Fiction: “The Pirate Bride” by Shannon Drake

Pirate BrideOn my trip to My Dear Friend Sarah’s bachelorette party, I had brought A Wrinkle in Time and Killing Orders to read, between the bus, plane, train, Metro, and train rides to get from Portland, Maine to Montgomery County, Maryland and back. But on the Sunday morning of the party weekend, we all trucked out to WonderBook, where Sarah used to work, and I stocked up on I think, six books? to bring back home. The Pirate Bride was one of those titles.

I had read Beguiled by Shannon Drake ages ago, and found it meh. I had forgotten I had found it meh until I just went back and read the review of it I had written seven years ago. I did remember, quite clearly, that Beguiled was just an interpretation of the Sleeping Beauty story. In the interim between Beguiled and The Pirate Bride, I also learned that Beguiled was part of a trilogy which looked at other fairy tales (I think – I know the first, Wicked, is supposed to be analogous to “Beauty and the Beast”). (Also, Shannon Drake is apparently one of the pseudonyms of Heather Graham. I have not read anything by Heather Graham, but if you like her and also like historical romances, you may want to give Shannon Drake a chance.)

So, here’s the bad news about The Pirate Bride: I can’t remember a lot about the plot. Not only because I read it so long ago, but also, I actually started reading this on the train ride back home to Boston, and … well …

Okay. I’m an idiot. It looks like I alluded to my transportation debacles in the reviews of the past two books, but let me be quite clear about what happened, for posterity.

When I learned of Sarah’s bachelorette party, I looked up transportation options, because while my car, Bruce, is an amazing piece of machinery, he was nearing 150,000 miles at that point and one trip to D.C. and back was more than enough for him. Of all the alternatives I could find – plane from Portland, bus to Boston and planes from Boston, overnight trains between Boston and DC – the cheapest option was actually the last: overnight trains from South Station to Union Station and back. So I booked those, and then got the official invitation which extended the party to Friday, so I canceled my incoming train and got a voucher (because of course they were non-refundable) and bought a one-way flight from Boston to Baltimore. I kept my return train trip, however.

The party ends, and Sarah drops me off at Union Station with all my things – including a bottle of Neuro Sleep, which I like to call my “Sleepy Time Drink”, because I’m an asshole. My train is scheduled to pull out a little after 10 p.m., and I should be hitting Boston around 8, bringing me back home to Portland in time for 11 a.m. I settle in for a long ride, and crack open The Pirate Bride to see if I can hasten sleep.

Well, the good thing about the book is that it kept me awake. And for some reason, something kept me from imbibing my Sleepy Time Drink – I’m not sure what it was, but I decided not to drink it. Good thing, too – because when the train pulled into Trenton a little past midnight, our train was stopped “due to police activity on the track”, and given an indefinite delay.

I don’t think Amtrak ever announced why we were stopped, but I found out on Twitter. The night before, at the party, all our phones had gone off because of the bomb found in SoHo (most of the other attendees of Sarah’s bachelorette party were visiting from New York). Well, the night I was going home – on a train – was the night of the bombs discovered in Elizabethtwo stations away.

We remained in Trenton for almost two hours.

We were finally told that we were going to pull forward to the next station (Metropark), at which point we were all to disembark, and there would be buses to take us to either Newark or Penn Station, whichever one we needed to get to.

Buses never showed. We disembarked around 3 a.m., and for over an hour, I had to listen to old white dudes wearing Giants jerseys shout into the void, “WHERE’S THE BUS?!” and then get angry when buses didn’t automatically appear at the sound of their voices, because they’re old white guys and have never been denied anything in their entire life.

There were also the people who tried to make a case that the lack of buses was the result of Democratic leadership in the White House, and that if a certain Cheeto’d Fiasco (this was pre-Access Hollywood tape, be tee dubs) got elected this wouldn’t happen. Sure. How’s that workin’ out for ya, chump? Do you have buses now?

At about 4:30 a.m., I had two women approach me, one of which had scoped out cabs to Newark. We eventually Uber’d over to Newark Station (which is an even longer story) where we caught the PATH to Penn Station. They went on their way, because they were from the city, and I busted through the LIRR and New Jersey Transit to finally find Amtrak, where I learn that the train I was supposed to be on (had I actually waited for the buses to take me to Penn) had pulled out.

It was now 6:30 a.m.  I had been awake since 10 a.m. the previous day. I was dehydrated, and hungry, but also didn’t dare eat something for fear of it upsetting my stomach. I had not napped on the train; nor had I slept standing up, because there were IDIOTS in front of the bus area at Metropark who were CONVINCED that HILLARY CLINTON was the reason WE DIDN’T HAVE BUSES TO PICK US UP, and also one of the women I Uber’d with was someone who had an OPINION ON EVERYTHING, and as I was on the PATH train with her and listening to her have VERY IMPORTANT OPINIONS on the fucking REDSKINS, of all things, I was suddenly completely overwhelmed with the feeling, I just want to go home.

I HAD WATCHED THE SUN COME UP IN FUCKING JERSEY, I AM DONE WITH HAVING ANYONE’S SHIT

And then, the Amtrak guy tried to tell me I had the wrong ticket.

distaste

maaaaaay have lost my shit.

hanni jumpy.gif

“It can’t be the wrong ticket! THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A WRONG TICKET. THIS TICKET is the ticket I had when I boarded the train in Washington at 9:30 last night, and this is the same ticket I had when Amtrak forced us off in Metropark to wait for buses that never came, I just Uber’d from NEWARK, of all places, and I need to get to Boston, and you, motherfucker, are getting me on the next fucking train north, or so help me GOD, I will end you!”

He shut up and got me a ticket.

When I finally got back into Bruce the Car in Portland to drive home, it was raining, and the traffic wasn’t going as fast as I wanted to, and this was an honest-to-god actual shot of me in the car on I-295:

alana 2

I finally made it home, took a shower, called my mother, and was asleep by 3 p.m. I passed out – not slept, passed out – for five hours, and still managed to sleep that night to go into work the next day.

And that’s the bare bones story! There is more detail I could put in, but I won’t! Namely because you probably don’t care, also I want to save it for my memoirs, but mainly because I’ve procrastinated on reviewing this book long enough.

The Pirate Bride is a stand-alone romance novel by Shannon Drake – there is nothing before it, and nothing after it.

