This is my first Megan Hart book and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised.
When Stella divorced her husband Jeff, CEO of an airline, the only thing she fought him for was to keep her free flights. Now, every other weekend, she dons sexy lingerie, takes her suitcase (named TARDIS), and has one-night stands with men in other cities. She likes sex, it makes her feel good, and helps her forget her problems. Most importantly, it reminds her that she's alive.
When she wears something pretty, even under her rattiest jeans or T-shirt, it reminds her that her body still works. She breathes, she laughs and sighs; she has orgasms.
She's alive (51).
It's unusual to read a romance novel about a sexually active heroine and Stella is an especially responsible one. She always uses protection, she doesn't let men treat her like shit, and she commands respect. That made for a really refreshing read.
One day, when she's at the airport for business instead of pleasure, she meets Matthew at the airport bar. He's also divorced, and also has a dark and troubled past. They hit it off and become lovers and, later, maybe something more. Unfortunately, his bitch ex-wife is still in the picture and is constantly demanding his attention, usually by using his two young girls against him. Bleh.
As if things weren't complicated enough already, Stella also has a sixteen-year-old son named Tristan who is intent on pushing her boundaries any way he can. And he has no qualms about pitting his two parents against each other in order to get what he wants. And now he's about to drive. EEEEEE.
FLYING is a really interesting romance. It's kind of how I would expect Lifetime movies to be like (I don't watch them). Lots of "you go, girl!" and "oh, snap!" moments, BFF girliez moments, and frequent nods to the stereotype that all men are cads. (Unfortunately, my romantic life has been shit enough to make me suspect that this is true. PROVE ME WRONG, MEN. PROVE ME WRONG.)
Towards the end, the drama started getting really over the top and I started cursing Matthew for being such a spineless weenie. I had an ex who was like that with his ex-girlfriend. There is really only so much understanding you can give before you turn into a doormat. On the other hand, FLYING is a great portrait of a less-than-perfect relationship. I loved the ups, the downs, the red hot sex scenes. It was nice to read a well-written romance that actually made me feel things.
And did I mention all the sex, and how hot it was?
I have two other Megan Hart books somewhere in my room and I look forward to reading them. The breezy prose and intense development of supremely flawed characters make FLYING a vastly entertaining, but emotionally wrenching, read. Time to launch into Tiffany Reisz!
Frederica: Lalalala ... I'm on a boat heading to the Colonies! Nothing could go wrong! Oh wait, that looks like a pirate ship! I'd better warn the first mate.
First mate: Shut up, you're a woman. Your expertise is limited to matching one shade of pink to another shade of pink, and sucking cocks. How would you know what a boat looks like? You wouldn't, that's how. Now shut up.
Frederica: *stomps foot* Curse you, you mansplaining dimwit! I'm telling you, I saw a pirate ship!
First mate: Well, I don't see anything. So I'm going to handcuff you as punishment!
This is my first Sandra Brown novel. A lot of the people on my flist swear by her, and since her newest book -- MEAN STREAK -- just came out, my update feed has been saturated by reviews and status updates singing her glorious praises. I don't know about that. When it comes to these established romance novelists, I'm far more interested in their backlists; I like seeing how an author develops and grows, and how her books change with the zeitgeist. For I am...
...the backlist bandit!
SLOW HEAT IN HEAVEN is a lozly and politically incorrect adventure that takes place in Heaven, Louisiana. Reading it reminded me of early V.C. Andrews novels (you know, the ones she wrote herself before she died and Andrew Neiderman took over with his dubious consent F/F rapefests). I think it's because of the atmosphere, the old money, and the rich people doing terrible things to one another...also, the dot-dot-dot love scenes. If you are looking for something really naughty, this book probably isn't for you. The sex scenes are far tamer than the smut you can download for free off Smashwords (medical erotica, anyone?), and the talk of "hair clumps" are better suited to cleaning out one's shower than they are to a sex scene between the H/h.
Schyler Crandall left Heaven when her bitchy adopted sister, Tricia, slept with her fiance. She hid in England with a guy named Mark who owns an art gallery and comes back only because her (adoptive) father winds up in the ICU because of a heart attack. The book isn't very clear on this, but Tricia and Schyler were not related. They are both orphans that the Crandalls adopted because Mrs. Crandall was barren. We never meet her -- she died of one of those mysterious wasting diseases that only rears its ugly head in romance novels. Ken Howell, Tricia's husband, comes from a similar state of filial wtfuckery -- his parents both died in a plane crash. #RichPeopleProblems
So Schyler is in Louisana and nobody is very happy that she's back, not even her father who seems to hate her for some reason. (Could this reason be the result of underhanded scheming from Tricia McBitchface? Maybeeeee.) Cash, the alpha male love interest, shows up and starts being an asshole and flirting in a way that would get you slapped with a sexual harassment suit and a restraining order. Cash's charms come from his Cajun French, his ten-inch peen, the fact that he's a medicine man with huge muscles, he lives in the bayou, and he has chest hair so thick you can curl your fingers in it.
I actually think body hair is hot, but I bet a lot of you just winced lol. ;)
Cash is such a dbag though that it is kind of impossible for me to like him. About 50 times throughout the novel, we're reminded -- through various characters -- that Cash will nail anything with a skirt, and has slept his way through half the women in town. He has no qualms about treating these women like shit because that's what keeps them crawling back into his bed for more. Likewise, he doesn't mind pitting women against one another for sport, and jealousy gives him the luls. It isn't really a surprise that he thinks "yes" means "no" and that all of his love scenes with Schyler have the bitter aftertaste of rape that is so typical of 1980s romances.
Here are some quotes from our Prince Charming of the Bayou:
"Be careful how you talk to me, mon cher," he said silkily. "When they get all riled up," he nodded toward the crowd, "I might be the only thing standing between you and gang rape" (76).
"I should have shot you when I had the chance."
He gave her a slow, lazy smile. "And I should have raped you when I had my chance" (187).
When he thinks the h is sleeping with someone else, he threatens to kill her. When she gets angry at him for his fuckery later on in the book, he asks her if she's having her period. Make no mistake, this is the kind of man who would blame you for your own rape (e.g. "you shouldn't have worn that skirt, you know what that does to me, you know how your body makes me lose control").
After Schyler gets attacked by a local pimp's (Jigger Flynn) pitbull, she wants to get him hauled in by the cops. That line above is from when Cash takes Schyler to a pitbull fight to show her what Jigger is really like. But our TSTL heroine decides to go to Jigger's house and shoot his dogs, because that's humanity for ya! She has the assumption that she and Jigs will talk over this incident like best buds, maybe on the veranda with ice-cold glasses of mint juleps -- and yes, she is that delusional.
Meanwhile, Schyler discovers that:
Her evil sister fired their old black maid, Veda, for being old. Veda's daughter, Gayla, had to drop out of college to support her mother and Jigger turned her into a prostitute. She's pretty enough that he has her live in with him, and refers to her affectionately as "that black bitch." The dead-parents theme continues here, too, as it turns out that her pops died in an oil refinery explosion.
Gayla's old boyfriend, Jimmy Don, is in prison, days for parole. He's good-looking, too, and there are two lovely rape-scenes just for him. One is a gang-rape scene. They do not go into much detail, thank God, but it's still disturbing as hell. Poor Jimmy shouldn't have dropped the soap...
Someone is embezzling funds from her family's logging company, and her beloved home, Belle Terre, has been put up for collateral that's about to be cashed in because she can't pay off her father's loans. Also, the people scheming to do this are not above killing Schyler and/or other people to make this happen.
