Any Given Doomsday by Lori Handeland

The Phoenix Chronicles book 1Title:  Any Given Doomsday

Author:  Lori Handeland

Paperback:  343 pages (ARC)

Published:  2008

ISBN:  9780312949198

Acquired:  Won in the August 2008 batch of the LibraryThing Early Readers Program

Challenges:  The ARC Reading Challenge 2010, New Author Challenge 2010

“You’re telling me the fallen angels are still on earth in the form of demons?”

“In a way.  Ever heard of the Grigori and the Nephilim?”  I shook my head.  “The Grigori were known as the watchers.  They were sent to earth to keep an eye on the humans.  They lusted after them instead and were banished by God to Tartarus, the fiery pit where all divine enemies are thrown.”  He shrugged.  “Basically the lowest, locked level of hell.”

Any Given Doomsday by Lori Handeland, page 47 (ARC)

Any Given Doomsday by Lori Handeland was massively given out to LibraryThing’s ER program in August of 2008, and I’ve had it on my ARC-alanche pile since then.  It was out of laziness and distraction, but after reading it, I wonder if it was something more.  Maybe I was tapped into the Collective Conciousness and subconsciously knew it was a craptastic book.  Either way, I’m done with it.  Yay!

Oh my god… where do I begin.  Let’s start with the good things about it.  The plot is an interesting concept.  The Nephilim were the biblically mention sons and daughters of the forbidden union between the angels who were suppose to keep an eye on people and those whom they were suppose to watch.  The creation of this new race gave them a variety of supernatural powers and it is they who are the vampires, werewolves, gods, etc of our mythologies.  Opposing them is a federation of good who seek out and destroy the evil Nephilim.  Another thing I liked about the book was the action (not the action, btw) of demon hunting and solving the mystery of who killed Ruthie, everyone’s favorite mentor.

So where does it go wrong? 

There is vulgar and graphic sex scenes that go on for pages.  I’m not a prude, I can enjoy well-written love-making when it’s appropriate to the story, as in Bedlam, Bath and Beyond.  Even more barbaric and twisted sex like in Bentley Little’s The Store is okay, because it was a necessary part of the story.  But what soils the pages of this book is just gaggy.  The first event occurred within the first 50 pages in which the female narrator describes how she wants to give the guy a blow job.  Later she’s date-raped by the guy who’s suppose to be teaching her how to use her powers, then forcibly raped for a few chapters toward the end.  The sex is bestial and perverse, and isn’t gentle “love” until it’s too late.  No, you don’t have your heroine being raped all over the book, then try to slip in some sweet-lovin’ to make the reader forgive the rape.

And it’s not just the whole rape thing, but it’s the way in which it’s shown.  I swear these are straight out of some guy’s rape-fantasy magazine, because as she’s being raped, she reaches orgasm over and over, as if she has to be taken to have pleasure.  And if all that wasn’t enough, you get to the big boss bad guy’s lair and it’s Gor all the way.  Women waiting around wearing nothing but a chain around their waist, desperately hoping to be used next.  It just started turning my stomach after awhile.

Besides the rape and lack of any moral fiber of anyone, good or bad, except Ruthie who dies in the first chapter, there is the way the book is put together.  At times, the writing is less-than-descriptive (which never happens during the porn), events and sections of the story seem thrown together and not woven in well, and it seems like Handeland wanted to make sure to use ever supernatural being anyone has ever heard of, whether it worked or not.  Case in point:  The half-Nephilim (called breeds) who is a werehyena who fights the cougar (in rural WISCONSIN in April) that’s possessed by a chindi (what the hell is that?), but is defeated when it touches the turquoise necklace our heroine just happens to be wearing that was given to her by her “teacher” who is a skinwalker and hates her dhampir ex-boyfirend who turns out to be a dream-walker.  Oh, and the reason he’s an ex is because she had a psychic vision of him screwing a chick who turns out to be a fairy.

Stretch the limits of credulity much?

Yeah, so it’s an easy guess.  Since I did enjoy some parts of this book it’s not a complete hated-it! but I can’t really give it much higher than a 2 out of 5 stars.

Oh yeah, and I got a very strong feeling the two lovers here will turn out to be brother and sister.

