The Bride Says Maybe the first book was better

I don’t feel like actually writing a review for this one. I made the mistake of skimming through reviews and caught one that did not like the main character because she had a problem with the hero’s dogs. I just.. Ugh. I like dogs. I like cats. I am a pet person, although I haven’t been in a position to have one for a while. There was a time that I let my little dog Yoh sleep in my bed. (he was super tiny, I think my pillow was bigger) But I understand when other people don’t like dogs, and I also understand that it’s polite to seek their ease above my own in certain circumstances.

E.g., not letting my six or seven dogs of varying size leap onto the bed while my virginal spouse awaits the wedding night with extreme trepidation.

I’m sorry, but under those circumstances, I just don’t see her being in the wrong. The dogs jumped all over her, and they actually broke the bed and knocked her onto the floor. Yes, she did hit one of them, and that is not okay at all, but it sounded pretty accidental to me. Especially since that scene is from the hero’s point of view, and he invented perceived slights throughout the entire book. He absolutely never learned not to blow everything she did out of proportion and into a pointed, intentionally contrived insult towards his person. I spent most of the book utterly confused about where the hell he was getting this stuff from.

The guy acts like a teenage girl. It really pissed me off that her shouting that the dogs should stay outside (and yes, some dogs really cannot be kept outside, but most of the time, you can adjust them to not sleeping in your room/bed anymore. Ever try to sleep when your wolfhound wants to share the bed–with your leg in a cast?) WHICH SHE GETS OVER is held up on the same level as his inventing personal slights. Which he doesn’t get over. It keeps looking like he is, and then he does something worse.

Late into the book, they’ve finally got things mostly together, and then he lets a man whose opinion should mean NOTHING to him call his wife a whore and on that man’s word, believes she carries another man’s child. EVEN THOUGH SHE TOLD HIM THAT SHE IS A VIRGIN. On the strength of this worthless person’s word, he concludes that his wife is a liar and stops talking to her for bloody weeks.

NO THANK YOU.

I’ll admit, this hit a little close to home. At the tail end of an abusive relationship, I found out that my insignificant other was telling lies about me behind my back. At the time, I hadn’t even known my IO was mad at me. Turns out, IO was just a compulsive liar, along with everything else.

Anyway. The hero did apologise, and I was really glad that she didn’t let him be cute about it–but he never told her the reason he had refused to speak to her, or be in her company, or sleep in the same room… for WEEKS. He slept on chairs tied together in his efforts to avoid her. His behaviour was so repellent that I think I would have punched him in the face.

I was really looking forward to this, but it just didn’t fulfil my expectations. I liked it well enough, it just had all these things. Also, for some reason, my copy had all these typos in it. Like forgotten words and “expect” instead of “except” which a copyeditor is supposed to catch. What the crap, Avon?

So NaNo is Coming Up Again

Listening to: “Delicate” – Damien Rice

I feel like I have completely lost touch with NaNoWriMo over the past few years. And not just because I haven’t really done it since I got married. Even before I left, the cheery, over-pepped atmosphere gnawed on my nerves like a raccoon with an orange. Participants I knew routinely acted like NaNo doesn’t have rules (guess what, it does), and many, many others thought that it made them so special that they had full rights to hold court over their friends and acquaintances.

I never liked the Young Writer’s Programme. Maybe I’m a jerk, but I remember when I first started doing NaNo officially. They collected donations to build libraries in Laos. When you compare that to encouraging a kid to do something that they’ll probably do anyway (writing tends to be hard to kill, people who are gonna write are going to effing write), it looks like a big fat waste of money.

And yet. Almost every email that I get is a beg for money. I belong to a lot of mailing lists that ask for signatures on petitions, phone calls to politicians, and monetary donations. NaNoWriMo emails started to look like these. I understand about server costs. I know that they are a non-profit, and that web site goes down every single year as its users basically destroy it with their Day 1 usage.

But the tone is really obnoxious. I feel like I had this casual friend with whomI used to have a lot of fun, and now he’s suddenly wearing home-made sandals and living in a pineapple field and all he’ll ever talk about is this charity that I don’t want to give any money to. He tries harder, by wearing funny hats and using as many gimmicks as he can think of, but suddenly I see all the falseness in everything he does. He tries too hard, he doesn’t know what he’s talking about, and sure, he manages to finish a novel every year, but no one wants to read any of them, including his mum.