The pirate in question is Red Robert – who happens to be Roberta. Or Bobbie, to her friends. When Bobbie was a kid, her parents were murdered by the evil pirate Blair Colm, so Bobbie grew up determined to take her revenge. One day, she and her crew captures Logan Hagerty’s merchant ship, and Red Robert decides to hold Logan for ransom. As they engage, Logan learns that Robert is a lady pirate and they come to an accord. But then they get shipwrecked on a deserted island and that’s where their romance truly blooms. Until the pirate Bobbie had been searching for all her life shows up with his crew, and Logan decides he’s going to kill him for Bobbie but Bobbie still wants to kill him herself —

I’m sorry. I feel like I’m doing a disservice to you, my readers, because I do not recall the details of the book. I just read through my dog-eared pages and I cannot remember why I dog-eared any of them. (Well, except one – someone reels off at the beginning of a chapter, “Outgunned, outsailed, outmanned, out … blasted!” and in my head I heard George Washington talk about the British taking Brooklyn and needing a right hand man.)

All in all, it’s a very formulaic historical romance – boy meets girl, girl is a pirate, boy admires girl’s chutzpah, boy and girl get shipwrecked, boy and girl fall in love, boy vows to kill girl’s enemy for her, girl gets mad, bad guy dies in the end anyway, and everyone lives happily ever after.

Eventually, I’ll read it again. I do remember that I read nearly half the book before the train stopped in Trenton, and I found the characters charming enough to keep me awake.

And I am never taking an Amtrak past Boston ever again.

Grade for The Pirate Bride: 2 stars

Fiction: “Killing Orders” by Sara Paretsky

killing ordersI am giving myself ninety minutes to write this review, and then I should do my homework (ugh) for my leadership training class tomorrow (double ugh), but I’m gonna give you a heads-up right now: I probably won’t.

I can’t remember if I packed this book as a backup to A Wrinkle In Time when I took my ill-fated (in terms of transportation debacles, not company) Washington, D.C. trip last September. As you will see (I’d say “shortly”, but y’all know how I roll on this here blog by now; ain’t nothing “short” about it), I ended up reading a romance novel I purchased at My Dear Friend Sarah’s (former?) place of work instead. And I can’t really remember the order of when I read this versus A Wrinkle In Time, the upcoming Pirate Bride, and the even-further-upcoming North and South, because around that time last year I got really bad with dates. My GoodReads 2016 shelf does not match my Book (Excel) Spreadsheet, things are out of order, human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together – mass hysteria!

But in the end, it doesn’t matter! Because I read it anyway, and time is a flat circle.

This is the third book in the V.I. Warshawski series. In this title, Vic is hired – then fired – by her awful Aunt Rosa, who hates Vic and Vic’s mother. Vic idolizes her mother, Gabriella, and while Vic doesn’t want to get back into Rosa’s good graces, she does want to find the truth about why Aunt Rosa was fired from her Treasurer position at her (Rosa’s) church. Turns out some securities the monks (they’re Dominican brothers, so friars? monks? it doesn’t matter) wanted to cash in so they could expand the priory (?) (I’m not looking this stuff up, you know that by now) were forgeries, and the only logical suspect is Rosa. The monks agree that if Vic can clear Rosa’s name, then Rosa would be hired again and all would be well.

So, out of familial duty, Vic looks into it – until Rosa gets all butt-hurt about something and fires her. But Vic then hires herself – or maybe her boyfriend, Roger, hires her because the securities are related to his firm? I don’t know. Point is, she investigates. And crosses paths with the Catholic Church, and the Mafia. Because this takes place in Chicago, don’t ya know.

Vic remains a tough broad – drinking Scotch, ignoring domestic duties like cleaning and washing dishes, wearing clothes she tossed on the floor the night before – aside from the Scotch part, I see a lot of myself in Vic. (For me, it’d be gin.) She finds herself, for the first time in the series, able to let her guard down around somebody – in this instance, Roger. Though when it looks like she’s definitely on a Mob hit list, she pulls away from Roger in order to keep him safe from danger.

At one point, Vic reaches out to her friend, Lotty, and asks to get in touch with Lotty’s uncle, a former forger. The uncle agrees to make additional copies of the securities, which results with the uncle landing in the hospital, and Lotty quite upset with Vic. Vic is absolutely remorseful for her role in the caper, and at the end of the book, she and Lotty have reconciled.

What else … uh, not much. In the end, this book is a fairly rote “female detective” novel – single gal who does tough things like drink Scotch and jog unwillingly takes on big corporations or evil entities to fight for the little guy. You see this (slightly) with Kinsey Millhone in Sue Grafton’s alphabet series, although Kinsey’s drink of choice is cheap white wine. While I have no evidence whatsoever to back this up, I feel the category of “female detective novel” has been dominated by cozy-type mysteries, so I appreciate Kinsey and Vic remaining strong and tough as nails. I should also point out, though, that this book was first published in 1986, so some of the attitudes within the book are directly tied to events and attitudes occurring thirty years ago.

I do like the V.I. Warshawski series – it’s just taking me a long time to get through a series lately. It’s taking me a long time to do anything, lately. But as I was able to get this published within my ninety minute timeframe, I’m going to … take a couple of Melatonin and go to bed, I guess.

When did I become an adult?

Grade for Killing Orders: 2.5 stars

Fiction: “A Wrinkle in Time” by Madeleine L’Engle

wrinkle in timeGood evening! I’m drunk. Trivia was earlier tonight, and I decided to go with gins and tonic as opposed to Pub Style brew, and … yeah. Good night. We lost, be tee dubs. We got trounced. So next week, I’m definitely going back to beer, because while the quinine in the tonic water may have settled my stomach (which has kind of been upset for an entire week), it did nothing for my intelligence. And my partner-in-trivia will be the first to admit that of the two of us, I’m the brains of the operation (he gets most of the sports stuff. Except for tonight, when we were off on the baseball strike by one year. BUT STILL), and when I’m not operating at 100% … it’s not pretty.  Great Odin’s Raven was not great tonight. We were Mediocre Odin’s Raven at best.

Anyhoodle. I decided, “hey, let me go home and bang out another review, because I’m so fucking behind, and why don’t I pour myself another gin and tonic while I’m at it because why the fuck not?”

… When did I add ABBA’s “S.O.S.” to my iTunes? the fuck?

SO I READ THIS BACK IN SEPTEMBER. I had just read the news about the movie adaptation, directed by Ava DuVernay, the director of Selma, and the amazing casting choices: Meg Murry played by Storm Reid! Gugu Mbatha-Raw (HOLY SHIT I SPELLED THAT RIGHT ON THE FIRST TRY WHILE DRUNK YESI’MAWESOME) as Mrs. Murry! Chris Pine as the missing Mr. Murry! I mean, the Casting Gods really came through on this one.

