**spoiler alert** After hearing so much hype about these books, I figured I'd use part of my holiday break to indulge my curiosity and see what all th**spoiler alert** After hearing so much hype about these books, I figured I'd use part of my holiday break to indulge my curiosity and see what all the fuss was about. I still have no idea why people like these books.
Twilight is a teen romance about a klutzy human girl who falls in love with a sparkly vampire (in the sunlight, "his skin . . . literally sparkled, like thousands of tiny diamonds were embedded in the surface"). She's 17 and he's nearly 100, but that's not a problem because, of course, love conquers all. He could kill her in any number of ways at any moment and is frequently tempted to do so by the smell of her human blood, but, again, that doesn't matter because love conquers all. They're both insufferably shallow and stupid but we're not supposed to care because they're in love and, yes, love conquers all--even when this love is based only how amazingly good-looking Edward is or on how amazingly good Bella smells.
Here's the book in a nutshell: Bella doesn't fit in. Edward is good-looking. They are drawn to each other. He saves her life. He tries to warn her about how dangerous he is and she refuses to believe him. He saves her life. He warns her about him and she dismisses his warnings. They kiss. Vampire baseball (seriously). More warnings and dismissals. He saves her life again. They go to prom and are happy together. It's repetitive, predictable, and trite. I've read fantasy and I've read romance novels and this somehow manages to combine the worst of both genres.
What's more, there are some seriously creepy things going on here. It is creepy that at no point is the appropriateness of a romantic relationship between a 17-year-old and a 90- or 100-year-old questioned. Edward may look 17 like Bella, but he has been alive since the beginning of the 20th century. And he's hanging out at a high school flirting with teenagers (or at least the one). Creepy! Plus, he can't read Bella's mind like he can everyone else's, but he still manages to follow her and keep track of her at all times by reading others' minds. This is ostensibly for her own protection, but it's also creepy, stalkerish behavior, behavior that is justified as romantic in this context. Add to this the fact that he watches her sleep every night (as a vampire he doesn't sleep, so what else is he supposed to do?) without her knowledge and frequently responds to her disagreeing with him by telling her to stop being difficult or silly and we have the beginnings of a controlling and abusive relationship here, not the beginning of a great love. At one point, she tells him that he wouldn't want to know everything she was thinking and his response is typically creepy:
"I do want to know what you're thinking--everything. I just wish . . . that you wouldn't be thinking some things."
This reveals a desire for total control as well as some serious boundary issues--both of which are things I would run screaming from if I encountered them in real life. I would certainly not find them romantic.
I can say only two positive things about Twilight: 1) the writing is at times so bad that it's funny; 2) it's not as mind-meltingly horrible as Breaking Dawn.
Wait. Those aren't really positive. Oh well.
Here, for your edification, are some samples of the writing style of Meyer's novel, chosen based on how hard they made me laugh:
"I couldn't feel anything but despair until I pulled into the familiar parking lot behind Forks High School and spotted Edward leaning motionlessly against his polished silver Volvo, like a marble tribute to some forgotten pagan god of beauty." (Okay, so this is actually from the teaser chapter for New Moon, but it's such a great example of her style I had to include it.)
"A howl of rage strangled on the angel's lips."
"Then he slumped forward, into a crouch I recognized, and his pleasant smile slowly widened, grew, till it wasn't a smile at all but a contortion of teeth, exposed and glistening."
"For almost ninety years I've walked among my kind, and yours . . . all the time thinking I was complete in myself, not realizing what I was seeking. And not finding anything, because you weren't alive yet."
"...the fabric clung to his perfectly muscled chest. It was a colossal tribute to his face that it kept my eyes away from his body."
It may be unfair to put this last bit forth as a criticism of the book when I haven't written a book myself, but I really do feel like if I were willing to put in the hours it would take to simply sit down and put words on paper, I could write a book at least this well-written, likely with better pacing and characters. At quite a few points during the book, I recognized my high school writing style in Meyer's overwrought prose and inability to determine what details are important and which are just in the way....more
**spoiler alert** I read Stephenie Meyer's Twilight and Breaking Dawn a few weeks ago but haven't been able to bring myself to actually write a review**spoiler alert** I read Stephenie Meyer's Twilight and Breaking Dawn a few weeks ago but haven't been able to bring myself to actually write a review of Breaking Dawn until now. It has taken me some time to overcome my dread of re-visiting the book enough to write about it, come to grips with the awfulness of the book, and begin to recover from the experience of reading all 754 pages of it.