The first half of the book is a lot better than the second half of the book. The first half was nice, slow build-up. The second-half was just one plot twist after another, rivaling one another in terms of ridiculous, only to be resolved -- in the parlor, of all places -- like some turn-of-the-century whodunnit. SLOW HEAT IN HEAVEN is a low-brow romance novel that falls under the so-bad-it's-good umbrella. The unique plot and shithead characters were entertaining enough that I was able to suspend my disbelief to the point of being able to enjoy the book.
I used to watch Rocky & Bullwinkle all the time when I was a kid. My dad would watch it with my siblings and me because he watched it when he was a kid, too, and that is the power of nostalgia; it makes you sit through shitty movie adaptions of your favorite childhood things, whether it's Looney Tunes, the Mario video games, or Rocky & Bullwinkle. I'm going to be honest here. I actually own VHS tapes of both Space Jam and the Super Mario Bros. movie. And I still watch them. I don't care if they're bad; they are my childhood, and they are so bad that it's adorable. The Rocky & Bullwinkle movie, on the other hand, is nigh unwatchable and I am very, very sorry that I dragged my parents to see it in cinemas with me when it came out. Very, very sorry.
Lately, I've noticed that graphic-novels are trying to get in on the nostalgia craze. In the past year I've seen everything from Sesame Street to Fraggle Rock to My Little Pony to Powerpuff Girls rear its head on Netgalley in graphic novel form. Really, it was only a matter of time until Rocky & Bullwinkle joined them. I'm sure there will be more to follow. Princess Gwenevere and the Jewel Riders, anyone? (If someone makes a graphic novel of this OR of Dragon Flyz and Rainbow Brite, I may have to marry them as a matter of principle. #JustSaying #DontAskJustDoIt)
I'm sorry to say that I found ROCKY & BULLWINKLE a disappointment. The writers tried to bring the comic book up to modern times (I think the original was from the 60s?) and it just didn't work. Part of the campiness of Rocky and Bullwinkle comes from the fact that they're so hopelessly dated. And hearing Bullwinkle Moose mention the Kardashians was just wrong. It's like hearing your parents talk about sex. It's so, so wrong and makes you want to run from the room and hide somewhere and/or call up your therapist and cry. Bullwinkle Moose should not know who the Kardashians are.
Interspersed with the R&B cartoons are Dudley Do-Right cartoons, and I found it really disturbing how Nell, Dudley's love interest, was in love with his horse. Um, what? Was that in the original TV show? If so, wow, it totally went over my head that pretty innocent naive red-headed Nell wanted to fuck a horse. That's not funny. That's just weird and disturbing. You could get hurt that way!
That was probably my biggest beef with the cartoons in this graphic-novel. I just didn't find them funny. They seemed hastily done. They weren't amusing. The devious plots of Boris and Natasha were not so devious. And to be perfectly honest (when am I not?) I'm really not sure who the intended audience of these books is. I mean, you have Nell and her horse obsession and Bullwinkle's Kardashian jokes, and then you have people getting hit on the head with falling hammers and cute little moon people who wouldn't look out of place on the 1950s Caspar TV show. Who is this for?
ROCKY & BULLWINKLE was a miss for me, although I'm always up for a stroll down good old-fashioned Nostalgia Boulevard.
Quirky fantasy is kind of my thing. Coraline, MirrorMask, Labyrinth--I love magical worlds that are totally unlike anything I've seen before, that made me think, that traverse the line between fear and fun. When I happened upon Clive Barker's work, it was like I'd finally found my perfect literary match in dark fantasy!
Candy Quackenbush is a young girl who lives in a place called Chickentown. It's rural U.S. at its finest, backwards, full of hicks, with nasty school teachers who throw the book at you figuratively and literally. She has an abusive father, everyone her own age thinks she's weird, and her town is totally uninteresting. #MLIA
Anyway, one day Candy walks off into the fields surrounding her town, chasing a vision (a bunch of squiggly lines). She finds herself at a lighthouse surrounded by fantastic wreckage, even though there's no ocean around for miles and miles and miles...
And that's where the fun starts.
Sometimes an author can transport you to another realm with their writing. That's what I experienced with Barker's Abarat. Everything was so cinematic in scope, I could almost picture it, just like a movie in my head. The series actually gets better as it goes along. DAYS OF MAGIC, NIGHTS OF WAR was absolutely fantastic. I accidentally read book #2 in this series first, so it is the one that is nearest and dearest to my heart, especially since I lucked out and got the illustrated edition for $1. If you can, get the one with the pictures. They're glorious and add so much to the story.
Lots happens to Candy in this book. She catches a ride on some talking fish, fights a mechanical mosquito, gets abducted by a giant moth, ends up on an island filled with cat people, and finds herself the obsession of a creepy Darth Vader-esque guy named Christopher Carrion.
One of my favorite characters was Squiller the little telescopic squid. He was so cute! Candy wore him as a hat for a while, and he was with her when she was abducted by Mothra's evil Abaratian cousin. And do you know what Barker did? He killed off Squiller. This isn't a huge spoiler or anything, since the squid's only there for a chapter or two, but man. You would have thought that little squid was a newborn kitten from the feels I felt.
Definitely recommended for fans of Neil Gaiman and original, unpredictable fantasy novels!
That title. That title sounds like a J.R. Ward book. Would that the writing quality be at the level of a J.R. Ward book. Ward is no Wordsworth but at least she's fun, in a cracky, "Why am I reading this? Why can't I stop reading this?" sort of way.
LOVER UNKNOWN, on the other hand, was just...sad.
One thing I hate about the erotica genre is that it has become so inescapably prevalent. There are some really good ones, but they're buried under all the crap. A lot of the time, authors of these hot little messes in slutty black dresses don't put in any effort. They churn out these twenty page shorts, charge $2.99 for them, and people rate them positively despite numerous typos, PWP, and some of the most horrendously unsexy writing I have ever encountered.
So what gives?
LOVER UNKNOWN is a really weird story. It involves a college student named Hadley Scott who has gotten an invitation to a sex club called Club Q. Maybe the Q stands for Quagmire? Giggity-giggity-goo. Anyway, she goes to this club because it is apparently frequented by the rich, the beautiful, and the famous. Because those are the only people allowed to have kinky sex, obv.
So Hadley goes and mingles and everyone is like, OMG HADLEY YOU'RE SO HOT. And she's all, SHUT UP, BABY. I KNOW IT. Then the host sends boys off to one side of the school gym and girls to the other and they each get their own assigned room.
In one of my other reviews--I think it was of THE EXAM--I was criticizing the stunning lack of condoms in erotica, in addition to the Plot, What Plot? aspect of them, and one of my friends said that this was because they were basically "masturbation aids." That's what this book is. A masturbation aid. It serves no purpose except to titillate and it doesn't even do that well.
The epilogue is no less strange. It switches to third person with the guy who Hadley slept with. Presumably, Creepy McNoCondom has encountered Hadley before and he's about to get his revenge on her. Uh oh, girl! Better schedule an STD test, stat!
I got into historical romance novels about a year (year and a half?) ago. My friends, Louisa and Myrika, were always yapping about them, comparing notes, and I started to feel Jelus.
They gave me a recommendation: Read Lisa Kleypas.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
"I'm dishonorable and disreputable. I lie and I cheat, and I am telling you plainly that you are only a means to an end for me. I'm not telling you the truth, but overall, I'm not playing you false. You may not know the exact cards I hold, but you will know the score. I promise you that much" (33).
Frederica "Free" Marshall is a suffragette. She runs her own newspaper. She has about 50,000 readers. Women adore her as she champions their life, and makes them think, "By God, I could be more than chattel! Imagine, having more rights to land than a cow or a horse!"
