Monday, July 14, 2014

Secrets (a book review post)

Secrets is a great example of how even a poorly written novel can be popular. And, when I say "poorly written," I mean it on just about every level that you can mean it. Still, though, it's better than Snow Crash but, then, Snow Crash is a level of stupidity all its own.

The first and most obvious issue the book has is that it needed an editor. This may be the most poorly edited book I've ever read. There were misspellings, homophones, tense issues, missing words, wrong words (above and beyond the homophones, which are, technically, wrong words), missing letters, wrong letters... um, did I cover everything? I'm not actually sure. And it's not that there were these things; it's that there were these things on every page. And not that there was, like, one per page, it was a handful per page. And I haven't even mentioned the punctuation... oh, wait, there, I did. Let me just say, and not just to whomever edited the book (I'm assuming the author (but I don't know that)), but to everyone (because this is becoming a real peeve of mine): a dash is not a "catchall" piece of punctuation. You can't just stick in a dash (either kind) because you feel like it. Dashes have a purpose, and they are much more limited than most people think. [Let me just put it like this: Quit using dashes! Seriously.] There were more punctuation issues than just the dashes, but it was like someone just sneezed dashes all in the book.

At any rate, if editing is an issue for you, don't attempt this book, because you will want to pull out a red pen and mark all over your Kindle screen (or whatever screen).

The next issue is that it's first person but not just first person: It's written from two different first person perspectives in alternating chapters. Which, in and of itself isn't an issue [I mean, I've done that, so who am I to complain, right?] except that both perspectives are written in exactly the same voice. There is nothing to differentiate them and, especially considering one is male and one is female, there ought to be some differentiation. The author doesn't even bother to give us alternate perspectives on the same event once we get past the first few chapters. For the most part, they just pick up where the other left off or show us what is happening where the other character isn't. Not to mention the fact that [spoiler alert] during the climax, when Olivia starts to doubt Holden, there is no suspense because we've been in Holden's head the whole book (and so has she, actually, for part of it) and we know how he feels about her.

[More spoiler alert.]

The story itself is pretty typical; in fact, I felt like I was watching a cheap knockoff of Buffy the Vampire Slayer through most of the book. So let's see:
1. Female protagonist born with a hidden destiny that she doesn't know about.
2. Bad boy romantic interest whom only she can save and turn to the light.
3. Good boy romantic interest to create some tension.
4. Traumatic death of a loved one.
5. Enigmatic mentor who never tells her anything useful other than that she's "special."
Yeah, it's got it all. Actually, it's worse than what I'm saying, too, because the female protagonist, who hasn't been in a relationship for over a year, finds herself instantly infatuated with two men at the exact same time. What are the odds? [Is the sarcasm coming through?] She immediately begins acting in ways that are just not her. Of course, we don't know that other than that she tells us that "she never does this kind of thing."

There are two things here:
We have to take Olivia's word about things way too often. The author never shows us how Olivia supposedly really is. For instance, when Quintus tells her that she's been born this guardian (the first one in 2000 years, so she's mega-special), he says to her something along the lines of "Haven't you always been a loner? Someone on the outside looking in?" But we never see that about Olivia. In the book, she has an awesome best friend who has been with her since middle school (that doesn't sound like a loner) and she's quite adept at being a socialite, so none of that stuff rings true in the book (it reminded me of Percy Jackson and how, at least in The Lightning Thief, he is constantly telling the audience he's one thing (a rebel and troublemaker) while acting completely the opposite).

It's quite difficult to take Quintus as a love interest seriously since Holden is the one offering the alternate perspective to Olivia's. To put it another way: Quintus is never a credible threat.

And speaking of vampires, Holden is "Vampire Lite." It's like the author really wanted to do a vampire story, but she also wanted her vampires to be able to go out in the daylight, so she just calls them "jinn," instead. Or "jinni." She seems to use the terms interchangeably, and they have nothing to do with the actual jinn mythology. It's just a word she uses, which, actually, bothers me. If you're not basing it on the actual thing, make up a word, or, you know, make your vampires all sparkly. Oh, and jinn have demons in them that operate much the way Whedon's vampires do without the actual changing into vampires.

Perhaps the thing that bothered me most, though, is the sudden, inexplicable, telepathic bond Olivia and Holden develop. It's all very much "we love each other so much, we know each other's thoughts! We're just made for each other! Two halves of the same soul!" [Yeah, I want to go wash my mouth out from just typing that.] So, yeah, their connection is so deep that they spontaneously develop the ability to read each other's minds. And, yet, at the end, even though Olivia has been inside Holden's mind, she doubts whether he really loves her and thinks that maybe he's just been using her the whole time.

