any caveman ever did, and I seriously doubt that any caveman ever gave a shit about whether a woman was a virgin or not.
  • The Virgin and the Viscount by Robyn Dehart. Robbing the heart? Seriously?
  • The Virgin and the Rogue by Sophie Jordan is pretty much the same story as the one immediately above. The above novel describes Mathilda as a 'Lady of Virtue' like women who've had sex are nothing but cheap sluts. Men who've had sex are, of course, worldly rogues. Jody Picoult praises this, which merely serves to teach me that I need never read anything she's ever written.
  • Scandal's Virgin by Louise Allen is yet another clone.
  • Virgin Marriage by Alexa Riley has 'marriage' embarrassingly misspelled right on the fucking pink cover with the 'A' and the 'I' reversed. LOL!
  • The Virgin in the Ice by Ellis Peters is a Cad-fail novel. What the fuck does it matter if she's a virgin or not - especially if she's frozen corpse?! Pathetic and shameful.
  • Virgin Unwrapped by Christine Merrill leaves it in no doubt right from the title, what the value of the female character is: a present to give to a man and nothing more. If she's not a virgin when he 'takes her' and 'makes her his' then she's fucking worthless, of course. Thus author also has a novel titled 'Paying the Virgin's Price" because of course a virgin is worth something. A hymen-free woman is useless, so this author appears to think.
  • His Christmas Virgin by Carole Mortimer makes it equally clear that virginity is a present to give and if you don't have that, then you have nothing to offer.
  • Talos Claims His Virgin by Michelle Smart - who appears to be misnamed - makes it clear that every man is entitled to a virgin and he'd better get what he's owed. Most women need not apply.
  • Sins of a Virgin by Anna Randol begs a question that I have no interest in learning any answers to.

Sunday, December 5, 2021

The Fifth Day of Christmas

Rating: WARTY!

So today we're looking at five books I've read in the last couple of months - or tried to anyway. Not a one of them pleased me! First up is:

Fairy Metal Thunder by JL Bryan

This started out well enough except that the idiot main character was clueless. He didn't seem to exist beyond his evidently unrequited yearning for another character, which not only made him creepy, it also made him very shallow frankly. And if that's all he is, it doesn't endear me to him at all. It was far too YA for my taste.

The story then abruptly switched from being a tale about a garage band to being one about fairies. At least the author had the guts to call 'em what they are instead of trying to hide their embarrassment under this pussy-footing chickenshit 'fae' euphemism. But the fairy world was boringly trope and less than thrilling. When this idiot main character, despite multiple warnings, stole magical fairy instruments for no apparent reason and without any establishment of any credible motive, it not only made no sense, but it also made him seem like a jerk, and a bigger loser than he already was. It was at that point that I just went off the story irretrievably and DNF'd it. I can't commend it based on what I read.

It Ain't Flat by Karl Beckstrand

I've had such mixed luck with this author that I think this is the last of his efforts that I shall try reading, and this was another failure. The book is ridiculously short, and appallingly formatted, since it went through the Amazon Kindle conversion process and ended up - predictably so, for anything that's not the plainest vanilla text - as kindling. Amazon sucks and so does its Kindle system which is yet another reason I will have nothing to do with those assholes.

As far as this "book" is concerned, all it was was a rhyming list of all the nations of the world - intended, supposedly, to be a way of memorizing them. Why anyone would want to do that, I do not know, but this isn't the best way to do it, and it has nothing whatsoever to do with flatness or otherwise of the globe and the formatting was so bad that it was barely readable, so I can't commend this - not even a little bit.

Wizard in a Witchy World by Jamie McFarlane

This Jim Butcher wannabe was far too trope for my taste and involved such a hail of antagonism and violence that it turned me off from the beginning. I'm no fan of Jim Butcher's wizard series by any stretch of the imagination, although I loved his Alera Furies pentalogy, so anything that smacks of that bullshit is a non-starter for me and this did! This idea of 'witch councils' and territories and so on just makes me laugh out loud. It's so tired, and so were the magical practices described here. And what the fuck is up with the idea that if you're a guy you're a wizard, but if you're female, you're a witch? I hated that genderist horseshit in Harry Potter, and it's no less detestable here. There's nothing new in this book, and it bored me. I DNF'd it in short order and I cannot commend it based on what I did read.

The Origins of Heartbreak by Cara Malone

This is the start of a loosely connected series of stand-alones called "Lakeside Hospital" which is nowhere near as bad as an actual series, but I still could not get with this, because the writing was really poor in a variety of ways.