This is some of the nastiest disillusionment ever. I don’t remember my password, I don’t feel like even lurking in the forums anymore, and I feel like November just doesn’t matter anymore, beyond finals, my sister’s birthday, and Thanksgiving.

And yet.

I have an idea.

Maybe it’s worth trying one more year?

Friday Book Review – Flowers in the Attic

There wasn’t much to add to my original review of this one. Sorry about that.
forbiddenwhat

 

When I was young, maybe eleven or around there, I remember seeing a copy of Heart Song at a Costco. The cover was intriguing, probably because it was purple and sparkly. And embossed. My mum just kind of shook her head and said that it was not for me.

Why didn’t I listen?

Obviously I remember that first encounter with VC Andrews, because it’s why I picked this up hundreds of years later. The whole time I read it I was thinking, “I need an adult,” only to metaphorically whimper, because all of the adults in this book’s world are either evil, effectively nonexistent, or dead.

Basically, four children are locked in an attic, continually told that they’ll be let out any day now, really, and a lot of tragedy occurs that is arguably inevitable. The cover kind of pisses me off, though. Classic novel, maybe. But “of forbidden love”? NO. It isn’t. It’s a novel of abuse and how people abused as children view and approach sex.

The language is melodramatic and elegantly nightmarish. It seemed fitting that Gothic/Victorian novels received so much mention, as the book itself seems to be aiming for that kind of inside-twisting depression. So much of what happens just felt like I had contracted a mental disease that had forced me to read the beginning of Jane Eyre for two days.

And that’s really the book’s biggest problem. Forget the controversial topic of incest and religious-excuse abuse, it gets same-y. I started to experience a burst of incredulous boredom when I realised they’d been in the attic for a year. Then two. Then almost three. I know why it is that way, but setting aside the emotional impact, they are in that attic for too dang long! Whenever there was this narrative event promising or talking about hope, I just flipped the page and rolled my eyes, declaring, “It’s either going to end in tears or not work. Or nothing will happen. Wooo.”

All of the names run together like glasses of milk poured into the same bowl. The characters aren’t so much characters as they are roles. The girl telling the story, her brother, the small children to keep them from escaping, the evil adults. The twins are different from each other, but troperiffically so. There’s the quiet, thoughtful twin, and the obnoxious shrieking one. I disliked both of them. Because I just didn’t care about any of them, I had a hard time accepting that the kids who could climb out and get away didn’t just do so. Get out and call the cops. Geez.

I understand why a lot of things I disliked were the way they were, and that a lot of my frustration was because I am weird. I was a paranoid child who planned escapes from different imaginary situations. (I have the best nightmares) And really, I was riveted. The book is a horrible tease, just like the mother. Maybe they’ll get out in this chapter. Or the next one.

It also made me cut my reading short several times to go be a very very good mother to my son. I started to hallucinate that I was a bad parent if I read for five more minutes instead of playing blocks with him. This book does aim for the feels. It just dragged on so long that I gave up worrying about the lost (FORMATIVE!!!) years because if I let myself apply real world consequences not depicted or speculated upon in the book, I would have had a breakdown.

When they finally get out of there, not only the escape but the ending of the book was overdue. It’s rather funny that one of the characters actually said that they had waited too long to escape. They don’t escape because they’re clever, and they don’t even seem to endure because they’re brave. Screw the blurb on the second book. It feels very much like a whim of the author thing. They don’t leave until almost the worst possible time.

It’s a pretty powerful ending, though. I actually had to read the reveal twice. I made the mistake of eating lunch while reading it, and well… I’ve had books that made me cry, but this is the only one that I think actually made me want to puke.

Why I don’t use outlines

Last night I stayed up late writing even though I had finally gotten an ARe account and bought A Dangerous Invitation for a dollar. I already had 400 words or so that I’d written ages ago, but I’d given them a quick skim, edited a little to update it to my current style, and then added to the end because it was nagging at me.

The original idea that I had in mind was to take the train of exiles idea from Final Fantasy 13, solve the many, MANY logical fallacies with sense and do it for a reason rather than just to set up the government as the most generic bad guys ever. In fact, the government in this story is no more corrupt than any well-functioning one in a modern setting. I’ve been reading about Eleanor of Aquitaine, so I have this thing for actual thinking in politics.

The changes that I had in mind were to have the process have very clear reasons and be based on resignation, rather than a load of cryptic control and uninformed fear. The region is bordered by a vast wasteland, which is inhabited by monsters. Sometimes, monsters break in, at a frequency of once every few months, maybe a high of four or five a year. When this happens, there’s property damage, usually people get killed, and almost always, the monster spews spits on everybody and those people will draw other monsters.