With the menfolk, however, Free is not quite as popular--especially when they learn that beneath that pretty face is a calculating mind that will not stoop to male subjugation. When a rich snobby man offers to make her his mistress, thinking he is doing her a favor, she refuses him. Obviously, he takes this as an insult, and makes it his business to destroy her whole life.
Enter Edward Clark.
Edward Clark was presumed dead when his family banished him to a war zone as punishment. Once nobility, he is now a rogue and a forger with a dark and twisted past. He also shares the same enemy as Free, albeit for different reasons, and when he learns of the man's plans to destroy Frederica, he approaches the woman himself and offers her a very interesting deal...
And pretty much falls in love with her on sight.
"I married her to unleash her on the world, not to keep her under wraps...I married her because she made me believe in her....Because I wished her beyond your power, not under mine. You have no idea of the debt I owe her. For her I'd do the unthinkable....If she asked me to do it....I'd even forgive you" (244).
A lot of regency and victorian romances can come across as wallpaper historicals, but THE SUFFRAGETTE SCANDAL was amazing. There was so much to like in this book that I cannot.
✾ The dialogue. It was witty, hilarious, and flowed well--not just between the love interests but also the supporting cast, which takes me to the next point...
✾ The supporting cast. It's been a while since I read a book with such a large and engaging supporting cast. You can tell that Ms. Milan really loves her characters; she infuses them all with life, and then writes about them further in the between-the-numbers novellas. That's awesome.
✾ The feminism. Free is a feminist, but she isn't a bitch. She has a realistic, grounded view of what she can accomplish, and she knows that big changes happen gradually.
"Suffragette," she said, "is pronounced with an excalmation point at the end. Like this: 'Huzzah! Suffragettes!'" (10).
✾ The love story. It's realistic, it doesn't happen all at once. There's great chemistry, it's just...great. It's the kind of love you hope to have for yourself one day--a cross between finding the unattainable Disney prince, and falling in love with your best friend. :)
"Love is not a finite quantity" (211).
✾ The love interest. He is now a part of my book boyfriend harem and you cannot have him. Nyah.
"By the time I realized [my heart] existed, it was already yours" (156).
✾ The lesbian couple. There is a lesbian couple in this book. They are adorable. They are also feminists. Their awkward tiptoeing around one another is just...fwahhhh. I love it.
"I lie, I cheat, I steal, and I'll probably drive you away screaming within the week. But if you marry me, I'll only do those things on your behalf" (170).
I could quote from this book all day, and happily, but you should probably just read it yourself.
I have developed a reputation as a hard-ass, especially when it comes to the new adult and erotica genres. This has caused some conflict in the past, with authors and also with reviewers. (The argument seems to be that because I'm an author, this is bad form.) Still, my brutal honesty means that if I rate a book 4 or 5 stars, it means that I genuinely liked it, not that I'm trying to make good with other authors, or cosy up to someone's street team.
I really did like PURELY PROFESSIONAL. I liked the first half a lot more than the second, which started to unravel and even had a few scenes that genuinely upset me. But it was well-written, did a fair job portraying the BDSM scene, and was a refreshing change of pace from all those mafia/sex-trafficking books that contain violent sex/dub-con masquerading as BDSM.
Bridget Hartwell is a senior editor at Sultry magazine, with her eye on the executive position. Sultry is kind of like a racier version of ( it's a "sex-positive magazine for sex-positive women") and Bridget writes sex columns, mostly about the best types of positions, or how to use toys. Functional things that help women get the best out of their sex lives. But the new executive editor wants to take the magazine in a new direction, and when she commissions Bridget to write about BDSM, Bridget finds herself in a bit of a quandary.
Luckily, Bridget's friend, Helen, knows someone who knows about the scene. And I'm going to pause here, and take a moment to say how awesome it was that her best friend was a lesbian. Her friend gives her sex advice, they hang out together, and there's no awkwardness or homophobia, or any sense that Helen was a last-minute token installed in a futile attempt to relate to LGBTQIA readers.
Anyway, Helen hooks her up with a contact, and Bridget is mortified--and intrigued--when the contact turns out to be her handsome next-door neighbor, who she's been flirting with forever. She interviews him. And then, when her boss wants more, ends up starting a D/s relationship with him as well. One that's "purely professional" and won't change anything between them. Good luck with that.
What I liked:
It throws shade on Fifty Shades of Grey. Max, the handsome next-door neighbor, had a relationship with an older woman who taught him about the scene. He was of consenting age, though (twenties, she was in her forties), and they experimented and had fun. No one got hurt.
"So with Vanessa...she was so much older..."
"It wasn't abusive, if that's what you're implying" His expression turned severe. "God, why does everybody think Dominants are some twisted abuse victims?" (36)
He also has some truly delicious lines:
"I'll tease you, make you beg me for more, and then sometimes I won't give it to you. This won't be a game for me. I take my role very seriously. I'll demand control of your entire sex life, and I'll drive you completely crazy" (50).
"I'll fuck you in ways you've never been fucked before" (51).
The main character is not a virgin.
"Most of my lovers have been...less experienced than me. I sometimes wonder what it would be like with someone who knows what he's doing" (54).
She's comfortable masturbating and using sex toys.
There are some pretty unique things that they do. For example, a remote control vibrator. I'm sure you can imagine all the tortures one can do with that. (And he uses it on her in the middle of a crowded lecture hall while he gives a talk about Byronic heroes--mad, bad, and dangerous to know, indeed!) He takes her on a picnic and then has her partially strip and fucks her with an ice cube in public (gasp!). Actually, he's just pretty sexy in general and the scenes with him were hot...BUT...
What I didn't like:
They don't use a condom when they have penetrative vaginal sex!(And yet, he uses a condom for anal. WHY.) Early on in the book, Bridget expresses concern that he's seeing so many women all the time. Max tells her that he's a Dominant and that they women engage in D/s with him, although not in the context of a relationship, and not necessarily involving any sex (I liked that distinction, btw). And yet, despite her wariness, they don't use a condom. They exchange STD test information, but it's easy to say you have one, and when Max tells her that he got tested last month, she just nods and says, "okay." Even though it was obvious he was with different women since last month!
BDSM is about safe, sane, and consensual. Part of being safe is safe sex. Trusting your partner to keep you safe should extend to condom use, unless both partners have agreed otherwise and are in some kind of exclusive arrangement. I, personally, would want to actually see results--solid results--and I would expect them to be current, if someone wanted to have sex without a condom. If they broke that agreement and had sex with someone else, I would end the relationship there.
When Bridget ends up using her safe word, because she got turned off and uncomfortable, Max gets mad at her for using her safe word, and takes his anger out on her in the context of the scene. He makes her give him a blow job to make herself "useful" and then kicks her out of the house.
"Safe words aren't for when you're uncomfortable," Max said, his voice cold. "They're for when you need everything to stop. So I made everything stop" (146).
This isn't exactly true. There are safe words to stop and safe words to slow down. Even though their safe words were the standard Red and Yellow, he didn't really explain their uses and results very well. I feel like Max should have stopped what he was doing and then maybe discussed what was happening with her, whether she'd blurted out Red in a panic when what she meant was Yellow, etc.
But he didn't do that. He got angry and abusive.
"I was annoyed that you used your safe word and I wanted to punish you" (149).
That is not okay. A good Dom should always be in control of himself (or herself). They should never force their subs to do things that they do not want to do, and they should definitely not punish their subs for drawing lines and establishing limits.
