Grandma secretly hates me. I just read (well, “read”) a book for this post that came highly recommended by her. Either she hates me or she’s the kind of troll who lights fire to things and runs away without staying to watch the world burn. But I digress.
A wise person would probably not do this reading challenge, At the Mercy of My Library, knowing that following through with the entire challenge would bring nothing but pain and suffering.
I am apparently not wise; after pursuing both selections from this post’s D- authors, both of which appear to be Romance novels in their own way, I will continue to finish this challenge if it’s the last thing I do. At least I never promised to finish every book.
Let’s get this over with. Here’s a reminder of my rating system:
0/4 In the words of Homer Simpson, “AAH! Burn it! Send it to Hell!”
1/4 It was bad, but I’d still recommend it to people who don’t like books.
2/4 It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t good enough for me to want to finish it.
3/4 It was good. I finished it.
4/4 It was fantastic!
LAST impression: I’m not even sure how far I got into this novel. As soon as I decided to stop reading it, I succeeded in putting all of it out of my mind. A few plot points stayed with me, but I’m probably wrong about all of them. Forgive me (I’m being sarcastic).
Even if this book was around 100 pages, it didn’t seem to be worth the read. One character basically says to the other in the first chapter, “We’re going to have all sorts of dangerous sex because I’m the boss of everything.” See, that’s just unappealing to me. I like to be–dare I say–teased. (And when you read the next book’s review, you’ll wonder if I even know what I want.) And while the descriptions of people and sexual tension were probably well written (honestly, I didn’t even get that far), they still made me question why this book was in existence. A cheap thrill? Let someone else have it.
STARS: 0.5/4. I give this book a extra .5 because (a) it cuts to the chase, (b) it doesn’t try to advertise itself as anything else, and (c) at least the heroine isn’t, you know, uninteresting. You know what I mean.
Would I suggest this author and/or book? Okay, fine, I would suggest it to certain people. Look, it got bumped up to 1/4 stars! You win!
author: Deveraux, Jude
title: A Knight in Shining Armor
guess the genre: Romance?
pre-read impression: My grandmother gave me this book one or two years ago. She’d just finished it, and the way she described the plot made this book seem like something I’d enjoy. I never say no to a free book.
LAST impression: It’s time I started saying no to free books. It’s probably also time I started doubting my grandmother’s taste in everything.
The first chapter introduces Dougless, your typical push-over who is in love with someone imperfect and cries every time she turns a corner. (Seriously, so much crying. More on that later.) She anxiously awaits a marriage proposal by Robert. Robert doesn’t tell her until they reach the airport that his daughter from a previous marriage will be joining them on their romantic getaway to England. In a random churchyard on this vacation, Dougless finally loses her temper and gives the child a smack. The child then steals Dougless’s purse and Robert drives off with his daughter. Um, what? This guy left this woman WHO SHARES A HOUSE WITH HIM stranded in a foreign country without money or identification.
Dougless starts to cry. This is the only time I can believe her tears are justified, but at this point I’ve gone from, “Robert is a trope of a character, but at least he has some personality” to “Oh my fuck, no person would ever do that.”
If the first chapter was an insult to my intelligence as a reader, following chapters were jokes. Robert doesn’t return for any reason (until the second-to last chapter). Instead, he cancels reservations to all the hotels they were supposed to stay at in England. So Dougless is going to be murdered and no one will be able to identify her body because the one person who shares her mailing address left her stranded in a foreign country without identificaton so Jude Deveraux could write a story. Kidding. (Okay, the last part is true. Seriously, that’s the worst plot device I ever saw.) As soon as we meet Nicholas, that doesn’t matter because we learn the novel’s theme is “Our souls will forever be tied because you look at me from under your lashes.” (More on lashes later.)
Anyway, Dougless’s magical tears bring an earl (Nicholas, who has a statue in the church. Isn’t that convenient?) to life from the depths of history. Nicholas believes Dougless is the key to sending him back to his own time, yadda yadda yadda, she goes back in time for some reason.