Breaking Dawn is most certainly one of the worst books I have ever read. The only book that has ever equaled it in terms of making me feel disgusted and dead inside while reading was Bret Easton Ellis's American Psycho--but in that case, the effect was intentional and artfully constructed. Breaking Dawn is disturbing for an entirely different set of reasons, one of which is its complete lack of either skill or redeeming factors. It is not redeemed by an incisive sociopolitical critique (like American Psycho) nor is it redeemed by the unintentional humor that pervades Twilight. Breaking Dawn is, even though much more actually happens here than in Twilight, a thoroughly dull book.
Where a skilled writer's ability might approximate a chisel (or some other tool capable of fine, detailed work)--able to create unique and significant details to identify and enrich characters and to guide the reader through narrative developments without flashing every plot development a hundred pages in advance--Meyer's writing ability approximates the delicacy and complexity of a sledgehammer. The characters lack any kind of human complexity and the plot is utterly, utterly predictable. Cory didn't even read any of the books, just listened to my frustrated summaries as I read, and he was able to predict several major plot "twists" in advance. In Twilight, perhaps Meyer's instrument was smaller if still blunt, an instrument that allowed for the occasional odd or funny moment; Breaking Dawn clearly represents a move to a larger instrument, however. Perhaps, through some manipulation of time and space, she used a copy of her own monstrous book to beat the story into its blunt, awkward, and unwieldy shape.
Or perhaps she just sucks.
In lieu of an organized review of the details of Breaking Dawn, this will be a rant in list form. Here are some of the things that I hated about the book.
1. One of the features of the werewolves in the book is that they imprint on a person and fall completely, irreversibly in love with that person, no matter who they are or how old they are. Some grown werewolves imprint on children and then proceed to just hang out with them (like babysitters), waiting for them to be old enough to get involved with romantically. Creepy much?
2. Edward and Bella finally have sex. To this I have two objections. The first is that Meyer is a tease. She has led us on for three gigantic, horribly written books, waiting and waiting for them to get married so they can go ahead and get it on. And then when they're finally married, honeymooning, and they have sex, Meyer doesn't describe it. I suppose I can understand her not wanting to turn a series for young adult readers into erotica, but she could've given us something. The second is related to the violence of the consummation of their relationship. Because Edward is a vampire (superstrength and all) and Bella is still human, he practically breaks her during sex. She awakens the next day bruised all over. The only way he was able to avoid killing her was by tearing apart the bed instead. Their responses are telling: Bella continues to not be concerned about her own physical safety and wants to do it again; Edward simply avoids it and refuses to have sex with his bride, even though she wants it.
3. Bella gets pregnant with a monster baby, immediately falls in love with it, and won't let the vampires help her or get rid of it because she knows it. At this point, the book becomes a very weird statement on pregnancy. Even when it's dangerous and life-threatening, the narrative seems to say, motherhood and maternal feelings trump all. The mother's safety matters not all compared to the sanctity of the life inside her, no matter how small or how monstrous.
When you loved the one who was killing you, it left you no options. How could you run, how could you fight, when doing so would hurt that beloved one? If your life was all you had to give your beloved, how could you not give it? If it was someone you truly loved?
This quote from the preface illustrates pretty clearly the book's position on Bella's relationship with both Edward and her child. Her love for them is so soul-encompassing and all-consuming that her own well-being, her own life, matters not at all. Now, I'm not a parent, so I will not presume to speak on the subject of the protective love a parent feels for his or her child, but to attach this kind of self-denying love to a fetus (which Bella does) is, I think, taking it too far.
