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The Barrowfields Review

The Barrowfields: A Novel - Phillip Lewis

I spent most of this novel wondering when the story would begin. I was promised a coming-of-age tale. I did not receive that. Unless the publisher and author consider any story that jumps back and forth from childhood to adulthood a coming-of-age story. I do not. To be a coming-of-age story, I feel the reader must be able to see some change in a character, a shift from childhood to adulthood. Hence the term "coming-of-age". I did not get that. I got insta-love bookended by family tragedy. But, as I said at the beginning, I never felt as if the story ever started. I was sat down in the middle of an uneventful life and told to observe.

I understand that this is literary fiction, and that literary fiction is more about theme and character than plot and action. I get that. But I was not, for the most part, entertained. There are several gorgeous passages. Many of them, actually. The book is riddled with quote-worthy material. The writing is great, but not so good that it can hold up a plotless narrative.

Nothing is more frustrating that a) a synopsis littered with spoilers and/or b) one that misleads the reader. This book suffers from the latter. Because of that, I think who spoiled this this read for me the most is the person who wrote the jacket copy. The book does not cash the check the synopsis writes, and I'm stuck with a recurring NSF fee. Time and time again, I expected something that wasn't there. Had the publishers and/or author mentioned that half of this book was a sappy romance hindered by insta-love so strong that both characters cannot live without each other after a single meeting, I damn sure would've passed on it.

In summation: Beautiful prose does not always make an engaging or entertaining read. But mileage may vary. If you don't mind insta-love and love to surf the gorgeous, flowing prose, give this a try. For this reader, the poorly-written jacket copy promised something the book never delivered. I wouldn't mind trying something else from this author, though. Many thanks to Crown Publishing for providing a review copy in return for the review you just read.

Final Judgment: A beautiful car with no wheels.

"Why are some readers too stupid to understand certain books?"

“The first duty of the novelist is to entertain.” ~Donna Tartt

 

Sorry for the clickbait-y headline, but we need to talk. I will digress before I get to the point, but, please, stay with me. Thanks.

 

I’m sure somewhere out there, there’s a review of mine wherein I call someone a big ol’ dummy-head for digging a book that has sub-standard literary merit: like a James Patterson fan, or, Tom Cruise forbid, a member of Stephanie Meyer’s rabid fanbase. I don’t think there is, but I’ve been reviewing for a long time and I’m bound to have said something stupid in one of my posts. The point I’m trying to make is this.

 

I strive to constantly educate myself. I take pride in learning something new every day. I have been an asshat in the past. In certain sectors, I am still an uneducated asshat. But I always take pride in admitting when I’m wrong. So if you find an old review from the year 2000 B.E.E.S.( Before E.’s Education Spike) that says “You’re dumb if you like this book”, please know that the dumbass who wrote that post no longer lives here. Again, I don’t think a review like that exists, but it might. Apologies if you find one.

 

I said all that to say this. I’ve come to the theory that there are no stupid fiction readers. Settle down, Cynical Internet Rage Machine, I’m about to explain.

 

Point #1:

 

Fiction, by definition, isn’t real. Everything going on within a work of fiction can be subjective. You shouldn’t expect facts in a work of fiction. You can expect a certain level of accuracy in historical fiction and hard science fiction, but even there, you have to understand that you are reading fiction. Meaning, you should not take anything in a work of fiction as fact. Even fictional novels about real people should be taken with a grain of salt. So if a reader enjoys a book of sub-standard literary merit, they are not automatically stupid. Likewise, if they do not understand/enjoy a book that has been awarded the coveted “Smarty-Pants Book of the Month”, they’re not automatically stupid. Could they be an idiot? Most definitely. But you should not judge them on their reading preferences. And here’s why.

 

Point #2:

 

The quote at the beginning of this article is from Donna Tartt; someone who can be a bit polarizing due to writing like a modern-day Dickens. Flowing prose, a billion pieces of punctuation laying about like mines in a Serbian playground, verbose descriptions of mundane things, and so on. I’ve only read one of her novels – The Little Friend – and I was not entertained. Even so, she’s correct. The first job of any novelist is to entertain their reader. I will always believe that.

