Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Weekly Wanting (13)

Only one book this week - I've been trying to be busy, but right now writing my novel is like Jacob wrestling with the Angel, only not in the fun, homoerotic way. I also met with The World's Worst Book Club, wherein all the members try to read the month's book but instead talk about Every Other Book. It's glorious fun! Anyhoo:

 Genre: YA, Contemporary.
Cover Snark: Good for the Vitamin C!
The Story: A teen named Kenzie is shipped off to glorious Spain, the summer after senior year, to help deal with her grief over her father's death.
Why I Want It: Thanks to this fab review from Forever Young Adult, which specifically highlighted Beth Kephart's gorgeous lyrical writing style. I like original stories as much as the next girl, but I am a whore for lyrical prose! 

And that's it for this week, my lovelies. What are you excited for?

Saturday, July 28, 2012

"Every Day," by David Levithan

Our Protagonist: "A." A genderless entity who wakes up every day in the body of a different person, living their lives and accessing their memories to get by.
His/Her Angst: A's stringless, rootless existence acquires a hitch when A falls in love with a girl named Rhiannon. When he's a boy one day, and a girl the next, how can A have a life with Rhiannon?

Secondary Cast:

Rhiannon: The girl A meets and falls in love with. Rhiannon is a kind, intelligent girl but one who desires certainty -  can she learn to love A back, regardless of the body A's wearing that day?

Justin: Rhiannon's jackass boyfriend, with whom Rhiannon stays because she wants to believe it can work.

Nathan: A boy A possessed for a day who finds out about A's identity. Fears A might be a demon, and is willing to turn to anyone willing to give him answers.

Reverend Poole: A shifty figure who "counsels" Nathan and takes Nathan's story public, calling for experiences from anyone else who's come under A's influence.

Angst Checklist
  • Drugs
  • Suicide
  • Prejudice
  • Sex versus Gender
  • Outward Appearances versus Internal Identity
  • Dumbass Boyfriends
  • Trust Issues and Commitment
  • True Love
  • The Human Soul
The Word: Every Day is a truly remarkable, original book. I was fascinated not only by the utter uniqueness of the concept, but the also how brilliantly that idea was executed.

Every day, A wakes up in a new body. Boy, girl, it doesn't matter - the only constant is that the bodies are all the same age as A (16), and they're all people who live within the same general vicinity (Maryland). A spends the days accessing the hosts' memories and borrowing their lives without making too many waves. A is very strict with what can be done with the bodies - after all, A will wake up the next day as someone else but yesterday's body will have to deal with the consequences.

Everything changes when A wakes up in the body of Justin and falls for Rhiannon, Justin's downtrodden girlfriend. They have a wonderful, life-changing day together, but suddenly A is no longer satisfied with taking life one day at a time. No matter how many days pass and how many different people A wakes up as, A's love for Rhiannon remains. Determined to find a way back to Rhiannon, A starts breaking the rules - and comes to learn more about the importance of existence, appearance, and memory.

A is a fascinating character. A's love for Rhiannon is so new because A has spent his/her entire life without any consistency or constancy whatsoever. A has a very fluid identity that is defined by a strong moral responsibility. A doesn't want to make trouble for the bodies s/he's in after s/he leaves, so s/he's tried to live by their desires and interests - striving for their goals, loving their significant others. However, once s/he meets Rhiannon, A develops his/her own desires and interests and suddenly has to weigh those priorities against maintaining the status quo for the person whose life s/he's borrowing.

While the central story revolves around A and Rhiannon and whether they can or even should strive for permanency together, David Levithan deftly uses A's body-hopping to explore the different paths teenage life can go down, little flashes and glimpses of the highs and lows of life. A wakes up in so many different people - an illegal immigrant maid, a drug addict, a track runner, a musician. Some of these lives A borrows are truly terrible, and this leads to some interesting moral debates: is A obligated to leave their lives exactly as s/he found them, or should s/he try to improve them? Is A only a guest of happenstance, or does A wind up in certain people's lives for a reason?

If I could compare Every Day to any other piece of literature, I might be tempted to go with The Time Traveler's Wife. A's abilities and their mysterious origins give A a unique perspective on the world, but the love of A's life, Rhiannon, is just as important of a character even though the story is told entirely from A's POV. A has trouble comprehending why physical differences like biology, body size, gender, and sexual preference matter - s/he's been all of them while remaining A on the inside.

Everyone wants to believe that what's on the outside doesn't matter. Rhiannon, however, demonstrates just how naive and unrealistic that belief is as she interacts with A over several days and different bodies. For instance, Rhiannon is straight - even though she knows it's A in the body of a girl, that body does affect how they interact. The novel explores this concept with depth and dignity, never taking the easy way out or dismissing Rhiannon's concerns as shallow or superficial. Some things don't matter, regardless of outward appearances - but certain things always will.

Every Day is a heartbreaking, challenging, romantic, thought-provoking, endlessly-debatable and incredibly entertaining novel about the nature of love. I continue to think about it - I will probably always think about it, and I want to be thinking about it years from now. While I do think the ending is a little unclear in regards to A's future motivations, it's not really the ending that matters so much as the exploration of such a powerful idea. A future classic.

Please forgive me - I started reading this ARC after misreading the pub date as August 8th. Instead, Every Day is only available for pre-order and will be out August 28.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

"The Heir," by Grace Burrowes - the 100 Page Drop

Another day, another DNF review. I was given this one at RWA last year and thought it sounded interesting - plus I'd been reading some pretty decent reviews on it.

And indeed, when I started to read it - I found the hero respectful and polite, the heroine respectful and polite (if a little snarky), and the book itself completely and utterly boring.

So I gave it the 100 Page Drop treatment - I decided to struggle on for 100 pages, and if the novel didn''t picked up by then, it would get the boot. Unfortunately, it didn't.

The novel got on my nerves almost immediately - firstly, the hero's name is Gayle, which only makes me think of historical romance author Gayle Callen. Gayle has recently become the heir to the Duke of Moreland after two of his brothers passed away (one from the war [I think] and the other from consumption). The ensuing maniacal pressure the Duke has placed on his two remaining legitimate sons to Impregnate Them Ladies has caused Gayle to hide in London during a summer heatwave while his brother Valentine pretends to be gayer than a picnic basket.

While staying at his new townhouse, Gayle tries to help a chambermaid whose blouse buttons have gotten caught on a grate (for reals) only to wind up with a serious concussion after his misunderstanding new housekeeper Mrs. Seaton bashes him over the head. Upon learning the truth, Anna Seaton is terribly contrite and spends the next hundred pages plying Gayle with lemonade, muffins, and cookies.

While drinking glass after glass of lemonade, Gayle and Anna share polite, respectful banter - generally involving Anna mildly reproaching him for being rude and Gayle mildly apologizing. With excruciating slowness - and all the while munching on an exquisitely-buttered muffin - Gayle then makes respectful, wordy overtures to Anna, mainly involving how much he'd like to munch on her exquisitely-buttered muffin. Anna mildly flutters about how that would be inappropriate, Gayle backs off, and they drink some more lemonade.

