This Week, I Read… (2018 #28)

100 - Third Daughter

#100 – Third Daughter, by Susan Kaye Quinn

Pros: non-European-based fantasy setting. Steampunk aesthetic. Fast-paced action.

Cons: adjective-heavy prose style. Heroine who could be pictured in the dictionary under both “reckless” and “impulsive.” Hero who is too perfect. Absolutely transparent love triangle. And the Indian-inspired setting is really light on actual Indian terms, items, and history/culture.

Most of that is straightforward, but I want to dig into that last bit. As much as I want to see fantasies take inspiration places and times other than medieval Europe, this was so light on elements of Indian culture that, had I not known from the cover/marketing/book reviews that this was alternate India, I might have missed it entirely and assumed the setting was purely fictional.

Also, for a novel so concerned with spy action centered on world politics, there’s pretty much no history given to account for the current state of them. Thin worldbuilding at best.

I enjoyed this almost entirely based on the steampunkiness and the action. That being said, the cliffhanger leading to the second book wasn’t at all a surprise to me, and doesn’t particularly make me want to go on with the series.

101 - The Kalahari Typing School for Men

#101 – The Kalahari Typing School for Men, by Alexander McCall Smith

A short book that could (should?) have been even shorter if it weren’t filled with endless name repetition and small talk.

I’m sure I didn’t do myself any favors by jumping into this series a few books in, but this is the one I found for pennies at a used book shop, and it sounded interesting.

A few chapters in, I took a break to look up the titles Mma. and Rra., and once I found something that wasn’t about mixed martial arts, got treated to a message board topic filled with commenters writing mini treatises on how incredibly polite Botswanan society is, which was genuinely interesting, as I know almost nothing about it.

That studious politeness is evident in this book, but not necessarily to its enrichment. I can understand the insistence on always using a character’s title and name together, even if it did lead to some stilted sentences. But that made it all the more obvious that the “apprentices” were basically never referred to by name, even when they were speaking, which irked me personally, as I’ve never been fond of the naturalistic school of writing where epithets are preferable to names. (I still hate The Red Badge of Courage for this specific reason.)

What really bothered me, though, was the small talk. No character dialogue could be omitted, assumed, or even summed up with an “After the necessary pleasantries…” Not allowed, every single word spoken was included, no matter how mundane or unnecessary to the plot. And there’s a lot of it.

Add to that the repetitive nature of the inner monologues (eg, “That was a good idea. She should tell So-and-So about it. So-and-So would agree it was a good idea.”) and it became a recipe for boredom. I would hopefully be more attached to these characters if I’d been reading from the beginning, but nothing here was strong enough for me to invest in.

102 - Speak

#102 – Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson

I was afraid when I saw that this was structured around the school year and Melinda’s classes, that this would be another trite “hell is high school” stories.

But for Melinda, it really is true, and it’s not trite at all.

She’s got parents who aren’t fully present in her life, and when they are, they don’t understand her (to them) self-imposed isolation. She’s surrounded at school by enemies and former friends alike, and the only “friend” she acquires as a freshman is a new girl who’s so self-absorbed she doesn’t even notice how disengaged Melinda is.

She has lots of teachers who don’t care about her withdrawal and falling grades, a counselor who does care but can’t seem to reach her, and one teacher who cares a ton–her art teacher.

Art as therapy is so close to being a cliche, but here, it made me want to chose a random subject (as Melinda does) and spend the next few months drawing/painting/sculpting nothing but, say, owls or something. It’s not something any of my art teachers ever did, but one in particular did pretty much let us work on whatever we wanted to with minimal input from him while he worked in one corner of the room on a huge portrait of his kids. So when she was talking about art class, I felt that.

In fact, my strongest point of connection to Melinda is how closely her internal observations of high school reminded me of my own. My situation going into freshman year was far different (and less traumatic) but Melinda has that early cynical edge that, when paired with her exile from the social structure, manages to criticize it while still wanting to be a part of it, which is how I felt a lot of the time.