Logical choice is to send these people out into the wastelands. Presumably, people do live there, it’s not impossible, and with four monsters a year, more will have to go. In the wastes, they can afford to be nomadic, and the spitty scent on them disperses better in the open country. The monsters act very differently in their own ecology than when they stumble into the city. Maybe they’re even just like old lions or starved wolves. The point is that the wastes are not certain death.

However, should people want to die rather than leave their homes behind for a hard, probably nomadic life that is nothing like what they know, the transport that takes the marked people into the wastes is outfitted with suicide pills. Life is all about choice.

People know about monsters, they know about exile, and the suicide pills might even be common knowledge. It’s just one of those things. Most people live their whole lives without having to worry about it. My main character figured she’d be one of them. And… she might be. I don’t know now.

While I was establishing her personality and profession (the oldest profession, heh), some things changed. I figured I’d just send her home to fight with her roommates, which would make her stand around in a part of the city she usually avoids, and then the monster would show up there. But then, while I was writing, events sort of got away from me, and she ended up fighting off a mad-eyed client and running naked down the fire escape.

Who knows what will happen now. I had some loose notes, like the stuff I wrote here, but now I’m kind of playing with what happens as it comes up. This is a girl who does things.

In Favour of Pseudonyms

Listening to: Hurricane – Panic at the Disco

 

In my long break ( /block) from writing, I’ve tried to keep up journalling and reading. I even started reviewing books, rather than just gushing or more often ranting about whatever I read at the time. I’ve been pretty open about my opinions. I’ve made mistakes, such as not realising that wordcount is a stat that is required to be mentioned for a book from submission all the way to marketplace. And I am either well-acquainted with the people who hear me (my husband and mother-in-law both subscribe to my blog) or comfortable within a void of other subscribers who almost never comment and a fair percentage are probably bots or people who subscribed me in the hopes that they’d get another number for their own website.

While we all of us want recognition, I realise that I live in a remarkably privileged place. I have free reign to say and do what I like. I can start and stop projects at my own will, without even fear of censure from followers. My reviews do not need to meet a consistent quality, length, or journalistic excellence. Not that anyone’s unpaid reviews have to do that, but I have again, zero fear that I will even be told that I wrote even mildly irritated someone.

No one has ever stalked me because I hated their book. No one ever comment-bombed me for making a mistake. No one has hit me with a DDoS attack. I think I’ve only “lost” followers because my blog was dead for a while, or people closed their own accounts. Nothing unreasonable.

Nothing scary has happened to me on the internet. Not really.

I’ve been using my name on Goodreads. Technically, since I haven’t changed my name after marriage and I go by my middle name, it’s not my “real” legal name. But it’s the name that I use in my very real life. After reading Kathleen Hale’s creepy, sinister article on the Guardian, I changed my name on Goodreads to my moniker here, cookiemonger. I intend to continue writing reviews, because so far, I still enjoy an amazing amount of anonymity and freedom on GR, and it’s the best way I’ve found to talk to myself about books when real life conversations tend to get weirdly cut off.

But sometimes when I plan a series or work on a book, a stray thought enters my head. I would like to send queries to Carina Press, or at least self-publish on KDP. If I use my name and Goodreads account as an author, do I have to stop writing reviews? Do I have to delete the ones I have written?

A lot of the books I read are under the radar, classic, or their moments have passed. If I were to read a huge hit like, say, Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, I don’t think I’d read it until at least a year or two after publication. It’s just a weird thing that comes about. The last time I preordered a book, I didn’t read it until almost a year after I got it. I get Kindle First books and I still haven’t read any of them. I am that crazy person who reads their TBR list from the bottom or the middle, and so doing knocks the whole pile over to be reshuffled and some books may never get read.

More and more, I see reviewers get attacked by authors and their friends, both real and tin-pot army, but the absolute worst of the vitriol seems to be saved up for the reviewers who dare to think of writing their own book. It’s so bad that I wouldn’t be surprised to see a successfully self-published author sneer at them for self-publishing rather then submitting to Harper Collins. Hypocrisy, butt-hurt asshattery… You’d think they’d be too busy writing.

If this is the atmosphere I have to live in, then I think I’m definitely going with a pseudonym. Self pub or traditional.

