Book Reviews: Texas Island, Sci-fi Sex, East German Life

It’s okay that I thought “You’re a thirty thirty girl” when she told me it was her 30th birthday, but didn’t say it out loud. . . right?

Destined for Trouble
An FBI analyst—no one believes her when she says she’s not an agent and doesn’t carry a gun—goes through a breakup and decides to come home to a Texas island to rest and rethink life; good luck with that, considering her mom, an ex, and the requisite crazy girl from high school.
A local restaurateur is poisoned at her welcome-home party, but it isn’t till the reading of the will that things go crazy. The man leaves the restaurant to his favorite worker, who happens to be the main character’s bestie; the widow is furious, so motive, anyone? Not to these idiot hillbilly cops like the chief, who seems to be descended from a long line of such all the way back to Dogberry in Much Ado About Nothing. The deputy chief happens to be the aforementioned ex, the one cop who might be on her side, but as usual he wants her to keep her nose out of it. So of course she never tells him about the other suspects she’s uncovered. . . sheesh!
At what I thought was the ending I made a note: “Gotta say I’m a bit disappointed,” only to find there was one more twist left, which made things a little better, but it was kinda too little too late.
3/5

Star Trek Sex
Okay, that’s an intriguing enough title, especially for Trekkies. Yes, let’s enjoy an analysis of all the times Kirk, and once in a while the other crewmembers, enjoyed some happy bed time with fellow humans and/or aliens.
Sadly, that’s not close to what happens here. Instead we get a very lazy writer who figures he can sell this just from the title, which unhappily might be true.
Basically it’s a small list of episodes which feature some sort of physical coming together—and not always that—which allows him to pontificate on some tiny barely-related issue. Some of these are a stretch: mentioning that tribbles are born pregnant might fit in a very general sense, but come on.
The worst part is how uneven it is. Far too many episodes are completely ignored, the most egregious being “Shore Leave,” which was most likely the genesis of the Next Generation’s holodeck. Kirk rekindled a romance there, even if she wasn’t completely real, and McCoy was big-time flirting with a yeoman, so why isn’t this in the book? And speaking of those left out, what about Miramanee, Kirk’s only real relationship? She was pregnant when she got killed, so. . . yeah! How ‘bout the crazy Shakespearian actress?
He goes on to mention some actresses and characters from the other series, and while it took him long enough to get to Dax, he made absolutely no mention of 7 of 9. Huh?
The author must love cars; in a book entitled Star Trek Sex he includes a chapter on sexiest starships.
This was really disappointing. I would advise fans to stay away.
1/5

One More Chance
For most of the book I enjoyed both the writing and the characters, especially main heroine Ashley; I could see her as the type of girl I’d have a crush on in high school. She’s almost raped by the football hero cliché, only to be saved by the brooding musician hero cliché, who then makes a great impression on her taciturn dad until he finds out the guy’s name, at which point she is never to see him again.
By the time we get to the second half, fifteen years later, two more clichés of romance novels—misunderstandings and psycho chicks—have reared their ugly, heavily-made-up faces.
For me the best laugh was the auction scene that had the brothers discussing Disney princesses—although the whole thing started with Jessica Rabbit—but after Gabe pontificates on Elsa I felt outraged that Merida wasn’t included.
On the other hand, the worst moment came right out of the Writing Romances formula: everything is great, the happy couple is together. . . and then the writer makes circumstances that fuck everything up with another girl innocently where she shouldn’t be. WHY? WHY? Because it’s in the formula. And maybe the book wouldn’t have been long enough otherwise. That dropped my rating of a novel that features really good writing but less so on plot.
3/5

Wall Flower
Wow, was this ever difficult to read! And not just because I’m not a Hegel fan.
According to the translator, “She presents herself as a flower on the (Berlin) Wall. . .”  So there’s your title. A woman from West Berlin finds herself on the wrong side of the wall when it goes up and has to live in the DDR. For all those readers who grew up on the west side of the world, so to speak, this is where we all say, “Damn, that sucks. Too bad.” But she doesn’t quite see it that way.
At the start she’s a kid with a huge imagination for games, learning piano without having one around while she deals with a brutal father and apathetic mother, who tricks her into being in the east sector when the wall goes up, so she can no longer be with her singer grandmother in the west. She escapes so deeply into the music she goes crazy, so her parents say. After her release from the psych ward she won’t go back to her family, so she wanders around doing odd jobs; in the GDR it was apparently illegal to be homeless or jobless. Though she works nights at a light bulb factory, and takes a job at a butcher’s because she loves meat, she makes more money by being a thief.
When the rebellion inside her peters out she manages to get into the University of Liepzig to study philosophy, where I had a good laugh to find she liked the same stuff in symbolic logic that I did. Eventually she learns to play the system: when she sees the more pages written the better, she double spaces and makes more chapters. When she notices they count how many books you borrow from the library—the more the better—she takes suitcases of books home and earns the reputation she wants. Using her low blood pressure as an excuse, she pretends to faint and gets out of military training. She even marries a gay friend for a year, which worked out well for both of them; then they got divorced, and she marries the guy she’s been living with.
More importantly, she learned how to make people leave her alone. But by the end you can see that she learned to play the game at the cost of her soul. This comes into stark relief with her third marriage, an upright citizen who comes from a famous family, though she didn’t know that—or even met them!—before the wedding. She forces herself to become the dutiful politically correct wife, but eventually she realizes, “I had tried out the cynic’s way of life and could not endure it. . . ultimately I understood that I could not outwit the circumstances, even using the cunning of reason.” Yep, that’s how she thinks, and writes.
There’s a lot of funny quotes in her descriptions of the people around her and even herself. About her third husband she says, “His political standpoint did not matter to me, so long as he did not force it on me.” Of herself she mentions, “The role of political ‘dummy’ had its advantages.” In a moment of very dark humor she calls the Stasi the “Institute for Opinion Research.” And as for the people she was forced to hang around with, “The majority of socialist intellectuals found it distasteful that East Germans desired bananas, shower gel, and cars and not the complete works of Nietzsche or Trotsky.” Also “The great majority of East German intellectuals have totally disappeared, and hardly anyone misses them.” And as for the country itself, “For me East Germany had become a place to which, in the future, I wanted to return after my trips to the West in order to write in peace.”
She does have an interesting take on the Communist collapse: after saying that artists and writers had a lot of the same privileges as the politicians, she adds that the citizens were okay with that, because they loved their artists. “Only once they demanded for themselves what the artists had long been allowed. . . that the privileges be open to everyone equally, did the GDR collapse.”
And of course there can’t be a book on the Communist world without some mention of Pablo Neruda, who is introduced to her by her lover during her third husband; yep, girl got around. Even for an autobiographical piece, this just feels so self-indulgent; when I look back, I can’t help but think I should have enjoyed this more. There were too many philosophical ramblings, and judgments she made from them, that I didn’t understand, mostly because despite all this writing I couldn’t really get inside her head. Even the translator in his intro was kinda rambling.
3/5

;o)

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