I got four chapters in. Seventy pages. (That’s over my fifty-page “I’ll read whatever” rule.) After that, I flipped through to see what I would be missing when I stopped reading. Yes, they go back to Nicholas’s time. This was why Grandma thought I’d like the book. Because a knight/earl shows up in present-day England and there’s some mystery surrounding his destiny. She’s right in that I do love historical fiction. However, I wasn’t going to put up with shoddy writing for a historical thrill.
Check out this steaming pile of gems:
She started to speak again but he told her to be quiet and she was.
That sentence is its own paragraph. That sentence must be the most unneeded paragraph in the history of all books.
Here’s another riveting one:
He looked at her but said nothing and Dougless quit smiling.
Can someone tell me what’s wrong with using mid-sentence punctuation?
So Dougless commits herself to someone who both threatened her with a sword and won’t stop following her around. Never mind the vicar, who was at the church the whole time. He could help both Nicholas with his time travel conundrum and Dougless’s identity theft. The general population (i.e. writers of all things books, movies, and TV shows) doesn’t seem to remember church employees are good for fictional people other than spiritual guidance. (That’s something I have to work on, too.) But no, Dougless has to skip around town doing errands for someone she never met even though she promised herself never to take on another needy man. And why? Because the heroine in these kinds of romance novels are required to be idiots in order for true love to do its thing.
Don’t get me started on the self-imposed misogyny. About half of Dougless’s thoughts are on her own appearance, including that fact that it’s perfectly normal to spend someone else’s money on makeup because she thinks he’s cute whenever it’s convenient.
While these two go around playing Wow Look At This Thing That Didn’t Exist In My Time, the heroine becomes attached to him even as she continues convincing herself this is a person she just met yesterday, who she believes has suffered either amnesia, a mental breakdown, or has never been in his right mind in the first place.
She woke before dawn, smiling before she woke to feel Nicholas’s warm, big body next to hers.
Something about that doesn’t seem right, and it isn’t just because she snuggled next to a naked man she believes to be clinically insane. Is it me or did she wake up twice in the same sentence?
So, what about the ending? Surely the payoff is worth it.
Dougless figures out how not to be a doormat, leaves Nicholas back in his own time, tells off Robert in an unsatisfying way, and meets an incarnation of Nicholas. I skipped everything but the last chapter, where there were more entire paragraphs made only to insult me:
She looked at him then, really looked at him. He glanced down at the portrait, then up at her, and when he did so he looked at her through his lashes, just as Nicholas used to do. “What do you do for a living?” she whispered.
I see three problems with this.
- She’s really looking at him and we don’t receive much feedback. What is it about him besides basic movement that enamors you? The Nicholas comparison? We already received comparisons. We know by now in the story they’re spiritually related. Just stop.
The other two problems are common in Romance novels (as far as I know).
2. The whispering. I guarantee you no one does that much actual whispering in the author’s mind. No one walks around whispering! Readers, what authors are actually trying to portray here is a softness in the speech that becomes redundant when described as “said softly.” How many times in romance films and soap operas do you hear people whispering to each other in public? None that I’ve seen.
3. Lashes! Everyone in romance novels every look at each other through or from under lashes.
Dear Lash Looker Haters,
This isn’t a new descriptive concept. Dashiell Hammet did this in The Maltese Falcon, but just because it worked for him doesn’t mean it’s going to work somewhere else. That was film noir he was writing for. It worked for the style. Go on hating it when it’s used in terrible novels, but don’t you touch my beautiful noir!
Dear Lash Looker Lovers,
All your characters look like they’re giving each other the stink-eye. Does anyone look each other in the eye any more? Put down your phones and have a real conversation, damn it, that doesn’t require the heroine to recount all her previous fifty steps while we have to read about it!
This is something Jenny Trout complained about when reviewing Fifty Shades of Grey (love ya, JT). After reading this A Knight in Shining Armor, I’m starting to believe all romance novels are terribly written on purpose and ‘Grey isn’t all that special or especially bad after all. It uses many of the same over-explored devices:
irritatingly innocent heroines;
men who treat women like shit;
annoying women/girls who adore the men who treat the heroine like shit;
men who show up for the sole purpose to save the heroine;
poor descriptions of gestures, habits, and appearances on top of other poor writing;
the list goes on!
If this is what the entire genre of Romance is like, count me out forever.
