"The internet is for porn...the internet is for porn...why you think the net was born? PORN! PORN! PORN!"
Chauntelle Tibbals is a sociologist who studies porn. She studies the people who consume it, who make it, and the porn itself and how it reflects the changing sexuality of society.
I've always found it fascinating how society consumes porn in such large quantities and yet still manages to condemn the people who create it as being either morally loose or else portraying them as victims of sexual abuse or financial desperation who were forced into porn as tragic victims of fate. There is a lot of stigma against porn, which you wouldn't expect considering what a hot commodity it is among adults (and probably teens).
Tibbals experienced this stigma firsthand when she found out how difficult it was to actually begin this study. Researchers would shut her down cold, snub her at public functions, and even mock or disparage her research. Her frustration at this was evident, and I really sympathized with her. I can't imagine how angry I would be, to see my research laughed at or marked as unimportant before I'd even begun to present it. I'd probably be furious.
EXPOSURE is a collection of essays, usually starting with some personal memory Tibbals has she eventually connects to a point she wants to make about porn. She talks about a number of subjects--porn conventions, pubic hair in porn, pegging, the preference given to female porn stars over males, penis length, and a bunch of other things that you probably wouldn't think to ask about.
I really enjoyed EXPOSURE a lot and I think it's an important book to read (especially if you watch a lot of or are interested in learning more about porn). However, EXPOSURE was not a flawless read, and had some problems that I could not ignore. One of the problems is that at times, Tibbals's personal anecdotes overwhelm or distract from the points she is trying to make about porn.
Another problem is that I felt like this book was too short considering how broad the topics were in scope. Either this book should have been more specific, or it should have been longer and gone into more detail. I felt like Tibbals barely scraped the surface with this book and that was a disappointment--especially after reading Asa Akira's memoir, INSATIABLE: PORN - A LOVE STORY. Akira goes into so much detail and really gives you a solid idea of what it's like working in the industry so many people love to hate. Which actually brings me to another issue I want to discuss.
There weren't really any interviews or personal touches with the porn stars mentioned in this book. She brings up Christian XXX, Bonnie Rotten, James Deen, and even some of the famous greats like Rod Stewart and Linda Lovelace. She considers Rod Stewart a friend (or at least she says so in this book). Considering that her work often brings her to the same places as these actors, I was really surprised that she didn't include any interviews or ask them about their thoughts. It was disappointing.
Every so often, you come across a book so good that it surprises you, and challenges not only your preconceptions of the genre but also your expectations for the genre, as well. MAKE YOU MINE was one of those books for me.
The sad thing is, I was all set not to read this book. It's the second book in a series I haven't read before, it's a genre of book I don't normally like, and the ARC I'd received from Netgalley was just a few days away from expiring. I almost deleted it from my reader, but some part of me whispered, "No, give it a shot..."
I'm so glad I did.
Alex St. James is a jaded playboy who enjoys playing high stakes card games.He's also part of the Nine Circles club, which is, as far as I can tell, a super secret club for rich people with problems who also do black ops and reconnaissance on the side.
Alex has had enough close calls that he's been forced to get a bodyguard, and that is where Katya Ivanova comes in. Katya is beautiful, icy, stoic...she's good at her job, and strong because she has to be; physically, from her days as a Russian soldier, and emotionally, because she's scarred from her mother's suicide when she was a young girl.
Katya is all set to leave Alex's service, to keep the promise she made to an old friend and fellow soldier, but Alex is desperate to keep her, so he makes her a deal. If she accompanies him to Monte Carlo, and pretends to be his girlfriend, he will throw all the money and resources at her that she needs to rescue her friend, Mikhail. But Alex's last mission is personal--in more ways than one. And unfortunately, so is his interest in Katya.
So what did I love about this book?
The writing is wonderful. Whether it's sex scenes or action sequences, Ashenden owns it. Her characterization is beautifully on-point and drives the storyline, rather than bogging it down.
The characters are great. Alex has a dark history, and is traumatized by it. You don't often come across storylines where male characters struggle with sexual abuse, and when you do come across it, it is rarely portrayed with the grace and sympathy that Ashenden treats it with here. My heart ached for Alex, and I didn't even realize how invested I'd gotten emotionally until the feels started hitting hard. Katya...Katya is wonderful. She's the antithesis to every negative stereotype in new adult right now. She's strong, she's capable, she's not ashamed of her body. She doesn't slut shame. She doesn't stammer or blush senselessly. And even though she's a virgin, she doesn't have zero sense about sex or how it works, and she doesn't refer to her privates as down there.
Since this is a series, I'm assuming that the secondary characters are going to get key roles in later books. I was intrigued by Zac and Eva, and I really want to know about Gabriel and Honor. Apparently their story is in book 1 and I am kicking myself for not snagging that book on Netgalley when I had the chance, because oh my God, I need it, I need it now, puh-leeeeeeeze...
Also...the villain. The villain is a sack of shit and he needed to die. It's been a while since I wanted to reach into the pages and murder a character so badly. Probably not since the days of Dolores Umbridge.
What I loved best about this book, though, is the story-telling. Ashenden combines a whole bunch of my favorite tropes, does them well, and hides them all in this nice, brightly wrapped parcel, and you're so distracted by the bright and shiny bits that you don't see the darkness inside until you begin unwrapping. I was shocked by how dark this story went, so fast. I wasn't prepared for it. It surprised me, when so few books these days are able to do that, and I adored MAKE YOU MINE for it.
You should read this book. Especially if you're tired of seeing insipid ninnies as female protagonists.
I really thought this was going to be a post-apocalyptic sci-fi novel about angels. But then, can you blame me? I just recently read ANGELFALL and WORLD AFTER, so I have angels and the apocalypse on the brain. Plus that cover--it's so misleading!
ARMAGEDDON SUMMER is not about apocalypse, although it is about the end of the world. In a small New England town, religious fervor is stirring as a new millennialist cult takes root; in Reverend Beelson's profoundly charismatic sermons, he tells people that the world will end in fire, and unless they squat down in the Weeupcut Mountains, they will not be spared.
The story is narrated in dual POV with thirteen-year-old Marina and sixteen-year-old Jed. Marina is a believer, although she isn't as fanatical as her mother, whose dedication to her faith makes her neglect (and even abuse) her children. Jed's father is also a believer but Jed himself isn't. The only reason he came along was because he's worried about his dad, and with his mom out of the picture (adultery) and his sister in college, he's the only thing his father has. But he's decided to passively-aggressively undermine the rules by bringing along his laptop and getting in snide remarks whenever he can.
Since this book is about two teenagers of the opposite sex, it's pretty much a given that a love story would worm its insidious way into the storyline. And it does. Which was a little weird, because of the huge age difference between the characters. I actually read another dual-POV book published around this time, called FROM E TO YOU, that also has an age difference this big and, I dunno, I don't see many sixteen-year-old dudes wanting to be with a thirteen-year-old. That's...weird.
I really wanted to like ARMAGEDDON SUMMER because it touches upon a really interesting and taboo subject--what happens when religion goes too far? What is too far? What is going on in the minds of those who join and stay in cults?
But I didn't really like the book. It wasn't the religion aspect that upset me, and even though I couldn't swallow the romance, that didn't put me off, either. I think my problem with the book is that it moved very slowly. It was tedious and lacked emotion. I wanted to care about these characters, but they gave me very little reason to. It's just Jed and Marina in the woods, describing the minutiae of their days. Until The End of Days finally comes and all hell breaks loose.
ARMAGEDDON SUMMER wasn't for me, but it's still a pretty cool book because of the subject matter alone.
I haven't read a lot of captor/captive romances that I actually liked, which is unfortunate because I love that trope--in theory. The problem is, I almost never see an author who can carry it out to my satisfaction. They want to make apologies for the captor-slash-rapist. They want him to be a nice guy, even when he's taking advantage of the heroine or beating her black and blue. They want him to be redeemable. They want to have their cakes, and eat them too, and without any of the calories, to boot.
That just does not fucking happen.
Here's the thing about captors/rapists; if they were nice guys, they wouldn't be abducting women. They wouldn't be raping women. They wouldn't be hitting women. And why? Because that's not what nice guys do. You can make a captor or a rapist sympathetic but you can't make him a nice guy, so don't even try. PRISONER was a great book because the authors didn't even try.
Abigail Winslow is a young graduate student teaching a prison memoir course that she plans to publish later. She's idealistic, bookish, and compassionate, and even though she is excited about the glory of posting these prisoners' dark secrets, she also genuinely hopes that the experience will prove therapeutic.
Grayson is one of the prisoners. He's attracted to Abigail as soon as he sees her, but it's a dark, ugly attraction that could destroy just as easily as it could create. His beauty is probably his only redeeming factor, but it's also the greatest weapon he has at his disposal--as well as his own personal cross to bear. One day, Grayson manages to escape from prison, and he decides to take Abigail with him, showing her just how dark his secrets really are as he embarks on a quest for revenge.
The psychological element to this book is probably the best part of PRISONER. Each character's voice--Abigail's and Grayson's--is distinct. I believed their motivations. I understood their stories. They were tortured, yes, but believably so--and their angst was definitely valid (holy shit). And the sexual tension between them was very well done, and just as twisted as I would expect it to be in a captor/captive...well, not really a romance but, you know. Erotica.
The first 50% of this book is a lot better than the second 50%, but the revenge plot kept me turning the pages even when I began to get a little frustrated with Abigail and Grayson. Honestly, I never would have picked this up on my own because I'm so frustrated with this genre as a whole, but a friend I trust recommended this to me, and since I've loved every thing else she's ever made me read, I warily picked this up--and immediately I found myself with a book I couldn't put down.
I'm a little unhappy that they're making this into a series because I can't imagine the other books being half as good as this one, but hey, maybe they'll surprise me. This one certainly did.
As with Megan Hart, Anne Stuart is an author I come back to again and again, even though so many of her books are misses for me. Because, man, when they do it right, they do it right.
I fell in love with the Ice series when I read BLACK ICE and was introduced to the beautiful, jaded, icy mercenary known as Bastien Toussaint. I immediately resolved then and there to get my hands on the rest of the books in the series at any costs (I currently have three of them, but I'm waiting on the rest before I begin reading).
You can imagine how excited I was when I found out that Anne Stuart was taking the Committee and expanding it. The Ice series is the European faction, but Fire is the American branch.
...And I really did not like it.
I was all set up to enjoy this book. I wanted to love James Bishop, with his clean-cut, i-dotting, t-crossing name that suggests butter wouldn't melt in his mouth. Beautiful, morally bankrupt mercenaries are kind of my thang, and I was hoping that like Bastien, I'd love him too.