Things pick up slightly after Gayle's pre-impregnated mistress tries to trick Gayle into claiming paternity for her baby during a hilariously awkward sex scene, and she reveals Gayle's father arranged the scheme because he is that desperate for Gayle to marry and breed. This results in a very brief shouted argument between father and son and Gayle's slightly more insistent - yet still respectful and wordy! - seduction attempts on Anna.

In one hundred pages, Anna drinks about 4,382 glasses of lemonade and hints at possible sssssecrets exactly once. Gayle's Fake-Gay bro Valentine shows up, necessitating more muffins and lemonade and verbose, circular discussions between the brothers on whether or not it's kosher to bang the housekeeper.

By the 100-page mark, I did not want to read on. I wanted to pee.

Nothing about this book was especially terrible or offensive - Gayle and Anna are pretty reasonable people who like to talk through their issues. However, the plot was slower than molasses and so much of the narrative was sucked up by minutiae to the point where nothing substantial had happened 100 pages in.

Skimming ahead, I was inundated by reams and reams of verbose dialogue that revealed absolutely nothing. The Hot Bastard Brother of Gayle and Valentine shows up. Their awful dad yells some more. At the very end, Anna's secret past is revealed to involve a Secret Sister and an unwanted engagement to a Fortune-Hunting Turd. Anna then takes a bullet wound which no amount of lemonade will heal, but somehow a HEA happens.

Don't worry about me, though, as I am already off onto greener reading pastures.


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

"Wake," by Amanda Hocking

The Protagonists: Gemma and Harper. Harper is the overprotective older sister who's spent nine years raising Gemma after their mother was incapacitated by a car accident. Gemma just wants to swim and be a regular girl dating regular guys without her sister breathing down her neck.
Their Angsts: Three creepy, possibly-supernatural girls want to add Gemma to their special circle of BFFs - whether she wants to or not.

The Secondary Cast:

Brian: Gemma and Harper's dockworker dad. Does a good enough job, but hasn't gone out and socialized since his wife's head injury.

Alex: Harper's friend, and Gemma's crush. May also have a thing for Gemma.

Daniel: A hot twenty-year-old who does odd jobs around town and lives in a tiny houseboat. Harper hatelikes him because he's hot and jobless.

Thea: One of the Three Girls -  the Reluctant Redheaded One.

Lexi: One of the Three Girls - the Bubbly Blond One.

Penn: Leader of the Three Girls - the Bitchy Brunette One.

Marcy: Harper's unpleasant and venomous coworker at the local library.

Angst Checklist:
  • Absent Parents
  • Friends to Lovers
  • Attractive, Confident Women in Groups Are Scary
  • You're a Scruffy Loser and I Openly Judge You But Damn If You're Still Not Sexy
  • Do Boys Really Care, Or Is It Okay To Eat Them?
  • Sister-Sister Relationships
  • Responsibility vs. Living Life to the Fullest
The Word: Gemma and Harper are sisters who live in the picturesque seaside town of Capri. Gemma is a talented swimmer with Olympic aspirations and a serious crush on Harper's geeky friend Alex - however, she seriously chafes under Harper's repressive replacement-parenting. Ever since their mother was mentally handicapped by a car accident and their grief-stricken father decided parenthood was a part-time gig, Harper's taken over and turned Shrill Overreacting Mothering into a science.

And then there are the girls: Thea, Lexi, and Penn, three mysterious, preternaturally gorgeous and confident girls who have suddenly moved to Capri. Everyone assumes they're tourists, but because they're extremely forward and unbearably pretty, everyone in town either hates or is afraid of them. When they start following Gemma around and inviting her to swim with them in the bay, both Gemma and Harper are extremely Weirded Out but the three girls won't be denied - they'll make Gemma one of them by hook or by crook.

I'll be blunt and say this novel supremely disappointed me, and I didn't have the highest hopes in it to begin with. This was a book I picked up at BEA thanks to the gorgeous cover, but the story inside is shoddily constructed out of cliches, flat characters, hamfisted writing, and troubling messages. I don't even know why I'm spoilering this, but the Three Girls are sirens. Really, really, obviously sirens. The book makes no attempt at suspense or surprise or development. Instead of giving us any spooky build-up as to why the Three Girls are eery and off-putting, the story simply gives us a bloody prologue that tells us right at the start that the Three Girls find boys Magically Delicious. No surprise. No discovery.

However, everything about this book is hammered over the head with the author's Tell Over Show writing style. There's no description, there's no opportunity for the reader to explore and interpret what's going on in the story - it's just plunked down in front of us like a day-old fish, whether it fits with the character's POV or not.

As well, all the characters and their relationships are so predictable and moth-eaten. Harper is the Girl Who Can't Have Fun, who spars with Daniel, The Slacker Boy With Hidden Depths - so naturally they fall for each other. Gemma's crush Alex is the Geeky Nerd - but of course, despite being on no teams and not exercising, he's still got fantastic muscles! Most disappointingly, the Three Girls are superficially-depicted almost to the point of parody.

I will grant this book points - Daniel and Alex are both very nice, respectful boys, with no jerkiness or stalkery behaviour written off as "boys will be boys." I also appreciated the gender-reversed dynamic of Gemma and Alex's relationship - in this paranormal YA, the boy is the sweet-natured, innocent human who's snooped at through his bedroom window and the girl is the man-eating creature who craves love more than human flesh (at least for now).

However, so much of this story is left open-ended - it has all the structure of a leaking bag of flour. There is no build-up, there is no resolution, there is no climax excepting a half-hearted, last-minute confrontation at the end that goes nowhere. I had a similar problem with The Vicious Deep - I've noticed recently that a lot of first novels set in prospective series don't have a conclusion or answer any questions because they're so bent on saving the interesting stuff for later books.  

Every novel, regardless of its series order, requires a problem and a resolution. It's basic storytelling, and a series strong enough to stretch out over several novels should have more than one major problem or obstacle behind it, anyway. I might suggest the author read The Hunger Games trilogy (which, for all its faults, knew how to resolve a storyline while leaving an opening for future books) or some classic high fantasy trilogies.

Finally, my last problem was with the themes behind the depictions of the Three Girls. Thanks to an over-explainy prologue, the reader knows the Three Girls are up to no good, but the way the other characters justified their suspicion and hostility towards them was troubling. The Three Girls are depicted as off-putting and terrifying, to the point where people will cross the street to avoid them - and why? Because they're too pretty (and wear revealing clothing). They're too confident. And they travel in packs. To be fair, they do eat people, but I kept asking myself, why is their beauty, their confidence, and their friendship depicted as a threat? Why are we expected to fear pretty, confident girls who stick together?