STARS: 0/4. Maybe I’m being harsh. Other books by Deveraux are, I’m sure, better. This one was her first, after all. My version was also published before her fabled rewrite that may or may not have fixed everything. I don’t care.
I wrote this post with the most calming music in the background, cuddled up in my warm, comfy chair, and I’m still stewing in anger!
This challenge has a long way to go before I find anything worth writing home about. Next time, I’ll read an Amish Romance. That will be new and exciting. (keyboard breaks due to sarcasm overload)
Why does every damn book need to have a movie?
Warning! LIGHT SPOILERS AHEAD.
Many novels these days, from recent best-sellers (Water For Elephants) to mass-read classics (The Great Gatsby) have had movies made from them. I haven’t seen or read either of these, but here’s what I did read and see recently:
These three books are good examples of what to do (and what not to do) when making a film or less inspired, blockbuster-craving movie. Although my opinions of them differ, they have much in common: they star teen characters, they’re more-or-less science fiction (if you count a realistic take on superheroes to be science fiction) and they’re all certainly action stories.
The Hunger Games and Catching Fire
I can’t decide which I liked more, the movies or the books. (Movies. Probably movies.) Although heroines usually grate on me, Katniss didn’t usually do so. And although I am, by now, tired of seeing Jennifer Lawrence’s face everywhere, watching her as Katniss helped me appreciate the hype. (Disclaimer: Lawrence is a fantastic actress. I simply dislike her because everyone else is currently in love with her. I might be a hipster.)
At first, the sight of Woody Harrelson playing Haymitch was startling, but the more I saw him the more I adored the character. In writing, Haymitch is the surly, sarcastic drunk who needs to be taken care of. On screen, he’s the surly, sarcastic drunk with a sharp wit who doesn’t need help from anyone, probably not even Peeta. Haymitch’s dislike for Katniss’ personality, in either case, is refreshing compared to the “you’re so special” mentality the protagonists of teen and tween stories tend to receive.
Because I watched the movies nearly immediately after finishing the novels (except Mockingjay), the differences between paper and screen were pretty fresh in my mind. I preferred the movie of The Hunger Games and the novel of Catching Fire. In the first movie, riots were shown, whereas in the book series we don’t learn about them until Katniss does in book two. THG can get away with straying from Katniss’ point of view, whereas the novel would break if it strayed from the first person point of view. I, for one, am glad the riots were included in the first movie because it encouraged interest in the second. I enjoyed seeing President Snow’s discussions in the movie, but in the novel of Catching Fire, Snow’s appearance at Katniss’ house was more chilling in writing.
If critics of Catching Fire say book two was all over the place, the movie, to me, was worse because it felt rushed. I was more intrigued by the first half of the novel with the utter uncertainty of the fates of the rioting districts. Once they got to the arena, I lost interest, but even so I wanted to see more interaction between the characters during the Games in the film.
This movie series is so sickening I seriously can’t have a midnight snack while watching it. The filmmakers did such a good job that the movies can stand on their own. Then again, I can’t ignore how once, while reading Catching Fire, I was actually biting my bookmark. Sometime shortly before the Mockingjay movie is released, I’ll look forward to reading the book.
I only wish I could say the same for Divergent.
I’ve avoided writing any review on this to prevent myself from going on a rant. The novel was recommended to me, and the same friend let me know the movie was better. She was correct, but I don’t believe either was up to par with The Hunger Games (or any other well-received book). Somewhere in the middle of reading Divergent, I decided not to watch the movie. If the book frustrated me so much, not even a potential blockbuster could be that much better. Alas, I saw it anyway for the sake of this post. (You’re welcome. …Have you thanked me yet?)
“The movie is better,” I repeated during the trailer. But, as soon as Beatrice began her narration, I found myself moaning. No. Don’t world-build your movie with a narrated prologue. With novels, it depends on what you do, but movies? People, have you learned nothing from M. Night Shyamalan?
Unless this is the opening theme to every episodes for all the kiddies out there, it’s not needed. It’s simply evidence of hasty filmmaking. Do your world building!
To the movie’s credit, besides the opening and the closing, Beatrice’s inner monologue was non-existent. This was one hell of a step up from the book because things actually happened without her questioning herself at every turn of the page. However, even in the movie I and others were confused about certain things, such as why the Divergent population hasn’t been ruling the city all along and (my personal pet peeve) why it isn’t taboo for Beatrice to have a relationship with her trainer, who helps determine progress scores of all the competitive students.
