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“Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.”  ― Winston Churchill

The Wager (The Bet)

The Wager - Rachel Van Dyken A more wretched hive of sophomoric "humor" and outright idiocy will be hard to find.

No, seriously, this book actively kills brain cells and makes the reader stupid.

I want to know what happy drugs led to the five star reviews, because those drugs could cure depression. Maybe even end world hunger. They must be that strong, because there is no way any reader with an ounce of self-literacy respect can read this and not be appalled by the sheer inanity.

This is what supposedly passes for humor:

1) A man whore dumps his date for his brother's wedding - a date whose last name he can't remember - at the airport.
2) Even though said date was about to go away with him for weekend at a family wedding, the date believes that the man whore is into dating senior citizens and is disgusted (nothing like sexism AND ageism!)
3) Said senior citizen is actually the man whore's grandmother, who loves nothing more than humiliating said man whore grandson. Later, grandma is described - by the ostensible heroine - as having pert breasts.
4) Said heroine is supposedly a broadcast news personality of some renown, even though for all it adds to her character development, she might as well as be unemployed. Actually, that would be more believable.
5) The writer thinks that having the heroine dump a glass of water into the hero's lap and announce to a plane full of people that "Jake Tully has wet his pants" is a) funny, b) sympathetic, c) how mature, sophisticated adults act. She's wrong on all accounts.
6) The author would have us believe that a US Marshal would deal with a suspect on a plane by stuffing the suspect's mouth full of peanuts.
7) And it's "funny" when the hero doesn't realize that he is allergic to peanuts and goes into anaphylactic shock.
8) And that it is in any way believable and allows the reader to suspend disbelief when it turns out the grandmother just happens to carry an adrenaline shot because the hero was allergic as a small child. Like how would she suspect this would happen?!?!
9) Ditto on having the US Marshal start to CRY because he nearly killed a suspect by stuffing the suspect's mouth full of peanuts and so he lets the suspect go.
10) Oh, and the hero is a millionaire thanks to a trust but all of a sudden worried about his lifestyle when his grandmother, who runs the family business, abruptly fires him (without benefit of pesky real-life legal issues such as severance, notice, or cause for termination)
11) And that the bride apparently is letting her groom's grandmother take over the wedding just a few days before the ceremony
12) There are two main male characters pursuing the heroine and their names are JACE and JAKE. Because that's not confusing and outright annoying and irritating to the reader.

I could go on, but the more I think about this "story," the more exasperated I get.

The term "Festivals of Stupidity" was coined precisely for this book.

Cannot read further; I value my brain cells too much and my reading time is far too precious to waste on dreck on this. How the )#*$^*(^(&Q^($&@*($*_( could this have been published by a Big Five company?!?!??!


Unteachable - Leah Raeder Feels!


Both in one book! SQUEE!!!

Read this. This is how to write an edgy YA/NA.

Crown of Midnight

Crown of Midnight - Sarah J. Maas

I am confessing right now that I did NOT read "Throne of Glass "prior to this book. I did read the first prequel novella. But the reviews for "Throne of Glass" threw me off: it sounded like a high fantasy version of "The Hunger Games", complete with love triangle and death match fights. Been there, done that, got the Mockingjay pin.

However, I LOVE me a good teenage girl assassin. Like Mara Jade in Timothy Zahn's "Allegiance" and "Choices of One" (don't let the Star Wars association throw you off, Mara is one smart, kick ass heroine. Especially her snotty, arrogant teenage version.) And I adore Robin LeFever's assassin nuns in"Grave Mercy." So I happily picked up Crown of Midnight.

And for the first half of the book: IT ROCKED. Seriously. ROCKED. Second half....um. Yeah. Not so much.

Celaena is a trained assassin who, in the last book, became the King's Champion, tasked with carrying out whatever deadly assignment the despotic King of Ardalan wishes her to do. In the first book, Celaena was apparently in a love triangle with Chaol, the Captain of the King's Guard, and Dorian, the son and heir to the King. The love triangle is mostly resolved early in this book, although it's still left open-ended enough that Maas can take it wherever she wants to go.

For my part, as someone who read only this book, Dorian is by far the more interesting and multi-dimensional character. Chaol comes across as your average hot but dumb muscle-bound jock - we are told over and over that Celaena loves him and he her, but we're never really shown why she cares for him or why he is worthy of her love other than, hey, he's hot (if prone to boneheaded mistakes). Yes, he's loyal, but so is Fleetfoot. And of the two, Fleetfloot seemed to have more intelligence, as well as more respect for Celaena's abilities. Dorian, on the other hand, actually has a character arc in this book.

Celaena is tasked by the King with rooting out and killing various traitors to his totalitarian regime. She has her own way of dealing with her assignments - got to keep her sympathetic - until she runs up against a target she knows from her days in the Assassin's Guild. And the first half of the story, as Celaena tries to investigate the rebels, is involving with plenty of intrigue, suspense, romance, friendship bonding, and action. I couldn't stop turning the pages.

And then Something Horrible happens.

Celaena's reaction to the Something Horrible is realistic and believable, and it throws a major obstacle into most of her relationships. However, the second half of the novel, as Celaena tries to avenge the Something Horrible and discover why it happened, starts to devolve into Author Ex Machina. Celaena makes discoveries and Things Happen that appear motivated solely because hey, the author needed them to happen. So here, have some new powers and here, have a book that just magically pops up whenever you need to solve a problem. For a kingdom where magic has been outlawed and its practitioners put to instant death, an awful lot of it starts flying around.