The book skirts the line with this theme, with off-the-cuff scenes like one where Harper ruminates on how she doesn't have prejudices against anyone, even pretty girls, and I wanted to ask, "why EVEN? Why should pretty girls EVER be subjected to prejudice?" And there's another awful scene where Harper's venomous female coworker out-of-the-blue insults the Three Girls by accusing them of being bulimic. Because they're so hot, you see - and that's somehow offensive. If this was an attempt at satire, it's a poor one (and Jennifer's Body did it a bajillion times better), and comes perilously close to body- and slut-shaming.

All in all, Wake is a novel to avoid. If man-eating hot girls is your bag, I'd recommend the far superior and snarkily clever Jennifer's Body instead.
Still interested? Wake comes out August 7th. You can preorder here.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

"Sins of a Wicked Duke," by Sophie Jordan

The Chick: Fallon O'Rourke. When she's fired for the umpteenth time for not giving into her employer's licentious advances, she decides to disguise herself as a man and find work as a footman.
The Rub: However, she's soon hired by the most notorious womanizer in London! Will she be able to hide her identity?
Dream Casting: Bryce Dallas Howard.

The Dude: Dominic Hale, Duke of Damon, a.k.a. "The Demon Duke." He refuses to live by society's rules, ever since he was abused as a child.
The Rub: Not living by society's rules is really boring, lonely work.
Dream Casting: Tom Cruise by way of Stacee Jaxx from Rock of Ages.

The Plot:

Dominic: Hey! Pretty girl! Let me seduce you by snogging a prostitute in front of you!

Fallon: NO! GROSS! *leaps from carriage*

Dominic: ... huh. That usually works.

Fallon: Crap! Now that I'm in drag as a footman, I have to work for this creep!

Dominic: Hey, footman! Serve me while I sleep until noon, seduce married women and laugh at their gun-toting husbands, and act like a jerk to my lovers ....

Fallon: UGH!

Dominic: ...all the while sporting this Bad-Ass Snake Tattoo on my man-boob!


Dominic: Holy crap, you're a girl! Sex time!

Fallon: What? NO.

Dominic: But - I save urchins! And I'm a secret painter!

Fallon: *swoons* All is forgiven!

Dominic: And there's always my rebellious manboob tattoo!

Fallon: TAKE ME NOW!

Dominic: HOORAY!

Romance Convention Checklist
  • 1 Unfortunately Dead Parent 
  • 1 Bad Nanny
  • Several Nasty Hos
  • 1 Footman in Drag
  • 1 Significant Serpent Nipple Tattoo
  • 2 Sad Childhoods
  • 1 Horny Maid
  • 2 Cases of Questionable Consent
  • Several Doses of Misogyny
LiveTweeted: My livetweets for this novel have been Storified here.

The Word: Fallon O'Rourke, our heroine, is a scrappy Irish lass who's had and lost more jobs than she can count. Thanks to her glorious mane of red-gold-honeymustard-passionfruit-pixiewish-coloured hair, she can only hold a job so long before a randy nobleman makes a pass at her, resulting in her sexy ass being fired. During one such encounter where her employer's son fires her for kneeing him in the balls, a well-appointed carriage rolls up and a gentleman offers her a ride.

Fallon (who's just realized she's used up her last chance with her employment agency and is now homeless) accepts - only to discover she's sharing the coach with a Duke of Slut and two of his Hos. The Duke of Slut is immediately attracted to Fallon, and his idea of seduction/hospitality is to have one of his hos 'be mother' while she watches - and I'm not talking about pouring tea.

Fallon is inexplicably turned on by this grossness, but when the Duke refuses to let her out of his carriage, she retains enough common sense to leap out of it at the first opportunity. The Duke follows her and gives her his card - as it turns out, he is a duke. Dominic Hale, Duke of Damon, to be precise. He promises that he's super good at sex, and then he leaves.

While Fallon stays the night with a childhood friend, she ponders her declining options. As a woman, she knows she will always be vulnerable to sexual advances and the ensuing dismissals if she refuses - so, on impulse, she cuts off her Magical Fantastic Hair, fakes some references, and shows up at her employment agency looking for work as a footman. Unfortunately, due to Plot-Propelling Coincidence, Fallon is hired by the Duke himself.

What follows is a disturbing and entirely unromantic mistorical rife with inaccuracies, shady moralizing and misogynist victim-blaming themes.

Dominic's father had such a terrible reputation that when he died and Dominic's maternal grandfather became his guardian, Dear Ol' Granddad consigned Dominic to the care of a zealot governess who physically abused him in an attempt to repress his bad genes and stick him to the straight and narrow. Since then, Dominic has intentionally lived a life of a licentious prick to stick it to the man. He's so bad, you guys! He even got a tattoo! Take THAT, Grandpa!

However, the truth is that Dominic is a disgusting, misogynistic narcissist who pimps his Sad Childhood all over town as a moral Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free card. Because he feels so dead inside and he's got a sad past, he's free to exploit, seduce, corrupt, and ultimately abuse women as he sees fit.

He comes equipped with a few tacked-on "sympathetic tropes," but they're only tenuously connected to his character or the narrative as a whole, since their entire purpose is to make Dominic look slightly less like a Completely Terrible Human Being:
  • He occasionally rescues "urchins" and gets them decent work (these urchins are exclusively male)
  • He's protective of the female members of his staff
  • He paints.
The latter is the most hilariously out-of-touch indicator of his Secretly Sensitive Nature. You paint? That's nice, but at the risk of Godwinning, so did Hitler.

Fallon, meanwhile, has issues with blue bloods - her father was a gardener for a wealthy lord, only to take ill and die overseas on an errand for his employer. No matter that her father died of an unplanned-for illness doing what he was paid to do, Fallon believes her dad was all but bloodily trampled beneath the feet of every member of the House of Lords, and thus hates aristocrats with a Fiery Redheaded Irish Passion.

One would think this baggage, however overblown and unreasonable, would qualify Fallon for the presidency of the I Hate Dominic Hale Club. Well, you'd be wrong, and this is where the disturbing themes come into play.

The "romance" is completely and utterly unbelievable. Dominic is, at heart, a narcissist. Everything comes down to him and what he wants. His desire for Fallon (both during their first encounter and when he sees through her footman's disguise) is motivated entirely by how it makes him feel. Fallon's presence is the only thing that can pierce his numbness, so he craves it. Her feelings never factor into his equation. She makes him feel good, therefore she should be his.

One of the most heinous examples of this is the scene where Fallon, having been promoted to Dominic's valet, takes a bath in an adjoining room while believing Dominic is enjoying a prostitute. Dominic walks in on her naked and accosts her. Fallon tells Dominic to stop, but Dominic, "recognizing her desire," molests her to orgasm without her consent, and then snarls, "You're welcome!" You know, because he didn't get off. He's just selfless like that. He then proceeds to mope about how violated he feels for having been duped.

