“Wooing the Schoolmarm”, Dorothy Clark

Ah ha you guys! Fuckin’ technology, man!

I have a new smartphone, an actually smart phone. I have downloaded WordPress and now I can READ AND TYPE AT THE SAME TIME! This is epic,  dudes. This will make it so much easier to put my thoughts down as I think them.

Or “mentally scream” them, as the case may be.

“Schoolmarm” is about a beautiful, you guessed it, schoolmarm who was ditched by her fiance a couple of days before the wedding. The eligible new pastor has arrived, hijinks ensue etc etc.

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Quickies

I have, of course, read a whole lot of books. I have, clearly, not written about any of them.

It’s just a pain! Going back after I’m done is a lot of work. Perhaps a better idea would be to start a draft as I start the book, then add thoughts as I go.

In any case, here are a few general thoughts on some random stuff.

The Waking Dark, Robin Wasserman

I read this and thought “Stephen King could have written this.” It didn’t read like King, but the story is perfect. Then I got to the end and the author’s note thanks Stephen King. So, I know my Stephen King, yeah?

If you like King, you’ll likely enjoy this.

The Golem and the Jinni, Helene Wecker

Another entirely random pick, and an entirely wonderful surprise. Well written, with many prominent woman characters, and almost entirely non-white. Nothing really on the LGBTQ end of things, but refreshing to have more than white dudes all over the place. I do always feel queasy about white writers writing about other cultures but in my non-professional white lady opinion, she seemed to do a good job of capturing what life could have been like in immigrant communities in early 20th century Manhattan.

You should go read it.

The Divergent Series, Veronica Roth

Okay technically 2/3 of the series, I haven’t hit Allegiant yet. After having read such classics of our time as the Twilight series, and The Mortal Instruments, this is much more enjoyable. It’s not bad. It’s pretty well along the Hunger Games lines of Young Woman Turns Out To Be A Superwoman And Saves The Day. Which isn’t the worst thing. She’s a decently written character.

One thing that bugs me is that it’s your run-of-the-mill dystopia, but Roth doesn’t really spend enough time world-building before things start changing. It makes some motivations and that a little difficult to understand. Again, contrasting with the Hunger Games — I found Collins did an excellent job of that all the way through.

Can someone do a mash-up? I’m backing Katniss to win head-to-head against Tris.

General Heading Of Trash

Because I’m an idiot, I’ve read a fair amount of newer Dean Koontz in the last couple of months. Dude is a dumbass. He loves sticking in these stupid weird Republican-style digs at…everything, really. It’s subtly mean-spirited. In the guise of oh ho ho witty banter! Sneh.

Anyhoo, I just finished a Christian romance. So I’ll get on that for you soon…although mostly the review is going to involve my confusion with the theology involved.

“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

“Beauty and the Blacksmith”, Tessa Dare

Dudes, whoa! Beauty and the Blacksmith by Tessa Dare was really good. I genuinely enjoyed it, and totally will read more of her books.

You know all of those things I complain about in all of these reviews? NONE OF THOSE COMPLAINTS ARE IN THIS NOVELLA.

Diana Highwood is the beauty of the title, an upper-class young lady who grew up with asthma and — this being a historical romance — unable to do much of anything in case it sets off an attack.

Aaron Dawes is the sexy blacksmith of the village. I may or may not be picturing Gendry with a better haircut in this role.

The novella opens with Diana having him fix her necklace for her, just so she can ogle him. She’s broken tons of things, just so she can go see him. Aaron’s like, yeah okay — this is starting to seem a LITTLE BIT INTENTIONAL, lady — so U wanna kiss nao?

Diana snaps like a little twig and freaks out, which she regrets and so she decides later to go to the tavern where she knows he is. She has decided that it is high time to stop being Sheltered Sick Pretty Girl, since it seems that she’s grown out of the asthma. She drinks a bunch of whiskey, and proceeds to try and stick her face on his face.

Aaron surely does want to stick it to her, but not when she’s drunk off her ass. 1 INTERNET COOKIE TO AARON FOR BASIC HUMAN DECENCY!

The next day she runs into him on a carriage, and her mom forces her to go with him so he can take her home, thereby preventing freckles. Can’t have freckles if one hopes to entice Gendry. I MEAN, GENTRY. Gentry.