And her English teacher? Could have been mine, with the sentence-by-sentence over-analysis of an assigned text, trying to mine every word for symbolism. And symbolism here suffers the same fate as high school society itself–the narrative has students openly criticize symbolism, and yet, symbols run rampant through the novel: mirrors, trees, silence. Which is how Anderson manages to raise what could have been another trite “hell is high school” story above the rest.

 

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Dialogue Prompts: Song Lyrics Edition

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As a music junkie, I’ve proposed song-based writing homework assignments before, quite a few times in fact. But here, I just want to share a bunch of short, earworm lyrics that I think would make great writing prompts.

  1. “I thought we were past this.”
  2. “I can’t say no to you.”
  3. “If we take this chance…”
  4. “Please don’t drive me home.”
  5. “Don’t know who I’m kidding.”
  6. “I am my own worst enemy.”
  7. “Do you feel the same?”
  8. “There’s nobody here, it’s just you and me.”
  9. “I know you’re not a fool.”
  10. “How did you find me in the first place?”
  11. “I can’t seem to place it.”
  12. “I don’t want to fall in love.”
  13. “You always were two steps ahead.”
  14. “That’s why I’m in love with you.”
  15. “I want you to move on.”

Have fun, write drabbles, and I’ll be back on Friday with another batch of book reviews!

Didn’t I Used to Reread My Books?

My reading style has changed greatly in the past few years.

From the beginning of high school all the way through college and my early adulthood, the books I had available to me were limited by 1) my disposable income for purchasing books at retail prices; 2) what I could borrow from friends; 3) what I was given as gifts.

In college especially, it’s too bad that I didn’t make more use of my school’s library for recreational reading, but then, I had so much reading to do for class I’m not sure how much time I had to indulge.

Once I settled in here, I did get a library card and occasionally checked out books, when I got tired of my collection; but mostly, I reread what I already had. I’ve probably read most of what I owned then upwards of five times each, some of my favorites even more.

With my discovery of local used book sales (mostly through the library system) and free/discounted ebooks, my collection has swelled to ridiculous proportions (for me, not judging other bibliophiles who have even more.) Since I’ve started using Goodreads to track my books in 2015, I’ve acquired 678 books, more than 300 of which I still haven’t read. Though I am working on that.

The benefits: I’m reading more diversely. I’m trying out genres I never had, and possibly never would have. And since I’m reviewing all these books as well, thanks to my blog, I’m honing my critical reading skills and learning a lot about the finer aspects of writing, which is invaluable to me as an author.

The drawback: I never reread anything any more. I almost feel guilty wanting to, when I have so much new material waiting for me.

It’s a drastic shift I’ve undergone, and honestly, I’m starting to miss rereading. When I decide to keep a book from my TBR pile and need to fit it onto my “permanent” shelves, I see books I loved and haven’t touched in years. Books I read only once, and want to revisit. Books that beg for a deeper understanding, because I know I must have missed the small things–foreshadowing and clues about characters, especially–the first time around.

I realize my reading goals are self-imposed, and that I could abandon them if I wanted to. But I enjoy the challenges too much, and I hate being a quitter.

I am, however, starting to think I should take it easier next year. Pick a lower level of Mount TBR, maybe. Or not do the PopSugar challenge at all, though I’m waffling about this, because the tasks are often broad enough that I can fit books into them that I was going to read anyway, and I don’t want to give up on something that makes me read outside my comfort zone. Not entirely.

But I’m feeling the pull of my favorites, or books that might be my favorites if I revisited them. I’ve owned the first three books in the Sevenwaters series (Juliet Marillier) since college and read them each probably a dozen times; but books four, five, and six, I’ve only bought recently. I’ve read #4 twice and #5 + #6 once each. I enjoyed them all, and I want to read them again!

