What possible novelty could there be in seducing his wife?
Jake McCabe separated from his wife, Isobel, convinced that the daughter she gave birth to was not his. Insistent that Emily was Jake’s child, Isobel struggled on as a single mother.
But now Jake finds himself in Isobel’s life once more–and caught up again by the same heated desire that held him tight when they were first married. Seducing Isobel can only add to the list of their sins, and it won’t change the truth of her betrayal…or will it?
Rating: 2.5 out of 5.
Book – Sinful Truths by Anne Mather
Sinful Truths by Anne Mather, if done right, could have been a good read. But it was bogged down by too many unlikeable characters except one innocent child at the center who deserved better adults in her life.
The Jerks and Their Story
The hero separated from his wife when he caught her in bed with his best friend. He didn’t believe the baby she carried was his. However, he never divorced her.
Ten years later, he wants to marry a shallow model, but somehow can’t ask for a divorce because he suddenly realizes he’s still in lust with his wife.
The hero is an asshat who never heard of DNA testing. The stupid heroine never took any initiative in her life. The poor, miserable daughter just wants a daddy. The selfish grandmother just cares about her money and family manor. Jerky characters all around.
But oddly, I didn’t hate it. Maybe lately I’ve been reading too many boring books that make me feel absolutely nothing. For all its stupid premise, Sinful Truths kept me involved in the story.
This review is of Texas Treasure, book #1 in the “The Cowboy and the Lady” series by Victoria Thompson.
The book begins in Rainbow, Texas, where Priscilla Bedford, the heroine, has come to be the schoolteacher for the town’s children. Picking her up from the stagecoach which brought her to Rainbow is Phillip Alexander “Dusty” Rhoades, the hero of the book. He is foreman of the Steele Ranch.
From the moment they meet, Priscilla and Dusty have chemistry, even as he is playing a joke on her by not immediately acknowledging her; she gives as good as she gets.
As the book goes on, Priscilla and Dusty become more attracted to each other but also do a lot of “he/she loves me, he/she loves me not”, which also leads to them intentionally and unintentionally hurting each other.
Dusty and Priscilla become lovers, which creates its own set of issues. While Priscilla and Dusty play “are we/aren’t we a couple?”, other stories are taking place. One involves Jason Vance, a Virginia native who was on the same stagecoach as Priscilla. He has come to Texas seeking a cache of gold that legend says is buried in Rainbow. Another denizen of Rainbow is Rita Jordan, owner of the town saloon, and a woman with bad blood toward Dusty.
Later, Priscilla secretly buys a ranch. The significance of this is that the ranch belonged to Dusty’s family in the past. At first, Dusty is very angry, but he comes around and he and Priscilla get married.
However, Rita and Vance become threats to their marriage: Vance for the gold buried on the ranch Priscilla now owns, and Rita due to being rejected by Dusty years ago. Vance and Rita hold Priscilla hostage to force Dusty to tell Vance where the gold is. Two violent confrontations ensue, one between Dusty and Vance, the other between Priscilla and Rita. Vance assaults Dusty and escapes. Rita is shot and killed when the two women fight over a gun.
Priscilla and Dusty have their Happily Ever After, and the gold has yet to be found…
Priscilla and Dusty are fairly interesting characters. It is highly unusual in my experience to see a book where the hero’s emotions are on display as they are in Texas Treasure.
This, however, is not always a good thing. This book is the definition of T.M.I. Ms. Thompson exposes her readers to every emotion Priscilla and Dusty feel.
Every. Single. Emotion.
The book is way too long at 494 pages for the print version I own (average approximately 30 pages per chapter, with many longer than that, around 50-60 pages), which is difficult for time-challenged readers like myself. The Vance/Rita storyline is basically there to make the book longer, and neither they nor Priscilla and Dusty are the type of characters whose actions will be remembered after reading the book.
The love scenes–between Priscilla and Dusty and between Rita and Vance–are okay at best.
After Priscilla disciplines one of her male students, he tries to rape her; she is saved by Dusty. Vance shoots and later kills the former owner of Priscilla’s ranch. We learn that Rita is a serial murderess, who had a very traumatic childhood. I described the end of the book violence above.
Victoria Thompson’s Texas Treasure is not a bad book, but it is also not a dynamic one, with too many issues to keep it from being a very good book.
George H. Jones was an artist of remarkable talent. While not as well-known as Duillo, Pino, or McGinnis, to me his work is as compelling as theirs.
I encountered Jones’ gorgeous art while reading Harlequin Historical romances as a preteen. Highland Heather and Stranger In My Arms are two exquisite examples of his covers. They are forever etched in my memory. (As we’ve reviewed/highlighted those books before, we omitted them from this week’s showcase).
Only recently did I discover who this illustrator was. Since there are many George Joneses in the world, including several artists of distinction, it took some time to track down his information.
Jones was originally from Chicago and served in the Korean War. Later on he moved with his family to Milford, CT. Jones broke into the New York City commercial art world in the 1970s. By the end of the decade, he produced illustrations for big publishers including Dell, Simon & Schuster, and Pocket Books.
Readers familiar with Silhouette Intimate Moments, Pocket Books’ Tapestry imprint, and early Harlequin Historicals should recognize his artwork. He produced covers for Fern Michaels, Janet Dailey, Nora Roberts, and many other popular authors. Jones passed away in 1993.
Jones’ use of light, bright colors (especially reds, golds, and purples), his unique brush strokes, and the hazy, dreamlike mood of his subjects combines to create memorable romantic tableaux. Whenever I come upon a new Jones cover, it is like celebrating Christmas, Halloween, and a single-digit birthday party all at once. There is no way to express the elation and admiration I feel when coming upon some never-before-seen Jones cover art.
For the week of Monday, January 31, 2022, to Sunday, February 6, 2022, we’re delighted to display the glorious handiwork of George H. Jones.
Melting Ice by Rosalie Ash is a hard little book to find in its original form. It was released by Mills & Boon in 1989 but only published as a special edition for Harlequin Romance subscribers. The book was #55 of that line.
The author has rewritten and “updated” Melting Ice as part of a trilogy, so the modern e-book version vastly differs from the original print copy.
This review refers only to the Mill & Boon/ Special Harlequin Romance edition of Melting Ice.
The Characters and Plot
Victoria Francis is an airy-fairy young woman living in the English countryside. The story begins as she’s walking on her hands outside and meets the hero while she’s upside-down. It’s a good metaphor for demonstrating Victoria and Julius’s opposite perspectives about life.
Julius Korda is a cold and calculating icicle. He is an avaricious businessman who wears power suits and ties. Julius works in the fast-paced world of… antiques.
(Wait a minute, that can’t be right. Let me double-check that. Nope, that’s correct.)
Julius Korda is a big deal in the throat-cutting world of old-time estates and furniture sales.
(I can see why Ash decided to give this book a rewrite. The hero’s occupation bugged the hell out of me. That did not fit his described persona. Not that there’s anything wrong with buying and selling antiques. But buying and selling stocks would have made in line with how Ash wrote Julius to be.)
Despite their decade-and-a-half age gap, the innocent Victoria and the money-hungry Julius form a connection. Victoria finds herself falling for him. In a surprising turn of events, the buttoned-down Julius has a moment of weakness, and he and Victoria make love. Victoria was a virgin, and a confused Julius leaves her.
Years pass. When they meet next, it will be under different circumstances. And Victoria will have a surprise in store for Julius.
(Sigh) Yes, this is a secret baby plot. Yada, yada, yada, you get the deal. Julius and Victoria reconnect and form a new relationship. Passion reignites. Julius learns that there are things in life more precious than gold–or 19th-century golden candelabras.
Final Analysis of Melting Ice
I liked the idea of this book more than the execution. Generally, plots with uptight heroes paired with free-spirited heroines are a joy to experience. There were good elements here. However, they were wasted.
I shouldn’t be so shallow, but I couldn’t mesh Julius’ career with the identity the author had created for him. Antique dealing is a step above being a beautician in terms of macho jobs for a hero (See my review of Easy Lovin‘. I wasn’t overly fond of that hero’s profession as a hairdresser.)
The secret baby surprise came out of left field. Victoria was too young and childish; it didn’t seem right for her to become a single mother abandoned by her one-night stand. And where the heck was Julius for all that time? Polishing his silverware?
Melting Ice started out quite charming. However, I couldn’t get over a few issues, making this an average reading experience. Maybe the updated version is better, but I’m not curious enough to check it out. I’d give this 2.95 stars.
Whenever I see an “Award of Excellence” ribbon on a Harlequin-published romance, I know I’m in for a mediocre read. I think they handed those accolades out simply to massage the egos of their big-name authors. It was never about the quality of the story.
