Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Haunting of Hill House

Every horror-lover has heard of this book. A classic of the genre, praised by the likes of Neil Gaiman and Stephen King. Chilling, disturbing, blood-curdling.
Alright, I seriously think something is wrong with me. Because this book was neither chilling nor terrifying. And it was a real nightmare for someone suffering from ADD (attention deficit disorder). I admit that my ADD has reached unbelievable heights. Sometimes I read the same passages 2-3 times. Sometimes I read the words, but think of something else, and have to go back, over and over again. And this book was hard to follow. I wasn't always sure what was going on. It had good moments and was filled with psychological themes, offering an insight into a troubled mind, but I couldn't understand any of the characters' actions. They knew from the beginning that the house might be haunted, but each time something disturbing happened, their reactions were befuddling. Whenever they seemed to encounter a contact from the other side, they would giggle or laugh, or talk some nonsense. I didn't understand half of the dialogue. 
It was obvious from the beginning that Eleanor had serious psychological problems. She went from liking Theodora (another visitor of the house) to hating her in a second. She was disturbed and the house was swallowing her, but most of the time we saw her walking outside and wondering what others were talking behind her back. The other three characters weren't interesting at all. Theodora and Luke and the doctor were boring. Maybe it was because we saw them through Eleanor's eyes, but they were not interesting at all. There was a governess, a very curt woman, who never smiled or said anything more than necessary. But then she got engaged into a more or less nice conversation with a new guest. That was out of character and spoiled the book's atmosphere. Thus, I didn't really understand what it was: a psychological thriller, a story about ghosts, or a tale of madness. I was expecting so much fright I avoided reading it at night (especially after being attacked by a huge cricket), but this book wasn't scary at all. It was full of psychological moments, but it wasn't the horror story I had been expecting. Maybe I really missed something. And maybe one day I'll give this book a second try.vTime will tell.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Terminator (1984) vs Terminator (2015)

I've probably mentioned a few times that Terminator (1984) is my all time favorite movie. I loved Terminator 2: Judgment Day as well, but whatever came after doesn't even deserve to carry the same title.
And now, we're going to be served with another bastardized version that is Terminator: Genisys. Why, oh why? Surely for the money, but this looks so bad I wonder if it won't flop. And the cast! Who in their right mind did the casting for this movie? Emilia Clark aka Daenerys Targaryen as Sarah Connor? Really?

This is who Sarah Connor is:

She's strong, she's tough, she's a badass fighter who can stand against the whole world. Plus, Linda is outstanding as Sarah. Her face, her body, her voice, everything is so perfect. Also, Linda Hamilton is just a very good actress, which is hard to say about baby-faced Emilia and her wooden acting.

So the studio execs want to tell me that this is Sarah Connor?
Why does she always carry this same "I'm-a-little-lost-helpless-Targaryen-princess" look? Sarah Connor was young and scared in Terminator (1984), but she was never inept, and her voice didn't sound so weak and childish. I also can't say anything good about the new Kyle Reese. I can't remember the name of the actor, but for me, the only Kyle Reese is Michael Biehn.

Linda and Michael are the only Sarah and Kyle I want to know. Besides, Terminator is not just one of the best sci-fi movies in the world, it also tells one of the most beautiful love stories.

I won't be watching Terminator: Genisys.

Wicked Business

Another lesson I need to learn: do not trust the best-seller lists. If someone is a best-selling author, it means absolutely nothing. I know I'll be learning English all my life, and there's no better way than reading acclaimed authors, who are famous for their writing skills and vocabulary. So, when I saw that best-selling author Janet Evanovich's book was on sale for just $1.99, I thought I couldn't lose an opportunity to learn from her. She has so many bestsellers, she has to be great, right?

Title: Wicked Business
Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/Wicked-Business-Lizzy-Diesel-Lizzie-ebook/dp/B0061C1N5W

This book was painful. So painful I had to force myself to keep reading. Do it, I told myself. Even if you don't like the plot, just keep reading it as a textbook. But that was hard. I have long stopped enjoying Stephen King novels, but I still read them as textbooks. But reading Wicked Business wasn't giving me anything. I wasn't learning anything, I wasn't becoming better, wasn't writing down new words into my notepad, wasn't stumbling upon great sentences. This book only wasted my precious time. Letting it abuse my mind, I reached the 50% point and knew I couldn't keep going. Nothing was happening. There were just some random characters talking, sleeping, eating, cooking, talking, walking, eating, shopping. I swear I'm not exaggerating. I know this was the second book in the series, but it's not like something was happening there, and I couldn't understand what because I hadn't read the first one. Absolutely nothing was happening in this book apart from talking, sleeping, eating, and talking again. But how is this even possible? How could this book become a best-seller?
There was a cat named Cat. There was a monkey named Carl. Sometimes they hissed and leered at each other. There were some women doing something. Yes, doing something. There was a Lizzy, who couldn't decide if she had to sleep with a guy named Wulf or a guy named Diesel. They discussed it a lot. They went to places, they talked, they ate, they went to places. At 50% point I knew I couldn't keep reading. Life was flowing out of me. I can't remember ever doing this, but I skipped. Yes, I skipped. I thought I'd just read the last two chapters to see if anything exciting was going to happen. And you know what? I skipped those last chapters, too!