I’m feeling the itch to reread Neal Stephenson’s massive Baroque Cycle trilogy, all 3000+ pages of it, and I’ve got the first book, Quicksilver, tentatively penciled in for a PopSugar task this year (read a novel based on a real person–Quicksilver has got them in spades.) But committing to reread such a dense, intricate, and long series seems almost foolish to me, when I know it’s probably going to take me a month or more to get through them all, and I have hundreds of unread books I could be reading instead.

This was inevitable, I guess. I couldn’t keep up with my TBR forever (and I’ve even got more on the way, I used a Thriftbooks coupon a few days ago and ended up with eight, or maybe nine, books on my order) and eventually I would burn myself out on the novelty of reading entirely new books all the time.

I’m still pondering solutions, but if anyone has advice, I’m listening!

This Week, I Read… (2018 #27)

98 - My Antonia

#98 – My Ántonia, by Willa Cather

The blurb on the back cover gave me a vastly different idea of the focus of the book than was actually the truth–part of me kept waiting for the time in the story named, when Antonia returned to Black Hawk and disrupted life there with her “lush sensuality.”

I’m not entirely sure the person responsible for that blurb has actually read the book, because that never happened. Ántonia’s elopement and return didn’t happen until page 250ish of a book of almost three hundred pages.

So in that respect, I was disappointed. I didn’t know anything about the book beforehand, so the blurb was all I had to go by.

Yet, I think I like this better than I would have if I’d gotten the story I expected.

It’s a story about love, and somehow it’s still not a love story. When Jim tells one of Antonia’s children, at the end, that he once loved their mother very much, it’s romantic and wistful, an expression of gentle regret that Ántonia had not been a larger part of his life as an adult. But he remembers fondly all the times they had together growing up, how in some ways she <i>was</i> his childhood.

And it’s beautiful. It’s beautiful how honest their friendship is, even when it’s complicated, even when they don’t see each other for years. In fact, this novel might be the best depiction of friendship between a boy and a girl that I’ve ever seen. Especially as we know right from the start that Jim doesn’t marry Ántonia, or Lena, or any of the other girls from Black Hawk, we can follow his narration of life viewing it as a long string of might-have-beens (it did seem for a while like he would have married Lena, if she would have had him) and a far-traveling circle leading him back to the many types of love that sustained him as he grew up.

Outcasts and orphans have a place, there on the prairie, where hard work and a little luck can carry someone far.

I can’t do the descriptions of Nebraska justice. The countryside is held up as the epitome of a place to live, with cities being shabby, impersonal, ill-omened. Modern city-dwellers might not agree, but the lyrical beauty of Cather’s prairie paradise transports you there, among the crickets and rivers and waving grasses, under the broiling sun.

This story also embodies the dual pioneer and immigrant spirit of the West, and indeed of America itself at the time. There’s racism against blacks (of course, product of the time it was written) but compared to other works of its era that I’ve read, it was downright mild; and there was only a touch of prejudice here and there, not so much between “Americans” and the various immigrant groups that populate the cast, but between the groups themselves, holdovers of the “old country.” While this isn’t a utopian ideal in any sense, it embraces what America should be, and given the current political climate, reading this was simultaneously nostalgic and a breath of fresh air. Which, granted, is a weird juxtaposition, but I’ve just gotten so tired of “classics” that are nothing but racism and misogyny from start to finish.

Apparently I should be reading more “classics” written by women. And also, more Willa Cather, because I loved this.

99 - The Sixth Extinction

#99 – The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, by Elizabeth Kolbert

I come out of this saddened, shaken, and perhaps not as hopeful as the last chapter wanted me to be–but still impressed.

Kolbert has taken a tale of Earth’s biohistory spanning billions of years and married it, structurally speaking, to a sort of travelogue of the years of her life spent researching it. We are treated to glimpses of the unusual and sometimes dangerous conditions scientists submit to in order to gain knowledge, as well as the importance of what they find.

