“A Family Affair”, V.J. Banis

No, this is not in the vein of Flowers in the Attic, sadly. This is a novella so baffling, that I have just finished researching the damn thing. It reads like a high schooler from the 60s wrote it.

But, “A Family Affair”, billed as a horror novel, was in fact written last year by a prolific gay writer. Honestly, I never in a million years have picked that description of a person to have written this thing. I am disappoint…!

And baffle!

But here, here I shall reproduce for you the first page:

Her mother was dead. Panting with the exertion of what she had done, Jennifer Rand felt a perverse excitement. Slowly, with infinite caution, she removed the pillow that she had held so tightly against her mother’s face and stared wide-eyed at the figure sprawled ungraciously over the bed.

Yes, she was dead, there could be no doubt of it. Jennifer’s eyes filled with tears, her mouth worked wordlessly. She stood as though transfixed, the awesome warmth of the pillow clutched to her breast. Then, dropping it all at once, she turned full around and half-ran, half-danced from the room. She pirouetted through the living room, bursting through the kitchen and out into the moonlight that flooded the backyard. Her mother was dead. Dead. Dead.

I keep staring wide-eyed at these words sprawled ungraciously over the page. I sort of feel that I’m starting to lose my grip on reality or something, because all of these nutburgers phrases slap me in the face and then I spend 5 minutes repeating it to myself trying to have it make sense.

“Awesome warmth of the pillow”??? I mean, sure it’d be warm from suffocating your mom with it, but “awesome warmth” sounds more like…a volcano, or something. Something more…awesome. Than a pillow.

And of course, this turns out to be just a dreaaaaaam. Buh. Guh.

The plot is actually a time-honoured and theoretically engaging one — young woman’s mother dies, after a lifetime spent without any friends or family, slave to her mother’s will. Relatives of the mother appear and invite her to the family homestead. Family is evil and cursed and dead, etc. I can dig it! But he completely is unable to draw any horror — or even a tense moment — out of this fucking dumb bunch of words.

His protagonist, Jennifer, is the worst. I GUESS he’s trying to make her Carrie-esque, a poor soul who has been crushed and warped by her domineering mother, but he doesn’t particularly set that up at all. So she just winds up being irrepressibly obtuse. Not willfully. Just plain bag-of-hair stupid.

After getting trapped in the weiiiiiiird house that she gets lost in, and where no one eats any food that she can see, and where her aunts talk about how they’ve offed their husbands…she keeps thinking to herself that she must have misunderstood, or they’re making a joke, or or orrrr man this house is so dirty jeez they must live in another part of the house or something something I should find my car

She manages to stumble through the magical woods long enough to actually find a pair of local hunters, who DECIDE TO LEAVE HER THERE. I’m pretty cynical, but even I feel like the more likely response to finding a dirty, starved woman alone in the woods talking about the house that hasn’t been there for 30 years is to assume she’s hallucinating or whatever due to exposure. And, you know, help her out of the woods.

Really, the main part of the plot is how she starts starving because the family brings her empty dishes for dinner, and sits down at the table and eats invisible food, and she’s like THEY ARE PLAYING A PRACTICAL JOKE ON ME THEY ARE EATING FOOD ELSEWHERE JUST FOR THIS INCREDIBLY-LONG-RUNNING-AND-INTRICATE-AND-TO-ALL-APPEARANCES-NOT-A-JOKE JOKE, YES THAT IS CLEARLY WHAT IS GOING ON HERE

And this goes on
and on
and on
and on
…while she half-assedly runs around trying to escape (see: jerkass hunters) or find the kitchen, while her young cousin talks about how she drowned when she was 15, while they talk about the curse that’s on the house, while they explain that her aunt tore the tongue out of her uncle….

So yeah, this book is not good.

(Spoiler…she finally dies and then is happy in Cursed Family House. Haha just kidding, if you didn’t see that SHOCKING TWIST coming you were reading a different and much better book than I was.)

Review: C for Come ON

Ew girl stuff!

So I think I’m going to change focus here a little bit. I make fun of romance novels because sexy times are so ripe for vast amounts of bullshit. I mean, do you have any idea how many times I’ve read the phrase “her centre of desire”? WAY TOO MANY. It’s a fuckin’ clitoris, people.

But at the same time, A) lots of books are bad as fuck and B) I don’t want to make it seem like it’s the “girl things are bad” styles either. Honestly, I’d never read any romance in my life at all, other than the sex scenes in various paperbacks (the weirder the better!). After reading that Tessa Dare and enjoying it, I realized there was no good reason not to read them — I have a habit of reading lots and lots of dubiously literary works; romance novels are not going to be a shameful secret next to the dumb shit I often read.

So, Tessa Dare won the honour of being the first romance author I purchased. Granted, this was out of desperation due to a confluence of Kobo disaster, but even so that’s high praise indeed. In the 2.5 years I’ve owned an e-reader, I’ve purchased under 20 books. And half of those are trilogies and uh…quintilogies? Sextopolies? If GRRM ever finishes?

Anyhoo, I’ve now read a bunch of her books/novellas. I noticed a few complaints on GoodReads that her plots are historically inaccurate. Well, duh. These are romance novels. They are usually not written with the aim of being livre verite. Otherwise I am sorry to inform you but they would generally be far less entertaining.

As for actual reviews: I’m backed up on books here, including a couple of non-romance deelios. I had better get moving on those before the list gets even longer (I was going to say “before I forget them” but at the best of times I just attempt to retain a general sense of what I was irritated by. That’s as good as it gets in my head.).

Your faithful servant in snark,
Maggie