TSS ~ Bloggiesta and a Bitch Slap

The Sunday Salon.com
Good morning, bloggie world 🙂  The sun is shining bright and warm… through my window it’s warm, outside the temps are brutal.  I’ve been very productive with Bloggiesta housekeeping, mini-challenges and stuff, this weekend and I feel good.  I even finished a book, went to the grocery store, library and breakfast yesterday.  It’s just been a busy weekend!

Of course, it’s not all roses, either.  I have teenage people living here.  One who’s almost 17 and has recently returned to the mentality of a TWO year old, telling me “NO” and actually trying to stand on that.  Then there’s the 15-year-old who seems to have forgotten how to speak English, but is fluent in WHINE-ESE.  I bought a box of Cream of Wheat for the first time in about 12 or 13 years and she’s dying to try it.  But, instead of reading the box’s directions or waiting for help, she starts making it like instant oats.  She came in with the dessert bowl full of dry mix asking, “Is this how you do it?”  NO, it’s not how you do it… that’s enough to make a pot of the stuff!  *heavy and frustrated sigh* So she stormed off to her room, demanding I let her know when I’ve finished cooking her breakfast.  Grrr…..

Teenagers… dontcha just wanna BITCH SLAP them sometimes?

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Here’s a cool thing I wanted to pass along:

Introducting the International Book Blogger Mentor Program 2010

Lenore at Presenting Lenore is starting an International Book Blogger Mentor Program to help those who live outside the US and Canada be able to read and review the newer books that they’d otherwise not be able to receive as most publishers and blogging contests aren’t open to them.

Any book blogger who blogs in English about books and lives outside the US and Canada can apply. Each month I will pick one blogger to send 2-3 of my most recent review copies to.

I myself have always held my contests open to anyone, anywhere, so long as they have an address to send to, because I know it’s gotta suck to see a book you’d love to have, only to find out you’re geographically ineligible.  So Lenore’s idea is pretty cool 🙂

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Random rant….  Why is it that SPAMMERS suddenly think I’m a randy, philandering, inadequately equipped middle-aged man?  Judging by my INBOX… the one’s that my spam filter thinks I WANT to read, I’m in the market for Extenze… GAWD, I HATE those commercials! I want to rip that chick’s face off and monkey-stomp her… grrr……… AND that I’m in need of Viagra or the cheaper substitute.  The latest additions to my inbox are:

I missed you at the bar” – really?  That’s probably because I wasn’t there.

Why Wait have an affair with a cheating wife today” –  K, erm… I like to eat fish at the dinner table, cooked and with tartar sauce, NOT in the bedroom… or any other room they might want to hang it.  And eww… JUST… EWwwwWWWwwww… Not that there’s anything wrong with that, right Jerry?

Engagement Ring. Make your proposal memorable.”  Apparently, not only am I a randy cheater with a tiny willy, but I’m lookin’ to get hitched, too!

I’ve been deleting all these messages, then emptying the trash, but maybe I should keep ’em for a while, then share them all in a blog post.  WordPress’ Akismet filter seems to work better than Yahoo’s, maybe they should work together and then I won’t get such craptastic emails.  But, then again, what would I have to laugh at?

Listening to Bodies by Drowning Pool

Festivus – I’m Ripping It Off, and I Don’t Even Know What It Is!

Trish at  Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin’? has written a post called Festivus – Let’s Air Our Grievances in which she wrote down a few (and good) things that have ired her this season and invited readers to do the same.  Her point is that, at this time of year with the holidays (aw, hell.. It’s CHRISTMAS, dammit… enough with the PC crap) upon us, only fellow bloggers are reading blog posts right now.  Because of that whole “you can do it and not get caught” thing that we all enjoy, Trish encourages her readers to be emboldened and relish the joy of being naughty… no one’s lookin’ 😀

That reminds me of a joke:

Sign placed above a bowl of fruit in the lunch line of a Catholic school:  “Take ONE… God is watching”

A few food items down the way, above the platter of chocolate chip cookies, a sign written in a child’s scrawl says, “Take all you want!  God’s watchin the apples”

As for me, I’ve been so busy trying to reach my self imposed goal of 75 books (I’m almost there!) that I’ll be taking the time during Bloggiesta to write the reviews for the last seven books, as well as sign up for all the challenges and everything else.  I’m looking forward to the New Year, so I can slow down!