Penny Jordan is an HP writer who’s all over the place for me. One book can be great, another full of crazy sauce, and others on the blah side. Sadly, her Lover’s Touch is kind of blah. The two protagonists are kept apart by big misunderstandings and lack of communication, which is never fun.
Lady Eleonor de Tressail–or Nell as she is called–inherits a huge, impoverished estate. It’s a home she cherishes. Unfortunately, she has no money for the upkeep. But it must remain in the family. Selling it is out of the question. What is she to do?
Enter Joss Wycliffe. Joss was a working-class boy who grew up near the de Tressail estate. He had great aspirations of wealth. So he built himself from the bottom up to become a wealthy millionaire.
Before his passing, Nell’s grandfather devised an arrangement to keep the family’s home: a marriage between Nell and Joss.
Nell has harbored feelings for Joss for years. However, she is painfully shy, which Joss mistakes for haughtiness. He brutally informs Nell that he’s only marrying her for her family name and status. Of course, any romance reader worth his or her salt knows this frank declaration means Joss is in love with Nell. Silly Nelly, with her insecurities, takes him at his word.
A couple of “other women” characters vie for Joss’s attention, and he doesn’t seem to be pushing them away. If only that silly Nelly would open her eyes!
Nell is not a bad person, though she’s sort of self-centered. She’s not very empathetic, spending much time wallowing in her own misery. Joss is contemptuous of her, lashing out cruelly at her. Nell shallowly believes that he resents her because of their class differences. But although she is very reserved, Nell can steel her will. She always keeps her dignity intact, giving as good as she gets, especially to the nasty other women.
Nell spends time preparing for her wedding, finding a way to do it using her limited budget. Pride demands she not depend upon Joss’ charity. Joss thinks his bride-to-be is attempting to belittle him by refusing his money. More misunderstandings ensue.
The two get married, and their good sexual chemistry is incredible. Despite this, their lack of communication and internal insecurities keep them apart.
Somehow, the misunderstandings prove useful in the end. Nell believes that Joss’ business is going under. He needs funds to put him into the black. Nell would do anything for the man she loves, so she’s willing to sell her estate to help him out.
That is when Joss realizes they’ve both been fools. He reveals his true feelings to Nell, and she melts in his arms, happy and loving.
Final Analysis of Lover’s Touch
Penny Jordan’s heroines tend to have these irrational insecurities that cause them never to speak up and express the truth. This leads to major misunderstandings, which drive the plots. If the plot is chock full of nuttiness, I don’t mind. When it’s a simple lack of communication in a basic story that could be resolved in under 100 pages, I feel like throttling the characters.
In Lover’s Touch, both the hero and the heroine are tight-lipped about their true feelings, making it doubly frustrating.
This wasn’t one of Jordan’s worst books. Despite my complaints, it had some interesting attributes. Nor was this one of her best.
Lover’s Touch is middling fare, meant to be read over a couple of hours and then forgotten. 2.5 stars
Raven by Shana Carrol (aka Christina Savage, aka Mr. Kerry Newcomb & Mr. Frank Schaeffer) is a riveting bodice-ripper. It’s a pirate adventure that features a kickass, resilient heroine whom I adore. It also stars a hero who isn’t worthy to lick the underside of her shoes. This is one of those books I both hate and love and wavered for a long time what rating to give it.
Raven is the 2nd entry in the Paxton family series, although I’m not exactly sure where it fits in, as it’s the only one from the series I’ve read thus far.
The book begins in the Caribbean, in the early 1700s, where a young Marie Celeste Ravenne lives on an island called Mystere with her father. He is a reformed pirate, and she lives to hear his tales of past adventures. One day the island is raided by Spaniards, and they kill her father. Before dying, he urges his daughter to survive however she can.
Marie and the women are taken as prisoners. But destiny has other intentions for Marie Celeste. A storm capsizes the ship, and she is the only survivor. She is saved by a passing English ship. Marie will spend the following years of her life working in a Duke’s household as his prized French servant.
The Duke realizes Marie’s beauty and plans to use her as a trap to ensnare his enemies. He has her educated, adorned in beautiful gowns, and taught unique skills, such as fencing.
Enter Jason Brand, who seeks to keep peace among the Jacobite Scots and the new Hanoverian King. He’s also embroiled in a lusty dalliance with the Duke’s wife. Meanwhile, the Duke’s son has his eyes on Marie. He attempts to rape her, but Jason steps in and stops him. The two fight a duel of honor, and the Duke’s son is killed.
Jason’s plans to appeal to the King are in tatters, and he is arrested by the Duke’s men to be hanged. For weeks he is tortured. Marie has developed an infatuation for Jason brings him food when she can. They engage in an affair (And by an affair, I mean affair. We later learn Jason was married. His wife dies sometime afterward.).
Jason manipulates Marie into helping him escape, promising to return. Marie drugs the guard then Jason flees. Months go by, but Jason doesn’t return.
In vain, Marie waits for him, knowing that danger awaits. A jealous servant informs the Duke that Marie helped Jason make his getaway. In a rage, the Duke dismisses his fancy plans for Marie. He gives her to the evil Captain Gregory, who rapes her.
As punishment, Gregory takes Marie on his ship headed for the colonies. Also aboard are men to be used as indentured servants. The crew members are vile, but the prisoners are an assorted bunch of primarily decent men. Over time, they learn to respect Marie.
A handsome officer named Pulham is kind to her. He promises to help her, and indeed, he does try. Pulham and Marie become lovers. Marie wonders if he will backstab her as Jason did. Unfortunately, despite having honor, Pulham is a coward, afraid of Captain Gregory’s wrath. So like Jason Brand, he betrays Raven.
Seeing that no man will be her savior, Raven decides to be her own hero. Remembering her father’s words to survive at all costs, she rallies her fellow captives. They battle with the English sailors and take over the ship.
Marie is now their captain. The men follow her as she becomes a daring pirate.
Here would have been an excellent opportunity for Marie to meet a new man, one worthy of her strength and courage. Alas, when Raven and her crew settle on an island, who is there, but Jason Brand?
Jason now has a jealous native mistress, whom he treats abominably. He uses her for sex while he pursues Marie. And Marie, that fool, despite her best intentions, falls for Jason all over again. Ugh.
More adventures are in store, with villains plotting revenge against our brave heroine.
Raven’s first half built Marie up as a wonderful character who learned from her experiences to grow into a super capable woman. Her fatal flaw was that she thought foolishly with her heart instead of her head.
I love, love, love books with female pirates who kick ass! Marie was amazing, but Jason was the worst.
I’m a reasonably forgiving reader. With bodice rippers, I can accept a lot of cruelty from a hero: forced seduction, indifference, vengeance, betrayal, etc. However, I hate promiscuous cheaters. I don’t like them in real life and detest them in romance. Maybe I can go with it if the story is ridiculously over-the-top or written with a male protagonist who shows remorse. Jason made no apologies for being an STD-muffin, which was not cool.
He should have died a miserable death so Marie could have found a genuine man who deserved her.
Final Analysis of Raven
This book was my first “Shana Carrol” experience, although I had previously read “Christina Savage’s” American Revolution-era Hearts of Fire. I enjoyed that book, not so much for the romance, but the action & adventure. That’s about where I stand with Raven. In this case, I adored the heroine. Marie was awesome.
As for Jason, I wish the Duke’s men had hanged him. What an awful, callous, man-slut he was! He cared nothing for the feelings of any woman he toyed with.
If I view Raven as a tale of the heroine’s journey, it’s a high four-star rating. Jason drags the story down. Marie was such a capable woman. I didn’t appreciate that she needed Jason to save her in the end.
I’ll skip the Jason parts and just read about Marie if I ever feel the need to relive her adventures. As a romance, Raven has significant flaws. It did put me through an emotional wringer, though, so I can’t say I had a bad time with it. 3.49 stars
Do you primarily read romance? So do tens of millions of people worldwide! Perhaps you think your reading has become an obsession? Is that even possible? Maybe so, if reading too many books negatively affects your life.
There’s no need to despair. We can help you identify the symptoms of romance addiction. Our team at Sweet Savage Flame has pinpointed five signs that may indicate an unhealthy dependency on this bestselling genre.
5 Signs To Look For
1)You imagine yourself as the hero or heroine of your own romance novel. Do you bite your lips in consternation? Do you arrogantly raise one eyebrow in question? Is there an internal monologue in your head describing how your nipples become engorged whenever the object of your affection is nearby? These might be signs of romance addiction.