 

Friday Book Review – The Scottish Witch

thescottishAWESOME

The Scottish Witch
by Cathy Maxwell
(#2 of The Chattan Curse)

When I first reviewed this, I mentioned that Romance is the only genre in which I can start mid-series and not freak out. This is not always true, since I remember accidentally skipping over one of the Turner books and then I never read it because it wasn’t as good as Smite’s book. However, in this case, Overdrive said this was book 1, but it’s not, and that’s okay. In fact, after reading the other two, it turned out to be my favourite of the series, for objective reasons, not “Well book 2 already spoiled it so they just can’t be as good” reasons.

First there is a bit of prologue where we learn that Rose fell in love with a Chattan, and that she even carries his child, but he has abandoned her to marry an Englishwoman for money. She killed herself out of grief, and her mother, Fenella, built her a funeral pyre as per The Old Ways, as the newer Christian religion had excluding ideas about how to bury suicides. Also per The Old Ways, Fenella curses the entire Chattan line and leaps onto the funeral pyre with her daughter’s body.

The nature of the curse makes itself known when the perfectly healthy Lord Chattan suddenly dies. And what a tragedy too, since his wife is expecting a child, and he’s begun to feel that he truly loves her.

The Chattan curse is pretty efficient. Every Chattan man falls in love, fathers a son, and then kicks the bucket. Then one of them got a little ahead of the curve. He married someone he didn’t like much. He later succumbed to an affair, but his children, Neil, Harry, and Margaret, already has this amazing reason to think love is a really bad idea. Thanks to the events of the last book, Neil is soon to be the curse’s latest victim, so Harry is running around trying to find a witch who can put a stop to the whole business.

Portia Maclean and her family have retrenched all the way to Scotland, thanks to her philandering father dying and leaving them penniless. Her mother is a lazy, manipulative shrew, and her sister is sweet but thwarted in her hopes to marry a nice country doctor. (thwarted by their mother, of course) It’s down to Portia to take care of adult things like the rent. When she hears about Harry Chattan offering money to a witch, she decides to play the part. Despite not having a clue regarding why he wants to find a witch.

Part of the reason that she thinks she can play a witch is that she found a spellbook in the attic. It clearly belonged to Fenella and Rose, but there doesn’t seem to be anything to help with the curse in it. The nicest thing about this one is that sceptisim in the face of the curse is at an all-time low. Harry has no reason to disbelieve it, and Portia takes him seriously for the most part, and much earlier than any of the other characters in her similar position throughout the series.

She’s a dreamer, but in a nice way. She has a hard time seeing her family, her sister in particular, suffer. Her mother and everyone else have relegated her to spinsterhood just because she is plain.

There’s also a cat named Owl, and a host of other funny but not intrusive characters, like Crazy Lizzie and Mr Oliver Tolliver. What were his parents thinking? I love all the fantasy elements. They reminded me of that one weird soap opera. Had dwarves and a really crazysauce witch. I listened to the audiobook while reading the text in Scribd, and my husband remarked at least twice about how much I was loving this book.

The writing isn’t flawless, but it is good enough and bolstered by the story and characters that I don’t remember having any issues with the style or technical skill. The beta romance between Monty and Lady Maclean was cute. It might have been improved by something, but darned if I know what that is. It was Pair the Spares done right.

My one possible problem would be with the pacing. It seems to go a little too fast, but only sometimes. Like when they sort of almost literally tumble into intercourse (tumblecourse?). She’s a virgin, and it’s a little too…smooth. I’ve had a lot of discussions with Hubby about how sex is not something you can really do by accident, but if you could, it would probably look like this. I remember blinking and going back to reread it to be sure that that had really just happened.

medievallandfuntimeworld

The ending is also kind of vvvvVVVOOOOOMmmmmm blink and you miss it. It’s a good ending. It just reminds me of when I used to try to finish writing a chapter before I had to leave for my shift. TYPE LIKE CRAZY HURRY UP OKAY NOW GET IN THE CAR! Kind of a thing. The way it sets up the next book is wonderful at any speed, though.

Basically, Portia and Harry get caught together because people thought she was missing. She’s ruined, but she’s kind of pragmatic about it since everyone always said she’d never marry anyway. Harry can never love her, nor anyone else. Because of the curse. She’s pretty sure she’s pregnant too. He insists on marrying her because of the whole Ruined thing, but she refuses, because Portia Does Not Settle, Thank You. Harry comes to has senses like a boss and asks her to marry him again the right way and for the right reasons, and then his sister is a bitch at the wedding because of the curse. Also, Margaret is just kind of a bitch, I’m sorry. She really isn’t any better in her own book.

