The only other book that I've read by Chelsea Handler was ARE YOU THERE VODKA? IT'S ME, CHELSEA. I enjoyed it. I did not enjoy this book, though. Not at all.
Here's the thing. Sexual harassment and sexual abuse are not funny. When you swap the genders, and when it's a woman doing it to a man, it's not cute or funny. It's fucking harassment.
The first fifty pages are nonstop Chelsea and her friends getting drunk in South Africa and going on safari rides and acting like ignoramuses and sexually harassing their hot tour guide. Chelsea even interrogates the staff of their lodge to find out who he's been sleeping with.
"Speaking of disappointment, Rex," I said, "you lied to me yesterday when I asked you if you were sleeping with anyone in camp. I know about Lilly." Rex responded by telling me it was because he didn't tell guests personal information. I responded by informing Rex that we were not regular guests and any and all personal information should be disclosed ASAP (35).
Then she refers to herself as trying to sexually assault the tour guide in a flippant way.
Men can be raped, just like women, and it isn't funny at all.
I just can't get on board with this book. Anyone who revels in their drunkenness and uses it as an excuse to treat people like shit is just not someone I want to read about.
Last month I received WONDER WOMAN UNBOUND: THE CURIOUS HISTORY OF THE WORLD'S MOST FAMOUS HEROINE for review from Netgalley. I really, really, really enjoyed WONDER WOMAN, the scandalous history, the feminist angle, and how Tim Hanley compared and contrasted Wonder Woman to her male counterparts of the time.
Reading WONDER WOMAN UNBOUND also reminded me that I had two other superhero history books in my closet waiting to be read. One of them was SUPERMAN: THE HIGH-FLYING HISTORY OF THE MAN OF STEEL.
I actually grew up on the original Superman cartoons from the 1940s. No, I'm not in my eighties. It's actually a funny story. When we were kids, one of our distant relatives sent us two VHS cassettes called 50 of the Greatest Cartoons. They featured highlights from the 1940s-50s, including Pop-Eye, Merrie Melodies cartoons, The Three Stooges, Caspar, vintage Bugs Bunny (voiced by Mel Blanc), and, of course, Superman. (Superman fought a lot of Nazis and Japanese people.) (Actually, a lot of these cartoons had people in blackface, too. And all island natives were cannibals. Now that I think about it, I think the relative in question who gifted us with these tapes lived in rural Kentucky. So, actually, that explains quite a bit. Because Kentucky in the 1990s was a lot like the rest of the world circa 1950.) So when SUPERMAN the book referenced SUPERMAN the cartoons, I did a little squee because oh my god, you guys, my childhood. (I also played Superman 64. In fact, I think we still own a copy. IT'S A FUCKING TERRIBLE GAME, YOU GUYS. DON'T EVER PLAY IT.)
SUPERMAN focuses on the creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, two Jewish boys of Eastern European ancestry who grew up as outsiders in their smalltown settings and created comic book heroes as a means of escape. The book traces Superman from his inception to the multi-billion dollar industry that DC Comics is today. Each set of TV shows is described, and so are the comic books (of course), the movies, the radio show, and even some of the merchandise. Apparently there's a Superman musical called It's a Bird...It's a Plane...It's Superman. I'd say I'm surprised but I'm not. There's a Spiderman musical too, and it's allegedly cursed. (And yes, someone wrote a book about the Spiderman musical. And yes, someone needs to give me that book as a present.)
The book starts off a lot more slowly than WONDER WOMAN and doesn't have as much scandal. I mean, Siegel and Shuster don't have shit on William Moulton Marsten and his polyamorous homelife, and woman-centric BDSM philosophy, not to mention the smutty historical fiction about Julius Caesar! Also, feminism! There is scandal in SUPERMAN, though. It just takes a while to get to it.
For example, Siegel and Shuster were both doomed to miserable lives when they got fucked over by the people who bought the Superman franchise, leaving them to wallow in poverty as their health failed. George Reeves, one of the first Superman actors, was also in a polyamorous relationship at one point and then later committed suicide...a suicide that may or may not have been part of a conspiracy. Christopher Reeve, of the Superman movies, had an accident later on that left him paraplegic. Joe Shuster, the illustrator of the original Superman comics, illustrated a very violent and disturbing horror erotica comic called Nights of Horror, that featured women who looked suspiciously similar to Lois Lane getting tortured by men who looked suspiciously similar to Superman and his friends. Eep.
This is, scarily enough, one of the tamer images.
I was never really a fan of Superman. I prefer Marvel comic book heroes...and Batman. Something about Superman always seemed too dated. He's like Captain America before there was a Captain America. It was interesting to learn about his checkered and convoluted history, however, and I really liked being able to compare and contrast the information presented in SUPERMAN to that which I remembered from WONDER WOMAN. One thing that I did wonder (ha) about was the omission of just how cruel Superman was during the Silver Age of comics. According to WONDER WOMAN, Superman was very abusive to both Supergirl and Lois Lane during this time period. He wouldn't let his young cousin get adopted, condemning her to live in an orphanage until late in life so he would be able to have her help him without the necessity of her having to explain herself to a family. He also did very mean things to Lois Lane, insulting her, and even making her think she'd been responsible for the murders of several people after she pried too much into the Superman issue (and he never corrected her mistaken belief, either. What a dick move).
But yeah, conflicting sources aside, SUPERMAN is a riveting read, and definitely a must for any comic book aficionado, nerd, hipster, or enjoyer of Superman memorabilia. I gifted it to my little brother, who's a huge comic book whore. It will be interesting to see what he makes of it. :)
VIOLET IS BLUE was a terrible book. It's the epitome of everything that is wrong with the new adult genre.
"What a freak! He totally pawed through your phone, V." Ivy shivered and made a face. "He's so gross." "He's not that bad," I said (15).
Violet is eighteen-years-old, and has a stalker. He sends her flowers and creepy poems and calls her up on the phone to tell her all the nasty things that he wants to do to her.
Sounds like the pretext for a romance story, right?
Of course, it doesn't help that all the men in Violet's life are total creepazoids. Like Devon, who takes her phone and makes inappropriate comments about the pictures on it; pins her against cars and walls and tells her how much he wants to fuck her; and even breaks into her friends' backyard to crash the party & stalk her. There's also her jerk ex who keeps flirting with her in a creepy jerk way even though he cheated on her with another girl. There's also the older boy who works for her stepdad, Patrick.
I didn't want to be one of THOSE girls who people whispered about in the halls or at parties (31).
Violet slut shames everyone and anyone, which is made even more painful by her own hypocritical behavior. When Devon corners her in a library and makes creepy comments about Jack Ripper and orgasms caused by vaginal tearing during birth, Violet gets so turned on by this, and his rape threats, that she has to run to the bathroom and masturbate.
Her stalker is from the creepy mouth-breather school of perverts, and rather than freaking out or ignoring him, Violet has phone sex with him. When he tells her he's outside her bedroom window, watching her, and asks her to touch herself, she pulls up her shirt and starts playing with her breasts while her stalker jacks off in the shadows. Creepy much? I think so.
Later, the stalker sends her sexy lingerie. She puts it on and stands in the window and gyrates, only to be seen by one of her neighbors. Violet goes to bed and wakes up in the morning to find out that her stalker broke into her bedroom in the middle of the night and macked on her scantily clad sleeping body.
Even more disturbing is how everyone in the book jokes about the abuse.
