There were parts of this book I loved and parts I hated, so it was really difficult for me to figure out how to rate it. I loved the first chapter so...moreThere were parts of this book I loved and parts I hated, so it was really difficult for me to figure out how to rate it. I loved the first chapter so much -- about how exercise makes your thinking sharper -- that I devoted a podcast episode to it. Other chapters were fascinating too, in particular the sleep chapter.
However, there was a description of the making of foie gras on page 88 that was a dealbreaker for me. And because it came during the chapter on "Attention," I presume it was a technique the author was employing to break the monotony of a bunch of dry scientific facts with an anecdote the listener would remember.
I remembered it all right.
So much so that I was enraged for the rest of the book, that the mere thought of the book makes me sick. So if this particular page could be stripped, the book would have rated a five for me. But the author's choice, to relay a deeply disturbing explanation about how animals are tortured for the sake of gluttony, tainted the book for me to the point where I'm going to need to give it a two. (He was using the explanation because it was so disturbing; it disturbed his mother to the point that she can't get it out of her head.)
There are other incidents where disturbing animal experiments are described -- but those are experiments for the sake of medicine. The practice of making foie gras is a socially condoned torture for no reason other than the fact that a force-fed goose's liver tastes rich -- how insane that it even happens, that no one has put a stop to it. That we, as a society in general, condone it. And so the author's tactic has worked a bit too well here. I'll remember this book, all right. For the rest of my life.
To be clear: I understand that the author does not condone foie gras. What I resent is the fact that I've been manipulated.(less)
Snowball in Hell is an m/m mystery set in WWII wartime California. I loved the historical aspects. They felt authentic without being explained, or ove...moreSnowball in Hell is an m/m mystery set in WWII wartime California. I loved the historical aspects. They felt authentic without being explained, or overexplained. The worldbuilding was very fluid, in other words. I'd like to go back and read this more slowly to savor the detail, like the war rationing, the train ride, and the stuff in Nathan's mom's house. On the first readthrough I was mainly focused on the romance -- how horribly dangerous it seemed, how realistic, how thrilling. Definitely a re-reader!(less)
I skimmed several reviews that seemed pretty frustrated with this story, and I'm not exactly sure why. There were several threads of weirdness going o...moreI skimmed several reviews that seemed pretty frustrated with this story, and I'm not exactly sure why. There were several threads of weirdness going on, most of which finally converged into a madcap ending -- and to me, that's what a Stephanie Plum book is all about, isn't it?
Maybe the "I can't choose between Morelli and Ranger" storyline is wearing thin. It is contrived and always has been -- and it would be refreshing to see Stephanie choose one guy and have some character development.
I wonder if character development is really what the series is about? I think of it more as a string of I Love Lucy episodes. True, when Lucille Ball got pregnant they had to add Little Ricky to the cast, but overall I don't think Lucy had a character arc. I feel like the Plum stories do what they're meant to do: they engage, they thrill, they entertain.
With my publisher/typesetter hat on, I did notice that the book was really spread out, with wide margins, wide leading and huge type. Normally I'd say it was because it was luxurious, but in this case it really seemed like a short story was being made to look longer than it was. I counted only 110 words on one page (standard is 250ish, and I cram more on to keep my books affordable.)(less)
**spoiler alert** The protagonist Wesley Smith was an elitist academic who got a Kindle to spite his ex-girlfriend. He was too unlikeable for me, but...more**spoiler alert** The protagonist Wesley Smith was an elitist academic who got a Kindle to spite his ex-girlfriend. He was too unlikeable for me, but well drawn. I can see now why my stories with unlikeable protagonists don't do so well (whether they have a CHARACTER ARC or they GROW or not!)
Also, since I gather this is a Kindle-exclusive book, it seemed like the exposition about what the Kindle is actually like when Wesley just receives it is kinda clunky.
That said, when Wesley realizes that his Kindle isn't really a Kindle, or at least not one from this universe, I read well into the night an had a hard time putting it down! He forms a relationship with one of his students that's really touching. Robbie, the student, is more subtly done, and he's definitely my favorite character. There are two places where Wesley really redeems himself -- one having to do with his own scruples, and one life-or-death situation where he puts others' needs before his own. I suppose if he wasn't so much of a creep to begin with, these situations would have had less impact.
(Read from my iPod touch with Kindle app -- heehee.)(less)
**spoiler alert** This wasn’t my favorite Stephanie Plum novel and it’s hard to pinpoint why. The plot and subplots didn’t weave together; there were...more**spoiler alert** This wasn’t my favorite Stephanie Plum novel and it’s hard to pinpoint why. The plot and subplots didn’t weave together; there were things happening chronologically at the same time, but they didn’t have intertwining themes.
The cookoff story arc was the most fun. Stephanie, Grandma and Lula were involved, and a new character I liked (Larry the Fireman) was vividly painted, but he seemed underutilized to me.
