Remember how well Prohibition went? Really well, right? It totally got rid of alcohol and in no way c ♥ || Twitter || ♥ || Facebook || ♥ || Instagram || ♥
Remember how well Prohibition went? Really well, right? It totally got rid of alcohol and in no way caused the mafia to seize power and cash in the absence of legal competition? Yeah, that's pretty much how the War on Drugs is affecting multiple global economies. So, um, go us. We fucked up and created a 400 billion dollar empire for crime. *waves tiny U.S. flag* AMURRICA.
I applied for GANGSTER WARLORDS on Netgalley because I actually have a work in progress that's about the mafia, and since I know absolutely nothing about drugs or crime or how an actual mafia works, I thought this might be a good book to research that. Plus, I'm an inherently curious individual. I like knowing how things work, and why, because I think it's important to know what's going on in the big wide world around us.
Grillo really does his research. He does not shirk from going to some of the most dangerous places in the world, and interviewing some of the most dangerous men in the world. He actually sits down and talks with some of these gang members, and they actually tell him their stories. I have to say, that takes guts.
And speaking of guts, there are a lot of literal guts in here. Some of the people mentioned in this book are not nice. One woman refused to smuggle cocaine and got raped and then shot in the vagina. One of the gangs in this book has a hazing ceremony where they chop up their (human) kills and eat them. There are prisons where people are hacked apart with chainsaws, governments that are in cahoots with crime lords, and innocent victims who just...disappear. Into a barrel. Full of acid.
With books like these, I think "enjoy" is the wrong word. It's painful, honestly, to hear about situations like this--many of which were a first time thing for me. As independent nations, we're so focused on our domestic problems that we tend to ignore what's going on with our neighbors. But the drug problem is an international problem with no quick fix & that's really tedious to read about...
Most of my friends fell firmly into one of two camps: they either really hated CAPTIVE IN THE DARK, o ♥ || Twitter || ♥ || Facebook || ♥ || Instagram || ♥
Most of my friends fell firmly into one of two camps: they either really hated CAPTIVE IN THE DARK, or they loved it. It's a bizarre story, and quite dark. Caleb was sexually and physically abused as a young boy. Now, as a grown man, he's joined the ranks of the abusers himself, participating in the sex trade in order to get revenge. His plan is to kidnap a young American virgin, break her, and then sell her in order to get close to the man he wants to kill.
It's the All-American Love Story...not.
I actually don't mind reading about dub-con and non-con if it is written well and isn't romanticized. CAPTIVE IN THE DARK is fairly well written for an independently published book, although it does feature some awkward syntax I wouldn't use myself, and at one point the author uses "waive" when they should have used "wave", so this may be damning with faint praise.
I don't think Caleb was portrayed particularly well. Even though this book isn't being marketed as a romance, it does follow the arc of a romantic story line. I felt that his backstory was a cheap attempt to garner pity for him without doing any of the legwork. I also felt that all the other men in this story--the bloodythirsty assassins, the hick rapists--were written with the attempt of making Caleb look more attractive by comparison. I'm sorry, but when a man kidnaps a woman, anally rapes her, and finds her tears sexually arousing, he is not allowed to be a romantic hero. Not a traditional one, anyway, and not without one hell of a motherfucking redemption arc (or some serious depravity on the heroine's part).
I also didn't like how quickly Olivia gave in, or how so much of the focus on her giving in was submitting sexually. Capitulation is not the same as affection; it's about survival. I also found it disturbing how this book, like so many others, took the "he's attractive, so it's okay" approach. Good looks do not absolve you from depraved, sociopathic actions. In fact, you could argue that manipulating people into doing horrible things with your looks actually makes you worse. When she did fight, she resorted to petty, childish insults. I get that she was supposed to be quite young (eighteen I think) and scared, but I would have liked to have seen a character who was more resourceful or resilient, because that would have been more interesting to read about.
Despite my reservations, I quite liked the story until the second half, when Olivia escapes. Then everything goes to shit. I didn't like any of the new characters introduced, nor did I like how the storyline essentially became dependent on revealing as many twists as possible. The happily for now ending had me rolling my eyes, because, oh, look, I guess this is a romance, after all.
This captive erotica was a bust for me. I've now read this, and COMFORT FOOD, and so far I don't really get the hype. I did hear HER MASTER'S COURTESAN is better, so I may try that next.