And the major revelation at the end about Celaena feels forced because the information is presented as something Celaena always knew about herself, and yet that information never once entered into her thoughts and her decisions when it logically should have. So much for plot logic. It also makes Celaena an unreliable narrator - who knows what else the girl has been hiding from her own POV?!

Still, I'm intrigued enough to read the third book in the series when it comes out.

Crucible (Star Wars)

Crucible (Star Wars) - Troy Denning REBOOT!



Oh please oh please oh please oh please o great gods of Disney - o great Pluto, o great Mickey, o great Oswald, o great and glorious all-father Walt:

PLEASE put this pathetic excuse for an Expanded Universe out of its bloated, Denning-Dumbed-Down, sad, sad wasted existence and reboot the entire thing, now that it resides in the hallowed halls of the Mouse.

In my dreams, the EU is reset to just after Vision of the Future (I'd love to keep Survivor's Quest, but I'd gladly sacrifice it if it meant everything else published by Del Rey was wiped off the continuity map) -

- but I will settle for resetting it to the end of Return of the Jedi if I must. Yes, I would give up Mara and Karrde and Thrawn and Corran and Mirax and Winter and Rogue Squadron.

Just as long as EVERYTHING touched by Shelly Shapiro and especially Troy Denning is relegated to the dust bin of never-really-happened AU, and Luke, Leia and Han can have continuing adventures that actually, y'know, fit into the universe shown in the films.

I'm not even going to stoop to comment on this steaming pile of bantha poodoo. Suffice to say it's more of Denning's trademark misogyny, torture-porn, and utter disregard for movie continuity. Go write some more game modules, Denning, that's all you have talent for - your writing is the epitome of moving cardboard pieces around a two-dimensional space.

Shame on Del Rey and LFL.

It's your turn now, o wonderful world of Disney - don't fuck it up.

The Return (The Raie'Chaelia, #3)

The Return (The Raie'Chaelia, #3) - Melissa Douthit Supposedly this book has not one, but TWO editors. Let's see how that worked out. Bolding is mine.

The familiar smell of ocean and salty wind that blew her hair from her face told her where she was.  It was a courtyard that she knew well.  She’d been here before, countless times.  Everything around her — the walls, the floor, the dais, and the altar — was blurred and hazy as if in a dream.  Even the man in white robes on the altar before her had a ghostly cast about him.  He lay on the cold, white marble, silent and unmoving, as if dead.

Dead? she wondered suddenly with a jolt of fear.  With her left hand, she quickly felt her face, her arms, her legs — all solid, all very much alive.  What is this? she wondered.  Where am I?

Douthit, Melissa. The Return (The Legend of the Raie'Chaelia, Book 3) (Kindle Locations 59-65). Couronne Press. Kindle Edition.


Dear sweet little Chalice Sue: if you are in a courtyard that you know well and have been there countless times before, then either you are incredibly stupid or have suffered profound brain injury that causes short term memory loss to follow that up with: "Where am I?" Of course, having suffered through the previous books, either answer makes plausible sense in this character's case.

But that's just the usual par for this insipid, overwritten and yet nonsensical Raie'Chaelia course.

That's followed by an interminable conversation that is all info dump, punctuated with scintillating dialogue such as this:

"Right now, I must pass important information on to you and we don’t have much time.  Time passes differently here.  Much more slowly than in your world.  We have only minutes and I have much to tell you."

“Okay, like what?”

Douthit, Melissa. The Return (The Legend of the Raie'Chaelia, Book 3) (Kindle Locations 104-106). Couronne Press. Kindle Edition.

Because there is nothing that says "urgent information" than stopping to explain - twice - that urgent information must be passed on.

And since Chalice Sue must be adored and worshipped at every opportunity:

“Where is the Onyx?”

Braywin hesitated, regarding her warily.  “In Lucce’s workroom, in this palace, just below us.  He keeps it locked behind the wall, in a vault very similar to the one in the Portalis Archive.”  She glanced over to the hallway that led to the spiral staircase.  “No, you cannot get it here,” he added, reading her thoughts.  “It exists only in your world.”

“Oh, wonderful!  I’ll just swing by Ielieria on my way back to Portalis and walk right in, shall I?  Maybe, if I’m lucky, he’ll invite me to tea or something.”

Braywin grinned.  “You really are a spitfire, you know that?”

“Well, I try.”

Douthit, Melissa. The Return (The Legend of the Raie'Chaelia, Book 3) (Kindle Locations 115-122). Couronne Press. Kindle Edition.

Because nothing says, "We only have minutes for me to info dump on you!" like a dead brother - who is meeting her for the first time - taking even more time out to flirt with his sister. ("Spitfire?" Srsly?!?!)

As in the other Raie'Chaelia books, spying on other people is perfectly fine and dandy. The characters can just TELL when someone is rotten.

"But I knew better.  I knew from the moment I met Lucce that he was rotten.  I didn’t trust him.  So, I hid behind a tapestry and spied on him at night when he would disappear into his room."

Douthit, Melissa. The Return (The Legend of the Raie'Chaelia, Book 3) (Kindle Locations 130-132). Couronne Press. Kindle Edition.

I wonder if the dead brother created a website to catalog the villains' supposed transgressions?

As in the previous books, Chalice gets the information she needs from coincidence or characters that might as well have "Expository Device" tattooed on their skin. Made up names come at you fast and furious, with no rhyme or reason behind them - obviously, the author never came up with a language system for her world. The world itself continues to be a mishmash of Lord of the Rings mixed with Star Wars, with a smattering of The Golden Compass (the movie, not the book). The book uses overly-familiar tropes with not an ounce of original nor creative thought put into trying to make the tropes fresh.

And could someone please tell me what is going on in this love scene?