 

You can choose to write literary fiction the likes of which Jonathan Franzen and David Foster Wallace writes/wrote (respectively), but you risk alienating some of your readers: those readers who are only there to be entertained. Likewise, you can choose to write simple Cat-in-the-Hat style prose with the intent of being accessible to everyone but the illiterate: James Patterson, Dan Brown, Stephanie Meyer, the list goes on.

 

Fiction is an escape from reality. If an author allows someone, just one person, that escape, they have done their job. If a book is so very smart that only one person (outside of the author) understands its message, the author has done their job. Meaning, the information is there, it’s simply not accessible to every reader. If a book is so very easy that everyone can read it but is shitpanned by every literary-minded reader who stumbles across it (I hate to say this but it’s true…), the author has still done their job.

 

Because reading is subjective. And if the fiction you consume allows you an escape from this toilet-bowl of a world, I can’t hate on you. If I have in the past, this is my apology to you. I’m sorry.

 

Read whatever the fuck you want. And…

 

“If you find something you love, pimp the shit outta it.” ~Paul Elard Cooley

 

Take care of each other,

 

E.

Please Read - Signal Boost for Fellow Reviewer Frank Errington

Hello peeps. If you spend any time in the horror community, you might have run across a reviewer by the name of Frank Errington. He’s simply an all-around good dude in an all-around crappy situation. He needs a kidney. Currently he’s looking for a live donor. I asked him if I could boost the signal with my blog and he said sure, so below you will find an image of Frank and a phone number. You can call Frank direct and he’ll give you info on how to find out if you’d be a suitable donor. I tried, but the transplant people told me my prediabetes automatically disqualified me. Maybe you can help.

 

Take care of each other,

 

E.

 

Book Tour Update

Book Tour Update:
 
Looks like we'll be leaving the day after Labor Day and stopping in the following cities:
 
Birmingham, AL
Tulsa, OK
Amarillo, TX
Houston, TX (maybe, more details next month)
Albuquerque, NM
Phoenix, AZ
Palm Springs, CA
New Orleans, LA
 
Actual locations, dates, and times of Meet-and-Greets coming next month. If you'd like to meet me, now is the time. The next one might not be until next year and, if it happens, it'll be East Coast only.
 
Looking forward to seeing as many of you as possible.
 
E.
 
 

A Rage Review of THE ROANOKE GIRLS (Language Warning!)

The Roanoke Girls: A Novel - Amy Engel

I'm so goddamn tired of the same-old, predictable shit. For that reason, among the many more you are about to read below, this review is going to be rage-y as fuck. If you manage to not get offended by the contents, I hope you enjoy this review more than I enjoyed the book.

First and foremost, BOOBS! There were so many mentions of funbags in this book, I had to recheck the cover to make sure this wasn't written by a dude. Every few pages, in the first 30 pages, the author mentions "big boobs" or "plumb breasts" or some variation on knockers/melons/feeders/tigolbitties. I counted eight times in those first 30 pages. Everyone was described by the size of their bosom. We get it. Roanoke girls are stacked! Whoopty-fucking-do. The author goes on to space out her tit-mentioning, but only because the cast doesn't grow. No need to describe the same chesticles over and over again unless they change, right? Right. Moving on...

I don't know if anyone was paying attention when I first started reading this, but I mentioned how creepy it was. That was the first 13 pages. Can we say, "False start?" Not sure what I caught in those first 13 pages, but all that atmosphere dissipated like a good fart, one that doesn't linger and upset the kinfolk, within the very next chapter. Oh, I felt uneasy later on. Don't get me wrong. But that feeling of discomfort was for all the wrong reasons.

Next, and this is a first (paradox?), I had to delete two of my status updates because my jokes, my motherfucking goddamn sonuvabitching jokes, ended up being fucking spoilers. Lemme spell this shit out to you. I was fucking around, goofing off, as I am wont to do, and my goofiness ended up being a plot point. That's never fucking good. Well, maybe if this was a parody, but no, it's serious fiction. Which brings me to...

This novel (for lack of a better word) has the most unintentionally-funny fight scene at the end of it. The big denouement had me in tears not because it was sad but because it was mountainous - or, as the kids are saying, HILL AREAS!

These are the jokes, people. Fuck you, don't judge me.