" Yeah, maybe [the phone creeper] has been fantasizing about you for months. I mean he's in your house all the time, he sees you almost every day. Maybe he even spies on you, like when you're changing or in the shower." Giggling, she hugged herself. "God, I have to stop it, or else my ovaries are going to explode" (26)
When she finally tells her parents what's going on--and even then, this is only after her stalker totals her car, puts her ex in the hospital, leaves her threatening phone messages, breaks into her car to fill it with rose petals, breaks into her bedroom to watch her sleep, and eavesdrops on her masturbating in a public restroom--her stepfather tells her that she was asking for it, and that he doesn't want to send an innocent boy to jail because she was being a tease. Her mother slaps that asshole, thank God, but then later they joke about how all men are assholes. Um...
No, they aren't?
Just the ones in this book.
I really, really loathed this book because:
A) It reinforces the idea that it's OK for men to be assholes.
B) It is full of women hate and slut-shaming. Even Violet's friends are always calling her a slut.
C) The climax is sickening. I mean, really, truly sickening.
D) The climax doesn't make sense either. Plotholes up the wazoo, guys.
E) Devon, the love interest, is a psychotic asshole who is basically a Travis Maddox-in-training. When he grows up he will be either a serial killer or Christian Grey (basically the same thing).
F) It trivializes the real victims of sexual abuse and violence by suggesting that these women are somehow bringing it upon themselves. Violet's behavior left me feeling physically nauseated. I just can't believe in good faith that a girl, or the people (especially her female friends and mother) around her, would blow off such aggressive sexual overtures. Especially breaking in to her house!!!
This was a terrible book, even for new adult. I actually felt dirty after finishing it. And not the good kind of dirty, either.
This is the second HUNGER GAMES knock-off I've read this week, the first being FIRE & FLOOD, my review of which you can read here. The dystopian genre gimmick has been all but milked dry, but that doesn't stop people from trying to milk the dead cow. (I know, I know, I'm mixing my metaphors.)
THE WICKED WE HAVE DONE is a bit more subtle of a rip-off and at least has some original ideas. In the future, high profile criminal (murder) cases are dealt with via the compass room , a high-tech virtual reality labyrinth capable of meting out capital punishment. Government officials measure brain activity as the "candidates" navigate through the CR and execute them on the spot if they prove to be psychopaths.
I don't know about this, guys. I studied psychology and to me that just screams out "ethics violation." Also, relegating such high-risk decisions to a machine? Why? Because it isn't like a machine ever decided to malfunction or turn on its creators? Oh, wait.
Another thing that bothered me is that, apart from the Compass Room, Evalyn's world seemed pretty similar to ours. Other technological advancements might have set the scene better and made law enforcement officials' faith in and reliance on the 'infallible' judgment of the Compass Room more believable.
I liked the idea of the Compass Room but not the execution. A lot of the world-building was reliant upon the reader's suspension of disbelief. I was able to shelf some of that because I wanted to find out what happened, but Evalyn was a difficult character to like. We know she's in jail because she massacred her college, but there's never any real sign that she feels bad. She feels guilt over killing her best friend in the world, but not the innocent students and faculty she murdered.
Which is interesting, in a way. Throughout the Compass Room (I almost wrote 'Hunger Games'), the "candidates" are haunted by the specters of their crimes. Evalyn sees Meghan's face over and over again but not the victims of the massacre. Wouldn't that seem to indicate that she feels no guilt.
Evalyn has a decent narrative voice for a new adult protagonist (although that sets the bar pretty low), but all the supporting characters fell flat for me. I found her relationship with Casey unbelievable. Insta-love annoys me--especially since these characters are supposed to be psychopaths and wary of one another. I did like the inclusion of two LGBT characters, but there was insta-love there, too.
Also, THE WICKED WE HAVE DONE is very poorly edited and there are a lot of awkwardly written passages that kept yanking me out of the story zone.
Some of these are because the author was trying to sound poetic and failed miserably.
I study it, the blood melding states of glistening liquid and crust (48).
Tanner's so far behind, he's like a figurine trekking over the trail we made (145).
They rise from the ground and remain stagnant, as if they're floating in water (147).
His lip twitches, and the light waltzes in his eyes, across mottled green and brown, mottled like his bruises but somehow much more beautiful (157).
Or she just sounds dumb.
I'm more than likely like a shivering, wet dog (158).
Sometimes she even uses words wrong.
This is an immediate flood, a lethargic tsunami (168).
Looking at the information for this book I can see it was picked up by Penguin. Not sure if this started out as a self-published endeavor, but if I were this woman's editor, I'd have grabbed my trusty red pen and started marking things left and right. I'm honestly surprised by the low quality of the writing--definitely not something I expect to see in a traditionally published novel.
THE WICKED WE HAVE DONE had some interesting ideas but really terrible writing and severe inconsistencies within the storyline. I would be willing to read the second book and its prequel novella, but probably only if I got it for free, like this one.
Poop is one of those things that you're supposed to stop finding funny after age seven or so. However, if you've ever seen a single episode of Family Guy, you'll know that these expectations are a total lie. Poop is, always has been, and always will be, funny. Even Shakespeare made poop jokes.
WHAT'S YOUR POO TELLING YOU is a palm-sized guide that talks about all the different kinds of poop and what they mean. No, not in a divination sense. There is no "assology" to be found in here (badum-ting).
Instead, this book talks about what kinds of diets result in which kinds of poop, and whether they merit a doctor's visit. I was pleasantly surprised, actually, by how well comedy and health mix in this book. Being healthy can be fun!
FIRE & FLOOD is probably one of the most gimmicky and derivative books I've read in a while. It shamelessly rips off Hunger Games, the Pokemon/Digimon franchise, and LOST. These ideas are then pieced together in such a haphazard way that I couldn't help but wonder if the author just decided to screw it, and bypass further editing in favor of releasing her book to follow in the wake of the Divergent and Catching Fire releases.
What makes this book like the Hunger Games series?
-The corrupt government recruits people to fight in this gladiatorial style competition for a prize.
-Tella decides to fight because of her little brother.
-The games take place in various ecosystems specifically designed to cause the players as much strife as possible.
-Only one player can win, but they band together for the duration.
-They get special uniforms for the games.
-A snake pin!
-One of the players has an animal symbol of rebellion. (A hawk, instead of a mockingjay.)
-The dash for the eggs is a lot like the dash for the Cornucopia.
What makes this book like the Pokemon/Digimon series?
-Pandoras are zoo animals that come from freaking eggs.
-Everyone gets a different animal.
-The animals have various attacks, like FLY, DIG, HORN ATTACK, SPIKES, HYPNOSIS, MIMIC, and MEAN LOOK. Those aren't the actual names, but still.
-One player decides to take a Team Rocket approach and capture other people's Pandoras.
-The Pandoras can fight each other and also solve real-world problems.
"I'd like to officially welcome you to the Brimstone Bleed. May the bravest Contender win" (59).
Happy Hunger Games to you, too.
The MC is extremely unlikable: vain, shallow, totally focused on her clothes, appearance, makeup even when it was totally inappropriate for the situation. Don't get me wrong, it can be refreshing to have an MC who knows she looks good and isn't shy about it. Mac, from the Fever series, was like that. But Tella, the MC of FIRE & FLOOD, is one of those girls who doesn't know she's beautiful until a man (or several men) help discover this point of fact...in the most disturbing way possible, of course.