His kisses became faster and more insistent until she was completely wrapped in his warmth, overwhelmed by his silent power and the strong beat of his heart.  Savoring his touch and breathing in his musky scent, she swelled inside.  She felt like a boiling cauldron of raw emotion and knew that if she let go, all of her passions would erupt out of her in a furious storm.

And still he kept on, relentlessly forcing, pushing, pulling, tearing her apart, striking something deep within her, as if he knew exactly what he was doing, as if he knew exactly what she needed.  It was the terrifying, yet ecstatic feeling of becoming undone and losing herself to him.  The more he pressed her, the deeper she fell and in that moment of mindless dissolution, the last thing she remembered was her towel slowly slipping from her body and the feel of his warm hands caressing her bare skin, promising to hold her forever and never let her go.

Douthit, Melissa. The Return (The Legend of the Raie'Chaelia, Book 3) (Kindle Locations 560-567). Couronne Press. Kindle Edition.

"Forcing," "tearing her apart" - doesn't exactly sound romantic. Sounds more like, well, force.

And, I'm sorry, do they actually have sex? Or is just a rather violent French kissing session? I mean, there's the "mindless dissolution" and any Harlequin Presents reader (I am a proud one) knows what that euphemism means. But if this is sex, you'd think her towel would have come off during all the pushing, pulling and tearing...

Cannot read further. Firmly belongs in the festivals of stupidity category.
The Last Boyfriend (Forever Love 1) - J.S. Cooper

I hate to give books one star. In general, if a book is decently formatted and breaks fewer than three rules of grammar/spelling per page, I'll give it two stars for effort.

But this book?

This book deserves negative stars.

Oh, it's formatted decently enough and while the grammar is rough, it's about your average American public school fifth grade level (I'm not trying to knock public schools. I went to one, my relatives teach at others. But let's face it. Public education is currently under so many ridiculous constraints, both budgetary and bureaucratic, that teachers have a hard time actually teaching and students have a difficult time actually learning.)

But I doubt I will ever find a more wretched hive of clunky writing and just plain stupidity.

Our heroine is named Lucky. If you forget the heroine is named Lucky, don't worry, the hero will remind you. Ad nauseam. Like every other sentence. "So, Lucky..." "As you know, Lucky..." "What are you thinking, Lucky?" (The answer: not much.) It's as if he has first name Tourette's. Lucky is a college student/plucky waitress in a Miami coffee shop. Lucky is so gosh darn appealing that not one, but two rich and famous men want her.

Lucky (see? I can't stop saying her name, either) is having none of that, however. Because Lucky's ex-boyfriend called her a slut after learning she had sex in college. Shocking, yes, I know. So Lucky has stopped dating until she finds "the last boyfriend" - the last guy she dates before she marries him.

It's a kinda cute premise. Too bad that is the last gasp of anything resembling cute, clever, original or witty in the entire book.

Every Friday, generic handsome rich guy Zane Beaumont shows up at Lucky's diner with a different gorgeous woman in tow. How did Zane make his money? Apparently the New Adult Self Publishing Money Grab Fairy just waved her wand and made him that way. OK, fine, his father is apparently a Hollywood producer who cares nothing about living trusts and all the other financial protections actual wealthy people put into place for their kids, and gave Zane open access to the family's mythically large bank account. Or so I assume. Because it sure as hell ain't in the text.

But even though Zane's and Lucky's interactions are limited to the electrical spark that passes between them whenever Zane leaves his $100 tip on Lucky's table (only somewhat less icky that leaving $100 on her bedside table, the way she talks about it), when Zane sees Lucky chatting to a generic handsome rich Hollywood star at a party, Zane instantly goes into stalker mode and follows her home – and of course her car breaks down along the way. (BTW, there are an awful lot of Hollywood people hanging out in Miami. Not that it doesn’t happen, of course, but, y’know, we have great nightlife, decent beaches and zero humidity on our side of the country.)

Lucky spends the night at Zane’s – no intercourse, but generic sexual tension a'plenty– and presto, chango! Lucky is suddenly Zane’s assistant on a documentary (!!!) he is making in Los Angeles (!!!!) Yet somehow Zane was able to spend the last several months taking girls to Miami diners on Friday nights.

Lucky and Zane go to a fictional Los Angeles that resembles the real city in no real way, shape or form (psst: Burbank is a decent place, don’t get me wrong, but millionaires do not brag about owning condos there; locals say “Olvera Street” when referring to the birthplace of the city; and the hot dog stand is PINK’s, not Pinky’s.) Lucky agrees to enter into a relationship that is all sex, no emotions, because the New Adult Self Publishing Money Grab Fairy says so; and hijinks ensue. I can’t tell you what they are because the clunky, pedestrian writing so annoyed me that I skimmed to the end.

Oh! And 75% of the way through the book we suddenly get a lecture on the Great Migration and the Civil Rights Movement – hey, apparently the author had to use her term paper research somewhere, because that’s what it read like. At least it made a change from the rest of the book, which reads like a first draft fanfiction written by someone who had never put finger to keyboard before but who wanted to rewrite Fifty Shades without all that icky BDSM stuff (no, seriously, the characters discuss Fifty Shades and decide they’re just not into that scene.)

So if you like your heroines stupid; your heroes even more obtuse; your writing on-the-nose, awkward, and heavy-handed; your conflicts cheaply manufactured and easily overcome; your plots paper thin; your first person narration telling you ad nauseam and never once showing you – this is the book for you.

(PS to the reviewers who said they were “beta readers” in return for a review: I do not think the term “beta reader” means what you and the author think it means.)

The Story Guy (Novella)

The Story Guy - Mary Ann Rivers READ THIS.