So, Trish started her post with the following:

Last year, because blog traffic is slow around the holidays, I celebrated Festivus, which kicks off with the Airing of Grievances. Since only other bloggers are reading blogs around this time of year (’cause we’re crazy like that), it makes sense that we should get some things off our chest! Vent! Proclaim what is wrong with the world (or our families), so that we can start the new year with a clean slate ready for new frustrations.

I had way to much fun in her comment section, and decided to take time away from my Glenn Beck book (couldn’t tell that’s who I was reading, could ya) to write up my own post.  I felt like I could go on sooo much longer, but didn’t want to hijack her post any more than I already did, so here goes…

Things that really PISS me off…

1.  People who want to tell you that you’re a narrow-minded religious fascist for saying “Merry Christmas”.  “Happy Holidays” has slowly become the more widely used phrase because -God forbid.. or goddess, Allah, the moon… The leprechaun in that Lucky Charms commercial (Hell, there’s weirder religions than worshipping a god who’s Magically Delicious)- we offend someone with our well-wishing.  I admit it, I used the “Happy Holidays”, too, because.. to be honest… I’m too lazy to say “Merry Christmas and have a Happy New Year”.  Two words are more verbally economic than eight.  But the next person who says “Happy Holidays” to me, I SWEAR I’m gonna wish them “Magically Delicious winter festivities”.  It’s Christmas.  Merry or Happy… it’s Christmas. 

Oh, and Mr. Athiest-seperation-of-church-and-state-boy… It hasn’t been a “Christian” holiday… ever.  It’s a pagan holiday.  The Catholic Church hijacked the day from the Romans who wished to celebrate Saturnalia, a weird calendar event in which the last 5 days were left uncounted and therefore the thought was “Anything goes because the days never happened!”  It was a time for them to blow off steam, have orgies… there wasn’t any “rape” during this time, because if one person wanted it they could take it.. and a lot of other behaviors we would call unlawful at the very least.  The fact that the celebration of the birth of Christ was superimposed upon this hedonistic festival is probably a good thing.  But, to be honest, as much as the modern Church tries to remind people that “Jesus is the reason for the season”, the long line at Wal-Mart this evening proves that they gave Jesus and his other hispanic friends the day off so they can follow their true pursuit of the season… gifts.

2.  This year I have just about had ENOUGH of Maggie’s griping about the present Gwen gave her.  Seriously, I’m almost ready to say No more presents will be given under my roof EVER AGAIN!  TO anyone BY anyone.  And that includes Christmas, Kwanzaa (If we ever convert and celebrate it), Chanukah (ditto the previous stipulation), Chinese New Year (again, conversion needed first, I think), Sinterklaas, Birthdays, Boss’s Day (Bruce Springsteen’s birthday?), Arbor Day, Groundhog’s Day, Bring Your Kid to Work Day, or any day of the week ending in the letter Y.  What’s led me to this level of irritation?  Gwen, who apparently has bad taste in presents, gave Maggie a plastic Kabuki-esque doll because Mags collects China dolls.  Now, in Gwen’s mind, she thought they were similar enough to count, and thought Maggie would love it.  Maggie, on the other hand, thinks it’s the most hideous piece of crap that ever suffered molecular cohesion. 

Maggie's Doll  face  back

In fairness, the thing IS a bit ugly.  But, isn’t it the thought that counts?  Gwen could’ve just got something for herself, but she saw this doll and thought, “My little sister would love that!”  And Maggie was NOT gracious in her reception.  At all.  When people are not gracious about receiving, when they act like they’re ENTITLED to something better than the trash one deigns to give them, it makes those who give feel disinclined to do so ever again. *sigh*  It’s becoming a take-take-take, gimme NOW, society.

