Thursday, December 22, 2016

Bibliovile: Holiday Terrific Book Exchange

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All Quiet on the Western Front, Erich Maria Remarque

“It is the common fate of our generation. The war has ruined us for everything.”

              All Quiet on the Western Front tells the story of Paul Baumer, a twenty-year-old soldier in the German army during World War One, and his experience during the war. The book, in short, is incredible. It describes war in ways that are so poignant and so haunting that it breaks your heart with every page.

One of the recurring themes of the book revolves around men Paul’s age, who went to war between the ages of seventeen and twenty-one. As Baumer describes himself and his peers, “We stood on the threshold of life. We had as yet taken no root. The war swept us away. We have been gripped by it and do not know what the end may be. We know only that in some strange and melancholy way we have become a wasteland.”
Older soldiers, men who have wives and children, who had jobs and lives and histories prior to the war, have something to hold onto as they struggle with what they are witnessing on the front lines. As they experience fear and tragedy throughout the war, they have a future to look forward to, since they know that if they survive they will be returning to their established and familiar lives. For the younger men of Paul’s generation, however, there is no future to look forward to, nor is there a normal life to anchor them throughout the war. They joined the army straight from school, so they have memories of childhood and their parents and siblings, but they do not have anything concretely their own to hold onto.
Paul and his fellow soldiers spend quite a bit of time talking and thinking about what would become of them after the war, should they survive. They did not have the opportunity to find jobs or learn a trade before they became soldiers. All they know is school and the army. Toward the end of the novel, Paul asks, “What do they expect of us if a time ever comes when the war is over? Through the years our business has been killing; -- it was our first calling in life. Our knowledge of life is limited to death. What will happen afterwards? And what shall come out of us?”
This sense of not having an identity beyond their role as soldiers leads to a sense of hopelessness. One of the most powerful and gut-wrenching passages in the book covers this same topic:

“We are not youth any longer. We don’t want to take the world by storm. We are fleeing. We fly from ourselves. From our life. We were eighteen and had begun to love life and the world; and we had to shoot it to pieces. The first bomb, the first explosion, burst in our hearts. We are cut off from activity, from striving, from progress. We believe in such things no longer, we believe in the war.”

The only thing that seems to give the men any comfort is each other. Seven of Paul’s comrades were students at the same school, and joined the army at the same time. Along with a few other men, they went through training together, left home together, and have experienced the war alongside one another for several years across the span of the book. They find comfort in conversations with each other, in spending time together, and in finding moments of normalcy together. Paul speaks beautifully of the relationship he has with these other soldiers, saying, “I am no longer a shuddering speck of existence, alone in the darkness; I belong to them and they to me; we all share the same fear and the same life, we are nearer than lovers, in a simpler, a harder way; I could bury my face in them, in these voices, these words that have saved me and will stand by me.” Sadly, but unsurprisingly, throughout the course of the novel, all of these men die. Paul is with several of them in the moment of their death, including Katczinsky, one of his closest friends, who dies while Paul is attempting to bring him to a hospital.
              All Quiet on the Western Front is a really beautiful and heartbreaking portrayal of men whose lives are ruined by war. Every sentence, every chapter communicates the sense of pointlessness that these men feel about the war, and the hopelessness they feel about how the war has ruined their lives. Throughout their conversations, Paul and his comrades struggle to understand the purpose of the war. In one conversation, a soldier insists, “There must be some people to whom the war is useful.” Another answers, “Well, I’m not one of them.”

The Lies of Locke Lamora, by Scott Lynch

              Well, I had an entirely different book. This book is very fun. It’s also very engaging and terrifically written, but the biggest piece of it all is the page-turning fun of it. The Lies of Locke Lamora is set it a medium-fantasy world (it’s hard to tell just how high the fantasy goes sometimes), but doesn’t concern itself with lords, ladies, or knights, and there’s only one duke. Instead, we follow the titular (heh) Locke Lamora, who is basically this world’s first con artist, pulling huge scores through lying and acting instead of picking pockets and intimidating.

              This glimpse into a different section of fantasy is a whole heck of a lot of—oh who needs a thesaurus—fun. It’s like The Sting if it were set in King’s Landing. Locke’s quick wit and planning ahead make for the interesting pieces, not stodgy old men pushing pieces around planning for war. He’s fleet but not strong, witty, but not always wise. He’s not perfect and gets the absolute crap beaten out of him multiple times, which is always nice to see. A character that can’t be touched is a boring one.
              The book is one Dukes-of-Hazzard-esque “How them Duke Boys gonna get outta this one?” freeze frame after another one, but with less racist iconography. Locke becomes sandwiched between different organized crime obligations, different heists requiring attention, and all sorts of goings on. His Gentlemen Bastards help in the ruses, offering different skills and fun character interaction.
              The world-building as well is top notch. As the first novel in this series, it’s got a lot of work to do, and admittedly drops you into the deep end for you to figure it out for yourself. It’s a little bit of a relief to be treated like an adult who will adapt through context. The plot necessitates that our main eyes and ears be a lifetime resident of this world—no one is sitting him down to explain how the organized crime works, for goodness’ sake, he’s been in it his whole life. Harry Potter came to the wizarding world an outsider, so he helps us get acquainted. Locke Lamora has lived that life, and we’re left to catch up, like an exchange student who fell asleep during culture lessons.
              All the pieces fit amazingly together. My favorite pay off includes Locke’s original mentor and master teaching them the ways of con-manning in their youth. They practice lock picking and heists and what not, but they also practice the ways of fine dining, manners, cultured speaking. They practice voices and accents and etiquette common to different parts of the kingdoms, because the smallest stuff makes up for convincing lies. It was hilarious to think about a group of orphans practicing bowing to imagined lords and ladies, preparing for a possible future con in which that would be necessary. The one we see, an advanced Nigerian Prince style extortion, really shows off the prepared skills.
              There are a few trouble spots. The lessons are taught in flashbacks as needed throughout the plot, which, although fun to read, doesn’t have nearly the payoff as if it were told chronologically. Chekov’s Gun doesn’t work if you stop the play and say “By the way, I brought a gun in to the house. Just in case, you know?”
              The varied height of fantasy in this book also can throw you for a loop. You’re pretty sure you’ve got the ropes—ancient advanced and disappeared civilization, Spanish-influence early Renaissance style culture, daggers and rapiers and whatnot—and then a major plot device revolves around the use and power of magic, which was heretofore not a part of the world. It doesn’t ruin anything, but, like the flashbacks, put some recalibration bumps into the fun rollercoaster ride of the book.
              All in all, I’ve said basically nothing about the plot specifics at large, and that’s because I want you to read this book. It’s pretty sizable, but an extraordinary fast read. It was nice to read fast again for once, not slog through it.

              The Lies of Locke Lamora was perfect for our holiday exchange, because it is perfect for reading underneath a blanket between meals and naps or what have you. Read it, ya’ll.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Bibliovile: Benchmarks of Nerdery

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World of Warcraft, Chronicle: Volume I, various

              World of Warcraft, Chronicle: Volume I is exactly what you’d think it is. It is the first of three volumes that chronicle the history behind World of Warcraft, a massively multiplayer online role-playing game that’s been in existence since 2004. In addition to the video game, there are also World of Warcraft novels, films, soundtracks, spin off games, and galleries of artwork. This particular book tells the origin story of Azeroth, the world in which I’m assuming the World of Warcraft game takes place.

