inverarity: (inverarity)
Reading like a writer who is Francine Prose and likes books that Francine Prose likes.


Reading Like a Writer

Harper Perennial, 2006, 273 pages




In her entertaining and edifying New York Times bestseller, acclaimed author Francine Prose invites you to sit by her side and take a guided tour of the tools and the tricks of the masters to discover why their work has endured. Written with passion, humor, and wisdom, Reading Like a Writer will inspire readers to return to literature with a fresh eye and an eager heart - to take pleasure in the long and magnificent sentences of Philip Roth and the breathtaking paragraphs of Isaac Babel; she is deeply moved by the brilliant characterization in George Eliot's Middlemarch. She looks to John Le Carré for a lesson in how to advance plot through dialogue and to Flannery O'Connor for the cunning use of the telling detail. And, most important, Prose cautions readers to slow down and pay attention to words, the raw material out of which all literature is crafted.


Genre fiction? What's that? Who reads that shit? )

Verdict: Reading Like a Writer is about how to read like the writer who wrote this book. Read it if you share Francine Prose's tastes (check out her bibliography in the back); skip it if you're expecting any kind of comprehensive survey of literature or useful writers' advice. 4/10.




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inverarity: (inverarity)
NASA discovered an alien spaceship in the asteroid belt in the 1960s. Fifty years later, they send a bunch of idiots to investigate it.


Fluency

Self-Published, 2014, 283 pages




NASA discovered the alien ship lurking in the asteroid belt in the 1960s. They kept the Target under intense surveillance for decades, letting the public believe they were exploring the solar system, while they worked feverishly to refine the technology needed to reach it.

The ship itself remained silent, drifting.

Dr. Jane Holloway is content documenting nearly-extinct languages and had never contemplated becoming an astronaut. But when NASA recruits her to join a team of military scientists for an expedition to the Target, it's an adventure she can't refuse.

The ship isn't vacant, as they presumed.

A disembodied voice rumbles inside Jane's head, "You are home."

Jane fights the growing doubts of her colleagues as she attempts to decipher what the alien wants from her. As the derelict ship devolves into chaos and the crew gets cut off from their escape route, Jane must decide if she can trust the alien's help to survive.


A linguist exploring a Big Dumb Object should have been awesome. Instead: consternated, probing purrs. )

Verdict: An awesome premise, horribly executed. Fluency showed signs of being one of those self-published gems, but the cover is about the best thing going for it. If you like fanfic-quality writing and research that consists of watching hours of Stargate, maybe you will like it. 3/10.





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inverarity: (inverarity)
A hot mess of a book in which the protagonist hooks up with her high school crush in the vampire post-apocalypse (sigh). I only read it for the autistic character.


The Farm

Penguin Books, 2012, 420 pages




Life was different in the Before: before vampires began devouring humans in a swarm across America; before the surviving young people were rounded up and quarantined. These days, we know what those quarantines are—holding pens where human blood is turned into more food for the undead monsters, known as Ticks. Surrounded by electrical fences, most kids try to survive the Farms by turning on each other…

And when trust is a thing of the past, escape is nearly impossible.

Lily and her twin sister Mel have a plan. Though Mel can barely communicate, her autism helps her notice things no one else notices—like the portion of electrical fence that gets turned off every night. Getting across won’t be easy, but as Lily gathers what they need to escape, a familiar face appears out of nowhere, offering to help…

Carter was a schoolmate of Lily’s in the Before. Managing to evade capture until now, he has valuable knowledge of the outside world. But like everyone on the Farm, Carter has his own agenda, and he knows that behind the Ticks is an even more dangerous threat to the human race...


Why bother, it's YA? In which I stop taking recommendations from Maria V. Snyder. )

Verdict: Occupying the low end of "readable," raising absolutely no expectations where YA is concerned, The Farm is a YA-mill vampire book with a few salvageable bits that made reading it not a complete waste of my time, but it will probably be a waste of yours.




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inverarity: (inverarity)
A sub-mediocre book of paper plots, cardboard characters, and endless cliches that finally triggers my writer's rage.


Mr. Churchill's Secretary

Bantam, 2012, 384 pages



Publisher's description:


For fans of Jacqueline Winspear, Laurie R. King, and Anne Perry, Mr. Churchill’s Secretary captures the drama of an era of unprecedented challenge - and the greatness that rose to meet it.