As well, he abandons his Tacked-On Sympathetic Tropes as soon as they become actually difficult, such as his reputation for protecting the females on his payroll:
She stared. Her breath rising and falling. "You said I would be safe from you."

He nodded fiercely, dragging a hand over his face. His every muscle strained to drag her back into his arms. "I did."

"You lied."

Her whispered accusation knifed through him. "I did not know I would want you so much." - p.243
Yup, he's sworn to protect his female domestics and would never exploit his power over them - unless he really really wants to. What moral fortitude.

Moreover, it's totally Fallon's fault that he really, really wants her. A lovely scene happens later when Dominic catches Fallon and another footman exchanging friendly, platonic banter. Dominic's narcissism causes him to project his violently possessive jealousy onto Fallon. He tells her, "You could be less provocative," (p.253) upgrades to "Perhaps you should rethink what you do around men ...  [you] Twist them into knots ... make them want you even when they know they should not" (p.253-54) and completes the Victim-Blaming Combo Move by shoving her against a wall.

And how does Fallon react to having him mansplain that her history of unwanted sexual advances is entirely the fault of her Nasty Womany Wiles? She kisses him. As you can probably tell, I'm not a huge fan of the heroine, either.

Ultimately, the hideous Orgasm-As-Consent and Orgasm-As-Love themes lie at the heart of the relationship in Sins of a Wicked Duke, because there's no other romantic development to be had. The couple share nothing in common and have almost no positive scenes together that aren't sex scenes.

Fallon has no reason to like Dominic - until she sees him naked and is aroused. Fallon clearly and distinctly tells Dominic to stop as he attacks her after her bath, but he makes her like it, so it's okay! Fallon, as a footman, witnesses Dominic's laziness, appalling treatment of women and disregard for the safety of his house and staff, and yet after one orgasm she is willing to convince others of his innate goodness despite witnessing no actual actions to back this up. Oh wait, I forgot - he paints. Just like Mother Teresa!

Dominic's attitude, behaviour, and actions remain unaltered by the book's end. He's simply "misunderstood." Can't you see? His precious paintings! His precious urchins! In the end, it is Fallon who has to learn to overcome her bigotry towards the One Percent and simply give in to her desires. I think I need to go take a shower.

Avoid this book like the plague.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

"The Vicious Deep," by Zoraida Cordova

The Protagonist: Tristan Hart. A young lifeguard at Coney Island who discovers he's half-merman after he mysteriously survives a tidal wave.
His Angst: He's not just ANY half-merman - he's the grandson of the King of Sea, who wants Tristan to take his place.

The Secondary Cast:

Maia: Tristan's awesome mum. Formerly a mermaid princess before she fell in love with Tristan's dad.

Layla: Tristan's childhood friend, who's been with him through thick and thin. Unfortunately, Tristan's feelings towards her are starting to feel a bit more than friendly.

Maddy: Tristan's heartbroken ex-girlfriend, whom Tristan cheated on.

Sea King: Tristan's merman grandfather, who wants Tristan to compete to be heir to the Sea Throne.

Elias: Tristan's rival for the crown - and a right royal douchebag he is, too.

Gwen: Elias' fiancee, a cunning mermaid princess with secret talents of her own.

Nieve: An evil seawitch (and technically Tristan's great-aunt) who's willing to go to any lengths to destroy Tristan and his loved ones and secure the crown for herself.

Angst Checklist:
  • Crushing On Your Best Friend
  • Parents Keeping Secrets
  • How to Be a Good Boyfriend
  • Family Ties
  • Sudden Responsibility
  • Canadian/Italian/Irish Cousins
  • I Have To Save The Ocean And I'm Only 17
  • My Dick Disappears When I Grow a Tail and That Deeply Troubles Me
  • Oh? There's a Pocket For It? Why Does That Not Comfort Me?
The Word: Tristan Hart has a pretty awesome life. He and his loving parents live in Brooklyn, and he gets to work as a much-oogled be-Speedo'd lifeguard at Coney Island for the summer. He's got sand, surf, a group of good friends, and school is almost over.

He's still got angsts, though - like how his revelation that he's got Speedo-feelings for his best friend Layla has come at the most inopportune time ever (right after his current girlfriend Maddy caught him cheating with another girl). But it's nothing a few months tanning on the beach won't fix.

That is, until tidal waves swamp the beach and Tristan gets knocked out trying to rescue a drowning swimmer. When he wakes up on the beach, three days have passed and no one knows how Tristan survived - least of all Tristan himself. Once he gets home, he starts experiencing strange changes and heightened senses and ultimately sprouts a giant blue fishtail.

Turns out his parents have a lot of explaining to do. His mother is actually a true-blue mermaid princess who was stripped of her tail after falling in love with Tristan's father - and despite wrangling a promise from her old man (the King of the Sea) that Tristan would never sprout fins, dear old Grandad (who's planning to retire) has decided that Tristan will be his heir and champion and sends two of Tristan's merfolk cousins to retrieve him for the challenge.

Yes, challenge - because other well-finned members of the Sea Court will also be submitting champions for the crown. Oh, and a millenia-old seawitch may be trying to kill him.

I had supremely mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, Tristan is charming and I loved his voice and perspective. He's a teenage boy, so his reactions are, well, very much like a teenage boy who's had a lot of good things handed to him, and his observations are often incredibly funny. Even so, he's already on the cusp of manhood and starting to question the way he's been living his life and the irresponsible reputation with girls that he's earned for himself - especially in the eyes of Layla, his lifelong best friend, with whom he's starting to realize he's in love. But how can he win over the girl who's witnessed all the stupid shit he's pulled?

I also liked Tristan's family dynamic - especially once he turns into a merman, which is a source of much humour. In fact, I enjoyed most of the scenes and dialogue that take place on land. Cordova really brings Coney Island to life, with the sand and greasy fried foods and tourist traps, bringing to mind a tarnished teenage wonderland. Tristan's background and community felt incredibly fleshed out to me.

But that leads me to the parts I didn't like - namely, the fishy parts. While not exactly inconsistent, the worldbuilding for the seakingdom and marine life seemed shaky and underdeveloped. While the human side of the story is evenly explored, we get a lot of fantasy exposition really quickly and not all of it makes sense - for example, the Sea King's decision to choose oblivious half-human Tristan as his heir despite his multitude of experienced merfolk grandsons "because Tristan's mom was his favourite daughter" seemed a particularly flimsy excuse, especially considering how much is at stake.

I want to be a little more charitable with this because I suspect more might be explained in subsequent books, but for now, the worldbuilding is pretty but not particularly in-depth or interesting. I also felt the book left far more loose ends dangling than I like to see in first novels. 

Finally, I feel I should mention my mixed reaction towards Layla, Tristan's best friend and primary love interest. Her character comes across as a deliberate attempt on the author's part to create a strong female character who isn't just a token female, someone who can look after herself and doesn't rely on the protagonist to rescue her. Which is good!  