That really turned me off the book, and combined with the lack of condom usage, turned what looked like it was going to be a rare 5-star review for me into a 4-star review. Still a good read, but no longer an amazing, panty-melting one. Safe words--like women--should be respected, not abused.
So yes, overall I liked PURELY PROFESSIONAL. It does a pretty good job portraying the BDSM scene, with a few unfortunate exceptions. I would definitely read more by this author.
Paranormal erotica has never really sat well with me, mostly because it tends to fall into the "fated-to-be-mated" category, a la J.R. Ward.
I applied for most of the erotic titles on Netgalley because sometimes I go on these kicks--and to my surprise, several of the books I was approved for were actually good this time around. Unfortunately, DARKEST ECSTASY was not among them.
It bears noting that this is actually book #3 in a continuing series. I did not notice this when I applied for the book. I'm not sure it would have made much difference in my review, one way or the other, since the bulk of my misgivings lie with the portrayal of the male love interest and his penchant for utter douchery.
Talen Gryffon is the name of the male lead. He's part of a big family of supernaturals and I guess they're in a war with another group of supernaturals, and so they need brides to bear them children for reasons.
Talen actually fell in love already but it was with his brother's wife, Lei. There's this passage about how he's all, "I saw her first, blah blah blah, me me me," and he whines about he wanted to be the one to fuck all the trouble out of her past, etc. etc.
Okay, first off, fucking is not a psychological panacea. Yes, it has many long term health benefits (assuming that you go about it responsibly and don't contract an STD due to irresponsible fuckery).
Second, a vagina is not an apartment. You can't pay a deposit and then be all, "IT'S MINE. I WAS HERE FIRST." There is no contract or deed you can buy to say otherwise, and if you persist in thinking to the contrary, here's a nice ol' big fat "FUCK YOU."
Talen is also into BDSM, and he goes to this club. He figures the best way to forget about Lei and get a new wife is to find someone perfect at pleasing him sexually. So he ends up fucking this woman named Angela, who thinks everything from blowjobs to anal is awesome.
But then Talen meets Maggie, whose innocence and awkwardness piques his interest in a way that nothing ever has before. He flirts with her, especially in front of Angela, plays the two off one another, and they slut-shame and it's just fun for the whole family.
Sara: I'm a teacher! I'm a good girl! I'm clumsy! And awkward! I'm beautiful but I don't know it! I eat a lot but never gain a pound!
Bella Swan: Holla.
Anastasia Steele: My inner-dissociative-identity-disorder said someone called me?
Sara: No! Go away!
Sara's friend: I bought this storage unit of stuff from someone who stopped paying. Oops, I left my naughty diary at Sara's house!
Sara: Ooh, my friend's diary! I shouldn't read it, because I'm a good girl! *reads it anyway*
Sara's friend: My diary! Oh there it is. It's not actually mine, though. It belongs to this woman called Rebecca.I'm going to post it on ebay and sell it for lots of money!
Sara: That's so unethical! I should be able to keep it and read it for my own curiosity!
Sara's friend: LOL GETTING MARRIED, HERE, HAVE ALL THE STUFF IN THE STORAGE LOCKER INCLUDING THE DIARY.
Sara: I'm going to stalk Rebecca's work place and learn more about her.
Mark Compton: Hi, my name is Christian Grey Mark Compton. I am a brooding, obsessive, manipulative, and possibly sexual deviant billionaire. I must be obeyed in all ways.
Sara: I am afraid that he is a creepy rapist, and yet I am strongly attracted to this.
Chris Merit: Hi, my name is Edward Cullen Chris Merit. I am a brooding, obsessive, manipulative, and possibly sexual deviant millionaire. Also an artist. I am attracted to you and you should run.
Sara: I am afraid that he is a creepy rapist, and yet I am strongly attracted to this.
Chris: You should run from me while you still can. I'll use you up until nothing's left. Nobody is worse than I am. Not even Charles Manson. I'm one sick son of a bitch.
Sara: Keep talking, I'm getting so wet, my panties could put out grassfires.
Mark: I am going to hire you to work at this art gallery. I am also going to fuck with your head, because that is what all good employers do. Also, fill out this multiple choice test, which I will grade.
Random token minorities: Hello! Just popping in to show how not-racist the author is!
Sara: I like these people. That's how you know I'm such a good girl. I find homosexuals and people of color pleasant and nonthreatening. When I see a black person, I don't cross the street!
Random token minorities: Sara is so awesome! She treats us like people! We are not worthy!
Chris: Why haven't you run away yet, baby? Don't you know I'm no good for you, baby?
Sara: Oh, I want him to do terrible things to me like the men in Rebecca's journal. But I am a good girl and good girls aren't allowed to think about sex! I'm so conflicted!!!
Chris: I'm going to fuck you rawer than a chicken egg with salmonella, baby.
Sara: Oh boy!!! I'm going to get fucked! Eeee, I feel so naughty and not at all like a good teacher. *squeals*
Chris: I'm a bad person by the way, baby. You wouldn't want your parents to meet me, baby.
Sara: That means we'll probably be married by the time the series ends, doesn't it?
Chris: Shhh, yes, baby. Now let's fuck ironically against this window, baby.
Sara: I'M AFRAID WE'RE GOING TO FALL TO OUR SPLATTERY DEATHS BUT IF I DO, I WANT IT TO BE WITH YOUR COCK INSIDE OF ME.* (actual paraphrasing from the book)
Chris: I want to do unspeakable things with you, baby, but if I do, you will run away, baby.
Sara: I want you so bad.
Chris: Clearly you haven't been listening to me, baby. LET ME WARN YOU 234342423 MORE TIMES WHILE SENDING YOU MIXED SIGNALS AND INVADING YOUR PERSONAL SPACE.
Sara: You forgot to call me baby at the end of that sentence.
Chris: Did, I, baby? Sorry about that, baby.
Christian Grey: Bitch, not only did you steal my name, you're also stealing my game.
Edward Cullen: Um, you really shouldn't be talking about stealing. You're pretty much me.
Christian Grey: I'm the rapey version of you that only a Twimom with a midlife crisis could dream up. YOU WISH YOU COULD BE THIS MISOGYNISTIC AND FUCKED UP, MORMON BOY.
Chris: GO THE HELL AWAY.
Christian Grey: Laters, baby.
Sara: We should have sex without a condom!
Chris: That is a stupid idea!
Sara: Boohoohoo you're right that was stupid of me! Not that I was going to have irresponsible sex, but that you've gotten mad at me and think I'm a slut! Boohoohoo!!!
[several chapters of sex]
Chris: You're the first woman I've ever brought home, baby! You're not like other women, baby. Also, even though you haven't had sex in five years, you're awesome at it, baby.
Sara: But I'm so clumsy! And awkward! And innocent! And such a good girl!
Chris: You should run away from me, baby. I haven't said that for a couple chapters, baby, so I'm going to say it again. Also, we should keep our relationship a secret, baby.
Sara: Ooh, he's so dangerous! I hope he doesn't bury my body in an abandoned lumber yard!
Chris: Both my parents are dead, baby. This makes me deep and mysterious, baby.
Sara: My mom's dead, too! OMG! WE HAVE SO MUCH IN COMMON! Like, did you know that I used to be rich, too? But I blame my father for my mother's heart attack! So I live like a poor person to spite him and to make myself into a martyr by moving to Forks San Francisco.
Chris: You're running away from your problems like you should--*pause*--run away from me, baby.
Sara: You're mean! Where did you even get that psychobabble bullshit from?
Chris: The same company that makes Mark's multiple choice interview questionnaire also has a degree papermill, baby. Oh, and so hey, even though I just met you, and this is crazy, I want you to quit your job because your boss wants to have sex with you maybe, baby.