Surprisingly, I haven't read a lot of these captive erotica novels before, although they were very popular in the wake of FIFTY SHADES OF GREY's success. For a while, it seemed as though everyone was competing to see who could write the most twisted and dysfunctional relationship.
COMFORT FOOD is about self-help guru Emily Vargas. She wakes up after being drugged, finding herself blindfolded and tied up in a cell. Her captor knows how much human contact plays a part in her life and psyche, and withholds that, using as leverage to ensure her compliance and her submission.
Emily gives in pretty quickly, which I suppose makes sense from a survivalist standpoint, but I personally like seeing female characters with more backbone. This apologist mindset makes her POV very tedious, because we get a lot of lines like these: "He was a beautiful monster." "I leaned into his touch, hating myself." "I hated him, but I wanted his approval, more than anything." I'm paraphrasing here, but there are many, many lines in the book that are very similar to these, and they happen a lot earlier than you would expect, & she only makes a few token efforts at escape and resistance.
The sex scenes themselves are mostly written in third person. The first time this happened, I found it incredibly jarring, since it was an abrupt change from Emily's first-person narrative. Then I realized that this was probably an attempt on the author's part to show how Emily dissociated from the sex and her desire for it, because of how it eroded at her sense of autonomy and agency. Cognitive dissonance, yo. Michelle Knight did something similar in her memoir of being taken captive, where she referred to her captor and abuser as "The Dude."
If you're reading this book to be titillated, don't. The sex is not erotic at all (and I don't really think it's intended to be), and the third-person shifts make it seem depersonalized and clinical. Also, and this is just a personal preference here, I just don't find anal sex fun to read about. The way it's written, it always seems gross and weird and painful. The moment the words "burning" and "ripping" appear in conjunction with a sexual act, I'm done. That's all. Just, nope. A thousand times, nope.
The best part of this book was probably the journal written from her captor's point of view. It was surprisingly compelling, and kind of reminded me of John Fowles's book, THE COLLECTOR. One of the problems I have with dark erotica is authors trying to make the bad guys sympathetic by making them victims of abuse themselves. I think this is a very cheap and manipulative way to attempt to garner sympathy for one's characters. Yes, some victims of abuse grow up to become abusers themselves, but that's not the only reason people abuse. I thought Thomas did a good job making this abuser human without trying to apologize for him. He was completely unrepentant.
COMFORT FOOD wasn't as bad as I'd feared, but it wasn't as good as I'd hoped. It falls into that odd part of book limbo where you find yourself with something that you know could have been good, but didn't particularly like, either. I'm incredibly grateful to my friend HJ for lending this book to me to read on Kindle, and I'm only sorry that I didn't enjoy it as much as she did. I have to say that it sure was great to finally read the book that everyone else was telling me about, though! Thanks!
THE LITTLE RED FISH is a very short graphic novel about a community of fish living by a dock. They are hunted by the ruthless herons that live above, and prey on their young.
The leader and protector of the fish is a shape-shifting fish called Meluchere who can turn into an eagle. He has looked after the fish for a long time, but treachery stirs beneath the waves, and might mean that it is time for a new fish to take his place.
The artwork in this book is really interesting. It's not as stylized as the cover suggests, which was a bit disappointing, but there are some really great scenes in here. The storyline is good, too, but sad, and a bit confusing. Not sure if I'd read another one... D':
I can't believe I'm already on book 5 of this series. You know, this started out as a total whim. I applied for the first book randomly on Netgalley and almost didn't read it because I thought it looked like a kid's series. But I was waging the eternal struggle against my Goodreads yearly reading challenge and thought, "What the hell, I'll read some comic books to boost my stats and make me feel better about myself."
Surprise, surprise, the book was actually an adult series, not a kid's series, and it was surprisingly...good.
Last Man starts as a fantasy series, but there's hints that the fantasy realm it starts out in is...not quite as isolate as it seems. Aldana, the stranger who infiltrates their sleepy little magic-conducting village, hints at a world that's a lot like our own.
The bridge between fantasy land and gritty, sleazy reality was a bit abrupt at first. I wasn't sold on the concept initially, but it grew on me. Because of Aldana, the two other protagonists, Marianne Velba and her young son, Adrian, end up fighting in gladiatorial arenas, blackmailed by a ruthless tycoon who looks a lot like that epic beard guy from The Hunger Games.