Except for the fact that more often than not her "Strong Femaleness" translates into "acting like a boneheaded moron with no regard for consequences" who winds up having to be rescued ANYWAY when the situation blows up in her face. Quite frankly, when it comes to female characters I much preferred the cunning and cynical Gwen (the mermaid princess betrothed to one of Tristan's rivals), who, while less in-your-face, knows how to use what resources she has to achieve her desired result in an effective way.

The Vicious Deep shows definite promise, but its narrative could have afforded to be a little more developed and organized.

You can purchase The Vicious Deep here.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Return to Neverland: Bullies, Stalkers and the Huffington Post

I know it seems that, to those of us in BookBloglandia, every day for the past couple of weeks has brought a new crop of hair-pulling, foot-stomping rage. A new self-congratulatory post from the Stop The Good Reads Bullies page will arrive, patting itself on the back on how selflessly it devotes itself to Internet!Justice. Or several smug and obsequious comments from one of the owner's many sockpuppets will pop up like new mushrooms out of the pile of - well, what people commonly put on mushrooms. Or an intelligent Dear Author post will develop a comments section that slowly spirals down into the pits of madness over whether or not reviews "should" use dirty words like - well, what people commonly put on mushrooms.

Today, blogland exploded when the Huffington Post Books page posted an anonymous Op-Ed article from the Stop The Good Reads Bullies Page - giving STGRB national coverage and validation. Bloggers flew to their keyboards to vent their simultaneous, vitriolic outrage that the Huffington Post would so irresponsibly drive traffic to a website that's endangering and stalking women. It then posted a somewhat troubling apology that admitted they'd solicited an interview with the site weeks ago - and yet somehow never picked up on STGRB's blatant, acidic language and stalking behaviour. While the magnificent Foz Meadows wrote a stirring response that was posted on the Huffington Post Books blog afterward, I discovered something wrong on the Stop the Good Reads Bullies site.

Now, we already know that the STGRB, like a crazed Pocahontas, paints with all the colours of the wrong. But now they've stepped in it. In their comments section of their latest post, an anonymous commenter asked:

"The claims the posters are making in the comments of that article [meaning the HuffPo one] are untrue. This site is not posting personal information about people. Do you see any names and addresses? I don't."
This prompted Site Administrator "Peter Pan" to reply (the orange emphasis is mine):
 As you can see, "Peter Pan" openly declares that the reviewers who've opposed this site are dishonest, and have made "stuff up without any evidence" and are, moreover, "pretending" to be stalked in order to to "play the victim."

Gee, that's awful! What a horrendous lie! Most especially since now that one peruses the site, there is a remarkable absence of the damning personal information we reviewers have been raging about. Sure, the insults are still there, but we're all for free speech, aren't we? See, STGRB is all about discussing bullying, and the bully culture, and demonstrating slightly out-of-context situations of bad reviews. Clearly, the Mean Girl Reviewer Bullies just made up all that stuff about being stalked and having their privacy invaded because they were afraid of STGRB exposing their evil.

Except nothing completely disappears on the internet. Even stuff that you thought you removed.

 For instance, I conveniently took a couple of screenshots of the times STGRB administrators admitted to stalking people (orange emphasis mine):

Such as here:
And here:
Those are just silly off-the-cuff remarks, right? STGRB wasn't doing the stalking.

Except other people took screen caps, too. 
Note the use of Real Name and Location. The orange squares to the right of the screen indicate the date this cap was taken - proven not only by the calendar but by the existence of the anti-bullying organization banners - meaning this stuff was up before each and every one of those Anti-Bullying organizations demanded the removal of their banners.

But would you look at that same page today:
Where did the Real Name and Location go? 

And it wasn't just for Kat Kennedy. Take this screencap of their old page on The Holy Terror:
Her personal information has been obscured, but it's still perfectly clear how much they posted about her (such as her name, her husband's name, her favourite restaurant, and where she can be found at certain times of day) for everyone to read. The orange squares highlight pertinent phrases and evidence of the post's date. The pink square indicates irony. 

And look at her page now:

As well, there is this page on Lucy:
 Note they indicate her real name, her location, and also where she works in real life, to earn a living.

Here is where they indicate their active search for even more personal real-life information on Lucy:
Once again, the pink is for irony.

Here is their old page for Ridley:
Note how they give her real location and note how they are actively searching for her real name in order to post it on the website. 

Here's how it looks now:

And here is a cap of the STGRB folks commenting about Ridley being concerned about her personal information being posted:

Here is a screencap of their interview with Kenya Wright of Two Fantasy Floozies, in which Kenya asks them about their outing practices:

Here, Kenya asks STGRB about whether they're concerned about the possible dangers that come from being outed:

As you can see, the evidence speaks for itself. No snark or bad language required.

However, you might ask: why bother getting angry, and posting these screencaps, now that the STGRB website has removed the dangerous information? Isn't this what you wanted?

For that, I'll direct you back to the first screencap on my post - you know, the one where Site Administrator "Peter Pan" claims that STGRB never posted personal information, and accused the bloggers victimized on the website of fabricating the fear and unrest and harassment they endured for attention and sympathy. 

This proves beyond a doubt that the removal of this information wasn't an olive branch gesture and it wasn't due to the site administrators suddenly realizing what they were doing was wrong. It was a deliberate posterior-covering measure - likely in preparation for the flood of traffic gained by the Huffington Post article. 

STGRB stalked four women (at least) and posted their personal information online with an admitted disregard for their personal safety - and once the Huffington Post Books article opened the website to more scrutiny, they edited their posts, lied about it, and blamed the bloggers for it. They have offered no apology and demonstrated no remorse.

I'll leave it up you to tell me if you think these are the actions of an honest, righteous organization that is motivated only by a desire for a safe, friendly reading community for all.

My deepest thanks go out to the several awesome people (who shall remain anonymous, unless they let me know otherwise) who took the greater part of these screencaps.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

In All Seriousness...

Let's talk about negative reviews. And authors' reactions to negative reviews.

I'm sure by now most of you have heard of the Stop The GoodReads Bullies website and how it's been stalking and terrorizing bloggers known for writing snarky reviews, under the misguided belief that bloggers of that stripe are bullies and harass innocent authors.

Now, while the Stop The Good Reads Bully site is run by one woman and her stable of sockpuppets (not unlike an angry, unstable, literary-minded Sherry Lewis), she is not the only author with this sort of opinion about GoodReads.

And they insist over and over again that their anger is not simply about negative reviews. Oh no! We know how things are! Everyone is entitled to their opinion! We respect negative reviews so long as they're professional!

So, what are these authors really complaining about, if it's not simply negative reviews? Well, from what I can gather, their main problems are with:

1) Snark 
Now, I can sort of get this argument. It's hurtful enough to get a bad review, but one that reviews your book negatively in a comedic way can pour salt on a wound. But just because a review is funny, doesn't mean the reader wasn't paying attention to your book. Bloggers are writers, too. That's the difference between a blogger and the average reader, because when we're done a book, we're compelled to write about it. And for many of us (myself included), it's not enough to write something that covers all the basic points - it also has to be entertaining and easy to read.