SO amazingly good. So gorgeously written. The language is lush and emotional. This novella is a luxury goose down comforter, so wonderful to sink into and wrap up in, for readers who think literary romance is not and never should be an oxymoron.

The set up is so original and yet heartbreaking realistic. The characters are real, three dimensional, living people. The secondary characters scarcely appear on the page, yet still have distinct personalities. The writing is clever and real and breaks your heart on one page while making you smile with delight on the next.

It's a sweet-salty bonbon of a story, with some truly sizzling - and oh so well written - sex scenes. I normally skip over love scenes after the first few paragraphs because, truthfully, there are only so many ways to describe tab A sliding into slot B and most of them are just eye-rollingly bad. But these were a joy to read (and did I mention sizzling?)

Can't wait to read more from this author!

Dare You To

Dare You To - Katie McGarry SO good. Washed the bad book taste right out of my brain.

Believable characters, vivid & heartfelt emotion, great authorial voice - I am officially a Katie McGarry fangirl.

I couldn't put the book down. Really enjoyed the book and can't wait to read the author's other books in this series.

Surrender Your Love

Surrender Your Love  - J.C. Reed

A paint by numbers New Adult book that lifts the Fifty Shades formula but fails miserably at anything resembling believable characters, motivation or emotion.

And what is UP with authors trying to pretend their characters are a certain nationality they know nothing about?! Raine Miller tried to pretend the hero of her book was British when it was blatantly obvious Ms. Miller has never set foot in Blighty (mini malls in Central London. I'm still snerking.)

Now Ms. Reed would have you believe her characters are American. But they talk about punters, weekend breaks, snogging, shagging, say "Cheers" for "Thanks," and the heroine's jaws drops to the floor when she sees the hero wearing only his navy blue CK pants.

Yeah, but an American jaw would NOT drop - because, my dear Ms. Reed, "pants" in American means "trousers" in British. "Briefs" in American = "pants" in British.

Oh, word choice. Yes, it is matters, especially between continents.

While it was painfully obvious Ms. Miller never graced London with her presence, it is equally - and just as painfully - obvious that Ms. Reed never once visited New York City. A broke real estate assistant living in Brooklyn would not drive her own car to Manhattan. See, NYC has a pretty decent public transportation system, and a dearth of available (and affordable) parking spaces. The whole thing is too silly to be believed. As is calling NYU "NY University."

But all of the above are mere nitpicks compared to the very real problems with the story: namely, its plot and characters.

Jett (yes, that's his name) pretends to be someone he's not in order to meet Brooke. It's supposedly a business meeting, but it's set in a strip club and Brooke is already well into her second margarita before he shows up. So, yeah, they're both the epitome of believable young professionals. Then Jett comes onto her in a way that's both cheesy and sleazy - "I'd rather have Sex on the Beach," "Can't have your pretty little face getting wet" - yet Brooke thinks he's the sexiest thang with three legs.

No, Brooke, he's a douche and you're an idiot.

OF COURSE Jett turns out to be stalkeriffic - hey, you get fined by the New Adult Self Publishing Money Grab police if you don't make the hero a stalker - and Brooke is stunned to wake up next to his naked body the next morning, after a night out with her severely judgement-impaired best friend. Did something happen? He implies yes. Does Brooke wonder about birth control or STDs? Does she even stop to consider that since she didn't consciously consent to sex, this would constitute rape? Does he?

Oh please. No, this book is set in a mythical New York City inhabited by residents whose brains would be rejected by fleas as too small. Case in point two: Brooke goes to work only for her boss to tell her she's fired. Why? What did Brooke do? What is the cause?

Nope, no cause. See, a bigwig real estate honcho blackmailed Brooke's boss into firing her, because he wants to hire her instead.

This is so fucked up three thousands ways to Sunday that I can't even type.

And Brooke the nano-skulled goes along with it, showing up to her new job without asking: 1) What is my new position? 2) What are my new responsibilities? 3) What is my new salary? 4) What about benefits? - y'know, all the questions that anyone over the age of 12 would automatically demand to be answered.

But perhaps Brooke is more savvy than I give her credit, because she doesn't really need to know any of that. Her new boss is JETT!!!!!!!1!1! Betcha didn't see that one coming. And he's taking her to ITALY!!!!1!!!1!!!

Because that's how bigwig real estate honchos roll. They take brand new assistants to Italy for sensitive deals, and then after one platonic night in a hotel, they install them in their Lake Como villa.

Oh, and because this is taken direct from the 50 Shades formula book, here comes the sexual services contract, which is supposedly de rigueur for all corporate executives and Hollywood types (funny, I know the corporate Hollywood world fairly well, and yeah, but NO. But hey, we already established this is some mythical bizarro alternate universe.)

There's some sort of mystery with a neighboring estate and a twist that couldn't be more telegraphed if Western Union knocked on every reader's door.

And yet, this stuff apparently has an audience. Is it really just a hunger for the formula, which is nothing more than the old gothic romance (young, sweet girl meets wealthy man with secret past and hijinks ensue until he learns to let her in) with explicit - and often with the boundaries negotiated between the partners first - sex?

The Arrangement (The Arrangement, #1)

The Arrangement (The Arrangement, #1) - H.M. Ward $2.99 for about one hundred pages. Yep, you guessed it, it's time for another round of "Let's Gouge the Reader!" I'm sorry, but I can get a professionally edited, professionally published romance for less than eight dollars. Why would I pay nine or more dollars for a series of sloppily written chapters? There's not even verification that the author finished the story before posting installments. What if she loses interest, or even more likely, inspiration? I'd be stuck with a bunch of chapters and no resolution.