2) Your to-be-read list is more extensive than the list of books you’ve actually finished. This may be akin to your eyes being bigger than your stomach. In this case, your stomach is your ability to read. It may take you ninety years to complete all the books on your list, but you’re eating healthy, taking your vitamins, and exercising, so maybe you’ll last the long haul.
3) You have duplicate copies of the same books. This is intentional and you have no desire to sell them. Perhaps one book is for reading and dog-earing, while the other is a collector’s edition to keep in pristine condition. Possibly you own all printed versions of one book, just with different covers.
4) Where to store your books has become a major dilemma in your life. Your house is only so big, and there are only so many shelves you can put up. Some books are in boxes or bins. Others are stored under your bed. You start thinking to yourself, do you really need a closet for your clothes? Is a bathroom essential?
5) While reading a steamy love scene, you get so caught up you forget about all outside responsibilities. Sometimes a good book can be a major distraction. I know all about it. I burnt a pot of beans I was supposed to be watching while reading Tiffany White’s Forbidden Fantasy. My mother has never let me live that down.
In All Seriousness, Is Romance Addiction Real?
Is romance addiction real? Author Francine Rivers has talked about her obsession with these novels, as both a reader and a writer. She felt they became a form of escapism from what was truly important in her life, her religion.
Addiction comes in many forms. If you allow something to take over your life to the detriment of all else, that is harmful. Romance is not innately malignant. People can be dependent upon almost anything, from the most benign activities to potent intoxicants. Nail-biting, exercise, drinking coffee, eating, shopping, smoking marijuana, casual sex, media entertainment… Name any subject, and there’s likely someone who takes it too far.
In the age of video games, film, & tv streaming, reading for pleasure is not a common hobby. The average person reads about one book every 4-6 weeks. That number is as high as it is due to bookish folks. Romance readers happen to read a lot, as they average one book per week.
The Double Standard
Romance has been compared to pornography, in that both affect the way one sex views the other. While it may be true that some people need sex to make it through the day, most readers do not read romance for sex alone. There are various steam levels in romance, from merely chaste kisses to hardcore erotica. Sex is an aspect of romance; it does not define it.
Detractors of the genre claim it creates unrealistic expectations for women in relationships. Men cannot possibly live up to the standards of the hunky, heroic, alpha male protagonists.
Strangely, these criticisms are not generally made about other kinds of fiction. Superheroes, detectives, warriors, wizards, spies in action thrillers, all these tropes are fantastical. Yet few are concerned that men–the primary readers of genres featuring such characters–struggle living up to these prototypes.
It’s a double standard that has a long history.
Certainly, a reading addiction can be a problem if a person does it all day, letting life pass him or her by. The Germans even have a word for such mania: lesesucht. This term came about in the 18th century when literature was widely disseminated, allowing ordinary people to enjoy books for pleasure.
Concerns arose that if women read, they would ignore their household responsibilities. Their heads would be filled with idealistic fantasies. Reading was supposed to be for the pursuit of knowledge. It was not a way for the uneducated masses to pass their idle time.
That is a misconception rooted in elitism and classism. Reading expands a person’s ability to process information. Not all readers are on the same intellectual level, but all readers have the ability to think, to reason.
Read What Makes You Happy With No Apologies
Sweet Savage Flame is a website that is all about romance. We talk about it almost every day. However, that is just one facet of our being. We have families, hobbies, jobs, and responsibilities that mark our life. Romance enhances our time by bringing us joy and unity with other readers.
Don’t fret if you consume more books than the average person. It’s perfectly fine if all your reading is for entertainment purposes. If you pay your bills, clean your home, rear your children, work hard, and do whatever it is you must, what’s wrong with having an outlet for stress?
Enjoy what you enjoy. Never let any literary snobs make you feel shame for it. Vive la romance!
This review is of Colorado Jewel, a standalone by Cate Brandt. (Zebra Heartfire, April 1989).
Heroine: Magheen Fitzgerald. Red hair, emerald eyes.
Hero: Daniel Calcord. Black hair, blue eyes. Businessman/lawyer.
The book opens in Colorado, early September 1878. Daniel Calcord, the hero of the book and a businessman with his fingers in many pies, is heading toward one of his enterprises, a silver mine in the town of Leadville. His trip is delayed, however, as Daniel helps to rescue Magheen Fitzgerald, the heroine of the book, from a stagecoach accident. He nurses her back to health and they face many perils, one of which is their attraction to each other.
When one of Maggie’s brothers, Patrick, a priest, catches them in a compromising position, they are compelled to marry. Their engagement doesn’t go well.
Maggie and Daniel do eventually marry. Sexually, they’re compatible; in other ways, not so much. Things don’t improve when the workers in Leadville’s mines protest working conditions, leading to violence between the miners and the mine owners, with Maggie in the middle.
Later, Daniel’s mother, Mayse, shows up and causes problems for both Daniel and Maggie. Those problems endanger Maggie’s life.
In the end, Maggie and Daniel reconcile, have a child, and their Happily Ever After.
Aside from finishing the book… Maggie is a fairly nice character.
Daniel, who is a hot-and-cold blowing bastard.
First, he wants Maggie. Then, he doesn’t want her. This goes on for the entire book. He talks at Maggie, not with her, which creates almost all of their issues. Daniel is self-centered, egotistical, condescending, demeaning, and insulting to her. He accuses her of things that are not true. By the way, he never apologizes. There is no actual romance or character development, and the storylines, such as they are, zip back and forth without actually reaching a destination.
A few love scenes between Maggie and Daniel that don’t generate a lot of heat.
Assault, battery and one shooting take place “off-screen.”
Bottom Line for Colorado Jewel
Maggie is a nice heroine. She definitely needed an actual hero. She’s the only thing saving Colorado Jewel from a lower than 1-star rating. 1.11 stars.
Miranda Lee’s “Hearts of Fire” series for the Harlequin Presents line was an epic six-book series that focused on the lives of two warring families in the glittering Sydney social set. While each book had its own romance, the over-arching storyline was that of the sexually-damaged Nathan and his much younger and innocent wife, Gemma. I seem to be one of the few readers who enjoyed the series.
As for Hearts of Fire, a full-length romantic suspense novel… Well, it was a disappointing conclusion to the Australian “Hearts of Fire” series, if only because the series was so good and this book is rather anticlimactic.
Readers may recall that Nathan, the hero of the original series, had a daughter from his first marriage, Kirsty. Kirsty has loved Ryan since he saved her from a kidnapping when she was a teenager. But Ryan was married, so nothing came out of it.
Years later, there are threats against Kirsty. Nathan hires Ryan to protect his daughter…and bang her. Yup, Daddy dearest hires a bodyguard to help Kirsty loosen up, and take her virginity once and for all! Creepy!
Secrets from the past come to light as Kirsty and Ryan work together to find out who’s behind the threats. They also draw closer together as Ryan can no longer hide his attraction to Kirsty.
Shallow quibble: why did Kirsty dye her beautiful red hair blonde? I know she wanted anonymity after being kidnapped as a teenager, but I always imagined Kirsty looking a certain way, and that wasn’t it.
Ryan is an ok hero, although a bit of a man-slut like Kirsty’s dad was. He’s also a bit oblivious as a bodyguard, unable to piece together who the stalker is almost before it’s too late.
Meanwhile, Nathan is taking his wife Gemma on a romantic cruise. His marriage with Gemma has been on the rocks lately since he had a vasectomy without her knowledge. Gemma had wanted a houseful of children, but Nathan was content with two sons. So, controlling man that he is, Nathan took matters into his own hands without consulting Gemma.
Things look rough for the original “Hearts of Fire” pair. Will Gemma ever forgive Nathan? Will Nathan find consolation in another woman’s arms?
Big spoiler here: I hate the fact that Nathan has a secret daughter from a previous, horrible relationship. A much, much older woman (a good friend of his mother’s) basically sexually abused/raped him when he was sixteen and orphaned. I didn’t see the need for Mimi’s character at all.
The villain was predictable, and I hated Nathan’s lies to Gemma.
Still, it’s a Miranda Lee book. It was filled with the requisite sensuality found in her previous works. Even her “bad” books aren’t that bad! This was a good read, but not great or excellent as her previous installments in the “Hearts of Fire” were.
Romance readers, are you tired of heroes who never speak their minds; those enigmatic, steely-gazed men who make heroines tremor with just one harshly uttered word?
Does it bother you when an author writes an inscrutable male protagonist whose emotions are a mystery until the very end?
Do you miss out on not experiencing every single brainfart that whiffs through the hero’s cavernous head?
