Lady Aislinn is a lady...except when she's not. And this is usually when she's fucking the satyr that lives in the woods outside her manor. The story opens up with her clothes being super uncomfy because she can't wait to tear them off and have sex with him! And they do that. But then her father's steward comes in and starts talking to her about boring things like dresses and shoes while the satyr is busy giving her oral sex under the table. When the steward finally goes away, the satyr tells her that she has to make a choice. She can be a lady, or she can be a wanton sex-goddess. Which will she choose?
The answer is (not) surprising!
Ordinarily this book costs money but Smashwords is having its semiannual Summer/Winter sale, so I got it for free. Woo. I probably wouldn't have picked this out for myself, but I read it as a buddy read with my friend and fellow writer, Wart.
Since this book does ordinarily cost money, I feel like I can be a little harsher about it. The writing was good. There were no typos (most of these quickie erotica tales are horribly written, with typos, homophone errors, and tense irregularities). It was also nice to see consensual sex for a change, as most monsterotica tales are quite rapey. Lady Aislinn knows what she wants and isn't afraid to take charge. So in that sense, SHE CRAVES THE SATYR was refreshing.
I do think that this story is horrendously overpriced, however, considering the page count. Especially since the last few pages are...you guessed it--ads!
I was kind of hoping that this was going to be a lactation/tentacle porn hybrid. Unfortunately, it's just run-of-the-mill lactation erotica with an alien twist. Jane wants to go to college but her parents confiscated the keys to her car when they went on vacation because they want to keep her confined to the farm.
Ryvan is part of an alien species called the Xore who thrive off human milk. It's like crack to them. Sweet, juicy, taboo crack. And they use a magic lactation-inducing spray to cause humans to lactate who wouldn't ordinarily lactate.
They're supposed to do it when the human is unconscious, but Jane wakes up in the middle of it. She decides to go along with his plan, though, as long as Ryvan agrees to take her away from her awful parents when his plan is over and done.
ALIENS NEED MILK TOO is at a disadvantage. It's not particularly sexy, or interesting. People read these weird fetish erotica for one of two reasons: to be titillated, or to laugh. ALIENS NEED MILK TOO fails on both accounts. It isn't terrible enough to be funny, and it isn't good enough to be sexy (or horrifying).
I applied for this book because I thought it was going to be a juicy expose about the creator(s) of Instagram, kind of like what The Social Network was to Facebook. Nope!
Instead, with RICH KIDS OF INSTAGRAM, we are treated to a grueling new adult saga about a bunch of rich kids who...have far too much money and blow it all on stupid things while making bigoted and intolerant comments about everyone around them.
Racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, slut-shaming, classism, and just jerk behavior in general can all be found in this book. There isn't much of a plot, but then, I guess you don't really need one--because...rich kids!
I was buddy-reading this with my friend and fellow author, Sam Mariano, but I just couldn't get through this one. We got about 1/3 of the way through and could not believe that 2/3 more awaited us. The pace was so slow! And each character (oh yeah, POV swaps, every chapter) was worse than the last! We eventually decided to throw in the towel because oh my God.
The writing was very bad too. Apparently this was picked up by a traditional publisher? It doesn't read like it. It reads like mid-to-low quality indie. For example, the author has a huge problem with your/you're. There were several incidences where she wrote "your" instead of "you're." Now since this is an e-galley, I'm assuming (I'm hoping) that these typos will be fixed in the final draft. But it was still a nasty surprise to receive something so unpolished from Gallery Books, who, until now, I always associated with quality.
"Sweeping historical romance" is a bit misleading, as the romance in this book plays a very minor role. Avery Roe is a witch of Prince Island, descended from a long line of witches. For years, she and her female ancestors have protected the island and watched over the sailors, and they, in turn, have been respected and revered by the island's occupants. But all that has changed.
Each Roe witch has a special gift, and Avery's is being able to tell the prophetic nature of dreams. And she has just learned that she is fated to die.
Her only ally is a foreign boy with tattoos and a harpoon, Tane. He has magic of her own, and Avery hopes that it will be enough to break the curse that binds her to the island and come into her full powers before it's too late.
SALT & STORM is like a cross between WISE CHILD and BURIAL RITES. I loved the raw earthiness of the magic in this book, and how practical it was. Harry Potter is fun, but it's not as believable as, say, curses, charms, and spells designed to affect the passage of every day life. The Roe witches cast spells for calm winds, for love, for safety, protection, and doom--and the way it was done was so real that I'm tempted to buy an evil eye bracelet.
I also liked the idea of having to experience pain in order to achieve your powers. Peter Straub did that in his book, SHADOWLAND--the magicians in that book had to make powerful and unpleasant sacrifices in order to unlock their magic ("your wings or your song"). The fact that it's stayed with me all these years shows what an impression the concept made on me. True talent often comes at a price, whether it's the years of practice and time spent honing it, or lack of socialization/love/etc.
SALT & STORM is a debut novel and it does read a bit like a debut novel in the sense that the pacing is extremely uneven (the last half really drags), the character's motivations are questionable at times, and I often felt like the novel was a little "cluttered" (too many things squeezed into it at once).
However, the writing was beautiful and I loved the ideas that SALT & STORM had to offer. I really hope to see more from this author, as I'm sure that, like a fine wine, she can only improve with time.
I knew the plot twist from the get-go because my sister had to read this book foYou can read more reviews, faster, at my blog, The Armchair Librarian.
I knew the plot twist from the get-go because my sister had to read this book for college and she was talking about her essay analysis in the car. Of course, then she was like, "Oh, you haven't read Fight Club? Here you go!" And my friends were like, "SHE TOLD YOU THE TWIST?! YOUR SISTER MUST DIE." I was like, "Someone has been reading too much Palahniuk... Chill, bro. Chill."
Because Palahniuk, in case you haven't figured it out yet, is kind of an asshole. I mean, he must be, because his characters all have the same voice and I'm starting to think that that voice must be Palahniuk. Just as Meg Cabot's books are always about some plucky down-to-earth heroine with a gift for the gab, who sounds suspiciously like Meg Cabot, his books are always about some garden-variety sociopath, who likes hurting people and setting things on fire, and basically delivering one big giant middle finger to the population at large because fuck da police.
After reading Fight Club, I guess I can say that FC is one of the better books in the batch. There are some interesting literary devices and messages in here, even if I don't agree with them at all. In some ways, knowing the spoilers was interesting because it allowed me to read the book with a new lens, looking for clues like a book-obsessed Sherlock Holmes.
Still considering? Picture a dinner party between Ayn Rand, Holden Caufield, and Hannibal Lecter, and all of them are hopped up on some kind of stimulant.