When I was in college, thinking I might want to go into ecology, I never imagined it might entail traversing the passages of an abandoned mine, in the dark, where an uncareful step might mean falling to my death down an open shaft, for the purpose of censusing bats.

So the personal anecdotes balanced the heavier, and arguably more important, aspects of the book: that human interference is the likeliest culprit behind many of the current wave of extinctions, and that despite some truly heroic conservation efforts on the species level, the overall problem still remains–human-driven climate change may doom much of the planet, and possibly ourselves as well.

Kolbert herself never states a prediction outright, either that we’re too late to save Earth from irreparable harm, or that reversal is still possible, though with a heavy toll already taken. And that prevents this from being a guilt-trip read, where I walked away feeling responsibility for our predicament. I was reminded of articles I’ve read in the past decrying how environmental-issues marketing in my era was almost solely directed at children; we were taught, growing up, about “reduce, reuse, recycle” and inundated with alarming facts about animal extinction, as if we were the problem, the little kids of the American lower middle class, not the large corporations lobbying against laws preventing them from dumping toxins into the water and carbon into the air.

It taught me to do my part in keeping the world clean and healthy, but not that there were larger forces at work, and certainly not how to fight them.

I appreciate that while the message and tone of the book are certainly dire, I’m left at the end to draw my own conclusion about what to do with this information. I know that my carbon footprint is smaller than those of many other Americans my age–I walk to work every day, I don’t have kids to support, I don’t have pets, I keep my electricity usage as low as possible, I buy whatever I reasonably can second-hand, I recycle, and so on. However, I also know that simply by being born where I was and living even the “simpler” lifestyle that I do, I am still more of a polluter than most of the rest of the world.

Kolbert does specifically mention donation to various conversation efforts, and while it’s not a specific call to action, it’s an obvious suggestion. The call to action my own reaction to the book has created is to involve myself more in politics. I already vote regularly in major elections, but over the past few years I’ve started voted in off-years and primaries as well; the candidates I support have not been climate-change deniers. What I have not been doing is calling my congresspeople to let them know how important legislation about environmental regulation and conservation is to me.

It’s almost strange to me how a tale of extinctions spanning billions of years can inspire a reaction so deeply personal, because I can’t truly step back from this book and judge it objectively. Even if I had issues with the writing style or narrative quirks, does that even matter compared to the weight of what I learned from it? Can I even be a separate and outside observer with my background and education in the sciences? I’m not sure that I can, when I remembered myself out there in the forest censusing wildflowers for my ecology lab, or writing a term paper on the diminishing biodiversity in the Colorado River, or listening to a lecture on zebra mussel invasion into the Great Lakes. The sixth extinction may range worldwide over centuries, but I can’t grapple with something that big, so perhaps I have to make it personal, viewed through the lens of my learning experiences, in order to feel like I can do something about it. If I can’t make it personal, then the scale is so large that it’s tempting to give up hope.

Editing Notes: Another Rewriting Option

In my efforts to rewrite #rockstarnovel, I’ve stumbled across a new method that I might like better than side-by-side drafting–using different font colors!

Either make a copy of the original all at once, or paste in chapters as you go, then select all the text and change it to red.

This is the original draft. Red means it’s “wrong” until I’ve assessed it. Does it need changes? Time to read it and find out.

This is a section I’ve rewritten. It’s pretty now. It’s how I want it (at least for the moment) so I can consider it “done”. It may still have typos or need small fixes—this isn’t the line-editing stage—but the story content is solid.

It’s okay if you highlight long sections of your original draft and switch them from red to black without making changes. Maybe you worked hard on it the first time and you got it right. Maybe you’ve got significant changes coming elsewhere, but this bit still works.

Starting with red and black is the basic idea, but if you need more colors to signify different issues, you’ve got them. Here I’m using blue to mean “note to self,” basically. Reminders about what changing this, here, will mean for something down the line—I could even jump ahead to that point where I know a new change will be and leave myself a note, which will stand out nicely in the sea of red.