My problem with CONSUMED BY FIRE is that the heroine is so immature. All she does is spew petty, childish insults and make stupid mistakes. And her stupidity is contagious. James, who I liked--or wanted to like--so much in the beginning of the book soon started making equally stupid mistakes and, worse, engaging in stupid, petty, childish banter with the heroine.
I decided to skim the last 150 pages and I can't say that I was impressed. The whining continued, interspersed with sex, and the villain was...well, I can't say a lot about it without spoilers, but I'm pretty sure that a certain subset of the population is going to be very offended by this portrayal.
So I'm pretty sure hiring a bunch of super villains and then having them blow stuff up in China and Russia in the name of 'Murrica puts you firmly on the side of chaotic good...or makes you a psychopathic government agent. *shrug* Either, or.
The Suicide Squad, a.k.a. Task Force X, is the gov't name for the super baddies they've hired to go on super sekrit missions of dubious morality. (I was surprised that this concept goes back to 1959, but hey, what hasn't DC already done? They've been around longer than the Simpsons.)
You're probably wondering how the gov't managed to persuade these guys to do the dirty work that not even the superheroes would touch. That's easy. A handy-dandy get out of jail free card.
Or, failing that, by implanting remote-control-activated bombs in their heads.
The members of this group kept getting hurt, so The Suicide Squad was a revolving door of cameos pretty much, but some of the members are Manta, Harley Quinn, Joker's Daughter, Deadshot, Boomerang, Deathstroke, and Reverse Flash.
Their missions take them first to Russia and then to China, and without spoiling anything too specific, let me say that there is a focal theme here: LABS FULL OF EVIL SHIT. Meanwhile, the anti-Mulder (Sage) and the anti-Scully (Waller) fight and hate on each other, and basically conspire to fuck the other person over while trying to oversee this task force from hell.
I feel like I should have enjoyed this more than I did. I wanted to enjoy it. But I feel like the concept wasn't very...credible? It would have been interesting to see how they captured these villains in the first place and persuaded them to sign up. Some of them, like Manta, did this voluntarily. I also feel like the bulk of the story consisted of the villains (especially Harley and Joker's Daughter) fighting with each other or whining or making bad jokes...like at one point, Harley starts singing along with a Taylor Swift song. Just...because.
This didn't really work for me, but if you like crossover comics--especially these kinds of crossover comics--then it'll probably work for you.
Immediately afterward, I went on Goodreads and added everything from this author's back list onto my to-read list.
BEWITCHING THE BARON leaped out at me from the shelf of one of my favorite thrift stores. The title and cover made me give it the side-eye, but I'd read and enjoyed one of this author's works before, which made me more optimistic about reading it.
Valerian Bright's mother and father were killed by the fever from which she was just barely spared. After their deaths, she was sent to live with her aunt Theresa in a small English village.
Both Theresa and Valerian are witches--good witches who practice light, innocent magic. Theresa has the gift of sight and Valerian can heal by touch. They use their powers for good, and between the two of them cure most of the ailments and maladies of the villagers.
Since this book is set in the mid-eighteenth century, witch hunting is at its end, but villagers are still superstitious and quick to blame their problems on scapegoats. And even though Valerian and Theresa do a lot of good for the village, they are also the perfect people to blame for when things go wrong.
In this village is a manor called Ravenall. Since the death of the last baron it has been empty, but Nathaniel Warrington has come to occupy it in self-imposed exile because of the scandal he caused back in London. With him is his friend, Paul Carlyle, who has a sore backside from being wounded after climbing out the window of a married woman in a haste after being caught in flagrante delicto by her married husband. Valerian offers to treat Paul, and Nathaniel is attracted to her right away.
I was really excited to read this book chiefly because the female character is named Valerian, and that is the name of the heroine in my Horrorscape trilogy. I've never seen anyone name their character that before. (So obviously, you can imagine my surprise when I pick up my next book, THE NYMPH KING, and see that the male love interest in that book is ALSO named Valerian. What the fuck.)
BEWITCHING THE BARON is actually really well written. It has great dialogue, good plotting, and a pretty decent heroine (even if she does indulge in foot-stomping). I was pleased to see that it took a while for the characters to fall in love, even when they took their relationship to a sexual level, and how the issues of class difference between them played a significant role in the choices they made for their relationship. The witch angle was also nicely done, and felt realistic to me.
THE NYMPH KING opens with an orgy. Well...post-orgy. Nymph heart-throb Valerian is chilling in a bed with four human women who are mindless with bliss from being fucked by his magical peen. And even though he has to go train his men for battle, the women beg him for a second round, and he's like, "FUCK BITCHES, GET MONEY."
I had a lot of issues with THE NYMPH KING. A lot.
I'm not a fan of the fated-to-be-mated trope. It tends to be used as an excuse to squeeze together two characters who have no romantic chemistry on their own, while also apologizing away for things like dubious consent or rape--who cares if she doesn't want it? It's true love, dammit! They're soulmates! It's meant to be!
Which is pretty much what happens here. Shaye, our female protagonist, is the bridesmaid at her mother's sixth wedding, moping around, being a bitch, insulting her stepbrother, and pretty much just being awful. Right after her mother tells her to stop being a Debbie Downer, and suggests that maybe it would be good for her to hang out with Sexual Harassment Stepbrother, the nymphs come from the sea to abduct some human women to sleep with, because they are powered by sex!
All of the women who aren't claimed by men are carried off to the sea (which makes Shaye's mom sad, because the nymphs apparently release this hormone that makes them insatiable to mortal women--she's begging them to fuck her, while her husband just stands there like WTF). Shaye is wearing a seashell bra and a grass skirt, which is prime molesting wear, and you're an idiot if you think that Valerian and a couple other nymphs don't take advantage of this. Which they do.
Interestingly, the women who are fated to be mates to the nymphs seem to be immune to their aphrodisiac-hormones, and I'm not sure what this is supposed to say...that they are somehow better than the women who, in a drug-induced frenzy, hurl themselves at the nymphs and beg to be fucked? Because that doesn't seem fair to me. Not only does it implicitly suggest that these poor women who are being drugged into their sex-crazed states are somehow at fault for their behavior, it also sends the disturbing message that good brides are supposed to be reluctant and ignorant about sex.
Because Shaye, despite being in her twenties (late twenties, I think), is a virgin who knows absolutely nothing about sex. And this makes Valerian really excited, because even though he is a sex champion, he finds the idea of an awkward woman who knows absolutely nothing about sex irresistible.
BECAUSE THAT IS SO REALISTIC.
Most of their "relationship" consists of a bickering back-and-forth that wouldn't be out of place in a junior high school. Lots of name-calling, sexual innuendo desperately worked into every conversation to the point of the hero sounding like a creepy old man at a bar, and foot-stomping and things like GRRR! being written into the narrative to show the heroine's FRUSTRATION! at this man. GRR! HE IS ANNOYING! DID YOU NOT KNOW? LET ME SHOW YOU! GRR! GRR!
Another thing that really annoyed me is how rape is brought up by this book. Valerian does not know what rape is (ha!). He has to have it explained to him, and when he does, he laughs. The concept of a woman not finding him attractive enough to let him have sex with her is a completely foreign concept. What is an unwilling woman? Isn't a woman willing by nature?
The other nymphs are similarly puzzled by the concept of rape and this seems to have been done more for comedic purposes than to instill any actual social commentary about rape and what might be said about a race of otherworldly characters who rely on the use of hormones to make women sleep with them. But then, homosexuality is also used as a gag in this book, too. OH NO! MY HORMONES WORKED ON A DUDE! A DUDE WANTS TO SLEEP WITH ME! OMG! WHAT DO I DO! I'M A MAN! MEN DON'T HAVE SEX, EVER!
What the fuck.
The fact that these guys are part of a Greek pantheon (Poseidon makes an appearance) just makes this even more stupid, because the Greeks were all about homosexuality. Apollo was bisexual (but more interested in men, IIRC) and several of the gods had dalliances that were not het. IT WAS A THING.
I started skimming at around page 200 and I can say that I'm just really not impressed. Vampires? Dragon men? Greek gods? Nymphs? This book suffers from the same world-building flaws as A HUNGER LIKE NO OTHER--it throws a whole bunch of different races into a book without really explaining why, and just expects the reader to roll with it without question. (In fact, the plot to this book is pretty similar to AHLNO except Valerian is weenier than Lachlain and Shaye is far, far, far more bitchy and annoying.)
This was my first Gena Showalter book, and I was not impressed. A friend of mine says that her other series are better, so I'll probably end up giving her another shot. But not this series. No, no, no. NO.
P.S. At one point Valerian actually fights over Shaye with another nymph. Using swords. And is the scene described as something like testosterone fueled? OFC.
It makes me sad to give this such a low rating because until now I have loved everything that I've read of Lauren Oliver's work.
VANISHING GIRLS is about two sisters, Dara and Nick. They used to be inseparable, even as they began to grow apart. But then Dara gets into a terrible accident that disfigures her face, their parents get divorced, and nothing is the same since.
Nick is trying to reach out to Dara to repair what used to be between them, and it almost seems to be working. Until Dara disappears. It might seem like a game, but there's another girl who disappeared recently too, named Madeline Snow, and Nick can't help but wonder if maybe the two disappearances are linked.
There are a lot of stories told in this mold, and half of them are told by Jessica Warman. VANISHING GIRLS, unfortunately, brings nothing new to the table, coming across instead as a rehashing of all the cliches that are typical to this genre. Troubled girls? Check. Small town secrets? Check. Illicit sex? Check. Boy issues? Check. It reads more like a shopping list of tropes than a book.
I did read VANISHING GIRLS to the end because I was invested enough in the mystery portion of the book that I wanted to see it through to the end, even though I had to do a lot of skimming to get there, but I wasn't overly pleased by the ending. It seemed...contrived. I know that's a terrible thing to say, since all books are contrived to some extent, but in this case, there was no foreshadowing or anything that made me sit up and say, "IT ALL MAKES SENSE!" It seemed abrupt.
There is a love story squeezed into this book, but it doesn't contribute much either. None of the characters had any sort of personality or anything. I almost have difficulty believing this is the same Lauren Oliver who wrote BEFORE I FALL, one of the handful of books that has made me cry.
Shirlee Busbee was pretty famous back in the day for writing crazy bodice rippers, most notably LADY VIXEN and GYPSY LADY (which I own). I love bodice rippers, so I was curious about her work, and when I saw SCANDAL on the shelf of my local used bookstore for a buck, I grabbed it.
