If you've ever wanted to read every book in the library, maybe you should rethink that.

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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!

Spellbound
author: Day, Sylvia
title: Spellbound
year: 2013
special sticker: none
guess the genre: Ooh, my first smut book!
pre-read impression: Well, I’m glad it’s a short one.

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!

A Knight in Shining Armor (Montgomery Saga, #16)
author: Deveraux, Jude
title: A Knight in Shining Armor
year: 1989
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.

yadda

But you yadda yadd’ed over the best part!

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.

  1. 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 writing;
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.

MercyChallenge

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)

Living in Harmony (New Beginnings, #1)  The Walk (The Walk, #1)

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You sat behind me today. You sat behind most of us. When the movie ended, the whole theater was talking about you because you wouldn’t stop talking during the movie.

I had no idea what age you were. I didn’t know how many you were. All I knew was that you were women; sometimes people can pick out these things. I’m not judging you because of this. (In case you haven’t noticed, I’m a woman, too. Hi, how ya doin’?) In fact, I’m not even judging you. I’m simply remembering how, one day, I paid money to see an award-winning drama that I adore with at least fifty other people who were doing the same. The experience was transcendent. We soon discovered why it has been sold out. Our ears rang with the masterpiece, but then, if I may quote the film, “You were there—yes, you were there.”

As soon as the opening made itself known to us, you found it a good time to rustle every item on your person. You also found the entire length of the movie to speak openly and giggle amongst yourselves. This made me believe you were teenaged girls who needed to crack jokes because you were uncomfortable with the weight of the story.

Soon into the show, I knew the size of your cylinder of popcorn and enormous soft drink by the echoing sound of their emptiness. Place them somewhere when you’re done with them. You thought it best to make narrations about the obvious. My mother does this at home but has the public decency to not regale an audience in what they can figure out for themselves. One of you even used the old classic, “What’s that actor’s name—the one who’s starring in this film? He won an award for such-and-such….” and later thought it well to ask someone else who that actor’s name is while those very credits were rolling before your eyes. When I finally turned around during the credits, there you were, all three of you middle-aged ladies. Funny; by the noise you were making, I thought there were at least seven of you.

I’m trying to figure you out. Really. Your participation today might have been a combination of your age, your sex, or your sense of care-freeness because you were out with friends. But here’s the thing: kindly shut up. The thing is, you’re sharing this room with everyone else. We, who are also in the room, were fine with you (or anyone else) getting up to go to the bathroom. The less, the merrier. We’re fine with your quieted reactions mingling with the breath of the crowd. It’s good to know that you’re feeling the movie as we are. We’re also fine with you eating your popcorn. The crunch is part of the movie experience we know we must bear even when we don’t partake. We even appreciate your nose-blowing through tears because, in the darkness, we’re doing the same.

What the people around you are NOT fine with is how you blatantly pull our attention away from the magic before us. Your immature comments and constant quizzing of where the characters are need not be spoken so loudly. In fact, they need not be spoken at all.

Think of a movie theater as a theatre theater. This is live. No one can pause or rewind. You’re packed in a crowded place, rubbing elbows with people who don’t care to hear your opinions before they’ve seen enough to form their own. We didn’t pay to sit near you; we paid to have our minds taken away from ourselves by something others spent so much time and money on to produce for us.

If you have to talk during a movie, save your money and save the public. Rent it to see at home where you aren’t rude.



Is it just me or did the standards for Young Adult Fiction all but disappear between 2006 and 2011?

To research my own novel, I recently started reading a work by someone else.I wanted to compare my novel to others of the same subject. I wanted to stick my foot in the water and see how many piranhas there were. There is no better inspiration to publish your own work than to read something horrible.

I don’t get competitive with writing. Not usually. When I read a book I feel “meh” about I don’t go out and try to do better than that author just because I know I can do it. When I read a brilliant piece, I don’t try to be better than that writer, either. Rather, I purchase the book and place it on a pedestal (or as some may call it: a bookshelf) to give me inspiration when I’m down in the dumps.

This novel I’m currently reading, which shall remain nameless, reminds me that I’m a better writer. When I say this, I’m not being haughty. No. I’m furious. Here I am reading a book that needs so much attention, a character’s name changes in the same chapter he’s introduced! He’s a minor character, sure, but this is the least of this book’s problems.

Instead of a call-to-editing rant in which I could go on about the state of young fiction these days (you’re putting this in print; why won’t you read your own ****ing book just once from someone else’s point of view to make sure nothing’s wrong with it?!), I’m enraged about something petty but dear to my heart.

Another character belonging to this guy shares a name (and some physical qualities) with one of mine. It’s an uncommon name—trust me—and he was the first to use it. However, I’m glad for this. This coincidence inspires me to make my book (and character) of a higher standard. It inspires me not to change my character’s name but instead make him more meaningful to the reader. I was putting off writing this character’s most important scene (sorry about what happens, buddy) until today. He’s probably more important to my book than this guy’s character is to that terrible novel. (Again, I’m sorry about what happens in your big scene, but you know it will do [another character of mine] a lot of good.) I’ve become quite fond of mine in the past few months (*poke* love youuuu) and the more I know him the more it’s a joy to work with him.

No, I’m not competitive with writing, but when I see another author putting one of my characters to shame I can’t stand for it. Look out, people! This literary world may be big enough for the two of them, but that doesn’t mean it should be.