But that news was in September. And I was staring down the barrel of a flight and then an overnight train back to Maine so I could attend My Dear Friend Sarah’s bridal shower in D.C. (P.S.: Dear Friend Sarah: I want to apologize for my poor time management on that weekend – in retrospect, I should have just traded in both train tickets for JetBlue, but … hindsight. I won’t be making that mistake again. But I also want to thank you for your hospitality.) Anyway, I thought the weekend trip would be a great opportunity to revisit A Wrinkle in Time.

Because I had read this back when I was a kid, and now, all I could remember from it was “tesseract” — mainly because I’d joke that characters on TV shows would tesseract all over the place (see: Alias especially. No wonder I have problems with the space-time continuum!).

A Wrinkle In Time is the first book of a quintet starring Meg Murry, the elder daughter of scientists Mr. and Mrs. Murry. Her younger brother is Charles Wallace, quite precocious at age 5. Mr. Murry has been missing for some time, and Meg is feeling out of place in her family. Meg learns that Charles Wallace has befriended a strange old woman in their neighborhood, Mrs. Whatsit. Mrs. Whatsit informs Mrs. Murry that there is such a thing as a tesseract, which causes a reaction.

Meg becomes closer with high school student Calvin, who is sweet and feels like an outsider despite his popular status. One afternoon, Meg and Calvin follow Charles Wallace to Mrs. Whatsit’s house, where they meet Mrs. Whatsit’s housemate, Mrs. Who. Their other companion, Mrs. Which, who is pretty much incorporeal, tells Meg and Charles Wallace that the women will help the Murrys find their father.

The strange women help the children tesseract – essentially, jump through a wormhole, or, if you will, a wrinkle in time – to the planet Camazotz, which looks what I imagine North Korea to look like. The inhabitants of Camazotz are regimented in everything: all houses look the same, everyone acts the same, has the same schedule. The planet is run by a disembodied brain, called IT, which can control people through telepathy.

In his escapade, Charles Wallace becomes controlled by IT, and it takes all of Meg’s strength to overpower IT to rescue both her brother and her father. By being an outcast and, most importantly, by being capable of love – something IT does not have – she is able to rescue Charlies Wallace from IT. The reunited family – Meg, Charles Wallace, Mr. Murry, and Calvin, the newest member – return to Earth and reconnect with Mrs. Murry and the twins. (Meg is the oldest, then there are the twins, and then Charles Wallace. I did forget to mention that up higher, thank you. But — gin.)

Having reconnected with the book, I felt … underwhelmed. Maybe it’s because I didn’t have a cozy memory associated with A Wrinkle in Time. Not that I had bad memories – I just had no memories. Growing up, I read Madeleine L’Engle’s other series, about the Austen family. The series included the titles A Ring of Endless Light and The Arm of the Starfish. While I don’t remember anything about the first time I ever read A Wrinkle of Time, I distinctly remember having a nosebleed all over the Curtis Memorial Library’s copy of The Arm of the Starfish, and I’ll bet you ten American dollars that I can go into that library, find that same copy of the book, and find my faded blood still in it. (I wiped it up as best I could.)

My Dear Friend Sarah, however, stated that A Wrinkle in Time was one of her favorite books growing up. So while I still enjoyed my re-read of this book (Amtrak disasters bedamned) and while I’m quite looking forward to the upcoming film adaptation, I’m not sure I’m going to go forward with the series. I might.

I also feel bad that I’m not doing this book as great a service as I could. First of all, I read it seven months ago; and secondofly, while I’m no longer shithoused, or even really buzzed — no, I’m still slightly buzzed. And while I was drunk enough at the beginning of this review to think that drunk!reviewing would be a great idea!, and maybe that’s what’s been keeping my backlog from getting better, in … what’s the opposite of retrospect? In reflection, maybe I should have waited to write this when I was more sober.

But that may have been so far in the future that I may have had to read the book again, and I’m sorry, but I don’t have time for that.

Grade for A Wrinkle in Time: 3.5 stars

Fiction: “Mistress of My Fate” by Hallie Rubenhold

Mistress of my FateOkay. It’s 10:02. I am giving myself until midnight to get this written. If I’m not done by then, I’m posting it incomplete, and you can fill in the blanks yourownself.

To be honest, this book was pretty … forgettable. I picked this up in the middle of my historical romance kick (I’ve still got a few of those left to review, be tee dubs), and was … very disappointed.

This is the first novel in a trilogy (how?!), narrated by Henrietta Lightfoot, the adopted niece of an Earl who becomes a fancy prostitute. Growing up, all she wanted was for her cousin, Catherine, to be her BFF. And for a time it looked like her wish came true, but then Henrietta becomes close with Catherine’s fiance, George Allenham. Catherine finds Henrietta’s platonic letters to George, becomes ill with the plague or something, and then dies under possibly suspicious circumstances. So Henrietta runs away (she also finds out that she’s not a foundling, she’s actually the illegitimate daughter of the Earl, who she was raised to believe was her uncle or whatever) to George Allenham, who takes her in and pretty much promises to marry her … but then bolts in the night.

(There’s a whole subplot about how George is a bit of an anarchist, fighting against the royals in France before the Revolution, and that he may be a spy or something, but it’s not very clear and honestly, not pertinent to my discussion of this book.)

So Henrietta, alone, follows George to London, but is a few days late and quite a number of pounds short. She is taken in by a kindly woman, and poor Henrietta learns too late that the kindly woman is actually a fancy prostitute. Henrietta is appalled — appalled, I say! — but then she’s introduced to St. John Something-Or-Other, who used to go with Henrietta’s mother (who was also a prostitute, and apparently the Best Madam Who Hast Ever Madamed), and he offers to take her in but then makes her his mistress. Then she learns that she’s pregnant, by Allenham, and when her pregnancy is discovered St. John again agrees to take care of her, but she’s a kept woman, and she then learns that nothing of hers actually belongs to her. It’s a whole big thing.

The rest of the book is Henrietta scheming with other Kept Ladies on how to maintain her autonomy in a man’s world, while also trying to make sure she has enough money to find Allenham in Paris.

