“Mr. Real” by Carolyn Crane

Okay, so I recently sort of discovered a new author, Carolyn Crane. I say “sort of” because of this book. It was… to say “bad” would be a misnomer. “Unreadable” comes closer. I literally could not read this book. It was too stupid. I originally thought, Hey, I like her other books, the Disillusionist Trilogy, I’ll probably like this one. Sure, the premise is retarded but it sounds retarded in a fun way. Wrong! It was just straight up retarded. Like, horrifyingly bad.

So, the premise is that the main character, Alix (my first hint that it was a bad book. Who spells that with an i?) inherits a house and a bunch of other stuff from her cooky, old aunt when she dies. I say “cooky” because it turns out the lady was a witch, like an actual magic using witch, and not one of the wiccan types who are mostly about being in balance with nature, but who used actual magic and, get this, managed to transfer that magic to a computer somehow. So that anything you click on, using a computer that has that code in it, will magically appear a day later on your front porch. Like I said, the premise sounded really, really stupid, but whatever I was willing to roll with it. Where she really lost me was the heroine, Alix. With an i. Instead of treating this ludicrous macguffin with kid gloves and a healthy dose of suspicion, since it’s a magical freaking computer and last I checked, magic comes with a price, she decides to use it to go shopping. She “orders” a supposedly great outfit, though based on the description you couldn’t pay me to wear it, and an insanely expensive necklace before it comes to her- she should use it to order a man! And not just any man, no no. She should use it to order a tv commercial character who is played by a guy that she met years ago, for a few weeks that she is somehow still half in love with. No, it didn’t make sense to me either. Any of it. Nothing in that previous sentence made any sense to me, but whatever because she goes for it.

The explanation why she should do such a thing is really, really stupid too. It’s not that she’s smart and just did a dumb thing, or just got caught up in the whole, “Hey, I can have whatever I want!” after years of poverty or whatever. No, no. She’s just that kind of person. She’s crazy, she’s wacky, isn’t that just so much fun! She randomly used magical objects that she doesn’t understand for completely selfish reasons! Isn’t she just so wacky and fun? Honestly, in any other book, she would be the first casualty. She’d be the smoking puddle of ooze on the floor that everyone looks at and goes “So now we know not to do that. Thank you, Alix with an i, for that object lesson.” Instead, no no. She’s just so crazy and fun, and so deeply misunderstood. What part of any of what she does make sense, or is in any way a good idea? None of it! Does the book care? No!

I’ll be honest, I didn’t really read the rest of it after that. I flipped around a lot, trying to see if it redeemed itself at some point and it most assuredly did not. The guy shows up and since he’s supposed to be some sort of secret agent in the commercials, he thinks he’s a secret agent there and he seriously wonders whether he should kill her, and then the guy she is inexplicably still half in love with after all this time, after minimal contact, I cannot stress enough how minimal the contact was, they never even met socially, shows up and stuff happens and… I don’t know. I think the fake guy goes crazy or something. There seemed to be some sort of standoff or something. Anyway, yeah, amazingly stupid. I’m actually really put off Carolyn Crane right now. Which is a shame because her Disillusionist Trilogy was actually really good. It had this superhero vibe that I seriously dug. But now I don’t even know if I can read her stuff again. It was that bad. I feel dumber for having read it. I spent actual money on this book. Like actual, factual money. And I ordered it online, so it had to be shipped to me. So that’s even more money and some poor package deliverer’s time. Oh god.