            The book itself is basically a plot summary, and it would be a little silly to try and give a full plot summary of a plot summary, so I’ll just tell you the three main themes that I deduced from my reading.
            Chapter one is all about creation and transition. We learn about the Pantheon, a group of titans who bring order to the worlds as they search for other titans. In the first chapter of WoW’s history, creatures take charge of the world and promptly get tired of it, so they create other creatures to take care of the world for them. This repeats many times. Chapter two is all about destruction and war. One race will take power, only to be challenged and defeated by another race. This also repeats many times. Chapter three centers around the rise and fall of civilizations and races. Various cultures will try to build an empire from ruins, succeed briefly, but ultimately fail. Again, this repeats many times. If you want to know more about the actual happenings in the history of WoW, try playing WoW.  Or read this book yourself.
              There are so many things that I could say about this book, but the main idea that I kept coming back to throughout my reading revolved around a paragraph I read pretty early on: “The world of Azeroth has been shaped by hundreds of craftsmen, designers, artists, and writers since its earliest inception. It is the product of many talented hands and many passionate voices, all bent toward creating a world so rich in detail, theme, and characterization that ... well... you’d want to pull on your +6 Boots of Butt-Kicking and give your all to defend it.”
              That paragraph was on the first page that I read out of this book; jotting down the page reference was the first note that I took about World of Warcraft, and I think it sums up my thoughts about this chronicle just about perfectly. Thinking about all of the creativity, commitment, passion, and work that went into creating this whole fandom -- the history, the books, the game, the music, the art, etc. -- is mind-boggling. So many people love World of Warcraft so much and have spent so much time on it, that they’ve created this rich, detailed, multi-tiered and multi-platform universe, and that is really cool. But at the same time, reading that final phrase about +6 Boots of Butt-Kicking is so cringe-worthy and awful that I want to simultaneously laugh at it and also die.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Bibliovile: Death of a Thunderbird

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Shift, by Rachel Vincent


              This book is boring.
              It shouldn’t be boring. It has all the elements of a not-boring book -- werecats with a thirst for revenge, political intrigue, a love triangle, even thunderbirds.
              But it’s boring.
              This books is mostly boring because it condenses all of the interesting elements into short chapters, and spends over a hundred pages on the boring parts that connect the interesting elements.
              Before I give you an example, let me share a little bit of the plotline. In SHIFT, werecat Faythe Sanders is caught up in a love triangle, a siege, and a civil war. Her father, the Alpha of her Pride, is competing against a rival Alpha named Calvin Malone for a seat on the werecat Council. Her Pride is also seeking revenge against Malone because his Pride is responsible for the death of her brother, Ethan. As they prepare for Civil War between the Prides, Faythe’s Pride is attacked by a group of Thunderbirds, who Calvin Malone has tricked into attacking Faythe’s Pride as a way to distract and weaken them.
              There are a lot of capital letters.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Bibliovile: Wary of Terri Garey

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Grimspace, by Ann Aguirre
              Everybody get out your character sheets and your bag of dice because today we’re playing some Dungeons and Dragons. The adventure module we’ll be working with is called Grimspace, by Ann Aguirre. Okay, I’ve taken the liberty of preparing character sheets for each of you ahead of time, so this won’t take too long.

              Here, you’re going to be Sirantha Jax, she’s a brashy, sarcastic, but ultimately hurt-inside woman. Yes, I know, it’s incredibly cliché, but just try and make it your own. It’s your first time, maybe it’ll be easier to play an archetype. She has special powers that let her move her ship though, let’s see, Grimspace, ah that explains the title. I don’t know, it’s like, a wormhole or something? The manual doesn’t go much into it.
              And for you, here, you get to be March. No, it doesn’t have a last name. He’s a handsome but brooding man that works as the captain of this ship. That’s about all the detail they give you.
              Okay, so, Jax, you’re in a cell. You’ve just been accused of crashing your ship to kill the diplomats on board, although you survived. No, listen, for the last time, I don’t know why they would accuse the only survivor of doing it on purpose. I’m reading from a manual here.
              -fast forward way too long of a session-
              You guys made it out and onto the ship, and that’s why I’ve invited a few more friends. Here’s Doc, who is a doctor and that’s about all we see out of his character, Dina, who- what? Yes, I suppose you can be a lesbian just because, and Loras. Loras’s combat skills aren’t so great, but he’s gonna tag along and… Why would you want to be a pacifist?! Fine, yeah, whatever. Let’s just move on.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Bibliovile: The Ballad of Lowry Barry

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For the 10th episode of our podcast, Susan and I decided we needed something special. We decided we would give each other the worst books we've been forced to read so far, turning the punishment back onto the one who dealt it out in the first place. It got real. We got to see how the other half lives and fumes at words on a page.