She apologizes for the other night, and he teaches her how to drive. She admits to him that she’s had a crush on him since she helped him with a medical emergency a couple of years ago…and also — like, I know this is really pathetic and ridiculous buuuuuuuuuut also I bought a bunch of the jewelry you’ve made….and I keep one of them in my pocket all the time.

Which comes off as endearing and not creepy stalky. TURNS OUT that the one she keeps in her pocket is the one that he made WITH HER IN MIND!  Sploosh. So they makes outs a bit, and he sez to Diana he sez: “You’re a grown woman, and a clever one. I believe you understand the situation. And I trust that you know your own mind.” 1 POINT TO AARON.

You catch that? They’re both like “Yeah, the difference in station is awkward, but I like you and you like me, so let’s see what happens.” There’s no WOE OH WOE WHATEVER SHALL WE DO I WANT YOU BUT I MUSTN’T

This is especially appealing to me, since this is my method of dating. I like you, you like me; let’s get it on and see what happens!

The next day she sneaks out of her house and goes to see him. He’s busy working on something, and references the fact that any possibly wife of his would need to be able to help him, as a lower-class wife can’t just be decorative. She decides to make him lunch, spunky thing that she is. Of course, she has no clue what she was doing, and despite trying really damn hard, her eel escapes and she fails. Yes, eel. It’s kind of adorable.

“I have nothing against you,” she told the eel. “I’m sure you’re a perfectly fine creature.”

See? Adorable. She breaks down in tears because of the disaster she created, and also she got burnt by a cinder, which is understandably kind of upsetting when you’ve been taught your only value is in your face.

[S]he offered her face for his view. “Is it very hideous?” What a question. As if she could – ever – be anything less than beautiful in his eyes.

Dawwww you guys. So adorbz.

The next day, she makes up an excuse to go with him to the nearby bigger town (along with her sister). On the way back, they end up accosted by some highway robbers. Diana shoots the knife right out of Bad Guy’s hand, bam. Aww yiss.

He decides to propose to her, and makes a fancy ring and suits up all nice to go talk to her brother-in-law just to be classy about things. But, medical emergency time! So he can’t go out to fancy night out, and can’t even get a message to her. But she heard about the accident and knows that, stand-up dude that he is, he’ll be off doing that so she waits for him at home.

He comes in shirtless and now it is time for the sex. The sex. It is time.

1 more point to Aaron! And a million points to Tessa Dare. This is about Diana here, and it’s great. First of all: he asks if she knows how to come, and she says yes. SHE SAYS YES YOU GUYS! A romance novel where a woman has masturabated!!! Woooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo yeah!

She even shows him what she likes, and he has her come first. He makes sure that she’s okay with everything, and while it hurts for her and she doesn’t orgasm again (unlike just about every frigging romance!), she’s like okay — this hurts, but it’s starting to feel better, cool. The next day he introduces her to oral, woot. While sitting on his anvil! Also adorably, he’s fantasized about that in the past, and realizes that O WAIT she has too and they get a bit dirty both in the metaphorical and physical sense. Awww. Adorable.

Anyhoo, things have been disappearing in the boarding house where she lives, and now she’s been accused of stealing since it appeared to everyone else that she had been there alone when something else had gone missing. So she’s like, yo, I  gotta tell everyone where I was! But Aaron’s like BUT THEN THEY’LL THINK YOU’RE A SLUTTY HO-BAG AND/OR THAT I GO AROUND SEDUCING WOMEN THEN HAVE TO MARRY THEM! And Diana’s like ummmmmm what? douchebag, I’m outta here. *drops mike*

This is another spot where any other romance would spend 100 pages on MISUNDERSTANDINGS! and HIJINKS! and OH NOES BUT DOES HE REALLY LOVE ME? OH NOES DOES SHE REALLY LOVE ME? etc etc etc etc etc forever and ever.

But not here my friends, oh no! Aaron realizes that was really stupid, so he just goes to find her and apologize. He arrives just when she’s about to have to reveal that she was fuckin around last night. He says she was with him, and amusingly her mom’s like oh yeah, there was that accident. She was helping Aaron with that.