Here’s the thing: I don’t trust Henrietta as a narrator. I talked about reliable narrators briefly with regards to Nick Carroway, the narrator of The Great Gatsby. We trust Nick, because it seems that he relates the events as they happen, without outside commentary. Henrietta, however, addresses the reader directly, and she tells us in the first two paragraphs that this “book” is being “written” to tell her side of the story:

I have no doubt that many of you have come to this work out of curiosity. You have heard so much about me, most of which is pure fabrication. Now that you have torn off the packaging and cut the pages, you can begin to read my story and to know who I am. [p. 1]

The fourth sentence of the entire novel is this:

Now you may now the truth, and nothing gives me greater relief than this. [p. 1]

And maybe it’s me, being a cynic; but, in the words of my forever Pretend Husband (not boyfriend – he deserves more than that), Jon Stewartnobody says “believe me” unless they are lying. And, similar to saying “believe me,” I’m not inclined to accept what someone says is the truth if they’re constantly telling me it’s the truth.

Oh, this may sound unrelated, and I know the person I’m kind of subtweeting here won’t see this, but: DUDE: JUST TELL ME IF YOU’RE ABANDONING YOUR CAR. I DO NOT CARE IF YOU’RE ABANDONING YOUR CAR. I DO NOT JUDGE YOU ON THIS. IT MAY SOUND LIKE I’M JUDGING, BUT I ASSURE YOU, I’M NOT. BUT DON’T FUCKING TELL ME THE CAR HAS BEEN TOWED TO THE DEALER. NO DEALER WILL TOW A CAR TO THE DEALERSHIP FOR DIAGNOSIS OF THE ISSUE AND THEN TOW THE VEHICLE BACK TO THE PARKING GARAGE FROM WHENCE IT CAME. AND NOT ONLY THE GARAGE, BUT THE EXACT FUCKING SPOT THE CAR WAS IN FOUR MONTHS AGO. IT. HAS. NOT. MOVED. FOR CHRIST’S SAKE, MAN UP, AND GET A NEW DAMN CAR.

Ahem. Thank you for allowing me to get that off my chest. I would bring it up, but my horoscope tells me I should keep my mouth shut tomorrow.

ANYHOODLE. So, I don’t trust Henrietta. And that means that as I was reading her escapades, a voice in the back of my head was wondering, how much of a victim is she, really?

Other, stray thoughts:

I was far too inexperienced to recognize flirtation when I encountered it, and began to panic. [p. 48]

^^ IT ME.

And speaking of it being me,

“Do you have a strong appetite, Miss Lightfoot?”

“Why, I do not believe my appetite stronger than that of most ladies,” came my innocent reply. The company began to titter.

“And do you find most ladies to have large appetites, madam?”

I thought seriously upon Lord Barrymore’s question. The entire table seemed to hang upon my answer.

“No, my lord, I do not believe we do. As we are smaller creatures than gentlemen, we are more readily filled.” [p. 249]

THAT’S WHAT SHE SAID.

Don’t be surprised if I don’t continue with the series.

(11 minutes past midnight; I’ll take it.)

Grade for Mistress of My Fate: 1 star

Essays: “Don’t Get Too Comfortable” by David Rakoff

don't get too comfortableI’ve previously reviewed David Rakoff’s first collection of essays, Fraud. I’ve read Don’t Get Too Comfortable before as well, prior to the inception of That’s What She Read. I can’t remember what prompted me to pick this collection off of my bookshelf (mainly because I read this book back in August and I’m really ashamed, y’all, but then I remember that I don’t have deadlines for this because it’s my own thing, available on the interwebs for free, so suck it, Shame), but I’m happy my impulse paid off.

Like FraudDon’t Get Too Comfortable is a collection of humorous essays that have been published previously elsewhere, namely GQ and Harper’s Bazaar. The subtitle gives the reader a hint of the subject matter: “The Indignities of Coach Class, the Torments of Low Thread Count, the Never-Ending Quest for Artisanal Olive Oil, and Other First World Problems.” I was wondering if this book was the origin of the phrase “first world problems,” but according to Wikipedia, it’s … not. So. Oh well.

The topics of Mr. Rakoff’s essays range from the day he took his citizenship test – Mr. Rakoff was a Canadian who earned dual citizenship after 9/11 – to his love of crafting, and a treatise on Log Cabin Republicans, a class of politico that I think may have become extinct? Do we even have those anymore?

He’s not lying when he subtitled his book to refer to First World Problems. Everything in this book is a First World Problem. As poignant as he is about gaining his dual residency, Mr. Rakoff came to New York on a work visa and lived as such for twenty-two years. He was of Canadian origin. There was no “extreme vetting” for his class, because he was white.

His job writing essays for highbrow magazines sent him on numerous … adventures, I guess, is the word? He wrote a piece as an observer on a Latin America Playboy television program. He wrote an essay about his experience on one of the last flights of the Concorde, and the class of people who were able to ride on the Concorde. There’s an excursion he goes on with a Wildman of Central Park, who teaches his students how to scavenge the foliage for edible plant life. These are not exposés on the horrors imposed on humanity by other humans.

(This all sounds very cynical. I think the tone I’m using to review this book is much different from the tone I would have used in August, right after I finished reading it. Back in August, I probably would have said that his saga on becoming an American citizen was quaint and inspired – now, all I can see is that he was the “right” kind of immigrant, and even though he outright admits that his story is not one of struggle, it feels disingenuous to me to even talk about a white Canadian’s immigration experience, however humorously the subject is presented.)

(I had just written this long parenthetical about how, for my birthday, I would like a time machine to go back four months so I can fucking fix something, but then I remembered that time machines only move an individual back in time, not the entire world, and I can’t exactly bring the entire population of the United States back with me so they can tell their friends about ~the future~ to help ensure a different outcome, plus what happens when we run into our past selves? Anyway, my brain hurt from the paradox so I’m going to shut up now.)

One of the essays I’d like to mention is his take on the quest for perfection in everything, entitled “What Is The Sound Of One Hand Shopping?”

[[IF Y’ALL DIDN’T IMMEDIATELY START DOING THIS —

one hand clapping

— EVEN THOUGH THE TITLE SAYS “SHOPPING” AND NOT “CLAPPING”, GET THE HELL OUT OF MY LIBRARY]]

(Oh god, I have two digressions now. Okay. #1: “Welcome to the Hellmouth,” the first episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, first aired twenty years ago on March 10. Fuck offffff. That’s — I am not that old. [[if you’re curious as to how that tidbit came out of apparently nowhere, I must remind you that in “The Dark Age,” Willow gets mad at Xander and Cordelia for fighting and she has this great rant that ends with “if you two aren’t with me a hundred and ten percent, then get the hell out of my library!” So — good quote.]]