Choosers of the Slain, John Ringo

            Choosers of the Slain is a book about dicks. The main characters are dicks, the villains, whoever they actually are, are dicks, the guns are dicks, and the dicks are dicks. Hoo boy are the dicks dicks.
            Dicks dicks dicks dicks dicks.
            No, you’re not crazy. If you’re a veteran of Bibliovile and its predecessor the Terrible Book Exchange, you’ve already heard of this book. This was the book that set it all off. I saw this book in the Cedar Falls library and KNEW I had to make Susan read it somehow. Thus, a middling hobby was born. You can read her original thoughts here. While she failed to make it even halfway in the book, I managed to reach the end.
Nice mudflap decals, man
            Our main hero, Mike Somethingorother, is a retired Navy SEAL, and Veteran Book Protagonist. Choosers of the Slain is the third book in a series, and hoo boy has Mike been up to some old shenanigans. Ya know, defusing a nuke in Paris, killing Osama bin Laden, those sorts of things.
            Throughout his travels, he’s bought a valley in Europe Georgia which is coincidentally the America Georgia of Europe. With this valley, naturally, come the inhabitants which are now his slaves, and wards, and private militia I guess. Turns out these guys, far from the normal Eurasian stock (which is always portrayed as shifty, evil, and cowardly in this book), are descended from Vikings because of made up history. So don’t worry, alt-right readers (the main audience for this book), you’re still rooting for white people.
            This militia helps to prevent incursions into Russia, who our ultra-American protagonist is strangely buddy-buddy with, up until a senator from the US tasks him with finding a girl, supposedly a daughter of a wealthy donor, who has been kidnapped and sold into sex slavery. It’s not funny at all, just vastly traumatic on every subsequent page.
            Except when they go to Vegas to sell some beer in between raids on brothels in Armenia, that spot is great. Mike is a terrible secret agent by the way, he straight up tells every prospective buyer THESE GUYS ARE MY PRIVATE MILITIA AND WE HAVE RPGS AND STUFF AT THE AIRPORT WE’RE DOING SECRET WORK FOR THE GOVERNMENT SHUSH. I can’t imagine his CIA handlers are too excited about him using his government black budget slush fund to dress up his indentured servant girls in beer advertisements.
            This book, simply, IS toxic masculinity. Mike is portrayed as the ultimate Alpha, cucking all in his path. He has a harem (oh, don’t worry, he just inherited it!) of 12 to 17 year old girls. He doesn’t screw the 12 year old or the 13 year old, so it’s fine. The others, well, yeah, he’s into having vastly unrealistic sessions with them. The most detailed one we read lasts over 4 hours and she goes blind because of lack of bloodflow to the optic nerve because it’s… going to her vagina I guess?
            When he receives the picture of the 14 year old kidnapping victim WHO WAS SOLD INTO SEX SLAVERY he comments on how she fills out a swimsuit. The men in his unit’s first response to her picture is a hearty “Nice tits!” to a high school freshman who is a kidnapping victim. He carries around a gun constantly, and it’s totally not a compensation. His main source of anger at the sex trade villains is that they can’t control their urges. Not that they HAVE the urge to beat up women and do things I won’t go into detail here, but that they indulge it. I mean, every guy wants that sort of thing, right?
            No, you gross idiot.
            All in all, this book made me throw it down in disgust a lot less often than other books have, which seems backward. This was probably one of the grossest books I’ve ever read in body, spirit, and mind, but the actual mechanics and craft were perfectly acceptable. Barring some frequent typos near the beginning, the novel as a piece of work is totally fine.
            No, the plot and characters are the gross parts. The scene where Mike references that a newly freed sex slave is on “Step 12 of the Post-Rape Checklist” is gross enough, in the thought that there is some sort of universal stage of grief for abused and traumatized women. But, it turns out, that stage is nymphomania, and they bone. Here’s a hint; he treats her about the same as before, but he’s got Protagonist Weiner and she likes it instead. THAT was why this book was awful.
            Susan, in her review, summed it up best by having a person sum it up best in a third review. That’s right, this is the grand-review of that original one. It says “I’m not sure I want to meet anyone that loves this book,” and I can agree fully.

Midnight Sins, by Lora Leigh

            My original intention for reading this book was to keep track of the details and plot points and eventually keep a tally of all of the inconsistencies. But I gave up on that plan at the end of chapter two. Mick said it was The Impossible Book in his review, found here, and now I know why. There is so much backstory thrown into Midnight Sins that keeping it straight just isn’t possible. At first I thought I was struggling because I was drunk when I read chapter one, but it’s even harder to keep it all straight when you’re sober. Just to let you in on some of the insanity, here is a description of the plot.

Plotlines:
  • ·       A girl named Cami Flannigan has been in love with a guy named Rafer Callahan since she was thirteen years old and he was dating her older sister. Now she is in her mid-twenties, and she won’t let herself be anywhere near Rafer. They slept together once (?) when she was twenty-one, and she got pregnant but miscarried, and she has been emotionally damaged and afraid of loss ever since, so she ignores him and acts like she hates him to protect her feelings, despite the fact that he actively pursues her every chance he gets.
  • ·       Rafer Callahan and his cousins Logan and Crowe are the three most hated citizens of Corbin County. They are the sons of three heiresses, the daughters of the three barons (super-wealthy landowners) who pissed off their families by marrying the three Callahan brothers, who their fathers hated.

  • ·       When Rafer, Logan, and Crowe were babies, their parents all died in a mysterious car accident. They were taken in by their Uncle Clyde, who also died in a mysterious accident. Somehow no one thinks those things were connected. The cousins should have inherited all of their families’ property and money, but their mothers’ fathers have been tying things up in court because they hated their sons-in-law and now their grandsons.
  • ·       Cami’s sister Jaymi was killed when Cami was thirteen in a string of rapes and murders throughout one summer. Rafer and his cousins found her body and found the man who killed her, but they were put in jail on suspicion of the crime anyway, pretty much because everyone in town hates them. Cami’s dad (who isn’t her real dad) has always hated Cami, and wishes that it had been her who died instead of Jaymi.

  • ·       Before she died, Jaymi had been getting threatening phone calls telling her to stay away from Rafer (who she had been sleeping with ever since her husband died). Cami is now receiving similar threatening phone calls, and so are Jack and Jeanine, other friends of Rafer’s.
  • ·       Super late in the game plotline that is introduced in chapter 21 out of 25: A girl named Amelia used to be Cami’s best friend and college roommate, until Amelia’s dad found Cami’s diary and learned that Cami had gotten pregnant by Rafer and lost the baby, and that Amelia had helped Rafer’s cousin Crowe sneak into the courthouse to tamper with files that would have influenced the litigation over the land. She did this because she was in love with him, so her dad made her leave college, marry someone else, and never talk to Cami or associate with the cousins ever again. It’s not clear why this is relevant.


            You might be thinking to yourself, “But Susan, those plotlines are bonkers!” You are right, reader. They are indeed bonkers. And not only is the plot insane, but the writing is so bad that you can’t keep anything straight. In the first four chapters, the timeline jumps around for seemingly no reason at random intervals of time: twelve years later, four months later, eighteen months later, three months later... But the things that were mentioned in the exposition didn’t line up with the time jumps. For example, I thought that Cami got pregnant the first (and only) time that she had Rafer had sex, but throughout the rest of the book, we’re told that they had sex three times, or six times, or five times, or only once before. First it was three years since she lost the baby, then five, then two?
            The author also can’t decide what she wants the names of her characters to be. Cami’s mother is alternately referred to as Mary Flannigan and Mary Flannery, and Rafer’s cousin Crowe is sometimes called Crowne. Amelia Callahan, who all of a sudden becomes a big deal in the eleventh hour, is also confused several times (by the author, not by me) for someone named Anna Corbin?

            All of my notes end in question marks.

            In the final chapters of the book, some of the plotlines start to resolve themselves, except they really don’t? We figure out that the man who has been making threatening phone calls is a guy named Lowry Berry who... we’ve never heard of before? We learn that he is the one who killed Jaymi, but we never learn who put him up to it. Nothing with the grandparents is ever resolved, and we never learn who killed the cousins’ parents.
            Good thing this is the first book of a trilogy that no one should ever read.

            At one point, our main character is having a conversation with a friend about the Callahan cousins’ history, and she very frustratedly sighs to her friend, “None of it ties together, no matter how I try to find a way to understand it.” And that, I think, is the perfect summary for this book.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

BIbliovile: Get in a Tiff

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Never Trust a Liberal Over 3—Especially a Republican! by Ann Coulter
What's with the different fonts? Is it written on
that hanging board or not?


Ann Coulter is the most hateful person in the world. I don't want to talk about it any more than that.

The end.