I read this book for my 2015 Popsugar challenge, which I'm doing with a number of lovely ladies. The category this one was meant to fulfill was "a funny book."
You know who The Grinch is, right? Sometimes, I feel like the reviewer equivalent of The Grinch--this book comes out that everyone likes, it gets hyped up, the author is happy...and then I come along, and I read the book, and I hate it, hate it so much, and I write my review and basically shit on everyone's Christmas.
It is not a good feeling.
I wanted to like THE VIRGIN ROMANCE NOVELIST. I wanted to like it as a reader, as a writer, and as a woman who believes that women should be free to explore their sexuality without judgement.
But this book failed to appeal to me on all counts.
Let's talk about the good. This book had some definite funny moments. That bikini wax scene made me laugh, and there were a couple of other scenes that garnered a chuckle or two.
I also like the appreciation of romance novels. Romance novels are fun. And part of the reason that they're fun is that they're so ridiculously over-the-top cheesy. Especially the vintage ones. In fact, I wish more emphasis and references had been utilized, because the romance novels (bodice rippers) of the 70s and 80s are actually pretty gnarly, full of rape and memorably horrific scenes like castration, torture, gang-bangs, white slavery, and harems. Also, cameos from Fabio.
Unfortunately, there were a lot more things about this book that I really did not like.
Rosie Bloom, the protagonist, is a virgin. Obviously. You probably guessed that from the title. She wants to lose her virginity to give her writing more dimension, so she starts dating around and her two roommates (one boy, one girl) help her by giving her information bordering on TMI.
So she wants to lose her V-card, you're thinking, that's cool.
Well, sort of. Except that Rosie seems determined to put distance between herself and Other Women.
I by no means thought I was ugly, because I knew genetically I wasn't, but I was of the shorter brand of women with some slight curves and a retro style that was more I love Lucy rather than skanky sex club kitten, the typical girl Henry went for (29).
Yes, I had a retro style, but I wasn't a pin-up girl (47).
I was good looking, but like I've said, I'm curvier than others and have my own style that doesn't come close to rivaling the models Henry takes out (129).
And yes, at one point she makes a point of saying that her boobs are small, but real.
***SPOILERS FROM HERE ON OUT***
The book is also heavily reliant on stereotypes. There's the friends-to-lovers stereotype. The over-sexed best friend stereotype. And let's not forget Offensive Racial Minority stereotype.
"Yes, querida. These will be the best tacos ever to grace that bonita mouth of yours. You want me to show you how to eat them, yes?" (107)
"I usually sit down, naked and think of a bonita senorita, like yourself, Rosie, and lightly caress myself until I feel like I'm fully erect. That's when I take out my brush and start painting." (110)
This character is named Alejandro and is allegedly from Spain. Allegedly.
I wasn't wild about any of Rosie's potential love interests, except Lance...but then Quinn ruins his character by having him go off on Rosie because she "insults" his dog. That's another thing that I didn't like about this book. Animal lovers are portrayed as crazy, unbalanced people who worship destructive creatures out of a sick sense of masochism and unfulfilled sexual desires.
It always fascinated me how much people were obsessed with their animals. I liked a good four legged friend every now and then, but not to the point where I thought they were my child, and if I could, I would be breast feeding them three times a day... (46).
Maybe if this was only an issue once, it could be overlooked. But it's a running gag in this book that animal people are always crazy and always make you adore their pets unequivocally.
Another problem I had was with Henry, Rosie's friend. It's obvious from the beginning that he likes her and that we're supposed to root for him, but I thought he was kind of creepy. From the way he affectedly calls her "love" at the end of every single goddamn sentence (think "baby" from IF I WERE YOU in terms of frequency and you have an idea) to the creepy way he tells her that he prefers her "innocent" once she starts dating, Henry is overpossessive, emotionally manipulative, and definitely one of those guys who thinks being "nice" is measured out in tokens that you can use to get sex from girls.
Towards the end, he does something really awful that made me dislike him even more. Like, seriously, it was fucked up.
Seriously, this is a biggie.
Don't say I didn't warn you.
***LAST CHANCE, I MEAN IT***
Rosie loses her virginity with Henry. Obviously, she feels almost no pain. Obviously.
Anyway, right after they have sex Rosie checks her voicemail and realizes that she has a message from one of the guys she dated. It's just a voicemail and it's a voicemail, but Henry loses it and assumes that she's still seeing him. He calls up his ex-girlfriend and tells her that they ought to move in together again, on the basis of a single voicemail.
First off, this is not fair to either girl, and Henry is an asshole for thinking this is okay.
Second, the drama following this was resolved way too quickly. Henry realizes he was being too brash and kicks the old girlfriend (Tasha) out again (presumably), and dates Rosie instead. The book ends with them being boyfriend and girlfriend, with Rosie gleefully enacting all her kinks.
Which could have been a good ending, if not for the fact that:
(a) Henry is an asshole, and his possessive, controlling nature is portrayed as affectionate and brotherly, when in actuality he is a creeper with boundary issues and
(b) Rosie and Henry have basically zero chemistry--we're told they have chemistry but do they really? No.
Other wtf moments. Rosie names her vagina "Virginia" and it talks, and cries out for joy and all that jazz. It's basically a more honest description of Anastasia Steele's "inner goddess."
Speaking of inner-goddess, this yark-worthy quote appears:
Holy crap! I wanted to say Yes, Sir, Mr. Grey, sir and then bat my lashes like Anastasia, but decided to not role play, since I was pretty sure he wouldn't like it (137).
Edit: The more I think about it, the less I like the ending of this book, or the way it attempted to combat the "male gaze." I may well end up rounding down a half star to a three star rating at some point but for now my original 3.5 star rating still stands.
This book has received a lot of fanfare, and I'm always wary of that because I don't really like being told what I ought to like. I also attempted to read Raeder's other book, UNTEACHABLE, and didn't like that one, either, so fool me twice, why don't you?
Fool me three times, then, because BLACK IRIS was actually decent.
Okay, so here's the thing. I'm not unbiased. BLACK IRIS was hard to read because some of the things that happened in this book related to me in a personal way. It was a strange feeling, seeing facets of myself in the main character, especially in the last 10% of the book when all hell breaks loose. I had this same issue with BORING GIRLS, which actually has a very similar plot. It's like that poem about two roads diverting, and seeing what the other road could have been like. It's just so weird. It's like looking in a mirror and seeing your reflection do something all on its own. "Would I be capable of this?" you think. But of course, you don't really have an answer.
Not until you've already done it.
So BLACK IRIS forced me to think about a lot of things I've spent most of my adult life trying not to think about. (By the way: it has a lot of trigger warnings: violence, rape, sex, drug use, homophobia, sexism, stigma against mental illness, suicide ideation, etc. This is not a comfortable read.) I respect the book for that, but it didn't make it a fun read for me. I had to put it down several times.
