Sunday, January 5, 2014

Unpredictable Webs by Darlene Quinn

Title: Unpredictable Webs
Author: Darlene Quinn
Publisher: Greenleaf Book Group
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.

After crashing and burning in an earlier novel in this series, I decided just to get to the actual story I'm supposed to be reading - which is this one. I was desperately hoping this would actually have entertainment value and that I could penetrate further than 25% into it without having my stomach turned. In this novel, which is, unfortunately peopled with some characters from earlier novels in the series, fifteen-year-old Marnie Taylor hooks up online with "Brad" who turns out to be not Brad and solely interested in kidnapping and ransom - and it's not even the first kidnapping in the family's history. This ought to have promised a laugh if nothing else, but since it was pretty much like the previous one I read, it wasn't be much of anything else, I'm sorry to say.

My problem with Quinn in this novel is summarized perfectly on p28, in the first paragraph in chapter 6:

The moment the delicious Versace rep wheeled his sample trunk out the front door of De Mornay's and onto the snow-covered Chicago streets, Viviana sighed and kicked off her Maud Frizon pumps…while standing flat-footed, flexing her toes and rolling on the balls of her feet, reality hit. He's the epitome of stylish perfection. There's little chance that young man is straight.

Seriously? How many kinds of wrong wrong wrong can you squeeze into seven lines? First comes the shameless and tediously snobbish name-dropping (which to be fair isn't quite as bad here as it was earlier), then follows the insult to the Maud Frizon shoes which the name-dropping is supposedly championing! If these often expensive (Maud Frizons can got for up to $400 dollars although many are less than that) shoes are so wonderful, why is she quite evidently having to take them off her poor, aching feet? If they hurt her feet, why is she wearing them? And as if that isn’t bad enough, then comes the slur that only gay men know how to dress! And/or only gay men would be caught selling Versace! Granted you can ascribe that one to the sad character represented by Viviana De Mornay, but even that aside Quinn manages to name-drop twice and then sequentially insult those same names! Impressive, huh?

The problem (with the name-dropping; I don’t even want to get into the double-barreled insult to men of all stripes) is that it's done solely for the free exercise of snobbery. We know this because a sentence including the clause "Viviana sighed and kicked off her pumps" would have been perfectly fine. It doesn’t need to be "Viviana sighed and kicked off her Maud Frizon pumps" yet Quinn insists upon that rather than the shorter alternative. I honestly don’t get what writers who write like this are trying to accomplish other than to promote how appallingly shallow they are in broadcasting that a name is more important than whether you like the item, or than whether it suits you, or than whether it’s value for money, or most importantly: more than whether it’s actually a comfort to wear - which it clearly isn’t in this case!

Unpredictable Webs is, predictably, another waste of time given my poor experience with one of its predecessors. The predictably dishonest book blurb puts the online interaction and subsequent kidnapping of Marnie front and center, but after 100 pages, nothing had happened save the shallow interactions of superficial characters who were already nauseatingly encountered in Webs of Power. I don’t care about any of these predictable people or their tattered web. They offered me nothing to care for. Worse than this, we're never actually introduced to Marnie in any meaningful sense. She appears as a bit player in someone else's story (I have no idea whose, this is so badly put together), so where's the drama? Why on Earth should we care what happens to her when the author herself is so dismissive of her, so uninterested in her?

The promo for this novel claims that it’s a stand-alone: that you don’t have to have read any of the previous novels in the series to be able to read this, but even that isn’t true. If it stands alone, it’s by mere millimeters and on insubstantial legs, because there's a history here of which you're necessarily aware, but never party to if you haven't read any of the previous stories - and that speaks volumes.

The basic story is a good idea - of twins, one of whom was kidnapped (why only the one isn't explained) and then discovered sixteen years later and reclaimed by her biological parents. It’s a story which ought to be rich with conflict, torment, and anguish, with dramatic moments and moving interactions, but none of this materializes. The sad truth is that there's actually no family here at all, only individuals, not relating, unrelatable, their familial interactions relatively poor. The story ought to appear as a horrible predicament for anyone to be put into, much less a mid-teenager, yet there is no drama here. There isn't even any interaction worth the name. We don’t get to see how Marnie fits or fails to fit in. We don’t see her in any meaningful or deep interaction with her bio mom & dad, her adoptive mom & dad, or her twin sister, which is frankly, shameful. It’s all completely flat, shallow, and unremarkable. Watching ducks on the still surface of a pond would be deeper and more entertaining even if you couldn’t feed them.

I was unable to perceive Marnie (or anyone else for that matter) as a real person because she was only ever a paper doll, so I really don’t care if she's kidnapped or not, or if she's having a hard time or not. I wanted to read this for the kidnapping, but given that she was already kidnapped before the story began, this supposedly original story of a promised kidnapping seemed at best like a re-run, warmed-over but served cold, and life is way too short for undercooked leftovers when there are new, inventive, original, and engaging stories elsewhere in which to become immersed. When page after page drifted by like wilted spring petals in a cold creek, and the promised kidnapping continued to fail to show up, my impulse to read the story dwindled further with every screen until it was extinguished completely. The author kidnapped the story and no one knows where it's being held. This rates only a 'warty' and I'm done reading Darlene Quinn novels.