Blood and Silver, by James R. Tuck

              In Blood and Silver, an occult bounty hunter named Deacon Chalk saves a pregnant weredog who is being beaten by a group of evil lycanthropes. A second group of lycanthropes tries to take the weredog, whose name is Sophia. Deacon kills one of them. A third group of lycanthropes asks Deacon to protect a member of the second group of lycanthropes from the first group of lycanthropes. Deacon and the third group go to rescue Marcus, the leader of the second group, from the first group, which is led by Marcus’ brother, Leonidas, who is, unsurprisingly, a lion. Some people die, and lots more get hurt, but Deacon heals them with his supernatural powers that he has because he was killed once, but he was resurrected after getting a blood transfusion from an Angel of the Lord.
              Deacon has sex with a girl named Tiff. We learn that Marcus is the one that got Sophia pregnant. A family named the Coopers is killed. Shani, Marcus’s mate, is the one who told Leonidas to go after Sophia. There is a battle scene, in which a man shifts into a T-Rex. He is killed within one chapter and never discussed again. More people die. Deacon kills Marcus and Leonidas. We think Deacon kills Shani, but we learn at the end that he only tranquilized her, and then gave her to the local zoo. That’s the plot.

              There are parts of this book that pleasantly surprised me. For example, in chapter 21, there is a sex scene between Deacon and Tiff, but instead of being grossly graphic, like I was expecting, the entire scene is written entirely in metaphors, without a single explicit word in the chapter. It’s not poetic or well-written by any means, but I appreciate the restraint used by not making the sex scene gratuitous and gross. I expected a book like this to go into Choosers of the Slain levels of pervertedness, but James Tuck kept this one classy.
              The writing in other portions of the book is also surprisingly good. In chapter 25, Deacon is sent to go check on a family that no one has heard from in awhile, and he finds them all dead in their home. If you set aside the fact that we have never heard of these characters before, we never find out who killed them, and they’re never brought up again, the writing in this chapter is actually very good. Tuck does a great job of building suspense. You know that Deacon’s going to find the bodies of the family, but the author keeps you on the edge of your seat until it actually happens. Pretty impressive work for a TBE book.
              Another thing that I really appreciate about this book is that shifting is actually explained in sufficient detail for once. Most people in society don’t know that shifters exist, but a few do, and they work to make sure that the rest of society doesn’t find out. Shifters are typically born, but lycanthropy can also be caught like a disease. There’s enough detail that I actually feel like I know what the hell is going on, and I’m not left puzzled, like I was in, I don’t know, EVERY OTHER SHIFTING BOOK EVER.
True to TBE form, however, the author likes to go on random tangents at weird times. Throughout the majority of the book, the tangents are just explanations of things that happened in the first book, dropped right in the middle of an action sequence (like literally every other book I’ve read for this project). There is one glorious example of this in p. 182 that doesn’t involve a battle scene, though. Deacon and his posse are all sitting down to discuss a battle plan, and he waxes poetic for three-quarters of a page about veggie pizza. It’s amazing.

              All in all, this was a solid Terrible Book Exchange book. I never wanted to throw it across the room, I read it in three days, and it was just ridiculous enough to make me yell, “WHAT IS EVEN HAPPENING,” at least twice while reading it. 

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Bibliovile: Were(puma) All the Lights Are Bright

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A Little Night Murder, by Nancy Martin
              I thought I was gonna get away with one, you guys. A Little Night Murder, by Nancy Martin, almost had me thinking I was reading a good-ish book. Not a good book, obviously, this is still Bibliovile, but I thought maybe I’d get a pass. In terms of sandwich making, I thought I’d get one with both bread and meat. I found myself hoping for mustard, and, like Icarus flying too close to the sun, I dropped the mustard right onto my pants.
              Nora Blackbird, blueblood of the Philadelphia area, writes a column about high-society get togethers that donate some amount of money to charity.
              Her life is also
              F*cking
              Insane.
              Now, this is the eleventh story in the Blackbirds’ Sisters series, so we’re kind of jumping in with both feet, but even for thirty books, there is a lot of backstory dumped onto our pants apathetically like so much French’s. Her new boyfriend is a Mafioso that still kind of runs rackets. Her boss is constantly holding back praise and promotion, instead substituting sexual and romantic conversation. Her dad was a philanderer, and she’s come to terms with it. Her parents have skipped town and now are on a non-stop round-the-world boat trip. Her sisters’ first husbands have all died in awful ways.
              None of these are really plot points, just hoisted under your nose like a roommate showcasing how long they let their milk sit in the back of the fridge. At first, I loved it. Like ooh, shit girl, this is delightfully terrible, gimme some of that Bachelor-quality goodness. But it just keeps going. So many plot threads are dropped onto the narrative that it looks more like something something sweater joke.
              I was tricked. Nancy Martin writes competently enough, and pays off on a couple of these plots that I actually trusted her to get me to the end in a sensible and entertaining way. I was a fool.
              There’s a murder mystery, dealing with Broadway. It’s because of this main plot, and its developing leitmotifs, that I thought I was in good hands. The old lady, mother of the deceased, speaks entirely in Yiddish stereotypes. We meet Nora’s mafia boyfriend’s mom, who is a brashy, sassy, musical humdinger. The actors, and mostly everyone, are constantly overdramatic, except when it comes to the deceased. I figured this was an intentional setting of tone, a throwback to the overacting musical stage. It might have been, but this leitmotif got very old when all of the flirting in this book is delivered like a movie from the 50’s.

              “Me, I’m still in the primordial soup. How about you?”
              “I’ll take a plunge into just about anything.”
              She eyed his suit. “You look like you’re selling fried chicken in that getup. No, I suppose with you its shrimp on the Barbie. You ever decide to see how the other half lives, Dundee, we’ll do a little pub crawl, you and me.”

              What? Those sentences relate but when would anyone say them?
              There are other pieces of subtext, intentional or not, that strung me along pretending this book was good. Nora’s family had been old rich, on a named piece of property in Delaware, with help and everything, but when the parents skip town, they take all the money, and she’s forced to work along with her sisters. Her best friend, equally rich, has just gotten out of prison for her business partner’s fraud, and also she murdered him (!).
              This is contrasted against Nora’s job at the Philadelphia Intelligencer, a disreputable newspaper with one of the one of the most ironically awful names in history. The newspaper is slowly sinking into tabloid and gossip-quality dick pic stories, despite Nora’s best efforts. These are sad tales of old structures of power crumbling and falling, being run over by mildew and spider webs.
              Well, they would be sad, if a major conflict of the book wasn’t about whether or not to hire extra help for Nora’s expectant baby. Screw you, one percent.
Even Kanye is unsympathetic

              The Broadway angle, which I discussed earlier, helps to contribute to an odd sense of timelessness and agelessness. Everyone has cell phones, but nobody swears, young people are ruffians, and I have no idea how old everyone was in relation to each other. It’s good, I suppose, that Nora’s older sister is still hacky-cliché style chasing men, but I’m not sure if she’s 35 and had kids early, trying to make up for lost time, or is in her upper 50’s and still trying to work it. Age clues can really add a lot to the characters you’re presenting.
              There are some positive things about this book, even after I finished it. Low impact gay characters are always a plus, and this book manages more than one couple without feeling either tokenistic or a victim of forced diversity. The central relationship between Nora and Mick (her boyfriend, not me) is actually a pretty good representation of a constructive, positive couple. They apologize to each other, try to be better, and let each other know how they’re thinking and feeling. It’s awesome! Although, creating such a realistic and healthy couple apparently makes light sex scenes REAL WEIRD to read. There’s a reason why people watch pornography of strangers, and not their friends.
              At the end of this murder mystery, the only surprise is that the exact people immediately pointed to at the front of the book were actually the people to do it. Imagine in Law and Order, if during the cold open, we saw the face of the killer and he’s like “Oh, no! I, uh, just found this body!” and then forty five minutes later, he’s arrested and convicted. DUH. No twists is not fun to read when you dump this much drama onto someone.
              Listen, A Little Night Murder, despite a title I apparently don’t get, I maintain you could have been great. The writing wasn’t great, and people reacted weirdly to little or no stimulus. But you had such potential. I was thinking about you positively between readings. How is the husband going to clean up the youth crime wave? Answer: by reestablishing mob activities to chase out no-good-niks. Welp.