I, myself, prefer blogs with a lively and entertaining writing style - not just ones that mirror my particular taste. I have to want to read what they've written, otherwise I just skim to the rating at the end, taking in the relevant bits along the way. Just like authors, we have to be honest to our writing style because that's what makes us want to write. We don't write like that to be mean, it's not a personal attack on you, we write like that to express ourselves.

I do think that snark can be taken too far - but everyone has their own snark saturation point, so it's unfair to set some sort of arbitrary standard for it. If you find it hurtful, STOP READING IT AND AVOID THEIR BLOG. It's that easy.

2) Freedom of Speech
Well, isn't that interesting! Authors complaining about freedom of speech! Specifically, I'm referencing the arguments made on the Bully site and elsewhere that authors have a right to comment on their reviews. Authors are readers, too, you know, and it's not fair that they should be "silenced" and "treated like second-class citizens" while their precious babies are being dragged to the literary pillory.

And, as a matter of fact, they do have that right. However, the general belief that "authors shouldn't comment on their reviews" doesn't come from the idea that they aren't allowed to do so, but rather from the fact that it won't make a difference. The book is already read. The opinion has already been formed. There's no way to retroactively change a person's opinion. So when we say that authors shouldn't comment on reviews, we say it for their own benefit, because at best it will waste their time and energy and at worst will tarnish their public image and damage their fanbase.

Authors shouldn't comment on their reviews, even if the blogger allegedly gets something wrong in their review. Yes, even then. Why? Because "getting something wrong" is so incredibly subjective that you'll be stepping in a minefield just by bringing it up. To paraphrase Joss Whedon, one of my favourite screenwriters - your writing isn't your pet, it's your kid. It's going to grow up and start talking back to you. Meaning - people are always going to get things out of your story that you didn't expect or intend. 

Now, while these two points bring up common author complaints, neither of them constitutes bullying. Bullying constitutes being continually harassed, in such a way that you feel unsafe and cannot escape.

Which is why these first two reasons are bullshit - firstly, the internet is such a vast place, that it's a fairly easy thing to avoid the blogs that don't like your stuff. This blog hated your book? Don't visit it again! This tumblr negatively reviewed your novel? Blacklist it! Block it! Block the users! It's that easy!

Secondly, how in HELL does a bad review or snarky remark on GoodReads make you feel physically unsafe? How in HELL do negative words make you feel "assaulted"? I'd love to see you mosey on down to a battered women's shelter and explain how assaulted and harassed you felt when you voluntarily read a hurtful book review on the internet.

Now comes the third part:

3) Fan Response
Book bloggers, as a whole, are an expressive bunch. Now, as bloggers like Katiebabs have pointed out, when an author misbehaves and the story of this behaviour goes public, bloggers tend to react quickly and furiously and the author often finds herself with an avalanche of negative feedback that may or may not be proportional to the inappropriateness of her behaviour.

This, I think, is where the idea of "blogger bullying" comes from. The author feels like she's being ganged up on. She thinks she's only expressed her own opinion, or tried to correct a misconception about her book, or simply tried to point out with helpful links that other people reacted positively to her novel - and the result is a bunch of harshly-worded comments on GoodReads by complete strangers who then vow never to read her books.

Some authors have interpreted this as harassment and mob mentality, when really, the reason for this reaction is that bloggers are still considered (and even consider themselves) to be lower on the literary foodchain than authors. Authors are high on the literary foodchain - they're the creators, the shapers, those who can fashion sophisticated stories from the raw materials of their imaginations. Without authors, there would be no books to blog about.

So when an author bitches out a blogger, to other bloggers, that's the equivalent of a 200-pound-wrestler picking on a 90-pound weakling. That's a person in a superior position picking on someone in an inferior position, which gives bloggers an urge to defend their own. And that's why we react this way. Now, is this professional? Probably not. And two weeks ago I would have said that an author can't really do anything to a blogger except spew bad words, and bad words are easily blocked, deleted, or ignored, which would be the more mature response (that, and never buying the author's books again).

But the creator of the Stop the GR Bullies website demonstrated a desire to cross the line of professionalism into downright crazy and illegal.

So while I will commiserate with authors that the bottom of a sweaty, martini-drenched book blogger pile-on is probably a shitty place to be, bloggers are in no way restricting their rights, singling them out for punishment because they didn't like their book, or making them feel physically unsafe in their homes.

But despite all the GR Bullybashers' protestations, deep down at the heart of things, it really is all about negative reviews. You don't see authors getting mad at people giving them five-star reviews despite not reading their book (some of them do just that with sockpuppet reviews). You don't see authors bitching out five-star reviews that said their hero was a pirate when he was clearly a privateer. I've yet to see an author question the professionalism, education, upbringing, or literary success of a reviewer who gives her a good review.

Honestly, authors? You will lose more readers through acting like a jackass on the internet than by getting a negative review on the internet.  Danielle Steel's books have been critically pissed on for years and yet she still sells enough books to afford the ballgowns in which she poses on their back covers. Why? Because her fans love her. And last time I checked, there were about 150 million blogs on the internet. One negative review is a drop in the fucking ocean.

Are there examples of blogger misbehaviour? Sure. Reviews that insult the author's personal life are unprofessional. Reviews made without reading the book (or that aren't transparent about not finishing a book) are unethical. Ironically, a blogger who was targeted by the GR Bully Site for inciting "lynch mobs" against authors by publicizing their misbehaviour also broke the news on blogger misbehaviour - specifically, the story of the blogger who got in a snit about an author's misinterpreted Tweet and proceeded to give her book a scathing one-star rating without actually reviewing the book or finishing it. That's dishonest, and the worst thing a blogger can do is be dishonest, because our business is all about opinions and the readers who trust ours.

So yeah, if you're a blogger who gives five-star reviews because you're being compensated for it, or you're giving one-star reviews without reading the book because of a personal grudge against an author, you're not a blogger I want to know or associate with. 

But even so, the very worst a blogger can do is spew bad words. Sticks and stones.What do you think? Are there ways in which bloggers have been unprofessional? Are there ways in which authors can respectfully respond to reviews without criticism? Please discuss in the comments!

The Weekly Wanting (12)

So a lot of things happened this week. Firstly, a delusional woman started stalking a number of bloggers and reviewers known for their snark and started a website where she posted their personal information, real names, addresses, and where they could be found at certain times of day. She claims it's the only way to deal with "bullying."

Now, do I believe the blogosphere should discuss and start a rational dialogue about professionalism in book reviews? Definitely. But there's absolutely no way to have a reasonable discussion when one side has completely and undeniably crossed the line of appropriate response into vengeful terrorizing. The minute you take the low road and violate another person's privacy and sense of personal safety, there's no way anyone can take your argument seriously, because that's lending credence to your inappropriate and immoral means of making it.