The story is about a woman who is training to be a a paramedic and her lesbian crush who is training to be a doctor. I liked the idea of this which is what drew me in, but when I started seeing how poorly it was written I decided enough is enough. At one point, for example, I read: "...then she’d walk from the hospital to campus and spent the rest of the morning" Wrong verb tense: it needed 'Spend'. Next I came across this: "...but he died shortly thereafter...." Who talks like that? Nobody! Later, I read, "...dic-in-training would cross paths again, at least not until Megan stared her rotations...." 'Started' was needed there.

I don't think anyone knows better than I how a misspelled word or a bad grammar choice, or an oddball bizarre mistake can crop up in your text. When you're a one-person operation, it's easy, and I don't normally care about such mistakes, but when there is a high frequency, and a consistency to them, it makes me think the author doesn't care either, and I lose faith in them. Those issues were not the only ones though. I read, for example, when one character had a moment of vulnerability, the other character was trying to " up the courage to kiss Megan while they were sitting alone on that bench." Is the author having one of her two main characters seriously take advantage of a person in a moment of insecurity and weakness? That's really bad and very creepy and anti-romantic.

Another error arose from the author pushing her story so much that she apparently forgot it's supposed to be set in a real (if fictional) world where things are happening and time is passing. I read, "In the five minutes or so that they were alone together...." Now this five minutes was apparently all the time it took to do a complete autopsy in this fictional world! Sorry but no! A real autopsy tales an hour or so. Maybe a bit shorter, often longer, and there's no way in hell its going to get done in five minutes no matter how experienced the coroner is! This was seriously bad writing. Later I read, "After a few minutes, during which she noted gratefully that no tears were threatening to rise in her throat...." Nope. Tears come from tear ducts, not from the throat. Maybe something was coming from her throat: difficulty swallowing, dryness, something, but never tears. That's just sloppy writing.

So the problem with this was that I had the impression that the author was so intent upon getting these two characters into bed that she honestly didn't care how unrealistically she achieved that, and that she really wasn't interested much in creating a story around then or having them behave naturally, or having the romance arise organically from the relationship. That's why I DNF'd this and why I won't be reading any more of this author's work.

Magenta Mine by Janet Elizabeth Henderson

I am honestly at a loss as to how this novel ever got onto my reading list. Seriously. I began reading it and halted with a screech at four percent. The screech was from my mouth when I read this obnoxious part where Harry is quite literally harassing Magenta. There's no other word for it. She works, of course, in a lingerie shop despite this being - from what we've read of her character to that point - the very last place she'd ever work.

She's previously made it clear she has zero interest in him. Another woman, Harry's trusted business partner, has warned him off bugging her, yet he goes right into the store and starts trying to get her to date him despite having been rebuffed before. She clearly tells him no, and does it no less than four times. Then the idiot author has her hand Harry some lingerie to sort, "as long as he's there." Seriously? He takes a look at one of the thongs and says to Magenta, the girl who had just made it clear she wants nothing to do with him, "These would look good on you."

It's fucking obnoxious and this author needs to be thoroughly ashamed, if not thoroughly shamed for writing this abusive trash. I not only do not commend this, I actively condemn it.

Saturday, December 4, 2021

The Fourth Day of Christmas

Rating: WARTY!

The Fourth Day of Christmas is book covers! Yuk covers! For me there are two main problems with book covers. The first and most egregious is that of featuring nude or near-naked females, or young women on the cover. They're almost exclusively young women, aren't they? Books about older women tend not the feature the main character on the cover, or if they do, the face is obscured or peculiarly absent. I can see how, though still inappropriate, a woman's body might figure largely on an erotica title, but curiously, most of those seem to feature male bodies, and none of the ones I'll list here are such novels anyway. Here are a few:

  • Karma by Donna Augustine features essentially a pair of legs. The woman's face is clearly unimportant since it's entirely in shadow. Who cares about her face when you can check out a great pair of gams? The ironic thing about this is that one of the first things mentioned in the novel is the woman's face. But it's a ridiculous first person voice story with the usual pointless contents list and it's worthless as a novel.
  • Zatanna's Search is a DC comic about magician Zatanna, whose legs evidently take up three fifths of her body length. Comic books are the pits when it comes to portraying women.
  • The Housewife Assassin's Handbook by Josie Brown features a headless woman - by dint of the fact that her entire body is shown from painfully high heels to her shoulders, but no head is visible because it's off the top of the cover. This is reminiscent of those magazines which routinely feature a woman's face on the cover, but her mind is obscured by the magazine's title. This used to be a common practice, sending the message that the magine title is far more important than a woman's brain, since her only useful feature is her pretty face. This story was another first person voice piece of trash.
  • Everblue by Brenda Pandos has a very red cover, curiously enough because you cannot, by law - the law of the sea, in fact - ever have a mermaid whose hair isn't red. The thing is the mermaid's hair color was never mentioned in the original fairy-tale and the only red in that story was the sunsets, the flowers, and the seashells. So whence the red hair? Probably Disney, when they were teetering on the brink of bankruptcy and desperately went back to their fairytale roots, and scored a hit! I don't have much time for Disney, and The Little Mermaid is one of only about three Disney animated movies that I actually like! Even then it was for the music rather than the usual dumb-ass Disney story. They only chose red hair to distinguish the Little Mermaid from Darryl Hannah's blonde mermaid who appeared in a live-action Disney movie - and apparently, inadvertently, and indirectly started a meme! This novel has one of the dumbest tables of contents ever created: it's literally a list of numbers 1 thru 60, covering three fucking screens. Seriously? The story begins on page 6 with the chapter titled 'Ash'. Chapter 2 is 'Fin' - get it ? A mermaid story featuring a guy named Fin? LOL! Fin quite literally manhandles Ash after pretty much drowning her in saliva generated by his non-stop physical wants. There's not a single word about her as a person. She's merely a female fleshbag for him to masturbate inside. It's all carnal all the way with Fin. Every chapter is back and forth like a fucking grandfather clock between these two assholes both narrating in worst person voice. What a pile of flyblown dogshit this one is!
  • Bound by Kate Sparkes. Another redhead on the cover! Of course it;s a trilogy. It's YA! It's the 'Bound' trilogy! I automatically avoid any novel with the word 'bound' anywhere in the title. In this case the redhead isn't even remotely bound. Not a chain or a rope in sight. She doenslt look contrstrained in any way at all. Yet the title is 'Bound'. In fact, she appears about as unbound as one can get, standing outdoors in the wilds, in a creek, while seductively baring her cleavage. Go figure. Does that make her wet and wild? I don't care.
  • Flashover by Annie Bellet. I get turned off byt he name Annie. I think it's from those long-ago CPR classes where you have to ask this dummy, modeled on an antique French drowning victim known as L'Inconnue de la Seine, if she's okay. You have to call her Annie, and of course she isn't okay: she has no legs or arms. I have to say that in general, I've liked Annie Bellet's work, including this one, but that cover sucks! Was it really necessary to picture a naked woman on the cover? Another redhead, too! It shows only her head and torso, so she's simultanoeously both topless and bottomless.
  • Big Girls Do It by Jasinda Wilder. This consists solely of a woman pictured from the waist down, wearing black panties and red-violet thigh high stockings. All of this author's novels seem to feature naked male torsos on the cover except the big girl series, which is ostensibly about a 'fat girl'. That;s not my term. That term appears twice in this book and the word 'fat' appears many more times when describing the main character. The openign sentence reads, "My mom says I was always fat." I read one of these books and it actually wasn't bad, despite being first person, but the covers suck. They unnecessarily reduce the model to a vagina and a pair of legs, and the girl doesn't look remotely 'fat' to my eyes. She's not even big-bodied. At least not by my estimation. But doe sshe need to be reduced to her legs and gentialia? No! It looks like pretty much the same picture is used for every book in the series with the only change being the color of the stockings. It's not appropriate.
  • Big Girls Do It Better by Cindy Larie is another offender. This series has nothing to do with Jasinda Wilder's series; it just uses the same title as one of her novels (or she uses the same title as one of Larie's!). The cover is still inappropriate - it shows a body up to the neck. Off with her head, as far as the cover is concerned, but at least it's actually a BBW in this picture. Not that that this makes the picture any better.
  • Loving Maddie from A to Z by Kelly Jamieson has nothing but a pair of gray-scale legs wearing bright red shoes on its cover. Inside it has the usual useless table of contents, and while - at least - it isn't written in first person, it was boring. The author thinks she's being so daring and titivating, but there isn't a single thing she's purveying that outside of mainstream or even remotely daring.