If I want stories that have no promised end date, I'd go back to reading fan fiction. FOR FREE.

And what does my $2.99 get me?

Yet another self-pubbed author who can't be arsed to learn the proper way to use speech tags.

“Yes,” pointing ahead, huffing.

"Pointing ahead" is not a speech tag. One cannot speak with any part of the body that is also used to point (well, I suppose one could point with one's tongue - but not really.)

“Yeah,” I nod.

"Nod" is also not a speech tag. A nod is a non-verbal affirmative communication. Ipso facto, a nod is incapable of uttering the word "yeah."

“You want me to help?” he glances at the car and then back at me.

As anyone who graduated fourth grade with more than a C average can tell you, the proper way to punctuate that sentence is: "You want me to help?" He glances at the car and then back at me.


"You want me to help?" he says, and glances at the car and then back at me.

And then there's the repeated:

“What else happened?” She asks

The power of capitalization is a curious thing. Makes one reader weep, makes another one sing. And I am WEEPING, people. WEEPING.

The set up is something we've seen a thousand times. Avery is super poor, y'all. So poor that her crappy car stalls at every stop light in New York City, yet somehow is still a target for multiple car jackings. Funny, in my city, it's the expensive cars that get stolen, but whatever. Let's pretend this is realistic. Like that a super poor college student would want or need a car in New York City in the first place.

OF COURSE when Avery's car is stolen, a totally hot and rich guy helps her. OF COURSE.

Later, Avery whines about having to work so hard and study so hard. She has a scholarship to college that requires her to keep a 3.5 GPA (most scholarship programs of which I am aware require only a 3.0. Just sayin'). She gives her, "As you know, Bob" speech to her gorgeous friend Melony, who is putting on sparkly earrings to go to work at a hotel late in the evening.

I'll give you three guesses what Melony does to make money, based on that description. And you'll have two left over.

Avery, of course, even though somehow she has earned a scholarship to college, has zero clue about Melony's work. No wonder she has to work so hard to maintain that 3.5. Making smart observations is not exactly in her wheelhouse.

And guess who Avery's first client is? Does he like to ride motorcyles and tell girls chasing after stolen cars that their car has been stolen? Toldja you wouldn't need the additional two guesses.

Then boom! "Story" is over, until the next gouge installment comes out.

If this is indicative of the quality the self-publishing revolution will bring us, then I think we're past the storming of the (New York publishing) Bastille and well into the Terror.

First Shift: Legacy (Wool, #6)

First Shift: Legacy (Wool, #6) - Hugh Howey It has come to my attention that perhaps I was a bit hard on Hugh "I'm not a misogynist, some of my best friends have ovaries!" Howey. Thus, a friend lent me First Shift so I could review the book, not the author. After all, don't I know that Hugh Howey is one of the preeminent science fiction authors of our time, if not ALL TIME?!?!?

So let's review. In the year 2049, a neophyte Congressman from Georgia, Donald Keene (whose intellect is anything but), comes to Washington and does absolutely nothing with regards to politics or governing. Instead, he’s sucked into some sort of building project run under the aegis of a long time Senator from the same state. Donald is told the building project is a benign nuclear waste storage facility - aren't they always - and so he sits down, shuts up, and does what he is told even though warning bells would instantly ring for any normal person with two brain cells to rub together. Civics classes must have been outlawed from all Georgia high schools by 2049, because you'd think a CONGRESSMAN would be, like, dude, I don't think this is how a bicameral legislature in a democracy with three branches of government works.

But *wave hand*

Meanwhile, in the year 2110, a man named Troy is woken out of cryogenic sleep to begin his work shift in Silo One. Shifts last six months and then the worker is put back to sleep until it is time for his next shift. Whoever decided that forced turnover every six months is the most effective and efficient way to run any kind of organization deserves any and all fuck ups and piss poor morale that ensue. Just sayin'.

Oh, and THERE ARE NO WOMEN ALLOWED in this Silo, because they would distract men with "passion." The women and children are kept asleep until some undetermined future date. Because not only did the numbskulls who designed this future society decide that forced turnover ever six months was a viable way to go, they also decided that women hold zero value as contributors to society as thinking, rational human beings. No, the mere presence of their vaginas would somehow poison the men with uncontrollable desire.

This. Is. Just. Wrong. First, it presumes men have zero control of their impulses and emotions and cannot help themselves. It's the basic assumption underlying rape culture: hey, it's not my fault I raped her, it's her fault for wearing that short skirt and see-through shirt. AND IT IS PUTRID.

Second: "Passion" is not just restricted to two people of opposite gender. Hate to break it to the brainiacs who devised this society, but if the thought was to prevent all emotional and sexual relationships by removing women - shyeah, right.

Third: WTF?!? Women can't contribute to this society? Women aren't capable of being doctors, psychologists, systems analysts, etc?! Their only value is to serve as emotional blackmail to the men woken out of sleep, and I'm guessing as potential breeders/mothering units for the new utopia yet to come?!

Back in 2049, Donald is forced to work with Anna, his old girlfriend and the daughter of the patron/patronizing Senator. Anna has a magical hoo-ha, y’all. That’s the only explanation for why Donald is PETRIFIED of being within twenty feet of Anna’s apparently magnetic vagina. PETRIFIED. The mere sight of Anna covered in dust bunnies after installing Donald's new desktop computer is enough to make Little Donald want to come out to play. But Donald holds firm (no pun intended). He will be faithful to his wife Helen. Even though Anna does absolutely nothing that suggests any kind of sexual innuendo and her evil seductive temptress ways appear completely made up in Donald's head.