All in all, this was one film where I was relieved to find out subplots and some of the main plot differed from its original.
I’m not usually a fan of filmmakers taking liberty with creative license for the sake of providing a semi-formulaic plot for the common man, but I make exceptions once in a while.
I saw the first two movies before reading these comics, and I must say I’m a fan of both. Kick-Ass 2 (the movie) is combined with Kick-Ass 2 Prelude (the comic) and I’m okay with that. The plots are different, too. The movie shows more of Mindy’s life in high school and, yeah, gets formulaic with her attempt to fit in with the cool crowd, but as long as Hit Girl is triumphant I don’t think any of us can complain. (On that note, I’d like to address writer Mark Millar directly. *ahem* WHAT THE FUCK, MILLAR? WHEN IS KICK-ASS 3 GOING TO BE FINISHED? You can’t leave a girl hanging when she’s trying to write a post about the whole series!) Despite the plot of the second movie, I’m glad it features more Hit Girl because she’s more fun than Dave.
I find it difficult to decide which I like more: the movies or the books. More importantly for a fangirl, I find it impossible to decide which I dislike more. Even after reading Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe, I’m not on board with terribly graphic violence. Just violence? For some reason, yes. The movies are more graphic visually whereas the comics, to me, are more graphic linguistically. Spoken swears roll off the actor’s tongue, whereas written swears linger within the dialogue box. Violence is prominently in the viewer’s face, but the coloring in the comics are more blunt than other comics I’ve read recently (especially Marvel).
Now that I’ve gone on about that, you may be wondering why I’m a fan of Kick-Ass in the first place. I just am. The exaggerated action is part of what makes the series so fun. Superheroes, come on!
The main character, Dave, makes a good point here:
Suddenly I got why they embraced us like they did. Why the movies were created in such a dark decade. Why these characters were created in the first place. We all just need a little color in our lives and the certainty of a happy ending because real life doesn’t work out like that.
Real life isn’t as comic book-y, either, so this is why over-the-top nonsense with a plot is and can be fantastic.
Should all books be made into movies? No. Like real life, some just won’t work out. I have a series that would make a great action film series, but there’s another series I’m working on that would make a terrible movie no matter who directed it.
After this post, this reading challenge is done with the über-popular books. I’m off to pursue lesser-known teen titles.
This post contains spoilers!
Nightmare by Willo Davis Roberts
Breath by Donna Jo Napoli
I couldn’t finish this one, but that’s OK. To each her own. I give a book 50 pages to offer me some sense of its world and characters. If I’m on the fence about whether I like it, I give it 50 more pages to convince me to stay on. If I don’t like it, I send the book back to wherever it came from. This is why I love the library; you can get a good sense of your tastes without paying. There are so many books I want to try in my life, and if I don’t like them I don’t bother.
The plot of Nightmare is compelling enough, to its credit. Nick is a teen who has three bad things happen to him in the first two chapters. His girlfriend dumps him, his car collides into a man who had just jumped off a bridge, and his dog is shot by a home intruder. The dog was fine, the man was not, and the ex-girlfriend was probably a bitch anyway.
Teens might like this book for the my-life-sucks-and-anyone-who-cares-about-me-is-annoying tone. We’ve all been there, but it doesn’t necessarily mean I want to read about it. The characters got on my nerves, mostly Nick. He complained about his step-father, Steve, though with good cause. Steve, a cop, was almost completely insensitive to Nick’s experience with the man who died on the hood of Nick’s car merely days after the horrible event. Steve insisted in passive-aggressive ways that Nick should be concerned about cleaning out the garage than a human’s life. Um, OK. Yeah, that’ll cure those night terrors. Aside from constant complaining about Steve, Nick annoyed me at how peeved he was with his neighbour, Daisy. I got the sense that Nick’s only thoughts about her were “My ex-girlfriend once said that Daisy, my neighbour who’s the same age as me, dresses a few years her junior which makes her totally uncool to like as a person. Also, she cares about my well-being and makes the time to stalk me from her window, which ended up saving my life several times. What a little pest.” I wasn’t buying it, so I hope that at some point in the novel Nick realizes Daisy is the best thing about his life. Thankfully, I don’t have to worry about that if I’m no longer invested in the story. I made it to page 78.