Laney is a girl who likes girls, but she also likes guys too. She's crazy, and that's how she likes it. She revels in it. When she meets Blythe and Armin, the three of them get on like a house on fire. But all three have secrets, and Laney's might prove to be their undoing. The story is told in nonlinear format, jumping from past to present, and has a lot of sex. Lots of sex. F/F, F/M/F, M/F. SO MUCH SEX. It is well written sex, but there is so much. PREPARE YOUR OVARIES/TESTICLES.
BLACK IRIS is not just porn, though. It is also a revenge story. And a story about really insane people doing really insane things, with no desire to be "normal." Which is another thing I feel a little ambivalent about. On the one hand, I have always found mental illness fascinating. Like sexuality, mental health exists on a continuum, and what we take as the status quo is really just a mean of all the amalgamated states...and yet, with our desire to label things, we brand this mean as being "normal." On the other hand, stories like these can be harmful, because even though they bring awareness to valid issues, they do so in a way that attaches negative stereotypes to the very people it is trying to bring awareness to. I can't really say more about this without spoilers, but I do think that Raeder tried to explain away some of the things that Laney did.
Did I buy it? Hmmm. I bought some of the emotions. How self-hatred can either implode or explode, forcing you to destroy yourself, or the people around you, or both. I bought that because I've been through it, and I know how that hatred can consume you like caustic poison. Reading this book brought all of that right back. I'm not sure I'm sold on some of Laney's motivations, though, and the revelations at the end, and the big secrets...those were odd. Interesting, but odd. I do think that the last 10% really tested my suspension of disbelief. Everything just kind of becomes a Quentin Tarantino-esque slippery slope from that point on.
I guess the moral to this story is that you shouldn't fuck with people, because they might fuck back, and they might fuck better than you. It's a crappy moral, but these are pretty crappy people, and they've had crappy things happen to them, so watch out, bitches.
One of my good friends swears by R. Lee Smith, & kept pushing me to read her as well. Somehow I never really got around to it, so said friend ended up lending me to Scholomance to read on my Kindle. I was wary but intrigued—a school for demons, a sociopathic woman looking to get her best friend back? I shouldn't have questioned her judgment. This is, after all, the same woman who pushed me to read BLACK ICE.
THE SCHOLOMANCE is like a cross between THE HUNGER GAMES, DIVERGENT, and HARRY POTTER, except geared to adults...morbid adults, who don't mind a lot of gore and a lot of angry, gross, insectoid/reptilian demon sex. Because there is a lot of that in this book. Oh, boy.
(Ki)Mara Warner has always been different—as beautiful and as cold as ice, she has never cared about any person before except for her childhood friend, Connie Vitelli. Connie was fascinated by Mara's psychic abilities and it led to an obsession that took her to a magic school situated in Romania. After she left, nobody ever heard from her again...except for Mara, when she receives a letter from Connie that basically says, “I was wrong, please come get me.”
The demon school is only open on Halloween, and so Mara books a flight and finds herself in Romania. In order to get to the school, one must climb an impossibly high mountain, and it is actually encouraged for students to kill one another because they are, in essence, weeding out the weak from the strong.
I don't often find books that really have a great Machiavellian system, but SCHOLOMANCE does. I loved the complex interactions between all the demons. I loved how their morality completely transcended those of humans, and how they were not afraid or guilty to flaunt that in front of Mara just for funzies.
I loved the magic system, and the completely novel take on psychics. Mara's Panic Room, and the energy and health monitors and the Mindstorm were all incredibly inventive and so realistic.
And the gore and violence—it wasn't there just to shock (although I'm sure that was part of it); it contributes to, rather than takes away from, the story. Some of the passages made me wince and cringe, but I couldn't stop reading because I had to know what would happen next. Would Mara find Connie? Would she be murdered by her jealous classmates, or by the demons she was so intent on fucking with? Who would she choose in her bizarre little love triangle? Horuseps, or Kazuul?
God, this book...it was amazing, and beautiful, and dark, and I loved it, even though the damn thing had to be close to 1,000 pages. And the ending was surprisingly poignant....more
I am rating this book not on the quality of the writing but just on how engaging it was. I had the pleasure of hearing Ms. Grandin speak and her lectuI am rating this book not on the quality of the writing but just on how engaging it was. I had the pleasure of hearing Ms. Grandin speak and her lectures were utterly fascinating. I just couldn't reach that level of interest with her book.
On a side note, this would be an interesting read paired with Eric Schlosser's book, Fast Food Nation, as both mention the psychology behind the conditions in slaughter houses - and have some very contrasting views regarding the subject....more
This is a pretty trippy book. It revolves loosely around a young, precocious girl named Sophie (at least for the first half — but I won't say anymoreThis is a pretty trippy book. It revolves loosely around a young, precocious girl named Sophie (at least for the first half — but I won't say anymore than that) who starts getting mysterious letters from a philosopher. He forces her to rethink things she has taken for granted about her world with a series of philosophy lessons that cover everything from Democritus to Darwin.
I liked the elements of magic realism in this book. Not knowing what is real and what isn't was a good accompaniment to the philosophy element. When Alberto Knox started talking about surrealism, I kind of smirked to myself and thought, “Oh, you mean like this book.” Actually, that's probably the most ingenious thing about Sophie's World. Everything that happens in this book is a demonstration of some principle of philosophy — for example, he uses the “DRINK ME” bottle from Alice and Wonderland as an example of “individualism” (drinking the bottle makes each blade of grass look like its own little universe), and so on.
Having dabbled in philosophy in college myself and been forced to read the awfulness that is Hume and Kant (determinism! Skepticism! Ahhh! I'm having flashbacks to finals week, when I had to write ten-page term papers!!) in GRAVE DETAIL, it was fun to revisit the subject matter in a more lighthearted way. Alberto Knox's dry wit and witty banter reminded me of my History of Psychology professor, which was one of my favorite classes in college. If my philosophy textbook had been this engaging, I'm sure my class would have been much more enjoyable. As a novel, it wasn't so great. Sophie was kind of boring, and I felt that the mystery behind Alberto was revealed too soon. The translation of my edition was excellent, but the dialog came out sounding stilted — and I'm not 100% sure whether this is because of the translation, or because the author actually intended this to be a “Dialogue” (like those between Socrates and Plato).
