LibraryThing’s Full of Beans…

Okay, I love LibraryThing.  It was my inspiration to start blogging in the first place.  Well, not technically, since I had already been blogging for a year or so before that, but it was the inspiration for THIS blog, which is the only one I do now and I enjoy it much more than what I was doing before.

But sometimes… LibraryThing is full of beans!  Check it…

On every LT works page (that’s the page for a specific book, if you don’t LT) there’s a bar right under “recommendations” and above the first review.  This bar is titled “Will you like it?”  and when you click the “Will I like it?” link, it tells you whether you LibraryThing thinks you will enjoy a book or not.

Let’s try an experiment.  I just recently read and reviewed The Last Lectureby Randy Pausch and it’s one of my new favorite books, but does LT think I like it?

I won't like it

Not only does LibraryThing think I won’t like it, but they’re certainty of this fact is very high.

Okay, then… Maybe that’s a fluke…  How ’bout Dune, then…. I loved the award-winning sci-fi/fantasy classic and think about the book every time I thirstily guzzle a bottle of water.  I wouldn’t have this luxury on Arakis, I tell myself.  I’ve got the next book in the series, Dune Messiah, on my Books on Deck Pile, even.  Surely LT will say, with a very high certainty, that I’ll LOVE Frank Herbert’s masterpiece Dune.

wtf?  I won't like DUNE?

Even with my all-time favorite book, The Book Thief, LT says I’l probably like it. “Probably like” is the middle of the graph, and the majority of books I check are “probably likes.” Occasionally I get a “You’ll love it!” but that’s a rare event, and I can’t think of the last book I got one on. Oddly enough, about half the books I give 4+ stars on gets the “probably WON’T like it” result.

I love to play with the graph and see if LT thinks I’ll love or hate books I’ve read, but I avoid checking it before I read a book because, even though I have such great proof it’s unreliable, I’ll actually give weight to the thing and NOT get a book if it says I won’t like it. Dumb, I know… and think of the books I would have missed if I had checked to see if I’d like it first.

By the way… LT thinks I’ll love The Gun Runner’s Daughter.

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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.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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….*

BTT ~ Undo that VooDoo You DIDN’T Do So Well

Booking Through Thursday

In the perfect follow-up to last week’s question, as suggested by C in DC:

Is there a book that you wish you could “unread”? One that  you disliked so thoroughly you wish you could just forget that you ever read it?

OMG… this is an easy one to answer.  The Gun Runner’s Daughter by Neil Gordon is one of those books that I wish I could unread.  There was a few hours of my life that I’ll never get back.  It’s one I read before I was blogging, but here’s my review of it from Library Thing:

She was quiet, thinking, for a long time, so long that he asked her what it was. And she answered, hesitantly: “They were beginners, you mean. Two years ago, when they hatched this thing. The problem is, if they really don’t have the will for this prosecution, they’re not going to come out and say that. They’re going to let you say it for them. By losing.”

The plot of the story is: Ronald Rosenthal sells weapons to the Muslims in Bosnia under the wink and nod of the Clinton administration. When a reporter breaks the news of the sale, the federal government arrests and prosecutes Rosenthal to cover their a–. Citizen of both the US and Israel, Rosenthal flees to Israel, where he is regarded as a folk hero. Dee Dennis, the lead prosecutor for the gov’t, realizes he had a fling with Rosenthal’s daughter, and when he talks to her to see if she’ll tell about it, they begin another tryst. Allison Rosenthal takes up the mantle of her namesake, Esther, to destroy the prosecutions case and set her father free.

Simply said: This book was absolutely horrid. The writing was thick and dense, with stops and starts that nearly made me carsick. The characters were shallow and unrelateable. Having never been a jet setting, ivy league, Washington insider, with a house in NY, DC, and Martha’s Vineyard, I really could not care less if the world burned around them. As much as I like crime novels and intrigue, this book not only couldn’t get off the ground, but it belongs 6 ft. under it.

The only good thing about this book is if there’s a blizzard and you have no heat, at least “The Gun Runner’s Daughter” is flammable.

I gave this book one star, and every once in a while I think maybe I was too harsh in my review, but then I just re-read the quote from the book and remember how much pain I was in reading it, and I decide I was more than fair on it.

How about you?  Any books you wish you could unread and get those hours of your life back?