We also meet Tomie, who is this world's answer to an "It Girl." She dresses very trampily, in a way that's over-sexualized, and does a lot of drugs. At first I thought she was going to be the Hooker with the Heart of Gold stereotype, but she's actually a lot more complicated and interesting than that. She has autonomy. She's kind of a bad-ass. And she's not ashamed of her sexuality. Awesome.
In THE ORDER, we cut back to Adrian's village, The Valley of Kings, for the first time since, like, two books. We see Adrian's friends, Elorna and Gregorio, and Marianne's admirer, Master Jensen, and how their absence is affecting the village. We see their paranoia, and their anger at Aldana, and their witch-hunt-like frenzy that causes them to do something drastic...and dangerous.
Something about this book reminds me of a bad 80s science-fiction movie with cheesy special effects. Something like Running Man. Arnold Schwarzenegger would fit in nicely into these roles. In fact, if Hunger Games had been written and set during the 1980s, it'd probably look a lot like this.
The Last Man is cheesy and not for everyone, but it's become a solid guilty pleasure of mine. The books were originally written in French, so waiting for them to be translated into English is kind of torture, but I find them worth the wait. If you find these and enjoy over-the-top action sequences a la shounen manga and don't mind a bit of Ahnold influence, then by all means, read these books!
AND THEN MESSAGE ME AND WE CAN SQUEE ABOUT THEM TOGETHER.
I thought THE CASUAL VACANCY was edgy, and I thought THE CUCKOO'S CALLING was gritty. THE SILKWORM is both...wrapped in horror. Never did I think I'd see the day when my beloved J.K. Rowling would write things so disturbing that I'd go to bed more freaked out than I was during Markiplier's game review of Five Nights at Freddy's. (HOLY SHIT.)
Strike, still basking in the success of his solving the Lula Landry case, is soon enlisted to find a missing writer. His client? The beleaguered wife. Apparently this writer, Owen Quine, has a habit of disappearing fairly regularly, but this time his wife, Leonora, has reason to believe that his disappearance is slightly more ominous. His newest book, called Bombyx Mori, has a lot of people very, very angry. Apparently, it borders on libel.
And the last thing he did before disappearing, after his publishers deemed him untouchable, was threaten to self-publish...
Good golly, but some terrible things happen in this book. Rowling is such a nice, wonderful lady, and after reading about her writing about wizards and witchcraft for years, she's suddenly writing things that would give even Mr. Stephen King a run for his money. I am impressed. And terrified.
The characters in this book are even more colorful than they were in CUCKOO. Plus, I loved the fact that she was writing about writers. Rowling covers a lot of hard truths about writing, and it seemed to me like there was some genuine bitterness in there. Maybe I'm wrong. But I think it would be hard to be so famous (or infamous) and be exposed to that many people, and not be at least a little jaded.
Also, she makes self-published authors look like vain, neurotic, crazy, insecure hacks-slash-assholes. I'm not sure how I feel about that. Granted, I'm sure there's some people who believe that I am a vain, neurotic, crazy, insecure hack-slash-asshole, but it's still kind of odd seeing a group that you are a part of being portrayed like that. I can't be mad at Rowling, though. Nope. Not even a little.
The mystery aspect of THE SILKWORM is really well done. Everything ties neatly together (Rowling's always been really good at that, in all her books), and the foreshadowing is excellent. I didn't guess who the murderer was, which is always a plus. Strike and Robin work so well together as a team. They have this really great, buddy-cop type relationship that's platonic (at least for now), but also really compassionate and caring. Seeing their friendship blossom over the course of the series is incredibly fun, even if Strike can sometimes be an unfeeling block of obtuseness.
Robin is such a great character.
I just put a hold on my library's copy of the sequel, CAREER OF EVIL, but I'm #8 on the wait list. I really can't wait to read it! Rowling's Cormoran Strike books seem to be getting better with each installment, and my expectations for CAREER OF EVIL are super high.
I'd recommend this series to fans of Tana French and Gillian Flynn. If you are a die-hard HP fan and can't stand the thought of reading anything that isn't about wizards, I'd urge you to stay away. Especially if you couldn't stand CASUAL VACANCY because you thought it was too depressing and dark. That, compared to this, is child's play. You've been warned, muggles.