Book – Surviving Raine by Shay Savage
In Shay Savage’s Surviving Raine, Bastian, a bad boy with lots of baggage, finds himself adrift in the ocean with Raine, a young woman with lots of heart. You won’t have to worry about him keeping his card close to his chest! This is first-person, introspective, bellybutton-lint-picking on a level never endured before! (By me, at least!)
See it all in full-color Hero-Vision!
Sigh in delight as we get these priceless nuggets of gold:
Toss her overboard or stick my tongue down her throat? I couldn’t decide, and it fucking ticked me off.
(I understand Frank Reynolds and Mac had the same problem on “It’s Always Sun in Philadelphia” when they got stuck on a life raft. Thank God they found the rum ham.)
Feel the chills when you read the cutesy reference to the title:
I was pretty confident I could survive in a life raft for quite some time, but survive Raine without my cock jumping straight out of my shorts like a divining rod? Not sure.
Witness the horrors as Bastian recounts the brutality of his tough life as he spends weeks adrift at sea in a life raft with a sexy girl who wants to heal his soul! Like, the toughest life anyone’s ever lived. On a scale of 1-10, this is how fucked up Bastian is:
That fucking bad.
Don’t believe it? Hear it directly from Bastian’s mouth how broken he is:
“Do you think I’m a fucking idiot? “No [Bastian], I think you’re sick.” “Sick.” I laughed and shook my head at her. “You think I’m sick? Baby, you have no idea all the sick twisted shit I’ve done. The number of people I’ve slaughtered, the number of women I’ve fucked. Shit–I don’t even remember how many!”
More Question To Ponder
Readers, do you prefer your romance heroines to be a totally blank slate? Do you think she should be little more than a knock-out bod’ that the hero wants to fuck?
Do you often ask yourself why the heroine in a romance novel should have any discernable qualities other than being a hot, sweet, orphaned quasi-virgin (yeah, she’s, had sex, but no ‘gasms) who saves unwanted doggies and one unwanted, unlovable man?
Do you hate it when romances have a heroine who’s smart, inventive, quick thinking, conflicted, tormented, or even the slightest bit interesting?
If so, THIS is your book!
Act Fast; Supplies Are Limited
While the author uses a literary device called a “plot,” the plot is just there to get these two disparate people together. Bastian and Raine are lost at sea and then stranded on an island with only their wits (not much on Raine’s part) for survival. Man vs. Nature is just the backdrop. Surviving Raine is about one unwanted, tortured, neglected, abused, unlovable, misguided, self-hating, angry, sad, bitter man in need of the one woman who will heal him with her gentle, bland, boring personality and–oh yes–true love.
But wait! THERE’S MORE!
Read now, and you’ll get these extras:
Hero was abused by his biological family, who then callously abandoned him in a bar when he was a toddler. Nightmares haunt him.
Hero was tossed around from foster family to foster family because he is unlovable… Just like this guy:
(Ladies out there, are any of you ovulating out of pity yet? No? Not even a little? What, are your hearts made of cold iron?)
Bastian ended up in juvie as a kid where he had a tragic relationship with a woman he used sexually and is now tormented by her brutal death. The nightmares haunt him still.
There’s some borrowing from other more successful books. There’s an unbelievable “Hunger Games” back story where the hero used to engage in fight-to-the-death challenges in arenas worldwide while criminal billionaires bet on which one of the many combatants would survive. Of course, our hero Bastian was the champion, “playing” for years, winning every match (duh) and raking in millions! But still, he is plagued by the battles and killings. The nightmares haunt him still.
Bastian changes his name and starts a new anonymous life at sea. He leaves the past behind and only screws who-ores. The nightmares haunt him still.
To forget it all, our hero is an alcoholic. a major, major alcoholic. So bad he goes through extreme withdrawal, coming close to death. This was another reason why a rum ham in the life raft was required! Bastian was as sick as these guys:
And only poor, hapless Raine can save him!
If you’re a fertile female and not yet releasing ova perhaps this final fact might do the trick.
Even though Bastian uses a huge variety of curse words in almost every paragraph, he’s no troglodyte. He knows his fucking poetry. He’s an educated brute!
Hey, if this guy can get his Legal Degree from the University of American Samoa’s correspondence school:
There’s no reason why Bastian can’t get his master’s degree in English Literature! He can quote the English bard whenever the Savage apparently feels it’s necessary to add some class to Bastian’s ass.
Bastian is really nothing more than a pathetic, unwanted puppy dog who needs gentleness and affection. Raine is constantly comparing him to Mr. Fluffy, a pit bull she saved from a dog-fighting ring. See? Mr. Fluffy was a misunderstood sweetie-pie forced into cruel underground fight-to-the-death matches, just like Bastian. With Raine’s love, Mr. Fluffy was healed and saved. (By the way, the heroine is very young and starting college. What happened to Mr. Fluffy?)
Oh, I get the allure of these books. The intense need to love a man who’s hurting and heal him with your love, because you and only you can! I get the whole “I want to absolve you bad boy of all your sins and vice-versa.” As a teen, I would sigh over the lyrics of just about every Depeche Mode song.
There’ll be times When my crimes Will seem almost unforgivable… …Will you take the pain I will give to you Again and again…
STRANGELOVE – DEPECHE MODE
Things on your chest You need to confess I will deliver You know I’m a forgiver
PERSONAL JESUS – DEPECHE MODE
Listening to Dave Gahan and Martin Gore sing about being wicked, evil men who wanted to find release in the love of a good woman (or drugs, or whatever) sent shivers up my spine as a teen (and still does to this day). So I understand the attraction for this kind of romance. Unfortunately for me, there were no shivers here.
It was just emotional crap piled on and on and on! There’s way too much of Bastian and not enough of Raine. Sadly, I don’t think changing that would have made this any better as both characters sucked. Everything’s so overwrought.
More of My Opinion
All the dramas and traumas were hilarious. I love a book that make me feel so intensely I cry, but this took the pain and suffering beyond ludicrous speed. It went plaid.
Hey, I’m the wrong audience for this book, I understand. Savage fooled me with Transcendence. I loved that one! Transcendence was a hero’s POV story about another caveman, but a real one who couldn’t speak.
Surviving Raine takes a caveman, puts him in the early 21st century with access to plenty of poon and booze then gives him the power of curse words. And Bastian loves using them! I noted while reading that the “F” word and its variants are used about 750 times here.
I’m mentioning this, not because I found it offensive—fuck no, but because: 1) It was cuter in Transcendence when all the hero could do was say “Uggh” and “Beh.” 2) It cemented my preference for non-contemporary heroes who are full-grown adults and can express themselves with a bit of eloquence or charm.
Bastian is 29 but acts 15. I’ve come to a point in my life where a man on the “good side” of 20 no longer appeals, no matter how rock-hard his abs are. (I never gave much of a care for abs anyway. A little beer belly is not a turn-off. I was always an arms/shoulders/chest kind of woman.)
My Final Opinion, I Swear
Now where was I?
Yeah, this book. I know I filled my review with a bunch of references to pop culture stuff that amuses me, and that’s not my typical review style. I threw so much crap in here that it might not make much sense, but hey, that was my experience reading Surviving Raine, and I simply wanted to share the feeling.
Maybe I’ll take a page out of Bastian and the Gang’s book and do what they do best to forget this disaster:
I gave the stupid book a generous 2 stars for the laughs. But the joke’s on me because I bought the sequel to this piece of crap long before reading the first book…
So ha, ha, ha! You got me, Shay Savage. You got me.
I found BR Meyer’s A Reader’s Manifesto an Attack on the Growing Pretentiousness in the American Literary Prose to be a useful gauge in analyzing Steig Larsson’s the The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. No, TGwtDT was not published in the US, but it was a blockbuster-literary-phenom here, so using that book is relevant. What differentiates novels like The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo from other lengthy blockbusters like, say Gone Girl is that the former takes itself much too earnestly to be appreciated. TGwtDT is a bestseller, yes, but it deals with a serious topic no other book has touched: violence against women!
I read a review of TGwtDT that derided readers who complained the book was too slow, and chided readers for not knowing how to skim over the unimportant parts! That’s how real readers read, don’t you know! Look, I’m no speed-reader, but I’m a believer in that words have meanings. They exist for a reason. If I skim a lot, it’s a sign that the author has lost my interest.
This belief seems to be confusing for some. Like the literary critics in Meyer’s manifesto write:
“If anyone has earned the right to bore us for our own good, it’s [NAME REDACTED],” writes Salon Martha Russo. “Since [HE] is smarter than we are,” intones John Leonard in the New York Review of Books, “trust [HIM].”