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3.  Okay, I’ve got a grievance with the whole PC-crap.  It has, of late, been made obvious (not that I wasn’t aware before) by my ten-year-old daughter how absurdly ridiculous all the Political Correctness crap is.   You know, I am NOT saying that we shouldn’t be a bit more considerate of others and think before we speak, Proverbs (sorry athiest-boy) tells up that a wise person keeps his mouth shut lest people think he’s an idiot but the fool suffers verbal diarrhea and removes all doubt (Koolaid paraphrase).  But the PC movement has become nothing more than censorship and terrorism committed by a few LOUD-MOUTH (see Koolaid’s paraphrase.. they’ve removed all doubt) bullies who want everyone to do things their way or suffer the consequences.  ‘K… I’m short, fat and starting to crest that hill.. not over it yet, but getting to the summit…  I don’t expect someone to say I’m a “gravitationally challenged post-youth of an alternative size”.  What the hell is up with that?  I’m fat because I like to eat.  A lot.  Gravity isn’t singling me and throwing down the gauntlet.

LOL.. my dad always said “The purpose of communication is to convey a thought from one person to another in the fastest and most accurate way possible.”  The PC-crap, instead of sponsoring understanding and acceptance (I presume to hope was their original intent), does more to breed discontent, distrust and resentment.  “Why should I talk to you?  I might say something to offend your stupid sorry ass and wind up in court, lose my job and become the social pariah of my community!”  Ah, can’t we all just get along?

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4.  Along the same lines are those people who fling hate-filled words at people who happened to disagree with them.  If I don’t want my 15-year-old daughter hanging out with a loose-moralled, already a mother, now decided to be gay classmate who continually sexually harasses her and makes her uncomfortable, it’s NOT because I’m a homophobic religious prude.  Oh, I forgot “hatemonger”.  The girl WON’T leave Gwen alone, after she’s told her she’s not interested.  She continues to touch and make rude comments to her, but if I say something about this, I’m a bigot.  If this girl was a guy, EVERYTHING… EVERY THING… would be different.  The police would investigate, he’d be in jail, and several administrators would be sent to a “sensitivity training seminar”.  The fact it’s an Out-of-the-closet, vocal lesbian means that my daughter must suffer her attacks.  Bull shit.

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5.  I tell you, one of the things I think is great about our country is that everyone is entitled to DUE PROCESS.  A chance to go before a jury of his or her peers and face his or her accuser in a court of law.  And, if you are wronged, you have the right to seek compensation for your injuries.  HOWEVER… there are a few bad apples that have latched onto the system and have gone completely and certifiably NUTS.  Everyone remembers, I’m sure, the woman who went through the drive thru at McDonald’s and ordered a HOT coffee… repeat, she asked for a HOT, as in warmer than tepid, HOT coffee.  She put her HOT, as asked for HOT, coffee between her legs and then spilled the HOT contents on her foofer.  She then decided it was McDonald’s fault and she was owed $2.86 million dollars for her scorched hoohah.  In the end, she only received $640,000 for her injuries and NOW every foam cup you get from any restaurant bears the “CAUTION: Contents may be HOT!” just in case some other dumb ass decides to take their morning joe BOTTOMS UP.

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Ahh… this has been a LOT of fun.  I have to say, I feel a lot better now after venting… not to mention all the laughing I’ve done finding and watching the videos.  And to the question of “What is Festivus?” The following clip from Seinfeld sums it up…

Okay…  Who’s gonna RUMBLE with me in the FEATS of Strength?

Undiscovered Gyrl by Allison Burnett

undiscovered gyrlTitle:  Undiscovered Gyrl

Author:  Allison Burnett

Paperback: 293 pages (ARC)

ISBN:  9780307473127

From the back cover:

Only on the internet can you have so many friends and be so lonely.

  • We’re all famous in our own minds.
  • Complete honesty is a complete lie.
  • What’s worse than keeping a shameful secret?
  • All sex has consequences, most of them dire.
  • Don’t read my life.  Go live your own!

“Imagine an 18-year-old Lolita, updated to the 21st century, blogging her own provocative adventures.  By turns charming and crude, disturbingly reckless and achingly tender, Undiscovered Gyrl seduces…  Shot through with teenage yearning for ‘true love,’ each page vibrates with the quicksilver spirit of youth.  As we follow the narrator on her ever-darkening journey, questions arise about voyeurism and identity in an age of cyber-anonymity.  Allison Burnett’s masterful page-turner lingers long after the last page.” -Rachel Resnick, author of Love Junkie

When I saw the banner for this Undiscovered Gyrl by Allison Burnett in Shelf Awareness, I was hyper-excited to get my hands on the book, and when I got a positive reply to my email requesting a copy to review, I couldn’t contain myself.  It looked interesting and like one of those books you just can’t put down, especially for someone nosey… like me.