I'm a sucker for pop culture microhistories, and comic book history is no exception. The popularity o ♥ || Twitter || ♥ || Facebook || ♥ || Instagram || ♥
I'm a sucker for pop culture microhistories, and comic book history is no exception. The popularity of geek culture has created an expansive market for these types of books, and over the last three years alone, I've seen geeky microhistories soar, including, but not limited to, books about Dungeons and Dragons, the Spiderman musical, and a history of Nickolodeon.
My first superhero history was actually by the author of this book, and it was called WONDER WOMAN UNBOUND. It delves into the complicated, and sometimes sordid, history of Wonder Woman and her creator, while doing compare-and-contrasts against the two other majorly popular superheroes of the Golden Age of comics: Batman and Superman.
I supplemented my knowledge of comic book history by picking up SUPERMAN: THE HIGH-FLYING HISTORY OF THE MAN OF STEEL, which showed Superman's development across the varying comic book "ages", as well as providing more background on creators Shuster and Siegel, and some of the behind-the-scenes of the movies, including George Reeves's mysterious death.
I also managed to get my hands on a copy of CAPTAIN AMERICA, MASCULINITY, AND VIOLENCE: THE EVOLUTION OF A NATIONAL ICON via Netgalley, which is probably my least favorite of the superhero histories I've read, namely because Captain America's inception seems so jingoistic. He was created at a time when America needed to be strong in order to get through the war effort, and in the here and now, he kind of comes across as a living relic, an anachronism.
ANYWAY, when I saw INVESTIGATING LOIS LANE on Netgalley, I jumped at the chance to apply for it because I was really curious to see how Hanley would analyze Lane's various portrayals in the Superman universe. One thing that really upset me about SUPERMAN: THE HIGH-FLYING HISTORY was how sadistic Superman was to her at times, especially during the Silver Age. He tricked her into thinking she'd killed someone to teach her a lesson and thought nothing of knocking her unconscious to make her more manageable. That's a far cry from her competent and savvy portrayal in the Smallville series, or even in the 1990s cartoon, Superman: The Animated Series.
One thing I loved about WONDER WOMAN UNBOUND was the feminist angle, and how the author tied in her portrayals at various time periods to society's attitudes about women during those corresponding times. Lois Lane starts out as a kind of film noir, brassy, good-but-not-too-good-for-you-type dame who is basically flattened against the glass ceiling. She was good for a girl, but not so good that there's ever any doubt who the "real" hero is.
After Wertham's book, Seduction of the Innocent, comics took a huge step backwards in the Silver Age, as they made huge efforts to be as tame and unobtrusive as possible so as not to get banned. Lois fit neatly into society's normalized gender roles for women: she was emotional and constantly getting herself into trouble, all so she could marry Superman. Fans at the time found her so annoying that they wrote letters to the editor saying that Superman should turn her over one knee and spank her to "teach her a lesson" or "give her what she deserved." Comics at this time had a decidedly anti-feminist bent, with Superman treating Lois more like a disobedient child than an autonomous adult.
In the Bronze Age, the comics tried to shape themselves to fit in with the social justice movements occurring at this time, but often with disastrous results and mixed messages. In addition to cat fights with Lana Lang over Superman and more silly squabbles, there were two disturbing issues that had Lois Lane acting as a "white savior" to people of color: in one instance, she adopts a Native American child while fighting with landowners, and in another she actually goes inside a machine that turns her into an African American woman. What follows is a cartoonish version of the memoir BLACK LIKE ME, as Lois Lane learns what it's like to be black, and ends with Lois Lane telling all her new black buddies that she understands them now and not all white people are bad.
I thought the most disturbing part of this book was all the instances where Lois Lane is killed in order to provide a catalyst for more character development in Superman. There's a website called Women in Refrigerators, created by Gail Simone, that has a list of all the women who have died, been tortured, or otherwise made to suffer horribly in order to further the trajectories of their male counterparts. Hanley also cites various instances in the 2000s where Lois Lane becomes a highly and inappropriately sexualized character, for no reason except to provide cheesecake shots.