Sexual dysfunction brought on by childhood trauma seems to be popular right now. Are that many of us being molested and growing into sex-starved fuck-puppets? Is this the new us? Are there any parents/grandparents/uncles/aunts/neighbors/clergymen/pets/inanimate objects in existence who are not out here diddling their children? You'd think this world was nothing but pederasts and pedopiles and hebephiles, what with how it's the plot or subplot of every goddamn literary thriller. I'm not making light of this topic. I have my own past and that's none of your business. But you'd think that, with all the safe-space-seeking readers out there, you'd see less of this stuff, not more.

My point is this: I'm fucking tired of reading about it because it's fucking predictable. Not because it's disgusting or triggering or any other topical reason, but because I fucking expect it. It's gotten to the point that I open up a literary thriller and think "I wonder who's gonna be molested in this one?"

The moment the killer hit the screen, so to speak, I knew who she was, and as soon as the molester hit the screen, I knew who he was. (I called both of them in my second and third updates, which I have since deleted by request because spoilers) As soon as the red herring hit the screen, I knew who it wasn't. There's a long-lost-then-returned love interest. One of the characters is a downhome cop who used to be friends with the main character. (I'm telling you, folks, there's nothing new in this book.) One of the characters is even a motherfucking V.C. Andrews cast member. Oh, you remember ol' V.C. Andrews. Motherfucking Flowers in the Attic motherfucking V.C. motherfucking Andrews. Amy Engel attempted to emulate one of the worst word mills in modern literature. In fact, now that I make that comparison, that's all this book is is a reboot of Andrews' early career. Tom Cruise help us all if this shit gets popular again. In the name of Brad Pitt, amen.

In summation: Holy shit this was bad. If you're looking for a book wherein you can predict the outcome in the first 50 pages, read this motherfucker. If you were offended by this review, damn sure skip this motherfucker. Most importantly, if you were spoiled during this review, good. Now you don't have to read it.

Final Judgment: Contender for Worst Book of the Year 2017... and it's only March. Fuck my life.

Many thanks to the publisher (because I didn't have to waste my hard earned dough on this book) for supplying the review copy of this shit-fest. I think it goes without saying that this is my unbiased opinion. I understand that they can't all be winners, but I've come to expect so much more from your company (Crown Publishing). Then again, good friends of mine loved this book, so what do I know? smooches

Thanks for the help...

Thanks to everyone who reblogged my freebie post and helped to spread the word. There were quite a few of you, so my apologies that I did not get around to each of you to say thanks. Know that you have my appreciation. 

 

 

Free Story and a Cheap Audiobook

 

For the next five days, you can grab the Kindle edition of "Margins" for free, and then get the audiobook from Audible for $1.99.

 

 

 

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Sorry for the barrage of posts...

Sorry for the barrage of posts. I'm done now. 

Doodletopia: Fairies Review

Doodletopia Fairies: Draw, Design, and Color Your Own Super-Magical and Beautiful Fairies - Christopher Hart

All of the Christopher Hart books are good. My daughter owns nearly all of them now, and her artwork has improved drastically. In her words, "I'd buy this for anyone who wants to learn how to draw fairies." Highly recommended to anyone just starting out.

The Sun is Also a Star Review

The Sun Is Also a Star - Nicola Yoon

Oh, boy. Here we go.

Few things you should know before I go on with my review. 

a) I'm not this book's target audience, but I have enjoyed books in this genre. 

b) I know good writing when I see it. Unfortunately, I did see any in here. This is bare-minimum, barely-scratch-the-surface, creative-writing-course prose. It's a heavy outline, is what it is. Bland narratives do not a happy reader make.

c) I actually thought I'd like this premise. That's why I requested a copy for review. Thanks to Crown Publishing for the chance to read this for free. I always feel bad when I have to shit on a freebie, but I can't help it. I couldn't enjoy the premise because the writing and chapter length was maddening.

Having chapters with fewer words than the ingredients on a bag of lettuce is fucking annoying. No. Scratch that. It's infuriating. If it's one thing a writer should never do is go full James Patterson. Nicola Yoon went full Patterson. The book is written in this Twitter-post-length style that is aggravating and distracting. The moment you start to get a feel for a situation a new chapter from a different POV comes along and fistfucks the flow of the book. 

Yoon tells you why these characters are different, but they never feel different, unless of course she's writing in broken English, then I guess it's kinda obvious the main characters aren't the ones talking. If you've seen Margaret Cho do an impersonation of her mother, you'll recognize some of the dialogue.