And speaking of red, leaving something in red isn’t a bad thing. If you’re not sure what changes you need yet, how you want to word something, whatever, it can stay red. Come back to it later!

Now that I’ve tried it for the first few chapter of #rockstarnovel, it seems like an obvious system, a great visual shorthand for what I’ve worked on and what I haven’t. And I’m not constantly switching between two documents, because the original text is all there for me to see in the rewrite–at least until I fix it and delete whatever I don’t need, which is fine, because it’s still in the first draft document.

Will it work for everyone? No. Colorblind writers won’t get anything from this method, and I’m sure plenty of other people prefer more complex or robust rewriting systems–this is a quick, bare-bones approach. But for fast drafters (or writers who would like to be) and people who hate to print out their drafts for revising and editing, this could be the solution you’re looking for.

Top Ten Tuesday: Best Books I’ve Read In 2018 (So Far)

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

Since I’m about to hit 100 books read this year (I’m reading #99 right now), it seemed like a good time to recap my favorites so far. I’ve given 13 books the 5-star rating this year, and one of them will be appearing in the review post this Friday, so I won’t be including it here. How easily can I choose which two don’t make the cut?

Pretty easily, as it turns out. This time around, the titles link to my reviews, if you want to know more.

#1 – Leviathan Wakes, by James S.A. Corey

60 - Leviathan Wakes

I was a show-watcher first, and I adore it, so I knew I had to read the books. I’m completely sold on them now, too, and can’t wait to read the rest–hopefully I can catch up before the next season comes out. (Hurray for it being saved, too!)

#2 – Steering the Craft: A 21st-Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story, by Ursula K. Le Guin

57 - Steering the CraftA book filled with thoughtful and often challenging writing exercises, written by one of my favorite authors. I worked through (most) of them as warm-ups before my Camp NaNoWriMo writing sessions back in April, and I look forward to finishing the rest eventually, as well as revisiting some in the future. I recommend this to anyone serious about improving their writing, no matter what your current skill level is.

#3 – The Art of Language Invention: From Horse-Lords to Dark Elves, the Words Behind World-Building, by David J. Peterson

4 - The Art of Language InventionThis delighted my word-geek heart with its technical nitty-gritty. It’s not for the faint-hearted, though, because it can get arcane–though the author has invented numerous languages for television shows and movies, the bulk of the book is instructional, not autobiographical.

I really want to make my own language someday. Not sure when I’ll find time…

#4 – Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, by Becky Albertalli

64 - Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

I started Pride Month early this year by buying this from Common Language in April after they went viral with a post about falling sales. I read it in early May, because there was no way I could wait until June when I’d heard so many good things about the book, courtesy of its movie adaptation. Which I still haven’t seen, though I fully intend to.

 

#5 – Magic Bleeds, by Ilona Andrews

6 - Magic Bleeds

Should I be surprised that my favorite entry in the Kate Daniels series is the one where Kate and Curran finally get together?

Not even a little bit. Romance wasn’t this story’s only strength, though, it did a great deal to move the story of Kate’s family forward, as well as signaling the change in her allegiances.

This series is only getting stronger as it goes on.

#6 – Save the Date, by Annabeth Albert and Wendy Qualls

25 - Save the DateMore adorable, realistic, quality queerness. So many m/m “romances” I’ve been unfortunate enough to read in the past have been all about fetishizing gay sex rather than creating a true relationship between two characters who both just happen to be men.

This was a quick, fun read that I thought would be fluff going in, but was surprisingly sensitive to a number of issues surrounding sexual identity, without being melodramatic or angst-ridden.

 

#7 – Corambis, by Sarah Monette

35 - CorambisAfter the Doctrine of Labyrinths series started strong and waffled in the middle, I wasn’t sure what to expect from its conclusion–so many series I’ve read, especially in fantasy, get progressively worse as they go on. Not the case here, where I was so happily surprised by the end that I wanted to start the series all over again right away. I didn’t (obviously) but I’m looking forward to a reread someday.