4. Bella finally becomes a vampire. As it turns out, this solves all of her problems. Instead of dealing with the change in a complex way, focusing on what she has to give up or the pains of adjustment, she turns out to be awesome at being a vampire, leading the reader to wonder why we shouldn't all want to be vampires. She's not glittery and beautiful like the rest of them, she has superstrength and speed, she can see so much more clearly how beautiful Edward is, and the sex is incredible. Plus, as a vampire, she is totally able to save the day at the end of the book when the bad vampires come to kill her family.
5. There is plenty more of Bella being googly over Edward. Before she figures out what her special vampire power is, she even thinks to herself that maybe her power is to love Edward more than anyone else could, ever ever ever! And she thinks that's okay. ::barf::
6. As for the big showdown at the end of the book, can anyone say anticlimactic? It takes forever to lead up to, with way too much attention paid to intervampiric politics, and then when it finally arrives, it's mostly a bunch of vampires standing around talking at each other for a really long time, followed by . . . nothing. Bella is able to effectively protect her vampires and werewolves and so the bad vampires just go away. No fighting. No killing. Everyone lives happily ever after. Boring! I was really ready to see someone die at this point. Preferably Edward or Bella. Instead, I get this conclusion:
And then we continued blissfully into this small but perfect piece of our forever.
I guess if you like the characters, this is a good ending, but I thought the characters were flat, vapid, and quite frequently disturbing. They would've benefitted from a death or two in the family....more
This book is cute, mildly entertaining, and mostly inoffensive. The ending is weak (rushed and relying far too heavily on the silly time travel conceiThis book is cute, mildly entertaining, and mostly inoffensive. The ending is weak (rushed and relying far too heavily on the silly time travel conceit that propels so much of the narrative) and Cathy, the central character, is shockingly stupid at times, especially for an ambitious, successful, supposedly well-educated woman, but, as a piece of pseudo-feminist chick lit piece of fluff, it gets the job done....more
I did have a few problems with this book (mostly related to Gabaldon's incorporation of sexual violence and the ease with which the protagonist gets oI did have a few problems with this book (mostly related to Gabaldon's incorporation of sexual violence and the ease with which the protagonist gets over her first husband when separated from him), but I really enjoyed reading it anyway. There's time travel, sex, handsome Scotsmen, knife fights, wolf attacks, and lots of adventuring around 18th century Scotland. That's quite enough to make it at least interesting. ...more
I didn't have high hopes for this book and I am still disappointed. I just wanted a bit of brain candy. This book seemed perfect: time travel, VikingsI didn't have high hopes for this book and I am still disappointed. I just wanted a bit of brain candy. This book seemed perfect: time travel, Vikings, lusty romance. What more could a girl want? Somehow, Hill failed to deliver on almost all counts. The lusty romance mostly delivered, but the Vikings were just jerks with weapons and the time travel was beyond stupid.
Like I said, though, I didn't expect much. I would've given it two or maybe two and a half stars for those qualities if it weren't for the explicit anti-feminist argument of the book. Rather than describe the book or summarize, let me list the lessons this book provides:
1) Women cannot have it all (job, marriage, kids, happiness, good looks). 2) Men can have it all--as long as their wives aren't also trying to have it all. 3) It is entirely up to the women to keep their marriages going. 4) Fancy lingerie and rudimentary birth control can lead to a mini-feminist revolution in pre-Norman invasion Britain. 5) All problems can be solved by sex. 6) Sex with honey is hot (and not nearly as sticky as I'd feared it would be). 7) To reiterate: Women really, truly cannot have it all (and, since they cannot have it all, they should sacrifice their careers and pander to their husbands' egos). 8) And again: Men can (and should) have it all--relatedly, the best husbands are those who love their sons, are sexy, and keep their wives in their place.
Even when I'm reading for fun, reading something I expect to be trashy, I can't turn off my feminist brain that much. ...more
I have never read such a *boring* romance novel. I didn't hate this as much as I did The Reluctant Viking because it wasn't so explicitly anti-feminisI have never read such a *boring* romance novel. I didn't hate this as much as I did The Reluctant Viking because it wasn't so explicitly anti-feminist (though it still had a troubling approach to gender), but this book was actually far less interesting. Apparently, these are supposed to be funny? I keep reading other people's reviews that say so, but I'm just not seeing it. I barely cracked a smile while reading. In fact, this was so dull that it took me about a week to read it because I just couldn't care less about what was happening. I only picked it up occasionally to read when my brain was too worn out to read anything more challenging (and because I was determined to finish--I hate not finishing a book).