Sara: I'm not quitting my job, but I am not at all alarmed by your possessive, stalkery behavior.
Chris: Oh hey, I bought you designer clothes and a Louis Vuitton bag, baby.
[random motorcycle ride through San Francisco]
Chris: You make me lose control, baby.
[sex scene starts]
[someone knocks on door]
Sara: I'm horny! Go away!
Chris: HOW DARE YOU TAKE CONTROL FROM ME, BABY! THIS SEX SCENE IS OVER, BABY! NOW STRIP, BABY. AND PUT ON YOUR CLOTHES WITH NOTHING UNDERNEATH OR BAD THINGS WILL HAPPEN, BABY.
Sara: I bet I'll like those things.
Chris: No, they're terrible, and I'll do them to you anyway if you don't do what I say, baby.
Sara: Oh, I'm so frightened for my life and so turned on by this abuse.
Chris: I've never brought a woman to a gallery showing before, either, baby. But you're not like other women, baby. You don't think for yourself, baby. You don't have self-respect, baby. You don't ask questions like, 'what happened to all the women this psycho dated before?' baby.
[boring passages, nipple fondling, DID WE MENTION THIS BOOK TAKES PLACE IN CALIFORNIA? LOL. LET'S TALK ABOUT WINE AND MAKE JOKES ABOUT WINE.]
Chris: I don't want to do anything to you now because you got drunk, baby.
Sara: Boohoohoo he won't take advantage of me while I'm drunk!
Chris: STOP STUMBLING AND ACTING DRUNK WHILE YOU'RE DRUNK, BABY! YOU MAKE ME SO ANGRY, BABY! I'M GOING TO THREATEN YOU SOME MORE, BABY!
Sara: He's so tortured and I want him so much! I want to fix him! I want to fuck him! Ahhhh!!!!
Chris: Forget about what I said about not fucking you while you're drunk, baby!
Sara: Ohhhhh, I don't feel so good. *vomits*
[Sara wakes up the next morning naked, with Chris cuddling her while he's fully dressed]
Sara: Why aren't YOU naked?
Chris: I didn't want to take advantage of you, even though apparently half-naked spooning is OK.
Sara: Ooh, he wanted to take advantage of me even after I vomited wine and passed out! That means he loves me! And he's thoughtful and considerate too!
Chris: Put on this robe. I am a man, which means I'm also a rape-machine. If I see you naked, my heat seeking missile penis will plow into you and I will be helpless to stop it.
Sara: He's so good to me.
Chris: I want you to go on vacation with me, baby. I'm going to talk to your boss and make him let you go, baby.
Sara: No! I am an independent woman except when I'm not! I want to keep my job! Now let's go to my apartment! I want to show you these journals I found.
Chris: I AM ANGRY AGAIN, BABY. READ THE JOURNAL ALOUD, BABY.
Chris: I AM GONNA PUNISH YOU SO HARD, BABY. YOU SHOULD REALLY RUN.
Sara: I'm just SO worried about Rebecca, whom I've forgotten about until now. If I went missing, I'd want someone to look for me.
Chris: (undertone) Don't worry, baby, you'll get your wish sooner than you think.
Chris: I said, you're so fucking sexy, and I love the way you make me want to do bad things to you.
Mark: HELLO. I BET YOU'D FORGOTTEN ABOUT ME.
Sara: Am I in trouble?
Mark: I HAVE A VIDEO OF CHRIS AND YOU DOING NAUGHTY THINGS.
Sara: AHHH!!! I'M SO SORRY! PLEASE DON'T FIRE ME! I WON'T EVEN ASK WHERE YOU GOT THAT, OR WHY YOU WERE KEEPING IT!
Mark: I OWN YOU.
Sara: I'm sorry.
Mark: CHRIS KNEW THERE WERE CAMERAS. HE'S ONLY WITH YOU TO FUCK WITH ME.
Sara: Boohoohoo. Well at least I'm not getting fired. But now I am angry at Chris! So I am going to cancel all my plans instead of confronting him because no way would the boss that wants to get into my pants and films me making out with people have any reason to lie to me about these things!
Chris: YOU CANCELED PLANS ON ME SO I WAITED OUTSIDE YOUR APARTMENT FOR YOU TO GET HOME FROM WORK, BABY.
Sara: You're so hot. I'm not at all alarmed by this. BUT WHY DID YOU KISS ME IN FRONT OF THOSE CAMERAS? YOU'RE JUST USING ME! BOOHOOHOO!
Chris: MARK IS EVIL, BABY. HE WAS THE MAN REBECCA WAS HAVING BONDAGE SEX WITH, BABY.LET'S GO TO A BONDAGE CLUB THAT MARK OWNS. I WILL SHOW YOU THE TRUTH, BABY.
Sara: OH MY GOD THAT WOMAN IS GETTING CANED! THAT'S SO FUCKED UP! GET ME OUT OF HERE THIS IS SICK AHHHHH.
Chris: It's like an addiction, baby. I used to be addicted, but now I've almost quit, baby. I'm well again, because your magical vagina helped cure me of my BDSM affliction, baby. But Mark doesn't want to be cured and that's why you've got to stay away, baby. BDSM is wrong, baby.
Sara: I can't do this, I can't be like you, boohoohoo.
Chris: But you're the only thing that can heal me from my BDSM addiction, baby!
Sara: This is too much! I'm tired of being an adult! I'm going to run away and wangst! And also go to this storage locker by myself because even though people are watching me all the time, I'M SURE IT'LL BE FINE--OH GOD SOMEONE IS IN THE STORAGE LOCKER WITH ME.
This is pretty much FIFTY SHADES OF GREY with a very loose, erotic retelling of REBECCA thrown in for kicks. Since Daphne DuMaurier's novel is one of my all-time favorite works of gothic fictions, I was super excited to read IF I WERE YOU because I was so sure it would be amazing.
In fact, it was really, really, really boring.
Here are some quotes:
"I shouldn't be aroused. Not by painful pleasure and bondage" (24).
BDSM is wrong.
"[BDSM] has been my drug of choice. My way of feeling nothing. But I do feel now. I feel with you and for you. What it did for me it can't do for me anymore" (344)
Seriously, if you like BDSM, you need to be cured of it asap, because you're fucked up in the head.
Any man who isn't married by thirty-five is either gay or he's got skeletons in his closet (62).
If you don't get married, you're gay or fucked-up in the head. Nobody sane wants to be alone.
"I'm going to make you sure you are so thoroughly fucked that being fucked has a new meaning" (179).
Would that make this the 'hipster fuck,' or the 'anti-fuck'? Is it ironic or antithetical?
If I am going to die, I want it to be with this man inside me (184).
Sex is more important than being safe.
"Get the condom, baby."
"We don't need it," I whisper, so ready for him I hurt with need. "I'm on the pill" (201).
What I said above.
And then there's Chris.
"I'm trying to protect you here. This world you've strayed into is filled with dark, messed-up, arrogant assholes who will play with your mind and use you until there is nothing else for you to recognize yourself" (137).
"I am not the guy you take home to Mom and Dad, Sara" (174)
"I'm still not the guy who'll give you a white picket fence" (225).
I'm not sure why he's warned me away so much, but I'll say it for him. He's dangerous and I've never wanted to live on the edge more in my life (228).
"Mark wants to fuck you, Sara, and I don't share. You're with me or you're not. Decide now" (237).
The dark Chris, the dangerous damaged Chris I keep forgetting exists, is back. What just happened to set him off? And damn it to hell, why does it turn me on when it shouldn't? (258)
"I've broken rules with you, important rules I've lived by, and you're the one who'll pay the price" (293).