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Movie: “The Golden Compass”

This was just a terrible movie. Just- just terrible. Like, I was watching the climax and I turned to my sister and asked how much longer we had left. That’s how bad this movie was. I hadn’t read the books before, I’ve just started the first one today, but I could tell you even then that it was clearly a good story that was incredibly clumsily translated to movie form. Like, the shift from book to screenplay severely hurt it and then the same guy who did that tried to direct it. And if I had to guess I’d say he had never, in his entire life, directed a movie before. It’s the only explanation. And they changed things that made absolutely no sense. Like Lyra’s uncle/ dad in the movie is a good guy, complicated, but by all appearances a good guy. I’ve read about fifty pages of the book and a quick peek at the ending and already I can tell you he is very much not. And they made how Lyra ends up in the cupboard to overhear the stuff about Dust and to save her uncle from poisoning way more complicated in the movie than in the book. Isn’t it usually the other way around? What was the point of that? And also, the chick who played Lyra was kinda obnoxious. I almost expected a golden glow to pop up around her head during this movie, proclaiming her role as the Chosen One. She never showed any fear or doubt or hesitancy, any of the things that one would expect from a, what ten year old girl, who’s on a big, life threatening adventure. There’s no character development or insight into who she is. They call her brave, but as she never shows any fear, I wouldn’t call her brave. Without fear, there is no courage, so if she had no fear, she had no courage, I don’t care what they said.

On the upside, it had Ian McKellan in there and I always enjoy him. And the giant, talking warrior bears was mildly interesting. Not as much as I expected mind you, and not nearly as interesting as that last sentence really called for, but they were what, in any other movie, I would call a high point. I’ll let you know about the book, but honestly it can’t be worse than the movie. I’m not sure that that’s possible.

Shonda Rhimes Must Be Stopped

I just want to start by saying that I do not watch “Grey’s Anatomy”, nor have I for years, but I am vaguely aware of what goes on with it. I have a friend who watches it and there’s a tv blog that I read that discusses it regularly and well… sometimes I’m bored and curious. I want that firmly understood before I say this, because if I, someone who hasn’t watched the show for years and is only vaguely aware of it’s drama, not every little bit, not everything that happens, just sort of aware of it, then surely it’s worse than I know. And surely it must be even more true than I realize when I say: Shonda Rhimes must be stopped. She’s the showrunner for “Grey’s Anatomy” and the things that she has done to Meredith Grey… honestly, if it were real life, I would intervene. It’s abusive. It is full on character abuse. Every time I hear anything about the show, it’s something about Meredith’s life going to crap- again. What does this woman have against her own character? I honestly think that kind of behavior is a form of self hate. Just check out this quote from CliqueClack, that blog I mentioned:

“Since the very beginning of Grey’s Anatomy, Meredith’s luck has been absolutely lousy. Let’s review:

She hooked up with a man she didn’t know was married and watched as he went back to his wife, despite her humiliating pleas for him to pick her. She removed a live bomb from the body of a patient, then stood witness as it blew up the cute bomb squad guy. Her mother, who’d been emotionally abusive to Meredith her entire life, had Alzheimer’s and died as Meredith was being resuscitated after a suicide attempt. Her estranged alcoholic father, who was happy with the new family he’d made after leaving Meredith and her mother, blamed Meredith after his second wife died in a freakish manner while Meredith was her doctor. Her dog got sick and had to be put down. A close friend was hit by a truck and died, while another had stage four cancer, went into remission, then left. The guy for whom she’d long pined “married” her on a Post-It, but then was shot in the chest and nearly died as Meredith, who offered herself up as a sacrifice to the gunman who was killing everybody, miscarried her baby. Meredith then couldn’t get pregnant but when she eventually adopted a baby, her husband left her as punishment for her screwing up a clinical trial. Meredith’s baby was taken away by social services, then returned, and her husband came back, too, only to have the season end with Meredith and her husband involved in a plane crash where Meredith’s sister Lexie was killed. Oh, and it’s possible that Meredith could have Alzheimer’s. Shonda Rhimes probably will give Meredith Alzheimer’s.” (http://cliqueclack.com/tv/2012/05/18/greys-anatomy-season-8-finale-review/)

And that wasn’t even the complete list. I’ll say it again. Shonda Rhimes must be stopped. I realize that Meredith Grey isn’t real, so it will make things difficult, but surely if we all band together, we can work out a way to stage an intervention? A kidnapping? Something, anything, to save this poor girl from her tormentor.