–A Reader’s Manifesto an Attack on the Growing Pretentiousness in the American Literary Prose – BR Meyer
Such is the early 21st century mindset about LITTER-A-CHORE.
Since I do not own the physical version of TGwtDT, and don’t intend to everagain listen to the audio, I cannot quote verbatim from his book. So I will borrow from Myer’s manifesto when he criticizes Cormac McCarthy’s tiresome writing from one of McCarthy’s later works:
“He ate the last of the eggs and wiped the plate with the tortilla and ate the tortilla and drank the last of the coffee and wiped his mouth and looked up and thanked her.”
CORMAC McCARTHY- THE CROSSING
Replace eggs and tortilla with sandwiches and bread and add in even more copious amounts of coffee, and there you have about 10%-15% of Larsson’s book. It’s tedious.
Feminist Tome or Something Less Noble?
As TGwtDT deals with rape and murder, it’s not unusual that there would be explicit scenes depicting this. The heroine Lisbeth Salander is raped by her social worker two various times. Once, orally in his office and the second time anally in his home after he has ties her to his bed.
These scenes are written in a slightly horrific, yet detached manner. It’s not these scenes that I question; it’s the revenge scene that follows. Lisbeth turns the tables on the social worker when she returns to his home, ‘promising’ another night of sex for pay, then tazes him, ties him to his bed and rapes him.
But the way the scene is written is done in an oddly titillating manner. Lisbeth stands at the foot of the bed, dressed all in black, wielding a whip, with her dyed-black hair, tattoos and piercings giving her a dark dominatrix look as the man struggles against his bonds and ball-gag. Lisbeth proceeds to rape him with an anal plug without the use of lubrication. She then tortures him by tattooing a message across his abdomen. Lisbeth finally ends his torture by showing the man a video that she recorded from the previous encounter when he had raped her. For an hour and a half she forces him to watch this!
Frightening stuff, one would think, but the way it’s written is done in such a kinky manner, that I—a long time reader of subtle kink—can spot it when I see it. This scene is supposed to be critical to the novel as it shows the true nature of Lisbeth and the depths she is capable of.
To me, though. it reads as a writer’s fantasy of being dominated by a tough woman. It’s more like, “Yes, I am a bad, bad, evil man. I am a filthy dirty man, and I must be punished. I understand you will stick painful things up my bum without lube. Oh, it hurts, oh it’s painful…but…now…I am in a quiet, almost hypnotized state of ecstasy at your masterful female dominance. Oh…yes I will do whatever you say. I will be your slave.”
Genre Fiction That Takes Itself Too Seriously
Many years ago I read Jane De Lynn’s Some Do where a similar scene is portrayed. After a friend is brutally raped and dies as a consequence, several women avenge that savagery by raping her attacker. However in Some Do, the scene was disturbing. The man is assaulted in his office, blindfolded and gagged, and there is not even a sniff of subtly or eroticism; it was pure female anger at masculine oppression, replete with horror and a lust only for vengeance.
Some Do was written by an American woman in the 1970s and The Girl With a Dragon Tattoo was written by a Swedish man in the 2000s. There was a vast difference in the way the parallel scenes were depicted. One was written with a raw anger beneath it, filled with a sentiment of “We’re not taking this anymore! We will fight back and hurt you worse if you hurt us!”
Larsson, it seems, wrote his book as an aggrieved male figure for all the violence committed against woman by men as a dark-revenge fantasy.
The initial rapes of Lisbeth were crude, but didn’t disturb me overmuch. That sort of sexual violence is de riguer in murder-mystery books, unfortunate to say. But it was Lisbeth’s revenge scene where I had my “epiphany.”
As a person, I can’t judge Larsson, However, as a reader judging an author, I certainly can. His character of Lisbeth is not a true woman: she is an amalgam of all that is “cool” and “ballsy” about women in media: a cartoon/manga/movie/porn version of what a “kick-ass woman” is. Weird that in a book originally titled Men Who Hate Women Larsson used a female protagonist who is a caricaturized version of post-modern ideal femininity to conquer all the bad evil men.
(Or perhaps Larsson WAS so smart he knew exactly what he was doing? Maybe. Even so, I didn’t care.)
Eh, if you’re going to market a mass-murder/rapist book as feminist theory, at least make it a teeny bit based in realism. And interesting.
And I apologize to Dan Brown for all the mean things I said about him. I won’t take them back, because they’re true! It’s that I should have kept it all in perspective in the “literary” sense. There’s being a successful hack who knows he’s a hack. And then there’s being a hack that’s pawned off as a literary genius and arbiter of feminism. Plus, there’s the fact that Larsson died relatively young, so like Kurt Cobain, no one can EVER complain about Larsson’s talent.
(Ok, that last part WAS cruel. But I won’t take that back, either.)
Book – It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia: The 7 Secrets of Awakening the Highly Effective Four-Hour Giant, Today by The Gang
If you have never watched an episode of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” then this book is not for a jabroni like you.
But if you are a glue-huffing degenerate who enjoys the antics of the most wretched gang of drunks (who are a fusion the best and worst of the”Trailer Park Boys” and “Seinfeld”) this is a self-help book for written just for us suckers geniuses.
The funniest sections were Charlie’s by far. It’s ironic that an illiterate’s writings and rants were the best. Love his advice for stalking the one you love. His avian brilliance also reminds us why he is the pre-eminent expert on US bird law.
And his recipes for making cheese are priceless. Remember that old Polly-o String Cheese Commercial?
(Blond kid walks into pizzeria)
KID: Gimme me pizza with extra cheese….And hold the sauce…And hold the crust.
CASHIER (bewildered): Hey Jimmy, give me a cheese with nuttin’!
JIMMY (dumbfounded): Nuttin’?!!
POLLY-O STRING CHEESE COMMERCIAL
Other cheese making recipes include stealing from rat traps or making your own cheese with orange juice and half and half, letting it sit around for a couple of weeks behind a toilet…and enjoy!
That Charlie, he’s a cheese-rat genius.
Dennis’ sections are lucid and intelligent. He actually gives good advice on how to not get stuck doing Charlie work and how a man should properly apply makeup (to his face, abs and penis). Dennis may be a potential serial killer, is questionably a rapist and absolutely is a voyeur, but other than that, he’s a golden god with a body sculpted to proportions of Michaelangelo’s David, so what he says matters.
I love Frank’s advice how to screw over everybody. That man knows his stuff. And his recipes! Mmm-mmm! Now I know how to make a delicious rum ham using only a canned ham, a few bottles of rum, a gun and several bullets. Plus Italian parsley for garnish to make it classy. There’s his blue-jean tea recipe which require crabs dredged out from the polluted Delaware river.
But his recipe for raccoon…yummy! For you “Hannibal” fans afraid to take the leap into full-out cannibalism, a raccoon is as close as you’ll get to tasting human flesh. Just watch out for those tapeworms. Unless you want tapeworms to lose weight, then it’s all good.
The Gangly Bird
Dee’s sections surprisingly didn’t suck, even though she’s the useless chick. As we all know in this group there is the Wildcard: Charlie, The Brain: Mac, The Looks: Dennis, The Muscle: Frank and the Useless Chick: Dee (also known as the giant bird). Her reverse D.E.N.N.I.S system S.I.N.N.E.D. is awesome, because while Dennis bangs chicks just to bang them and leave, Dee bangs guys to steal from them.
Even Frank says he’s proud of his girl because she is both a whore and a thief, and that’s the best way to get through life is whorin’ and thievin’. (She’s also likes to poison people, but that big, yellow bird can’t do anything right!)
As last, Mac… Well his sections weren’t awful, but they were the least funny. At first I did laugh at how he went on and on about the oily, buffed, masculine physiques of certain action stars (Carl Weathers, Sly Stallone, Jesse Ventura, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Dolph Lundgren). And we all know he is certainly 1000% not gay, so there’s nothing to be read in there. His comment about it being “Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve Hawking” did merit a chuckle, but he should stick to topics he knows best, like his martial art moves and occular pat-downs.
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia: The 7 Secrets of Awakening the Highly Effective Four-Hour Giant, Today by The Gang is a classic destined to be treasured forever with the writings of Shakespeare and Twain and Hemingway. No doubt will it be taught in classrooms for decades to come.
One thing I love about the Star Wars domain is how vast it is, so much so that any genre fits within it. The films, tv series, video games, comics, cartoons, books, audiobooks, and fan-fiction can tell varying stories for all ages: science fiction; science fantasy; space opera; military fiction; action/adventure; horror; traditional romance; and now, with Cavan Scott’s Dooku: Jedi Lost, a Gothic tale.