Mostly, I just found the book tedious. There's nothing in it that hasn't been done elsewhere and done much better. If it had been well edited (or just edited), I might even would say: If this is the kind of thing you like (cliche love-at-first-sight stories), give it a read; as it is, I can't say that. Evidently, though, based on the other reviews and ratings, most people don't care about that kind of thing, so, I guess, if you like cliche love-at-first-sight paranormal(ish) love stories and don't mind bad grammar and poor punctuation, give it a read. I won't be going on to the next book, though...

Which reminds me! Considering the cliffhanger ending (which I won't spoil), it shows how much this book didn't hold my attention, because I don't care what happens enough to endure another of these books. The two stars I'm giving it is me being generous. I'd say it's probably a 1.5 star book.


  1. If it was that awful, I'd never finish it. Especially since it's a genre I don't read anyway.
    And now, you're listening to the soft sounds of Vampire Lite FM...

  2. Sounds a terrible book and, like Alex, I would never have finished the book. All those grammatical mistakes would drive me bonkers. The odd typos in what people write are bad enough. We all make them but grrrrrr.

  3. Vampire Lite? Ugh. I might tune in to the radio station, but yeah, wouldn't read it, especially not with rampant typos. I'd be twitching too much and might accidentally fling my Kindle across the room.

  4. So was this an indie book? I'd hope a real publisher wouldn't let so many mistakes go by. Anyway, I've read similar books and very much wished I hadn't. But then this sort of books isn't aimed at people of the male persuasion anyway.

  5. So... what compelled you to read this in the first place? This sounds like something I wouldn't have even gotten 5 pages into.

    And it's not cool for her to be a homophone. Gay people have rights too, you know.

  6. Poor editing or no editing is what gives Indie Authors a bad name. Unless it was traditionally published--but I bet my life--it wasn't. Sorry, I think I sneezed some dashes:)

  7. It seems like a lot of books following the trend of alternating narrators/POV characters have the problem of each person sounding exactly the same. I've heard from a lot of people who say they often had to flip back to the start of a chapter to remind themselves of who was narrating this time. The worst example I've read was Andy Mulligan's Trash, where each of the EIGHT narrators sounded almost exactly alike, adult characters as well as the slum kids.

  8. I'm impressed you were able to finish. I've been giving up on stories faster and faster lately. If I don't like it then I quit reading and purge it from memory and move on. Thanks for taking this one on the chin.

  9. Alex: Now I want to listen to that radio station!

    Jo: My problem with it is that a lot of it was stuff that showed the author didn't take any time with it. There's really no excuse for missing words all through a manuscript.

    Jean: Never take it out on your Kindle.

    Pat: Yeah, it's an indie book. And, yeah, it was very much a wish fulfillment thing in the Twilight vein.

    ABftS: Oh, well, because a long, long time ago I agreed to read it and review it. >sigh<

    And, man, I was gonna make that joke, but I couldn't figure out a way to do it within the context of the review.

    Jennifer: No, it was not traditionally published. And here's a tissue.

    Carrie-Anne: Were they all first person? Because, man... never mind. I don't know what to say about that.

  10. Rusty: If I don't read it, I can't do the review. And, well, I agreed to do it... even if that was three years ago.

  11. That's a real shame, but it's hard to imagine Whedon's formula working for anyone else.

  12. Wow... well, I know which book I won't be adding to my TBR list! How awful.
    I laughed when you wrote, "it was like someone just sneezed dashes all in the book." Going to go edit my manuscript now and take out all of the unnecessary dashes, lol!

  13. The sarcasm is bleeding through my screen.

    This book sounds like it was written to include every single cliche period. I think I'll put this on my "avoid like the plague" think.

  14. Maurice: I think it could, especially since the whole demon thing that Whedon used for his vampires is right out of folklore but, if you're going to do it, you need to own it, not do it and try to pretend that you're doing something else.

    Gina: I think people need to learn how to write without using any dashes at all before adding them in. Well, except for things like hyphenated words.

    Jeanne: Is it dripping down like blood? Because it should be.

  15. I saw this review over on Goodreads. Yikes. Harsh, dude. But I've had the same experience. I've picked up books based on all the five star recommendations, and then when I start reading it's all typos and cliches. It makes me wonder if readers even care about that stuff. Or if all reviews are simply written by friends trying to help their writing buddy out. Have no idea. But unlike you I won't finish a book like that. I don't have the time.