I thought it was interesting to see how INVESTIGATING LOIS LANE tied in with what I knew from reading the other superhero histories. I didn't think I would learn too many new facts, but I did. I didn't know, for example, that Mario Puzo, author of THE GODFATHER, had penned the scripts for the first two Superman movies. The fact that old characters from previous Superman franchises make cameos in the newer ones is really cool and an inclusive way to unite different fanbases, and I thought that was pretty cute. I also like Hanley's views...possibly because they seem to sync up with my own. He's daring enough to criticize Alan Moore for his treatment of female characters in his popular graphic novels (which I agree with whole-heartedly...the rape scenes in LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN and WATCHMEN are highly unpleasant, as is the gratuitous torture scene (of a woman) in BATMAN: THE KILLING JOKE); a criticism I've voiced several times myself when defending my low-ratings of said books to fangilantes.
Lois Lane is a fascinating character, and it was really great to see how that character developed across times, in various mediums. Tim Hanely is a definite must-read for any person who loves comics, but especially women, because he seems to have both a passion and a feel for the relevant social issues that revolve around the popular heroes and heroines of graphic-novels & how they relate to gender norms and societal issues of a given time. I've read two books of his now, both feminist in nature, and both thoughtful and thought-provoking, and I have to say, I'm a fan. I hope he keeps writing books in this vein, because I think there's a lot of heroines out there who don't receive their due.
P.S. My to-read list kind of exploded after reading this book. I now have to get my hands on Glenda Brown's LOIS LANE: FALLOUT, and see if I can obtain the 1980s publications "WHEN IT'S RAINING, GOD IS CRYING." Because holy shit, dude.
NOVEMBER 9 is my first Colleen Hoover book, ever. Now, I didn't used to go in for new adult--like, at all. My experiences with it were pretty terrible, for various reasons, and it was getting to the point where I would strategically avoid any book that had a white, cis, heterosexual embracing on the cover and a title that consisted of the formula "(verb) + "me" because I knew what it meant.
But lately, I've found myself actually enjoying some new adult novels. I read THE YEAR WE FELL DOWN by Sarina Bowen and found myself pleasantly surprised by a protagonist in a wheelchair who dealt with the problems associated with that in addition to the normal trials and tribulations of starting college. And right now, I'm reading ADDICTED TO YOU by the Ritchie twins, which somehow manages to be trashy as fuck but also incredibly entertaining and not entirely guilt-inducing, either.
This, combined with the fact that Colleen Hoover genuinely seems to love and appreciate her fans and seems to work hard to give back to the community that made her the new adult super star she is, made me less apprehensive than I otherwise might have been. I mean, Kat Stark gave it 5 stars. I love Kat Stark. I love stars. I'm even starting to love (some--very, very, very carefully handpicked) new adult books. I should have loved this book.
Instead, I wanted to set it on fire, and then launch that fire into the sun, and then launch the sun into another sun, and then launch that sun into a black hole.
Note: this review is going to have lots and lots of spoilers. I'm going to be tagging this as a spoiler review on Goodreads, but since this is also going on my blog, and I can't do that on my blog, I'm warning you now: there are going to be lots and lots of spoilers. Read at your own risk!
(view spoiler)[So Fallon, the heroine, used to be a popular teen actress until she was burned in a fire, and then her producers wanted nothing to do with her, her contract was dropped like it was hot, and her ambitious actor father stopped enjoying her company becauseshe was no longer a valuable asset. When we first meet her, she's having lunch with this asshole and they're dancing aggressively around this subject.
At this point, I felt fairly positive about the story. I could sympathize with Fallon, I thought her father was a douche of the lowest kind, and I liked the fact that she wasn't letting him beat her down.
While this is happening, Fallon notices a hot guy sitting by himself a few tables over, watching her. As the argument with her father escalates, and he edges around the fact that she should abandon her dreams of theater because nobody will think she's pretty enough (asshole!), the hot guy comes over to the table, puts his arm around her, calls her babe, and introduces himself to her dad as her boyfriend.
Ben. The Writer.
He ends up talking to her about it afterwards and she invites him over to her place, ostensibly to help her pack, although he ends up doing a lot more with her than that. Which I didn't really buy, because she doesn't really know anything about this guy, except that he seems to be completely shameless and, more importantly, insanely hot. (Emphasis on "insane.")
"I could tell with that one simple movement that you were really insecure. And I realized--since you obviously had no idea how fucking beautiful you were--that I just might actually have a chance with you. And so I smiled. Because I was hoping if I played my cards right--I might get to find out exactly what kind of panties you were wearing under those jeans" (30).