Secondly: the “one hand clapping” .gif up there is one of my favorite visual jokes of all time, and that led my brain to want to mention my first favorite hand-related joke, which is, of course, this old chestnut from The Great Muppet Caper:

Kermit: Now, if we want to get Miss Piggy out of jail, we’re going to have to catch those thieves red-handed. Yes, Beauregard?
Beauregard: What color are their hands now?

AND THEN I remembered that, two Trivia Nights ago, Friend Brad was telling me a story about a shoplifter or … y’know, I can’t honestly remember what the premise was, but anyway, he said something about “catching them red-handed.” And like Pavlov’s Dog, I proudly and immediately shouted, “WHAT COLOR WERE THEIR HANDS THEN?!” I mean, I have never been lucky enough to use this punchline in everyday conversation, so the entire experience was awesome.

But Friend Brad either decided to ignore my outburst — which, in his defense, would be a valid defense strategy; I am a pretty weird person, and ignoring my weird outbursts is probably a good mechanism to have — or, he didn’t think the joke was funny enough to warrant a response, which would be wrong. This is a great joke.

And then I started to wonder if he’d ever even seen The Great Muppet Caper, and I’m sorry, if he’s going to razz me about fucking Shawshank every time he sees me but hasn’t seen The Great Muppet Caper? Fuck offffff.)

Where was I? Oh right – “What’s The Sound Of One Hand Shopping?”

As I said, this essay is about the cult of seeking perfection. Y’know, the people who spend ungodly amounts of money on items that are supposed to be pure, or authentic, or … or whatever. I don’t know. I don’t understand that concept. I am widely known as The Oldest Millennial Alive, because I have a Samsung Galaxy 4 (it still works! I am not the President of the United States, so I don’t require more security!) and a 4th generation iPod Nano, purchased in 2009, which still works, and why would I replace something that isn’t broken? So the idea of spending more in order to demonstrate greatness is just lost on me.

Surely when we’ve reached the point where we’re fetishizing sodium chloride and water, and subjecting both to the kind of scrutiny we used to reserve for selecting an oncologist, it’s time to admit that the relentless questing for that next undetectable gradation of perfection has stopped being about the thing itself and crossed over into a realm of narcissism so overwhelming as to make the act of masturbation look selfless. [p. 24]

One essay that spoke to me was “Martha, My Dear,” wherein Mr. Rakoff discusses his deep love for crafting, amidst the tale of his visit to the craft supply closet at Martha Stewart Living. I also enjoy crafting: from crocheting scarves and stuffed animals (and lately, a whole mess of baby blankets and other stuff for expecting friends and acquaintances), to cross-stitching profanity-laden quotes from Deadwood and then turning those quotes into a pillow —

Cocksucker pillow

— and now my latest project: making maternity shirts for a friend of mine because, dear everyone: GEEKS GET PREGNANT TOO, and geeks who enjoy wearing geeky t-shirts want to continue to wear geeky t-shirts while pregnant, but does every goddamned shirt have to point out that the wearer is pregnant?!

Here’s a smattering. I am so incensed on her behalf, I’m actually considering teaching myself to use a sewing machine and not just adjusting previously-made geek shirts. (Another thing I should do: figure out how long and involved the process is to register a trade name before someone else steals my/our idea…)

I make stuff because I can’t not make stuff. [p. 120]

IT’S ME

The last essay I want to mention, I’m going to get to in a kind of roundabout way. I was first introduced to Mr. Rakoff with his appearance on The Daily Show back in … holy shit, 2006. Oh my god. Jon Stewart interviewed him at the release of Don’t Get Too Comfortable, and after watching it, I knew I had to read this book as soon as possible.

(I encourage everyone to take six minutes out of their day to watch the video at the above link, if only to see how young Jon Stewart was back then. Oh, Jon. My Forever-Pretend-Boyfriend. Have I told you lately how much I miss you, Jon? Please come back I miss you.)

Anyways. I bought the book, read it, devoured it, and loved it. And then — okay, I can’t remember if I was lending it to Uncle Jean (who I used to work with), or if I had just — no, I couldn’t have been leaving it in Brad’s mailbox, because this was while Brad was still manager, so I would have just left it on his desk … I must have lent the book to someone else prior to then lending it and Fraud to Brad, but the point of this part of the story is, I distinctly remember talking to Uncle Jean about the book, and about this one essay, entitled “Beat Me, Daddy”, which is the essay Mr. Rakoff refers to in his interview with Jon Stewart.

“Beat Me, Daddy”, for those who have elected to not watch the video, is an essay about the Log Cabin Republicans of yore – gay Republicans who just wanted lower taxes, but the Grand Ol’ Party wasn’t really welcoming or accepting back then? Wow, those were the days!

Mr. Rakoff speaks with Patrick Guerriero, the executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, who tells Mr. Rakoff,

“I have a lot of strikes against me […] I’m a Catholic from the archdiocese of Boston, from a Democratic family, and I’m a Red Sox fan. I’ve chosen to stay in institutions I care about.” [p. 157-158]

But as Mr. Rakoff points out,

It’s all well and good to stay in the institutions you care about, but wouldn’t it be nice to feel that the institution, in turn, cared about you, or at least wasn’t hell-bent on your eradication or, failing that, the legislating away of your rights? [p. 158]

OH GOD IT’S TOO REAL RIGHT NOW THIS WAS SUCH A CHARMING SENTENCE BACK IN AUGUST

Now, here’s the selling point on this essay: this is the part of the story Mr. Rakoff spoke of during his Daily Show interview, and it’s also the section I distinctly remember reading aloud, in its entirety (which I will quote below) to Uncle Jean, in Footwear backstock, within hearing distance of customers.

Man, that was a different time. Now you can’t even talk to your fellow sales reps on the sales floor.

ANYWAY. Mr. Rakoff also spoke with Robert Knight, “director of the conservative advocacy group the Culture and Family Institute” [p. 162]. Mr. Knight is firmly against the Log Cabin Republicans:

“The Log Cabin agenda to promote homosexuality is utterly at odds with the GOP’s self-styled image as a pro-family, pro-marriage party.” [p. 163]

Now, it is not my job to disagree with the GOP’s self-styled image as a pro-family, pro-marriage, homophobic, Puritan party that disapproves of sexual misconduct and poor technological security, while also promoting itself as a protector of children and the innocent, and above all, highlights honesty and respect for women as two of the most important poles within its “big tent.” Additionally, I am well aware that Democrats have proven themselves to be dangerous hypocrites along some of these same lines.

[[Excuse me while I go take the longest, cleansing-est shower of my life. Yick.]]