The one female character, Harper, who is aware of her sexuality, is ruthlessly slut-shamed. All the undesirable men ogle and flirt with her and stare at her boobs (Tella's love interest is curiously immune). Right at the beginning, Tella says, "She has cream-colored skin and a body that belongs in a magazine--the kind for guys, not girls" which is as good as saying that she belongs in a pornographic magazine. She also talks about how she wants to punch Harper in the face for being so pretty, and that this is the reason why she will not be friends with her. Fuck you, Tella. It's always incredibly disturbing when an MC objectifies the other female characters, and I found it really off-putting how much time was devoted to having people put down Harper. For example, when it's revealed that she's a young mother, Tella and some of the guys joke about how the father could be one of the guys in the camp. Because she's so slutty-looking, even though she's never actually had sex with any of these men in the camp. But hey, if animals can hatch from eggs, maybe you can have sex through osmosis in this world. Who the fuck knows! But don't fucking slut-shame. Okay? Okay.
The male characters are all super-rapey. Tella has two contenders: a washed-out Byronic hero from the Edward Cullen school of love interests who likes to glare at her and treat her like a child, and a complete psycho. The lines between their behavior towards Tella are perhaps not as distinct as the author would have liked so she has the psycho sink to really fucked up and depraved levels of behavior like murder, animal abuse, and attempted rape.
Unfortunately, the lines between consensual and nonconsensual are as clear as a Robin Thicke song. For example, in the desert ecosystem they have to sleep in their undies because...um, it's cold at night and the sand will rob their bodies of warmth (so why not keep your clothes on???). Tella's love interest makes a point of ogling her instead of Harper and even molests her a little in front of their teammates, leading to some truly ribald comments. But Tella gets off stripping for him and plots their wedding while he macks on her. No, I'm not kidding.
Jaxon ogles Harper. The boys gather desert carnage for our beds. Guy watches me undress. I imagine our wedding (219).
Then for the bad guy, we get lines like this.
"I see you're going to need some breaking" (253).
And perhaps even more disturbingly,
He's watching me the way Guy does (264).
That doesn't make you rethink your choice of love interests? Really?
On the other hand, this is a girl who stands stock-still in the middle of what should have been an epic fight scene and fantasizes about her rhinestoned t-shirt that says GIRLS DON'T FIGHT, THEY FLAUNT, wondering if it's still in her closet as the mayhem goes down around her. Again, not making this stuff up. It's in the book. I've never read about a more passive heroine in an action-adventure series who was the main character. It's like if you took Bella Swan (hey, Tella, Bella), and slapped her in the middle of Hunger Games but also rendered her immortal so her stupidity wouldn't cause her to die the way it would in the real world. Tella is a girl who, when she finds herself stripped after being knocked unconscious, wonders what her assailant thought about her mismatched underwear. When she gets molested by her would-be rapist, she thinks the best course of action is to give him what he wants, not make him angry, and endear herself to his men. She thinks kissing can be a weapon. She pines away for her real love interest, hoping he will come and save her.
And yes, while it is nice to have a strong man who will watch out for you, he shouldn't be your first line of defense. Rapists and assailants tend to wait to strike when you're alone; and while no one should ever be blamed for their assault, because they are the victim, and I don't believe in victim-blaming, women should know how to defend themselves, as a general rule.
But unfortunately, this is a rule that Tella does not subscribe to.
Also, there's insta-love.
My body aches for him in a way I've never known. I feel like an animal, all muscle and hormones and lust (186).
The world-building is haphazard at best. Their world is kind of like our world and yet different enough that I feel like some explanation for the transitions are necessary. DELIRIUM is about as vague as I can tolerate with regards to world-building and FIRE & FLOOD definitely crossed that line. For example, the MC mentions Nordstroms and Disney, so I know that their world is our world. And yet, apparently animals can come from eggs and the government has these super sekrit games that they make people play--and yet they don't broadcast it on live TV so if it's not for entertainment and fear, then what is it for? Nobody ever says. Because THEY DON'T KNOW. (Clever. Not.)
FIRE & FLOOD was an attempt at taking several popular gimmicks and combining them in a patchwork opus. It didn't work. The beginning is awful, and while it gets better a little in the middle, the storyline quickly takes a turn for the worse when the two (I hesitate to call them love interests) men make their interest in Tella known. I suppose the one saving grace of this storyline is Madox, Tella's fox Pandora. He was freaking adorable. Too bad he wasn't the MC.
Take the protagonist from THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHTTIME, age him 30 years, and then put him smack-dab in the middle of When Harry Met Sally.
You'll get a pretty close approximation of THE ROSIE PROJECT.
Some of you were laughing at me because I had to read this for book club, except I'd put it off until the last minute and was flailing around on Goodreads being all, "But I need to finish, guys!" But as usual, life wasn't working out in my favor. Netflix decided to add season two of Robot Chicken (finally!), and I got to the next episode of Candy Crush Saga. Freaking lame.
But I finished the book - and several others, too. (When I'm not distracted, I can read pretty fast.) And I even took a while page full of notes after coming home from book club because if you get a table-full of fifteen women together in an ambient restaurant there's a lot of talking going on and it's kind of hard to focus on your own ideas because holy shit, verbal alphabet soup. And THE ROSIE PROJECT is actually pretty complicated for a book that could easily be classified as chicklit. It's like an onion, as Shrek might say; it has layers.
Don is a 39-year-old Australian professor with undiagnosed Asperger's syndrome. He studies genetics and all he knows about his condition is that he has major social skills issues, especially with the opposite sex. In fact, he's on his way to being the next 40-Year-Old Virgin. However, he knows his case isn't totally hopeless because the nice little old lady next door told him he'd make a kick-ass husband one day, if only he can land the right woman. Enter "The Wife Project." Don, being a scientific kind of guy, decides that the best way to go about meeting his ideal match is via a questionnaire (because nobody in the history of online dating has ever lied on a dating survey, right? *cricket chirp*).
His work in genetics brings him into the acquaintance of Rosie, who is looking for her real father. She has it narrowed down to three possible candidates, each more dysfunctional than the last. Rosie is pretty much a case study of what Don isn't looking for in a woman: she's loud and touchy-feely, she smokes and drinks, she's a vegetarian, she has bright red hair that comes out of a bottle, she's crude, and she dresses like a punked-out goth. And yet, Don finds that he enjoys being around her, which just isn't logical, dammit, because by all rights, she's someone who ought to grate his nerves.
Side characters include various dates-gone-wrong, like Olivia of the bright dress and bad manners. (At the book club, one of the members was going off on the rainbow dress and how in the narrative she was described as looking like a parrot. I happened to be wearing a rainbow dress and I was like, "Hey, what've you got against rainbow dresses?" LOL) There's also the husband and wife duo, Gene and Claudia. They have an open marriage, apparently, and Gene, a skeazebag of a human sexuality professor, has made it his life's ambition to sleep with a woman of every ethnicity for "research."
I think Gene was probably my least favorite character in the book, possibly because I'd just read BLINDFOLDED INNOCENCE by Alessandra Torre, a book (also about a womanizing "professional") where the male love interest casually reveals that he's slept with 180 women. The difference between these two books, and part of the reason ROSIE gets three stars while BLINDFOLDED gets a glaring zero, is because Gene's behavior isn't sexy in this book. It's crude and debasing, and gets treated as such - and he ends up getting his comeuppance, too.
I also found it a little weird that Rosie thought that people with Asperger's couldn't feel love. It made me do a double take, because, um, really? People with Asperger's have emotions, they just aren't very verbal and have trouble with body language and unspoken social norms. People who don't have emotions are sociopaths, and imminently more troubling. I suspect this is what pissed off so many readers and led them to claim that THE ROSIE PROJECT was being insensitive towards people with a bona fide psychological condition, and on that note I agree. The philosophical dilemma in the beginning, involving the crying baby and a gun, may have also offended a lot of people. It had me in stitches, especially when the children began climbing on the desks and chanting, "Shoot the baby!"