              I’m not mad, A Little Night Murder. I’m just disappointed.

Crimson Veil, by Yasmine Galenorn
              Crimson Veil is the fifteenth book in the Otherworld Series by Yasmine Galenorn, because my husband is rude and thinks he’s hilarious. The series covers the adventures of three sisters: Menolly, Delilah, and Camille, who are half-Fae (among other things) from Otherworld, a parallel universe chock full of all sorts of magical creatures. At this point in the series, Otherworld is under attack, and the sisters are mourning the loss of their father. Menolly’s Earthside bar has been burned to the ground by a scheming daemon named Lowestar. The sisters are determined to find their friend Violet, who has been sold into a sex slave ring. Oh, and they all have multiple spouses, so there’s a whole bunch of relationship drama too.
              If you were ever wondering what it’s like to start reading a series 15/19ths of the way through, let me tell you: it’s confusing. There were so many times as I was reading this book that I had no idea what was happening, who any of the characters were, or what the heck this series was even about. For example, in the beginning of the novel, a lot of conversations revolved around the death of someone named Queen Asteria, but I have no idea who that is, or why it is particularly important that she has died. A pretty major plotline in the middle of the book revolved around the Knights of Kerastar, who are in charge of protecting something called the spirit seals. Despite the fact that keeping these individuals safe is of utmost importance to the main characters, it is never explained what the spirit seals are. So many different characters and concepts are introduced that you can’t keep any of them straight, and you don’t understand the importance of any of them. I couldn’t tell if certain character threads were part of the larger story arc, if they were of particularly importance to this part of the story, or if they literally just went nowhere.
              One of the best examples of this is an entire paragraph on page 54: “I dashed up the stairs. Camille detested Bran. He was the son of the Black Unicorn and Raven Mother, and my sister had taken an instant dislike to the man. Neither Elemental Lord -- greater or lesser -- nor truly Fae, Bran stood between worlds, much like the Elder Fae. It didn’t help that Camille had killed his father, even though it had been her destiny and the Black Unicorn’s choosing. Even after the Black Unicorn was reborn, it seemed that Bran nurtured a grudge. Or maybe it was something else.” .... I just... I have so many questions. After reading that paragraph, you’re probably thinking to yourself, “Of course that makes no sense! I’m reading this paragraph out of context. If I’d read it within the novel, I would understand what all those randomly capitalized words mean!” If you’re thinking that, I’m here to tell you: You’re wrong.

               Even within the context of the book, none of these things make any sense at all. Camille’s backstory is barely explained, and none of her explanation includes anything about Elemental Lords, Black Unicorns, Raven Mothers, or killing anyone’s father. The worst part is that after this particular scene, Bran is never mentioned again! I’m sure that if I had read the series in order, it would all make sense, and that some of these seemingly throw-away characters would come back into play, but it was so baffling throughout the entire time that I was reading this book. I guess I’ll just blame it all on Mick for picking out book fifteen in the damn series.
              Adding to the feelings of disjointedness are the random action scenes thrown in throughout the book. Crimson Veil has a few different action sequences throughout, and they’re all very confusing, because in the middle of the action, characters will just have random conversations. Literally in the middle of a battle, Menolly and the aforementioned Bran just start chatting about what they’ve been up to since the last time they saw each other. I wanted to be like, “Girl! You are currently trying to kill a ghost or some such shit! Pay attention!” It’s so disorienting to switch gears in your brain from a scary action scene to a casual conversation, and it makes it seem like the action sequences in the book aren’t really that important after all, if we can be distracted in the middle of them by arbitrary conversation.
              The sex scenes have those same disjointed feelings as well. In the middle of a sex scene between the main character, Menolly, and her wife, Nerissa, Nerissa starts crying about having a bad day at work. The author spends all this time setting up their relationship and sharing Menolly’s thoughts about her sexual appetite for Nerissa, and then in the middle of this sex scene that is supposed to be very naughty and very dangerous, Menolly is comforting a crying Nerissa about her bad day. It’s just really weird, and when you’re reading this book, you can’t quite figure out what is important and what you’re supposed to be paying attention to. This problem is consistent in sex scenes, battle scenes, conversations that are supposed to be explaining things... It just seems to be a running theme throughout the book.
                 Before I wrap up this blog post, you’re probably all dying to know, “But Susan, what does the title of the book mean? What is the Crimson Veil?” To that I would answer, “Great question. I don’t really know.” The title Crimson Veil comes from the name of a place significant to vampires, where they can connect to their life force or some shit. Given that Crimson Veil is the title of the book, you’d think that this place would be integral to the plotline of the book, or would feature in a major scene. If you think that, however, you haven’t read nearly enough of these blog posts, because in terrible books like this one, of course the titular location wouldn’t be relevant to the book -- that would be logical. In reality, Menolly goes to the Crimson Veil once throughout this book, in a paragraph-long scene toward the end, where she has sex with a character who is only mentioned twice throughout the novel. All in all, not particularly integral to the plotline.
              Although to be honest, there isn’t really anything in this book that is particularly integral to the plotline. This book is just a conglomeration of dozens of smaller plotlines, mildly important characters, and random smatterings of action that don’t seem to go anywhere. Maybe it’s because this book served as a way to set up greater plot threads for later in the series, but I can’t honestly tell you what this book is about, or what its main purpose is. Lots of things happen, hundreds of people are involved, but none of it really seems to mean anything or go anywhere. I assume that if you had read the previous fourteen books in the series, and then went on to read the subsequent four novels, Crimson Veil would make total sense. But we all know I’m not going to do that.
I'm too cool for that

Friday, August 19, 2016

Bibliovile: Stone, Wind and Fire

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SUE: Spider’s Bite, by Jennifer Estep