In the other category - of weird or otherwise inappropriate covers, typically it will be where the cover has little or nothing to do with the story inside or the cover is just generally oddball such as:

  • Too Clever by Half by Will North. I never heard of Will North, yet this author puts his name up top on the cover in large letters like he's universally known! Go figure. I guess some people's ego looms large, huh? He's not the only such offender. I've seen it repeatedly. so that's one sin against this cover. Above his name he has 'International Bestselling Author" which requires no more than a one time score of 5,000 copies on the New York Times Best Seller list and you can use that title forever. If you buy those five thousand copies yourself, you're made for life, apparently! Who has ever done such a thing I do not know, but it's not impossible. Right below the author's name is a quote from another author I've never heard of, Robert Dugoni. Like this is supposed to win me over! Newsflash! Doing dumb shit will never win me over! This quoted guy says, "With beautiful writing, laser-fast plot...." Stop right there. Laser fast? Laser light is light. It's coherent light of one frequency which is what makes a laser so powerful, but that light travels, like all light, at light speed. So a laser is no "faster" than the light on your phone. Or your refrigerator light. I've heard of laser-focused, but never laser-fast. That's one of the dumbest things I ever read, so this immediately tells me I never want to read anything Dugoni ever writes, and it serves only to confirm I never want to read a novel by Will North either, and all of this came from the first third of the cover! For a title that contains the word 'half', the cover is divided into fifths. The top two-fifths are the sky, the middle fifth the surface of a lake, or maybe the ocean, and the bottom two-fifths are underwater, showing what looks like an Iron Age neck rings known as a torc. But it looks huge - too large to fit your average neck! In short, for me, the cover is a disaster. Inside, the contents list shows chapters "One, Two, Three..." and so on, so you can jump to any chapter, but who even wants to? It's stupid pretension that publishers insist upon blindly because they have never actually made the mental transition to the ebook medium. A contents list is pointless and moronic in an ebook, and this list covers three pages! This is followed by acknowledgments and so on, and a dramatis personae list which is so stupid in a novel. But ti gets worse! There's a prologue! I automatically skip prologues and often the fact that there is a prologue is enough to turn me off a book because if that's the author's mentality, I don't want to read anything they've written. So we'll leave it there.
  • Love is Love by Mette Bach is one I reviewed negatively about three years back. I mentioned then that the cover has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with anybody or anything in the entire novel. The main character, Emmy, is overweight, but the character pictured on the cover is a very slender androgynous person who bears no resemblance either, to the ftm transgender character in the novel. I'll bet that cover mdoel isn't trans either, which is a crying shame, notwithstanding how gorgeous they look in their androgyny. This is the problem with the cover, Some asshole cover designer slapped that on there without a single thought in their head as to whether it bore any relationship whatsoever to the story between those covers.
  • More to come

Friday, December 3, 2021

The Third Day of Christmas

Rating: WARTY!

The Third day of Christmas is naturally trilogies! What a ridiculous waste of time they are. The first book is always a prologue. The second is nearly always awful, and the third merely serves to starkly highlight what a bloated waste of trees this effort was. The philosophy of the author is that of the publisher which insists on getting a three-fer rather than a singleton because they can milk far more money out of desperate suckers from three novels than ever they can from one. It works for authors too, because they have to do little to no work in volumes two and three, since they're merely recycling the same charcters, world, and plot with a tweak or two. They're really troll-ogies.

Self-published authors readily adopt this scam, because they can give away the prologue for free in hopes that people will be suckered in to buying the next two - or however many more are to come. It's an extortion racket that works because people are sheep. Those with zero self-control cannot help themelves but to buy into the blackmail. I've read negative reviews of the first of a trilogy where the idiot reviewer concludes by saying, "But I'll probably still read the next volume just to see what happens"! Morons! So they're rewarding piss-poor writing. No wonder trilogies have bloomed like toxic algae.

In passing, when I did a search online for trilogies, the Amazon-owned Goodreads individual-review website-killing steamroller showed up. They list two 'trilogies' that aren't even trilogies which just goes to prove what fucking morons the librarians at goodreads truly are. The Lord of the Rings is a single volume. It was divided into six parts, and intended to be a companion novel with The Silmarillion which Tolkien had submitted as a follow-up to The Hobbit, but which was rejected by his publisher.

Inversely, these same dipshit Goodreads librarians list the Twilight "Saga" as a trilogy when it was a tetralogy with three additional supporting volumes. The imbeciles at Goodreads cannot count! Their librarians are utterly useless. Trust me, I have personal experience of trying to deal with these assholes, and I gave up on them and quit having anything to do with Goodreads when I learned that Amazon had bought it. In passing, 'saga' is entirely the wrong title to label Twilight with. It has an entirely different meaning, and any author or publisher with an ounce of smarts would know this. By the same token, Goodreads lists The Giver as a trilogy when in fact it is also a tetralogy. Morons.

Here's a selection of trilogies of which I've had some experience with:

So maybe now you're thinking 'he claims to hate trilogies, but he's listed here several that he likes. Well, it's a built-in bias. I only read the whole trilogy of ones that I liked, and most trilogies I've automatically skipped no matter how tempting the book blurb, precisely because I've had so many bad experiences with trilogies - as my extensive reviews will show - that I won't even give them the time of day anymore.