From the author: I wrote this book for anyone who's ever desperately searched for meaning. For everyone who asks the big questions. For all the dreamers and questioners.

You know what I'm searching for and questioning and dreaming of? Where everyone is in this book. There's no details of their surroundings. At one point she mentions a theater and the description tells us that the place was small, what the marquee said, and that tickets were fifteen bucks. WHAT THE FUCK DID THE PLACE LOOK LIKE, YOON? Oh, right, we've all been in a theater so fuck us, right? There's also some repetition with the word small. Everything is "very small" or "too small". Well, not Everything, Everything (see what I did there? The author's first book is... Never mind.), but a lot of stuff is "too small" or "very small", and so was my patience with this book. My patience was so too very small that it was minuscule to nonexistent. 

In summation: Requesting this book was a mistake. But not because it's not my genre of choice or anything I could have known before opening the book itself. I guess I could've saved my time and effort by checking the Look Inside on Amazon. So my bad. Yoon and I definitely do not gel. I'll pass on anything else from her.

Final Judgment: Introducing the new YA novel, now with 50% less words and 3,000,000% more chapters!

Disaster Falls Review

Disaster Falls: A Family Story - Stephane Gerson

First and foremost, my condolences to the author. And that's about the nicest thing I can say about this book.

I'll start by saying it for you. I'm a terrible person, an emotional cripple. How can a father give this book anything below five stars!? 

Well, because the book is boring. I simply never wanted to pick it up again after I laid it down. I started it on the 7th and it is now the 17th. I made it through the first third of the book but nothing is drawing me in further. Thus, I am throwing in the towel.

So, yes, rage-comment below on how insensitive I am and how you wish me to die in a fire. I won't even respond to you. Let me have it. Punish me, mistress... Okay, maybe that wasn't the best choice of words. 

In summation: I feel for this family, but this book is, for me, banal to the point of being unreadable.

Final Judgment: A tragic incident discussed in the most sleep-inducing of ways.

Black Boy Review

Black Boy - Richard Wright, Jerry W. Ward Jr.

“Our too-young and too-new America, lusty because it is lonely, aggressive because it is afraid, insists upon seeing the world in terms of good and bad, the holy and the evil, the high and the low, the white and the black; our America is frightened of fact, of history, of processes, of necessity. It hugs the easy way of damning those whom it cannot understand, of excluding those who look different, and it salves its conscience with a self-draped cloak of righteousness”


― Richard Wright, Black Boy

 

In an attempt to further my literary education, I am taking this course: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list...

Black Boy is the first book on the syllabus (I love that word, "syllabus", it's so silly for a serious, college word, but I digress). I burned through Richard Wright's much fictionalized autobiography in four days. I didn't want to put it down until the final 60-or-so odd pages. Up until those last 60 pages, the novel was beautifully written. The prose was in perfect harmony with the subject matter. And then, in those last 60, the text became dry and political. I didn't expect the shift and was thus jarred out of the story.

Interestingly enough, back in June of 1944, the Book of the Month Club seems to have thought the same thing. They wrote Wright and asked him to cleave off the second half, "The Horror and the Glory", and rewrite the ending of the first part, Southern Night, before they would select it as one of their club picks. I gotta say, other than some great paragraphs on the state of America at the time, I could've easily skipped Part Two. Nothing wrong with what's there. It just bored this reader to the point I wanted to put it down.

Slightly off topic: I highly suggest you follow the link above to the Yale Course and check it out, as well as their other free YouTube courses. There are dozens of them. For free. Did I mention they were free courses?

In summation: Highly recommended first half, but the second part can easily be skipped without losing much. Unless you like reading about communism, then by all means, dive right in. The topic simply does not interest me whatsoever and Wright goes on and on and on about it.

Final Judgment: Race relations and communism in equal parts.

A Review of THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP

The World According to Garp - John Irving

Book #4 in my John Irving Challenge, and the best one yet.