I started reading on July 20 after hearing about the shootings in Aurora, CO. I especially wasn’t feeling this book when I read how Nick wanted to go to a movie, “see if anything good was playing at the Tri-Plex there. Preferably something violent and heavy, with no girls in it, just guys slaughtering each other.” Yeah, it didn’t sit well that weekend. It probably wouldn’t sit well if I read it today, either Having published Nightmare in 1989, Roberts certainly didn’t mean any ill will with this passage. It was just bad timing on my part.
If you like murder mysteries, I might recommend this novel. I actually do wish to know whether the suicidal guy jumped or was pushed. More so, I want to know what kind of bug has been living in Steve’s ass. It would be even more satisfying if the guy had been pushed off the bridge, and Steve was somehow involved with it because, according to Nick, he’s kind of a bad person. If anyone has read this book, do tell me!
I’m surprised to have found this in the Juvenile section instead of Teen. Wherever it’s placed on a library shelf, it’s obviously meant for mature readers—not necessarily those over 13—because the first chapter features a lot of imagery of a horrified man hitting the wind shield of the car you’re driving. Not all children’s books feature happy images, something all parents should be aware of. You can’t protect your little one from the terrors of life, especially if they read, but they do need to read so they can have an understanding of life itself. Death happens in fiction as much as real life, and I’ve found this is especially true in mysteries.
I’ll still count this book towards my children’s lit challenge because I put the effort into finding out about this book, and it fits with the theme of this post. I might check out other titles by Ms. Roberts because she has apparently written a lot. Some of her other books might be a success, especially a non-mystery with a female, child protagonist as opposed to what I just read.
Breath was easier to read in terms of writing style and plot consistency. Besides, I always prefer historical fiction over mysteries or general fiction.
Not only does our main character see death, but his family openly speculates his early expiration. Growing up with cystic fibrosis, Salz knows how precious his life is. Gladly, this isn’t all there is to the book. A plague scare is sweeping through the entire town, and the novel becomes somewhat of a historic mystery as Salz’s family tries to find out the cause of the disease.
The story is based on the legend of the pied piper, which one might not realize until the last few chapters. I love this. As a reader, I appreciate being swept up in a story instead of being beaten over the head with a theme. There’s a lot going on in terms of relationships and history and I’m not left wanting—except for a slight desire to know whether Pater Frederick evaporated into thin air.
It’s funny how the more I like a book, the less I have to say about it. This is why I could never be a book critic; I’m only wordy when I’m angry. As fun a job this would be, my health would surely decline by how often I’d have to force my high blood pressure. I loved this book well enough, and am excited to explore Donna Jo Napoli down the road of my reading adventure.
I do have things to say about the cover of Breath. It features The Triumph of Death by Pieter Brueghel the Elder. As much as I love the macabre, the more I looked at this painting the more disturbed I was. I wondered, “Is this suitable for a children’s novel?” Thankfully, the library mislabeled this novel and stuck it in the juvenile section (it’s supposed to be in the teen section). To top that off, when I tried to check it out the book wasn’t in the system. What gives, library? *slow clap*
Take a look at this picture. (Click the image to expand.)
The picture’s bottom half is featured on the cover. The skeletons aren’t just symbols of death. They’re performing murder before our eyes. Animals, who are dying as well, torment the people. Covers are powerful things, and this historic piece of artwork says more about the novel than the blurred image of a child’s mouth on the top half of the cover. It’s a fine representation: vagueness over an expanding death toll brought by possibly supernatural causes.
Still, I prefer that cover to this one:
With these two novels, children learn there’s always more to a death; a murder, a born illness, a spreading disease, and punishment from an invisible force are all part of an investigation. In all investigations, there are lessons and myths. In all lessons and myths, there are stories.
16 titles down, 36 to go.
Days left: 37.
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken
Summer of Fear by Louis Duncan
It’s hot outside and no matter how cool my house can get, I always find myself unable to get to sleep. The middle of the night, when I’m jazzed up about nothing, is when I like to read horror. It’s been this way for years. When I was young enough to have a bedtime, I had a night light at the corner of my bed and would strain my eyes reading at the end of my bed. Books were especially frightening in the dim light when I was alone in the room and everyone else in the world asleep.