"Yes. I'm a jerk. The kind of jerk you don't deserve" (294).
"I should scare the shit out of you and throw those damn journals away" (313).
Sex. Most of us want it (although some of us don't--and that is perfectly ok, too). Unfortunately, due to incredibly poor funding of Sex Ed. programs, and a general unwillingness to talk about sex in a forthright manner, most of what we actually know about sex is either strictly hearsay, or gleaned from porn and romance novels. Which leads to a lot of misinformation.
I generally only go on the internet to visit Goodreads, blog, and do writerly things (watch cat videos on Youtube, cry, and maybe do a bit of actual writing. You know, if I'm lucky). As a result, I often forget how stupid it is possible for people to be (very).
This book made me remember why I used to be such a misanthrope in high school. Because people are so...stupid.
For example: the idea that it isn't possible to become pregnant while you are on your period. This idea is propagated in the best-selling novel, FIFTY SHADES OF GREY. And considering how many teenagers probably read that book, that is very worrying indeed, because the book is full of misinformation about everything from BDSM to vanilla sex to what a healthy relationship should look like to what college is like.
Another myth addressed in this book is the idea that women cannot get pregnant if the sex in question was a rape. Which is ridiculously stupid, but oh, guess what? There's another mainstream person who believes this--a douchebag politician named Todd Akin who made his beliefs widely known.
I'm not quite sure how valid the actual information in this book is, as I looked at the bibliography and they used other people's studies to reinforce their claims. That's always a risk, especially given factors like small sample size, biased sample size (e.g. all Mexican, all lesbians, all upper-middle-class white cis women, etc.). Two different studies could show totally opposite results.
I found this book disappointing. I was expecting a useful guide, but all DON'T PUT THAT IN THERE really did was tell me what I already knew, or gave me nebulous information on something that I didn't particularly care about. Not exactly helpful material.
Someone should definitely mail a copy of this book to E.L. James and Todd Akin, though. >;)
In terms of least favorite genres, zombie books probably rank up there with erotica and new adult books for me. A few years ago, when everyone had WORLD WAR Z fever, and were grabbing up as many zombie books as they could, I was just sitting there, being all like, "You know, I think I prefer vampires..."
Zombies are just gross, you know? Rotting flesh, open wounds, "brainsssss," slowly ambling after the intended victim... I never got the appeal. As far as villains go, they're pretty boring. Give me a sociopathic vampire with Machiavellian politics anytime!
DUST is a very strange zombie book. It's narrated in first person by one of the zombies, a girl named Jessie, who is clinging to the last vestiges of her humanity. Nine years ago she had a family. Now she hunts in a pack of zombies who call themselves the fly-by-nights. They despise humans and think of them as lesser beings, calling them "hoos."
[E]very time I thought about heading back to the human areas and lying in weight upwind and grabbing one of them to snap their neck and eat (but not right away--Mags and Lillian both claimed that the hormones they oozed when terrified made the meat taste much better, a savory pants-shitting marinade), something in my chest and stomach clenched up (78).
DUST isn't the typical post-apocalyptic zombie novel. Zombies have apparently been around for a while, but went epidemic over the last decade? (The book was a little vague on this point.) The zombies live near the Great Lakes in northern Indiana, in a secluded, forested area that's all but deserted because of its nearness to government labs. They mostly hunt animals, which they then eat raw. Even though they move pretty slowly, the zombies are still able to sneak up on animals because the smell of dead flesh doesn't strike them as a threat until it's too late.
At the same time, there is a mysterious plague spreading through the humans. It makes them turn blue and smell like paint-thinner or gasoline. They go crazy, and eat animals--or even zombies. Ew!
One of the best things about DUST is the nontraditional portrayal of zombies. They're actually smarter than humans, for one thing.
Our brains are larger than a human's, more neurons. I read that somewhere, while I was alive. I b et hoos don't like to contemplate what that might mean (74).
They also have their own language. Because of their rotting mouths, they can't talk the normal way. So they have their own way of speaking that's mostly grunting and vowel sounds. There's also various stages of zombie transition--and are they gross and gory as hell? You betcha.
"It's not genocide...it's euthanasia. Then you find out the brain-dead cripples actually think, and those moaning sounds are them talking to each other, god knows what they say but still their own language with its own rules, and then you see a body and a body walking in the trees, always the same two bodies together, like they mean something special to each other. And they laugh, and if something wakes and sleeps and thinks and reasons and laughs and communicates and pair-bonds that means it might even have emotions, it might feel grief and pain--"
Was I supposed to applaud all this? Seriously? My God, Jim, I know nobody credits even full-fledged hoos who can't talk properly with working brains but you're a scientist and all this shocks you? Sad, that's just damned sad (134-135).
Then, as the book goes on, it turns back to the plague and we learn that it's not just affecting humans. No, it's affecting zombies, as well, making them smell like chemicals, making their flesh fill out again, regenerating their limbs, making them...alive. Also, they're growing stronger and starting to crave--gasp--cooked meat!
You had to let yourself be scorched by famine, seared as if someone took a slow blowtorch to every cell, and then feel it consume you from the inside out, Prometheus and the vulture in the same body-- (268).
Initially, I really liked DUST. It's really gory and violent, which I'm sure will put a lot of people off, but after reading the insipid TWILIGHT-wannabe story that was WARM BODIES, it was refreshing to read a story about zombies that actually had zombies that acted like zombies.
However, the second half of the book turn a turn for the worse. There was this weird, almost religious moment, where Jessie ends up talking to the physical embodiment of death(?!), and things started to drag out as DUST took a surreal nosedive. According to the reviews of the sequel, FRAIL, things get even messier and more nebulous as the series go on, so maybe the book is setting itself up for a fall.
DUST was a light read, but not one of the better apocalyptic stories I've read. At least it tried to be its own book and not resort to hackneyed tropes and cliches, so it gets bonus points for that. I'm not sure if I'd read the sequel. I do have a soft spot for books with low ratings, but this one got so tedious I'm not sure it would be worth the effort.
Advertisements are one of those "necessary evils" people talk about. A lot of the features we enjoy--Google search, Facebook, Goodreads, Youtube--would not be free or as efficient without being funded by advertisements.
For example, my blog is popular enough that I am able to host advertisements on the site for a bit of money. I receive a certain amount of money every time someone clicks an ad, and more money if someone clicks through and buys something. A lot of the ads are for books (usually Audible trials), finance, and household stuff. Things that are relevant to my readers. I actually like the way advertisements are set up on blogger, because they're not in-your-face, and they aren't deceptive, like those links on news articles "other articles you might be interested in" that are actually...*gasp*...ADS!
THE AD WAR wasn't really what I was expecting, to be honest. I was expecting a sweeping history of advertising, and in that sense the title is a bit misleading because AD WAR focuses solely on internet advertisements, particularly invasive ones.
The early 2000s probably featured the most invasive internet advertisements that I have ever seen. Tons of scareware ("your computer has a virus--click this link to fix it"), spammy ads ("punch Osama Bin Laden in the face to win $10,000"), pop-under ads, pop-up ads, even ads that fucking talked.
The central premise of THE AD WAR is a Mr. Mackey-esque, "Ads are bad, mmkay? But we need them to use the internet, mmkay. So advertisers and consumers need to work together to figure out a happy medium. But lol, that probably isn't going to happen so ads are bad, mmkay?"
The problem is addressed but no solution is actually provided.