#8 – Cipher, by Moira Rogers

81 - CipherA stand-out romance in a paranormal series that left me otherwise unimpressed.

I’m not usually one for loads of angst, but this had me twisted in knots. I guess I’m a sucker for a psychic in love.

It’s hard for me to recommend this in good conscience, though, because without reading the prior novels in the series, most of the setting would be confusing at best and incomprehensible at worst–the first three entries do a lot of worldbuilding, as well as showing briefly the early stages of the relationship of this book’s couple. And the rest of the series just isn’t that good.

#9 – The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, by Mackenzi Lee

2 - The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and VirtueApparently queer romance is my happy place this year, because this is the third one in my top ten!

Everything about this was fun, charming, at times downright captivating. The plot twists kept me turning pages–I read this over two days, but definitely in less than 24 hours.

 

#10 – With a Twist, by Staci Hart

48 - With a TwistRom-coms are not usually my thing, because I generally find them straining to be actually comedic. Too often the comedy falls flat, and when it’s just because that’s not my taste, it’s fine–nothing is funny to everyone. But when the comedy is based on thin stereotypes, degrading any group of marginalized people, or tired tropes about women and their quirks, I drop the book like a hot potato.

This one did everything right (for me) and put twists on classic romance tropes that delighted me. It’s my first Staci Hart, and I’m definitely planning to read more of her.

 

This Week, I Read… (2018 #26)

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#94 – Good Karma, by Donya Lynne

In some ways, I can’t even call this a romance, because of its cliffhanger ending, and the fact that it focuses far more on personal growth for the characters than it does love.

But as far as slow-burn stories go, this packs a hell of a lot of tension into its pages.

In developing the romance aspect, I loved that so much time was devoted letting the leads get to know each other. They go on dates. They talk on the phone a lot. They slyly flirt at work. When, toward the end, the realization hits them both that their “educational” fling has gone farther than either of them intended, it feels genuine, as does their pain. No insta-love here.

Yet, I have issues with how their backstories were presented, and how that self-actualization they’re both striving for manifests itself. Mark has given up any hope of ever having a true relationship, instead focusing on bringing women out of their shells. And Karma clearly needs that. But on some deep level, I also find that concept, of Mark as a sexual and personal guru, more than a bit creepy. The narrative goes to such great lengths to stress his good intentions that it almost did the reverse for me, a case of doth-protest-too-much.

Karma’s insecurities about her body are nothing new or unusual, but they are believable. Anyone who doesn’t have what the social norms have declared a perfect female body can be subject to distress about their own; but I might have liked it better if the complaint here wasn’t “my boobs are too small.” It’s a shorthanded way to have her be sexy and attractive without her actively realizing it, and the Cinderella-makeover plot focuses entirely on making her more feminine-appearing, getting her to work what she’s got. On an individual level, there’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s a stereotypical (and incredibly heteronormative) girl-takes-off-her-glasses-and-becomes-hot story. Even if glasses aren’t the root of Karma’s problem.

This story doesn’t fall into every romance-trope trap, though. As Mark is a visiting consultant for the firm Karma works for, the office-romance aspect is not only not-ignored, it’s handled with much more diligence than I’ve usually seen. Both characters realize their actions have consequences for their positions, both on their own and by being told by friends/family. Both choose to go forward (discreetly) anyway, and both worry about being revealed. Karma’s job is never at risk because of Mark directly; though technically he does have some measure of power over her, she never considers their relationship a means to manipulate him, and he never threatens her. She’s established as a competent, hard-working member of the team long before Mark enters the picture, so it’s entirely believable that their personal choices never interfere with their professional lives, outside of the chance of them getting caught.

Which is a step up from basically every other office romance I’ve ever read. I’m increasingly not fond of them, because I feel like the power dynamics are squicky, and most narratives don’t give them the gravity they need. This one does.