It is my job, however, to recount exactly what Mr. Knight said about anal sex, AIDS, and vaginas. Please remember: I read the following paragraphs ALOUD within hearing distance of ACTUAL CUSTOMERS at a very large retail store, and I was NOT FIRED.  \o/

“Sodomy is their rallying cry,” [Knight] says.

Well, it sure is someone’s rallying cry. A lot of our hour-long conversation is taken up with talking about anal sex. I have never spoken so much about anal sex in my life.

[…] But if Knight displays an obsession with the mechanics of sodomy — simultaneously mesmerized and sickened by the tumescent, pistoning images of it that must loop through his head on a near-constant basis — he is notably impervious to an image he conjures when I submit as how HIV is transmissible through normative, upstanding, God-sanctioned heterosexual congress as well.

“Not as easily,” he says. “The vagina is designed to accommodate a penis. It can take a lot of punishment.” [p. 164]

An old white dude explained that straight dudes don’t get AIDS because the vagina can take a lot of punishment. That happened. IN PRINT.

To Mr. Knight, I say:

anigif_enhanced-buzz-1796-1378873954-4_preview

ALAINA OUT.

colbert mic drop

But seriously, read the book if you get a chance – it’s a great collection of essays.

Grade for Don’t Get Too Comfortable: 5 stars

Fiction: “Wicked Intentions” by Elizabeth Hoyt

wicked-intentionsI would rather get a three-hour Pap smear with an Ebola-infected cotton swab and a rusty speculum than listen to the address to the Joint Session of Congress, so in keeping with the theme, let’s talk about a book with mild sado-masochistic tendencies!

Wicked Intentions is the first book in the Maiden Lane series of romance novels, centered around a section of London known as Maiden Lane. I originally got turned to this series because I read a synopsis of one of the books a few years ago where it sounded like the main character became the Batman of Maiden Lane, and if there’s one thing I like, it’s Batmans in different fictional interpretations. Unfortunately, Georgian!Batman is about six books away, and y’all know how I am with series: I have to start at the beginning, regardless of continuity. It’s a Thing.

So the main character of this book is Temperance Dews, a meek widower who helps her brother, Winter, run a foundling home. Her other siblings are named Verity, Silence, Concord, and Asa. Yeah … the Dews family is kind of puritan-y. And in case you don’t get that from the family names, all the orphans in the foundling home are named Mary or Joseph, with different last names to tell them apart (see, Joseph Tinbox; Mary Whitsun; Joseph Candlestick; Mary Hope).

The foundling home is appropriately, almost Dickensian-ly poor, and in danger of shutting down without a rich sponsor. With Winter spending his time teaching school, that leaves Temperance at the home raising the children and running the home – which she does, admirably. But it makes it difficult for funds to come in.

Enter, stage left: the most ridiculously-named hero in the history of silly little romance novels I’ve ever read. Yes, even worse than the ones that add extra “Y”s instead of “I”s. I give you: Lazarus Huntington, Lord Caire. Yes, his name is actually “Lazarus.” Yes, people do call him “Caire.” No, I do not understand how the whole naming thing works. Also, I do not give a shit. You might say I don’t … Caire.

I’ll see myself out.

Now, I don’t normally concern myself with how the dudes and ladies look in romance novels: they’re all Barbie and Ken dolls, after all. But this guy – y’all have to see about this guy.

There, sprawled in her chair like a conjured demon, sat Lord Caire. His silver hair spilled over the shoulders of his black cape, a cocked hat lay on one knee, and his right hand caressed the end of his long ebony walking stick. [p. 15]

OH GEE, WHO COULD THAT BE

lucius-cs

YEAH, THIS MOTHERFUCKER

So, good news, Harry Potter Aficionados That Grew Up Having a Thing for Lucius Malfoy! This is the book for you!

Why is Lazarus Huntington, Lord Malfoy waiting for Temperance to sit down? Well, he saw her helping a baby in the Maiden Lane one night and decided he needs her help in tracking down the murderer of his mistress. Yeah, I’m really not making that up. See, his mistress was brutally murdered, and that made Caire mad, so now he needs to find the murderer to exact revenge. But because he’s a member of the hoit, he doesn’t know where to go to find lowlife scum, so … needs the help of a meek widower?

But Temperance is a lot smarter than she appears. In exchange for her help, she gets Caire to agree to help her find a sponsor for the foundling home. This involves Caire dressing her up and taking her to fancy dress parties, where she (naturally) awes the crowd with her beauty while being completely self-deprecating and awkward.

When Temperance’s acquaintances and family learn of her working relationship with Caire, they all warn her away, because he apparently has what’s known as “unhealthy appetites.” Essentially, rumors of his deviant behavior have run rampant throughout Maiden Lane, and back in the early 1700s, “deviance” is equivalent to “enjoying a bit o’ rough sex.” And it’s not even rough – he just likes being tied up.

Meanwhile, Temperance has her own shit to deal with – namely, she likes having sex, which is just as stigmatized then as it is now. Her husband would make her feel terrible for enjoying sex, because sex should only be enjoyed by the male, and only because he knows he’s making babies for women to carry. (I swear, I only followed the damn speech on Twitter, I have no idea if New Gilead is even happening yet.) As penance, she’s shoved her desires down, deep down, into herself so she can focus on caring for the orphans and showing her purity or whatever.

But as they work together, Caire and Temperance come to realize they have feelings for each other. These feelings are complicated by the fact that Caire also hates to be touched – he claims he feels actual pain when people touch him, but it’s been so long since I read the book that I am not going to bother looking for a quote to prove it.

There are also a lot – a. lot. – of subplots in this book that are apparently jumping-off points for future books in the series. There’s Temperance’s sister, Silence, and the misunderstanding between Silence and her husband. There’s Caire’s best friend, who’s dealing with his wife’s decline due to a mysterious illness. Sometimes the subplots are very distracting.

Overall, it took me entirely too long to finish this book – which has felt like a theme of 2016, to be honest. If my paltry review has made you curious about it, I highly recommend you check out the Smart Bitches, Trashy Books review of Wicked Intentions – and I would like to point out that if you do, I came to the Lucius Malfoy conclusion on my own, but was very gratified when I realized I wasn’t the only one who got there. Having said that, I never had a thing for Lucius Malfoy, so imagining him for the hero did absolutely nothing for me while reading the book.

And even though I did not like the book overall, and will most likely never read it again, I really want to find out if Georgian!Batman is a thing, so – you’ll see this series again. Not soon, but … later.