I have to admit that towards the end I began to get bored. Gaarder has this big twist that TOTALLY flips the novel on its head (literally — if you've read the book, you'll know what I mean), and then the book got even crazier. Seriously, Disney Characters? Capitalist-pig Ebeneezer Scrooge getting attacked by a little commie peasant girl? I got really confused, because I thought I had the book figured out and then Gaarder shakes his bearded head, slaps a detour sign (written in Norwegian) in front of me, and sends me into the borderless land of philosophy (which looks suspiciously like Wonderland, except everyone's wearing togas and making even less sense than usual). You want to understand the book? He seems to say. How can you have any hope of doing that when you don't even know who you are? I suppose it was a good ending for a philosophical lecture, but I wanted a novel — and a novel's ending....more
It's official: I have a literary crush on Nicholas Nickleby. I can't help it. He's just so damn likable. He's educated, kindhearted, witty (his dry, iIt's official: I have a literary crush on Nicholas Nickleby. I can't help it. He's just so damn likable. He's educated, kindhearted, witty (his dry, ironic tone was so delightful--I love sarcasm, and Nicholas is fluent in it), and his devotion to his sister is amazing. But he's not without flaws; at first, he is painfully naive (although as the story progresses, he becomes more jaded and world-weary) and has a very quick temper that results in him beating up a couple people (but don't worry, they deserve it!). When he leaps to the defense of the children at Dotheboys and pummels the evil Mr. Squeers, I wanted to cheer! And when he attacks the lascivious Lord Mulberry Hawk for sexually harassing his little sister, I wanted to dance around my room to Auld Lang Syne!
But the rest of the cast is just amazing. I fell in love with Kate Nickleby, who has got to be one of the strongest female characters I have ever read in a Dickens novel. Even in the darkest of times, she never loses heart, or her sweetness. I admired the portrait painter, Miss La Creevy, who struck me as the type of grandmother who would bake her grandchildren cookies, but stab anyone who attempted to harm them with the very knitting needles she used to make their Christmas sweaters. Smike was so cute! I wanted to draw him as a Japanese chibi character with a little chappie hat. And Newman Noggs! At first I thought he was going to be one of the villains, but the only thing he was devious about was kindness! Oh, and how I loved/hated Mrs. Nickleby's absent-minded foolishness. Sometimes she made me laugh, as she reminded me of a senile Mrs. Bennett (from Pride and Prejudice) but how could she possibly be so blind to her daughter's suffering?
The villains are just as good, too. Mr. Squeers is the worst kind of villain, because he's able to convince himself that everything he's doing is for the best (he gives all of his children scarlet fever so that when the doctor comes to treat the injuries Nicholas gave him, they get added into the lower cost of treating children!!). And then there's Miss Squeers, who tries to abuse her power of being daughter of the schoolmaster to seduce Nicholas. Oh and Ralph--he's the most terrifying of all, because there are times when you suspect that he's not all bad. He's like Mr. Scrooge before his revelation: all he cares about is money, money, money, and whenever something appeals to his emotions it creates a cognitive dissonance that's so strong he attempts to freeze it out, or rationalize it.
I LOVE THIS BOOK SO MUCH!! I couldn't put it down for a moment. The pages just flew right on by, and I found myself constantly wondering what was going to happen next. It's amazing, really, that this book was written almost two hundred years ago, and yet it's still so accessible. I guess that just goes to show that while times may change, people don't, and you can still find characters like Nicholas Nickleby or, god forbid, Mr. Squeers, walking around at the Safeway....more
I love it when everyone hates a book except me; it makes me feel like I'm championing a cYou can read more reviews at my blog, The Armchair Librarian.
I love it when everyone hates a book except me; it makes me feel like I'm championing a cause.
Big Girls Don't Cry is one of the lesser works by Fay Weldon, probably best known for her book The Life and Loves of a She Devil. I haven't read that book yet (but I really want to), and the general consensus seems to be that this is a lot darker and nastier and less funny than TLaLoaSD. Maybe I've got a sadistic sense of humor, but I found this book quite hilarious.
It's difficult to summarize the book, but it starts in the 1970s when women's lib was just taking root. A group of ladies band together to form a feminist publishing company. I KNOW RIGHT. HOW COOL IS THAT? They try to stick to their guns, but they're also human and to err is human so they basically sleep around, make mistakes, make enemies, slut shame, fail, pop out babies, play Suzy Homemaker and basically end up talking the talk and not walking the walk.
And then one of the ladies dies.
Fast forward ten years and the daughter of the lady who died is now a media mogul in her own right; she owns a feminist magazine, that is markedly more successful than the Medusa publishing group her mother was peripherally involved with, now on the verge of bankruptcy. She's pissed off about her mother's death and wants to know who to blame.
Revenge, when it comes, is both swift and sweet.
I really enjoyed this book. Which says a lot about me, really, considering how much of feminist lit has me rolling my eyes. It pisses me off that the status quo of fem lit seems to be that a) either you're a raving loon and/or drug addict who ends up committing adultery and/or suicide, or b) you're a macho manly man with boobs, and spend all your time bitching about your own gender.
This book raised a really good point: you can't be in power and claim to be the victim. You have to choose. The characters in this book made their choices, and sometimes those choices ended badly.
I haven't read a book so wickedly funny since Catch-22.
I discovered bodice rippers a few years ago, by mistake--I was entering random key words into Goodreads's search engine to see what popped up, and a vintage book with a very dated cover popped up. Curious, I clicked the link to the book and saw it had a few reviews from some people who seemed to pop up again and again for similar books in that genre. When I read the summaries of the books, I realized that this genre was actually exactly what I wanted in my fiction--dark, gloomy, and weird. I have a friend who feels the same way. She also likes her books dark. So I said, hey, Jenn Young, let's read THIS OTHER EDEN.
The book starts out in a charnel pit where sixteen-year-old Marianne Locke waits in the rotting, suffocating gloom for her public whipping the following morning. Why is she going to get whipped, you ask? Because she refused the advances of Lord Thomas Eden--and then, to add insult to injury, literally, kicked him in the 'nads. A gross indignity he refused to suffer.
THIS OTHER EDEN is an odd book in many respects. First, the terrible situations all the characters suffer. Harris doesn't spare her characters the rod. At all. Marianne's whipping is appalling, and she is traumatized by it. Thomas Eden does many terrible things in fits of pique, and he suffers for it. There are many terrible characters who do terrible things in this book, and they all receive consequences for their actions, many of them terrible. I really appreciated that. Too many books have a black and white morality that just doesn't jibe with the workings of the real world. All the characters in THIS OTHER EDEN felt real, even if I didn't like them.