Inverarity's comments: I don't even know who those other authors are, but I'm never reading them.

London, 1940: Winston Churchill has just been sworn in, war rages across the Channel, and the threat of a Blitz looms larger by the day. But none of this deters Maggie Hope. She graduated at the top of her college class and possesses all the skills of the finest minds in British intelligence, but her gender qualifies her only to be the newest typist at No. 10 Downing Street. Her indefatigable spirit and remarkable gifts for codebreaking, though, rival those of even the highest men in government, and Maggie finds that working for the prime minister affords her a level of clearance she could never have imagined - and opportunities she will not let pass.

Inverarity's comments: Boy, this sounds interesting, doesn't it? Yes, 'indefatigable spirit' if by that you mean breaking into 'hot tears' on every page. Her 'remarkable gifts for codebreaking' could be demonstrated by a 9-year-old with a cipher wheel from a box of Captain Crunch.

In troubled, deadly times, with air-raid sirens sending multitudes underground, access to the War Rooms also exposes Maggie to the machinations of a menacing faction determined to do whatever it takes to change the course of history.

Don't worry, there is no changing history here. Nor much awareness of it.

Ensnared in a web of spies, murder, and intrigue, Maggie must work quickly to balance her duty to King and Country with her chances for survival. And when she unravels a mystery that points toward her own family’s hidden secrets, she’ll discover that her quick wits are all that stand between an assassin’s murderous plan and Churchill himself.

Her 'quick wits' do fuck-all in this book.

In this daring debut, Susan Elia MacNeal blends meticulous research on the era, psychological insight into Winston Churchill, and the creation of a riveting main character, Maggie Hope, into a spectacularly crafted novel.

HAHAHAHAOMG they are serious...


DID YOU KNOW THAT ENGLAND IN THE 1940S WAS SEXIST? ALSO THERE WAS A WAR AND IT WAS CALLED WORLD WAR II AND GERMANS DROPPED BOMBS ON LONDON AND EVERYTHING IT WAS CALLED THE BLITZ! ALSO DID YOU KNOW THAT NAZIS WERE VERY MEAN TO JEWS? AND ALSO DID YOU KNOW THAT ENGLISH PEOPLE ARE KNOWN FOR THEIR STIFF UPPER LIPS AND ALSO THEY LIKE TEA, WHEREAS AMERICANS LIKE COFFEE! AND ENGLISH PEOPLE DO NOT MAKE GOOD COFFEE AND AMERICANS DO NOT MAKE GOOD TEA HAHAHAHAHAHA I'LL BET YOU'VE NEVER HEARD THAT ONE BEFORE! )

Verdict: Die in a fire, Maggie Hope. (That's the character. I am not wishing harm upon the author. Obscurity, ignominy, a career change, yes, but not harm.) This book is an insulting product of fanfiction-quality writing (YES I GET THE IRONY AND YES I WILL THROW STONES) and laziness. It could have been a brilliant story with an engaging protagonist... if it weren't crap. Someone else who's read it tell me I'm crazy, or that I'm not. :\




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2054 New York City has flying cars and reanimated dead celebrities in this attempt to blend William Gibson and Raymond Chandler.


Necropolis

Night Shade Books, 2011, 320 pages




Paul Donner is a NYPD detective with a drinking problem and a marriage on the rocks. Then he and his wife get dead – shot to death in a “random” crime. 50 years later, Donner’s back – revived by the Shift, a process that reanimates dead DNA.

The Shift has turned the world upside down. This new “reborn” underclass is not only alive again, they’re growing younger. Beneath the protective geodesic Blister, clocks run backwards, technology is hidden behind a noir facade, and you can see Bogart and DiCaprio in The Maltese Falcon III.

In this retro-futurist world of flying Studebakers and plasma tommy guns, Donner searches for those responsible for the destruction of his life. His quest for retribution leads him to the heart of the mystery surrounding the Shift’s origin and up against those who would use it to control a terrified nation.


The Brooklyn Bridge can't suspend the disbelief in this one. )

Verdict: Necropolis tries to be hard-boiled SF noir, like a cross between Harry Dresden and Bladerunner. It would have been awfully cool if it had succeeded. It winds up being a hash of the worst aspects of Jim Butcher's writing and Sin City.




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