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

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