By the end, there was a very lame action scene, some fire, and some more lame action that happened while our protagonist was unconscious and we saw nothing of that. I honestly think it was for the better. Reading Wicked Business, I felt like Miss Evanovich had a deadline, had to give a book to her publisher, so she patched up some words and sentences, and thought she had a book to publish and sell. I don't know how this book is a best-seller, along with other books by this author, but I know I will never in my life touch another Janet Evanovich book. Not even if my life depends on it. Just no.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

How to Piss off a Writer

A short cautionary tale about what not to tell a writer, if you don't want to look like a fool.

Yesterday, I met with two friends, and during our chat about life, jobs, and dreams, one of them said to me, "I still can't believe you weren’t just talking about writing, but that you actually wrote books in English, and manage to make money."
"Yeah," I said. "I did it. But it requires a lot of determination and hard work."
"It does," said my other friend. "I once tried to write, but got stuck in the beginning and didn't know what I was doing."
"That's why you might need an outline..." I began when she said:
"I’ve got this great idea. Let me tell it to you and you'll finish my story."

Oh, no. No, no, no. Don't do this. Never ever. We don't need any more ideas, and we don't want to finish them for you.

"I'm not sure," I said, trying to sound as polite as possible. "You see, at the moment I've got 2 unfinished novels, 5 first drafts, 11 outlines, and 40 ideas for books."
"But this is such an outstanding idea," she insisted. "Let me tell you."
"OK, what's the genre?"
"Great," I said. "Are there dragons?"
"I don't really know. You'll have to think of that yourself. I haven't gone that far into the story," she said, and began telling: "So, the hero comes to this castle..."
"A castle! So it's a medieval fantasy?"
"Set in the Middle Ages," I explained.
"No, it's our days."
"Oh, like Harry Potter fantasy?"
"Yes, but I had this idea long before Harry Potter came out."
Here we go, I thought, but said nothing.
"So, in this castle, the hero finds a room, opens it..."
"And appears in Narnia."
"Um, no," she said. I realized she didn't know what Narnia was. "He gets into a room where there is a huge ancient globe."
"Great," I said. "I love huge ancient globes."
"He touches the globe, it opens, and something comes out."
"What?" I asked in naked curiosity.
"I don't know," she said. "The rest you'll have to think yourself."
I stopped in the middle of the street, wondering if she was just making fun of me. "Is that all?"
"Your whole idea?"

"And you suppose I could make a book out of that?"
"That's an idea. You need to work on it and expand it."
"But that's not an idea," I said. "Just a very short scene, with a globe and something that comes out of it."
"Or the globe might be a lever that opens a secret door."
"A secret door?"
"Yes, in the wall."
"Oh, right," I muttered despairingly.
And then she probably realized I wasn't overwhelmed with her fantastic idea. "Never mind," she said. "No need to use it. I better keep my ideas for me and use them myself."
Please do, I thought.

And please, never do this. I know we think our ideas are the best and nothing else could come close or be as original, but we're wrong. Most of the time. We simply have to read 1-2 fantasy books to see that a globe in a castle is neither original, nor exciting. It could be, though, but it would need another 78,450 words to make it an exciting story about a magical globe with outlines of unfamiliar lands that occasionally gleam with silver light each time one of the globe’s portals is opened… But you’ll have to think of it yourself.

My First Bad Review

You might remember that I was planning to start reviewing books and posting the reviews on my new website. Well, my website will be ready soon, but as for now, I’ll post my first review here. I'm not going to give negative reviews to fellow indie authors who will contact me for a review. My aim is to support the newbies, not spoil their book pages with negative reviews. But I'll post negative reviews to those books that I pick at random. And though I don't like it, but my first review is going to be a negative one.