SCANDAL is a very odd book, and, unfortunately, not a very good one. I think part of the problem is that the hero and heroine are married very early on in the story, which takes away a lot of the sexual tension romance novels use to propel interest in what happens to the characters, and emotional investment in their continued well being (they have to fuck, dammit! #OTP).
It also combines a metric fuckload of tropes into one bloated volume, and...and it's too much.
Nell Anslowe is a Lady of Quality but nobody wants to marry her because she's crippled. This happened when she fell from a horse as a young girl. She went over a cliff (killing her horse) and banged up her head, and ended up in a coma for several weeks. Her fiance at the time didn't want to marry a crip, so he decided to spread rumors that the fall had addled her brains, making her a candidate for Bedlam. (What a gentleman, eh, ladies?) Because of this, and insecurity about her unfortunate handicap, Nell has been on the shelf for all these years.
There's a bastard named Tyndale, though, who's neck-deep in vowels, and he is more than willing to marry Nell for her money. Unfortunately, he's not very good at masking his intentions and Nell refuses him. But "NO" is just white noise to this man, who decides to sneak into her room and kidnap her on a dark and stormy night, intending to spirit her away to Gretna Green, forcibly consummate the marriage, and then enjoy her fortune at the risk of her ruination. What a bastard. Nell manages to fight him off, though, and runs away to an abandoned cabin to take shelter.
At the same time, a man named Julian is chasing after his step-sister, who he believes has eloped with a handsome soldier. When he sees Tyndale's abandoned curricle, he thinks his sister and her eloper were also caught in the storm, and also finds himself in the cabin. Imagine his surprise when he sees not his sister, but a hot, wet woman in a scanty nightdress...OH THE TRAITOROUS CHILLS!
They get married, blah blah blah. Nell doesn't let him sleep with her for a while because she didn't want to get married, and she wants some time to get used to him. Which was interesting, because usually in these types of books, the hero insists on a wedding night and then the heroine (who starts out reluctant) has the orgasm of her life and realizes that this is teh luuuuuurve.
I started out liking Nell quite a bit because it was cool to read about a heroine with a handicap who had learned to deal with her difficulties and didn't define herself by them, but by the middle of the book I found myself increasingly frustrated with her. Even though it's obvious--obvious--that her husband loves her, she's convinced that he's holding a torch for his dead wife. The minute after they have sex for the first time, she interrogates him about her(!) and then seems surprised and put out(!!!) that he doesn't want to discuss his previous marriage in the marriage bed of his current wife.
There's also a murder plot. Nell has psychic powers(!!?!?!) for some reason, and has these prophetic dreams about a man in shadow who kills women in graphic and unpleasant ways in the depths of a hidden dungeon. At first she thinks these are just horrible nightmares, but later on in the story, evidence arises that suggests that these murders are actually happening. No excuse is given as to why Nell has these visions, except that maybe her falling and hitting her head precipitated it?
I don't know, guys. I think this was too cheesy and over-the-top even for me. I wish the hero and heroine hadn't gotten married so soon, and that the story had been darker to fit with the murders: some of the sleuthing scenes in this book had me humming the Scooby Doo theme because of how ridiculous they were. I half-expected to see a painting with moving eyes or a bookshelf housing a hidden door. The secondary characters were excellent, though, and the murder was suspenseful enough that I read to the end in order to find out whodunnit.
SCANDAL BECOMES HER is about as trashy as it is possible for a book to be while also still being somewhat readable. I would recommend it for long and boring car trips, and for plane rides after the flight attendant has ordered that all electronic devices be turned-off.
Pocahontas is a character from history that many people know, courtesy of the 1995 Disney film. And, like most of Disney's "historical" characters, many of the details were changed or blurred in order to make the movie family friendly (Hercules, anyone?).
TIDEWATER tells the story of Pocahontas through multiple narratives. There is Pocahontas herself, of course, who starts out as Amounte--a young mischievous girl whose unfettered tongue and unabashed ambitions have earned her the nickname Pocahontas--and ends the book as Rebecca.
There's also John Smith, who is a good deal less noble than his portrayal in the Disney version. He is a man of low birth sent along with other Englishmen by the Virginia Company to settle the land and find riches. He is also ambitious, but, like Pocahontas, his birth and station make his goals difficult.
Opechancanough is probably the most interesting and conflicted character in this book. He is the brother to Powhatan, the Chief of Chiefs, and like every single other character in this book, he is ambitious. Powhatan is an older man whose health is beginning to fail, and Opechancanough is next in line for leadership. He despises the white men, who are called tassantassas, and wants to destroy them before they become a plague that ruins everything that they have set out to achieve.
TIDEWATER is a very long book--over 500 pages--but to be honest, I barely felt the length at all. I devoured this book in 50- or 100-page chunks, addicted to the compelling storyline. Pocahontas wanting to defy convention and her low birth (because despite being the daughter of a chief, the Powhatans were matrilineal and her mother was no one of consequence) and become a chief was a wonderful change from the countless heroines who are only out to snag a husband. Her humor was really well done, and I found myself rooting for her from the start, even if she was annoying.
The most compelling aspect of this story was the battle of wills between the Powhatans and the settlers. One of the things that I liked best was how Hawker portrayed the gray areas of morality: how neither side is "right"--at least not completely. Both groups of people did terrible things, and the void that existed between their two totally separate cultures enabled these terrible things to fester into a very grim escalation of cruel trickery and even outright rape and murder.
TIDEWATER was like those wonderful historical epics of the 1970s--the ones that are long and well-researched, and aren't afraid to be controversial, dark, and even a little bit politically incorrect. Her writing was gorgeous--her ability to spin metaphors and weave them into the narrative had me rereading passages and feeling both awe and despair; awe at the world she seemingly effortlessly wove and despair at my own writing abilities by comparison. It really drove the storyline, and made the historical tidbits she included seem novel and exciting instead of like a history lesson.
Also, all the secondary characters have tremendous depth. There are tensions and animosities, rivalries, and female friendships; there are people doing terrible things in the name of good, and people who attempt to do good but end up causing terrible things. Hawker throws shade on both of Disney's movies--Pocahontas and Pocahontas II--and she does it in a way that manages to be clever, snarky, and affectionate. I adored that, just like I adore Libbie.
Disclaimer: I am friends with this author, and I think I may love her even more now after reading her works and seeing how passionate she is about her craft and keeping true to the truth than I was before.
Is this another book trying to rip off the success of GONE GIRL?
Does it feature female characters acting in unconventional ways with an unreliable female narrator?
Does it have a twist that won't be revealed until the very end, cleverly tricking you into reading the whole thing regardless of whether you love it or hate it?
Is it a bad book?
...No, not at all, actually.
When she was a teenager, Tessa Cartwright was found in a field of black-eyed susans, lying on top of the bones of other girls. She was the only survivor of the Black-Eye Susan killer, the "lucky" one.
Somehow, she doesn't feel very lucky.
Now a middle-aged woman with a teenager of her own, Tessa is still haunted by the other Susans. She hears their voices sometimes, whispering. The voices have gotten louder because a lawyer has contacted her, hoping that she will be able to help: they believe the man they convicted for the killings, a black man named Terrell, was innocent.
But that would confirm what Tessa had feared all these years...that her killer is still out there. Waiting to finish what he started.
Tessa is an interesting protagonist. I like seeing characters who suffer from their traumas in realistic ways, and in addition to PTSD, Tessa at one point suffers from conversion disorder, which until now, I have never actually seen portrayed in fiction. So that was really neat.
The mystery of the killer is done well, and so was the twist. I didn't see it coming, anyway. I had lots of theories, but none of them were correct. The dual POV works well to reveal and conceal information, although if I do have one complaint about this it is that I felt that her killer and his actions were not really detailed enough for me to get a sense of how terrible he was. If the author had gone that extra mile in edge, this probably would have gotten a five-star rating.
BLACK-EYED SUSANS was a decent read, very much like Gillian Flynn in terms of style and tone. The author makes a lot of interesting references and writes pretty good flawed protagonists, so if you are a Flynn fan you can probably make the transition over to Heaberlin easily. I would read more by this author in a heartbeat. I hope she decides to stay in this genre for a while...
QUEEN OF THE TEARLING came out a few years ago. It had all this hype attached with its release, and there was a lot of excitement and speculation...until ARCs started making their way through the blogger community, and reviewers started going, "Dafuq?!" Even though I'm late--a few years late--to the cool kids' party, that was pretty much my reaction during the entire book.
Kelsea has been in hiding for nineteen with her two guardians. She is plain, bookish, and pretty much unremarkable except for a sapphire necklace and a mysterious scar. Guess what? It turns out she's the Queen! Not just any queen, but the long-lost heir to Tearling that people, good and bad, have been searching for all these years. And now it's time for her ascension.
Let's begin with Kelsea. The first thing you need to know about her is that she is very, very plain. The second thing you need to know about her is that she really likes books. That's it. That's all you need to know about Kelsea. But Kelsea thinks you are an idiot, because she will be constantly reminding you about these two things over the course of the book, in many pointless, and often excruciatingly uncomfortable ways.
For example, there is this character called the Fetch. I actually kind of liked his character, even though he's pretty stock as far as the ambiguously amoral but useful ally trope goes. Anyway, towards the beginning of the book he kidnaps Kelsea but then tells her that she doesn't need to worry about being raped because she's "too plain" for him. Something Kelsea finds disappointing. In fact, when meditating on her plainness later, this incident comes up several times--to her regret.
Later, Kelsea meets another woman her own age named Marguerite, her Uncle's ex-sex-slave. Marguerite is beautiful, but she tells Kelsea that beauty isn't all it's cracked up to be pretty much because it makes men want to rape you. Keslea thinks that Marguerite is just exaggerating (even though, hello, RAPEY UNCLE'S SEX SLAVE) because surely being beautiful would be better! At one point, she secretly wishes that her guards would sexually harass Marguerite after she catches them looking at her appreciatively because she wants an excuse to yell at them 'cause she's jelus.
Let's get to Kelsea's royal policies. This book has been billed as being like Game of Thrones. Well, if monarchy is a game, GoT would be chess. Queen of the Tearling would be Hungry Hungry Hippos. Kelsea isn't in the kingdom for a week before she starts turning everything on its head. She ends the slave trade that is supposedly the only thing keeping the peace between her kingdom and Mort, even though her army is totally unequipped for war or retaliation. She deposes her uncle as Regent, takes away his favorite slave girl, and humiliates him before all her guards. Oh, and then she starts fucking with the Church, and campaigning to steal all their books...because she wants them.