The idea that men and women are equal seems to me a basic truth. What sets us apart, medically, is our reproductive organs. Yes, you can have gender reassignment surgery, but a person born a man cannot carry a child conceived using one of that man's eggs because he doesn't produce eggs. Science has a long way to go on that advancement, if anyone is even working on it. Likewise, no person born a woman is out there fertilizing an egg with her semen, because she does not produce semen. So, when speaking about medical classification, our reproductive organs are the only things that separate us. You can joke and giggle and play the men-are-dumber card. I know I have, because there seems to be loads of evidence that we are, in fact, dumber, or, at the very least, slower to think and quicker to act, but there is no scientific proof that, say, a man's brain is smaller or less active than a woman's. (If you argue this in the comments make sure to back up your findings with cited proof. Thank you.) You can even say women are more emotional, which isn't a negative in my book, but that's not true either. Men are trained from a very early age not to have emotions, so we only seem heartless in comparison. "Stop crying! Be a man!" our fellow men bellow, and we salute our Generals in Masculinity with our throbbing erections and a call of "SIR! YES, SIR!" Okay, I'm done man-splaining. On with the review...

The World According to Garp deals with all of the above topics: feminism (which isn't militant man-hating, guys, it's the idea that both genders matter equally in society, so calm your man-tits), sexual identity, and masculinity. The book is surprisingly forward thinking in regards to the year in which it was published and the fact that it was written by a man. But of course I would think that. I'm a dude. I will only ever be a dude. Yet I have only ever read short-sighted or overtly-preachy diatribes from male authors on these topics. John Irving isn't sensitive in such a way as to come off as pandering. He truly seems to care and understand that everyone should be treated equally. Meaning, I do not believe he sat around after completing this book gloating over how progressive and clever he was in his writing of it.

The novel also deals with female rape from a man's point of view. Yes, men can be raped, too, but that's not what Irving is talking about. He discusses how men deal emotionally with the rape of a female loved one. Specifically how some men will go into hyperactive protection mode, which can be as emotionally harmful for their loved one as the rape itself. Male or female, you can never truly fathom emotionally the violation of rape unless you have been in that situation. Anyone who says otherwise is a liar.

Furthermore, Garp touches on something I've believed for as long as I can remember: that rape is worse than murder. Kill someone and they are gone, they no longer exist anywhere but memory. Their life is over and only their loved ones are left behind to deal with the tragedy of loss. Someone who is murdered is no longer hurting; they cannot hurt as they no longer feel, emotionally or physically. But rape, if survived, leaves that individual to deal with the past on a daily basis. Every day can be a recurring nightmare. You relive the assault over and over and over, until you wish and beg and plead that your rapist had just fucking killed you. There are no murder victims sitting around praying to be raped to get away from their own minds.

In summation: This is a pitch-perfect book that deals with tough issues respectfully. Not necessarily sensitively, but respectfully. There is a difference. You might be triggered upon reading, but I'm betting you and Irving alike would appreciate your bravery for making it to the end. But what do I know? I'm just a dude. Read at your own risk.

Final Judgment: Powerful, engaging, thought-provoking, intelligent, and immensely entertaining to read.

Looking for a literary fiction reading group.

Anyone have a lead on a literary fiction reading group? Especially people who enjoy postmodern authors, please.

 

Thanks in advance.

Dare I say "It's fixed"...

Hello folks. I've been logging into Booklikes once a week since October 2nd and every week, without fail, the site either times-out or takes upwards of ten minutes to load. Even when the site did load, only the first three posts would be visible. I'd click on Show More and I'd have to wait another couple of minutes for three more posts to load. It was a crap shoot if I could even get to the point were the create-a-post page would work.

 

Well, I logged in tonight and the site is running nicely. Everything loaded quickly and old friends are active once more, so I'll try again tomorrow and we'll see where we go from there. 

 

I've missed everyone. Hope you're all doing well and that this is a new beginning for one of my all-time favorite websites.

 

E.

BEYOND THE GATES OF TOYLAND now available

Hello everybody. Long time no see. I won't take much of your time.

 

I know there are a few of you who did not follow me when I left Booklikes that enjoyed my War on Christmas series, and I wanted to jump in to let you know that, Beyond the Gates of Toyland is live and will be free from December 14-18. This is the final installment of my War on Christmas series. I hope you enjoy the way it ends.

 

So here you go. Beyond the Gates of Toyland, the conclusion to the War on Christmas

 

Click on the picture to get your copy from Amazon.com. International links are below the image.

 

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It: A Novel by Stephen King
Howard the Duck Omnibus by Steve Gerber, Val Mayerik, John Buscema, Carmine Infantino, Frank Brunner, Gene Colan
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