              For this blog post, I read Spider’s Bite, by Jennifer Estep, and I didn’t care about any of it at all. The books is about Gin, an elemental assassin, who also works at a barbeque restaurant called the Pork Pit. Her boss at the restaurant is also her “handler,” (her word, not mine) who sets up all of her assassinating jobs. Gin has a crush on a police officer named Donovan Caine, which probably isn’t going to work out too well for her since she killed his partner and he’s determined to arrest her. When a client double crosses her and kills her handler, Gin gets caught up in a plot involving her friends Finn (her handler’s son), Roslyn (a vampire nightclub owner), and two dwarfish twins named Sofia and Jo-Jo, (who have some sort of weird, unexplained magic), and a pair of embezzling, murderous sisters out to take over the city.
That's a lot of plot hook
              Spider’s Bite is set in a universe where humans, giants, and dwarves coexist, and a small but recognizable number of individuals are “elementals,” and can control one of the four elements. At first glance, this seems fairly acceptable for a fantasy-ish novel, except for the fact that the four elements are fire, air, ice, and stone. To which I say, what the hell, Jennifer Estep? The four elements are NOT fire, air, ice, and stone. They are fire, air, earth, and water. Why did you exchange ice for water and stone for earth? Are you just trying to be edgy? Do you think being objectively wrong will make your book better? Guess what, it doesn’t. It’s weird and confusing.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Bibliovile: Law and Hors d'Oeuvres

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An Appetite for Murder, Lucy Burdette
              An Appetite for Murder is perfectly analogous with its main McGuffin, a key lime pie. It’s fluffy, too sweet, and if you try to lift it off of the plate it’s presented on, everything sort of falls apart. Yeah, sure, it tastes good and goes down easily (kinda like your mom), but you wouldn’t want to eat it for dinner every day.

              We open in Key West, Florida, as author Lucy Burdette demands you acknowledge fifty times a chapter. To be fair, Ms. Burdette must have more than a passing acquaintance with the town, as landmarks are referenced and an actual geographical pattern begins to emerge with a consistent community feel. Unfortunately, that motif is if Jimmy Buffett and San Francisco had a baby; tacky flamingos and high cost of living everywhere.
              Hayley Snow is our protagonist and narrator, because all light and breezy mysteries have to be first person. She lives in a borrowed houseboat room with a college friend due to one hell of a month. She moved to Key West during a whirlwind romance from New Jersey, found the boyfriend cheating on her, and got kicked out. She uses this time to have overly-efficient phone conversations with several people, including a best-friend psychologist. What is this, The Room? Oh hai, murder mystery!
You will never convince me this isn't what the book character looked like, too
              Yeah, so the woman her boyfriend was sleeping with turns up dead weeks after the whole fight goes down, Haley’s the main suspect, it’s a whole thing. Not only was she the other woman, the corpse was also shaping up to be her prospective new boss at a lifestyle magazine where Haley wants to be a food critic. That’s also a whole thing.
              Honestly, at this level of inspection, the plot functions well. We’re introduced to a shapely little who-dun-it, with appropriately paced clues, false leads, and danger to the people around Haley. It’s like a Raymond Chowder novel. Get it? Popular mystery author, eh what do you know about funny.
              Haley’s a food critic, right, so the whole murder thing sometimes takes a back seat to her going to restaurants and eating things and then typing on her phone. She doesn’t bring a pad and paper because she wants an honest meal, which I can appreciate. But dawg. Your phone? Typing anything longer than “yep” or “damn I’m out of Pokeballs again” is impossible.
              If your favorite part of the Game of Thrones books was the weird descriptions of the suppers they ate, you probably still shouldn’t read this book. It even ended in recipes!
              I can’t give the whole plot away, cause it’s a mystery and all. It’s pretty well done, all in all, and unlike a steak, that’s a good thing. So, I thought I should give in to that Key West kitsch and review this book based on taste.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Bibliovile: Low Believability

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The Presidents and UFOs: A Secret History from FDR to Obama, by Larry Holcombe

              Why are some things “dad”-er than others? I don’t think that’s even close to being a real word, but as soon as I said it, I bet something popped up into your head. I bet it was my jokes. My jokes are the daddest of jokes. What’s the scale of dad ratings? The thing is, I don’t think there’s a spectrum of dadditude (that’s the amount of dadness, not a particularly dad-leaning attitude). I think there is just a set of Venn Diagram dad archetypes. We’re not quite sure where we, as men, will fit until we start furiously grasping at hobbies to get away from our kids.

              You’ve got your sports dad, with his jersey tucked in. You’ve got your toys/tech dad which used to be HAM radios and train sets but now seems to be firmly on drones. You’ve even got your health dad, who comes home excited with a new anti-nipple rub solution for this upcoming triathalon. Handiwork Dad, Cool Dad, NASCAR Dad; they’re all sorts of fun little statues to teenage embarrassment.
              But my favorite (from afar, at least), and one of the most rare is Conspiracy Dad. This dad has escaped to his library and study so that he doesn’t have to watch Jennix do her “hip-hop” dance recital. He sees connections where there are none, a grand plan that only he knows how to foil. It seems very relieving to believe everything in life is, while malicious, at least done on purpose. It’s not, obviously, we’re just hurtling through a painful sea of chaos while everyone Does The Best They Can. But Conspiracy Dad doesn’t think so. Conspiracy Dad thinks we’re being kept in the dark.
              Conspiracy Dad isn’t going to stand up for it anymore.
              Sue, this edition, got me “The Presidents and UFOs: A Secret History from FDR to Obama,” by Larry “Conspiracy Dad” Holcombe. It was, questionably, filed in the non-fiction section. It promises to expose the “astounding secret history of U.S. Presidential involvement and control of the UFO phenomenon,” and certainly does its best.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Bibliovile: Done with the Written Word

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Hip Check, by Deirdre Martin
For this round of the Terrible Book Exchange, Mick and I had intentions of finding each other the worst fantasy novels that we could locate in the Ames Public Library. Unfortunately, finding truly terrible fantasy novels is difficult, because they are virtually indistinguishable from phenomenal fantasy novels. It’s one of life’s inalienable truths that cover art for fantasy books is lame and awful. It’s like a publishing rule or something. Because of this, both of us struck out when it came to finding awful fantasy books. Fortunately, however, we both managed to stumble on books that fit the normal TBE profile. Naturally, both books are romance novels, because that’s the best kind of insufferable book to make your fiance read.


Normally Mick and I will wander through the stacks on our own until we find our Terrible Book, and then we’ll meet in the main area of the library to swap. This time, however, he dragged me over to the Ma-Me section of the library, because while Deirdre Martin’s Hip Check looks awful enough on its own, it reaches its full potential for terrible-ness when you see it in context. Literally every single book that this woman has written is exactly the same. They’re all hockey-related, following the storylines of the fictional New York Blades, and they all have titles like Hip Check, Body Check, Breakaway, Fair Play, and The Penalty Box. All of the covers are identical, with a young, attractive, heterosexual white couple in various stages of dress/undress, usually with some sort of hockey attire or equipment featured.


The blurbs on the back of the books are virtually indistinguishable from each other as well. New York Blades hockey player so-and-so is content living his life. Then he meets a woman and decides that he hates her. But they are forced by circumstance to spend time together! What will happen!? Just kidding, they fall in love. The end. They ALL looked lame, and this book appeared to be no exception. I started reading in the car on the way home, because I wanted to get it over with as soon as possible.