“Game of Thrones” by George R.R. Martin

Initially the title for this post was going to include “Or Why I Hate Sansa” but the end made me feel bad for her, so I’ll dial it back a little. Not that I don’t still hate her, cuz I totally do, but I don’t hate her as much. It’s a little hard to hate someone when they’re stuck in that kind of situation.

Anyway! Moving on to the breakdown! I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this book since I find the concept and the story itself very interesting, but the writing and the characters kind of kill it for me. There is, out of a cast of like twenty or something, five characters that I liked. Everybody else was out and out evil, horrible, kind of heartless or fairly unsympathetic. I liked Jon, whom I have a theory about that I will share momentarily, Robb, Bran, Arya, Danaerys and Tyrion. I really wanted to like Ned but I just didn’t. I respected him but I can’t say as I really liked him, dug him, would want to hang out with him, etc. I’m a little on the fence with Danaerys too, but she’s a survivor and she’s got moxie, I like that in a character. Catelyn should have been cool but she was just… flat, I guess. She had no heart, no depth. I didn’t feel like there was any traction with her character, like the author had no idea what was going on inside her head so he just navigated her around like a puppet on strings. I hate it when authors do that.

The story itself is interesting; the ruling houses duking it out for the throne and power while winter is coming and the Others are massing north of the wall, which is deeply understaffed? Awesome concept! But the writing… maybe it’s just me, but it took me a good few weeks to finish this book. That’s unheard of! I had to slog my way through six hundred pages before I felt like things really got interesting.

I’m not entirely sure if I’m going to continue with this series. I mean, it’s a great concept and I’d love to see how it turns out, I’m very interested to see what happens when winter does come, when the Others start coming south, who becomes king, who dies, if freaking Sansa makes it out alive (and if she does, I swear to god…), but the fact that I had to slog through six hundred pages until war came and all of a sudden I was like “Now we have a book!”… it doesn’t bode well.

But I do have a bet going with myself as to who becomes king. Some of my money is on Danaerys, who, like I said, has moxie and the pedigree to claim the throne. And apparently an army to back it up, if she can get it pointed in the right direction, so good for her. I had money on Robb, but if he becomes King of the North I guess that works too. Although in his fight for independence I guess he could inadvertently conquer the rest of the kingdom, which would be cool. But most of my money is on Jon, and I will tell you why: everyone keeps talking about how winter is coming, winter is coming, send the troops north, not south, winter is coming, and Jon is on the Wall and set up as the heir to Castle Black, basically. He has sworn an oath to protect the Wall, and his loyalty is to the Wall before all else. In a way, that’s swearing protection to the realm itself, which is a king’s job. Also, he’s a bastard and there’s a certain mythological rightness to the bastard becoming king. It happens in all the fairy tales, the child of mysterious origins (note how Jon has no idea who his mother is) becomes king by saving the kingdom. And winter is coming. Bad things will be coming south, very soon. Jon will be saving the day, I promise you that. And what was King Arthur if not a bastard? But my largest reason hangs on a bit of supposition, but bear with me here. Ned will never say who Jon’s mother is, he never even speaks her name, but all throughout the book he keeps having flashbacks to his sister making him promise something, but they never say what. All we know is that Lyanna made Ned promise something, something very serious, before she died. We also know that Lyanna had intercourse with Rhaegar before she died. I say intercourse because while King Robert says she was raped, Ser Jorah makes a comment to Danaerys along the lines of Rhaegar was anti- rape. But we at least know that their private bits got to know each other. My theory is that Jon is not Ned’s son at all, but his nephew. My theory is that Jon is both Stark and Targaryen, which would make him heir to the iron throne and at least kin to the king of the north, if not actually heir to the north himself, which would quiet the lords who are currently (as of the end of book one) clamoring for independence.