The subplot where Rosie and Don are trying to figure out her father is also very confusing and contrived. If you can't figure out what happened, know you're not alone. I thought her father was someone totally different than who he actually was because the writing was so vague. It totally reminded me of Mamma Mia, except with a lot of genetics research thrown in. Weird.
The cutest part, though? Easily their date in New York. Or when Don was trying to practice sex positions with one of those model skeletons in his lab. Tee hee. Awkward! Overall, I enjoyed this book. I'm not crazy about it, and sometimes it dragged or was even boring, but it really has a cute message to send about how love can come when you least expect it, and that acceptance is a key role in finding your ideal partner. Ironically, Don is the one who must learn acceptance.
Okay, if you are interested in reading this book, do not read the spoilerific Goodreads summary. Honestly, it amazes me how spoiler-laden some of these summaries are. Why not give away the ending, too? I mean, God.
COMPLICIT is the story of a brother and sister living with foster parents. The sister has been in jail for a crime she committed years ago and is just now being released. They have a dark and convoluted past worthy of any Gillian Flynn or Tana French novel, and James, the main character, is afraid that his crazy sister Cate is going to fuck up his life in revenge.
And she is, pretty much, only not the way he thinks.
COMPLICIT kept me turning the pages but it didn't really blow me away the way it did everyone else who read it. By about 3/4 of the way through, I suspected I knew what happened and I was disappointingly correct. But then, I was a psychology major and I've read a lot of psychological thrillers, so it's hard to impress me anymore.
For people who aren't psychology majors, or who don't hold Gillian Flynn up as the golden standard for all psychological thrillers to follow, this book will probably be a total mindfuck. It definitely stands out among all the NA romances and caste-based dystopian novels.
Also, an additional bonus (for me) is that this book is set in Danville, where I've been several times. I kept going OMG I KNOW THAT PLACE! OMG I KNOW THAT PLACE! And that was fun. :)
Richard Stokes is the founder and CEO of Adgooroo, a search advertiser. THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO PAY-PER-CLICK ADVERTISING is a how-to guide for internet entrepreneurs looking to make a killing with online marketing.
I was a little surprised to see a book like this on Netgalley. At first I thought it was going to be a book about improving the quality of one's blog and getting more hits. I wasn't expecting something so technical and to be honest, I'm not quite sure how many people on NG would possibly fit in the target demographic for this book.
I did get some helpful tips out of PAY-PER-CLICK but unless you're planning a start-up, this probably won't be the right book for many people on this site. :)
When I picked this up from the used bookstore, I was pretty sure I'd read this book before. I couldn't remember anything about it except for the cover, and the title, of course. The title is probably the most memorable thing about this book. Because after reading BIG MOUTH AND UGLY GIRL I came to the conclusion that, yes, I had read this book before. But the reason I didn't remember it was because there is nothing to really make BIG MOUTH AND UGLY GIRL stand out.
It has an interesting premise. Matt Donaghy, "Big Mouth" gets taken into custody by the police for a "bomb threat." He was joking around with his friends and someone took something he said out of context and reported him to the principal. His friends know he's innocent but won't vouch for him out of fear. His principal has a pretty good idea he's innocent, but would rather cut one student loose than put them all in danger.
Ironically, the one person who actually ends up vouching for Matt, and setting him free, is Ursula Riggs, or "Ugly Girl." Ursula has depression, or what she calls Fiery Reds or Inky Blacks, and cripplingly low self esteem. She also tends to refer to herself in the third person. Recently she quit the basketball team because they lost the game and she feels like her teammates and coach were blaming her, as captain. She has a beautiful, petite mother and younger sister and her father is a powerful businessman who's always away on business. Ursula only relies on Ursula.
When Matt is free, he feels euphoric from his near escape. But then reality sinks in and he starts to notice that everyone is treating him differently. The girl he was dating avoids him. His friends always have other plans. Even his teachers no longer seem to regard him with the same esteem. His grades plummet, he leaves his extracurriculars, and he starts to think about killing himself, especially when his parents decide to sue the school for $50 million, thus alienating him from his peers further.
In one of my earlier status updates, I said that I felt like the book was trying too hard and I stand by that. Matt and Ursula have moments when they're relatable but I kept thinking they're more like caricatures of teenagers than actual teenagers. I think I probably enjoyed this a lot more when I read this the first time, because I was a little younger than the characters in the book (about 13 y.o., IIRC), and also feeling alienated by my peers, and powerless in the face of that loneliness and isolation.
On the other hand, it's very readable, and I finished the book because I wanted to see who really ratted Matt out to the principal and, later, who does the horrible pranks to him. I think teenagers will enjoy this. The title will hook them, and the premise will keep them. But sadly, it wasn't for me.
I know what you're thinking. There's no relation, trust me.
First off, let me say how awesome it is when the books I win come with bookmarks. I love book swag as much as the next girl, but if the swag doesn't come with a bookmark something's missing. THE GODDAUGHTER'S REVENGE came with a nice, sturdy bookmark that showed books #1 and #2 in the series, so yay.
(By the way, I received this in a Goodreads giveaway. W00t.)
THE GODDAUGHTER'S REVENGE is about Gina Gallo, who runs a jewelry store. When she goes on vacay with her BF, she leaves the store to be run by her cousin, Carmine, who turns out to be a thief...he's swapped the gemstones in several of the rings in the shops for fakes, and now they've all gone back to their real owners. If word gets out, Gina will be ruined, so she's got to think of a way to get them back. Naturally, being the daughter of a Crime King, her first thought is a little bit of B&E.
Unfortunately, she brings her cousin Nico with her, and when they do the break-ins, he rearranges the furniture in the houses they break into, causing the papers to call him the Lone Rearranger. Which totally blows the subtlety of the act. Also, people keep managing to be home when they break in, and when Gina and Nico happen upon them they're usually doing something immoral or illegal.
If you're expecting something from the Mario Puzo school of crime, think again. On the other hand, this book wasn't nearly as bad as MAFIA GIRL, either. GODDAUGHTER'S REVENGE is kind of like a watered down Janet Evanovich novel without any of the funny ex-prostitute hijinks, crazy old grandmother, exploding car, or flaming sexy tiems. It's light, derivative, but fun.
And you know what else? The writing wasn't too bad.
My first thought upon finding this was, "Oh my God, is this a thing?" My second thought upon finding this was, "SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!" My third thought upon finding this was, "Oh shit, another awesome book I wouldn't have discovered if not for Goodreads & don't have a snowball's chance of getting."
Except I did find a copy, for a mere fifty-cents, too, at my library's monthly book sale. I snapped up that puppy just as someone else was reaching towards it ("MINE!" I say, "MINE!!!!!!") and took it home, whereupon it fell behind my bed along with the million or so ARCs I've received in the mail from authors wanting me to review their books, and I forgot about it until I started cleaning and was like, "OH MY GOD!!! SHINY BOOK!"
So here we are.
THE BIG BENTO BOX OF UNUSELESS JAPANESE INVENTIONS lives up to its name. In this book, we learn about the art of "chindogu." To qualify as chindogu, an item must have been made with the intent to solve a problem--and fail miserably, and in a comical way. Like little mop booties for your cat so it cleans the floor as it walks. Or a full-body umbrella. Or a tie that has built-in pockets for scissors, credit cards, calculator, pens, etc. Or a no-hands table tennis paddle you wear around your face. Chindogu cannot be made with the intent of comedy (so 99.9% of the kluges on "There I Fixed It" are out). No, they are SRS BUSINESS.
Chindogu is apparently Japanese for "crap I bought on infomercials while watching daytime TV."