So, how did the book hold up to my anticipation?

Honestly, I was surprised by the book.  It’s set up as a blog-to-book, and in it you watch as the narrator (the definition of the “unreliable narrator” to be sure) grows as a blogger, and disintegrates in some ways as a person.  The idea of being able to be completely open in the anonymity is, at first, a relief and exciting thing for her, later it seems to be something that pushes her to more extreme and outrageous behavior… if for no other reason than to get a reaction from her readers.

Personally, there are parts of this that scare the hell out of me.  I have a 16 and 15-year-old, neither of which are really that into blogging and stuff… now.  Maggie, on the other hand, is 10 and a bit extroverted.  “Katie” tells about her mother and her boyfriend’s fighting, her dad and his girlfriend’s abusive relationship, and how she pits everyone against each other to get what she wants.  She continually tells her readers that there is NOTHING sexual behind her boss’s generosity, but relays stories about him in such a way as to leave it almost obvious.  She degrades herself over “Dan,” her college instructor on-the-side, and you can’t help but feel pity for her… she so wants to be loved, she’s willing to turn herself into that girl who waits desperately for his girlfriend to go away so she can devour the scraps. 

With Undiscovered Gyrl, Allison Burnett reveals a very real picture of the modern teenage life.  Unable to read and comprehend a book a year unless assigned by a teacher, but reads and responds to 20 emails, IMs and text messages a second.  She couldn’t fathom doing homework without the TV on, CD blaring and the Google open on the computer.  It makes me glad I’ve not given any of my kids a cell phone.  They don’t have TVs in their bedrooms, even.  We just got a second computer last June, so maybe mine will be safe…

Here’s the thing:  Undiscovered Gyrl is very graphic and I even learned a few sex-things from reading it.  I never knew what a “box job” was before this book.  But it’s not porn, per se, and it all goes into the story for a purpose.  It is shocking… at least for me, an over-30-parent.  “Katie” isn’t totally unsympathetic, yet says things at times that make me want to slap the snot out of her.  She’s so stupid and I just want to grab her up and say, “Wake up!  You’re throwing your life away!”  But, if there’s one thing I got out of this book it’s this:  The fact it came from an adult would render it meaningless all together.

I give Undiscovered Gyrl by Allison Burnett 5 out of 5 stars… it did NOT disappoint.

Here’s a video made for the book:

TSS ~ Meme Meme Meme Sunday

The Sunday Salon.com

I’ve been bookmarking and meaning to do several one-time memes, but I’ve been lazy and kept putting them off. Inspired by the Bloggiesta that I didn’t sign up for, but seem to be doing anyway… unofficially… I figured this Sunday Salon post would be a good time to do it 🙂

First off, I grabbed this one from Page247‘s Sunday Salon over a month ago:

Diversity in Reading Meme

1. Name the last book by a female author that you’ve read.

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards, but I’m currently reading Water for Elephantsby Sara Gruen (and loving it 😉 )

2. Name the last book by an African or African-American author that you’ve read.

I can’t remember, actually… The last one I remember was Sacred Cows and Other Edibles by Nikki Giovanni, but I’m sure I’ve read something since then *hangs head in shame* Must remedy this….

3. Name one from a Latino/a author.

One that I read?  or just a title out of the blue?  This is harder than I thought… it looked so fun on Page247’s site.  Love in the Time of Choleraby Gabriel García Márquez.  It’s on Mt. TBR… somewhere….

4. How about one from an Asian country or Asian-American?

Finally!  an easy one!  The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford, and an excellent book, I might add 😉

5. What about a GLBT writer?

I don’t know the author’s sex life unless they say it in bold print at the beginning.  It doesn’t matter to me, as long as the writing’s good and the story pulls me in… the rest is their business.  Jordan, the main character in the modern part of The 19th Wife is gay, does that count?