I have to admit I’ve been fooled. Fooled by Amazon reviews. I have long stopped paying attention to reviews, because you never know if they are genuine or not, but this time I stumbled upon a book in the mystery section, which had more than 1000 positive reviews, and very few negative ones. And I thought it had to be something special. One click, and it smoothly appeared on my kindle. And after the first few chapters I had to force myself to keep reading. Sadly, I’m one of those readers who always have to finish the book. And then, I was genuinely curious why that book was so highly rated. It was a huge compilation of clichés and overused themes.
Here we go:

Title: Silent Scream

The plot: the story begins with a woman's murder. A few seconds before she's killed she looks the murderer in the eyes (the murderer was wearing a mask) and recognizes her killer. Before I go on, let me say that when the murderer's identity is revealed I couldn't understand how that first victim recognized her killer. It was totally unbelievable. Investigation begins and we meet the protagonist, Detective Kim. A plain, unlikable character. But I’ll talk of the characters later. Then another murder happens. And then another. And slowly, that chain of murders goes into the past (10 years), to the night when something insidious happened at a girls' orphanage. A lot of minor inconsistencies bugged me, but there's one I want to mention. Bodies of murdered girls are discovered around the burnt orphanage. Somewhere in the book we learn that one of the murdered teen girls was pregnant. 20-25 weeks. Well, that's at least five months, right? Then, during the investigation it is revealed that no one knew she was pregnant. Let me ask how? How can you not see that a 15-year-old skinny girl is pregnant?

The characters: too many, all of them underdeveloped. Blurred. Sometimes I couldn't tell one from the other. None had a distinctive voice, none had a character. The protagonist was a beggar. Throughout the book she was begging for my sympathy. She had had a tough childhood, she had a psychotic mother, she had been living in foster homes. I’ve met a lot of characters with hard lives, but this one was begging me to feel sorry for her. And it made me feel less sorry, because her pain was artificial, meant to squeeze emotions out of me. You don’t force a reader to feel something. You tell the story and let the reader relate to the character.
The murders were supposed to be gruesome, and well, they were, but I was constantly told about it. How crazy the killer was, what a bastard, what a psychopath... So much that when the next body was discovered I already knew I would now be once again told how crazy the killer was. But he was a lame antagonist. The chapters with his inner monologue were boring and cliché-driven.
When the identity of the murderer was revealed, I couldn't care less. I was totally unimpressed. The first thing I thought was, "Yeah, and so what?" The antagonist should leave at least a bit of impact on the reader. But not this time.

The writing: amateur. Sometimes it read like a 2nd draft. Kim always felt everything with her gut, constantly nodded her agreement and nodded her thanks. Everything was galvanized. There was too much telling instead of showing. Throwing in some medical details and phrases to seem smart.

The POV: third person unlimited. It means that we don't just follow the protagonist (the detective) while she's solving the murders; we also see what every other secondary character does or thinks, and those chapters are very short, like movie scenes. This is a personal thing, but I don't like such short chapters that try to disclose why this or that secondary character did or said certain things. To me masterful storytelling is letting the reader see everything through the eyes of the protagonist while she’s discovering it all.

The narration: I’m still thinking about how to explain my thoughts and feelings on this. The narration was biased, one-sided. When the book is told from the 3rd person point of view I expect it to spare me the narrator's principles and views. Not here. I can understand the character's inner monologue, but I don't need the narrator to tell me who's evil and who's not. I don't need the narrator to tell me if the murder victims deserved death or not. I can decide it myself, if the narrator gives me enough backstory. There was a disabled girl in the story, and I lost the count of how many times the narrator told me that she was strong, that she was a fighter, that she was courageous. I hate being told of things. The few scenes with the girl were enough to show her courage, it didn't have to be shoved down my throat that she was disabled, but hadn't lost her vigor.
I think the book was been written in the 1st person POV, but the author had to change it later, to include the scenes with other characters' POVs. It would explain a lot.

And the clichés! A detective with a harsh past. Her loyal sidekicks (made of carbon). People connected by a shady past dying one after the other.


Two killers acting apart. A character who, 60 seconds before dying, turns into a religious fanatic and begins mentioning God as his sidekick. OK, he was a priest, but that dialogue was so out of nowhere. It was like the author thought what else she could include in the book, then said, "Hey, what if he's not just a psycho, but also a religious fanatic!"


Also, there were missing words and commas, requiring me to read the sentences again to understand what they meant.

Overall, I’m not impressed with this book. It bored me to tears and made me roll my eyes not once. The twist wasn't bad, but I've already seen that same twist many times in Hollywood movies; it was just OK. And I wouldn't write so much if it wasn't so highly rated. Maybe it's me? If you look at my Goodreads page you'll see that I haven't been happy with my recent picks. Maybe it's just a black bar in my life, when I don't like anything I read? I have to admit I learned writing in English reading authors like Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, and George Martin. Few authors write like them. So maybe my expectations are always high?

It's hard to criticize a book when you're an author, too. There’s always the fear of being called a bad sport, being accused of envy. But I don't want to be a hypocrite and praise every book I read just because I’m a writer, too. While I won't post negative reviews for the books by newbie authors, I don't think that my negative review will harm a successful, established writer. Hence, this review. I didn't like this book at all, but I wish the author success and a million sales.