The worst thing about this book is the dullness of the characters. The female protagonist, Tyra, is twenty-five years old, a warrior, and supposedly intelligent, but she reads like a twelve-year-old. Not only does she know nothing about sex (she's a virgin, which is fine, but seriously, she has never heard anybody talk about sex, not even her many, many, many sisters? Or her warrior traveling companions?), but she seems almost completely lacking in self-awareness. She's constantly mentally putting herself down and thinking she's ugly and unfeminine--even though no one else seems to be working to give her this impression. Tyra's sisters are all silly and neatly pigeonholed by their obsessive hobbies (one cooks, one cleans, one builds, one gardens). The male protagonist, Adam, is almost likeable (he's a doctor and good with kids) but for his insistence that Tyra be other than she is. At the beginning of the book, Tyra is an independent woman, leading her men effectively, enjoying her life, and Adam finds her immensely attractive as she is; nonetheless, the trajectory of the book is the process of transforming Tyra from Viking warrior princess to a woman Adam could accept as mother of his children and healing assistant. Yuck.
Furthermore, Hill (in this and The Reluctant Viking) seems strangely unwilling to actually explicitly represent certain things. Once you get far enough into the book, there are some sex scenes, but up to and around that point, this is an oddly prudish romance novel. Instead of just showing character dialogue when they curse or talk dirty, oftentimes Hill just says something vague almost as a placeholder for cursing. (I would provide an example, but I didn't mark any pages and I don't want to venture back into the text for this.)
So. These are the lessons I learned from My Fair Viking: 1) I do not like Sandra Hill and 2) it is more fun to hate a book than to be bored by it. ...more
**spoiler alert** This book is really several books in one. This could easily have been a whole series of novels about Skye O’Malley—and it may have b**spoiler alert** This book is really several books in one. This could easily have been a whole series of novels about Skye O’Malley—and it may have benefited by such a treatment. In light of the book’s multiplicity, then, my review will also be several reviews in one.
I. Bertrice Small is known for her purple prose; overblown descriptions of sex, clothes, and food are one of the reasons for reading her. I was looking forward to being entertained by this element of the book and I was not let down. She sets the bar high for herself from the beginning of the book, both in the physical description of Skye O’Malley (including incredible details about her appearance like this: “when she laughed she revealed small, perfect white teeth” (11)—when even something so ordinary as teeth are so precisely detailed, you know you’re really in for something) and in the description of her initial connection with Niall Burke, the hero: “They were suspended in time, their souls flowing back and forth between their bodies, twining into one perfect being” (17). I had to read that several times just to fully take in its ridiculousness.
Even better than the high-flown romantic language and extreme detail regarding characters’ appearance, though, are the constant descriptions of outfits (very thorough, including all the colors, accessories, and multiple layers) and meals (these people eat and drink far more than I thought possible; they even have ale or wine for breakfast). And then there’s the sex scenes. Here are some favorites of mine:
*“As his seed thundered into her hidden valley he shook fiercely with the intensity of his passion” (113). *“…your little honey-oven was made for me!” (115)—interestingly, “honey oven” is used three different times throughout the book to refer to Skye’s, well, woman parts. By three different men. It was weird enough the first time, but it is beyond ridiculous to have a Spanish Algerian, an Englishman, and an Irishman who don’t even really know each other all use the same idiosyncratic name. *“Her golden orbs grew hard as his mouth drank first from one and then from the other” (152). *“He drove his root into her warm and fertile body” (152). *“…the coral-red flower of womanhood wet and pouting with desire” (221). *“Her small, full breasts, wet and warm, pushed demandingly at his chest” (233). This way of describing body parts as having some sort of intention or will both disturbs me and cracks me up. *“She breathed deeply of his warm male scent, like a kitten licking lovingly at a kindly hand. She loved his great manroot with her tongue” (318).