He tries to portray himself as a white night, but the image I got is one of a predatory man who is taking advantage of a woman he knows feelsself-conscious and vulnerable about her appearance because he thinks it means he'll have an easier time getting her to have sex with him.
And just in case you didn't think that line about wanting to see her panties is funny, don't worry. It only becomes a running gag that's repeated endearingly throughout the course of the book. Also, he thinks about her boobs a lot. Especially whether they're disfigured by the fire. He thinks that she should wear a lower cut shirt so he can see her possibly fire-disfigured boobs and also so she won't look like a nun. I couldn't help but think that this was exceptionally insensitive and fucked up, and I can't believe that this man is being vetted as an actual love interest, because what the fuck.
Ben also has this to say about women:
"...who wants an incredibly written book sitting on their bookshelf if they have to stare at a shitty cover?" (29)
And also this:
"I barely know you, so I'm not going to argue with you over your level of intelligence, because you could very well be as dumb as a rock. But at least you're pretty" (46).
When he takes her out to dinner that night, he also tells her that he has the right to tell her what to wear because he's paying for it. And doesn't this just reek of medieval droit du seigneur philosophy. "I have the money, so hand over the pussy." As if this isn't nauseating enough, he then undresses her, while she's clearly feeling uncomfortable. Fallon even mentions feeling afraid of what he's going to do and thinking of telling him to stop, but she doesn't. Well, she should have. Because what the fuck.
"I'm paying for dinner, so I get to choose what to stare at while we eat" (38).
Dinner goes--gag--well, but Fallon doesn't want to be in a relationship with him because a) her mother said that young adults change their mind until they're twenty-three so she doesn't want to date anyone until then, because she might change her mind about them, and b) Ben is writing a book and she's pursuing theater and dating might cause them to--gasp--lose focus. Which is why college students all over the world don't date. Um, what the hell? They block each other on Facebook so they won't be tempted to communicate with one another, and Fallon refuses to exchange email addresses. Instead, they decide to meet every day on November 9 to catch up and do other stuff.
On the second November 9, his brother dies, but Fallon sees him anyway, and they go out to dinner during which Fallon says all Asian food is exactly the same, and have sex. Fallon is a virgin, and Ben tells her, "Thank you for this beautiful gift" (122). Like her hymen is something that can be wrapped in a Tiffany blue box, and served up with some catchy slogan accompanied by violins. He then tells her that even though he's always thought it was cliche when romance novel heroes talked about wanting to "own" the heroine, he had a hard time not saying that he wanted to "own" her. Obnoxious vaudeville winking to the audience ensues as the protagonists start making obnoxious comparisons between their own relationship and that of the stereotype in romance novels, which can basically be summed up as, "We're exactly like a stereotypical romance novel, but not, because reasons."
They decide that they both looooooove each other after sex, and Ben even drops a hint that he'd consider moving from LA to New York to be with her (despite having known and talked with her for less than twenty-four hours), and Fallon immediately fears that he'll regret this decision later (ya think?) because it might keep him from publishing the book that he's writing based on their own relationship. Because his agent is apparently in love with the idea, and how can he write about a couple that only meets on the 9th of November if they don't do it? So she tells him that she doesn't love him after all, and that she'll see him on November 9 of next year, and regrets it for the next 365 days.
Especially when the third November 9 rolls around, and it turns out that Ben has started dating his dead brother's widow, Jordyn, and raising their son Oliver as if he were their own. Ben, being the brilliant writer he is, can't understand why Fallon is so upset about this wonderful piece of news.
I thought the chances of her being happy for me were greater than the chances of her being upset by it. I never expected this reaction from her (140).
And Romeo thought Juliet really had killed herself out of despair for him, instead of just taking the fake poison. Morons! Did you learn nothing from your respective freshman literature classes? Your love interest is not psychic! If you do dramatic, silly things without explaining why, they will be free to assign arbitrary interpretations to your fucking moronic actions that will inevitably be wrong.
Fallon chooses this moment to tell Ben how she really felt about him, and that her not being in love with him was just the fake poison, i.e. a lie. Ben is like, "Well, what the fuck am I supposed to do, now?" He tries to get Fallon to stay and do stuff with him anyway, but she leaves.