Now, obviously, I have no way of knowing if this is true or not without reading the rest of the books and a good chunk of the series has yet to be written, from what I understand, but I’m fairly confident in my theory. I have reconciled myself to the fact that, unlike most author’s, I cannot guess what George R.R. Martin is going to do but, based on the little details he sprinkled throughout the first book, that’s what I put together.

Also, what the hell is wrong with George R.R. Martin? Seriously! He has a book with crazy people, incest, sadists, a cast that is largely unlikable, girls who hate their sisters unto not caring what happens to them during a castle coup, treason, murder, women who hate innocent children, rape casually being bandied about and all sorts of lies being told all the time. And from what I understand it only gets worse! What is it like inside that man’s head? Not that I really want to know, the broad strokes I got from reading his book were enough, but I would like a diagnosis. (And for anyone who hasn’t heard, he totally goes after his characters with a freaking meat cleaver. He has zero sentimentality about his charcter and has terrible things happen to them at a moment’s notice.)

Oh, and here’s the “Why I Hate Sansa” part: she’s horrible! She is a shallow, pathetic, naive, incredibly stupid, spoiled brat who betrays her family! She runs straight to the queen when Ned is about to make his big move, begging her not to let him send her away. She basically told the queen exactly was about to happen, giving her an exact timeline for when she needed to make her move and kill the king and take over the castle. And she was too stupid and naive to realize that that’s what she did. She is being played by the Lannisters like a freaking harp and she is too freaking stupid to realize what’s going on! She’s so blinded by that little sadist’s princehood to realize what he is, that she determines she’s in love with him on zero acquaintance! She yells at her little sister all the time for not being a lady and hates her for ruining everything, just by being herself! And she apparently thinks so very little of her that when a freaking palace coup is going on and people are dying, her father is in jail for treason and armies are being massed, that she didn’t think to ask what’s going on with her ten year old sister! A ten year old little girl is all alone in the midst of that chaos and she is so spoiled, self centered and mind blowingly stupid that it never even occurs to her to ask what happened to her! I can’t express enough to you how much I dislike her character and would like to beat the shit out of her. To be fair, Joffrey does beat her, or is the cause of her being beaten. To which I feel bad for her and say “Be careful what you wish for.” She wanted her prince and now she’s got him. I do hope she gets out of there, if only because he’s a sadist and he’ll kill her horribly and painfully, but I live with the hope that she gets offed in some smaller, less painful way. I mean, everyone else is being killed, all over the place they’re being killed or crippled for stupid or random reasons, so if fucking Sansa makes it out this series alive…

“The Da Vinci Code” by Dan Brown

Okay, it’s been a while since I read this one, but I’ll be selling it to Half Price Books soon, so I figured I should say something about it before it went. First off, as everyone has said, the writing can be a bit iffy, and the conversations go on for a long, long time. If you’re hoping for action, this is not the book for you. Also, symbology, in case you hadn’t heard, is not an actual field. So, for a book where it claims that all the basic facts in it are true, that’s a pretty big mistake to make. There’s also the part where the Rose Line isn’t where they say it is in the book. Another problem for a bold statement like that.

I won’t make any statement about the veracity of the book’s claims. Mostly because I don’t care. It’s fiction! Who cares? I mean, obviously a lot of people did and probably still do, but I’m not among them. I try not to get wound up about silly things.

I would like to point out how hilarious it is to me, though, that Dan Brown is trying to make Robert Landon into kind of an academic James Bond. If you’ve read both “Angels and Demons” and “The Da Vinci Code” you know what I’m talking about. He’s taking a nerd with a pHD in what is essentially Art History and trying to make him into James freaking Bond. It is to laugh.