The world-building makes even less sense. At first, QUEEN OF THE TEARLING seems like a pretty stock medieval European fantasy setting. Which is not my favorite genre, because it's been done so, so much and all too often the characters have the depth of a D&D Dungeon Master's character portfolio. Less, even, because there's no knocking a good DM. But then...
Kelsea mentions pennies with a stately bearded man on them. Abraham Lincoln? You mean Abraham Lincoln? Surely not, no, this must be another bearded man-- And then she explicitly mentions America and England, as well as some other things like The Hobbit and The Brothers Grimm. This is not a medieval fantasy book, this is a post-apocalyptic dystopian that takes place in our future.
THIS IS THE FUTURE.
This just raises so many questions that I cannot. First off, how did we get from here to there? I'm guessing this is going to be answered in later stories but can we at least have a hint? All that we know is that there was something called The Crossing and Tearling was founded by some dude named William Tear who apparently didn't know shit about how politics or governing a people worked. Secondly, if this is a dystopian, why is there magic? Is it actually magic, or is it just another example of how backwards these people are? Is this an alternate universe? WHAT IS GOING ON? Britain and America were (fairly) forward thinking countries in their heydey so why the fuck are there "antisodomy squads" roaming around making sure nobody gets up to anything gay, and how did the church manage to wrest control again--especially when the country's founder was apparently an atheist? Where are all the books? And if there aren't any books, why can people still read? When Kelsea started lending her books out, she didn't need to teach the people she gave them to how to read, so why, if books are no longer common or even considered useful, why does this population still know how to read? Why are doctors so scarce? If doctors are scarce, why is it apparently not super uncommon for women to get cosmetic surgery? Do psychics exist in this world? If not, why did Kelsea start having prophetic dreams all of a sudden? Who the fuck is that guy who sucks the eyeballs out of children? How did the slave trade become the backbone of the Mort economy? What happened to the rest of the world--like China and Russia and India, for example. Are they watching us on their futuristic monitors and laughing at us for being the medieval fucktards that we are?
Now let's talk about the villain. She's an evil queen. Of course. She's been looking for Kelsea for nineteen years to keep her from reclaiming the throne. Of course. She failed. Of course. What you need to know about the queen is that she's probably a sorceress of some kind since she's old as hell but still looks young, and that she is evil. When she finds out one of her sex slaves snores, she orders his tongue and uvula cut out as punishment. To quote Electric Light Orchestra, Eeeevil woman. Ironically, she's one of the more interesting and conflicted characters in the book, as is Kelsea's Uncle Thomas. I would much rather read about them than fucking Kelsea over here.
Because there's a lot of double-standards. Kelsea does a lot of cruel and insensitive things. She humiliates her enemies. Enemies that she makes because she doesn't think about making allies. All she thinks about is her plainness and obtaining more books. You might think plainness would make her a more forgiving and empathetic person but you would be wrong. She envies beautiful women (while also wishing bad things would happen to them) and mocks older or ugly women for attempting to beautiful themselves. Pretty much all the female characters who aren't Kelsea in this book are painted as a) evil queens, b) victims, c) jealous hags/bitches.
And despite wanting to be beautiful, Kelsea seems to really hate women and femininity. She's described one point as being "mannish" simply because she walks like she knows where she's going. In the beginning of the book, she takes violent offense to the notion that she might at one point have played with dolls or worn dresses. There's a quote in this book saying that women scream at any kind of pain, but men scream only when they're being killed. Which begs the question: in a world that has not one, but two powerful queens, why is there so much gender stereotyping and misogyny?
And why does Kelsea buy into it? She has all those books. She ought to know that things should be--and can be--different. (I'm also wondering what those books were about. She mentions the Hobbit and the Brothers Grimm but nothing more modern. And these books mostly seem to serve as a crutch (a very weak crutch) to explain how Kelsea seems to know everything about things she ought to know absolutely nothing about--like doctors, and plastic surgeons, and recessive genes, and about a million other things.) Her guardians didn't think to give her a copy of Sun Tzu or The Prince?
I was wondering where the Hunger Games similarities would come in and it didn't take me long to figure that out. The slave trade is determined by a lottery (oh boy), and IIRC, the 'winner's' family is exempt from taking part in lotteries for a period of time. WHAT A GREAT PRIZE. You know, I think the Hunger Games wins on this one. Yeah, they were sending children to their deaths, but at least it was only a few dozen kids and not cages and cages of hundreds of babies, adults, and children who were going to get raped, tortured, have their eyeballs sucked out and then murdered, etc. Plus, entering got you food and the winners' families got a lifetime supply of food. So yeah, excuse me if I say, well, at least the HG people managed to make it look at least a little appealing.
Whenever I looked at my friends' page for QUEEN OF THE TEARLING, the schism was always what I noticed right away. 80% of my friends loathed, loathed, loathed this book, and 20% adored it, no questions asked. There was no middle ground. They all either loved it or hate it.
Now that I've read QUEEN OF THE TEARLING for myself, I'm planting my flag firmly in the "hated it" camp. I found the book very lazily written and plotted, too reliant on cliches and shoddy world building to make up for what proved to be a decidedly uninteresting and unoriginal storyline.
I was really shocked when I found out I was approved for this graphic-novel...DC Comics never approves me for anything! (They love me, they really love me...)
BATMAN: ARKHAM KNIGHT is meant to accompany that new game that just came out. This is the prologue to it. The Joker has been killed by Batman and Arkham City is closed.
Unfortunately, a dead Joker is still a dangerous Joker. He's managed his affairs carefully, ensuring that Gotham will still encounter his numerous booby-traps, even posthumously.
Other bad guys in this book are Harley Quinn, the Penguin, Tweedle Dum and Dee, Bane (but no Poison Ivy!), and Croc.
BATMAN: ARKHAM KNIGHT is pretty dark. A lot of the new Batman comics are really dark, and this one is no exception. It's not as morally troubling as The Dark Knight Rises, or as disturbing and unpleasant as Alan Moore's book, in which one of the female characters is raped, but it's still pretty brutal in parts.
My biggest issue with ARKHAM KNIGHT was that the storyline kept jumping around. At one point, Batman ends up in Germany? I also wasn't a fan of how the Joker was drawn in this book, and some of the typeface was really difficult to read, especially when the speech bubbles were neon colors.
This wasn't bad, but it wasn't the best superhero comic I've ever read either. It reads like what it is: a publicity attempt meant to shed interest on its accompanying product.
I just finished STEELHEART and it was amazing. When I realized my library had the sequel, as well as the bonus short story, I immediately put both on hold.
MITOSIS takes place immediately after the events of STEELHEART, so if you haven't read STEELHEART yet don't read this book or it will spoil all the twists for you.
David and The Reckoners (that sounds kind of like a band) are dealing with the consequences of their killing the Epics. Newcago is still very afraid, and struggling to survive. They want to teach the people they have nothing to fear, but such bravery is still a huge risk when another Epic could take control at any time.
The villain in MITOSIS is an Epic of the same name, who is capable of self-replication. He has heard that David is the one who murdered Steelheart and is convinced that it's a cover-up for a larger scheme. He wants to find out the truth...and then kill David.
Which will totally happen, unless David's crew can find out his weakness in time.
I'm giving this four stars because even though it was so fucking short, it did contribute to the storyline and had great suspense for what was essentially thriller. I wouldn't have purchased it myself, but I'm very happy I was able to read it for free courtesy of my lovely local library.
10 years ago, something called the Calamity burst in the sky like a malevolent firecracker, precipitating the manifestation of super powers in some humans. They called themselves "Epics." At first, humanity was excited. They hoped that the Epics would prove to be their heroes. Instead, they became their oppressors.
David watched his father die at the hands of Steelheart when he was a small boy. Steelheart is the despot of New Chicago (Newcago), and supposedly invincible...something David knows for a fact isn't true because he's seen Steelheart bleed.
(Steelheart is fucking scary, too. He can turn inanimate objects to steel. With a single wave of his hand, he pretty much turned Chicago into a gleaming, trillion-ton paperweight.)
In order to avenge his father's death, David has dedicated his life to researching the Epics, discovering their weaknesses, the sources of their strength, hoping all the while that his tangle of research will somehow allow him to snare Steelheart once and for all.
He isn't the only one devoted to bringing down Epics. There is also a group called The Reckoners (hence the series title), a human resistance movement kind of like the one in The Matrix. They operate as a tight unit, bringing down minor Epics, mostly trading weapons and gold in order to gather more resources for more reconnaissance and minor kills.
David ends up getting involved with them and wants them to broaden their scope. He wants them to stop focusing on the small fries. He wants them to take out Steelheart himself.
Guys. Guys. I loved this book. Loved it. In fact, I would call it the best sci-fi/fantasy novel I've read all year. It is that good. STEELHEART is a dark, gritty dystopian novel that does not condescend to its youthful audience, nor does it muddle the plot with an unnecessary love story.
The world-building is fantastic. At the end of the book (I read the author's notes...that's how much I liked this book), Sanderson talks about how he had some difficulty coming up with names for his Epics and original superpowers because so much had already been done by Marvel and DC. His efforts really show: I was really impressed by how original and common-sensical his characters seemed. Everything came across really naturally, and it was easy to submerse myself into this world and just soak everything in as Sanderson gradually revealed twist after twist after twist.
And these twists...he foreshadowed them all. The checks-and-balances strengths and weaknesses of the superheroes, the weapons and scientific research based off studies of Epics...the secret twists about various characters. In hindsight, suddenly everything clicked and made sense. Even Steelheart's weakness. I didn't get any deus ex machina vibes at all. This is a solid, meticulously plotted, cohesive storyline that manages to incorporate several of my favorite things: Matrix-y resistance movements, superheroes, revenge plots, and geeky protagonists.
Even though David has based his entire life on revenge, he's still a likable guy. While this book is dark, it isn't bleak. David isn't beyond redemption. The book is narrated in first person and Sanderson gave him his own personality, from his almost fanboyish obsession with researching his passions to his tendency to come up with hilariously bad metaphors. I really enjoyed his voice, and it made the book a total breeze to read because of it.
The only other book I've read by Sanderson before now was ELANTRIS, which I liked but also thought had a lot of problems, the biggest being that his female character was a raging Mary Sue and the pacing was inconsistent. All those problems are gone in STEELHEART. Megan is awesome, and the pacing was addictive, dragging only briefly in part 3. I read through this in a single day, putting it down only because of pesky commitments like work and blog reviews. As soon as I realized how good this was turning out to be, I got MITOSIS from the library and put the sequel, FIREFIGHT, on hold.