6. Why not name an Israeli/Arab/Turk/Persian writer, if you’re feeling lucky?

Yeah, I got this easy…. lol.  A book I’d love to get to on Mt TBR:  The Bus Driver Who Wanted to Be Godby Israeli author Etgar Keret.  One of the short stories in this book was made into the movie Wristcutters:  A Love Story

7. Any other “marginalized” authors you’ve read lately?

I guess I should be more politically minded or something.  Marginalized?  IDK…  Um, I’m reading The Last Lectureright now… it’s author, Randy Pausch died of cancer before it was published.  Is he marginalized now?  He can’t vote, and if he were to speak through Melinda Gordon or Allison DuBois, I don’t think anyone would listen.

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Okay, this looked like too much fun to pass up.  I’m ripping it off Sink or Swim, who did it as part of Ten on Tuesday meme.  Okay, so I’m a couple days late on it…

Ten Things You’d Bring on a Deserted Island

  1. The entire inventory of Mt. TBR… That’ll keep me busy for a good five years at least, and if I don’t like a book, it can be re-appropriated for other purposes:  Firewood, note paper (remember The Book Thief?), TP, etc.
  2. TWO lifetime supplies of Charmin 2-ply quilted with aloe and floral scent.  Hey, I might as well splurge on something!
  3. Charlie Hobbit of Driveshaft, wait… he died.  Mr Eko, then … crap, he’s dead, too… John Locke… he died, but came back… No, wait… he’s possessed by an evil spirit or some such…  Aw, heck… Gimme the Professor, then.  Is he dead, yet? 
  4. The Magic Conch Shell 🙂 
  5. A volleyball and some red paint.. So I can make my own friend 🙂
  6. A team of sexy masseurs 😀
  7. Ioan Gruffudd Ioan... *sigh**drool* And Hugh Jackman sexy man-candy…  and would it be greedy of me to want Gerard Butler I'm seeing a pattern here..., too…  *long, cleansing breaths…. I think I need to lay down*  Oh heck, since I’m being greedy… Gimme James Callis James Callis is hot!, too… he was who I pictured as Max in The Book Thief.
  8. Ty Pennington, he can build me an awesome island home 🙂
  9. A laptop with solar charger so I can blog about it all.
  10. A helicopter so I can leave whenever I want.

The Magic Conch Shell Rap

Okay, after number 7 on what I’d bring to the island, I now have to go to confession…  I’ve got some thoughts of a sinful nature 😀  no, no smilies… that’s bad!

So what would you bring to the desert island?

Katka by Stephen R. Meier

Title:  Katka

Author:  Stephen R. Meier

Paperback:  107 pages

Date Published:  2008

Publisher:  booksurge

ISBN:  9781439216330

“Gavin why are you here in Prague?”  Katka asked as they were walking along one of the cobblestone streets.
The question seemed to be one that Gavin didn’t like answering, and one that caused a bit of duress.
“I just wanted to get away for awhile,” he finally answered.
“From?”
“Life.”
It was the way he said it.
“Is everything okay?”
“Yeah, just every now and then you need to take a step back and reevaluate things.”
She just listened.
“I just couldn’t stay there.”
Thinking about it made Gavin angry, very angry.  He had done everything by the book, had gone to college, gotten a degree and a job right out of University.  One complete with benefits, a matching 401k, everything.  Perhaps it was a life that he never really wanted, but still, his parents had been so proud.  He never saw it coming.
Sometimes life just isn’t fair.
“Why Prague?’
“To find you,” Gavin answered with a smile.
They both laughed.
“No, my buddy Pat lives out here and told me to come out and that I could work at his bar.  He’s been out here for awhile now and loves it, so I figured why not.”
“Do you like it?”
“I love it, especially right at this moment.”
It was cheesy, but the right thing to say at the time.
Katka loved it.
They stopped walking and turned to one another.
They stared deep into one another’s eyes.
“You’re absolutely stunning,” he said pushing a piece of hair out of her face.
She blushed.
They they kissed.  The kind of kiss that moves mountains, creates dreams.
Writes a fairy tale.