Okay, so here's the thing. A lot of people think I hate erotica. I don't. I just hate badly written erotica. And I don't care how popular it is, or how big of a following it has, if I think the erotica book I've read is shite, I'm going to tell everyone I think it's shite.
So why keep reading it?
I'll give you a hint: it's not because I'm a Meanie McMeaniepants who gets off on making other authors feel bad. It's because sometimes, you find yourself pleasantly surprised.
Sometimes, you find a book like TELLING TALES that makes you think, Hey, maybe there is something to this erotica thing.
I applied for TELLING TALES on a whim because I liked the cover and because it was published by Sourcebooks, and I've had great luck with their stuff in the past. (Amazing regency novels, for a start.) I'd never read anything by Charlotte Stein before, but I knew she wrote erotica, and since I've been on a bad erotica binge, I figured, Why not? At the very least, it'll merit a funny review.
But you know something? I actually really enjoyed TELLING TALES.
TELLING TALES is about four people--Allie, Wade, Kitty, and Cameron--who made up a college writing group they jokingly called the Candy Club, where they read aloud stories for critique. When their professor dies, he leaves them his house in a will, on the condition that they stay there, together, for a month. Obviously, the lawyers negotiating this think this is crazy, and would never hold up, but the four of them decide to go through with it for a lark anyway, and that's when things get cray.
Allie, the main character, is now a blogger for a knitting magazine, although she's never stopped writing. She is also perpetually horny and this shows in her incredibly racy science-fiction porn. It turns out that her three friends also never stopped writing, and when they do their readings again, the stories that they read to one another are...well, erotic. And lead to a lot of masturbation.
And...well, other activities.
Allie has always been attracted to Wade, but she's starting to notice Cameron now instead because Wade's, well. Kind of a jerk. She realizes that when she sees him fucking Kitty with the door wide open and beckons her to join the festivities. But Cameron is a placid lake that's churning beneath the surface. Churning with horniness, that is, she realizes, when she catches him jerking off to her story.
Let's be honest, okay? About 80% of this story is sex, or related to sex. When they're not reading their sexy stories, they're making sexual innuendo, masturbating, or having sex. TELLING TALES has M/M, M/M/M, F/F, M/F/F, and M/F/F/M. That's right, in this book a foursome happens...twice.
There is also masturbation, usage of dildos, anal sex, anal play, BDSM, humiliation, and more.
I think the last erotica novel I read that I enjoyed so much was BEYOND EDEN by Kele Moon, and TELLING TALES has a lot of parallels to BEYOND. They're both menage, they both have some LGBTQIA themes, both have friends-to-lovers storylines, and are both rather dark and angsty and talk about dealing with your inner-demons through copious (and taboo) sex.
Both stories also have really great characters, witty dialogue, and awesome storylines.
Because plot matters in erotica. And so does dialogue. I know some people can dissociate from the story and just focus on the sex, but I can't. Background is everything. And one of the things I loved about TELLING TALES is that the main character and all three of her friends are writers. They talk about writing, and reference works of literature that I've actually read. The main character wears glasses and is a little on the heavy side and basically a total science-fiction nerd. I love that.
I loved how Charlotte Stein was able to write a decent beta-hero and make him sexually appealing.
I loved how when the characters had sex, they used condoms. And if they had just finished having sex with one person, they used a different condom to have sex with the next person. And if they were about to switch from anal to vaginal sex and vice-versa, they used a different condom. Safe sex is seriously underrated in fiction these days, and I can't even begin to tell you how happy I was to see that in this book. I've been known to dock a star if characters don't use condoms because boo.
Here are some quotes I liked:
[S]he's beaming like I just won the Nobel Prize for literature, over a story that would probably get me stoned in at least ten countries, then critically reviled in about seven hundred others (113).
He did say that thing about preferring giving over receiving--probably because he's a god sent from the heavens to stun us mortal women into submission... (128)
"If we're going to kiss, I want to be able to see it's you" (130).
I think she's made out of pure bonkbuster. It's like Jackie Collins wrote her. It's like Jackie Collins wrote her as the person I want to marry most, in all the world. I'm sniggering without even meaning to, for God's sake (161).
It's so nice to read an erotica novel that I actually liked for once. :)
THE DARKEST JOY is basically a mash-up of TEN TINY BREATHS, VIRTUOSITY, and THE EDGE OF NEVER.
Brooke Elizabeth Starr (gag) is a piano prodigy who is driving while talking on a cell phone to her mother. Because of this, she is able to hear everything when her entire family is murdered.
Heartbroken, Brooke decides to flee to Alaska--because why not?--to find herself.
You wouldn't think it's bright in Alaska. You'd imagine igloos everywhere and polar bears running free underneath a pewter sky that's pregnant with snow (42).
There are a lot of really boring descriptions about how ghetto her new home is. Brooke is depressed. Moving to Alaska didn't fix all her problems at all. Never mind the fact that all the local guys immediately want to bone her on sight, and she immediately gets an "in" to the cool kids' group.
Brooke decides to take a page out of Bella Swan's book for manhunting, and drown herself in the ocean. But a passing fisherman, who also happens to be hot and heavily tatted, sees her dumbassery and rescues her. He thinks this is an insta connection because apparently in the NAverse, CPR doubles as making out, and transferring body heat to a hypothermic person is akin to spooning.
She regains consciousness, and her rescuer--Chance--makes her promise that she won't try to kill herself again. He doesn't take her to the hospital. He doesn't call the cops. He lets her go on her merry way on her own, and then reminisces about how hot and beautiful and sad-looking she is.
God, her eyes are some kind of purple, lashes like black lace setting them off like jewels of tanzanite.
I stuff my hands into my pockets to keep them off her.
Then, suddenly, all I want is to feel my lips on hers again (89).
That's right. Our Special Alaskan Snowflake has purple eyes and looks like Elizabeth Taylor.
Chance later walks into her house when he sees the door open on the pretense of checking up on her, goes through her belongings, and then watches her play the piano in creepy silence before announcing himself. This immediately results in a make-out sesh, followed by her letting him sleep overnight in her bed. He is her boss, by the way, but it's okay--he fires her so they can fuck.
"He fired me."
"God, that's hot. He wants you so bad he fires you. I can go with that" (233).
Chance makes a joke about plying her with alcohol so he can take advantage. Brooke finds this hilarious and basically does the equivalent of pinching his cheek and going, Oh, you.
Let me do a PSA here for a moment, okay? Date rape is not a fucking joke.
When you joke about date rape, you trivialize it and add to the already sizable burden that date rape victims have to deal with when reporting their attackers. Portraying date rape as flirtation makes it that much more difficult for date rape victims, because rape victims sadly have a hard time getting people to take them seriously without some asshole saying that they did something to deserve it.
For further reading on this subject, I recommend RAPE IS RAPE by Jody Raphael. I received an ARC of this book from Netgalley a few years ago, and it really opened up my eyes to all the crap rape victims have to deal with on a daily basis.
Chance watches Brooke sleep, and then goes through her phone. This is how he discovers that she is the same Brooke whose entire family is murdered--looking at her correspondence with the cop handling her case. (His name is Agent Clearwater, and there's this really fucking stupid running joke about how no one can get his name or his ethnicity (Native American) right. Ha fucking ha. Racism is almost as funny as date rape....not.)
The other young men in this story have some truly disgusting things to say about Brooke once they find out that she's dating (and presumably sleeping with) Chance.
"[You s]hould've told us you were doing Taylor. We wouldn't have asked you out..." He says it like it's obvious.