Read this book. I just know it's going to be an awesome movie with cool special effects (probably done by Peter Jackman, but also possibly by one of those Matrix/Jupiter Ascending guys, too).
There is a tendency in fiction to portray those with disabilities or chronic ailments as saintly or wise characters; their illnesses and disabilities are used to illustrate the point that life is fragile, and far too short, and therefore best lived to the fullest while one still can or to make us understand that anything is possible, if someone with such an obstacle in their path can still succeed.
Even though both of these tactics probably mean well, they are still condescending as hell and harmful in their own way. Why? Because they are just a variation on the magical negro trope.
People with disabilities are people.
They can be saintly and wise, but they can also be selfish, or conflicted, or even embittered and mean-spirited.
Paul Rayment, the main character of SLOW MAN, is all of the above. The book starts out with the accident that led to his sad state of affairs: while cycling, he was hit by a reckless driver, and since he was too old to risk reconstruction, the hospital doctors callously decided to amputate his leg at the knee without really asking him for permission first.
Paul does not take to his injury with good humor. He is in denial, and also, as I said before, quite bitter. He despairs of his handicap, of his old age, and the fact that people have yet another reason to judge him. When the Croatian caretaker, Marijana, walks into her life with her brisk, efficient kindness, it seems only natural that he'd fall in love with the first person to treat him normally.
Unfortunately, for him, Marijana is married. With children. And not at all interested.
Not since THE GARGOYLE have I read a book with a disabled lead who could actually be considered an antihero. Both books depict an embittered hero who knows that his life won't be the same and who isn't sure that he will be able to make the adjustments. Both have the Kubler-Rossian "five stages of acceptance" incorporated into the psychology of the main character, with many backslides, and many, many mistakes. Both books also show a realistic (and very gruesome) side to the recovery process, and how in some ways it can be just as painful as the initial injury (or more).
I already knew that I loved Coetzee's writing. He has what can only be called spare prose: and yet in this limited space, he can work wonders. The way he plays with words sometimes reminds me of Nabokov. In fact, his book, DISGRACE--a story in which a middle-aged professor forces himself on one of his students--mirrors LOLITA in many regards. It also shares many features with SLOW MAN in the sense that both protagonists are elderly white men who are selfish and entitled and must suffer a personal blow in order to realize how selfish and entitled they have been all along.
Coetzee's writing is not for everyone, but if you can stomach hard truths and depressing endings, he's a writer you should definitely check out.
Two types of books consistently have the best cover art: vintage romance novels and Korean manhwa. One look at this cover and it was love at first sight. Seriously, look at those soft lines, those pastels, that gorgeous outfit. I would so frame this.
I didn't even care that this was book three in a series.
HISSING is kind of like a cross between PEACH GIRL and BOYS OVER FLOWERS--it's one of those shoujo dramas about bitchy, vengeful girls and alpha douchebags, with one hapless, innocent, "good" girl caught in the middle.
I knew this, going into the book. It's not my favorite trope--not unless a shit-ton of character development and wtfuckery drama goes into it (see Hana Yori Dango)--but I couldn't resist.
LOOK AT THAT COVER.
Resistance was futile from the start.
The alpha douchebag in question is a boy named Sun-Nam, which is an ironic name because it means "kindness" and "man." Of course, the heroine's name is ironic too because hers is "Da-Eh", which means "a lot" and "love."
Sun-Nam has issues. His father is dead and he feels like he's responsible for that: something his brothers (I think they're his brothers) do nothing to dissuade him from. Also his mother might possibly be crazy? Anyway, he has a thing for Da-Eh, but for whatever reason he's "dating" a girl named Ha-Ra who looks a lot like Da-Eh, but is her complete opposite personality-wise.
When she tries to initiate sex between them, Sun-Nam calls Ha-Ra a slut and a skank and tells her "you totally turn me off!" A few days later, he confesses his love to Da-Eh, and then suddenly they're going out? There's another weird blonde guy who also has a thing for Da-Eh, but gives off major creepster vibes (like Ryo, from Peach Girl). She also has a weird awk friend who likes her.
Oh, and Ha-Ra wants to get revenge against Da-Eh with her coven of friendos, possibly involving beatings and acts of gross humiliation that can only be stopped by male intervention.
I don't even know what to make of this. It felt very short. I think it was short, because the last twenty pages or so are actually a preview of another manhwa called FOREST OF GRAY CITY. I should also point out that the art inside the book isn't really anything like the art of the cover. It is much more simplistic, and the proportions of the characters are odd--freakishly long torsos with boxy shoulders on both the men and the women. Also, their hands are huge. o_o
Here's a picture to show what I mean. Look at those proportions.
HISSING is also offensive on multiple levels. Da-Eh calls someone retarded. Ha-Ra accuses Sun-Nam of being queer, since why else wouldn't he want to sleep with her? Sun-Nam calls Ha-Ra a slut and a skank, and he also says that Da-Eh has "chinky" eyes.
IT'S FUN FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY, Y'ALL.
I'm keeping this because of the pretty cover, and if I see other books in this series I'll probably buy them, because I am a sucker, but this certainly won't be topping any of my favorites lists.
Maybe if you like shoujo...although you'd be better off reading PEACH GIRL or HANA YORI DANGO.
Clocking in almost 900 pages, THE CRIMSON PETAL AND THE WHITE is a wincingly long book whose length alone would be capable of scaring off most potential readers (which is what makes it a perfect book to fill the category of "book longer than 500 pages" for my Popsugar Challenge). As if that weren't enough of an impediment, this is literary fiction at its most bumblingly pretentious; if this book was a person, it would be wearing tweed and a pince-nez, and lecturing you about the finer points of rhetoric in obscure Russian literature in a gastropub.
I have been reading this book for almost two months, in between working, writing, and my other reading commitments (namely, the ARCs I receive for review from publishers). I've poured time, effort, and mental resources into this book. People enter into relationships that are shorter than this book. And now that it is over, my feelings are a mixture of exhaustion...and relief.
THE CRIMSON PETAL has been called "sexy Dickens" by some people, and I think that is one of the best descriptions possible. It is also reminiscent of GREAT EXPECTATIONS (Dickens, I know, but this story specifically) and a darker, gloomier, more unpleasantly realistic version of JANE EYRE. This book is about a prostitution named Sugar, and the effect that she has on the lives of the people with whom she has contact. The main person is William Rackham, the unwilling heir to the Rackham perfumery industry. He falls for Sugar at first sight, and in wanting to woo her, ends up making a series of decisions that end up changing his life in a powerful way. Eventually, he takes Sugar on as his mistress--which would be the happy ending, if this were a romance novel. But because it is not a romance novel, Sugar has to deal with a number of additional problems--how to keep her man now that the chase is over; how to deal with his insane wife and her increasingly violent delusions; how to approach the subject of his silent-and-not-heard daughter, Sophie; and perhaps, most troublesomely of all, how to deal with her new-found feelings of privilege that result from her sudden rise in station?
I think what I liked best about this book was the moral ambiguity. There is no clear-cut "here is the good guy, here is the bad guy." You can't really do that in a book about prostitutes and johns. That was something else I liked--the research the author obviously put into this work. The Victorians were notorious prudes, and the dichotomy between those puritanical ideals and the earthly desires that they were intended to mask is quite clear here.The sex is well-written for the most part (there are some scenes that had me looking at this book with squinted eyes, because they recalled some horrendous scenes I'd read in Dave Eggers's THE CIRCLE), but not really intended to titillate.
Sugar is by far one of the most complex characters in this novel and her evolution is fascinating. William Rackham too, although I'm not sure he "evolves"--the opposite, maybe. Devolution. It takes almost one hundred pages into this novel before we actually meet Sugar: before, the author intentionally meanders, introducing us to a dozen of the peripheral characters who will recur in the narrative at least once. The tone of this book is definitely one of the omniscient narrator and sometimes the tongue-in-cheek prose is just too much. Especially at the end, which I found very vague. What happens? No, seriously? STOP SMIRKING AT ME, YOU ASSHOLE.
I did like THE CRIMSON PETAL AND THE WHITE, but it was not easy reading. If you enjoyed MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA and also enjoy high-brow historical fiction, then this book will probably be an easy hit for you. If on the other hand, you like reading smut, saw the word "prostitutes" and assumed that this was going to be a trashy bodice ripper of epic proportions, think again. I mean, you may still like it anyway, but it is not an easy read, nor is it particularly sexy (in my opinion). I'm glad I read THE CRIMSON PETAL AND THE WHITE but I probably wouldn't read it again.
This book hooked me from the start with its premise. Tudor fiction and chess-focused? If you're at all familiar with who I am and what I do, you know that I find chess fascinating.
THE TOURNAMENT takes place in 1546. Elizabeth is a young girl, studying under her brilliant (almost Sherlockian) tutor, Roger Ascham. Suleiman the Magnificent, sultan of the Ottoman Empire, has issued invitations to the best chess players across the globe, one of whom resides in Elizabeth's own court: Mr. Giles.
As part of Elizabeth's education, Mr. Ascham elects to have the teenager accompany him to the Ottoman Empire along with Mr. Giles, Elizabeth's chaperones, Mr. and Mrs. Ponsonby, and Elizabeth's rather salacious and sex-crazed friend, Elsie.
THE TOURNAMENT is super quotable. Ascham is really wise and it shows.
It is also batshit insane.
From the moment Elizabeth and her party arrive in the Ottoman Empire, it's clear that they're not in England anymore, Toto. Reilly portrays the society on the verge of its decline: beautiful art and with many achievements in math and science under its belt, but also beginning to crumble under corrupt rule, and increasingly strict religion-based laws.
Pretty soon, people begin showing up dead. Or disappearing. And not in nice ways, either. Drowned, mutilated, poisoned, tortured...there's an assassination attempt that involves feeding someone to a pack of wolves (luckily it fails).
In many ways, THE TOURNAMENT is like a bodice ripper. There is a lot of sex in here (remember Elsie?). THE TOURNAMENT is set in brothels, with prostitutes. It has orgies. There is pedophilia and also rape. One of the villains has a whip made from the hair of all the little boys he's raped (I was having ANISE flashbacks). THE TOURNAMENT wouldn't have been out of place in your 1970s canon of wtfuckery.