Some of these are hilarious, and some of them are cringe-inducing; actually, most of them are both. In addition to these choice bits, there are multiple occasions (at least five, it seems, but I didn’t actually keep a count) upon which getting sexed up causes the woman to faint, which is usually seen as a good thing, representative of how good at teh sexing the gentleman in question is.
For sheer descriptive silliness, this book gets five stars.
II. This book has no shortage of plot. There are pirates, court intrigues, harems, panthers, snarky nuns, kidnappings, and—as has already been mentioned—lots of sex. As an (erotic) adventure novel, there’s a lot to like. The first two sections of the book are pretty entertaining and I mostly enjoyed reading them. In Part I, in particular, I was really enjoying seeing Skye rebel against her father, get the better of her abusive husband, take charge of her family’s seafaring business, and fight pirates, all in addition to eventually getting her man. Part II, in Algiers, seems like it should have been really interesting because of the exotic setting and the harems and the fact that Skye and Husband #2 have pet panthers that they walk on leashes, but because Skye suffers from amnesia here, she becomes a lot less interesting for a while, just a blank beauty to be molded and moved around as the plot demanded. Part III, with all its court intrigue, fancy parties, and pirates, is shockingly dull, however. It takes some kind of special skill to make piracy boring, but Small manages it here.
(Adventure + Court Intrigue + Sex) – (Boring Pirates + Pacing Problems + Number of Pages) = 2 stars.
III. Romance novels are tricky ground for feminist readings. On the one hand, they are books written by women and for women and so there’s all this space for woman-centered fantasy and for narratives that counter patriarchal ideas about gender roles and sex/romance. However, most romance novels (at least, most I’ve read) do not provide this counternarrative (see my reviews of The Reluctant Viking and My Fair Viking for more on this). I’m actually not entirely sure what to do with Skye O’Malley in these terms. It’s far less anti-feminist than The Reluctant Viking and it regularly includes ideas that almost seem to belong to a certain kind of feminism; at the same time, though, it also treads familiar and nonfeminist ground.
One element of Skye O’Malley that really struck me was actually something that some other reviewers have complained about quite heartily: the rape scenes. There are three rape scenes that really stand out for me. Skye’s first husband, Dom, commits incest with his sister and, when Skye walks in on them having sex, the two of them join forces to rape her; Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, rapes Skye much later in the book and she does not have any recourse because he has far more political power than her and could hurt her family; and—here’s the one that really seemed to disturb people—Dudley on another occasion comes to Skye’s home while she is out, throws a party in which he brings local virgins in and rapes them. Furthermore, when Skye comes back and tries to stop the goings-on, she walks in on the scene of a twelve-year-old girl on all fours on a table, with an aroused dog behind her about to be used to rape her and then, when she tries to kick Dudley out of her home, he rapes her on the spot, in front of everyone. These scenes are all horrifying and unpleasant to read. But I actually find this heartening.
I have read far too many romance novels in which rape is presented as seduction and the rapist is not only excused but romanticized. The message in those books is clearly that women who say no really mean yes and that it is the man’s job to show her that she really does mean yes. Bertrice Small challenges that by showing rape as traumatic and rapists as bad people. After being raped by her first husband and his sister, Skye is traumatized and takes a good long time to recover enough to be willing to be touched even by the man she loves. The aftereffects of this rape follow her even to Algiers, even though she cannot remember exactly what has happened to her. Even better, her rapist is punished within the narrative. He is injured and disempowered and dies not long afterward; the sister is disgraced and also disempowered. The later rape scenes are similar in that they are representations of how despicable the rapist is and they motivate Skye to seek and gain revenge on the Queen, who has allowed this to go on. The attempted rape of a child with a dog has gotten a lot of attention in recent conversations, but I think that the fact that this is framed as horrific within the text and that it does not actually occur and isn't actually described is significant. It would be far more troubling if the rape actually took place in part because the description of the event could be its own perverse titillation for the reader. Refusing to go through with it, refusing to represent the actual deed, refuses the reader this Marquis de Sade-type entertainment.