My first response to this mess was to take to my bathtub with my smelling salts (and by smelling salts I mean salt-and-vinegar chips), but I think later this week I might want to have a post about the importance of free speech as well as responsibility. But for now, BOOKS!

 Genre: YA, Contemporary
Cover Snark: What I didn't say ... was that I have no respect for personal space. 
The Story: When a teenage boy gets into a car accident and is rendered mute, he regrets all the things he never had the guts to say out loud, and has to learn how to do so without the use of his voice.
Why I Want It: It takes place in a small town setting, which I love, and the idea of learning, of having to learn, how to express the more important things without words, sounded like a great story. One of the blogs on my blogroll posted a great review of it, but I couldn't add it to my wishlist at the time because it wasn't being distributed in Canada until now. Unfortunately, I've since forgotten which blog recommended it.

  Some Kind of Fairy Tale, Graham Joyce
Genre: Fantasy, Literary
Cover Snark: No singing mice, then?
The Story: 20 years after she vanished into the woods and was presumed dead, a girl returns to her family, without seemingly having aged a day, with a fantastical tale of being abducted by fairies. But how can they believe her?
Why I Want It: A tip of the hat to the Booksmugglers for this one. What caught me about this was their review, which mentioned how the story isn't really about fairies (or even whether the girl's story is true or not) but about the effect a person's absence can have on a family and a community.

 Fly by Night, by Frances Hardinge
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Cover Snark: Wait, they banned this before it even came out? That's dedication!
The Story: A girl who loves books and words lives in a world controlled by guilds who fear and restrict words because of the power they can have on society - so there's not much else for her to do but to go on an adventure with a mysterious but articulate con artist.
Why I Want It:  As mentioned in the Booksmugglers' superb review, this is a book all about words, beautiful words, and the way they can be used. I love books that have gorgeous turns of phrase, not only excellent stories, so a book that promises both will definitely wind up on my wish list.

What books are you eagerly wanting this week?

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Classic Review: "Persuasion," by Jane Austen

The Chick: Anne Elliot. A 27-year-old spinster, she lives quietly with her extravagant and selfish father and older sister.
The Rub: When the Elliots are forced to lease their estate to tenants, she is unexpectedly reunited with the love of her life, Captain Wentworth, eight years after she broke their engagement and his heart.
Dream Casting: Sally Hawkins.

The Dude: Captain Frederick Wentworth. Now an extremely wealthy and successful Navy officer, he is looking to settle down into a practical marriage - but only with a woman whose principles he can trust.
The Rub: He is still helplessly in love with Anne - but how can he trust her again?
Dream Casting: Rupert Penry-Jones. Yes, I love the 2008 adaptation. Haters gonna hate!

Secondary Cast:

Sir Walter Elliot: Anne's flamboyant, unbelievably superficial father. Not-so-silently judges everyone on their social rank and good looks. Distrustful of sailors because a) the navy's so democratic! and b) nobody moisturizes on a ship anymore! DOES NO ONE THINK OF THE SALT AIR?

Elizabeth Elliot: Anne's older, also superficial, and also unmarried sister.

Mrs. Clay: Elizabeth's widowed BFF, who's totally after Sir Walter Elliot's hand in marriage, a fact everyone knows except for Elizabeth. I'm not saying she's a gold-digger...

Lady Russell: Anne's mother's best friend, who's since taken over mothering duties on her dead friend's behalf. Good-hearted, well-intentioned, and loving - but even the best pseudo-moms have their prejudices and blind spots.

Mary Musgrove: Anne's younger, nicer sister, who's married to Charles Musgrove. Pleasant but also fickle and jealous, and a massive hypochondriac.

Charles Musgrove: Mary's awesome husband. He actually proposed to Anne first, and even though she refused him, they maintain a warm, platonic friendship.

Louisa Musgrove: Charles' younger sister. Lively, witty, and headstrong - to her detriment.

Captain Benwick: Frederick's friend who's become an emotional recluse after the love of his life died while at sea. Is a fan of romantic poetry.

Mr. William Elliot: The heir to Sir Walter Elliot's baronetcy and Anne's cousin. Became estranged from the family for years after dumping Elizabeth to marry a wealthy commoner. Newly widowed, he now seeks to reconnect with the relatives he unfairly abandoned - but for what purpose?

Romance Convention Checklist:
  • 1 Bittersweet Reunion
  • 1 Very Bad Dad
  • Several Lacklustre Romantic Rivals (Charles, Benwick, Louisa, Mr. Elliot)
  • 1 Plot-Propelling Coma
  • 2 Snakes in the Grass
  • 1 Hastily-Written Letter that Conveniently Explains The Entire Novel from the Hero's POV and Solves All Romantic Conflict (Jane Austen's trademark!)
The Word: Now, don't take this the wrong way, but I loved Persuasion long before I actually read the book. What I mean, is that I absolutely adored the 2008 PBS adaptation starring Rupert Penry-Jones as Captain Wentworth. I thought the film was beautifully shot, clever, charming, and wonderfully, irresistibly romantic.

Of course, a couple of my Twitter friends do not care for this version (it does change bits), and prefer the Ciaran Hinds version. But for me, I fell in love with that particular adaptation, and ultimately prefer it - yes, even over the Dominic Cooper-starring Sense and Sensibility and Colin Firth's Pride and Prejudice.

Anyway, it was with great anticipation that I picked up the book itself (in eBook format), and it did not disappoint. Anne Elliot, 27 and unmarried, lives with her insufferably vain father and older sister on their country estate. Due to her family members' thoughtless extravagance, they are forced to lease the property to tenants and pursue slightly more economical arrangements in the town of Bath.

By utter coincidence, the tenants turn out to be Admiral and Mrs Croft - the sister and brother-in-law of Captain Frederick Wentworth. Eight years ago, Anne and Wentworth were secretly engaged, until Anne's friend Lady Russell persuaded Anne to break it off due to her extreme youth, Wentworth's lower rank, and his uncertain prospects as a soldier. Brokenhearted, Wentworth departed to war and almost immediately rose through the ranks and achieved immense status and fortune - leaving Anne to wallow in misery and regret and what-might-have-been.

In fact, Wentworth is back from the war, and Anne encounters him again while staying with the Musgroves, her younger sister Mary's family. However, Wentworth has no desire to resume their attachment. Convinced that he requires a woman of constancy whose principles are as strong as his own, he pays court to Henrietta and Louisa, the young Musgrove sisters. However, as their shared social circle requires them to spend more and more time together, Anne finds the chance to demonstrate the true nature of her constancy and Wentworth comes to terms with his priorities.