The fantasy elements of a very real curse, the cat that only those affected by it can see, and the witches both faked and real, made this feel very like the historical romance equivalent of urban fantasy. It doesn’t share a lot of the same flaws, though, which is awesome. Personally, I would tell people to skip the first book and just start here. While the previous romance is relevant to what’s going on here, this romance is more interesting, the characters much more compelling, and everything you need to know from the first book is presented entirely without the PREVIOUSLY ON sort of exposition.

This is so not a book review

I wrote this yesterday, hours after I actually finished the book, and then I realised that it’s about as much like a book review as an aardvark is like the English Channel. Still, it’s my book noise, so I had to put it up here after I wrote a real review.

The Countess Conspiracy by Courtney Milan

There is a lot of wow in this book. I feel like it’s one of the little rewards I get for not reading reviews/spoilers even summaries. Because while it might seem obvious to some people that Violet, Countess of Cambury is the genius behind Sebastian Malheur’s brilliant scientific advances. It comes out on page two or three, and it was a wham moment for me. Maybe I’m just slow.

Or maybe it’s because all of the other characters in this series are a bunch of jerks. I say this with lasting affection for the books in the series and if Oliver and Robert were real, I would smack them upside the head. Part of the wham moment at the beginning was my saying aloud, “Wow Oliver is dumber than I thought!” Seriously, it gave so much delicious context to his derpy realisation of Violet’s notice of Sebastian in the last book that I found it more funny than anything.

And then he and Robert acted like the worst friends ever at Oliver’s bachelor party. Or whatever it was. Robert failed to ask Violet, and when Sebastian was angry that she had been even momentarily excluded, both Robert and Oliver failed worse by not seeing how serious Sebastian was, dismissing basically everything he said until he stormed out, and compounded the entire awkward situation by insisting repeatedly that Violet didn’t have to be there.

It amazes me how people behave outside the sphere of Main Character. I realise that each book is from the perspective of different people, and complex characters will not only be seen differently from person to person, but massively so when shown in their own perspective. HOWEVER. This series shows that variation more dramatically than most, possibly because most tend to put previous pairs on a bus. By the time we get to this book, the characterisation has gone a bit whack-a-doo.

So far, Sebastian has been consistently seen as charismatic with a wicked sense of humour, and very visibly off-kilter, possibly to the degree of mental illness. Mild mental illness, like he’s in a high school anime club and he’s probably faking it. In this book, he has secrets and serious thoughts, and the fact that his friends treat him like a pet duck trained to do tricks makes them look like assholes. Especially when he tries to tell them important things.

Outside of his own perspective, Robert loses a lot of competence somehow, and Oliver is just weird. From Robert’s POV, Oliver is this mysterious figure that just seems to be happy and wise, and a little bit like Gandalf. Oliver seems to see himself as bitter, full of anger, and much more clear on what he doesn’t want than what he does. From Sebastian’s perspective, Robert acts like a slow child, and Oliver is purposely dim.

….oh my goodness. Writing all that made me realise. This is not whack-a-doo. It’s exactly what it should be. It’s just JARRING. Because you guys, I am so much like Sebastian that I probably shouldn’t tell anyone. Sebastian is bright, in manner and in mental processing power. I’ve had friends whom I considered incredibly close and yet they were slower than me and frustrating. I loved making them happy, but they treated me a lot like that pet duck I mentioned. Oh, Sebastian, without Violet, your life kind of sucks.

Both Minnie and Jane make a good showing, although I was disturbed by Minnie’s comment about motherhood making her forgetful. Sure, I’ve basically forgotten half my life and most of what occurs in a day since my son was born, but I’m not a militant chess GENIUS. I don’t even remember the rules half the time. Still, her personality was intact and Jane got to flaunt her wonderfully awful taste.

Blah, this book, this book! I loved it. I did. It just made me think and now I can’t stop. Violet is amazing and horribly tragic. I have a lot of things in common with her too, and it hurt. Except the Science. I don’t have that. But it was awesome!

I almost cried once or twice, and now I don’t know if I can read the next book. I have never liked Frederica and her kitschy nickname. Guys, this girl is named after her mother’s sister AND her nickname is FREE. I just… I don’t do kitsch. It makes me need flamethrowers.