I’m getting sick of the Stephanie/Morelli/Ranger triangle. I found it unrealistic that Stephanie was staying at Ranger’s house, sleeping in his bed, but resisting his advances since she was broken up with Joe. It could be argued she was hoping to get back together with Joe, but if that was the case, I felt that Ranger put so many unwanted moves on Steph he became creepy. And I’m tired of his trademark, “Babe.”
I wonder if spending time at Ranger’s inner sanctum strips hip of his mystique. And I wonder if the un-reality of Rangeman headquarters is bland in comparison to places that feel real, like Stephanie’s apartment or Morelli’s rowhouse. Ranger’s building, with its magically appearing clothes, sandwiches and cars might be wish-fulfillment to some, but for me it’s boring, and the parts of the story set there drag because everything is flawless.
Another characterization problem I had was with Lula. She seemed remarkably stupid at times -- like when a Rangeman employee radioed them in the car, and she couldn’t figure out where the voice was coming from. It’s as if everyone is a caricature of themselves -- Dad mumbling at the TV, Mom crossing herself, Grandma exclaiming, “Ain’t that a pip?” And I missed the subtle character building that had gone on in earlier books.
Of course, as I was thinking that, Stephanie’s dad made a remark about the ceiling plaster that had me rolling on the floor.
So while I didn’t enjoy Finger Lickin’ Fifteen as much as other books in the series, overall I did feel like I was getting to visit old friends, and there were glimpses of characterization that helped me stay in love with the series even though I had so many problems with this particular story, so despite my problems with plot and character, there were still lots of things to love -- and thus a fairly high rating. I guess watching Stephanie spill things on herself never gets old for me. And the hot dog costume rocked. (less)
This book was a strange combination of really pertinent advice, bizarre and obvious advice (such as "get on the Internet!) and advice that you'd need...moreThis book was a strange combination of really pertinent advice, bizarre and obvious advice (such as "get on the Internet!) and advice that you'd need a huge budget to follow. E-publishing wasn't really touched upon in a current or realistic way. Electronic rights were given an "afterthought" kind of status, maybe because the slant was mainstream/non-fiction. Print-on-demand was dealt with well.
The typesetting was too fussy for my taste, with callouts and sidebars that called attention to information tidbits that didn't seem to deserve special treatment. (New titles are called the "front list." Old titles are called the "back list.")
Meanwhile, it was also assumed that small publishers would go out, get bank loans, rent mailing lists and send huge mailings. So much of the info was way below my level (get on the Internet???) or so far beyond my means (mailing out dozens of copies for review) that I found myself frustrated on both levels.
However, the information at my level, such as what various publishing rights mean in plain language, or how to calculate your cover price, were very valuable and useful. Of particular help was the how-to on putting together a promo package. (less)
I think, initially, I wanted to be persnickety about some things like character voice (a trailer trash girl with a GED who uses whom/whomever in speec...moreI think, initially, I wanted to be persnickety about some things like character voice (a trailer trash girl with a GED who uses whom/whomever in speech, for instance -- and how convenient it was they had so much money that they could hire planes, boats, etc.), but then the story sucked me in, and I didn't give a rat's ass if it was written the way I would have, and I gave myself over to the story.
The mystery is like a set of Russian nesting dolls. Every time you think you know what's going on, it opens up and there's something else (perfectly logical, with all the groundwork laid for it) waiting inside.
Stylistically, I thought it was cool that the novel was nonlinear, and then that the first person narrative shifted to a sort of modified omniscient narrator for scenes in which the protagonist wasn't present. Maybe I'll try that someday, although I'm certain I won't carry it off as well as Ms. Unger...because when that nesting dolls cracked open, it came clear that the stylistic choice was also deeply interwoven in the plot.
Writing tidbit: I didn't know who was ratting on Vic to the FPMP until I was about 2/3 of the way through the book. The character it turns out to be w...moreWriting tidbit: I didn't know who was ratting on Vic to the FPMP until I was about 2/3 of the way through the book. The character it turns out to be was my best friend in my 20's -- and while I was writing Camp Hell we were supposed to get together, and he stood me up! I thought, okay, buddy-boy. Here's why you don't want to piss off an author!(less)
Writing tidbit: I was initially going to make Vic more dramatically paranormal. First idea was he could be a genie who wasn't allowed to do wishes for...moreWriting tidbit: I was initially going to make Vic more dramatically paranormal. First idea was he could be a genie who wasn't allowed to do wishes for himself. Then, a half-demon. But I found the more "normal" I made him (if you could call him that), the more the story came alive.(less)
Writing tidbit: a whole lot happened in this novella! Sometimes when I'm working on the series and I wonder when something happened, it's usually Cris...moreWriting tidbit: a whole lot happened in this novella! Sometimes when I'm working on the series and I wonder when something happened, it's usually Criss Cross. I have no idea how I packed all that story into that word count.(less)