Gradually, Thomas Eden becomes obsessed with Marianne. What would have been a quick obligatory tithe, once refused, takes on the desirability of--I don't know--Paradise. As Marianne recovers at her sister's house in London (while her sister's common law husband sniffs around her skirts), Thomas Eden wonders if maybe she refused him because he was a little too harsh what with the whole whipping and all. He then plots and schemes to get into Marianne's skirts, disguising himself at a masquerade to dance with her, bribing her sister into letting him rape her--and then, when that fails, making a pretense at regret he does not feel, tricking Marianne into selling herself, and, oh, yes, resorting to eighteenth century quackery via the Scottish sexologist, James Graham.
There is literally nothing Eden will not stoop to to get his way.
My feelings about this book are mixed. On the one hand, the writing was beautiful and extraordinarily detailed, and I loved how messed up the characters were. On the other hand, there were some aspects about the book that made me raise an eyebrow. Sometimes the characters seemed inconsistent. Marianne, for example, is a bit all over the place. She starts out proud and spoiled, but then later on she becomes quite bland and tempered. Eden, too, is not your typical romance novel sociopath. He is privileged, and thinks that he is entitled to do everything that he does because it is his Divine Right. Whether this is abducting a developmentally disabled girl and delivering her to be raped at the leisure of one of his drinking buddies, or telling people to stop socializing with The Help, Eden is as determined about getting his way as your average four-year-old, and the results when this does not happen are pretty much the same. Eden is surprisingly whiny and self-centered, and also very easily scandalized. To be honest, I found him pretty pathetic. A horny old man who is driven to desperation by the insistence of his own dick, even at the cost of his limited sense of morality.
The ending, I felt, lost steam. It illustrates how far the two characters have come in their development, but I still wanted more. I didn't think the story was dark enough when it should have been, and maybe that is partially because the horrible things that I found so horrible were more accepted in Marianne's day. After all, at one point she points out that even if Eden does give her his property, it's still moot because she isn't legally allowed to own it. Women were pretty much nothing, and that is very much reflected in this book's plot. An HEA didn't convince me. I didn't see how Marianne could allow so much to be swept under the rug, especially the numerous attempted rapes.
THIS OTHER EDEN is definitely one of the more interesting bodice rippers that I have read. There isn't much sex in this book, but the plot is good. Lots of twists and turns, and many gothic elements that practically make the atmosphere itself a character. The writing is good (although there were a lot of typos in my edition), and touches upon many things that you would be unlikely to see in a modern published novel (at least, not without tons and tons of criticism and anger). I would recommend this to people who are interested in the vintage romances novels of the past; it's pretty much cannon.
edit/07/16/13//: GUESS WHAT I'M UPLOADING TO CREATESPACE AND THE KINDLE STORE???
It ended up being 100 pages. I don't like to pad things out, 'cause ifedit/07/16/13//: GUESS WHAT I'M UPLOADING TO CREATESPACE AND THE KINDLE STORE???
It ended up being 100 pages. I don't like to pad things out, 'cause if the story (or book in this case) is done, it is done. Good news is, it will be $.99 instead of $1.99! Yayyy!
edit/07/16/13//: Added a summary! It is from the preface!
I finished writing it! I put a lot of effort into each story because I want this to be as helpful as possible since I know a lot of the people on my friends list are interested in publishing their books some day too.
It isn't a grammar guide so much as a list of things that I found helpful and wish I knew from the start.
Jessica, the MC, encounters Club Shadowlands by accident when her car gets stalled on a dark and rainy night. If that sounds cliche, it kind of is. She takes shelter at the club nearby, and the sexy manager gives her a set of clean clothing after toweling her off rather invasively. He informs her that it's a private club and gives her a thick packet of rules, which he tells her to read. If she doesn't want to abide by them, she can wait in the corridor with the bouncer. As Jessica explores the club, she quickly discovers that it has a rather interesting theme. BDSM. Dun, dun, dun.
Master Z, owner and participant, cannot get enough of Jessica's curvy bod. He knows that if she gives him the chance, she'll be the perfect submissive. But he wants her to come to him freely, even if that means giving her the chance to run away screaming lol.
What follows is a night of bacchanalia that wouldn't be out of place in ancient Rome. People get whipped, spanked. There's simulated rape (although Jessica and Z do not participate). There's medical erotica, including a staged gynecological/breast exam. There's exhibitionism, voyeurism. Sinclair manages to incorporate a whole bunch of different subsets of BDSM sex, talking about what's typical, what's not, and how it all is fair game as long as the adults are consenting and abide by CSS.
(Consensual, safe, sane.)
The writing is much better than I was expecting. No typos. A little cheesy and over-the-top in parts, but the sex scenes more than made up for it. I didn't really like Jessica's character. Her reluctance didn't bother me--I thought her hesitance and shyness were quite well done--but the fact that she kept kicking people, and attacking people in defense of the women being "attacked" was a little silly and dumb, although the reasons behind this were later explained. It was also annoying to have a small, big-boobed, curvy heroine whining about how "ugly" and "fat" she was.
As a 5'9" woman, I have little patience with tiny people who whine about being found unattractive to men. There are tons of men who won't even consider dating a tall woman, no matter how attractive she is, just because she's tall. And if you're tall and curvy, you can pretty much forget about it.
But again, that's kind of a personal peeve. Similarly, I had to suspend my disbelief when Master Z was portrayed as a mind-reader. It got to the point where I was wondering if there was a supernatural element to this book--psychic? vampire? Nope. He is a psychologist. Buddy, I hate to say it, but being a psychologist does not make you a psychic. So that annoyed me as well.
Still, CLUB SHADOWLANDS is a great book for those who want to know more about the BDSM scene. I found it very informative, and loved the way the participants were described. There are some bad eggs who participate, but they usually aren't welcomed by the group (and are often disbarred from clubs). Most people who participate in the BDSM scene are just ordinary people looking for a way to kick back and blow off steam with their favorite kind of sex. Which happens to be BDSM.
I would consider reading other books in this series.
Even though I finished this yesterday, I decided to sleep on the review because otherwise it would have consisted enOh. My. God.
Even though I finished this yesterday, I decided to sleep on the review because otherwise it would have consisted entirely of incoherent babbling.
I used to eschew romance entirely. I was a horrendous literary snob, and believed historical-romances were nothing but silly bodice rippers for people to read at the hair salon or whatever. But then I befriended two lovely ladies named Myrika and Louisa, and their glowing accolades of regency romance--as well as the high GR ratings of the book--made me wonder if I was missing something.
Long story short: I was. They were right. I was wrong. Being a literary snob does not pay. Being a fangirl does.
(Well, not really.)
Lily Lawson flaunts convention like it's a silly hat. She drinks, hunts, and swears with the boys, leading her family to shun her and the ton to fix her with the Side-Eye of Disapproval. However, her light-hearted devil-may-care attitude masks a terrible secret: she lost her daughter years ago, to the man who first broke her heart.