What really made this book for me--apart from the first person narration with Elizabeth, Mr. Ascham, and the chess, obviously--was the court intrigue and the sheer complexity of the murders. In fact, the murders in this book parallel a chess game, with various pieces (i.e. characters) affecting how other characters play out later on in the story. I was even surprised a couple times.
THE TOURNAMENT is not a book for the faint of heart, but I do think if you can stomach weird sex and overt violence, it's a must-read. Before reading this, I assumed Matthew Reilly was another one of those airport bookstore-type authors, who's all flash and no substance. I am revising that opinion.
You don't talk about your potentially ruinous scandal.
The second rule of the Romance Novel:
You don't talk about your potentially ruinous scandal.
Oh, romance novels. You thrive on miscommunication, don't you? Where would you be without it? Plotless...and about 200 pages shorter, methinks.
I've been on an HR binge & it's been absolutely glorious. In fact, I think I may have found my niche as a consumer. HR romances!
THE MISTAKE is a wallpaper historical that I believe is regency--that woman in the prom dress on the cover doesn't really provide an accurate time stamp. It is about a woman named Julia Forsythe who is a famous courtesan, and her childhood friend Adam Radcliffe, who has been carrying the torch for her for all these years but can't quite come to terms with her new profession.
Adam and Julia grew up together. Both were poor, and both were pretty much orphans. Adam's father fucked off, leaving his wife alone to raise a ton of kids & Julia's father was a neglectful and embittered alcoholic who never got over the deaths of his wife and son.
In a twist that is Sparksian in its predictable inevitability, the two of them fall in love. But even more Sparksian: they can't be together because of Reasons. Specifically money.
And then, later, scandal.
Flash forward fifteen years and Julia is now the mistress of a ruthless Marquess who doesn't love her but doesn't want to lose her, either. Unfortunately, she's pregnant and out of options. He forces her into a contract saying that he won't provide for their child unless she is basically his sex slave, so Julia takes a draught that makes her vomit, and the Marquess, thinking her ill, sends her off to the countryside to get better so they can pork to his heart's content knowing she is miserable.
And then...Julia finds out that the gardener of this countryside estate is...Adam.
SURPRISE! (said no one reading this book)
In spite of its predictability, I actually quite enjoyed THE MISTAKE. Julia is a courtesan and has slept with multiple men. She has mixed feelings about this, obviously, and given the context of the times, I get this. She wants to believe herself self-sufficient, but she also has to deal with the snubs of society and the cat-calls and harassment of men who think she's an object.
The angst was quite well done, too. Even if it seemed unnecessary, the emotions felt genuine, which gets the author brownie points in my book. One of the problems I have with Julia Quinn, for example, is that her characters have miscommunication issues AND they act in ways seemingly without motive. With THE MISTAKE, I always understood where the characters were coming from.
Julia being awesome:
"You cannot watch me like I'm the hated whore of Babylon one minute and then become protective of me the next. I am not two different women. I can't be a whore AND an innocent fourteen year old" (74).
"It's unfair, isn't it?...If a man said he'd known five lovers, no one would even blink an eye. But even one lover makes a woman a whore" (172).
I couldn't quite find myself willing to join Team Adam, though. He was kind of a dick. Very judgmental and slut-shamey and selfish, imho. He obviously thinks he's a Nice Guy but there are tons of women out there who can attest to receiving flash judgments from Nice Guys who were pissed off about their niceness tokens not working in sex vending machines.
He couldn't reconcile the vivacious, innocent girl with the jaded whore (33).
The book opens with Eleanor Trim sitting at the bedside of her half-sister, Dorothy, who is dying from the complications of a stillbirth. Dorothy was ill-used by a lord who made her false promises in order to rob her of her innocence, and then cast her aside, leaving her to deal with the complications of her pregnancy alone. Dorothy's dying wish is for Eleanor to avenge her.
The cad in question is the Marquess of Leath, and Dorothy isn't his first victim. He's wenched up and down the countryside, and records his dalliances in a saucy notebook that Dorothy saw with her own eyes. Nell's plan is simple: if she can steal the notebook and leak it to those in a position to destroy him, the Marquess will fall from grace forever and Dorothy will have her posthumous revenge.
In order to get close to the Marquess, Nell insinuates herself into his household by becoming a companion to the marchioness, the Marquess's mother. However, the Marquess obviously doesn't like her presence there, and when he catches her snooping in the library one night, he doesn't trust her, either. And yet, there is an attraction between them that may cause them both great harm.
My biggest complaint about this book is that the twist is revealed literally within the first fifty pages, and that took a lot of the mystery and tension out of this book for me. James Fairbrother was wrapped in scandal, and I should have liked to unwrap it slowly, rather than having it torn open for me all at once. I mean, that twist was what hooked me into reading this book.
Also, formula-wise A SCOUNDREL BY MOONLIGHT is very similar to WHAT A DUKE DARES. I liked WHAT A DUKE better, though. In fact, I think this is my least favorite Campbell book because so much relies on miscommunication, and the characters going through OOC mood changes whenever it suits the plot.
Things that I liked about the book:
Female relationships. A lack of slut-shaming. Steamy sex scenes. Realistic "first time" scenes. Aww-worthy moments. A hilarious scene involving a horse named Snowflake.
Overall, not terrible, but not what I expect from Anna Campbell, either. I think I'm so used to her writing darker, edgier romance novels that my mind hasn't quite accepted that she has switched to rather fluffy material.
Here's the thing: I have absolutely no problem reading about dub-con. It just has to be done well.
I am not so fond of sadism. I get that this is a kink for some people. Okay. More power to them (literally). But it is not something I am at all interested in giving or receiving.
This book has both of these things, and they are done very, very, very badly.
I am very sorry to say this because CAPTIVE, MINE started out really well. I was actually impressed. I thought--hoped--that I would end up giving this book a decent rating.
And then the first sex scene happened, and everything went straight to hell.
Lily is the daughter of an infamous drug lord. When he gets busted by the cops, they make him a deal: if he rats out his slightly eviler partner, and testifies against him, they will give him a free pass, send him on his merry way into the Witness Protection Program, and pretend he doesn't exist.
It's a good deal, so obviously, he takes it.
Lily is put under protection so the other drug lord doesn't use her as collateral. Hired to protect her is an ex-SEAL named Lake, who then double-crosses to turn Lily over to the drug lord. But then he double-crosses again, and shoots the man picking her up, taking her to his cabin in the woods.
Where he then rapes her repeatedly.
Except...well, Lily likes it. A lot. Way too much, actually.
LILY. LILY WHAT ARE YOU DOING.
It starts out with a spanking. Multiple spankings while they're in the car, because Lake doesn't think she's obedient enough. Then in the cabin, he makes her strip in one of the most uncomfortable scenes I have read in a while, taunting her about all the ways he can rape her as she takes off her clothes.
She started out as so resourceful, and I found myself thinking, "Okay, so this is going to have dub-con, but at least she'll be one of those heroines who gives as good as she gets."
Well...maybe the bad guy will be a really bad guy, and her psychological breakdown will be well-done, at least?
NOPE. He's secretly a nice guy, you see. He's just a bit messed up over the death of his wife.
SO HE TURNED INTO A RAPIST TO AVENGE HER DEATH. THIS MAKES PERFECT SENSE. OKAY. THE BOOK CAN BEGIN NOW. I UNDERSTAND.
There is a lot of anal punishment in this book, too. After having sex with her, he gets angry with her again and threatens to whip her. She avoids the whipping by agreeing to anal (well, not really agreeing...she said she would do anything, which is never a good thing to say in the vicinity of sex-crazed psychopaths because they will take this as consent), and Lake lubes up with a bottle of olive oil and gets down to business. And by business, I mean her butthole.
I find Stockholm Syndrome fascinating. I wouldn't mind reading books about it if they actually did a good job portraying psychological distress. But Lily gets aroused by the spankings right away. She cries during the rapes, and then immediately afterwards is like, "Hmm! That was actually good sex! Please, Sir, may I have some more?" During her first (unwilling) experience with anal, she hardly hurts at all (not nearly as much as she should) and even has an orgasm.
And I am just sitting here like, THIS IS NOT BDSM. THIS IS NOT A ROMANCE. THIS IS NOT HOW SEX WORKS. WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?
More sex happens, and it had me wincing. I got really tired of Lake saying that a lubricated vagina is synonymous with consent, because it really isn't. Not that he'd care. At one point, he leashes her and makes her go to the bathroom outside while he watches and gets his jollies on at the total power trip.
Again, some people get off on pet play. This is not my cup of tea, but if it's consensual...that's your business. This was not consensual. She didn't like it.
Also, this book gets points for some of the most creatively unsexy words I've seen used in a while to describe human anatomy. "Umbilicus." "Back hole." "Dark slot." At one point, the male love interest "wails" on Lily's ass. Oh, you don't have an ass fetish? Don't worry, Lily's ass only makes a cameo 23423423 times, and gets roughly 50% of the narrative description in this book.
The book ends with them saying how much they love each other, and talking about how excited they are for the baby Lily is apparently going to have.
Dear God, they're breeding.
Where is my trashcan? I think I'm going to be sick.
I don't even know where to begin describing my thoughts on this book. It is as if the author thought to herself, "Hmm! How can I write the most offensive, rage-inducing, yet addicting piece of garbage that will keep people reading in a masochistic frenzy of self-hatred while biting their nails at what happens next?"
And then she wrote the Wideacre trilogy.
I read THE FAVORED CHILD for my 2015 Popsugar Challenge. The category this book was meant to fulfill was "a book that came out the year you were born" (I'm old D:).
THE FAVORED CHILD is very much a product of the times. It takes place in Georgian England, in Sussex. It is a gothic soap opera of a tale, long-winded, dramatic, with lyrical writing that teeters between elegant and ridiculous. It also shares many traits of the bodice rippers that were so popular in the 80s.
Julia Lacey lives in a crumbling manor with her mother and her cousin, Richard MacAndrew. Once Wideacre thrived, but now it has all but fallen into ruin and the people of Acre are discontent and harbor many lingering resentments against the local gentry, courtesy of Beatrice, Queen Crazypants herself. The townspeople are a superstitious lot and believe that one of the children is "the favored child," blessed with the Sight, and capable of rekindling the life in Acre once more...
Or destroying it.
***LOTS AND LOTS AND LOTS OF SPOILERS***
SO MUCH happens in this book that I don't even know where to begin. Julia and Richard are childhood friends who want to marry each other, but both Julia's mother and Richard's father say that This Must Not Ever Happen. Julia loves her cousin, though, and the two children agree that when they are older, they are going to marry anyway in secret.