It's not. Brooke pulls away, turning her own accusation on me, misunderstanding the universe. A female talent, that (188).
"Brooke, let your sperm donor fight for you...if he's man enough" (292).
It's okay, though. Chase punches the guys in the face. Because violence is always the answer.
After they fuck the first time, her magical vagina casts a spell that makes him want to marry her.
The violet eyes, my last name. It's not until we're at the top [of the stairs] that I realize she really could be Elizabeth Taylor.
If she were my wife (266).
Chase is a total playboy who uses women the way other people use disposable Kleenex. He goes through a lot of effort, though, to create Brooke vs. Them mentality showing how She Is Different From Other Women, and Therefore Doesn't Deserve the Shitty Treatment Most Women Deserve.
Her blond hair is styled in that overly coiffed way that I think looks like ass, affected. My eyes move to Brooke; her softly waved hair has an untrained and natural look (252).
Plot boners aside, there is some truly awkward and painful writing here, even for SPA standards.
I'm mesmerized like inert organic material (58).
To me he is so handsome it's like beautiful visual pain (218).
My eyebrows drop over eyes gone half-mast with bedroom thoughts, or anywhere she is up to (241).
I liked the idea of a NA with a murder plot, and the Alaskan setting was novel, but I just couldn't get on board with a book that:
(a) Was so clearly not edited.
(b) Featured such a bland and uninspired narrator.
(c) Contained such blatant and unapologetic instalove that it could have been Twilight fanfiction.
(d) Had such casual racism!
"I scowl, thinking about the piano-playing puppet I've become to the family.
I guess it's better than being that Asian kid who could speak four languages by the age of five. But not by much (13).
(e) HAS DUMBASS CHARACTERS WHO DON'T USE A FREAKING CONDOM.
There is nothing original or interesting about this book. It's just more of the same.
So I'm going to rate it the way I have all of its other uninspired predecessors.
P.S. Just in case I wasn't clear: DATE RAPE IS NOT A JOKE.
P.P.S. I read this book cover to cover. It still sucked. The ending redeemed nothing. In fact, it even made me more infuriated that the author thought she could solve serious psychological problems with an HEA. Love is not the panacea of mental illnesses.This is offensive to actual sufferers of suicidal ideation and depression, to trivialize a bona fide illness as something that can be cured by a good fuck. (less)
Mingyu ("bright jade") resides in the Lotus Palace as a highly sought-after courtesan. When her most ardent suitor is murdered, she is one of many suspects. Enter Kaifeng, a low-ranking constable who gets the fun job of doing the dirty work on the beat.
As if that wasn't bad enough, Mingyu is also being pursued by a really creepy creepazoid named Xi, another detective--a powerful one who has the emperor's ear--who is obsessed with Mingyu.
Perhaps psychotically so.
I really liked the idea of this story. It's great to see historical fiction that doesn't take place in a western setting. Mingyu's position is not enviable, and it really shows the downside of being beautiful and desired in an age when women are pretty much powerless.
And Kaifeng. I loved Kaifeng because I have a thing for alpha heroes. He was hot. And those sex scenes? Hot.
So why two stars?
The pacing of the story was a little slow. I spent a good portion of the book feeling bored. It dragged. For me, anyway. A lot of people like this book, so I seem to be in the minority on this one.
I like the way Ms. Lin writes, though, and I'm still really interested in her TANG DYNASTY series.
This is a memoir of a woman in the porn industry. I did not know this when I applied for the book, since I was looking mostly at the pretty Asian lady on the cover done in water colors. But as I was reading the book, it quickly (i.e. immediately) became apparent that I had gotten into more than I'd initially bargained for.
Asa Akira is probably the most famous Asian porn star ever, and she's also apparently well known for doing anal scenes. I wouldn't know, I've never watched any porn (I haven't!), but I did Google her and...um, yeah, interestiiiiing pictures. NSFW. Eep.
Porn is a tricky thing. A lot of people talk shit about porn actresses and actors, and how scuzzy they are, which is ironic considering that porn is probably the #1 thing people use the internet for on average. There are a lot of consumers of pornography, and yet the suppliers of it are not respected.
In INSATIABLE, Akira talks about her work in porn, how she got there, her brief flirtation with prostitution, her delinquent childhood with shoplifting that even resulted in jail, and drug addiction. Akira has no shame about any of this and talks with a candid forthrightness that I'm sure many people will find off-putting. For example, during one of her shoots, she gets chlamydia. She also dates a man who turns out to be gay, so there's a lot of talk about strapons. At one point, she gets an abortion and there's a description of this, too. She talks about double-anal-penetration, blowbangs (giving eleven men blowjobs at once!!!! AHHHHH!!!), the trouble with dating while doing porno, scat, fetishism, cystic acne treatments, and so much more. TMI Tuesday? How about TMI 24/7.
Even though there were things in this book that upset me, or even offended me, I really respect Akira for writing this book. It's interesting to learn about the lives of people who have esoteric jobs like pornography. Especially since so many of these NA books flirt with it, and make it sound like something one is forced into after being abused by their step-dad or whatever. Akira came from a loving home, and her traditional parents had a hard time coming to terms with their daughter going into The Business, but they learned to deal with it because it made her happy.
I think that's one of the things I found so fascinating about this book. In an age where virgin heroines are put on pedestals and slut-shaming runs rampant, Akira loves sex, and has no shame talking about sex or doing it, in public, in private, whatever. She uses her sexuality to get out of traffic tickets (driving around without a license, she keeps her videos on the passenger seat), she's knows she looks good, and she's adventurous and always willing to try something new or different. It's empowering; because, hey--why not? Why should a woman enjoying sex be a bad thing? Or a shameful thing?
I don't like pornography, and I would never pursue this life for myself, but I think it's really interesting that Akira does. Good for her.
Edit//04/06/14: Okay, so I asked one of my friends who used to practice law and here is what she says.
Regarding the sleeping-with-the-clients: "If you were already in a relationship with someone and then they asked you to represent them, that's okay. But you can't just begin having sex with a client who came to you." (Paraphrasing American Bar Association Rule 1.8 Conflict of Interest (J))
This is the worst book I have read this year.
BLINDFOLDED INNOCENCE has it all. Slut-shaming, racism, male douchery, infidelity, sexism, misogyny, purity myth, bad writing, pure stupidity, and so much more. It's basically another case of Fifty Shades of Copyright Infringement, and to be honest, I wouldn't be surprised if this originally started out as TWILIGHT fanfiction that was P2P as well, because...yeah. It's as insipid as it is unoriginal, and I've got a tic over my eye from all the RAGE that reading this inspired in me. Because oh man, is it offensive.
Let's start with the main character, Julia.
I am a twenty-one-year-old college student who has had a total of two partners. In college terms, I'm practically a saint! (29)
She's had sex, but the author does everything she can to distance Julia from them. Them being other women. Slutty women. Women who (gasp!) enjoy sex without the help and guidance of a man to teach them.
"If I slept with every guy I made out with, can you imagine my reputation? Not to mention I'd be pregnant with six kids!" (33)
Only if you're too stupid to use a condom (which she is--more on that later).
Also, pregnant with six kids? What kinds of hormonal supplements are you taking, Julia?
But the single-mother-shaming doesn't stop there! No.
I could see why divorcing wives would throw apart their legs and beg him for more than lawyerly duties (56).
Julia is a piece of work. Why? Because she is the embodiment of everything that she claims to hate. She dresses like a stripper, wearing flashy stiletto heels and short skirts to a law firm. She wears leopard print and cork heels. She sunbathes topless in public pools at hotels. At one point, she gets drunk and starts doing body shots off a stripper (i.e. licking off salt and lime and liquor from another woman's tits) while a bunch of horny men watch. Because lesbians only do it for the men obviously.