In fact, Donald reminds me a lot of Brandon Hantz, a two-time “Survivor” contestant. Brandon’s story is a very sad one, and I feel bad bringing him up. But Donald’s reaction to Anna is precisely Brandon’s reaction to the young, pretty female contestants on “Survivor:” because these two men find the women sexually attractive, the women must be evil harlots with no other purpose in life than to steal the virtuous young men away from their wives.

Brandon ended up having a spectacular breakdown on camera his second time on the show. Donald, I’m afraid, presents about just as stable. And sorry, Donald, but honestly? You’re no prize. You have the intellectual curiosity of a kumquat, for starters. And Anna, even as thinly as she is written, could do WAY better. If she even wanted to. Not every woman wants or needs a man to feel complete, Howey.

Flash forward to 2110: Troy spends his time moping. Emo doesn't even begin to cover it. While I admire books that aren't afraid to show male characters crying, no one needs a watering can as the viewpoint character. Troy stops taking his blue pills (or are they red?) and memories of another time start to come back. Memories of a time that seem a lot like...

...2052. Donald apparently handily won re-election even though he spent all his time working on architectural plans instead of, y'know, Congressional stuff. It seems Donald didn’t show up to class the day where it was explained Representatives are elected every two years and therefore need to campaign. Donald visits the nuclear waste site where the sitting governor from Oklahoma shows up to personally hand him a clipboard so Donald can sign for supplies. Apparently governing Oklahoma is even less onerous than being a Congressman and leaves one with nothing better to do than play deliveryman in a state thousands of miles away. But what is the TRUE purpose of the nuclear waste storage site? Let's flash forward to...


Only kidding. Oh, not about the spoiler - unfortunately, that's true enough - but about the supposed genius of the twist. Didn't I see this in a Twilight Zone episode?

Meanwhile, the true purpose of the nuclear waste storage silos is revealed. They're storage all right...FOR PEOPLE!!!!

See, the Democrats - which makes me laugh, because the Democrats are the party that can't seem to organize the opening of a paper bag, yet Howey credits them with organizing the end of the world - are holding their national convention in Atlanta. And for some reason everyone thought it would be a brilliant idea to hold an event at the facility. "Yay!!! Let's have a big party on top of the world's nuclear waste! Woo Hoo!" Because politicians LOVE reminding their constituents about controversial topics such as nuclear energy in an election year, at a high profile, highly televised election event.

But y'see, there are these nano-thingees, invisible to the eye. The nanos enter the bloodstream through inhalation. They're tiny little nanobots, designed to cure cellular breakdown. But the Axis of Evil ™ has weaponized nanos, y’all. They’re not Weapons of Mass Destruction ™ but Weapons of Micro Destruction.

So to avoid a long, drawn out battle between the good nanos and the bad nanos, with hundreds of thousands dying, the perpetrators decide to take out the entire world (or at least Atlanta) by setting off nukes. The conventioneers are herded into the 50 storage silos, which are actually self-contained ecosystems designed to sustain human life. Forty-nine of the silos start brand new societies, with farms and a stratified class system based on one's occupation and one's level of residence (up is good, down is bad.) One silo - the one containing Donald/Troy - relies on cryo-frozen "legacy" workers, instead of letting people propagate and die. This silo is also the only one that knows there are multiple silos, and it vets all the "heads" of the other silos. The heads are not politicians; they come out of (the all-male) IT, for some reason, even though computing doesn't seem needed or even much called for.

And Troy/Donald remembers, even though the drugs are supposed to make him forget. Donald and Helen were supposed to meet at the Tennessee Silo, but a last minute switch with his best friend, fellow nuclear waste container contractor and Congressman Mick (because Congressmen are always best buddies and qualified to build nuclear waste facilities, of course) sent Donald to the Georgia Silo with Donald's sister Charlotte and the harlot Anna.

But the remembering might be his biggest problem. For THEY (there's always a THEY in stories like these) know he remembers. And Donald is put back to sleep.

Of course not for good, there's like a bajillion more parts to this story.

Fun Facts We Learn About the Future #1: All Georgian congressmen must kiss the ring of a Georgian Senator named Thurman (whose resemblance to Strom Thurmond, party affiliation aside, is uncanny.) The Congressmen must do whatever the Senator says. Apparently his real first name is "Simon."

Fun Fact #2: In the year 2049 (I keep hearing it sung like this) Congressmen do not need to meet with constituents, other government officials, or even lobbyists. Nor do they need to campaign for re-election. No, Congressmen spend all their time working on architectural drawings, even when they aren't licensed architects and haven't practiced professionally.

Fun Fact #3: I keep using the word Congressmen, because Future!Washington is even more sexist (and also more racist, since no people of color show up anywhere) than today. Howey writes, "There was a sense in the air that the world was about to change - a woman was about to win nomination for president, only the second such nomination in Donald's lifetime. And if the pollsters could be believed, this one had more than a chance." Since Donald is described as mid-thirties, that makes him born around 2014. So, sorry Hilary. Sorry Sarah. Sorry Condi or whoever might be in the wings. Save the expense now and don't run: Hugh Howey says no girls allowed in the Oval Office. Nuh uh.

Oh, there are women in this book, but they are either the receptionist; the secretary; the wife with no other apparent life except to wait by the phone and/or walk the dog; or the (dum dum DUM) evil temptress ex-girlfriend who does nothing tempting except to deliver a computer and have a meal. Howey does include Donald's sister Charlotte, an Air Force officer who pilots drones in some ongoing conflict with the usual Axis of Evil ™ suspects (c'mon, doesn't a new country get to join the Axis in the next forty years? Is it like the Bad Guy Club for Villains, and they aren't accepting new members?) but when Charlotte learns they want her to appear on stage with Senator Thurmondan and other members of the armed services, Howey has her say, "Oh God. And I'm the girl." So obviously, the idea that the other service members might be female is unthinkable.