THE AD WAR reads like a student thesis--and who knows, maybe it was one. The infographics are a little silly and trivialize the subject matter, and there were a number of typos in this book. The clickbait title promises a sweeping history that it doesn't live up to, and what's actually covered within is less a war than an annoying and silly problem that nobody has thought to fix.
This was an interesting read, and definitely brought back memories of what using Myspace was like back in 2005, but it was a disappointment as well. I had hoped it would examine advertising in a broader scope.
My relationship with erotica novels is only slightly better than my relationship with new adult novels. But, as I keep telling the people who ask me why I bother, sometimes you find a book that proves to be the exception to the rule, who makes it all worthwhile. Not only have I found that with SLAVE GIRL, I think I also may have found a new favorite author. Have you seen her backlist? OH MY GOD. I WANT ALL HER HISTORICAL ROMANCES RIGHT MEOW. ...please? *kitty eyes*
...*hyperventilates into a paper bag*
I applied for SLAVE GIRL on Netgalley because it is an erotica novella that takes place in Ancient Rome. Also it sounded kinky as hell.
Nimia was taken as a war prize during one of the Roman battles with the visigoth. She comes from a tribe called the Phanne and has tattoos all over her breasts and legs. (Something the cover fails to depict. Boooo.) Her owner, a creepmaster named Sygarius, has been giving her "lessons" while keeping her virginity intact the whole time. Because part of the fun is waiting. Apparently, it's almost as delicious as foreplay.
The time for Nimia's deflowering is drawing closer, and then a bunch of Franks her master has dealings with come, and one of them is a sexy young prince, which, if you know anything, you will know is never a good sign. And the prince wants Nimia, too--especially since he can't have her. Nimia is attracted to him, too, and better yet, he seems to know what happened to her people.
I liked SLAVE GIRL. It's cheesy, okay, yes, but original and creative. I enjoyed the writing, which flowed very nicely and conjured up some very evocative (and provocative) imagery. I enjoyed the taboo and kinky sex, especially the play of Dionysus-Bacchus. That was weird as fuck, but also pretty hot. Actually, all the sex was hot. And the plot! OMG. I read this in a single sitting, which was bad, because I was supposed to go to bed and ended up staying up until 3 A.M.
My only qualm, which keeps this from being a 5 star review instead, is that it is too damn short. Apparently it's book one in a trilogy, and oh my god, I volunteer as tribute. GIMMIE ALL THEM.
Also, I need to find paperback copies of her retro historical romances because they all sound awesome and original too, including a tale about a Cornish woman who pretends to be a mermaid in order to protect her town. ;~;
Truly, this is a most happy and auspicious day for Nenia Campbell, Hater of Erotica Novels.
Where were the Seth Gordons of the world when I was in high school? Little old bookish me would have fallen for him on sight.
This is going to be a long review, because I have a lot of things that I would like to discuss about IN REAL LIFE. Most of them good.
1. This is a young-adult book narrated in first person by a boy.
That's kind of nice. A lot of YA tends to have female narrators and there's only so many variations of "girl on fringe gets sexy popular guy and becomes queen of the school" that I can take before I start to feel a little sick from all the saccharine sweetness of it.
Seth Gordon falls in love, too, and when he does it is very cute. I loved Hannah, even though she is a manicpixiedreamgirl. I liked the natural progression of their relationship, and how they didn't have insta-love so much as a gradual, profound attraction.
There is none of this.
I really liked that. It was realistic. So was the awkwardness and the ups and downs of their relationship. Tabak doesn't portray love as this all-consuming thing; it's a stage in your life that you hope will last, but sometimes it doesn't, either because of circumstance or because one person wasn't as invested in it as the other person, or whatever. Shit happens.
2. This is about a boy who wants to play video games professionally.
I can relate to this on two levels.
Seth plays a game called Starfare, which sounds a bit like a cross between WoW, World of Warcraft, Starcraft, Runescape, and Skyrim. He wants to enter the professional gaming circuit but in order to do that he'll have to play in Korea, where the big leagues are. Seth knows that he is almost good enough but the lack of support from his parents, who see it as fucking off, is discouraging.
Being an indie author is really similar in a lot of ways. Like Seth's parents, mine want to be supportive, but they also don't really see my writing career as being very likely to succeed--at least from a lucrative standpoint. You have to sell a lot of books to make enough money to live off of. Tabak really captures what it feels like to struggle to achieve your dreams when it feels like the whole world is either actively or passively discouraging you. So yeah, that hit me like a fist to the gut.
I also played Runescape back in high school and my first two years of college. I was addicted, and for a while, I was one of the high-ranked players (high enough to show on the site scoreboard, anyway). I would play for hours, sometimes just trying to boost my score. I wasn't trying to play professionally or anything, it was just great escapism. And Tabak captures that, too. You know you're playing a game, but it's like a part of your soul gets sucked into the screen, and when you're on there kicking ass with a fire spell or achieving a level-up in mining or archery or something, you feel powerful.
I feel a little silly writing that now, but it's the truth. Gaming can feel very empowering.
Another thing I thought was done really well was the online stalkers. If you become well known enough on any site, you will get stalkers! I have some! (Which totally makes me think of this song.) So I could sympathize with Seth and his archnemesis, Stomp. His reactions were pretty aligned with mine, somewhere between, "What the fuck is this person's deal?" and "how did I even get on their radar in the first place?"
3. This is a book that says that sometimes our dreams don't turn out the way we want them to.
Seth does end up going to Korea (minor spoiler), but once there he realizes that things aren't exactly all pie in the sky. He experiences culture shock. His coach is less interested in training him than in whoring him out for advertising campaigns and scapegoating him when things go wrong. His teammates don't speak English well (or at all) and seem to resent his presence. Yikes!
I'm not really sure how accurate this portrayal of Korea is, so it would be interesting if any of my Korean friends end up reading this to see what they think. I did read a book about Korean pop culture a few months ago, and a lot of this stuff--the advertising campaigns over talent, the jingoism, the very odd hangups about sexy/punk-style appearances--rang true.
4. This is a book that drags a little, especially towards the end.
The beginning was so awesome but the pacing really started to flag starting about halfway through the book. Never to the point where I was bored and wanted to stop reading, but it was noticeable and I did get a little impatient. I started skimming through some of his whinefests about how much being in Korea sucked, because after a while all his rants started to sound the same, although this did lend a realistic bent to the book--we can all sound like broken records when we're pissed or upset.
5. The supporting cast is pretty awesome.
I loved the young English teachers Seth met in the cafe. Sarah and the Australians were awesome. I loved Annie and Kim, and their adorable little interracial video game aficionado, Alex. I wanted to marry Professor Song (sexy Asian math professors, mmmmm). I loved Hannah. I even liked Garrett (well, no, he was kind of a womanizing creep, but Seth loved him anyway, and through Seth's eyes he was tolerable, because we love our family members even if they wreak havoc, right?).
6. I really liked the fact that being a geek in this book was not interchangeable with being a social pariah.
Seth has a crush on the popular girl in school. She knows this, but doesn't make fun of him for it or spread cruel rumors about him. She's actually--gasp--nice! He has good social skills. But he's really really nerdy and sometimes he makes jokes or observations that other people don't understand.
I will say that his agreement with the professor struck me as a little unrealistic and that was just kind of random, but it led to a plot twist at the end of the book that was necessary for an HEA so I get it.
7. Overall, this is a very sweet and flattering portrayal of nerds/geeks who like to play videogames.
A while ago, I went on a downloading spree on Smashwords, grabbing all the free porn I could. Because...it's porn, and because it's free, and because some of it is very good and some of it is hilariously bad. It's pretty much a win/win situation, either way.