What I adored about this book are the sheer number of subtleties and shades of grey in Anne's life and acquaintance. Anne is, by far, my favourite Jane Austen protagonist and this novel is very much about her life and how much of it she's spent in solitude, and how her loneliness shaped her perspective. She lost her beloved mother when she was only fourteen, and her frivolous father and older sister ignore and belittle her. While the Musgroves are warm, loving, and welcoming, they often turn to her to settle their disputes, appreciate their woes, and tend their hurts, all of which Anne does tirelessly. However, she cannot help but long for the exceedingly rare luxury of simply being listened to. Everyone relies on her and yet she has few people to rely on.

She manages to be a supportive person without being a passive character, she maintains her own thoughts and opinions without being rude or abrasive, and she has a forgiving, analytical eye that easily perceives the subtleties and different sides in any given situation. Despite still being in love with him, she even questions Wentworth's beliefs at times, coming to understand that strong principles work better when one is willing to be flexible with them.

Her one true ally in life is Lady Russell - who grew from being her late mother's dearest friend into a surrogate mother figure herself. Despite her part in influencing Anne's decision to break it off with Wentworth (and despite Jane Austen's tendency to villainize Interfering Older Dames a la Lady Catherine in Pride and Prejudice and Edward's mother in Sense and Sensibility), Lady Russell is depicted as a well-intentioned, positive force. Anne's emotional development comes not from demonizing or cutting down Lady Russell, but from realizing she can disagree with Lady Russell's admittedly lofty standards while still respecting and loving her.

Wentworth, himself, goes through a change - although it is far more subtle and much-debated over, since he's granted little to no POV in the novel. For my part, I see how Wentworth slowly comes to the realization that he's making the same mistakes now that Anne did in the past: choosing practicality over love. Wentworth believes he cannot marry Anne because he cannot trust the strength of her convictions - after all, she bailed when their budding relationship met with real opposition. Despite how clearly affected he still is by Anne's presence, he spends most of the novel courting the headstrong Louisa Musgrove, seeking a practical, stable marriage.

The tipping point comes when Wentworth, Anne and company visit the town of Lyme and Louisa jumps off a cliff like a ninny and hits her head. When Louisa recovers from her plot-propelling coma, she surprises everyone by becoming engaged to Captain Benwick, a friend of Wentworth's whose own fiancee passed away not seven months before.

Wentworth rants about this to Anne - not about Benwick stealing his girl, not about Louisa throwing him over, but about how impossible it seems that Benwick should recover from the death of his true love and marry another in only seven months' time. Without thinking, Wentworth declares that a true love match cannot, and should not, be recovered from. It is there, I think, that Wentworth realizes that he was attempting to do exactly that: choosing a relationship with an inferior woman out of practicality, over a riskier relationship with the woman he truly loves.

However, perhaps one of the things I loved most about this novel is how well it "shows over tells." The writing style of Jane Austen's time period permits quite a bit of telling and exposition, which is fine and entertaining to read - but I love how so much of the story in Persuasion is left unsaid. Particularly, I love the quiet ways in which Frederick learns the true depth of Anne's fidelity to their love - such as when he learns from Louisa that Charles Musgrove (Mary's husband, and a man of wealth and social standing) proposed to Anne first, only to be refused. The novel never goes into much detail about this exchange of dialogue, but the intention is clear - if Anne remained so concerned with practicality and stability, why did she choose to remain a spinster instead of marrying her wealthy friend?

Anne's single status also invites an interesting comparison to her sister Elizabeth, who has also remained unwed after being dumped by William Elliot. It's implied that Anne remained single because of her devotion to Wentworth, whereas Elizabeth remained single thanks to her overweening pride and snobbery. Guess who's still unfortunately man-less by the end of the novel?

In one of the most clever and romantic scenes in the novel, Wentworth asks Anne how she could possibly continue to regard the town of Lyme with fondness after the tragedy that occurred there. Anne knowingly replies that before Louisa's accident, she had a wonderful time in that town and those happy memories aren't diminished by how painfully she departed from Lyme. Spoiler alert: neither of them are actually talking about Lyme.

Persuasion is such a rich, layered novel full of characters of surprising moral ambiguity. It allows villains to be kind, heroines to make mistakes, friendships to be dear but imperfect, while love still reigns supreme. Persuasion was one of Jane Austen's later novels (released posthumously with Northanger Abbey), and it shows the growth and development of her prodigious writing talent. It is definitely my favourite of all her novels.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Responding to Negative Reviews: Do's and Don'ts

This little post is in response to a recent scandal involving a way-cray-cray website created by a spiteful writer in order to revenge herself anonymously upon snarky reviewers by stalking them, going so far as to post their addresses and personal information online. And all of it in the name of "stopping bullying" (except for *cough* the fact that all the legitimate anti-bullying organizations she linked to refused all association and demanded the removal of their banners from her page). But the fact remains - how should authors react to negative or snarky reviews?

Well, search no more, because AnimeJune has the answer.

So, let's imagine you're a crispity-cool magic-fantastic writer of published novels, and let's say you're innocently surfing the internet when...



A lot of emotions might be going through your head right now. 

Your first instinct might be depression, because someone didn't like all the cool things you wrote, which means they don't think that you're cool, which makes you start to doubt if you were ever crispity-cool and magic-fantastic to begin with.

Your second instinct might be rage. After all, rage is more productive, right? This reviewer clearly didn't even read your novel, at least not the way it was meant to be read - and he or she is telling everyone how to read it THE WRONG WAY. They're threatening your career! They're spreading lies and misconceptions about how your book isn't crispity-cool and magic-fantastic - WHEN IT CLEARLY IS, BECAUSE YOU WROTE IT!

 Decisions, decisions. What would a truly crispity-cool magic-fantastic author do in this situation? It's not like there's a guide on the internet.


DO eat your feelings.

So many magic-fantastic feelings...

DO drink wine. It's nature's Control-Z! And it helps you live longer, like the French do, because we read it somewhere in a magazine. We think.

DO call your mum. DO call your friends. They're your very first fans, after all! They'll understand and listen to what you're going through!

DO cry in the bath. You are an artiste! You are not a machine! Your passionate heart is wounded!

The bathtub of an artiste is a judgement-free zone.

An artiste's feelings are very exhausting. 

DON'T write nasty posts or e-mails to the reviewer. You are an artiste! Your work must be engorged with love, not with hate!

DON'T use the Internet to track down that reviewer's personal information, credit rating, or address.

DO use the Internet to find pictures of kittens!

DON'T go after your reviewer with a knife...

...unless it's to offer them chicken in a gesture of peace! Dark meat or white meat?

Mmmmmm, chicken. The anguished, hungry goddess of vengeance is appeased.

DO keep writing. Writing is YOUR passion, and YOUR dream - you don't do it for the reviewers, after all. You do it for yourself, because you are a crispity-cool magic-fantastic author.

The writing-space of an artiste is also a judgement-free zone. And Mama's gotta make her deadline.

 Lasty, DO remember that you are a crispity-cool magic-fantastic author. If people are reviewing your book, that means people are also reading your book. And the more people are reading and talking about your book, the more people will find out about and start reading your book. And that is awesome.