Fun Fact #4: Congressmen from Georgia are so smart, they only just discover in 2049 that the CDC has a website devoted to surviving the zombie apocalypse. Quick on the uptake, politicians of the future.

Fun Fact #5: Technology has progressed to the point where nanos are used in medicine to repair cellular structures. On the other hand, people still use desktop computers, cell phones, computer mice, pens, paper, clipboards, etc. Not even a tablet device in sight. The march of progress led by companies such as Apple and Google appears to have been halted and reversed. Perhaps Silicon Valley was the Axis of Terror's™ first target. Still, I find it hard to believe that 2049 will be more like 2003 than 2013 when it comes to office technology.

We'll still be buying bestselling books in paper, however, so that's all right. I bet Simon & Schuster and Random House are happy to know their investment will continue to pay out.

Two stars for the belly laughs.

But if you are looking for a book to convince people that Howey is just woefully misunderstood when it comes to claims of sexism: this isn't the place to start.

Director's Cut, The: A Novel (Backstage Pass)

The Director's Cut - Janice  Thompson

Quick. Name a sitcom director.

I'm waiting.

OK, time's up.

I worked in television, and I can barely name sitcom directors. James Burrows is the only sitcom director who has anything close to a star name, and that's because he's been around since Cheers.

I'm 4% into the book and here are the glaring mistakes in the book:

1) Golden Globes aren't given out for directing. Emmys are. A Golden Globe win (to Hollywood insiders) just means you gave the Hollywood Foreign Press some really good swag.

2) The production assistant role has gone vacant for months? For realz?! Sorry, actual sitcoms would have several PAs.

3) They hire a first year film student as a PA?! Intern, maybe. PA, no. way.

Why do I read Hollywood books? Why? The LOLs aren't worth the rage they induce.

Marriage with Benefits (Harlequin Desire Series #2212)

Marriage with Benefits - Kat Cantrell Snappy and fast-paced. Great dialogue. The spin on marriage of convenience (she needs a divorce, not a husband, but to get a divorce one must get married first) is fresh (to me, at least. Although the dreaded trust fund does make an appearance. Srsly, where are all those lawyers who will draw up such a cockamamie trust?) Cia is Hispanic (although she appears to be of Spanish descent, not Mexican or otherwise Latin American) which adds a nice note of diversity. Lucas has an annoying habit of calling women "darlin'" (note: it's not) which I guess marks him as a Texan and only makes me happy to be a Californian. But other than that, Lucas is a very appealing hero and I love his wedding present to Cia.

The emotional beats feel authentic, and the chemistry between the characters burns up the pages.

Well done!

If You Were Mine: The Sullivans, Book 5 (Contemporary Romance)

If You Were Mine - Bella Andre Dog trainer Heather Linsey distrusts men because her father repeatedly cheated on her mother (they are still married, though) which caused the teenage Heather to cut herself. Love is a lie, Heather decided, and she wants no part of it.

Zach Sullivan is an automotive genius who restores vintage cars, races other cars, and owns a lucrative chain of auto repair shops. Zach is a middle child in the large and prolific Sullivan family, all of whom apparently are interesting enough to have their own book, but he is the one son who most resembles the late, beloved father who tragically dropped dead of an aneurysm when Zach was seven. Zach even gets headaches like his father. So Zach decided that he, too, will probably drop dead early and therefore has resolved to never form a lasting relationship because of the pain his passing would inflict on his survivors.

Two weeks later, these two are declaring "I love yous." (Oh, c'mon, it's a romance novel. If you think that's a spoiler, then why are you reading reviews of romance novels when you obviously know nothing of the genre?)

And thus my problem with the book. For all the belly-aching the hero and heroine engage in regarding their resistance to love, they get over it really quick. The emotional obstacles are leapt over with a single desultory hop. Heather's cheating father is dealt with in one quick scene; Zach acts like a spoiled brat and is oh so surprised when Heather reacts badly to his behavior, but his mother straightens him out with one short conversation and voila! Happy ever after.

I just couldn't make myself care. Nor did I think the San Francisco setting was used to its full advantage; this book could be set in Any Town, USA, and indeed, it felt waaaay more like a small town romance than set in one of the US's most distinctive urban centers.

The dogs were cute, however. And I liked the glimpses I got of Zach's family. Maybe I started the series with the wrong Sullivan.

Perfectly adequate, but not a keeper. If this had been a paper book, it would be on top of the pile of books to donate.

Boomerang Bride

Boomerang Bride - Fiona Lowe Winner of the 2012 RITA for Best Contemporary Romance.

Which really makes me curious about the health of the contemporary romance genre.

Not that this is a bad book. Far from it. It's charming and fun. I might've even had a tear or two in my eye at the big confrontation scene. Matilda is a terrific heroine, full of chutzpah and wit. As a former expat myself, I enjoyed Matilda's cultural confusion. Marc is appealing and very sexy. The small Wisconsin town setting is beautifully drawn, and the secondary romance is sweet and full of heartfelt emotion.

But the writing was interrupted by huge chunks of expository telling that made my eyes glaze over, and Matilda called Marc "Blondie" or referred to him as "Viking" when it is was in her POV waaaaay too many times for me to keep my eyes from rolling. Marc comes to his realization about Matilda in a rushed, bolt-of-lightning way, as if the author realized this was a romance so hey, time to wrap it up. And the overly sugary epilogue wiped the tears from my eyes and practically sent me into a diabetic coma.