In the first sentence and a half of this book, we are introduced to two characters named Esa Saari and Ulf Torkelson. This did not give me high hopes for the book.
Ulf Torkelson! Hinga-dinga-durken!



The plot of this book is completely and utterly predictable. After reading the blurb on the back, I could have told you the basic outline of the plot, and after reading the first three chapters, I could have filled in a few extraneous details. Esa Saari is a Finnish playboy hockey player for the New York Blades. His sister dies unexpectedly, and he finds out that he has been named guardian of his eight-year-old niece, Nell. Esa hires a nanny named Michelle because he has no idea how to raise an eight-year-old girl. At first, Michelle hates Esa because she thinks he’s a selfish, philandering jerk. She’s right. But slowly, with Michelle’s help, he becomes a good uncle and guardian. They give in to their sexual tension and sleep together, eventually starting to date. Her father gets mad about it and stops talking to Michelle, then he has a heart attack. Michelle blames herself, and thus breaks up with Esa, but is still the nanny. They are all miserable. Months pass. Then Dad has a change of heart and tells her to get back with him. They all live happily ever after. It’s every other story that’s ever been told about either someone falling in love with the nanny/babysitter or an adult unexpectedly being left with the care of a child. Predictable, predictable, predictable.


Also, for some reason, Esa Saari keeps his coffee beans in the fridge. Why does he put his coffee beans in the fridge? It seems so illogical and unnecessary. Coffee beans don’t need to go in the fridge. Fix this, Deirdre.


Although this book is completely and utterly predictable, Mick was a little disappointed, because it wasn’t necessarily bad. Sure, there’s awkward dialogue and the sex scenes are kinda weird, but other than that, it’s a better-than-average romance novel. But that’s not very fun to write about in a blog post, so let’s talk more about the awkward dialogue.


Awkward Dialogue
Deirdre Martin doesn’t seem totally comfortable writing dialogue between male characters. It just feels very awkward and forced. When writing dialogue between Esa and his teammates, it really seems like Martin hasn’t heard guys interact with each other before. There are way too many “f*ck you, dudes,” and unnecessary sports references for any of the male-to-male dialogue to sound natural. Also, all of the players on the New York Blades are apparently from northern European countries, have accents, and like to curse in their native languages. Which results in insults like, Trading insults in the locker room, “you’re a Swedish idiot,” “you can be a real Finnish f*ck,” “who are you, the Irish Dr. Phil?” Why is it necessary to verbally acknowledge everyone’s national origin in every sentence? I don’t get it.


There’s also a lot of unnecessary dialogue that I think is intended to help develop characters, but just feels awkward. Dialogue like this scene, where Esa goes to visit his teammate Rory and Rory’s wife:
Rory: What about you, you Finnish prick? Anything exciting going on with your
relatives?
Esa: In a manner of speaking.
Rory: In a manner of speaking? Since when do you talk like that? Are you hooked on
that feckin’ Downton Abbey like everyone else in the world?
Rory’s wife: You leave Downton alone!
Why is any of this conversation necessary? It’s like she wanted to emphasize that these two characters are Irish, so we had to include some accented swear words. I can imagine her sitting at her computer thinking to herself, “What would Irish people talk about? Ooh, I know! Downton Abbey!”
Martin also does that thing that almost all romance writers do, where she includes far too many references to things that are culturally popular. Authors usually do this to try to make a book seem ‘cool’ and ‘hip,’ but it normally come across as trying too hard and inevitably dates a book within two years, when popular culture changes. This definitely happens in Hip Check, which references Downton Abbey (which, while still popular, relevant, and amazing, ended this year) and describes Starbucks as a new phenomenon that not many people know about yet... How delightfully 2010.


Awkward Sex Scenes
In addition to the generally awkward dialogue, some of the, er, intimate moments of this book are also a little forced. When it comes to the first sex scene especially, sequences of events don’t always seem to make sense, or follow the progression that real life would take. For example, on page 80, Esa comes home drunk from a date with two models (we later super awkwardly find out that he had a threesome, and then skip right on to the next thing like that’s no big deal). He enters the apartment to find Michelle waiting for him, furious that he left Nell on what was supposed to be their night together. In the span of half a page, we go from Esa being super icky about his evening activities to Esa being frustrated with Michelle for telling him about all of the things that he’s always doing wrong, and then ALL OF A SUDDEN THEY’RE KISSING WHAT THAT JUST CAME OUT OF NOWHERE. Throughout the majority of the book, Martin is pretty good at building sexual tension between these two characters EXCEPT FOR THE TIMES WHEN THEY ACTUAL HAVE INTIMATE CONTACT. It’s so out of left field.


For the most part, Martin avoids using the sex scene tropes that romance writers normally fall into, like using adjectives that make the reader squirm uncomfortably, or describing genitalia with weird metaphors or slang words. There are a few times, though, when she doesn’t manage to avoid the trap, resulting in sentences like this, “All she wanted to do was get him out of those clothes and ride what she had no doubt was that magnificent cock of his.”


One of the worst examples of dialogue in the book occurs during the first sex scene as well:
[Michelle talks dirty]
“Jesus, who are you?”
“I’m the nanny.”

No. Just no.


I have a confession to make...
I have to be honest with you all. Despite the awkward dialogue and the sometimes really weird sex scenes, I actually didn’t hate this book. As I mentioned before, it’s entirely predictable, the plot hooks are a little too prosaic, and the dialogue appears to be written by a woman who has never heard other human beings speak before (which makes sense, honestly -- any woman who can write hockey-themed romance novels so prolifically must not get out much), but the three main characters are pretty well developed, the author inspires fairly genuine interest in the will-they-won’t they theme, and you’d have to be entirely heartless to not care about what happens to Nell.


Once I got through the first five chapters, I found myself legitimately interested in the developing relationship between Michelle and Esa. Martin writes sexual tension well (something I was not expecting when I started this book), and you find yourself rooting for the characters throughout the book. I read about 75% of Hip Check in one sitting, and when Esa and Michelle break up in the middle, I was actually very sad. I hated myself for it, but I was.


So, in summary, this book is actually a pretty good romance novel. It’s predictable, and silly, and sometimes awkward, but if you’re in the market for a romance novel, this one actually isn’t a bad pick.

