Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Three Good Books and One Lemon

Of the four books I've read recently, only one deserves a rave A+ review, and that would be the book I least expected to like, Walter Koenigs "Warped Factors: A Neurotics Guide to the Universe." I've read several Star Trek autobio tell-alls, (I think Jimmy Dohan and Nichelle Nichols are the only ones I've not read) and George Takai was entertaining and interesting, but he didn't have the gravitas and the self-imolating humor of Walter Koenig, who played Chekov in the original series (refered to as TOS). Koenig is a strange guy, but full of zest and wit, and he's able to tell a story that is rife with juicy tidbits about his costars and his life. Koenig also played Bester in one of the best SF TV shows of all Time, Babylon 5. As the head of the facist-like Psi-Corps, he was just menacing and oily enough to give you goosebumps. Koenig is also a very smart guy, who felt he wasn't utilized enough during TOS, and I've got to agree with him. Chekov was at least as much fun as Sulu, and a lot of great things could have happened if the writers had ponied up a bit more for his character. The prose in this book is actually good, if a bit stiff and formal at times. I would recommend this humorous tale of an actors life well lived to anyone who wonders what it must be like to be type cast and live to tell about it.
The other books I completed were "Broken" by Megan Hart, "The Erotic Secrets of a French Maid" by Lisa Cach, and "Jemima J" by Jane Green.
"Broken" is an erotic romance, which basically means the author can feel free to descend into soft porn. There are more than a few romances that should be rated X, but I think this one actually uses the sex in a way that isn't offensive, which is refreshing. The story revolves around Sadie, who is a psychologist married to Adam, who, due to a skiing accident is paralysed from the neck down. Sadie meets Joe, an attorney/mediator once a month to hear his 'confessions' about his promiscuous sex life. Sadie, of course, is entranced by the tales of Joe's liaisons with nearly every kind of woman imaginable, including three prostitutes that he manages to satisfy all in one night. Unfortunately, Joe feels something is missing from his life, and he doesn't realize that Sadie is falling in lust with him, mainly because she's celibate at home. Hart's prose is nice and straightforward, though she does succumb to a couple of romance novel cliches that make my gums bleed, such as a "throbbing" penis and 'pebbled' nipples, but those moments aren't rampant and they don't spoil the overall tenor of the novel.
I believe Hart was trying to show the reader that even the lowest horn-dog gigolo eventually discovers that sex without love or at least a strong emotional commitment to ones sex partner is empty and soulless and unsatisfying. I was intrigued enough by Broken to pick up Harts "Dirty" and I'm hoping that I enjoy it as much as I did Broken. This is a novel that will appeal to women who are lonely or have sparse sex lives, and men who wonder what it would be like to sow ones wild oats like there's no tomorrow.
"The Erotic Secrets of a French Maid" has a title problem, but is an otherwise good novel. The main character isn't a French maid, first of all, she's a Seattlite who dresses up once as a French maid, but is told to drop the terrible accent and bad costume and then never goes back to it.
The protagonist, Emma Mayson, is a newly-degreed architect in a town that is overrun with them, so she ends up having to work as a maid to wealthy Microsofties to make ends meet. While working for one particular hot geek (and you'll just have to trust both the author and myself when we assert that there really are nerds who are hotties) she offers to help Russ with his cooking, as he's also never home long enough to make himself decent meals. Unfortunately, she's also brewed up this idea that it would be nice, since she's sans boyfriend, to provide some smart guy with sex for money, so she can satisfy her cravings for good sex while still making a living. She merely mentions it to Russ, not realizing that he's not really listening to her at that point, and doesn't think she's serious anyway. A bit later, when Russ asks Emma if she will provide the extra service she was speaking of earlier, Emma thinks he's talking about sex, when Russ is actually asking her to cook for him three nights a week. Once he sees Emma doing her sexy maid routine, and realizes his error, Russ, like most men, just considers himself fortunate to have a woman agree to fulfill his fantasies on a regular basis without having to be married. Cach's prose is as smooth as butter, shot through with wit and humor, and her plot just zings along at a brisk pace. The inevitable HEA is worth every penny, and I enjoyed all the references to Seattle lore and landmarks. This book deserves at least a B+ grade, and would appeal to those who like light romances with some good sex thrown in.
The final novel is an awful tome, "Jemima J" which I found not only difficult to read, but riddled with cliche and an extremely annoying narrator. The story is based in England, where poor Jemima is 100 pounds overweight (and this is seen as being extremely ugly and obese, when it isn't) and toiling away at a small-town newspaper doing the Top Tips column (something like Hints from Heloise in the US) because apparently every male in Britain is a prejudiced swine who would refuse to promote someone on the basis of talent and merit because they happen to be fat. Jemima carries a torch for Ben, who is the handsome city reporter, and Ben, in turn, has the hots for Jemima's pal Geraldine (who is beautiful and thin, but a complete idiot who uses Jemima to rewrite all her copy) while Geraldine couldn't care less for Ben because he's a small time reporter without any advancement prospects, ie not wealthy. Jemima has two horrible roommates, thin and gorgeous, but tasteless women who go out every night and try to find handsome and wealthy men to use. Jemima waits on them like a maid, because she has no self esteem, of course, being fat. Jemima cuts photos out of magazines and dreams of being thin and beautiful, and spends a great deal of time hiding the food she eats because she's ashamed of having an appetite. There are a plethora of shallow people in this book, nearly every character, and we're meant to believe that the whole of society is this cruel mix of surface people who care nothing for any ones spirit, mind or heart, unless its wrapped in the perfect thin package. Jemima meets up with a California guy on the Internet, and when she has to send him a photo, she has Geraldine photoshop a picture of her face made to look thin on a models body. Inevitably, the California dude, who just happens to own a gym near Hollywood (yeah, right) wants to pay for a plane ticket to see Jemima in person in three months. Jemima panics and starts going to the gym and not eating, and loses 110 pounds in three that is actually possible if you don't spend all day, everyday at the gym. Its also dangerous and unhealthy to starve your body, because your metabolism goes into famine mode and hangs on to every single calorie you consume. There is also no way that Jemima wouldn't have hanging skin from losing weight so fast and in such an unhealthy manner. Jemima discovers, after living with the California dude, that he's actually practically married to a larger woman who is his assistant, but he needed to have a girlfriend who looked thin and in shape because of his gym, and what people would think if he had a fat wife or lover. Insane as that may seem, there's more! Jemima's secret crush on Ben is realized when Ben just happens to come to California for the TV station he works for, and doesn't even recognize his old pal Jemima from the newspaper....gee, who'd have thunk it? The HEA is marred by its impracticality and the exclamation by our heroine that she's stopped being obsessive about her weight, and is now a size 10, as if that's somehow 'normal.' Puuulllease.
Even the British ex-pat Jemima meets in California is a cliche, yowling "bloody" this and bloody that all the time. The prose in this novel reads like an outline that has just barely been filled in, and the plot is stopped cold every chapter by this insidious omniscient narrator who smugly tells the reader what is going to happen next, what the characters are thinking, how wrong they are in their thinking and exactly what you, the reader, need to be thinking. Its not just annoying, its galling after awhile, and it doesn't end until the final chapter of the book. It appears that Green has nothing but contempt and pity for those who are overweight, and she has no clue how to safely lose weight, or how the body deals with losing weight. All the shallow characters are seen as somehow normal, and good things only come to Jemima once she's thin, giving the reader the idea that larger people can't have a love life, marriage, children or a decent career, which is total BS. I wouldn't recommend this atrocious novel to anyone, ever. It's a waste of paper and printers ink.

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