And I love this, cause Diana doesn’t take that and run with it, nope. NO MOM THE BLACKSMITH WAS STICKING IT TO ME! And Aaron sez, would you marry me, Diana? Mom freaks out, and tells him that he’s obviously just lying to Diana will have to marry him. Whereupon Diana throws open her cloak, revealing a large dirty handprint on her boob. HAHAHA SERIOUSLY THIS BOOK I LOVE IT.

Also it was just a rat that had a habit of yoinking stuff.

Her mom tells her she just wants her to be safe and happy, and Diana and Aaron get married. Who gives away the bride? DIANA DOES, MOTHERLOVERS. SHE GIVES HERSELF AWAY.

And there ends the totally great “Beauty and the Blacksmith.”

Grade: A for fuck yeah!

 

 

 

I’m not spoiling the title in the title because it’s too funny

Yes, I was supposed to get to this ages ago. I read it some time ago, and was entirely amused (and horrified), but kept avoiding getting down to this.

Anyhoo. Yes. I do judge books by their covers.

Image

Just take a look at this magnificence. What words can I even use to convey everything that this cover is? We have a dude lounging against a log cabin with his shirt open. We have a fuzzy vaguely-historically-dressed woman photoshopped on top of our Christian Heartthrob, aaaaaaaaaaaand we have a baby photoshopped on top of that, floating along the bottom. In. A. Halloween. Costume. An “Indian” costume.

You know I had to put that in quotes, because I cannot quite bring myself to put the correct terms anywhere near this. Indigenous people do not deserve this . DO NOT WEAR THESE COSTUMES. DO NOT PUT THEM ON YOUR CHILDREN. DO NOT PUT THEM ON YOUR PETS. DO NOT PUT THEM ON BOOK COVERS. DO NOT PUT THEM ON A BOAT WITH A GOAT OR ON A MOUSE IN YOUR HOUSE.

Okay, now that I’ve covered the cover, let’s move on to the actual insides. “A Baby & Onion Fields Along the Oregon Trail” are two short Christian historical romance stories. I guess technically the first one is entitled “Moses Diamond: Baby Left Along The Oregon Trail & Rescued By Christian Pioneers.”

Yes, very catchy. For something that cost me a dollar and comprises a total of about 40 pages, this is going to be a long post, isn’t it? (Yes it is).

Because the first sentence is: “Morning Breeze, or Mary, as she now preferred to be called, little by little dragged herself painfully on one arm and leg over to the deep ruts that marked the Oregon Trail.” She has russet skin, FYI.

And she has a baby! A baby that she abandons to nice white people, because her family will kill both of them. So she tosses the baby at the trail (not really) when she hears wagons a-comin’, then lies back and dies.

Enter BETSY, a sad chick who has been orphaned by an epidemic that took her whole family. WHY GOD WHY. Betsy would like to know.

Also enter MATT DIAMOND, a good Christian dude who thinks Betsey should shut the fuck up and deal, because he would like to marry her (because she has a sturdy body, which will be useful in Oregon) BUT NOT IF SHE’S ALL WHINY AND SELF-ABSORBED. Listen up, ladies. There will be no catching of the men if you don’t keep sweet. Matt’s mom’s dead too, but you don’t see him bitching about it. Oh no, he just takes care of his 4 siblings and father too, dammit. LIKE A BOSS MAN.

Also also, there is Ma and Pa Smith, who got everyone on the road/dirt track to Oregon.

So Matt finds the baby. It appears to be a redskin baby. Yes, really.

Sidebar: Historical accuracy in general is a good thing. I don’t think we need to whitewash (so to speak) history so white people can avoid knowing a little bit of how entrenched racism has been in the past, and how it still appears today and still affects us now. I think most of us could really use a lot more info on that stuff! HOWEVER. I think perhaps we can skip the realism in a historical romance, mmkay? Casual slurs in a little romance book just kinda makes you look racist now. Please stop it.

Matt picks up The Baby and chucks it at Betsy. And lo and behold, she just needed a baby to fix her. Now they need to figure out a way to feed The Baby. Ma suggests Betsy try breastfeeding in the hopes that it’ll start up milk production: “But my breasts are tiny with hardly any nipples to speak of for the baby to suckle on! It’s impossible!” “Nothing is impossible for God, Betsy.”