Katka by Stephen R. Meier, pages19-20

First of all, I want to get all the unpleasantness out of the way.  I did not like this book.  At all.  I was in pain for most of the (thank gawd it was only) 107 pages.  It wasn’t as bad as The Gun Runner’s Daughter (worst book ever), but it was bad.  I give Katka by Stephen R. Meier 1 out of 5 stars.

Now, having said that, let me explain.  First off, I feel bad for not liking the book.  Meier spent 7+ years trying to get this story out there, and it’s definitely a labor of love for him.  I truly wanted to like this book, as the description sounded very intriguing.

Katka by Stephen Meier is a gritty, edgy novel of greed, love, and swindles gone very wrong.  When Gavin and his girlfriend team with her best friend Simona to pull a phony mail order bride scam in the Czech Republic, Gavin gets in way over his head in the high-stakes and dangerous business of selling wives.  When Gavin talks Katka, his girlfriend, into becoming part of the merchandise, planning to bait-n-switch the client in the end, things go awry and Katka disappears with the client.  Partnering with the jealous and volatile Simona, Gavin begins to lament this risky life he has chosen, but finds the money is something he can’t walk away from. Gavin’s doubts grow; the con begins to consume him, and he finds himself thinking of Katka, the fate he dealt her, and whether he can undo the biggest mistake of his life.  Written with staccato grit and streetwise savvy, Katka reads like a Quentin Tarantino movie.  Stephen Meier’s work will leave you begging for more.

So where did it go wrong?  The writing, mostly.  I think part of the book’s problem is that, originally, it was written as a screenplay and later adapted into a novella.  Nearly all of the book is written in short, punchy sentences, as demonstrated by the quote.  There are no indentations for paragraphs, and the grammatical and spelling errors were too abundant to overlook.  I was tempted to send the book flying when I came across “Gavin striked Dale across the face” on page 77 (just 30 pages more, you can do it!  I said to calm myself).

Also, the book’s timeline is disjointed with seemingly random flashbacks and bunny trails of side-thoughts.  Meier gives no lead ins to the changes and, by the time the story returned to original scene, I couldn’t remember what the heck was even going on.  It was all too irritating and confusing.

Adding to all that was the gratuitous sex and violence, and the overuse of the ‘F’ word that seemed more like, “Hey, I’m a tough guy because I say the F word a lot.”  I did expect sex and swearing, given the subject matter, but where it appears often appears out of place and contrived. 

Then there were the characters, most seemed mildly schizophrenic, behaving one way in one setting then flipping it in another.  I don’t think Gavin used the F word more than five times in the whole book when he was alone with Katka, which is why I thought maybe it was an attempt to butch him up.  The majority of them were underdeveloped, flat, and didn’t inspire me to empathy.  The novella is too short for the amount of characters used to be properly developed and for all the sub-plots to receive the needed attention to make sense.

HAVING SAID ALL THAT…..

There are glimpses of potential good in this novella.  It would be a really good starting place for a novel; it felt more like reading a concept for a novel.  It does have a feel, toward the end, of the movie Indecent Proposal.  I think it could be a great novel, but it needs a lot more work.  AND, a better editor (maybe a woman editor would help smooth out the edges?).

As it is, I think it would appeal to guys in their late teens to late twenties.  It has a feel of a dime store novel and of the old 8-pager… the pulp-fiction porno.

Here are a few other reviews of Katka, some people even liked it.

Chicago Center for Literature and Photography– rated it 7.3 out of 10 and said, “it’s not much more than just a basic pulp-fiction tale, nothing more and nothing less than a typical film-noir B-picture put out by Hollywood in the 1920s and ’30s, updated in this case for modern sensibilities and cultural references.”

The Faerie Drink Review  gave Katka a 4 out of 5.  You can also read Devyn’s interview with Stephen Meier here.

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Long and short of it…  I really did not like Katka, and after reading the interview, I feel bad for saying it.  Meier seems like a decent guy, who was inspired by real life events to write the story, and has been on a seven-year journey to finally see his baby born… and I’m pooping on it *sigh*  BUT… it’s not the kind of bad that I’d say, “Don’t read this,” because obviously some people do like it.  Also, I would love to read Meier’s next book, Teaching Pandas to Swim, though he probably won’t invite me to read it.

