Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Beginnings and Ends by Suzanne Brockmann

Why I read it: I've read and enjoyed all of the Troubleshooters books and I'm a fan of Jules and Robin so I downloaded this one as soon as it was available.

What it's about:  (the blurb from Goodreads)  After years of playing the tormented actor, Joe Laughlin, on the hit television show Shadowland, Hollywood star Robin Chadwick Cassidy is ready for a change. Joe’s character embodies the real demons of Robin’s past—his struggle with his sexuality, his battle with alcoholism—and portraying the part has taken a heavy toll on his personal life. Robin’s husband, FBI agent Jules Cassidy, has noticed the strain and will do whatever he can to make Robin happy. And what Robin has in mind will forever transform his career, his marriage, and his family.

What worked for me (and what didn't): It doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out what the beginning and end the title speaks of is - the end of the series and an addition to the family.  I really don't think that's a massive spoiler.  And, it's not that you actually see much of the latter in any event.  If the story had been more about the "beginning" and less about the "end" I think I would have enjoyed this one a lot more.  I didn't have massive hopes.  I was never expecting an A read - the story is only 38 pages long after all.  I expected a vignette maybe - a Jules and Robin slice of life.  What I got however, was a lot of stuff about Shadowland - a fictional TV show set in a fictional world.  
I was fairly confused by the way the Shadowland portions of the story were conveyed.  Here is the opening of the story:
Shadowland, Episode 60,
“Eighth of Nine Lives”
Starring Robin Chadwick Cassidy as Joe Laughlin Los Angeles,
present day
Richie West ambushed me. The meeting is supposed to be about my contract for the next Pierce Cane movie, but I realize within seconds of walking into his office that this is about my past few weekends and the current rash of rumors. 
Academy Award nominee Joe Laughlin! Thank you for coming in!...
Brockmann, Suzanne (2012-06-01). Beginnings and Ends (Short Story) (Kindle Locations 37-41). Random House, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

At first, I thought these bits were part of the script.  But that couldn't be right.  Then I thought "how does the viewer know what is going on in Joe Laughlin's head?"  Then I thought, maybe it's a voiceover.  That made sense. But the bits in italics didn't seem to fit as voiceovers either.  Who says this?  Even in their heads?
I’m so fucking stupid. I can’t believe I actually thought Richie West was going to guide my coming out, like a Sherpa leading me to a higher plain where honesty and truth prevailed. I can’t believe that I didn’t know— instantly— that if I did come out, he would drop me like a stone. He’d be certain that I would never again open a picture in this town.
Brockmann, Suzanne (2012-06-01). Beginnings and Ends (Short Story) (Kindle Locations 96-99). Random House, Inc.. Kindle Edition. 

It didn't help that these bits changed tense from past to present.

There are 6 "chapters" and 3 are devoted to the Shadowland episodes. On the face of it, that would suggest that equal time is devoted to both storylines.  That would be incorrect.  The Shadowland chapters are longer.  I'd say they make up at least 2/3 of the 38 page short. They are over the top dramatic and, to me, unbelievable.  I thought that I would not enjoy watching such an overwrought tv show.  I did not enjoy reading about it.  The basic storyline was Joe Laughlin coming out.  Not all that dissimilar to Robin's own coming out in a very public manner in Force of Nature - when he kissed Jules on a boat in full view of many TV cameras.  In fact, the story seemed to me to be largely redundant.  It had already been told - except much better in the Troubleshooters series, with Jules and Robin themselves, characters I cared about.  I did not and do not care about Joe Laughlin. He is one step too removed from reality for me.

On a positive note, we did get a Jules and Robin sex scene which fans have been panting for.  There was a part of the story where Robin had inadvertently had alcohol in his mouth.  A big deal was made of it but it didn't really go anywhere.  (I have very little experience with alcoholism.  I assume the information in the book is true.  But, such a big deal was made of it, why then did it go nowhere?).  Jules and Robin hire a surrogate and that would have been a story I would have gobbled up.  But it was just a sentence or two.

Overall, this was extremely disappointing.  The book cost $1.99.  If I had enjoyed it, I wouldn't have minded too much, but given that I did not, I'd have to say it's over priced.  People who bought Born To Darkness in hardback got the short free in the back of the book.

What else? So, I was disappointed.  After I read the story and unrelated to doing so, I went to my Facebook page to check on my news feed.  I don't do much on Facebook - mainly I follow some favourite authors.  Suzanne Brockmann is one of them.