  16. I can't believe you stuck it out.

    I'm going to comment on Dashes, which are my favorite punctuation, next to semicolons. You must hate y writing! Or at least my overuse of dashes. Yeah, I know I use them a lot. I tend to use them both as parentheticals, and as punctuation in their own right. But I think of it as necessary to my writing. Sometimes a parentheses isn't the right FEEL.

    I read a blog post once by Allie Brosh where she suggested using periods to demonstrate long pauses. Like this . would be short. This... would be longer, etc. ..............That one would be really long.

    So I kind of use dashes to indicate a sharper break in the line than a parentheses or comma. Like maybe a character -- this cool guy, you know?-- might want to make a point about parentheses (because he loves them, but doesn't want to get too involved with them) and dashes -- which are like spicy peppers of punctuation! -- so he simply writes how he uses them rather than explain?

    Anyway, I once wrote a whole poem about Emily Dickinson's use of dashes and then submitted it to The New Yorker, which rejected it, and then I wrote a poem about getting rejected by The New Yorker, which rejected THAT poem, too, because the editors of The New Yorker do not want to be meta.

  17. Here's the poem:

    I have to say--
    It-- actually looks with those hyphens
    As though--
    it means -- something
    Maybe Emily was really --
    On-- to something.

  18. Yowch. I wouldn't have been able to handle the punctuation and grammar issues. Far enough for me! Also, using other paranormals, but not even pretending to research what their original story lines are annoys me. Changing rules is one thing, but just throwing out a mythological creature that has been around for awhile and, therefore, comes with certain expectations for some is annoying.

  19. L.G.: See, I don't think it was harsh. It was pretty mild. Although there aren't many, most of the other low star reviews were what I would say is harsh.
    And, yes, when I read a book like this with 100 5-star reviews, it really makes me wonder.

    Briane: Dashes can be used as parentheticals, so that's okay. They are not, however, periods or ellipses or commas or any of the other things they were used as in this book.
    Using periods as pauses, as with using multiple exclamation points, is just wrong. Period. It would be like me saying, "That's really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really wrong." How do you know when to stop?
    I will have more to say about dashes soon.

    Shannon: It is annoying. It would be like having a mythological character that's tiny, has wings, carries a magic wand and a bag of pixie dust and calling it a werewolf.

  20. Alright, I guess I'll be avoiding this one. Paranormal romance doesn't come up in my stack too often but one never knows.

  21. This is exactly why I'm reluctant to read a lot of self-pubbed books. They lack editing. I find this especially frustrating because I'm sure there are a lot of good self-pubbed books which the authors took the time to edit themselves or hired out. I just haven't found any yet.

  22. I've been sent dozens of books in the past year for review. If the editing/plot line is so poor I won't continue, I stop and drop the author an email about my unwillingness to continue knowing that I'm not enjoying the book.

    I figure it's better to be honest in private than to waste my time with a book I hate just to write a scathing review. That said, I still write scathing reviews.

    There are too many good books out there to waste time with one I hate--or don't like much.

    Better luck next month!

  23. Some indie authors feel they can't afford an editor when, in reality, they can't afford not having an editor.


  24. I'll read a few pages before putting my money down. Those errors would have put me off immediately. Five star reviews? OMG, you know what I think about reviews on Amazon? Not good. Another fictional read. The best recommendations are those that you get from friend referrals. Nice post; long, but nice.

  25. TAS: Well, it's not one I ever would have picked up just on my own.

    mshatch: I know of quite a few of them that are well edited (mine included (even if I do have some things I need to fix in House)), but it's definitely not the norm.

    Veronica: Well, you know, I read Snow Crash all the way through. At this point, I figure if it's better than Snow Crash, I can give it a chance.

    Janie: I have sympathy for not being able to afford an editor, so I'm willing to overlook a lack of knowledge on the part of the author to a certain extent. However, I'm not willing to overlook missing words and rampant homophones and other wrong words, because that's just sloppiness on the part of the author. At least when they happen with the frequency they did in this book, it is.

    Feather: And, see, this was actually kind of a short post for me.
    I tend to not pay much attention to the 5-star reviews on Amazon.

  26. I wouldn't have thought so. I know your interests generally don't tend that way.

  27. TAS: It's too bad that most romance books are so formulaic. Well, too bad for me, anyway.

  28. There's nothing I appreciate more than a review that steers me clear of a tedious read. There's only so many hours in the day...


  29. Cherdo: Unfortunately, that's true.