November 9 the FOURTH rolls around and Ben and Jordyn have broken up. (Jordyn, despite being a widow, and despite being a single mother and dating a man who had allegedly committed himself emotionally to this and to her, seems to have no problem with being jerked around. In fact, she knows why he is upset, and kind of breaks things off with him herself, because this is totally what a person would do in real life.) But oh noes, now Fallon is dating someone. And despite standing Ben up at their appointed meeting spot, Ben hunts her and her new boyfriend down while they are eating and pretends to be a college graduate conducting a survey for research about soul mates in order to pump the boyfriend (I think his name was Theodore) for information. Because this is not creepy and insane.
Ben and Fallon go off to talk in private and end up having sexy times in a closet. They come back to the table while Ben molests her under it, and he gives Theodore a speech that goes basically, "Hey, you're a good guy but that survey I was conducting was bullshit, and the girl I hinted at being in love with is actually your girlfriend, and she and I just made finger-whoopee in a closet, so she's going to break up with you imminently and then we're going to go back to my place and fuck. OKAY? :D"
SURPRISINGLY, Theodore does not take this news well. He gets angry, and leaves, and when Fallon tries to be all blase about it, he goes, "I didn't even think you were that pretty." Which I sympathized with. I mean he just got his heart cut out in front of everyone and lost face to boot. Why wouldn't he say something stupid and hurtful like that? But because of this comment, Ben and Fallon's male friend, G-something (Glenn?) both punch him, and Fallon's female friend throws her shoe at his balls.
After they fuck again, more obnoxious winking and allusions to romance novels happen.
"Oh, it was still insta-love," I tell her. "But ours is legit" (166).
They've known each other less than twenty-eight hours. They don't know each other's political beliefs, religions, backgrounds (well, Fallon doesn't, anyway...Ben is scarily in the know about Fallon's, and that glorious bit is about to come up), or anything that really matters in a solid relationship. So they've seen each other without clothes on. So what?
NOW FOR THE BEST PART.
Fallon is in love with Ben and agrees to exchange numbers with him and be his girlfriend, and everything is wonderful and filled with unicorn magic. Until she finds Ben's manuscript for the book about their relationship and decides to read it. And discovers he set the fire that disfigured her.
That's right. Ben set the fire that ruins her life.
Fallon does the first thing that I actually really agreed with since meeting Ben. She leaves. She leaves while Ben tries to throw his manuscript at her and begs her to read the rest. She throws that shit out the window and leaves anyway, and I'm like, "FUCK YEAH." But only half-heartedly, because this is a romance novel and no other men are present, and I know deep down that she'll end up with this ass.
And surely enough, Ben sends her a copy of the manuscript. At first she tries to throw it in the trash, but her mother, who's read it, stops her and says, "He's put his scars on full display for you, and you need to show him the respect he showed you by not turning away from them" (191).
I'm sorry, but who says that she owes this fuckhead any time of day after what he did? I have trouble believing any mom would say, "Stop being so selfish! He had a reason for making you suffer. You owe him to find out what those reasons are!" I'm sorry but that's serious apologist shit right there.
But remember Fallon's mother is always right, so Fallon reads the manuscript and finds out that while Ben set the fire that ruined her life, it's perfectly okay because he didn't mean to do it. He thought his mother committed suicide over her asshole actor father, so he tried to set her father's expensive car on fire. He didn't know that he'd used too much gasoline, or that it would spread to the house. And guess what? His mother actually killed herself because she had ovarian cancer, not because she was heartbroken, so it was all just a big, silly misunderstanding, lolz!
They meet again and FALLON APOLOGIZES TO HIM. That's right. She apologizes to him for getting angry. And then they make up and live happily ever after.
FUCK THAT. FUCK THAT CONSENSUALLY AND WITH RESPECT FOR WOMEN.
SHADOW OF TIME is an interesting book. It never would have appeared on my radar if it weren't for my friend, Kendra, too.
The story is about a twenty-three year old woman named Hannah, who goes to her mother's cabin in Arizona with her brother, Ben, for the summer. She's had her heart broken by the seventeen-year-old boy she's dating, named Josh, who, in the tradition of jerk love interests everywhere, has broken up with her for her own good. I didn't realize that there was such an age difference between them until I glanced through some of the other reviews.
In addition to her angst, Hannah keeps having recurring dreams about Navajo Nation & a past life with Josh. And she's being stalked by three skinwalkers who seem to want her dead.