Grade for Wicked Intentions: No stars

Fiction: “The Maze” by Catherine Coulter

the-mazeWhen I was in the middle of reading The Witches, a strange feeling came over me. I couldn’t explain it. I do get this feeling occasionally, but I’m rarely able to pinpoint where the feeling comes from. This time, I think it was a mixture of reading a book for entirely too long (The Witches), plus a general sense of ennui.

That feeling? Was a desire to read a really shitty book. Something I could just … rip to fucking shreds, douse those shreds in gasoline, light a match, toss it over my shoulder, and then walk the fuck away. A pure, antagonistic, anarchic feeling.

It’s been a while since I’ve ranted – really ranted – about anything. At least, nothing literary. I’ve had some rants in public, about certain public events (and gaslighting) that are occurring currently in our society, but a book rant? I haven’t had one of those since one of those really shitty romance novels I read.

So why did I go back to Catherine Coulter? Especially after The Cove was so disturbingly bad? Well, first, I had read The Maze years ago, but couldn’t remember its quality. I guess I thought the chance was pretty good that it’d be at least as bad as The Cove?

I do want to take a moment and say that, if I were forced to score these books against each other, I would give The Maze a slight edge over The Cove. Mainly because Ms. Coulter has grown (slightly) as a writer in that she doesn’t have one-sided dialogue tell the story any longer; but still, it’s baaaad.

Before I start this verse of The Rant Song, I suppose I should tell you some of the plot.

The star of the book is Lacey Sherlock – yes, that is her real name. Yes, Ms. Coulter incorporated every single fucking “Sherlock” pun she could think of. Yes, it gets incredibly tedious. Lacey Sherlock is a rookie FBI agent. Upon graduation from Quantico, she is recruited into Dillon Savich’s unit on criminal behavior or something. Look, I’m not going to look it up, y’all should know that by now. But Savich uses computers to track trends and catch serial killers and I’m all, whatever. Oh, PS, this was written twenty years ago, so the technology is wicked dated.

Savich wants Sherlock on his team because a) she figured out he was the bank robber in her last Quantico / Robber’s Alley simulation, and b) apparently she’s the best FBI trainee Quantico had ever seen since J. Edgar Hoover.

silence_of_the_lambs_jodie-foster_clarice-starling

Yeah — I’m right there with ya, Clarice.

So Savich hires Sherlock onto his team, and she quickly breaks a case that the rest of the team had been working on for a while, and I’m all, whatever. But in the middle of the case, Savich quickly realizes that Sherlock … has a secret.

Because of course she does.

See, her sister was murdered by a serial killer! Seven years ago, the serial killer lured her sister, Belinda, into a giant maze, and when Belinda got to the center of the maze, he cut out her tongue and killed her! And Sherlock has been hiding this secret (?) for seven years while she graduated college and underwent FBI training, all so she could catch the serial killer and kill him in return! And no one knew about her dead sister this entire time?

And then her sister’s widower comes to Washington unexpectedly and starts stalking Sherlock, who is polite (because even though her sister’s dead, he’s still considered “family”) but aloof. But he ain’t having none of it. Also, everyone – her ex-brother-in-law, Savich’s … secretary, I’m going to say, because I can’t remember and never looking it up, y’all – but everyone is assuming that Sherlock is sleeping with Savich. But she’s not. At least, not right now. It does happen, eventually – and not that hotly, either, but I’mma gonna get to that.

And then Savich figures out Sherlock’s … secret, and instead of kicking her out of the Bureau, he helps her find the serial killer, which they do … by doing a Google search on lumber? You guys, I can’t even with how dumb this is. Anyway, Sherlock goes “under””cover” to find the serial killer, and it is just —

God, this whole thing is so dumb. So the serial killer, Marlin Jones – his real name, hand to God – kills women who badmouth their husbands or significant male partners. It also helps him kill them if they use profanity.

That’s it. That’s the motive.

hannibal-smirk

Yes, Hanni – that is adorable, compared to you.

Ugh – I just realized how much I miss Hannibal.

ANYWAY. So Marlin kidnaps Sherlock (who’s still “under””cover”), takes her to a new Maze, and she gets him arrested. But – how – there’s still a hundred pages left in the book? Da fuck??

Oh, but don’t worry, there’s plenty more ludicrous-ness to go. See — Savich’s secretary is still being mad jealous of Sherlock for no fucking reason, and hires some dude to break into Sherlock’s apartment and tell her to leave town, but also, he threatens to rape her. This after Sherlock was stabbed or concussed or something in getting rescued from Marlin’s maze. So in the middle of being threatened with rape, Savich manages to come to her rescue and bring her back to the hospital. When she’s released, he takes her to his condo, they do sex, and then Marlin escapes? (That’s not as connected as it sounds – it’s not like their sex is what releases Marlin from prison.) Or, wait – she has to go back to San Francisco for some family thing, and Savich is now in love with her and won’t let her be alone for five friggin’ minutes, and that’s when Marlin escapes! (Don’t worry guys, it literally doesn’t matter which is the real turn of events.) And then we find out that Marlin’s dad – whose name is Erasmus, be tee dubs, what the fuck – is also out of jail and most importantly, alive? And kind of the ringleader of the whole Maze-serial killer-thing? And also Douglas, Sherlock’s ex-brother-in-law, may have also been boinking Sherlock’s mom? While having the hots for Sherlock? Oh, and also married to a right See You Next Tuesday?

Seriously. You guys. I am never making it up.

And as if the plot weren’t! bad! enough!? Ms. Coulter’s writing has. not. improved. At least, not as much as I’d hoped.

Oh my god, a thousand words and I haven’t even started quoting this shit. Goddammit.

Okay, where do I want to start. Oh — so, back when I read The Cove, I ranted about how bad her dialogue was. I just reread that review, and apparently, my apoplexy rendered me unable to point out Ms. Coulter’s tendency to start bits of dialogue – usually a sentence at the end of a paragraph – with a “Yeah, [statement].” And the character isn’t even answering a question!

Here are some examples from The Maze, because yes, I dogeared all of them.

“Can you help us?”

“Both Agent Sherlock and I have just a few questions. Perhaps we can meet with your people and get the answers. Yes, Captain, there’s not a doubt in my mind that we can help you.” [p. 32]

Y’know, common parlance is to answer a dude’s question once it’s asked. So, y’know, “Yes, Captain, there’s not a doubt in my mind that we can help you” should come first. But – y’know what, it’s fine.