**immediately reads literature to cleanse brain of good thoughts about romance novel**


Midnight Sins, by Lora Leigh
  I tried my best you guys.
              When we came up with Bibliovile, I swore, promised, wrote in blood and gave to a very confused bank teller for safekeeping, that there would be no book I would not finish. While Sue skipped most of Choosers of the Slain on the first go-round, I managed to stay locked in to every book I’ve read. Skin of the Wolf, Lessons for Bombshells, hey, even the Christmas sex novella collection, A Very Merry Christmas. I swore there would be no amount of literature pain I could go through that would cause me to tap out.
              And then Sue presented with me with Midnight Sins, by Lora Leigh. And then I got five pages into Midnight Sins.
              It is the impossible book. The back cover, alone, reveals all of its faults, namely, that I can’t get through the whole thing without getting confused.
              Three men are bound by one tragedy that continues to bring danger and passion to their lives—and the women they love…
              HE ALWAYS WANTED HER.
              His name is Rafer Callahan. He was a kid from the wrong side of the tracks who found through life the only way he knew how: with his fists. But Rafer never meant to bring any harm to Cambria Flannigan, the girl—the lover—whose sister he’d been unable to save…
              SHE LIVES IN FEAR OF HIM.
              Cami lost her sister in the brutal murders that rocked her home-town so many years ago .Some still believe that Rafe, along with his cousins Logan and Crowe, were involved. But how could Rafe—who haunted her girlish dreams, then her adult fantasies—be a killer? That is the question that keeps her up at night.
              SOON THEIR HEARTS WILL COME TOGETHER…
              Now a prosperous ranch owner, Rafe is trying to build a new legacy for himself. It’s finally time to settle the score with Cami—and make her his. But old wounds open up with a serioies of new murders… and each of the victims has a connection to Rafe, Logan, and Crowe, with suspicion, fear, and loyalty tearing her apart, Cami is once again at risk of losing her heart—or her life.


              What?

              What the hell does any of that mean, how does it connect? I should have known about this book, you guys, but there was no way to know about The Impossible Book. I only made it to page 104. Here is what had been filled in from the back cover; Cami is the nickname of Cambria. That’s about all of the plot that made it into the first 104 pages.
              In the first 104 pages, here is what we know; nothing about the plot. Not about the inciting event, the antagonist, the rising action, nothing. The first 50 pages include six time jumps. From first page to page 25, we get to over 12 years in the future and no actual plot. That may not sound so bad, but remember, we don’t know what the book is about at this point. The sister of Cami is introduced in such excruciating, unnecessary detail that you are sure she’s the protagonist. She amicably breaks up with Rafe, our male lead (I think?). Then, the scene jumps two weeks. Why the original scene?
              Oh, her sister is now sick. Then we have to review the last two weeks that we skipped (ugh). Then, she is brutally murdered. End chapter one.


              You can tell she wanted this to be a Law and Order cold open, or something, but Law and Order’s cold open is about 45 seconds until someone dies or finds a dead body. We might get a phone call so that you’re like, “Oh this person is a lawyer and is mad at someone.”
              Inside of this first chapter, which is 24 pages long we learn that Jaymi is her father’s favorite daughter, over Cami, and she figures out the world’s easiest secret, that Cami is the product of her mother cheating on her father. We learn that Jaymi’s husband, Tye, died in the Marines and now she’s doing his best friend Rafe, who along with his cousins Logan and Crowe, is hated in their community because their fathers all married sisters of rich and respected families in their hometown of Sweetrock Colorado, but don’t worry because he said actually made him promise that he would do her if he died and also Cami is hated by her dad, Jaymi is loved by him, despite her loving Rafe and also Cami has a crush on Rafe despite her being 13 and Rafe being hated in the community because of who his parents are and they died mysteriously, but since Rafe is hated in the community, the rich families have tied up his and Logan and Crowe’s sizable inheritance in the courts and believe it or not but all of the mothers and the Cameron fathers died on the same night and
              OH MY GOD. That. Is. Page. Three. This isn’t a Law and Order cold open, it’s an eight year old reciting the plot to a soap opera that he watched instead of Pokemon. The book starts with a 14 paragraph description and summary of the town’s weekly Youth Social Nights. In the rest of the 101 pages I read, they’re never brought up again.
              The first page should be setting a scene, introducing and describing characters, or otherwise settling you in. This book gives you absolutely everything and nothing at the same exact time. I drew a family tree on page four. The first five pages read like a brainstorming session for a better book.
·                        Family trees
·                        Stupid hick names
·                        Community focus, social pressures
·                        Serial killings
·                        How about 10,000 names and relations
              It’s impossible to follow. Dream sequences are thrown in for no reason, in the middle of a conversation she’s having with another major character, unrelated to anything else. We’re totally unmoored and the author seems intent on pushing us further out to sea instead of steering us home. Frankly, a dream sequence seems apt, because the reading of this book is like trying to make sense of a dream upon waking. There’s a progression of action, but you’re not sure how anything or anyone relates to each other. Thoughts surface and vanish immediately.
              There’s no physical or expositional description of the characters by page 10. With nothing in our heads to picture them by, all of the words denoting characters flush together, and the toilet that this book in overflows immediately. Later, sure, you can make sense of the turds on the floor, but buddy, the landlord is showing your apartment in 10 minutes and you don’t own a pair of gloves.
              I really do not know if this book had an editor. We skip between story beats, details, character intros, and every single facet of storytelling faster than an ADD cook in an exploding kitchen checks on different details of his meal. Not to mention the mechanical mistakes, the simple failure of novel writing on display here makes me seriously question if literally anyone read this before it was put into print.
              Then come the time skips.
              First two weeks. Then 18 hours or so. Seven years. Five Years. Two years. 18 months. No common thread between them except that Rafe and Cami are meeting and more useless details are thrown in our face. After every time jump, we’re treated to an explanation of what happened between, rendering them more impressively useless. Major characters are reintroduced, despite being so overly explained in the first place that I already hated them. Cami’s father’s hatred for her is explained every time he is brought up, almost always using his full name. Rafe’s uncle or great uncle is introduced as well every single time he is brought up, as well as his other uncle that was adopted out of his oh god I’m doing it again. I think the author is being as confusing as possible on purpose. Two tangential characters that are given a full page of backstory for no reason are named Ella and Eddy, and they’re married. Two of the three Snidely Whiplash comically hateful rich people are named James.

              Reading this book, I honestly feel bad for the cover models.


              I’m not even going to talk about the sex scene. I got through one. I assume there’re more, but the one in the first 104 pages was 24 pages and spilled over a chapter and a half.
              This entire book is an ouroboros. Not in a cool, meta, modern literature way. But in the way that major characters are just always being reintroduced. Even the sentence structure eats away at itself and at its own relevance. “… [P]ulled back from the aching nipples. Her nipples ached.” WELL YEAH YOU JUST SAID UGH FIRST OF ALL GROSS. Later, after the two dozen pages of sex
If you think about it, it's also auto-erotic
scenes is passed like a storm system (there’s even an eye of the storm where she’s too weak from orgasms and he cleans her up and you know what we’re not gonna get into it), it gets worse.
              “This wasn’t the same warning, or foreboding as his recruiting officer had called it, that had served Rafe so well in the Marines. This was something he had only felt when heading into the most dangerous of the missions he’d undertaken. This wasn’t just a foreboding, it was a straight-up f*cking warning.”
              WHY DOES THAT ENTIRE PARAGRAPH EXIST. It’s solipsistic 3rd person narration. It exists only to refer to itself.
              I’m not even going to get into the hum-drum awfulness of this book. Every sentence is regrettable that it was ever set to a page. “The acrid, spicy sweet taste mixed with the smoke had the immediate effect of easing the worse of the tension that had begun to fill him.” Every sentence is like that.
              I read 104 pages of this, and this review is longer and angrier than any other I’ve written. I didn’t even really get into most of it. The majority of the book I actually read was sex scene. It was awful.

              Language is overrated.