Dooku: Jedi Lost was originally released as an audiobook, then a screenplay. The screenplay is great, but I recommend listening to the audiobook, which is fantastic. The casting of each character is on point, especially the feline voice of the narrator, Asajj Ventress.
A Star Wars Gothic
Like any good Gothic, the tale is told in 1st-person-POV. Our heroine resides in dark, dreary castle with a wicked man who completely owns her destiny.
“I hate it here.
I hate the castle. I hate the cliff. I hate the spikes whirling above the forest far below. I hate the moons grinning down at me.
I hate the fact that night after night I stand on this ledge, feeling the breeze against my skin, wondering what it would be like to jump, to drop into the trees.
Would the Force guide me?”
Dooku: Jedi Lost
Thus begins the tale of the tormented Sith acolyte and assassin, who is under the yoke of her master, Darth Tyrannus, better known as Count Dooku of the planet Serenno. Taken by Dooku after he had found her in a gladiatorial arena, Ventress is his servant, forced to do his bloody bidding or face the might of his Sith lightning. In the meantime, there is also a ghost in this gothic tale, as Ventress is haunted by the spirit of her deceased Jedi Master, Ky Narek, who torments her with thoughts of the past and of-what-could-be.
The Count has ordered his disciple to listen to holographs & recordings that tell the story of his life, in hopes that they will help her in seeking out his long-lost sister, Jenza. This framework takes us through Dooku’s past, from his time as a youngling, to Padawan apprentice under Master Yoda’s tutelage, to full-fledged Jedi knight and beyond.
Dooku has an unusual past for a (former) Jedi: unlike other Jedi, he knew his blood-family and formed attachments to them. Not only that, but he also had a great and lasting friendship with his fellow Padawan, Sifo-Diyas, a relationship that would have a devastating effect upon the galaxy. I won’t delve further into the plot, because while the plot is labyrinthine and twisted, it’s the atmosphere and emotion that really won me over.
Asajj Ventress and Count Dooku
The first time I listened to this on Audible, I enjoyed it; the second time I was kicking myself for not initially grasping how awesome it was. This was so much better than the other new-canon book about Ventress, The Dark Disciple, which I’ve reviewed already.
Asajj’s feelings for Dooku are complicated. She hates him yet is caught under his powerful spell. I was never one for shipping fictional characters, however, Ventress is such a sultry, sensual creature that she has great chemistry with everybody she comes in contact with! On “The Clone Wars” animated show, she once skewered a Clone Trooper with her lightsaber as she kissed him sweetly to his death. On that same show, she and Obi-Wan Kenobi had a running flirtation, each one sassily countering the other’s insults with ripostes and occasional double entendres.
Count Dooku, played by Sir Christopher Lee in the films and voiced by Corey Burton in TCW, is such a fascinating character, with an unfortunate sounding name. George Lucas named the character Count Dooku after Count Dracula in honor of his portrayer, Christopher Lee. Seemingly cool, urbane, and stoic, the Count has an aura of great strength and power. (view spoiler) He is a semi-tragic figure in that his fate was sealed once he partnered up with Lord Sidious and the Dark Side.
Do not mistake my feelings about Asajj & Dooku for actual romance, because there is none in this story. There is an extremely strong bond between them, one that Asajj yearns to break, but cannot. She is his thrall.
One quibble about this story: I dislike that in the new canon it’s not his former Padawan Qui-Gon Jinn’s death that forces Dooku to leave the Jedi, but his brother’s death that makes Dooku claim his title as Duke of Serenno. It was more touching when Qui-Gon’s death affected Dooku so, and more meaningful to his downfall.
At any rate, if you are a fan of the darkside, I recommend this audio play. As I said, it’s well-performed and the production quality is as spotless as ever (the Star Wars books are all phenomenal on Audible; even a bad story sounds great on that medium).
Alas, for what could have been for both Asajj Ventress and Count Dooku, two conflicted souls destined for the Dark Side of the Force.
Of Cats and Men: Profiles of History’s Great Cat-Loving Artists, Writers, Thinkers, and Statesmen by artist Sam Kalda is a book that sings to my soul.
This lovely illustrated work features 30 feline fanciers in history who were “forward-thinking” men (31 if you include the author).
The first quote in this book is Mark Twain’s statement: “When a man loves cats, I am his friend and comrade without further introduction.”
I could not agree more. What woman can’t resist a man who loves pussy?
CATS! Pussy cats. I’m just kitten around here!
Since the age of 17, I’ve always had a feline friend in my life. Also since that age, I’ve had a cat-loving man in my life as well. First, a high school boyfriend, then a year later, my college sweetheart who’d I go on to marry. Both males shared a commonality of being physical men with artistic bents. My first boyfriend was a linebacker and a wrestler who played piano and wrote short stories. My dear husband was never one for team sports, preferring one-on-one martial combats such as karate, boxing, or streetfights, although he has a philosopher’s soul and has dabbled in oil painting and poetry.
Book – Of Cats and Men: Profiles of History’s Great Cat-loving Artists, Writers, Thinkers, and Statesmen by Sam Kalda
Kalda’s book portrays men who unashamedly loved cats. While domestic canines typically have been depicted as man’s best friend, cats have held an equal place in the lives of many. The dog might have helped Paleolithic cavemen survive by hunting, but the cat aided Neolithic man into the age of civilization.
Cats have been historically associated with women, particularly women on the fringes of society. Men with cats were the cerebral types, thinkers, not doers.
On the other hand, men with doggy companions are seen as heroes, athletes, and warriors. The macho US General Patton loved his English Bull Terrier, William the Conqueror, or Willie. Conventionally masculine men are depicted as being more in tune with their emotions, only with their beloved canines rather than with women. Harlan Ellison wrote of such devotion in “A Boy and His Dog.”
Upon my first quick read of Kalda’s book, I was a bit disappointed that all the men depicted were (as he clearly states) “Artists, Writers, Thinkers, and Statemen.” As I’ve noted in my experience, loving cats doesn’t make a man less physical.
Then on a second reading, I realized how silly & biased my preconceived notions were! A man who appreciates the company of cats isn’t less of anything. He is, perhaps, simply more in touch with his introverted side, as cats are not outgoing creatures. Introverted natures tend towards the arts or history, so it’s only natural that artists, historians, and philosopher-kings would be drawn to these quiet, pensive animals that delight their humans with their strange, adorable habits.
Cat Crazy Men
“Like Prometheus to the fire, generation of enlightened fellows have gravitated to the feline species. We stand with our cat-loving sisters as crazy cat men, proudly wearing our scarlet letters in solidarity.”
Of Cats and Men: Profiles of History’s Great Cat-loving Artists, Writers, Thinkers, and Statesmen
And who are these cat-crazy men? There was King Hywel the Good of Wales who introduced laws that protected domestic cats. A Mamluk Sultan named Baibars bequeathed a garden near a mosque to be dedicated as a cat sanctuary in Cairo. Sir Isaac Newton, Samuel Johnson, the aforementioned Twain, Haruki Murakami, Ernest Hemingway, and Andy Warhol are a few of the intelligent, creative, and avant-garde cat fanciers you’ll meet.
Finally, let me address the artwork. Kalda’s work is deceptively simple and modern. When briefly looked at, one sees colorful images of men and cats. Look closer, and there are layers upon layers in his work. It is in the details where Kalda shines. Whether it’s the fur pattern of a tabby cat, individual blades of grass, every leaf on palm trees, or a Mandala-like halo surrounding a deceased Zoraostrian pop star’s visage, Kalda painstakingly adds strokes and lines to create texture and nuance.
Some of My Favorite Images:
However, the omission of this fella does irk me:
But there are lots of cat lovers out there, so it’s a forgivable act.
Of Cats and Men: Profiles of History’s Great Cat-Loving Artists, Writers, Thinkers, and Statesmen is a must-have for any man who loves cats. Or a woman who loves cats. Or a man or woman who loves men who love cats. Or just cats. I couldn’t find this book for the longest time, and it was due to one of my kitties sleeping on it.
On my Goodreads account I filed The Stranger Beside Me: Ted Bundy (The Shocking Inside Story) under my “so bad it’s good” and “unintentionally hilarious” shelves. Without a proper review to qualify the categorization, it occurred to me perhaps people might misconstrue my reasoning.
The all-too-real crime of a depraved serial killer who raped and murdered countless defenseless females was not what “amused” me, for lack of a better word. Author Ann Rule’s defensive narration of her relationship with the murderous Bundy was akin to watching the Hindenburg burn up or Titanic go down. It made for quite a spectacle.