Lord Alex Raiford (NOM NOM NOM) is still haunted by the death of the woman he thought he loved. When he sees Lily, who looks quite a bit like his departed Caroline, he has quite a shock. He makes up his mind to dislike her on the spot. His horror when he discovers that she is the sister of his bride-to-be is hilarious. Particularly when he tries so hard to mask his sexual attraction beneath a veneer of contempt.
Lily decides to break up the wedding between Alex and her sister, Penny, because she thinks he's a cold-hearted bastard who will turn her wallflower sister into a shrinking violet. She pretends to be engaged to the boy her sister actually loves as a scheme to get the two of them together.
When Alex kisses Lily in the kitchen in the middle of the night?
When Lily ties Alex to a bed to keep him from preventing the elopement?
I died again.
When Alex bets fifteen thousand pounds against her spending a night with him in his bed in a game of cards?
Kleypas toed the line between Byronic hero and emotionally abusive boyfriend. For a while, I was really worried that he was going to rape her--or her sister. But he didn't. Thank God. And despite his callous exterior, Alex genuinely comes to care for Lily. The way he treats her at the end just made me totally giddy because, hello? BOYFRIENDS DON'T HAVE TO SMACK YOU AROUND TO MAKE FOR A GOOD ROMANCE NOVEL.
Sexy sex scenes without abuse?
And the romance scenes are well-written. Extremely so. You can tell when an author isn't comfortable writing them because their style changes and they resort to florid prose and repetitive word use to dance around no-no words like "come," "nipple," "vagina," and "penis."
This was especially refreshing because I just read Teresa Medeiros, and I literally flinched at some of her... um, interesting alternatives. Like "lapping at her dew," or "crashing with her against the shore," or "plunging into her softness." Ugh.
Kleypas's style is consist throughout. She writes some pretty raunchy stuff, and it starts to get a little crazy towards the end, but it's well-written and in-character, so guess what? PWP?
(Don't worry, though, she doesn't sacrifice the plot. But there's a LOT of filler. Sexy filler.)
Kill for Me is a difficult book to rate because it's really three stories in one.
1. Teenage sex traffickers.
2. A family feud spanning several generatiKill for Me is a difficult book to rate because it's really three stories in one.
1. Teenage sex traffickers.
2. A family feud spanning several generations rooted in incest, corruption, and violence.
3. A rape victim learning to find love and trust again.
523 pages is both too long and too short for such intensive storylines and the book both drags and races (dragraces? Haha). It just doesn't work.
For a romantic-suspense novel, this is also remarkably dark and violent and features the most effed-up family you'll likely see outside of a novel by Gillian Flynn or V.C. Andrews. My god. I think I'm going to have to give everyone in my family an extra hug tomorrow, just for not being psychotic. This definitely is not for the faint of heart.
I must say that Luke is supremely hot. Oh my god. He's Greek. And he's a cop. Mmmmmmm. The scenes between him and Susannah were flawless, and when he brought down The Box from the closet I nearly died. Take that, Christian Grey's Red Room of Pain!
I'd recommend this to people who like James Patterson and Iris Johansen.
Thanks to certain Asians that shall not be named (*cough* Louisa *cough*) I've found myself on a regency jag. It's like reading Jane Austen fanfictionThanks to certain Asians that shall not be named (*cough* Louisa *cough*) I've found myself on a regency jag. It's like reading Jane Austen fanfiction--and it's SO GREAT having something to ship again. Also, I'm quickly finding out that Lisa Kleypas is to romance as Derek Craven is to love-making. Thank goodness her books are available through my library. Otherwise, I'd be broke, because, like Betty White, I just can't say no.
At least, when it comes to books.
Derek Craven is a difficult man to like. I was indisposed towards him because of what he did to Lily in book #1 (pimping out to Lord Raiford as if she were a whore--and because of jealousy and spite, no less!), and his addictive personality. Some women love their literary bad boys. Me, personally, I've never been a fan. My book boyfriends run more towards Mr. Darcy and Mr. Tilney than Mr. Heathcliff and Mr. Rochester. Those so-called Byronic heroes make me want to pee myself.
And not in an I'm-so-aroused-way, but in a I-don't-ever-want-to-come-across-you-in-a-dark-alley way.
Which is ironic, because that is exactly how Sara chances upon Derek for the first time. In a dark alley. In the worst part of the ton. Why? Because she's a writer. She conducts "research" on the dregs of society to write Upton Sinclair-esque romances about poverty, prostitution, and pestilence. Naturally, they're best-sellers.
Derek is in the midst of some free cosmetic surgery courtesy of his spurned lover, Lady Ashby, when Sara encounters him. She--Lady Ashby--isn't going to stand being turned down by a commoner, and devolves into a mindless, psychotic fit of jealousy. Anyway, Sara happens to carry a pistol in her reticule and she shoots one of the attackers in the throat and sends the other one off.
Considering that Sara is your rather typical bluestocking spinster character with a case of Sexy Librarian Syndrome (once the glasses come off, blammo--instant sex goddess), it's a surprise that someone as, um, continental as Derek finds himself so attracted to her. But he is.
75% of the novel consists of heartwrenching will-they? won't-they? moments, designed to toy with the reader's emotions.
The last 25%, as with Then Came You, consists of nonstop sex, a belated climax (in more ways than one hurr hurr hurr), a resolution, and a sappy, fluffy-wuffy epilogue full of kisses to end all kisses, twu wuv, and the joys of fatherhood.
Unlike many people, I liked Then Came You better, and I think it's because Alex was a much more compelling character for me. His relationship with Lily was just so intense and drawn-out. It was kind of hard to top. By contrast, I felt that Sara was rather tepid in her affections, and I still don't really like-like Derek. He's kind of a poopy-head. Plus, that lactation fetish thing towards the end conjured up bad memories regarding certain erotica novels reviewed by certain goodreads reviewers regarding certain WHY-GOD-WHY topics.
Don't click on those links, btw, unless you, too, wish to be scarred for life. (Actually, you should--as long as you're not at work--she's one of my favorite reviewers on this site.)
As it turns out, my historical romance reviewing spree might be put on hold temporarily. I've been suspended from my online library for reading too muAs it turns out, my historical romance reviewing spree might be put on hold temporarily. I've been suspended from my online library for reading too much. Apparently there's a cap on how many books you can check out within X number of days, and I've gone over it. As you can imagine, I'm devastated. Oh, well. At least it gives me time to catch up.
Everything and the Moon is going to be tricky for me to review. On the one hand, it's a great story that borrows from Jane Austen's Persuasion. On the other hand, there were many things about this book that really irritated me and I filled up several pages of angry notes in my handy-dandy Tesco notebook venting out my hatred of Robert.