But Richard is...not quite right. He's obsessed with coming first, and always getting his way. He bullies Julia, mentally and physically, and is extremely manipulative. When Julia is better at his school work than he is, he refuses to let her read his books anymore. When he sees that Julia is a natural rider (he's terrified of horses), he refuses to let her ride his horse and then, later, when he catches her riding it, cuts the tendons of said horse and bashes its face in with a sledgehammer--an act he then pins on the stable master, who he knows prefers Julia, anyway. (Animal cruelty is a prevailing theme in this book--he also breaks the legs of a hawk that refuses to obey him.)
One of the most frustrating aspects of this book for me is Julia's lack of spine. She lets her cousin run circles around her, and even though she knows, knows, that his actions are hurting not just her, but the people she cares about, she still stays silent. Because she loves Richard and because there's no way that Richard would ever do anything to hurt her.
When Julia has a vision that saves the village, making the people of Acre think that she's the favored child and not him, Richard convinces their parents that she is mentally ill and has her sent off to see a shrink in Bath. Here, Julia ends up meeting James Fortescue, and when Richard finds out that not only is Julia engaged to another man, but they plan on offering him money to buy out his share of the land and building another hall, Richard rapes Julia, breaking her wrist when she fights him, and then takes the liberty of writing to James and telling her that Julia is no longer interested in his suit. Oh, and he convinces Julia that the rape was all her fault. That she was asking for it.
FUCK YOU, RICHARD.
Julia ends up getting pregnant from the rape and has to plead with him to marry her (which is ridiculous, because Ralph would have helped her, and later tells her that he could have helped her get an abortion with the help of some gypsies and even if Richard had had sex with her, no one in Wide would betray her because they all hate Richard so much). Anyway, they get married, and Richard writes more letters to James, rubbing it in his face so he can lord it over Julia later. When they break the "happy" news to their parents, Celia Lacey and John MacAndrew are horrified.
Because Julia and Richard are actually brother and sister.
Yes, Beatrice cheated on her husband John, with her brother Harry. So Julia and Richard are siblings. Which makes Julia's rape baby the product of incest-squared. Isn't that lovely? V.C. Andrews, eat your heart out.
They say that the scandal is the last straw for Wideacre--the land has to be sold, the marriage has to be annulled, and they must split ways forever. Everyone agrees. But when Richard agrees to something, it's really code for "fuck everyone else, and do something sociopathic to get my own way." In this case, he waylays the coach of his parents and shoots everyone inside. Later, he tells this all to Julia when he tries to rape her again, admitting to all of his horrible crimes.
Maybe this was supposed to be a big surprise, but Richard is such an obvious villain, it might as well be hanging over his head in marquee lights. He was so fucking hateful. I wanted him dead. And if you're reading this book right now and struggling, as I was, to reconcile your reading of such a hateful character, the bastard fucking dies in the end. This book is getting an extra star just for that, because someone told me he didn't die (KATHERINE) and I was like OMFG NO HE CANNOT LIVE THAT IS NOT FAIR, I WON'T ALLOW IT. But no, the bastard fucking dies.
I was so happy. Like, seriously, it may have been my favorite part of the book.
MERIDON, the sequel to this book, follows Sarah, the CHILD OF Richard and Julia. It seems quite tame when compared to the events in this book: maybe because bodice rippers and rapey incest paperweights were going out of fashion. I actually enjoyed this book more because it was so unashamed. And the writing really was quite lovely--far better than the writing in her Tudor series. God, this woman writes some fantastic location porn. I remember this one passage describing a flower laden tree as though it were covered in fat red candles, and that image was just so evocative. Nobody writes like this anymore. Her Tudor works pale in comparison. I love Tudor fiction, but it's been done to death, and a big, hefty Georgian gothic about an insane family living in wtf-land, with beautiful prose and hateful characters, was just what I needed.
Julia was a frustrating character and Richard was a rage-inducing one, and the rapes and incest were a bit much, but I was addicted to the story. I literally had to find out what happened. And Gregory didn't skimp on the many twists and turns. This book was a labyrinth of drama. If you can overcome the trigger warnings and don't mind a story that takes a while to get moving, I really recommend this book. They really don't write stories anymore, and this one is a gem of the genre.
These are just some of the things people told me while I was suffering from depression. As though I were purposely making it my life's goal to not only be as miserable as possible, but to extend that state of mind to everyone else around me by way of association. Because getting over it is so easy.
To this day, Allie Brosh's Depression Comic remains the most on-the-ball portrayal of depression that I have ever seen, ever. If you haven't read her book, you should. I was lucky enough to receive an advance reader copy of it, and it was amazing.
I DON'T HAVE A HAPPY PLACE is also pretty on-point.
Kim Korson suffers from dysthymia, which is a clinical term for mild depression. I DON'T HAVE A HAPPY PLACE chronicles her bitter worldview in a series of slice-of-life anecdotes, from watching her babysitter die as a child to becoming pregnant to being convinced that Vermont is filled with blood-thirsty catamounts that want her and her children dead.
In some memoirs about mental illness, the memoirist in question feels the need to really beat the dead horse. They need to tell you, over and over, that they have a problem, and instead of letting you figure that out, they must pontificate (at great length) precisely what this problem is, and how they came to find out what it is (often with uncited medical jargon and very personal details).
Kim Korson does not do this. She gives a name to her disorder once; the rest of the time, it lurks in the background like grim scenery, setting the mood but not overpowering her writing. This was really refreshing, and actually made this memoir more powerful. I was surprised by how relatable some of her experiences were. In some cases, it could have been me writing this book; it was that personal.
One of the best points she makes about depression is, suitably enough, the most glaringly ironic and dramatically cruel aspects of this disorder: the complete and overpowering guilt of depression.
Yes, there is guilt. Why?
You feel guilty for feeling so terrible.
Paraphrased, Korson says that her family was normal, they weren't sexually or physically abusive. She wasn't the victim of some horrible childhood tragedy that would make people understand or apologize for her behavior on her behalf. There was no actual, physical reason for her unhappiness, so she felt guilty for feeling so terrible when she had so much to be grateful for.
Guys, I relate to that so hard.
At my worst moments as a teenager, I couldn't understand what was wrong with me, or why I should feel like crap all the time when I wasn't destitute, or unloved. I couldn't understand why I couldn't feel so happy. I couldn't understand why I wasn't normal. (I was convinced that everyone else was just as miserable as I was secretly and was just a hell of a lot better at faking it; and I couldn't understand why I couldn't do that, either.)
Korson doesn't mention seeking treatment. She seems content in her unhappiness, because it is what she knows, and she has accepted that bitterness as a way of life. Which is an option, I guess. My depression wasn't mild, and I had to do something about it, but Korson shows that acceptance can be a viable option for some as well. Which I never really thought about and found an interesting choice.
Overall, I DON'T HAVE A HAPPY PLACE is a pretty good read. A lot of memoirs about depression are dramatic and filled with wild tales of drug abuse and suicide attempts, but Korson's isn't. She's at the mild end of the spectrum, and I have to say that, lack of sensationalism aside, it's pretty cool to see someone putting the "normal" in abnormal psychology.
Stephanie Kuehn is the teen Gillian Flynn -- she writes these dark, meandering storylines that end up leading you right into the tangled snare of humanity's most evil moments. Why do we keep coming back, again and again? Curiosity, maybe. Or maybe we just fancied we saw a light at the end of that twisted tunnel.
I haven't read CHARM & STRANGE (I received an e-copy for review, but it expired before I could get around to it). I did read COMPLICIT, and I found it to be a decently written book with an original premise, even if it was a bit meh in terms of engagement. Actually, my favorite aspect of the book was that it was set in Danville, in a number of places that I'd actually been to.
DELICATE MONSTERS was exciting for a similar reason because it is set in Sonoma. I have been to Sonoma.
DELICATE MONSTERS was exciting for another reason, too. It features a fucked up and diverse cast of characters. Sadie Su is a cheerfully unapologetic sociopath. Half-Chinese, 100% IDGAF, she's been fucked up since the day she was born and got even more so after her father packed up and left. (Also her mother's an adulteress, so has she got a slut-shaming complex, too? Probably.)
Emereson is a boy who, on the surface, seems like such a nice guy. Dating a black girl (ooh, he's tolerant), with a sickly younger brother whose very existence he braves with forbearance (such a trooper), and a father who committed suicide and a mother who can't be bothered to take care of them both. But appearances can be deceiving and Sadie sees through him like glass.
Then there's Miles, Emerson's younger brother, who is constantly sick and claims he has visions. But he has a secret too, one that's just as dark as his brother's and ties them all together.
I BET YOU TOTALLY WANT TO READ THIS BOOK NOW.
And you should.
And you can. When it comes out. On June 9th.
DELICATE MONSTERS had a very similar formula to COMPLICIT. There is the elaborate set-up with the fucked up characters, including fucked up siblings. There is the California setting that really gives you an idea of what that particular locale is like, including its peculiar little subcultures. Then there's what I think of as The Twist, which ends up bringing the story full, dizzy circle.
Honestly, I liked DELICATE MONSTERS just fine, and it had some really chilling moments. I could see this becoming a movie, a really terrifying movie that has people leaving the theaters and side-eying their family members in morbid speculation. But something about the prose just didn't call to me. It fell flat, even though the characters were wonderfully flawed, and that is a shame.
DELICATE MONSTERS is a much better book than COMPLICIT (from what I remember of COMPLICIT, anyway), and nowhere near as forgettable. I love that Kuehn isn't afraid to push the envelope, and explore the reaches of her dark mind. I just wish her writing was more engaging.
Maybe she should give first person a try? I'd love to see her do an unreliable narrator.
I read this book for my 2015 Popsugar challenge, which I'm doing with a number of lovely ladies. The category this one was meant to fulfill was "a funny book."
You know who The Grinch is, right? Sometimes, I feel like the reviewer equivalent of The Grinch--this book comes out that everyone likes, it gets hyped up, the author is happy...and then I come along, and I read the book, and I hate it, hate it so much, and I write my review and basically shit on everyone's Christmas.
It is not a good feeling.
I wanted to like THE VIRGIN ROMANCE NOVELIST. I wanted to like it as a reader, as a writer, and as a woman who believes that women should be free to explore their sexuality without judgement.
But this book failed to appeal to me on all counts.
Let's talk about the good. This book had some definite funny moments. That bikini wax scene made me laugh, and there were a couple of other scenes that garnered a chuckle or two.