You would think that this would make Julia a little more sympathetic to other women. Nope!
"I am not one of your strippers you can order around!" (60)
"Don't you think that you risk too much for something you can get from all of the sluts lying around waiting for you to fuck them?" (134)
"Beautiful women fill the casinos."
"You mean prostitutes?" (143)
"Welcome to my world of slutdom" (217)
"Then obviously YOU are the type of woman he's been dating--women who are okay with him sticking his dick everywhere he wants to" (225).
^Julia says this to her so-called best friend Olivia. Charming, right?
You know how Julia manages to stay so chaste? She leads men on, makes them believe that they're about to have sex, and then walks away before anything can happen. Then she doesn't take their calls. She does this because she likes the thrill of seeing them squirm and suffer from unfulfilled arousal.
When she's butthurt about something Brad does, she seduces one of her fellow interns and does the same thing to him. She's a bitch on wheels. If that's purity, fuck it. I'd rather be a slut than a bitch.
Brad is even worse, if that's possible. He sleeps around with everything that has a vagina. He cheats on girlfriends. He sleeps with interns, clients, and even slept with one of his colleagues' wives--while he was still married! And you know what the biggest irony is? He's a fucking divorce lawyer.
He's also a total womanizing asshole who has slept with almost 200 women.
I'm not exaggerating. Julia asks him how many women he's slept with and he says,
"If I had to guess, probably in the hundred-fifty-to-hundred-eighty range" (139).
He's also a wannabe rapist.
"That girl rode up that elevator to my room not knowing anything about me and was ready to have sex with whoever opened the door. There's no worse turnoff than that. Now, you, who are fighting me supposedly tooth and nail, that is a big turn-on for me" (145).
"Has anyone ever sued you for sexual harassment?"
"That would assume that harassment had occurred. I assure you, I don't make advances unless the women are clearly receptive."
"Do I seem clearly receptive?"
"I figure you're a work in progress" (85).
Right. No doesn't mean "no." It just means you're "a work in progress."
Excuse me while I grab some mace.
Julia is told that she should stay away from him by several people but that never works.
As a rumored horndog, he should have smiled, flirted or asked me out--even if I had planned on saying no (52).
I could just as easily imagine him ripping someone's head off as dipping me backwards into a kiss (56).
He has absolutely zero respect for women, and one hell of a Madonna/whore complex.
"I date bad girls--you are wholesome and innocent. You will make a great wife for a tax accountant one day" (155).
We find out later that Brad is interested in orgies, menages, threesomes, etc. Basically, his ultimate fetish is having multiple partners. But only on his own terms. For example, when he takes Julia to a strip club, he ditches her to go have sex with one of the strippers, while having another one distract her so she won't notice. But when men are interested in Julia, he threatens them/chases them off, even though he's made it explicitly clear he isn't interested in monogamy. Double-standards much?
"I also don't think humans are engineered to be monogamous. It's against our basic instinct to be tied to one person for the rest of our lives" (266)
"I believe, for a couple to value their partner and learn their sexual needs, they need to occasionally sample sex with other people" (266)
I know a lot of the people on my friends list are drooling over this guy. Why?
He's such an asshole.
Julia doesn't want to have any part of this. She makes this explicitly clear, but Brad forces her into it through emotional blackmail. He says menages are for the benefit of women, but honestly, how many women do you see clamoring for threesomes? It's usually the men. And sure enough, Brad says,
"I can't wait to see someone else inside you, how you react when they fuck you" (276).
Just for women's pleasure. Riiiiiight.
One thing that really pissed me off about this book (well, okay, there were a lot of things, but this was one of the biggies) that I alluded to earlier was the fact that despite knowing that he's slept with almost 200 women, Julia allows him to fuck her without a condom. There is no concern about STDs or pregnancy and at no point afterwards does Julia get tested. She does at one point say, "I can't believe I had sex with you without a condom!" or something like that, but it's less like, "OH MY GOD I MIGHT HAVE AIDS/HERPES/CHLAMYDIA/GONORRHEA/SYPHILIS/A BABY" and more like, "I TRUSTED YOU AND YOU BETRAYED ME! I HAS A SAD!"
What. The. Fuck.
Of course, the book ends with Julia giving in to Brad and having a threesome. Because what you want in a relationship doesn't matter. It's all about giving into the hot, sexy man. Because the only thing that matters is what he wants.
This was an awful book. I hated Julia's character. I hated Brad's character. I hated how all the minorities in this book--whether gay or Asian--were walking stereotypes. I hated that cheating is fetishized in this book. I hated how the law firm IS NOTHING LIKE AN ACTUAL LAW FIRM (they have fucking house parties in the building. With dance music. And alcohol). I hated how lesbianism is trivialized and turned into something that women do for the benefit of men. I hated that Brad slept with almost 200 women and we're supposed to find this sexy. I hated the born-again purity myth, and the implication that if you aren't a virgin you're supposed to slut-shame and debase other women to make yourself seem more virginal by comparison. I hated how they didn't use a condom, and how STDs and pregnancies weren't even mentioned in a book that's all about cheating. I hated how women were portrayed in this book. I hated how men were portrayed in this book. I hated how Brad's behavior is depicted as some sort of paragon of manliness. I hated how preachy this book was. I hated the slimy feeling reading it gave me. I hated knowing that some women out there are reading this and thinking this is sexy, because this is the standard of sexiness that has been set by society.
But most of all: I hate being a woman in a culture that hates women, and devalues confidence, fidelity, intelligence, sexual knowledge, and female friendship in women.
This is the worst book I have read this year, and might just be the worst book ever.
P.S. I read every page, from cover to cover. It still sucked. (less)
This is the second LRJ book I've read. The first was HIS SECRETS, which was awful. (You can read my scathing review of it here.) My disclaimer for the first review holds true here: I haven't read any other books in the series, and I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.
I actually liked REBECCA'S LOST JOURNALS. For a while, I thought I might even give this book three stars. Nope.
Rebecca is this mysterious enigma in the regular books, who writes these naughty journals of debauchery that lead Sara (the protag in the regular books) to seek out Rebecca's friends and lovers and workplace. NOT CREEPY AT ALL. In this book, we--by which I mean you--finally get to realize what she's all about.
Not much, apparently.
As far as erotica heroines go, Rebecca is pretty standard stock. She doesn't know she's beautiful. At one point, ten fucking men are fighting over her. Even though she's not a virgin (which I liked), men are always saying "you're the first who did this..." or, "you're so innocent," doing what I call the "born-again-purity-myth": that is, if you're not a virgin, it's important to go out of your way to emphasize your less debauched qualities so men will still think you're pure.
REBECCA'S LOST JOURNALS is basically another FSoG clone, except with M/M/F menage. Her unnamed Master invites another man, Master Two, to share in the proceedings, and the three of them have sexy tiems. Master One is also an exhibitionist and takes her to his enchanted sex cabin in a BDSM club, and opens all the windows so people can watch them like live porn. No joke.
Like FSoG, Rebecca and Master argue incessantly over the terms of the contract. Bex is a little less Jane Doe about the whole thing, which was nice, but she quickly rolls over at the promise of more sex, because Master is soooo hott, she just can't refuse him--even though on one occasion, he doesn't even fucking listen to her safe word. What the actual fuck. Safe, sane, & consensual my ass.
It's supposed to be a mystery who Master One and Master Two are, but I could guess.