As a GenXer, I’ve heard of Ted Bundy for most of my life. I remember his execution in 1989 when they showed his dead body in the media. Tabloid news TV and the daytime talk shows were obsessed with Bundy and his depraved murders. Perhaps it was his well-mannered appearance in contrast to his heinous actions, but the Bundy killings made for a strangely fascinating tale.
True crime author Ann Rule built her reputation on Ted Bundy. Rule was his friend and co-worker. They worked together at a crisis hotline center. To her, he was a handsome, hard-working, sensitive, up-and-comer. As a writer who penned detective stories and worked with the police department, she could not see what was before her. Bundy a narcissistic sociopath who preyed upon innocent women.
Everybody knows the tale of Ted Bundy. He’s as notable a character to 20th-century American culture as Jack the Ripper is to the British Victorian Era.
The parents who raised him for the formative years of his life were, in actuality, his grandmother and grandfather. Bundy’s true mother his elder sister. Born outside of marriage, he spent the first months of infancy in an orphanage. Ted’s grandfather was abusive to him, yet Ted looked up to as him as his lone source of male authority. When Ted was older, he moved to live with his mother and her new husband, who adopted Ted as his son.
Ann and Ted, Friends
Ted was a respectable-seeming guy, a college student at the University of Washington who was majoring in psychology when Rule met Bundy. Rule was a decade older than Ted and found him charming. She trusted him so much she let her children play with him.
Rule goes on at length in her book about how she wasn’t sexually attracted to Ted. Sure, sure. Ok, so maybe her feelings were wholly platonic and she just saw Ted as a kid brother. Whatever it was, she was drawn to him and liked him.
Rule makes a big deal about her friendship with Ted. However, she only knew him for a couple of years. Of course, during part of those years, he was abducting women, butchering them, and violating their corpses.
Later, Rule writes how she never knew the real Ted Bundy. They were just casual friends. He seemed nice, so she had taken him under her maternal wing. Eventually, like many in friendships, they lost contact.
But Ann never forgot about him.
The True Crime Writer and the Killer
After Bundy was arrested for murder, the two wrote and called each other. Ted insisted on his innocence, and Ann listened to his denials. Rule believed him so much she sent him money for his defense. When Bundy escaped from prison and there was a nationwide manhunt for him, Bundy sent her letters, still proclaiming his innocence.
Even his final murderous spree in Florida where he killed a young girl, did not fully dissuade Rule about his guilt. Only after being confronted with genuine forensic evidence in a court of law, could the “savvy” writer of detective stories concede the man she considered a friend was a monster.
The Stranger Beside Me was an enlightening source of insight into the life and crimes of Ted Bundy. But it was even more so for the Ann Rule, who used this to catapult her career.
Suzanne Forster was an author I’d read before Unfinished Business. This book arrived in one of my monthly subscriptions to category romances. Receiving it was a pleasant surprise, as I’d enjoyed Foster’s previous works. Sucks for me that this one was not as fun as what I’d read before.
Back in the early 2000s I briefly subscribed to Harlequin’s Blaze imprint (they don’t publish those anymore, do they?). To my disappointment, I was not too impressed with most of them. I think I DNFed half that I started. The romances either were all about sex with little plot or mildly sexy stories with lots of suspense, better suited to Harlequin’s Intrigue or Romantic Suspense lines.
Blazes were the replacement for the Temptation imprint, which I preferred as they ranged from run-of-the-mill romances to paranormals with just about anything else in between, and enough steam to satisfy. In the new millennium, romance novels were less euphemistic than in the past with more erotic scenes. Harlequin’s Blaze line was supposed to cash in on that.
In my eyes, I thought the authors were trying too hard to be kinky. Most love scenes read the same: vanilla BDSM, being tied up, light spanking, use of toys… Sure the sex was there, but the love stories lacked heart.
A while back, Melissa had a one-night stand in Cancun. She awoke in a hung-over daze with a ring on her finger. Had she just marry some random stranger? Before her hunk’s sleep can be disturbed, Melissa flees and leaves Mexico behind her.
In the ensuing years she becomes a wildly successful author. Her books? Well, they’re about sex, of course! She details all all the naughty ways to make love. Melissa uses her “marriage” for her credentials. In truth, Melissa has no love life at all, just what’s in her memories and imagination. But she’s a great faker and the media makes her a sensation.
To Melissa’s shock, after she’s interviewed on a talk show, who should return to her life, but Tony the very man she “married.” Tony wants answers as to why she left him behind. Moreover, why is she pretending they’re still together?
Melissa makes lame excuses and is perturbed by her intense attraction to him. Tony pursues her, accompanying her while she advertises her book. He becomes part of the promotional campaign. The pair pretend to be deeply in love. Pretense turns into reality as Melissa and Tony spend more and more time together.
Later on, Melissa and Tony appear on a 24-hour reality show and have rather boring sex under the covers while the cameras are on.
He also shaves her legs with a straightedge razor. Was that’s supposed to be erotic? When my legs are hairy, I do not want my man touching them, even if it’s to help groom.
I remember being really disappointed by the lackluster love scenes in this one. The plot was rom-com cute, but poorly executed. (I could swear a Lifetime flick starring Laura Prepon from “That ’70s Show” ripped off this plot, or at least part of it [Note: It did! The movie was called “Romancing The Bride” and was only loosely based on Unfinished Business]).
So what were the highlights?
The story was mildly funny, as Suzanne Forster has a good sense of humor, so that was a positive.
Lamentably, the erotic scenes failed to titillate. For example, Melissa and Tony engaged in lots of finger-licking, which is fine for Cheeto-dusted fingers. When it comes to bedroom foreplay, that’s gross. Hey, I believe in different strokes and all that, but do people really get turned on by having their fingers sucked? Like, what if the woman has pointed, acrylic nails or the guy hasn’t watched his hands after going to the bathroom? That’s as sexy as licking the inside of somebody’s stinky, lint-filled belly button.
All in all, however, this was a mediocre read, as it lacked that sexy over-the-top oomph I was expecting.
After reading A Game of Thrones, I concluded that George R. R. Martin is like a little boy who likes to create a big tower out of blocks, carefully laying one on top of the other, so the column reaches a great pinnacle that amazes. As mom’s running to take a picture, he gleefully smashes it down and watches the pieces scatter all over the room.
I was a haughty scoffer about “A Game of Thrones.” It was a popular TV show I didn’t watch. I watched programs like “Turn,” “Bates Motel,” “Damages,” and “Hannibal”…shows that are smart, but few knew were on the air. I had an annoying, superior attitude of “I am smart, do you hear me, you unwashed masses!” 😉 So when everyone and their brother, sister, uncle, plumber, and former college roommate watched the HBO series, I snootily turned my nose up at it.
“The books are so much better,” my little brother told me.
“Yeah. But it’s fantasy…” I demurred.
Long-running series about magic & mystical creatures, and I don’t get on well.
It was ok when my daughter was a child and read to us her beloved Harry Potter series. Book 1 was good, 2 was similar. 3 was more of the same. Finally, at book 4, I couldn’t take any more about Quidditch or Dumbledore’s twinkling eyes and tapped out.
The less I say about Tolkein’s much-loved Lord of the Rings series, the better. I don’t want virtual tomatoes tossed at me over the internet. I’m more of a Robert E. Howard kind of gal. I like my fantasy to be more based on sword and sorcery, short, and with an ending in sight.
I don’t recall why, perhaps it was Audible credits, but I decided to give A Game of Thrones a try. I was expecting dreck, but Martin’s penchant for floral descriptions and extreme violence pleasantly surprised me. I created a Goodreads shelf just for that topic.
I began listening to the amazing Roy Dotrice narration on Audible, but I got so interested in the tale, I bought the book, too.
At first, names like Aerys, Arryn, Eyrie blended together. So many places, characters, and settings, and they all sounded alike or were weird to my ears. That’s one of the reasons I never really tried reading the fantasy genre. If I’m going to have to know the names of Kings & Queens and faraway lands, I’d rather use my ever-diminishing brain capacity to store actual historical information.
As I read on, the novel fascinated me more. With so many characters, I found some I loved, others I detested. Sansa and Catelyn were the absolute worst. I could give or take Arya. But Daenerys, Eddard & Tyrion were amazing.
The build-up took a long time, and for a while, I felt the book’s theme was “Hurry up and wait.” But the last third was a thrilling conclusion and made me truly enjoy this epic story.
Maybe, I’ll read up to book three, although I kind of doubt I will. Martin’s never going to finish the series, and reading thousands upon thousands of pages with no grand payoff is akin to masturbating for hours and not coming to completion. Sorry, that’s vulgar, but it’s how I feel about book series with no end in sight.