THE EXAM is part of a series called Doctor's Orders and features light medical play. Which is interesting, because I am one of those individuals who suffers from "white coat syndrome." Going to the doctor's has never been a fun experience for me, and I can't imagine getting aroused by it. But if you do, good for you, whatever floats your boat, we're all into something.
Our heroine in this novel is Claire. One day, she gets a mysterious invitation from someone called "The Doctor" telling her that she is overdue for an appointment.
Claire goes to what turns out to be a large mansion and sits in the foyer. While there, she encounters a woman in a bikini whose hands are handcuffed behind her back. The woman is on her hands and knees, sweeping the floor with a brush in her mouth. Instead of wondering what kind of "Doctor" she's seeing, Claire gets turned on.
The Doctor appears (by this point, I am imagining him as the Whovian Matt Smith, which made reading this extra fun), and takes Chloe to an examination room. She's put in stirrups, felt up, and felt down, fingered, la di dah. Then she's put into a sex swing and fucked from behind by another man while the Doctor keeps telling her to "trust him."
After all this, the Doctor lets her down, helps her dress, and schedules another appointment.
I get that these shorts are the equivalent of pure fantasy, and don't make a lot of sense. Probably because they're supposed to be like those thoughts you think to help yourself get off? I dunno. But that sort of storytelling doesn't work for me. I have to have an actual plot in my porn. The PWP approach just makes me roll my eyes and laugh. I'm not judging the people who like this sort of thing, but I, personally, cannot compartmentalize my reading standards when it comes to pr0n.
Best (by which I mean, worst) line in the book:
My nipples are already hard, and getting harder, like two mini erections (11).
This book is so YA that it almost hurts...although it does touch upon some subjects that most YA are loathe to touch. Things like homosexuality, the Patriarchy, and infanticide.
I had just seen the movie Pompeii when this book came out, and I was giving it the side-eye, wondering which came first. The release date was too close to be coincidental. Did the author hear about the movie and then speedily write a historical fiction novel that was very similar to the movie in the hopes that it would sell?
BecausePompeii and CURSES AND SMOKE are very, very similar. It's the same rich-daughter-of-a-citizen-pledged-to-marry-a-much-older-man-who-falls-in-love-with-a-slave-boy-who's-also-a-gladiator plot. Except that in this case, the rich daughter of a Citizen (Lucia) wants to be a Scientist and the slave boy (Tages) only practices with the gladiators--he's actually a medicus.
CURSES AND SMOKE is pretty well-researched, and lots of detail is paid to clothing, food, and medicine. I really enjoyed these passages (ew, though. Sow udders for dinner? Mashed sheep brains?) because I like learning something when I read a book. There's a weird focus on curses, though; weird, because it doesn't really amount to much. If you're going to have a paranormal element in your fiction, you should follow up on it, yeah? Otherwise, it just doesn't really go anywhere.
The love story is pretty painful. Lucia's greedy father is losing money on his gladiators so he's forcing her to marry a man who's forty years older because he's promised to pour money into Lucia's father's gladiatorial school. Lucia is in love with Tages, though, and proceeds to demonstrate this love by increasingly insensitive remarks about the differences between their stations.
Lucia's friend Cornelia gets the idea to hook Lucia up with Quintus instead, son of a rich family. Quintus's father is punishing him for his being a whorer and a wastrel by sending him to a gladiatorial school, and he is living with Lucia and her father as their guest. But Quintus isn't really interested in Lucia--he's far more interested in...Tages. DUN DUN DUN.
Honestly, the more I learned about the characters, the less I liked them. Lucia was spoiled, insensitive. Her "I wanna be a Scientist!" attitude seemed forced and not all that convincing, and I felt like it was introduced just so she could be the unheeded harbinger of doom about Pompeii's impending explosion. (Oh yeah, she predicts that Something Is Wrong. And nobody listens to her because she's a woman.) Why does that sound familiar?Dante's Peak is awesome, by the way, and you should watch it, if only because it's got sexy Pierce Brosnan in it. Yum yum.
Tages was only okay. I felt meh about him. He didn't really have much personality, and the numerous references to his "young Apollo" good looks just made me roll my eyes, since it was such an obvious appeal to the teen girl (or teen boy) audience.
Quintus was probably my favorite character because he was the most complex. Once I found out that he was in love with Tages, a lot of his actions made sense. Yeah, he was an asshole, but aren't we all assholes in love (if we're male and in modern YA fiction)? Lucia's father could go to hell, though. When I learned his secret, I was just like, MENTALLY DONE.
For the last fifty pages of the book, I just skipped. CURSES AND SMOKE actually made the explosion of Pompeii--one of the most famous and grievous natural disasters in history--seem anticlimactic. I did start to wonder about the ending, though. Would Shecter take the Pompeii route? The Titanic route? Or the Stephenie Meyer route? Would one, none, or all of the characters live?
A lot of people didn't like the ending, but I took a certain amount of schadenfreude from it. By that point, I was pretty much done with the story. Also, I'd just read another book about Ancient Rome, by Lisa Cach, and its porny, orgiastic debauchery was beyond compare. I had hoped that they might compliment each other, and instead one totally overshadowed the other.
Books are like fetishes; for every person who finds one super hott, there's one who finds it super not. To me, this book was super not.
With a handful of exceptions, Netgalley is pretty much the only way I ever get around to reading NA. I don't have a lot of money to spend, since writing doesn't make much, and my prior experience with the genre as a whole has made me very reluctant to spend cash on something I know I'm not going to like. At least with NG, I can read the book for free and then make my decision on whether the book is something I'd be willing to shell out money for in the future.
I found ALL NIGHT LONG incredibly offensive.
Homosexuality is portrayed as a joke, like something you'd use to punk your best friend ("Sorry, brah, I told the girl who was into you that you were gay. She slept with me instead, trolololo").
The character development is completely lacking. In fact, the characters' motivations as a whole were highly questionable. In terms of emotional depth, this has all the complexity and layering of monster porn. If you asked a high school girl to write kinky fanfiction about her favorite rockstar, you would probably get something pretty close to ALL NIGHT LONG. It screams "self-insertion fic".
The book is about Ash, who is the guitarist of a band. He's got frenemy issues with the singer, Xane, whose kinky fuckery and ill-treatment of women has rendered him a total heartthrob. Ash ends up meeting Ginny in his dressing room (women only come backstage for one thing, y'know), and ends up pretty much forcing himself on her. He spends a split-second debating on whether this makes him a bad person, but after that heartbeat of conscience, abandons himself to The Big D.
So they have unsexy sex with unrealistic dialogue and I am just sitting here, with the book equivalent of, "Is it over yet? Can I go to sleep now?"
It was that bad.
Then Ash's bandmates come in and start watching Ash and Ginny have sex. Just watching, and making comments. The female member of the band calls Ginny "a tart." She ends up leaving but the other two stay and watch, and one of them starts filming it, and doesn't stop even when it's pretty obvious that Ginny is uncomfortable. And why doesn't Ginny tell him to stop? Because Ash seems into it, and she doesn't want to displease him. I'm sorry, but no.
No amount of fame entitles you to treat women like assholes.
After this horrifying bit of horribleness, Ash shows the video to Ginny, and she learns that the band keeps an entire library of all the women they've porked.
After this, Ash keeps trying to force anal sex (and since this is a NA romance, we know he'll get his way. Because sex is about giving into the guy's wants and needs and completely ignoring your own). He talks about some of the other bandmates' fetishes, and maybe Ginny ends up banging them all, I dunno. I stopped caring. Because at this point, it became clear this book was going to infuriate me.
I am shocked and appalled that this has been published by HarperCollins.