The other major thread of this narrative has to do with Skye’s independence. From the very beginning of the novel, she is strong-willed and feisty, willing to fight for what she wants and mostly successful. She proves herself to be intelligent and capable over and over throughout the novel—she is a good businesswoman (in Ireland, Algiers, and England), she masters political maneuvering, she bests the Queen at her own game (with some help from her friends), and she manages to build and maintain quite a fortune for herself and her children. Even with all this, though, it is apparently too much to let her take care of herself. In the end, she must be rescued and married off and then told to calm down. Niall, her fourth husband, tells her that her adventuring days are over: “I will give you your head in many things, but not in all matters, Skye. You are too headstrong for your own good” (457). And so, tamed, she goes back home with her husband. After all the work she has put into building her own life throughout the book—without this man telling her what to do or not do—to see her back down and be mastered in this way rankles.
Last thought on this topic (though there’s much, much more that could be said about it, I’m sure): I know that other reviewers have argued that all of the sex in this book is problematic (Ceridwen's review is a great example of this), but I am going to have to disagree. Sort of. All the sex in the book is problematic. But not all of the sex in the book is rape. Skye O’Malley lives in a world that does not allow her—or any woman—to direct her own life. (Even the Queen of England can’t direct her own life.) In this world, therefore, Skye can never make a choice that is not truly and absolutely hers because it can always be overridden by someone else—her husband, her uncle, her father, the Queen, or just any man who is stronger than her. This is definitely a problem and it informs all of her relationships with other people, sexual or not. But I maintain that there are pockets of resistance to this in the relationships she develops with some men. Just because others have the power to disregard her choices doesn’t make her consent (when it occurs) irrelevant. When Niall Burke comes to her on her wedding night to Dom and sleeps with her, he does so not just because he wants her but because she wants him (and she has made that desire clear). When she gets involved with Khalid, he would have had her anyway, but he didn’t have to force her to do anything at all because she wanted him. Before she fell in love with Geoffrey Southwood, she slept with him because she was attracted to him and because she could benefit from their liaison. And when she and Niall were finally married, what brought them together was her invitation to him to come to her bed. I would not call any of these instances rape. They are wrapped up in troubling power relations because the whole of the world was wrapped up in these power relations. They were inescapable. Skye knows this; she understands the facts of her life and, though she may wish things were otherwise, she can either choose to work within that system and, as she does so, find love and fulfillment and pleasure or she can choose to remove herself from it—become a nun, like her sister, or take her chances protecting herself. Bertrice Small, in this way, recognizes and even critiques the bind that a sexist and patriarchal society places women in while also complicating the idea promoted by some second-wave feminists (e.g., Andrea Dworkin) that all sex is rape. Even in a truly fucked-up world, she says, there is room for love and desire.
IV. Here’s where things get weird. As I was reading, I became sort of obsessed with the descriptions of characters’ eyes. Skye herself has blue eyes, but they don’t stay the same blue. In fact, they can change color quite rapidly, as her moods change: “…her eyes, which had been a deep purple-blue, lightened to a clear blue-green” (81). Niall has silver eyes, Constanza has purple eyes (“pansy-purple,” to be specific), Geoffrey has lime-green eyes, Willow (Skye’s first daughter) has “golden lion eyes” (307), Adam has “sensuous smokey blue” eyes (373), and Queen Elizabeth has “jet-black eyes” (365). (Very few characters have brown eyes and, interestingly, the ones who do are mostly either kind of uninteresting, mean, or stupid. For instance, one peasant girl is described as having “bovine brown eyes” (232) and Dudley (who is, seriously, the worst person in the book) has brown eyes. I started to wonder if Bertrice Small has something against people with brown eyes.) Clearly, there is something going on with the eyes in this book. People’s eyes simply do not change color and I have never seen anyone with either lime-green, silver, jet-black, or pansy-purple eyes.
What if, I began to wonder, this could be read as taking place in a sort of alternate universe where human evolution took a different track, where people evolved these strange eye colors and color-changing abilities? That would explain the eye weirdness. What else might it explain?