Anyway, the book is okay. Interesting, anyway. I hadn’t heard of a lot of the things he was talking about and I spent a lot of time on the internet researching it afterwards, so there was that. And I will say this, a lot of what he talked about turned out to be true. Opus Dei does exist and I even ran across a website warning parents about it and it talked about how to get your kid out if they got involved, like it was a cult or something, which struck me as odd. The churches he talks about do exist, even if he got their actual geographic location wrong. But I do take exception to something that happened in there, cuz it makes no sense. In the beginning of the book, when the curator was bleeding to death, why did he go to so much trouble to leave the obscure clues? Why didn’t he just leave a note saying, “Hey, I just got shot by an albino monk, please take care of that for me?” and maybe a hint of where to find some important papers in his office for his granddaughter or the next in line for his secret society? Because why wouldn’t he have papers explaining everything in his office? I mean, no he didn’t know he was going to be murdered, no one ever does, but he wasn’t a young man and he had to take accidents into consideration. People get hit by cars every day. Why wouldn’t he have some sort of back- up  plan? If the secret is as important as he was saying, he would have, just in case. So the entire basis of the story makes no sense. But, other than that, the subject is interesting enough, I felt, to make up for any deficiencies in writing or style. And, as a side note, I’m not getting rid of it because I don’t like it, I’m getting rid of it because I haven’t read it in like five years and I take that as a sign it needs a new home.

“Ice Song” by Kirsten Imani Kasai

I don’t really know what to think of this book. I mean, I finished recently and have spend a few days mulling it over and I’m still not sure. It’s very clearly a freshman effort. There is no confusing this for anything other than someone’s first book, and it has it’s good points. It’s, at times, very well written and almost poetic. But it felt… I want to say unfinished. Like she didn’t quite finish the thought behind the book. I mean, it starts very abruptly and ends very abruptly, with little to no real idea of what the characters will do afterward.

It also kind of seems like she tried to put too many stories in there. You see there are only so many stories in the world, Boy Meets Girl, Epic Adventure, Growing Up, Good Against Evil, that kind of thing. And in general, a book is most successful when they only combine two of the main story types, like Good Against Evil with Boy Meets Girl, or Epic Adventure with Growing Up. Too many story types in one book and it very easily gets very confusing. This book seems to be trying to combine Epic Adventure, Growing Up, and Good Against Evil, all while juggling ten or so characters, with eleven or more backstories and the history of the entire world. Sadly, she does not have the skill to do it. Honestly, I’m not sure if the story had enough room in it for all of that. She would have been far better served to have a simple, lean story about a mother who goes to rescue her children from a madman without delving into the backstory of the whole entire world. Simple, done well, is always best. And I just have to nitpick that when a good portion of the story is the mother growing into herself and her power while on this quest, then we need to have a decisive path for her laid out after the book ends. I mean, the thought behind the book was clearly good (if unfinished) and the characters were fairly realized, the author knew what she wanted the book to be about and she wrote that, but she just didn’t execute it very well. And, I just need to point this out since it bothered the crap out of me when I read it, how she discovered her children were missing was stupid. She comes back from a month of work at the polar ice cap, her nanny is supposed to meet her with her twins and they’re not there. Sorykah panics, immediately thinking something horrible has gone wrong, but calms herself thinking maybe she told them the wrong date or they were delayed or something. But, she doesn’t want to go to an empty house (the nanny and twins were living somewhere else, or something. It’s a bit unclear), so she stays with a friend. While she’s with this friend she realizes that she had lost a good chunk of an extra day while traveling due to delays. She’s immediately relieved, happy as a clam, assumes they are at home waiting for her. The next morning, she hears news that the madman everyone is afraid of has kidnapped twin children, children matching her babies’ age and description. Now, this is where she loses me- she never goes home to check. She just panics and immediately heads off into the wilderness, without any kind of survival experience or training might I add (which works about as well as you would expect), to go save them from the madman that trained, fully armed people have failed to take down. I don’t know what to say that.

It’s all very strange, even before you include the rather strange details about singing ice and people who have animal parts for no apparent reason. The story of the madman tries really hard to make sense, but it never really meshed for me. Although I guess that kind of works, what with him  being crazy and all. I don’t recommend this book, but if you want to read it, I won’t tell you not to. Hopefully Kirsten Imani Kasai will get her act together and make her next book better.