Also, there's a last section written from the POV of Mark Compton, which was basically what kept this from being a three. I almost gave this book a 1-star-rating, but then I took a step back and reminded myself that I'd actually enjoyed the first 75% of the book. LRJ sucks at writing from the male POV. It's like she thinks all men have to be complete and total assholes to be desirable. And while there is nothing wrong about writing about male assholes (literally or figuratively--I like me some M/M as much as the next gal), it is wrong to idealize assholes who don't listen to safewords, or think nothing of raping--I'm sorry, dub-conning--someone into compliance.
FOOL ME TWICE was a little slow to start but I stuck with the book because I liked the writing style, and boy, am I glad I did!
Olivia was almost murdered by a man named Bertram, so she decides to seek revenge on him by ruining him publicly and sentencing him to a life of disgrace. She knows that Bertram was having an affair with the wife of a man named Alastair de Grey, so she conspires to become his maid and infiltrate his household in order to look through his private papers for evidence.
Alastair was once the shining beacon of England, and the prime candidate for Prime Minister. But after the death of his adulterous wife, he fell into disgrace and vowed never to leave his rooms. When his new head maid barges in unannounced, he throws a bottle at her. He can't believe her nerve. The villain in him wants to destroy her. But the hopeful part of him wants to be saved by her.
I liked this book a lot. It reminded me of Lisa Kleypas's Gamblers series. It is hilarious and features a very spunky heroine, but there are also some parts of the book that are very dark. For example, Alastair sexually harasses and assaults Olivia, and even tries to rape her on two separate occasions. I know this will probably upset some people, which is why I am mentioning it here.
The writing is this book's saving grace; Duran is excellent at characterization. Olivia was a great heroine, but I never had to be told this--it showed through in the prose. The other women in the book were also interesting, and there wasn't any slut-shaming on the part of the female character. Alastair, on the other hand, did do some slut-shaming, but the author did such a great job portraying him as a broken, crazed, Byronic antihero that I didn't mind too much. It was obvious that these qualities weren't being idolized, so that made it easier to tolerate, although I don't believe in redemption.
Another thing I appreciated was that in the sex scenes, Duran actually used words like "cunt" and "cock" and "nipple". A lot of regency devolves into flowery euphemism during sex scenes, and I was really grateful that FOOL ME TWICE didn't. I don't think authors realize how ridiculous they sound when they have the love interest "lapping at her nectar" or "plunging into her folds."
I am deducting a star for the hero's rapiness (and for the fact that I didn't feel like the heroine responded appropriately to said rapiness, and how quickly she was able to forgive him--in spite of the fact that such men are almost never capable of being redeemed, and certainly not so quickly), and for the slow start. FOOL ME TWICE was longer than it needed to be; it could have been more succinct.
Liam Wilson is a compulsive liar. He lies the way other people try on hats--take liberties with the truth, and see how it colors reality. Even though he's a liar, he has a great life: he works at an esteemed publishing house, he has the girlfriend of his dreams, and then he's charged with leading an award winning author on par with David Foster Wallace to his various functions. But then the author dies, Liam is blamed, his girlfriend leaves him, and life sucks.
The title is meaningful in more ways than one, several of which are spoilers. But basically, it's a story about how lies can ruin your life, and how, given enough time, even the small ones can do major damage.
I thought MY BIGGEST LIE has a very dark and satirical view of the publishing world. One which, sadly, is often fraught with cruelties and more successful people trying to take advantage of less successful people. It also shows gender stereotypes and double-standards, and how full of bullshit they are. That's another thing I liked about this book, actually. Liam is a cheater, and he lies about it, and his life suffers because of it. None of that romance novelesque bullshit where women continue to throw themselves at a man who doesn't deserve it (although he gets an unfair amount of action).
There was also a surprising amount of LGBTQIA action in this book. Even the main character is bi-curious at one point. It's nice to see this growing acceptance and embracing of LGBTQIA culture seeping into mainstream fiction, ALTHOUGH it was a little annoying in the sense that it ties into the stereotype that bisexual people are unduly promiscuous.
A lonely man in L.A. stops for a smoke on a bench and meets an old man. In exchange for two cigarettes and a box of matches, the old man tells him a fascinating story--the story of the first murder in the world of angels, a story of love, death, and betrayal.
The story is about Raguel, the Lord's Vengeance, and how Lucifer approaches him one day about a murdered angel. Raguel's purpose pushes him to interrogate all the angels to find out what happened. Meanwhile, Lucifer walks in the darkness and contemplates the meaning of life and Creation, and whether the Lord's doings really are all Good if he can be so cruel in the name of Goodness...
I know Gaiman has a huge cult following, but he's been pretty hit and miss with me. I liked ANANSI BOYS, NEVERWHERE, and CORALINE, but AMERICAN GODS bored me, GRAVEYARD BOOK was only okay, and FRAGILE THINGS was eclectic in quality with some stories being good and others...not so good.
However, I really enjoyed MURDER MYSTERIES. Most stories I read about angels are pretty lame, but this one really carried a lot of theological weight and depth. I found the characters compelling, and while some of my friends seemed to see the murderer's motives from the beginning, I was surprised. Surprised, and saddened, because I thought it was a wonderful allegory for how sometimes the best things in life, such as love, become twisted and corrupted from ill intentions.
I must note that only about half of this book's length is actual story. The other half is an interview with the illustrator, replete with sketchbook, rough drafts, and other bonus material.
edit//04/02/14:BLACK BEAST IS NOW PUBLISHED PUBLISHED PUBLISHED PUBLISHED PUBLISHED PUBLISHED PUBLISHED! WEEEEE! CHECK OUT MY BLOG FOR DETAILS!!!!
edit...moreedit//04/02/14:BLACK BEAST IS NOW PUBLISHED PUBLISHED PUBLISHED PUBLISHED PUBLISHED PUBLISHED PUBLISHED! WEEEEE! CHECK OUT MY BLOG FOR DETAILS!!!!
edit//12/08/12: The AMAZING LOU made me another gorgey cover. Isn't it beautiful? It is so beautiful. I am not worthy!!!
After noticing that YA PNR and UF tends to follow the same template (*cough* Twilight *cough*), I kind of wanted to try my own hand at the genre. Which turned out to be a bad thing, as I ended up with this bloated behemoth of a book filled with ass-kicking, monsters, complicated magic, a made-up language based off Latin, Spanish, and WTFuckery, a magic-based cult that uses and abuses christian theology, and I don't know what.
Black Beast is the first in a series called The Shadow Thane, though he doesn't really show up until later (your pants will thank me, he's f**king scary). The main character is a girl named Catherine Pierce who lives in a typical nuclear family--except that her mother sometimes turns into a hawk, and her dad doubles as the family dog.
During adolescence, shape-shifters are supposed to "settle" into one form (kind of like the daemons from Phillip Pullman's Dark Materials trilogy) except that Catherine, for whatever reason, hasn't. The other shifter families are tight-knit so the Pierces have become somewhat alienated because of their daughter's abnormal development.
There are racial tensions between shape-shifters and witches, who are united only in their fear of Slayers, wariness of humans, and abject hatred of vampires. But the truce is a fine one, capable of being overturned at any moment. Which is exactly why Catherine is not exactly what one might call pleased when a manipulative, dangerous witch named Phineas Riordan barges into her life hurling wild accusations.
I'm pretty proud of this book. Catherine has a strong mind and isn't afraid to speak it. I really enjoyed researching the animals in this book and getting in their "minds" when Catherine transforms. As a child, Animorphs was one of my favorite series because of how realistic the animal scenes were. I want to recapture that same sort of "knowledge is power" vibe without sounding preachy or pedantic.