Skye’s ability to be gorgeous and thin with perky breasts after having five or six children (it’s hard to keep track since they’re pretty much never around) might be explained by this hypothesis. Perhaps humans evolved for greater physical resilience and unnatural beauty.
Another thing that could potentially have evolved alongside these traits is the ability to change the size of specific body parts. Sexy body parts, in particular. On at least one occasion, Skye’s breasts seem to change size over the course of just a couple of pages. Although they are usually “small impudent breasts” (292), for special occasions she may inflate them to “very full breasts” (294). Similarly, while early in the book it is made clear (thanks to Skye’s opportunities to compare the two) that Dom’s penis is much larger than Niall’s (“Niall had been a big man, but Skye’s husband [Dom:] was unnaturally large, enormous” [49:]), later, when Claire (Dom’s sister, who also had a chance to compare) sleeps with Niall, she reports that his penis is much larger than Dom’s (“He was even bigger than Dom had been” [289:]). Clearly, these men are able to adjust their penis sizes as they go through life or perhaps just on a whim. And given the number of giant penises Skye encounters throughout the book and their increasing size, one begins to suspect that all men are involved in a kind of Cold War of one-upmanship regarding penis-size.
And once I began reading the book with this science fictional reading in my mind, it became difficult to avoid. Reading science fiction requires a different set of reading protocols, primary among these protocols the necessity of reading metaphor literally (Samuel Delany famously writes that the phrase "Then her world exploded" in SF "must retain the margin to read these words as meaning that a planet, belonging to a woman, blew up"). Applying that technique to a romance novel filled with the purplest of pansy-purple prose is its own form of entertainment. Suddenly this—“his lips devoured her throat, setting her pulse to racing” (258)—is sinister instead of sexy; this—“…his aching manhood burst and flooded her with his burning tribute” (330)—is horrific instead of hot; and this—“He raised her carefully and then lowered her, slowly impaling her inch by sweet inch onto his lance” (458)—is, well, it’s still icky, but perhaps in a different way.
Unfortunately, reading Skye O’Malley as science fiction doesn’t really get you very far, but it’s an interesting trip while it lasts.
V. Overall, I actually enjoyed reading parts of this book but grew terribly bored in other parts. Some scenes were unpleasant, but they didn't truly horrify me. And the writing is neither terrible nor great; in fact, sometimes it's quite entertaining. Basically, it all averages out for me. If the third section were less drawn out or as thrilling as it seems like it should be, I could easily give this three stars. As it is, though, I'm leaning toward two stars. ...more
I really enjoyed this book. I liked the central characters a lot, and it made me happy. There is humor in this book and an approach to love, romance,I really enjoyed this book. I liked the central characters a lot, and it made me happy. There is humor in this book and an approach to love, romance, and marriage that is grown-up and realistic while still maintaining a sense of fun and optimism. This isn't the kind of romance novel where the leads spend the whole book trying to avoid having sex and then when they do it's just happily-ever-after. They have to work at their relationship. They have to negotiate with each other to get what they need, to avoid hurting the other person, and to learn from their past mistakes. They grow as people and will continue to grow after the book ends because that's just what people do and, as this book acknowledges, the best relationships, the ones that work and that last, leave space for that kind of growth.
There is no rape in this book. There are no man-roots or honey-ovens. Sex isn't always tied to true love, but it isn't used as a punishment or a means of control, either. This is a sex-positive book.
Finally, there are positive female relationships and meaningful male relationships. A huge part of the book, in fact, revolves around the central female characters' friendship. They support each other, joke with each other, and do far more than simply talk about men or sex. There is also at least one significant male friendship, one in which the men talk, at least sometimes, about things that are important to them personally and in which they defend each other against others who don't understand or who would hurt them. On both sides, this makes the characters more likeable and believable and shifts the focus away from fulfillment through a romantic or sexual relationship and toward a broader sense of what defines and fulfills an individual (not just sex, but work, family, friends, hobbies, pets, etc.).
The only major complaint I have about this book is that I think the title gives the wrong impression of the kind of women Crusie is writing about. ...more