The opening chapter of Kerrigan Byrne’s The Highwayman had me hooked. It has a lovely, heartbreaking beginning. Two lonely orphans in a child-care facility fall in love & “marry.” There’s a nice quote from the beginning where 8-year-old Farah teaches 11-year-old Dougan to read…and love.
“Love is quite like reading, I expect. Once you know how, you can’t ever imagine not doing it.”
Young Farah tells Dougan before the pair are cruelly separated.
Fast forward 17 years, the heroine’s an independent, progressive yet virginal widow working for Scotland Yard & the hero’s an underworld king. Farah doesn’t recognize Dougan, but he does her, is furious she broke their vow to marry another man, so he kidnaps her and brings her to Scotland.
Then what started so beautifully took a turn into anachronistic historical. Eh, par for the course. Still, it was good. Or at least it was better than most modern historical romances I’ve read. So far.
But Farah was DUMB. She couldn’t guess who Dorian truly was? Same age, same coloring, & how did he get a scar on his eye just like Dougan did? Sharp as butter knife she is.
Dougan’s intriguing, yet while his attitude of “I don’t like touching because I was raped in prison” makes sense (and gave me shades of the film Buffalo ’66: “No touching! I don’t like to be touched!”) but his “So just stand there and I’ll just ogle you while I bathe & masturbate” came off as pervy, not sexy. Damaged heroes=meh.
At 35% through listening to this book on Audible, however, I decided to return it. The narration was very good, but the story was getting way too repetitive. After a promising start, I found the heroine was both incomprehensibly modern & stupid at the same time. The hero…a douche, but nothing unforgiveable. Although his “Woe is me, you don’t know how much I’ve suffered” attitude was getting on my nerves.
So I returned the audiobook, and read the DTB version.
Alas, it was not to be. The angst was too overwrought, even for me, who adores an angst-ridden romance. And the mindsets were all wrong, far too modern. If I want contemporary attitudes in a romance, I’ll read a contemporary romance. This romance couldn’t decide what it wanted to be, which is fitting, as I couldn’t decide whether it was worth my time or not.
I had ordered Gone Girl for beach reading on a very rare family vacation. I hadn’t been out of the country for 12 years and was looking forward to it. The book didn’t arrive in time, so I lay in the sun for hours without a summer blockbuster to enjoy. While the food, beaches, and people of Nassau were wonderful, due to various reasons I came back from the trip in bad spirits. And there, waiting in my mailbox was Gone Girl, a work of fiction to befriend me in my time of illness and self-pity. It became a twisted friend, one that fed upon my sickness and bad feelings.
Spending so much time in the heat was not the smartest thing to do for someone with lupus. A massive flare-up occurred, with a fever registering at 105.5˚F. Much worse, despite the many visits to the vet, my sweet little English bull terrier was suffering from a terminal illness. I couldn’t move out of bed to care for her properly. Plus, there were family matters to deal with that were unsettling. (In retrospect, those issues were trivial, but being sick with my beloved doggie dying didn’t make for rational thoughts). I was angry at everything: my body, my family, and the vets. I couldn’t do anything but lie there a dizzying fog, where occasional moments of lucidity and strength allowed me to flip the pages and read.
Gone Girl fed that dark place inside me with even more darkness. At the time, I was not in a state to process it in the right perspective.
The plot appears simple. A wife goes missing. The clues left behind can mean only one thing: someone killed her. The person most likely to have done it was the husband, Nick. A media firestorm ensues as the search for wife Amy leads to startling revelations about a seemingly perfect marriage.
Alternating with Nick’s narration are entries from the Amy’s diary, giving us an insight into the marriage before the disappearance. We are fed little bits of information, piece by piece at a time, molding the reader’s opinion like potter’s clay. Then events then take an odd turn and we see our perspective has been skewed all along. What we are told is not always true. Gillian Flynn created a warped, revolting world about two people so horrible that they destroyed everything in their path because they were selfish fucks.
Which horrible person do we root for? The side you pick may say something about you, something disturbing.
I’m ok with that. No doubt about it, I’m on Team Disturbed.
Here Be Spoilers & Rants
First of all I loved Amy. I know she is a horrible person and in real life I would run away from anyone who was 1/10th as crazy as she was. But as a character, she had me rooting for her 100%. Yeah, she was evil, but so is Hannibal Lecter and readers, moviegoers, and TV-watchers root for him. Why doesn’t Amy get any love? Those wheels in her mechanical brain were always turning. Even when things didn’t work out as planned, she always kept rolling and going on to something new. What she did to Nick was a wicked thing, to set him up for her murder, hoping he’d get the death penalty. Regardless, it was she who drew me into the story, not Nick.
I am satisfied that at she got her “happy” ending, as messed up as it was. If you watched “Breaking Bad” and loved Walter White even at his most evil, then you might find Amy sympathetic. Then again, maybe not. One could argue Walter had legitimate reasons to down a dark path, although it was his ego that kept him on it. Amy was always ego, a broken human being who wasn’t truly a person, just whatever persona she decided to put on. God, I loved her.
On the other hand, I loathed Nick. I hated his fake good guy identity. He was a liar, a thief, and a cheat. If Amy was a sociopath, Nick was a narcissist. He walked through life with his good looks and expected women to take care of him. Unlike Amy he did become self-aware and own up to his flaws, but it wasn’t enough to turn him into a good guy hero. Nick was perfectly content to have his sister pick up the slack at work, his wife pay for his bills, and his mistress take care of his sexual and emotional needs. Plus he was dumb, a fatal flaw in a character.
Nick takes his wife’s money to start his dream bar in his sleepy home town, far from their life in New York. He gets do what he wants and live his life while Amy sits home and waits for life to happen. Screw that. He’s no hero.
Then again, Amy’s certainly no heroine.
On the scale of evil, she’s far worse than Nick. Amy is a liar, a psychopath, a stalker, a killer. She frames innocent people for crimes and delights in ruining peoples’ lives. She is beyond redemption. Nick is merely a scummy, mooching adulterer. He pales in comparison.
Despite that, Amy’s entertaining as hell and fun. She’s so crazy that even in my sick haze, I kept reading to see what she would do next. Her “Cool Girl” rant is one off the most enjoyable passages I’ve ever read in modern books. It had me nodding, “Hell yes!”
Opinion of Gone Girl
Gillian Flynn excels at characterization. She never writes about good people. In her books all the people are different levels of suck. You wouldn’t want anything to do with these slimy, twisted characters (Save for Go, Nick’s sister, the only “sinless” character in this book. And the baby, of course!)
Nick and Amy are both the protagonists and antagonists; both are villains in a story with no heroes. Many readers hated the ending, thinking the bad guy got away with it all, but I liked it. It’s a perfectly perverse conclusion for a perverse romance. Although it was a bit rushed (a commonality among Flynn’s endings).
The concept of how people forge intimate bonds with media images of beautiful crime victims while demonizing the suspects is depicted in Gone Girl with perfect, biting satire. Flynn’s books deal with sharp themes on what it means to be a “man” or “woman.” She is by far the most entertaining, insightful, and well-written author of the recent popular-phenom books I’ve read, blowing away those over-praised duds by silly Dan Brown and humorless Stieg Larsson.
Of her three novels so far, Gone Girl is my favorite, which is saying something, as her other two other books, Sharp Objects and Dark Places, were incredible dark reads. I anxiously await Flynn’s next book. It can’t come soon enough!
When last we saw Maul in the cartoon, his brother Savage was killed in an awesome double dual against Darth Sidious, aka Chancellor Palpatine, and Maul was taken prisoner for Sidious’ nefarious plans.
There’s no spoilers in telling that Maul makes his escape and vows his revenge. Using his crime syndicate & allies of The Pikes, Black Sun & the Mandalorians, Maul enacts his plan to usurp Sidious as The Dark Lord of the Sith through brute force and turn Sidious’s allies against him.
Fans of Dark Force users will take delight that there are no puny Jedis in this story, just Siths, their acolytes, Night Brothers of Dathomir, and a not-so-surprising return of Maul’s mother, the Night Sister witch, Mother Talzin. There’s plenty of action in this series, with Sith fighting Sith & the Confederation of Independent Systems (CIS) vs Maul’s criminal allies.
I do wish we could have seen this in true animated form, with Sam Witwer’s silky performance as Maul, but this comic was a next-best substitute.
The artwork is solid and the plot is satisfactorily violent. By the end, all the pieces are put in place for “The Clone Wars'” finale, a 4 episode arc of the Siege of Mandalore, which runs parallel to my favorite Star Wars film, Revenge of the Sith.