In the end, though, I’m not sure I’ll continue on with this series. Despite the painful cliffhanger, I’m not really rooting for these two people to get their happy ever after, because their feelings for each other are never the focus, the changes they bring about in each other are. I think the story would be stronger and more cohesive if it was a standalone that reached the ending expected all along–that Mark and Karma would part ways as better people for having been with each other, but not meant to be together. Which isn’t a romance at all.

95 - Magic Slays

#95 – Magic Slays, by Ilona Andrews

  • Read: 7/1/18 – 7/2/18
  • Rating: 4/5 stars

It would be hard for this to top #4 in my mind, and it didn’t quite. But it was still fantastic.

I plowed through this in less than 24 hours, it would have been only one day if I had managed to stay up even farther past my usual bedtime to finish. The pace is relentless, the stakes sky-high, the humor punchy and engaging.

I was dying to see, after #4, how Kate and Curran would get along in their newly established relationship. I was both satisfied and left wanting more. The revelations regarding Kate’s mother’s family (ignored up to this point in favor of her father’s legacy) led to some highly reasonable doubts about Curran’s motive for pursuing Kate–which he allays nicely in the end. I absolutely adore how these two lovebirds can constantly commit to open communication and honesty, but still manage to utterly blindside each other with surprises.

I’m delighted that this series is still going strong at its halfway point, and I’m ride or die for the rest of it.

Brooklyn Rockstar

#96 – Brooklyn Rockstar, by Jennifer Ann

DNF after Chapter 4. I do not need to finish this, when I can already see that the central “growth” of the “hero” is going to be his love interest teaching him not to be a raging misogynist.

And if the book doesn’t even manage that, I want to read it even less.

He’s just the worst. Throwing massive amounts of profanity and objectification of women into his POV chapters doesn’t make him interesting, doesn’t give him a personality, doesn’t do anything except make him into a hate-able caricature of a person.

And the second he sees the heroine, she’s label as pure, different, real. Because every other woman he’s ever known in his entire life is the same slutty, sex-crazed whore trying to get into his pants. Keep in mind, he hasn’t even spoken to her yet, but he’s already convinced she’s amazing, for some reason.

He spends the rest of that chapter obsessed with finding a way to meet her, get her number, make her a part of his life–even though he knows nothing about her. Stalker, much?

I see where this is headed, and it’s somewhere I don’t want want to go. Romance =/= teaching a man how to be a decent human being who respects women.

Bonus badness: the writing style is amateur at best, in need of editing. An example: I want to cup her tits beneath her shirt that make a sweet curve beneath her top. First of all, since we already know exactly what she’s wearing from the extensive getting-dressed section of her POV chapter beforehand, it’s been established she’s got a shirt on. Breasts, being a part of her body and not some sort of accessory, would logically be under that shirt. Yet, the same sentence tells us twice where her breasts are located.

It’s so awful I just had to laugh.

 

97 - Rise

#97 – Rise, by Karina Bliss

This gets serious kudos for taking a hard look at the less glamorous side of the rock-star lifestyle, but loses my interest with too many subplots.

Zander and Elizabeth banter like nobody’s business, and I’m always glad to see real chemistry between the leads in a romance, not merely insta-lust, or worse, insta-love. In her position as co-author of his memoir, Elizabeth starts in an adversarial role to Zander, making this plot come awfully close to an enemies-to-lovers arc, one of my favorites when done well. And it is. Zander isn’t someone I’d fall for myself, I can’t take that much ego, but he’s a well-developed character with a lot more nuance that most rock-star heroes I’ve read.

However, this simply gets bogged down by (what I’m assuming is) set-up for future books. Stormy’s subplot on its own might have been fine, for the purpose of showing that Zander’s past isn’t meaningless to him, even if he’s moved on; but throwing in the marital troubles of another band member AND constant tension between Zander’s PA and basically everyone–that was too much.