*now I feel guilty… off to buy 10 copies of Katka….*

Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk

Title:  Haunted

Author:  Chuck Palahniuk

Paperback:  412 pages

Date Published:  2006

Publisher:  Vintage

ISBN:  9780099497172

Looking back, it was Mr. Whittier’s stand that we’re always right.

“It’s not a matter of right and wrong,” Mr. Whittier would say.

Really, there is no wrong.  Not in our own minds.  Our own Reality.

…In your own mind, you are always right.  Every action you take – what you do or say or how you choose to appear – is automatically right the moment you act.

…We’re all condemned to be right.  About everything we can consider.

In this shifting, liquid world where everyone is right and any idea is right the moment you act on it, Mr. Whitier would say, the only sure thing is what you promise.

“Three months, you promised,” Mr. Whittier says through the steam of his coffe.

It’s then something happens, but not much.

In that next look, you feel your asshole get tight.  Your fingers fly to cover your mouth.

Miss America is holding a knife in one hand.  With her other hand, she grips the knot of Mr. Whittier’s necktie, pulling his face up toward her own.  Mr. Whittier’s coffee, dropped, spilled steaming-hot on the floor.  His hands hang, shaking, swirling the dusty air at ech side.

Saint Gut-Free’s silver bag of instant crepe Suzette drops, spilled out on the cornflower-blue carpet, the sticky red cherries and reconstituted whipped cream.

And the cat runs over for a taste.

Her eyes almost touching Mr. Whittier’s, Miss America says, “So I’m right if I kill you?”

Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk, pages 60-61

Hauntedby Chuck Palahniuk is the stories and poems within a bigger story that is the shadow of the truth.  It is the camera behind the camera behind the camera, as is often said in the book.  It’s the story of a collection of strangers who have all answered an ad about a writer’s retreat, but find it’s a lot more than they bargained for.  Mr. Whittier, the operator of the “retreat” tells them that they’ve promised to write and, for the  next three months, he intends to hold them to that promise.  However, there is an unfortunate hiccup in the plan when Whittier dies from a busted gut after eating the equivalent of 10 freeze-dried turkey dinners.  Now the strangers are on their own, locked in an abandoned hotel/theater, each with their own guilt and story to haunt them.

From a psychological/sociological point of view, this book is fascinating.  It’s  a bit like Lord of the Fliesin that it is the witness of the de-evolution of society.  How depraved can people get?  How little humanity will be left at the end of the three month period?  When food runs out (because they’ve all sabotaged the supplies) what will they eat?  That they are all there as writers and artists, what will they do with this time they are given?

It is a dark look into the human soul.  The Missing Link states that it is how we treat the animals around us that shows our humanity… the cat disappears shortly after he says this.  Director Denial makes a statement again and again that people turn each other into objects, then turn objects into people.  Points are made that humans have  a low threshhold of tolerance to boredom, that we seek out a villain to blame all our troubles on, and that we thrive on chaos, drama and disaster.  There’s no joy like the joy found in another’s suffering.  That all this drama and difficulty is to prepare us for our final act, our own death.

While these are the concepts that drew me to this book, I found the book itself a bit on the boring side.  I kept falling asleep… though, that may have been because I couldn’t nibble while reading due to the nauseatingly disgusting content.  Haunted has more canabalism in it that the Donner Party was ever accused of.  The graphic descriptions of the toilets backing up, the cooking of a baby, and decomposition were enough to make me gag. 

This is only my second Palahniuk book, Rant being my first, and I’m aware he can be a bit disgusting and warped.  One review I read said that Hauntedwas for the true Palahniuk fans.  I’ve got a few more of his books on Mt. TBR, but I think I’m going to wait for a while before reading another by him… let my stomach settle.  It’s definitely NOT for the faint of heart.

Even though it was gut-churningly gross, the intellectual appeal was enough to keep me reading on.  I give Hauntedby Chuck Palahniuk 3 1/2 out of 5 stars.

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One of my favorite parts of my Border’s newsletters is the shortlist.  When Palahniuk’s book Snuff came out, the following video was his shortlist offering.  I think it was this vid that made me want to read more Palahniuk (as well as pick up Clown Girl)