The following aren’t so much horrors as they are thrillers, but for an elementary school kid they’re chillers indeed. This is a post of nostalgic and terrible books.
When my brother and I were in school, Mom would read chapter books to us at breakfast. I think it was more a tactic to keep us from falling asleep in our cereal than a lesson in literature. (Parents, read to your kids for entertainment and they won’t suspect you’re trying to educate them or shut them up for ten minutes!) The Wolves if Willoughby Chase was read to me when I was in elementary school. The cover explains my fear of large, black dogs.
My copy once belonged to someone else, for their name is inside. It’s in pretty good condition for having been published in 1962. I should add mine to it in a similar, careful cursive. The pages and spine are sun-dyed, of course, but the only damage from use is a few nicks on the corners. Opening the book, the ends easily fall open because my mom liked to completely flatten a book as she read it from the table. I can often identify which of my books she read to me because if this. (Morning Girl by Michael Dorris, you were the most loved.)
Although I didn’t care for the story this time around, I believe schools could benefit from using it in history class. Readers get to live in Victorian England, and learn words such as “posset” and “crewel.” They learn common sense survival like making flour out of crushed chestnuts and using various home decor fabric to make traveling clothes. It puts things into perspective and provides historic vocabulary words.
The story didn’t emotionally engage me, and I can’t believe this became a series. Well, it was the 60’s. I do applaud Aiken for using the wolf as a metaphor for a villain. Until I finished the book, I hadn’t realized this. The actual wolves disappeared from the story when the children left their town, but they continued to be haunted by the horrible person they’d left behind because the antagonist put them in dire straits.
I shall never get rid of this book, but I may not read it again. Oh, well. Not all books in this challenge were to be wonderful. It’s the experience I’m after.
I couldn’t find a picture of my copy’s cover of Summer of Fear. I feel special.
Take yourself to the 1970s! Writers use words like “bureau”, “horrid”, and “folks”. Teenagers obey their parents and listen to records. The word “pussy” is innocent backwoods slang, but “dumb slob” is vulgarity. I always like to guess when a novel was published while reading it, and I was right. The cover was a dead giveaway because of the fashion worn, but there was also something so vanilla about the writing for teens. I can’t believe I used to read a lot of these books.
My copy was withdrawn from the public library. My name is on the back cover. The pages are terribly sunbleached and the ink has gone blurry, but my gosh. I love paperbacks. Especially the ones that encourage you to order the books listed in the back. “Richard Peck is tuned into teens! $2.95 each.” Books were $3 by mail! How I wish I lived in that time. I would have ordered so many badly-titled horrors. (Old lady voice: “Back in my day, they were $4.99.”) My inner Marvel lover is telling me to seek a book titled Cal Cameron By Day, Spider-man By Night by A.E. Cannon.
If there’s a lesson in Summer of Fear, it might be a lesson on how to justify your jealousy of another girl. (Spoilers ahead!) What if, after all that blaming, she wasn’t really a witch? Sometimes a string of bad things happen to you and there’s nothing supernatural about it. I have come to loathe climaxes where the protagonist and antagonist simply stand there and talk to each other. It’s easy to do, yes, and people do need to talk once in a while, but chick thrillers need more action and less thinking. I enjoyed being on the journey, but dang it, Rachel! Also, Professor Jarvis might not have died if Rachel had just disobeyed her father and gone to talk to Jarvis instead of allowing herself to be grounded for a whole morning (a punishment I didn’t quite understand because her father wasn’t around to enforce it). Do you see what I mean by vanilla? Rachel knew people’s lives were potentially at risk, but she marched right upstairs when her father told her to.
I’ll be honest; I did not enjoy this the second time around. For a 10-year-old, yes, it’s magical and mysterious, but I will be giving this book away because my shelves need to be free for better tales. My nostalgia has been sufficiently fed for now.
7 titles down, 45 to go.
Days left: 60.
I’ve reserved some better horror novels from the library, but I’m always taking suggestions. Anything except Goosebumps. I’ve read too many of those.