On Saturday, she posted this on her Facebook page:
BEGINNINGS AND ENDS is being totally trashed on Amazon for not having enough Jules and Robin...? If you liked it, please post an honest review. If you didn't like it, that's okay, too. But like the song says, "Don't be a dick about it."
http://www.amazon.com/Beginnings-Ends-Short-Story-ebook/dp/B007YUB05I/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1338585797&sr=8-1
I expected therefore that there would be many many negative reviews on Amazon based on her post.  I felt uncomfortable because I didn't like the book either.  I wondered what being a "dick about it" meant.  I went and had a look.  There was ONE 1* review when I looked on Sunday.  There were 28 reviews in total, 18 of them were 5* - all from squeeing fangirls gushing about how wonderful the story was and many specifically referencing the 1* review in some manner - "I don't understand the uproar here..." etc.  (Updated, there are now 30, 20 of them 5*).

I feel pretty uncomfortable about Ms. Brockmann siccing the posse onto Amazon.  I was even more so when I realised she was reacting to ONE negative review.   While I wouldn't have said "SHAME ON YOU AND A POX ON YOUR PUBLISHER FOR SEEING THE DOLLAR SIGNS" as that reviewer did, I did agree with much of her sentiment.  It won't surprise you to know that this review has been downvoted so much that it appears lucky last on the list.

When I finished Beginnings and Ends, the phrase that came to mind was "self indulgent".

After reading the Facebook post and checking out the Amazon review, I feel that applies even more.

Grade:  D

10 comments:

Brie said...

I don’t mind paying for something good even if the price seems high. I don’t even mind paying for something mediocre if it comes from an author I like and support. But when I was reading this story I kept thinking “why isn’t this for free?” It felt lazy, like she doesn’t care what piece of crappy writing she puts out there because the fans will buy it regardless. And this is the same author who, one year ago, published a fantastic short story (Tony and Adam’s story), so there’s no excuse, she can do better. And even though I thought the Amazon reviewer was harsh when he said “Pox on you” it’s difficult not to feel like Ms. Brockmann and the publisher only thought of money.

I’m really disappointed in her, because of the quality of the story, and because of how she reacted to one negative review that frankly, she should have seen coming.

I actually saw the review when it was the only one, and what I thought was that I wish I had seen it before buying the book. Then I went to FB and surprise, surprise, Ms. Brockmann is engaging in Authors Behaving Badly 101.

Chris said...

Oh dear. I'm uncomfortable about her actions, too. :/ And the whole fictional tv show focus just sounds weird...

Becky said...

I don't disagree completely. There was definitely a greater focus on Joe Laughlin than Jules and Robin. And I do wish the story was longer, with more page space given to the developments in Jules and Robin's lives. But I actually liked the Joe Laughlin bits. They are over the top, but they make a nice contrast between where Robin was versus where he is now.

I haven't read any of the Amazon reviews. I don't bother with fiction reviews over there-- too many fangirls and too many people with an ax to grind. I did see Brockmann's fb response, and it didn't thrill me. I don't appreciate authors implying that disliking their books, and saying so, is a dick move. It's perfectly possible to dislike someone's story without being a dick.

Kaetrin said...

@Brie Yes, When Tony Met Adam was so much better. I would have been delighted if this story had been about Jules and Robin's decision to have a child and their journey to that but...

It's not so much that the story cost $1.99 which bothered me. If I had've enjoyed the story, I wouldn't have given it too much thought.

On the other hand, if it had been free, I wouldn't have been so bothered by the lack of story quality.

Kaetrin said...

@Chris I would have thought that someone with her authorial clout would behave better. Silly me. I'm not quite at the point where I'd not read her books anymore - there's too much self interest in me for that, but I'm pretty uncomfortable with this type of behaviour.

Kaetrin said...

@Becky I felt that the story had already been told and much better, in the TS series - the Joe Laughlin story was an over the top micro re telling of what had happened with Robin and Jules IMO. I had very little care factor for Joe Laughlin as I don't "know" him like I know Robin and Jules.

I don't normally read Amazon reviews either - in fact, I don't go to Facebook all that regularly either so it was (un)lucky happenstance that I even saw her post. I totally agree withyou that you can dislike someone's story without being a dick. It is also possible to dislike one story from an author and love other stories. What leaves a sour taste in the mouth which does linger is this bad author behaviour.

I'm glad you got more out of the story than I did Becky! :)

Tam said...

I hear the faint yipping of the pack off in the distance. Run, Kaetrin!!! Run!!!!!

:-D

stephanieabbottbooks.com said...

Thanks. I shared this in a writer's group just now to remind the new kids why it's terribly unprofessional -- and burns a LOT of bridges -- to complain about reviews. Reviews are meant to guide readers, not to stroke the author's ego.

Kaetrin said...

@Tam - it's on Goodreads too - maybe not so faint? :D

Kaetrin said...

@stephanie yes, bad author behaviour only drives readers away.