When she and Josh put aside their differences and reconnect, she learns that Josh has lived four lives, in the 1600s, the 1800s, the early 1900s, and now. When he accidentally killed a Christian missionary who was the lover of one of the skinwalkers, their patriarch made it his life's goal to curse Josh through all of his lives...
...and kill everyone Josh loves.
The descriptions of Arizona were vivid and beautiful. Apparently the author has never been the U.S., so I was super impressed because it was obvious she had done her research. The Navajo were fleshed out--their language, their culture and traditions--and despite the fact that the author was writing about a cultural group that wasn't her own, there was no appropriation or fetishizing at all! It was great.
* a lesbian couple
* positive friendships
* no slut-shaming
* well-researched history
* flashbacks that aren't boring
If you're a fan of L.J. Smith, particularly the Old Souls in her Night World series, I think you will like SHADOW OF TIME. Their styles are very similar. :)
This was a buddy read with my friend Carmen, and if you want to read her review, you can do so here.
I've only read three of Paolo Bacigalupi's books, but from what I've seen they have a pretty consistent formula: (global concern) gone awry + violence + corruption + bigotry + horror. SHIP BREAKER was about global warming gone awry. THE WINDUP GIRL was about genetically modified organisms gone awry. THE WATER KNIFE is about droughts gone awry.
The titular water knife in this book actually refers to men (and women) who enforce water rights by any means necessary, usually through violence, torture, or rape. They blow up dams, make trouble-makers disappear, and steal back water for the rights-holders as long as they have the money to pay for it. Angel is a water knife, and a damned good one. He's employed by a woman called Catherine Case, Queen of Las Vegas, who wants him to investigate a potential lead in Las Vegas that could potentially score millions.
The other characters in this book are Lucy, a journalist who is popular in the underground for capturing the terrible ways the droughts and the water knives have affected the poor. When a close friend of hers dies chasing down the same lead that Angel is, she catches the eye of some very dangerous men who will do anything to silence her. There is also Maria and Sarah. Maria is a refugee from Texas who barely scrapes by, and is doing everything she can to avoid being a prostitute like her friend Sarah, although the men who rule her city are slowly taking away her choices one by one.
Gradually, their paths start to connect, sometimes predictably, but sometimes far more surprisingly.
I liked the idea behind this book, although it scares me, too, because California is currently in the middle of one of the most severe droughts on record, and as in this book, I see privileged or ignorant people blithely ignoring that fact. Every time it rains, some idiot inevitably posts, "The drought's over!" and I want to shout, "DROUGHTS DO NOT WORK THAT WAY, YOU BUFFOON!" This is a reality that I could see happening down the road all too clearly. Bacigalupi is really good at world building. Everything is very intricate, and he does hierarchies and charts the way power flows through it very, very well.
My problems with this book were actually the violence, both physical and sexual, that happen in this book. It fit the world building and there was usually a point to it, but he really went into detail, and that made it a very difficult read for me. There was one scene towards the end involving Maria that just seemed to have been done for shock value, and that made me really angry. I also didn't like how the women received disproportionate amounts of violence compared to the men, or the one man who actually did receive a lot of physical torture was gay. Maybe that was supposed to be realistic, too, but it didn't sit well with me at all.
Another mistake Bacigalupi makes is that he tries--unsuccessfully--to put romance in here. I don't think there's a lot of room for romance in this world, especially not the way he did it. The circumstances were all wrong. The romance happens quite soon after one of the characters is tortured, and call me crazy, but I can't imagine that she was in the mood after going through what she went through, if not mentally then certainly physically! And the romance couldn't have been that convincing because there's betrayal after betrayal later on, which makes me feel that they didn't care about each other much at all in the end, and that's very disheartening.
He kind of turned all my favorite characters into assholes, actually. I get that nobody's perfect, that you can't be, in a world like this, but it also sucks not having someone to root for. The ending of this book was ridiculous and knocked what was going to be a three-star rating to a two-star rating because I couldn't help but think that the author maybe couldn't figure out how he wanted to end it, so he decided to go with a Mexican standoff.
I still have PUMP SIX, and will be reading that eventually, but THE WATER KNIFE is the weakest of Bacigalupi's books that I've read. It had a good beginning, but the ending was very poor, and there were a lot of parts that could have--and probably should have--been cut. Also, don't be fooled by that YA looking cover like I was. This book is definitely NOT YA and probably shouldn't be read by anyone under 17 because of the graphic and disturbing content.