I also like the appreciation of romance novels. Romance novels are fun. And part of the reason that they're fun is that they're so ridiculously over-the-top cheesy. Especially the vintage ones. In fact, I wish more emphasis and references had been utilized, because the romance novels (bodice rippers) of the 70s and 80s are actually pretty gnarly, full of rape and memorably horrific scenes like castration, torture, gang-bangs, white slavery, and harems. Also, cameos from Fabio.
Unfortunately, there were a lot more things about this book that I really did not like.
Rosie Bloom, the protagonist, is a virgin. Obviously. You probably guessed that from the title. She wants to lose her virginity to give her writing more dimension, so she starts dating around and her two roommates (one boy, one girl) help her by giving her information bordering on TMI.
So she wants to lose her V-card, you're thinking, that's cool.
Well, sort of. Except that Rosie seems determined to put distance between herself and Other Women.
I by no means thought I was ugly, because I knew genetically I wasn't, but I was of the shorter brand of women with some slight curves and a retro style that was more I love Lucy rather than skanky sex club kitten, the typical girl Henry went for (29).
Yes, I had a retro style, but I wasn't a pin-up girl (47).
I was good looking, but like I've said, I'm curvier than others and have my own style that doesn't come close to rivaling the models Henry takes out (129).
And yes, at one point she makes a point of saying that her boobs are small, but real.
***SPOILERS FROM HERE ON OUT***
The book is also heavily reliant on stereotypes. There's the friends-to-lovers stereotype. The over-sexed best friend stereotype. And let's not forget Offensive Racial Minority stereotype.
"Yes, querida. These will be the best tacos ever to grace that bonita mouth of yours. You want me to show you how to eat them, yes?" (107)
"I usually sit down, naked and think of a bonita senorita, like yourself, Rosie, and lightly caress myself until I feel like I'm fully erect. That's when I take out my brush and start painting." (110)
This character is named Alejandro and is allegedly from Spain. Allegedly.
I wasn't wild about any of Rosie's potential love interests, except Lance...but then Quinn ruins his character by having him go off on Rosie because she "insults" his dog. That's another thing that I didn't like about this book. Animal lovers are portrayed as crazy, unbalanced people who worship destructive creatures out of a sick sense of masochism and unfulfilled sexual desires.
It always fascinated me how much people were obsessed with their animals. I liked a good four legged friend every now and then, but not to the point where I thought they were my child, and if I could, I would be breast feeding them three times a day... (46).
Maybe if this was only an issue once, it could be overlooked. But it's a running gag in this book that animal people are always crazy and always make you adore their pets unequivocally.
Another problem I had was with Henry, Rosie's friend. It's obvious from the beginning that he likes her and that we're supposed to root for him, but I thought he was kind of creepy. From the way he affectedly calls her "love" at the end of every single goddamn sentence (think "baby" from IF I WERE YOU in terms of frequency and you have an idea) to the creepy way he tells her that he prefers her "innocent" once she starts dating, Henry is overpossessive, emotionally manipulative, and definitely one of those guys who thinks being "nice" is measured out in tokens that you can use to get sex from girls.
Towards the end, he does something really awful that made me dislike him even more. Like, seriously, it was fucked up.
Seriously, this is a biggie.
Don't say I didn't warn you.
***LAST CHANCE, I MEAN IT***
Rosie loses her virginity with Henry. Obviously, she feels almost no pain. Obviously.
Anyway, right after they have sex Rosie checks her voicemail and realizes that she has a message from one of the guys she dated. It's just a voicemail and it's a voicemail, but Henry loses it and assumes that she's still seeing him. He calls up his ex-girlfriend and tells her that they ought to move in together again, on the basis of a single voicemail.
First off, this is not fair to either girl, and Henry is an asshole for thinking this is okay.
Second, the drama following this was resolved way too quickly. Henry realizes he was being too brash and kicks the old girlfriend (Tasha) out again (presumably), and dates Rosie instead. The book ends with them being boyfriend and girlfriend, with Rosie gleefully enacting all her kinks.
Which could have been a good ending, if not for the fact that:
(a) Henry is an asshole, and his possessive, controlling nature is portrayed as affectionate and brotherly, when in actuality he is a creeper with boundary issues and
(b) Rosie and Henry have basically zero chemistry--we're told they have chemistry but do they really? No.
Other wtf moments. Rosie names her vagina "Virginia" and it talks, and cries out for joy and all that jazz. It's basically a more honest description of Anastasia Steele's "inner goddess."
Speaking of inner-goddess, this yark-worthy quote appears:
Holy crap! I wanted to say Yes, Sir, Mr. Grey, sir and then bat my lashes like Anastasia, but decided to not role play, since I was pretty sure he wouldn't like it (137).
Beer snobs. Coffee snobs. Obsolete media snobs. Man-children. Wannabe band members. Scene hipsters circa 2007. There's even one about book bloggers.
I found out that I might be a hipster.
No, seriously, I have photographic evidence.
(Old picture is old.)
But seriously, this book made me think. And it made me realize just how many hipsters I have in my acquaintance. There were like five or ten people who immediately came to mind as I was reading this book, because they could have been the models off whom these animals were based. I mean, there's a freaking gastropub near my house where the dudes wear waistcoats, for crying out loud.
On a serious note: there are some things in this book that I think people might take offense to. It pokes fun at feminists (well, a certain kind of feminist) and makes some digs at trans pronouns (mostly at people who use trans pronouns to sound enlightened) but some people might see that as transphobic. So if you take offense easily, you might want to avoid this book on principle.
Cherry Adair is a pretty well-known name in the romantic suspense genre. I wouldn't know. I don't read much romantic suspense, because the few that I've read mostly seem biased towards the romance and the 'suspense' is a mere afterthought.
I'd never read Cherry Adair before, though, and since her books (particularly the T-FLAC series) came so highly rated by trusted friends of mine, I thought I'd give BLUSH the old college try. Hey, it was free from Netgalley; it doesn't get much better than that.
I wish I could say the same for this book.
BLUSH was a hot mess. Everything I don't like about the romance genre was neatly encapsulated within these two-hundred-something pages. Weird names for genitals? TSTL heroine? Cock-brained hero? Insta-love? Slut-shaming?
Girl. Girl, please.
Our TSTL MC, Amelia (Mia) Wentworth is on the run for her life. As the CEO of a multibillion dollar cosmetics company, Blush, this shouldn't be too surprising: for the right people, she's worth far more dead than alive. Especially since she's planning a controversial business move that will cause her to be the sole owner of the company (i.e. buying out all the share-holders). But several assassination attempts later, and she's hiding in a small cabin in the middle of a Louisiana bayou.
This sounded fantastic in the summary, but the sad thing is, the MC doesn't take these threats on her life very seriously. She's hiding out, yes, but treating it more like a fun vacation -- to hell with lying low. She's taking pole dancing classes, pumping gas at the station, and, oh, yes, hiring male prostitutes to have sex with.
That's how come the man who's being paid to kill her dumb ass gets to literally waltz in right through her front door. Mia assumes that he's the gigolo she ordered and lets him come right in. (heh, come.)
This assassin is the love interest.
Now, I am a huge fan of love interests who are assassins (as you may know -- *wink*), but I did not like the way it was done in this book. Because he takes one look at her hot body and decides he's going to roll with it before he kills her. Which, okay, could work if it was done in the right way. But it wasn't. Adair wants her assassin to be a Nice Guy, even as he's taking advantage of this woman who he is essentially going to kill in cold blood anyway. And you can't do that. You can't have it both ways. But Adair tries, oh, God, how she tries, and it is absolutely awful.
Also his name -- Cruz Barcelona. It sounds like the travel campaign for a European company. "Cruise Barcelona! See the sights!" There was no going back after my brain made that connection.
So TSTL lets Fake Gigolo into her bayou hideout and they have sex. Without a condom. Even though she thinks he's a prostitute. Spoiler alert: he doesn't kill her.
A few days later, FG returns, except now he's got a dog. He tells her -- SURPRISE! -- he wasn't a male prostitute after all. He's a handyman. And even though he lied (or intentionally deceived her) the first time around, TSTL totally accepts this without asking any questions whatsoever.
And remember, she is on the run for her life, from scary, suspicious men.
As FG wangsts about having to kill his new lay, they have tons of freaky monkey-sex. Oh, and they cover some tropes that are very popular in romance right now, such as joking about how he might very well be an axe-murderer come to kill her:
"If you were a psychopathic serial killer we wouldn't be having this conversation right now, would we?"
"Maybe I'm on my meds and haven't snapped and started my killing spree yet". (41)
At one point, he even describes how he would strangle her to her, while they're in bed together. He lets her think that he's talking about auto-erotic asphyxiation, but as he's talking about this, he's musing about how he could actually strangle her in her bed to death and then leave.
I will say that Adair wrote some scenes that were genuinely sexy. But there were some descriptions and dialogue that were just plain odd.
"You may be cool and calm, Mia, but your nipples haven't gotten that memo" (79).
The book tries too hard to be cutesy, like chick-lit, but given the serious subject matter (the female MC has people trying to assassinate her, and might also be keeping sweatshops full of underage Chinese laborers), this doesn't work. And the fact that FG is often thinking about all the ways he could kill her while they do it just make it even more stomach-churning.
Oh, and in an attempt to make FG seem like a good guy, a very badly done abusive boyfriend trope is introduced into the story. And yes, FG is involved and breaks it up, and delivers his pronouncement on what he thinks about the type of men who hit women. (Because killing them is so much better?)
But let's get back to the odd descriptions and writing aspects of this book. There are constant analogies and metaphors that were so bizarre they kept yanking me out of the story because I kept laughing (or trying to picture that bizarre image in my head). Adair also uses some very strange words for things. At one point, the MC refers to her goosebumps as "goosies." FG keeps saying "fuckit" as one word, instead of "fuck it." And he refers to his erection as a "cockstand."
This one was especially odd, because until now I've only seen it used in historical romances. I'm 80% pretty sure it's an archaic term and it was jarring to see it used here (like if TSTL had suddenly started referring to her privates as a "cunny" or referred to sex as "tupping").
I just could not get on board with BLUSH. I didn't like FG. I thought the MC was an idiot and should have been killed (seriously-- FG should have taken that 7.5 million dollar kill fee and run). I didn't like how wearing makeup was portrayed as a bad thing in this book, especially since the freaking MC owns a freaking makeup business. What the actual fuck. I didn't like the writing, or the sex scenes. I didn't like the ending. I thought the climax was anticlimactic. I hated the stupidity.
And I despised that ending. Babies? Marriage? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?