A year after writing out the plot to my new series, I’m still excited for it. Several years in and many drafts later, there will finally be justice. The terrible state of Young Adult Fiction will come to pass and any young author who takes good care of her imagination (I said I’m sorry, okay?!) will release her babies into the world to entertain. Between now and then, my experience with poorly written stories will inspire me to do better because I know this name for a certain type of character can belong to someone readers will adore. The genres for this age group is already improving, and I want to be part of it when my story is finally in print.



Last night, I had four blankets on my bed and suffered painful shivers. Although I was wearing thin summer pjs, no window was open and the heat from my slumber should have warmed me as usual. So wrong! This is a bad sign, the sign of October in Ohio.

This is a testy month, weather wise, and not even the Fall spices of dying leaves and desserts made from pumpkins and cinnamon can hide the dread of the five-month block to come. From November 1 till March 31, you are a slave of Mme Winter.

It lasts past March.
On second thought, make that a six-month winter. (April is also testy.) This is incredibly disappointing, and it’s no wonder S.A.D. exists; in a twelve-month year, you’d expect each of the four seasons to share the year equally. Not Winter! This cold-hearted bitch really milks it. Long after she is over, when seagulls have returned to our parking lots, piles of her gray excrement remain to remind us of the temperature we faced and will face again.

Snow is pretty until it kills you.
The first few times it snows, all the world around you turns into a magical wonderland. When it snows on Christmas Eve or Christmas day, life becomes a holiday romance comedy and you don’t mind the rush and bustle of travel. This is the extent of all good feelings about snow that doesn’t get you out of school.

Snow is a cousin to frozen water. It piles onto itself to form ice, which means black ice, sliding your way out the door, and wondering as you search longingly out your window whether your mailman hasn’t slipped and injured himself before making a delivery to your house. However, the worst part about winter is not the snow but the coldness that brings it.

Going trick-or-treating is asking for pneumonia.
Unless you’re going as the Michelin Man, you will be freezing in your costume. A brilliant costume idea is ruined by long johns, and unless there were blizzards in Agrabah, that’s not Princess Jasmine at your door asking for candy; that’s a little girl who is embarrassed at her mother’s insistence to bundle her up. Why aren’t all Halloween costumes lined with fleeece? Oh,  that’s right. They’re too bulky.

I can’t move my arms!
Two pairs of socks don’t cut it. Double layers everywhere often don’t block out the chills. I actually like the fashion aspect of layers, but they’re troublesome when they do their job too well (or not). As I hole up in my room to write, on go the layers because I’m freezing when I sit in my chair. The more I write, the more I work, so off go the layers again. Seconds after I’ve shed one or two items, the chills return. As I work more with the layers back on, my fingers freeze despite the exercise they get with typing.

This battle also happens in the summer, but at least my body knows how to sweat to tell me it’s hot. I don’t sweat in the winter! So how do I know I’m hot? I don’t know because I only am in fleeting moments.

I used to enjoy shopping, dangit!
More layers means more clothes, but what used to be fun is now guess-work at how much you’ll need. If you wish to don a summery dress, it must be accompanied by leggings and a sweater to become passable. As you go through the list of things you need to survive this season, clothing becomes an unavoidable expense.

Women’s fashion wants you to freeze.
A tank top is not a sweater. I don’t care if it’s knit with wool from a sheep on hair steroids, dear shopping facilities, because that flimsy (and possibly sheer) frock should not be included in a menu of winter clothing. And short-sleeved sweaters? Don’t get me started. Your coveted designers better sew me up some armwarmers if I’m to believe someone won’t catch their death in these shirts. Never mind, I’ll do it. I don’t trust you to dictate what I wear during these months.

I’m not a puffed-up blowfish; I’m just wearing a coat.
If bundling up is a necessity, so be it. Fashion be damned (or at least on vacation in Florida)! If the trusty coat I’ve had for ten years keeps my chattering teeth from eroding ten-fold every time I must go outside, I have a good excuse not to care. We all do.

Am I hot or cold?
No matter how good of a coat you’re wearing, between the frost outside and the constant rubbing of fabric on your skin, adding blasts of warm, dry air from a heating vent once you reach the indoors becomes too much. Lotion is often more valuable to me than bathing. (If I’m not sweating, why should I bathe?) Skin has feelings, too, you know.

There are some OK things about winter. It’s a great excuse to set up camp under a blanket for hours at a time. Wearing multiple pairs of colorful tights isn’t exactly a fashion statement but a necessity that doesn’t get you as many odd looks as they would on a summer outfit. Scarves, also, are the best things ever.

In grade school, we read a lot about the settlers who came to Ohio from the East. Sometimes it seemed that as Thanksgiving and the Cold-Hearted Bitch got closer, the more we read about pilgrims. We were taught that the pilgrims and pioneers chose where they wanted to live (they did make a big deal of travelling here, after all), and so I’ve always wanted to know one thing: if Winter is so annoying, why didn’t they choose somewhere else? Some place more convenient?

I haven’t experienced a real winter in four years, and because I have posted this editorial, Mme Winter will seek vengeance on all of us this year. I wish to leave this tyranny but, as long as I live here, I must cope with this impending doom. We all must. Carry on, brave Winter-dwellers! May she take pity on you.



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