So a really fun book, definitely deserving of four stars, but best in show? Hence my curiously about the health of the genre. Or maybe the more established contemporary romance authors didn't feel the need to enter their books in the RITAs.

How to Be a Woman

How to Be a Woman - Caitlin Moran


Moran can go screw herself. And return all those distasteful US dollars to the poor backward American women who bought her self-aggrandizing BS.


M: How was promoting your book in the US? Did they understand How to be a Woman?

C: It was tricky because many of the programs that you would go on, or interviews that you do, someone would take you aside and say “Well we’re kinda not allowed to say the word ‘vagina’ in America at the moment.”

M: Jesus.

C: It’s weird there. And you’d realise… like in the same way that we don’t have policemen with guns in the UK and then you go to America and the policemen have guns. And often you can be in a state where there’s the death penalty and…

M: Not for saying vagina, surely.

C: Yep! They kill you for saying vagina [laughs]. And then in the same way that you know, here (in Britain) we have contraception and abortion and then you go there (the US) and there are people that genuinely believe in Heaven and Hell and Satan and there are states where all sex is illegal and they’re trying to take back the right to abortion or the right to contraception.

And it’s a lot scarier, it’s like going back in the past or something. It’s like travelling two hundred, a hundred years back and I feel quite vulnerable as a woman there because there are things that you can just toss off in a conversation here that people take for granted but you have to take people step-by-step through it in America in terms of feminism.

M: Like the fact that you’ve written about your abortion and things like that: you just can’t just go on The View and chat about that, can you.

C: It’s got to the point now where when I’m doing interviews with people, and I know they’re about to talk about abortion, because they do this sort of sympathetic head and they go “of course you wrote very meaningfully about your abortion” and I always have to stop myself laughing when they do it. Not that I’m laughing at abortion, it’s just because that’s what everyone feels they have to do when we talk about it.

So yeah, it was weird going there and having to basically justify feminism again in a way I never had to in this country or in any other places. Italy seems to be troubled as well, judging from the interviews that I’ve done. You get female interviewers who really need you, who are desperate for you to take them through, step-by-step, through why women should be equal to men, and why access to abortion should be a right. They need you to do that because that conversation has still not happened there. Women still haven’t been proven equal to men in Italy as far as I’m aware.

M: There was a very tragic case in Melbourne recently, about an Irish girl who was walking home from a bar, and who was married and lived 800 metres from a bar, and was walking home and was just randomly abducted and raped and murdered. And it’s really been one of those watershed moments for the whole country.

There have been peace marches, and reclaim the night marches, because it is that thing that we all fear, a woman walking alone, randomly taken from the streets, and it’s really divided a lot of women. Because there have been those who have said, “don’t blame the victim, we need to be free to walk the streets at any time, it’s men who need to be taught not to rape and murder.”

And of course it should never be about victim blaming but I worry about the idea of saying to women “don’t change your behaviour, this is not your problem!”. I feel like that’s saying, ”You should be able to leave your car unlocked with the keys in the ignition, or leave your front door unlocked, and expect nobody to burgle you.”

C: Yes. It’s on that basis that I don’t wear high heels – other than I can’t walk in them – because when I’m lying in bed at night with my husband, I know there’s a woman coming who I could rape and murder, because I can hear her coming up the street in high heels, clack-clack -clack. And I can hear she’s on her own, I can hear what speed she’s coming at, I could plan where to stand to grab her or an ambush. And every time I hear her I think, “Fuck, you’re just alerting every fucking nutter to where you are now. And [that it’s a concern] that’s not right.

Society should be different. But while we’re waiting for society to change, there’s just certain things you have to do. But again the thing is, so many things you could do instead are predicated on having money. She could come out of a nightclub and get into a taxi, that would be the right thing to do.

No billionaire heiresses are ever abducted and raped and murdered, because they are just being put into a taxi or have their driver waiting around a corner for them.

Oh, Caitlin, you ignorant prat, you.

First, Patty Hearst is an heiress who was abducted and raped and forced to commit armed robbery, so go learn some history and stop talking out of your lower back orifice.

Second, I lived in the UK. British women are no more and no less liberated than American women. Period. In fact, since the UK is the proud home of Katie Price/Jordan, and turned Jade Goody into a posthumous saint, and worships at the feet of WAGs (wives and girlfriends of football/soccer stars,) and, worst of all, thinks that Victoria Beckham is actually relevant (we kicked her ass to the curb in the States and made her run back to Europe): I rest my case.

"States were all sex is outlawed"?!?!? Oh Moran, you xenophobic moron.

"Policemen don't have guns in the UK" Oh, so those armed men standing outside New Scotland Yard that I passed every day on my way to Tube were holding toy assault rifles?

"They kill you for saying vagina" Oh, poor Eve Ensler! Has her family been informed of her demise?

Oh, and let's not start with Moron's - I mean, Moran's victim blaming. I know far too many rape and assault victims who were attacked while wearing flat soled shoes; who were attacked in their beds; who were attacked while running in broad daylight in a "safe" neighborhood. I myself was surrounded by a group of drunk Champagne Charlies who tried to scare and intimidate me at 8 o'clock in the morning on Charing Cross Road; I wore rubber-soled shoes, a bulky leather coat and no make-up. (Funny, the only time I've been scared for my person has been in London, despite living in several US cities with worse reputations.)

But no, according to Moran, the only women who get raped are those who "deserve" it by dressing and acting a certain way.

In other words, ragey, ragey eyeball stabby. If Moran had an ethical bone in her body (which I doubt) she would donate every pence of her royalties to rape helplines and battered women shelters, to counteract just an ounce of the BS she peddles.