The story starts out in the sappy, light-hearted spirit of a Nicholas Sparks novel: two white people from different socioeconomic classes, who want to be with each other very, very much but their evil parents don't approve. Robert is the son of an earl, and Victoria is the daughter of a vicar. Victoria's dad disapproves from the start: he's afraid that the nobleman only plans to add her as another notch in his bedpost. The earl is no less displeased: he believes Victoria wants to steal his son's title and then spend all his money--the evil little temptress!
He tells Robert that if he does marry Victoria, he runs the risk of losing all his inheritance and says, snidely, that at the very least this will teach him whether Victoria really loves him for who he is or for his money. Victoria is not happy to learn this, and doesn't want to be the cause of their falling out. She pleads with him to talk to his father and get his permission in the match, which, of course, only drives the wedge of doubt planted by Robert's father in further. He says cautiously that he will do this but only after they elope.
However, on the night that the two are going to run away, Victoria's father catches her packing her bags. Fearing for her honor and livelihood, he ties her to the bed and locks her sister in the closet so neither of them stands a chance of getting Victoria free. Robert comes by the house and sees Victoria in bed and thinks she's blown him off. When Victoria goes to the Earl's house, he tells her that Robert's gone to London to take a wife since his attempt to seduce her failed. He then advises her to leave town before her reputation is sullied, which she does, tearfully.
All of this takes place in the first chapter.
Seven years later finds Victoria working as a governess for a lady with social aspirations. The boy is spoiled and snobbish, and takes great delight in being as horrible to Victoria as possible. He leads her into the hedge maze and then skives off once he's gotten her well and truly lost, leaving her alone. In the dark. Miserable and terrified.
Robert, invited because of his title as Earl, is playing coquette with a lightskirt, only to practically trip over Victoria. He's shocked when he recognizes her as the girl who broke his heart all those years ago, and annoyed to find out that she isn't nearly as torn up inside as he feels she should be. Worse--she seems to feel that she's the victim.
After making her life hell, attempting to force himself on her, treating her like a whore, embarrassing her in front of her employer, and tarnishing her reputation, Victoria only hates him more than ever. Robert wants her to be miserable--he also just wants her, if you know what I mean--so he decides to kill two birds with one stone, trick her into befriending him, seduce her, and then get her fired for being in a compromising position so that she'll have no choice but to be his mistress.
Oh--and this plan? It almost gets Victoria raped.
Eventually the idiot Robert learns out what really happened all those years ago and is understandably horrified to realize what a cad he's been. He hates his father more, though, and blames him for the bulk of it, in spite of his own terrible behavior. How does he decide to make things right again? By forcing her to marry him.
The next 75% of the novel consists of: -emotional abuse -staring at her through her window for hours -making disparaging remarks about how poor she is -damaging her reputation so no one else will want her -buying her inappropriately expensive gifts (including lingerie) -kidnapping her -trapping her inside a building -locking her inside her room -delivering self-serving ultimatums -victim-blaming (she's at fault for believing the "ridiculous" notion that he'd try to push her into having sex with him only to toss her aside because he said he LOVED her dammit!) -invading her personal space and her privacy -making her decisions for her -not letting her voice her own opinion -manipulating the people around her into helping him -etc. etc.
The fact that this is accompanied by nonstop petty squabbling masquerading as witty banter makes this no less tedious or annoying.
Victoria isn't entirely faultless, though. Not because of her confusion or her physical attraction to Robert because that, annoying though it is, is at least somewhat understandable. I mean, she did love him and now he's back, and she still has that image of who she wanted him to be superimposed over who he is now.
No, Victoria is guilty of "no means yes" syndrome. She tells him to respect her as a woman, even as she subconsciously puts herself in positions for him to take advantage of her. She tells him to respect her opinions and then sits back voicelessly. It comes across as rather hypocritical and disturbing. Especially this one scene where she sleeps with him for the first time because he looks sad. How does he react? Afterwards, he tells her that now she has to marry him because what if she's pregnant? No other man will take her then!
What a charmer. How could she possibly resist such an offer? *sarcasm*
Sorry if this comes off as bitter, but these kinds of relationships bother me a lot because they're so abusive. You don't need to hit somebody to be an abusive boyfriend. Emotional abuse and excessive manipulation can be just as bad. Their position is never equal, and Robert is constantly lording his title and her subservience over her.
So why does this get three stars, then? It's not badly written, and the story itself is quite entertaining. Beyond pissing me off at times, though, I didn't feel any real emotional connections with the characters. But the story was good. Julia Quinn is a good writer and I'm definitely planning to read more books by her (Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever is actually my next victim). Hopefully, they'll be less annoying.
AMONG THE THORNS is a retelling of a lesser-known fairytale from The Brothers Grimm--"The Jew Among Thorns", or "Der Jude im Dorn." It is an absolutely charming tale about a boy with a magic fiddle who uses it to torture a Jew by making him dance in the thorns until he forks over all his gold. The evil fiddler boy escapes to a town but the Jew follows him and proclaims him a thief. The boy pulls out his fiddle again and tortures the Jew some more until the Jew says he is the thief, and is then hung.
Ranks right up there with Cinderella, right? I think there is a reason this story is doomed to obscurity. But part of history is learning to avoid repeating past mistakes, and Schanoes tells the story with chilling coldness, showing that sometimes a hero is nothing more than a villain standing in flattering light.
And the villain--well, he might just be the victim.
Set in seventeenth-century Germany, the story is narrated by Ittele, the daughter of the murdered Jew. When she discovers the fate that has befallen her father, she swears revenge on the fiddler and the town that gave him refuge. Through a powerful goddess, Ittele receives the magic she needs to counteract the powerful fiddler's magic. And then...well, that would be telling.
I was blown away by this story--it's darkness, the lyricism of the prose, the amazing character development (an astounding feat considering the length of the story), and the fact that this fairytale retelling--a very, very sub-genre of fantasy--introduced me to a fairytale that I wasn't familiar with. (There's another antisemitic fairytale called "The Good Bargain", btw.)
I had never heard of this author before, but I shall be keeping an eye out for her future works.
So the internet now shuts off at 12:15 in my house now, which is ridiculous, especially since I usually get home around midnight from work, so my time to do author stuff is basically nil. Let's see if I can crank out this review in twenty-seven minutes.
I've been reading THE GIRL WHO WAS SATURDAY NIGHT for several weeks now, and it's in that book purgatory where I didn't hate it, but I didn't really like it, either. It's kind of like when the TV switches over from the news to daytime television, but you're too lazy to get up and find the remote, so you end up watching Jerry Springer or Maury Povich. It's not good, but you can't stop watching, or it's not terrible enough that you actually want to take an active role in ceasing its being on the television.