No really. The quotes mean I am legit quoting this thing.

Ma and Betsy go off to smear molasses on her nipples. Betsy finds that a baby sucking on them feels nice.

No really.

They get to Fort Laramie for a few days and Chigger and Big Jaw decide that they are going to rape Betsy. They discuss who gets the first turn with her. I’m just going to leave it at that, because I cannot even. They talk about her boobies.

Meanwhile, Matt’s been mansplaining the bible and god to Betsy. “When they touched, as they inevitably did when they worked over Moses together [yes of course they named the baby Moses], she was aware of feelings not unlike those she had when nursing Moses.”

Earthy.

So one night they’re all woken up by a commotion. An Injun person and the rapists oh noes something something. Pa goes to shoot the Injun (Vanessa Carvo go fuck yourself, BTW), but Ma says he was trying to help!

“I know your name. It is Matt. My name is John, though I was born ‘Running Deer.’ Many days ago, you found a baby beside the trail. I know because I watch but you not see me. That baby my sister’s son. I his uncle.” Thank Cthulhu she doesn’t use “many moons”, christ.

He lets them know that hey, it’s all cool. Morning Breeze/Mary’s family just tried to kill her, her husband, and The Baby because they became Christian. And Running Deer/John just wanted to check and see that The Baby would be okay with Betsy, plus overheard Evil Rapists plotting and stopped them to protect the palefaces. Yes, she does use that one. Yes she does.

“When we started out, I thought we might be killed by redskins. It never crossed my mind we’d owe our lives to one.” Well. Golly.

Then Matt and Betsy get married. The end. Thanks for the mammaries, Vanessa Carvo.

Oh yes, there is a second story in this, “The Onion Fields of God.” Some dude really hates onions, and has to go to Oregon to his uncle’s onion farm. Certainly it has going for it that it has a lot less racism by default. He complains about onions allllll the way through. I think that’s really all you need to know.

Grade: R for whee, racism

The Darkest AND SHITTIEST Seduction, by Gena Showalter

“Silly female.”

And with one simple word, I want to stab this book and use a fork to dig the memory of it out of my head. I FUCKING HATE THIS SHIT. How is this written by a woman? Using “female” to refer to women, a woman, any fucking human — drives me so batty I cannot even. I CANNOT EVEN.

I AM SO ENRAGED BY THIS BOOK. “He’d never craved a female this much.” “My woman”, “his woman”, female female female females FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCKING GODDAMNNNNNNN GRAAAAAAAAAAAWRRRRR.

So I am reading this bullshit by Gena Showalter. It fucking sucks. Why are you like this, Gena Showalter? I’m not even linking to your book, because you’re bad and you should feel bad.

Apparently it’s like, the 9th book in the series? Perhaps starting from the top would be better, but I doubt it. Even setting aside the incessant use of FEMALES, I suspect I’d be blindingly irritated by this.

FEMALES, AMIRITE?

I am so enraged.

I can’t even really explain what this book is about, because I can’t really figure that out. There are about 5 million characters referred to, and I don’t know what they’re doing or why. They’re all…supernatural beings? that have personifications of stuff inside them? So our shitty main man Paris has Sex, our useless main FEMALE Sienna has Wrath, and the 5 million other characters have whatever else WHO FUCKING CARES NOT ME.

Sienna is dead, and now has Wrath stuck in her, which means she has wings, and Chronus the god trapped her in a castle and I DON’T KNOW WHY OR WHY I SHOULD CARE. Paris thinks she’s hot, so even though Seeeeeeex won’t have sex with someone more than once because why not, he wants her. He wants to be monogamous and not cheeeeeeeeeat u guise.

Plus there are those 5 million other characters, doing who knows what I don’t know. Somebody kidnaps one of their FEMALES. For some reason.

So are you getting the sense that I don’t like this book? I don’t like this book. I hate it so much I stopped reading in favour of some 50-Shades-of-Grey-esque erotica. This fucking thing is 405 fucking pages long, and I fucking want to strangle someone.

I am 47% through and that’s it, I’m outta here. I want to read anything but this. I’d even read Ayn Rand.

Well, maybe. Tossup.

Grade: F, for FEEMAAAAAAAAAAAAALES