So it was with this book.
TGWWSN is about two French-Canadian people in their early twenties who are twins. If they were American, you'd probably call them white trash. They're famous in Quebec only because their father was a Bob Dylany/Crash Test Dummiesy-type folk singer who never really let go of his allotted fifteen minutes of fame. No, he dug his claws in and hung on for dear life, leaving the kiddies without a parental hand to hold.
Nicolas and Nouschka are attractive and coast on their looks and the remainder of their father's fame. But soon they start to grow up -- either because of their own initiative, or against their will, and they learn that being an adult, with consequences!, pretty much sucks. It means giving up your dreams, or finding out you're no longer as sexy or attractive, or that you can't get off the hook with a winning smile, or that people expect more of you, and no, you can no longer get away with murder.
At first, I liked TGWWSN, although it was really (REALLY) reminiscent of her first work, Lullabies for Little Criminals. Both of them had a very strong WHITE OLEANDER set in Canada vibe that was really hard to ignore. I like loss of innocence as a motif, especially in literary fiction (high brow Maury Povich, bitches), but it has to bring something new to the table, and O'Neill had a lot of writing tics in this book that really annoyed me. Like her constant attempts to sound twee and profound. Or her overdependence on ridiculous similies (THEY HAPPENED EVERY OTHER PAGE). Examples:
...he glowed, like a baby that was fat on breast milk and about to pass out (299).
The smoke swirled inside [the bong], looking like a mermaid trapped in an aquarium, banging on the walls (255).
[The swan] held its wings in front of it, like a naked girl with only her socks on, holding her hands over her privates (161).
[The cat] looked like a boy at a funeral whose suit was too small for him (60).
[The] white Pomeranian [had] a face like a chewed-up tooth-brush (64).
The dog was trembling with excitement...like he was waiting to add a detail to your anecdote (64).
These occurred pretty much every other page, although sometimes as many as three to a page. These aren't even the worst one. The last author I read who did this was Vikas Swarup in his book, SIX SUSPECTS. I thought he went overboard, but O'Neill may have done it even more.
On the other hand, there were some beautiful passages like these:
There was a feeling, when we were together, that we were little kids dressing up as adults. That the universe was something that we drew with crayons and there was no such thing as tragedy (191).
Love is like this small room where a child brings you to show you all their treasures. First the child shows you all the new toys that are bright and shiny and top of the line. But then she shows you all the stuff that has ended up at the bottom of the trunk. There are dolls with eyes that wobble, hair that is falling out of their heads, and dirt behind their ears. Their fingertips have been chewed off by dogs and they have been drawn on with ballpoint pen. It has been so long since they have been held or anyone has told them that they are lovely. They lie at the bottom of the toy chest, hidden and ashamed. You are either going to be disgusted by them, or you are going to be so filled with love for them that your heart almost breaks (228).
When you are young, you can dress in rags and stand on the table and piss in telephone booths. In a young person, these are the traits of a poet. But if you exhibited any of these behaviours at forty-five, people would think you are a degenerate (341).
TGWWSN was an interesting read, but not particularly good. It definitely suffers from second book syndrome, and is proof that you should not let critical acclaim go to your head, or make you think you are invulnerable. Instead of continuing to be edgy and daring, like her first book, O'Neill stayed with what was comforting and got lazy. The result was extremely disappointing.
THE LIFE AND DEATH OF SOPHIE STARK is a novel told in negative space. Sophie Stark is an indie filmmaker who is rising to fame because of how well her movies capture what it means to be human. We never once hear Sophie's narration; instead, we get an idea of what she is like through the narratives of those around her -- movie critics, directors, her girlfriend, her husband, her brother -- and as the portrait of Sophie is painstakingly colored in, we see a young woman who is painfully alone, and possibly depressed, and has no idea how to relate to others, because outside of her movies (and not always in them, either), nobody is interested in what she sees as the clear truth.
"I used to feel kind of isolated a lot of the time...like I was in a box and the rest of the world was outside the box. After I started taking pictures, I felt less like that. But I started getting really interested in how people move, and you can't really show that in photos -- or you can, but it's difficult, and you can only get little pieces of it. So I decided I wanted to make movies" (174).
One of Sophie's key tenets is something I also happen to strongly agree with: a good story is not always a happy story. Sometimes in order to make something good, you have to end it in a way that most people would see as devastating. And there will always be people who will not like your work just for that, because in a culture of false optimism, nobody likes the Debbie Downer. Sophie has trouble lying, even in her movies. She's willing to manipulate people, and upset people, just to make them good. This is reflected in her personal relationships, where she can fall in love with someone for the smallest of reasons, and then out again when she realizes that they're no longer interesting.
While reading THE LIFE AND DEATH OF SOPHIE STARK, I couldn't help but think about THE NIGHT FILM, which I also reviewed (and adored). It's also a book that tells the story of people -- well, one person, anyway, who's also a filmmaker -- through movies: and Stanislaus Cordova is also doomed from the start. And while the plots, and the tone, and the purpose of these books are totally different, they both conclude, I think, that sometimes trying to get to know an artist through their work can be like chasing a phantom.
Reading THE LIFE AND DEATH OF SOPHIE STARK also made me think of, well, me, which made this a difficult read, because certain parts of this story really resonated with me on a personal level. Throughout my whole life, I've always felt like an outsider looking in, and while I feel like this has given me certain insights about people, it's also made me very lonely, and like Sophie, I think my works suffer when I try to write about relationships because I have never been very good at those. I think being an artist does inherently make you a selfish person, because in order to be good, you have to pour your whole heart into your work, and that doesn't leave a whole lot of room for anyone else. Sometimes not even the artist. I once made myself really sick while working on one of my books because I was so obsessed with finishing, and I stopped sleeping for several days. My mother actually told me that if I did not curb myself I would have to stop, because I was destroying myself.
"I thought making movies would make me more like other people....But sometimes I think it just makes me even more like me" (188).
I've always believed that artists are like conduits for their work, and sometimes the channel just isn't strong enough to withstand the creative energies pouring through. It's like possession -- and if you're not careful and don't work in moderation, it is possession -- and the results can be beautiful or frightening or, in Sophie's case, both. Being an artist also means looking at the world in a different way, and while this can be beautiful too, it can also be terribly lonely if nobody else sees or understands the world in the same way as you.
Whether Sophie Stark is a strong person or not is up for debate, but she is definitely a memorable one, and I feel like she would have approved of the ending Anna North chose. THE LIFE AND DEATH OF SOPHIE STARK is a very meta work of fiction that both captures the pain of an artist, and the problems of living with one. It's certainly given me a lot to think about.