“Yeah, she’s out like a light.  Keep an eye on her, Savich.  She scared the hell out of every cop in that warehouse, but she sure got the job done.  Funny thing how her shooting him saved his life.  If you hadn’t called a quick halt, the cops would have turned him into a pincushion. Hey, we’ll call tomorrow. Oh yeah, we got a lot on him.”  [p. 122]

“The young cop who messed up and let two of the old people go in that Florida nursing home murder – he has no idea. We were right – all old people look the same to him. Oh yeah, there’s been a spate of murders in South Dakota, right in Elk Point, then the guy went over the border into Iowa.” [p. 218]

“I’m going to call Jimmy Maitland and let him know we’re back. And Ollie. Yeah, I think I’ll give Hannah a ring. Yes, I think you’re right. She’s probably behind the leak. I’m beginning to think this might be a good time for her to transfer to another section.” [p. 262]

It’s so. annoying.

Also annoying – how people can’t just fucking come out and say Sherlock has goddamned reddish hair. Look at this stupidity from Savich’s stream of consciousness:

He cocked open an eye. Sherlock was standing over him, a shock of her red hair falling over to cover the side of her face. He watched her tuck the swatch of hair behind her ear. Nice hair and lots of it. Her eyes were green, a pretty color, kind of mossy and soft. No, her hair wasn’t really red, but more red than anything else. There was some brown and a dash of cinnamon color as well. He guessed it was auburn. That’s what he’d thought the first time he’d seen her. [p. 38-39]

A hundred pages later, and he’s still not convinced he knows what color her hair is:

That hair of hers had come loose from the clasp and was rioting around her face – red hair that wasn’t really a carrot red or an orange red or even the auburn he’d thought, but a mixture of this color and that. She had lots of hair. Actually very beautiful hair.  [p. 123]

Even Sherlock’s ex-brother-in-law, Douglas, cannot just call red hair “red”:

[Douglas] touched her hair, then sifted it through his fingers. “Beautiful. It’s auburn, but not really. Perhaps more Titian, but there’s some blond in there too and some brown.” [p. 47]

What the fuck. Guy’s a douchemonster. Wouldn’t know Titian if it came up and bit him in the face. (I’ll get to Douchemonster in a minute.)

Okay. I have been writing this review for entirely too long. So, I’ve just gone through my Word document of quotes that I want to bitch about, and divided them up into categories. Without further ado:

CATEGORY ONE: Man, These Serial Killers Are Awful Talkers

So, remember: the serial killer who leads the poor defenseless women into The Maze is Marlin Jones, acting under the influence of his father, Erasmus Jones. I am never making it up. And remember their motive!cute: they don’t like women who badmouth their husbands, and they especially don’t like women who swear. Here, Marlin monologues (!) to Sherlock about one of his prior victims while she’s in the middle of The Maze:

“He brought her in one night. They had a big argument right there. She even threw a beer in his face. She cursed him up one side and down the other. She even called him a motherfucker. Most women, even bad ones like you, they don’t say that word. That’s a word for real bad guys.” [p. 135]

YOU WATCH IT, MOTHERFUCKER. Although maybe it’s slightly comforting that at least a serial killer might be able to like me for who I am as a person?

hannibal-smiling

Besides as food, Hanni.

ANYWAY. There’s also that dude that Savich’s secretary, Hannah, hired to scare Sherlock into leaving Savich alone. Y’know, the one that breaks into Sherlock’s apartment and scares her when she’s getting out of the shower (oh, I forgot to mention that part:)

“Why do you want me to leave Washington?”

The gun stopped.  He drew his hand away.  “Your mama and daddy need you at home. It’s time you went back there and took care of your responsibilities. They don’t want you here, involved in conspiracies and shooting people, the way the FBI does. Yeah, they want you home. I’m here to encourage you to go.”

“I’ll tell you why I can’t go back just yet. You see, there’s this murderer, his name is Marlin Jones, and he just killed this woman in Boston. He’s a serial killer. I can’t leave just yet. I’ll tell you more but it could take a while.  Can’t I put on some clothes? We can go in the kitchen, and I’ll make some coffee?” [p. 173]

Yes, offer the person who is waving a gun in your naked face some coffee, Sherlock! There’s no way that will end badly! (PS, I am going to get into how Sherlock talks. Christ on sale.)

But anyway, she asks him what his name is (because remember, this individual is unrelated to the main serial killer plot!), and this is, hand to God, his entire response:

“Who are you?”

He laughed. “Call me Sam. You like that? Yeah, that’s me – Sam. My pa was named Sam too. Hey, I’m the son of Sam.” [p. 174]

I can’t with that shit. Here’s why I can’t with this shit: It’s fucking lazy writing that has no point.

ALLOW ME TO ELUCIDATE. (P.S., this is a thing I do with my employees when they write letters to taxpayers: if I feel they’re going off on tangents, I show them “the point” of every sentence they have written. And if there is repetition, or no “point,” the sentence gets fucking cut.)

  1. “Call me Sam.”
    Okay. So, if it had stopped there, I wouldn’t have had an issue. Sherlock asked who he is, and he answered: “Call me Sam.” And with just that one line, we the reader could infer that “Sam” is not his real name, and we can move on.
  2. “You like that?”
    Now, “Sam” is asking Sherlock if she likes his choice of name. Here’s the thing, though: it doesn’t matter what Sherlock likes or wants. This person broke into her apartment, and came upon her when she was getting out of the shower. She is naked, unarmed in all senses of the word: she is beyond vulnerable. “Sam” has all the power in this scenario, and there is no need – besides emphasizing his louse-ness, I suppose – for “Sam” to ask if Sherlock likes his name. And even if he’s not asking her how he did for a name choice, if he’s just making noise? That’s almost worse.
  3. “Yeah, that’s me — Sam.”
    Great – he’s re-emphasizing his choice. Either to make sure Sherlock gets what she is to call him, or – and this is my theory – he’s really proud that he came up with a name so quickly when asked, and now he’s just chuffed about it.
  4. “My pa was named Sam too.”
    This sentence was either written to show the level of education “Sam” has (“pa” as opposed to “father”), or as setup for the next sentence. There is no other reason this information need be relayed to Sherlock.
  5. “Hey, I’m the son of Sam.”
    Oh, it was a joke. Now, before you get all up in arms about “See? He needed the fourth sentence so the joke lands in the fifth”, I must ask you: does the joke land? And, more importantly, is the joke necessary? I posit NO.

This has been “Story Structure Theory OR: Is That Sentence Really Necessary?” With Alaina Patterson.

(God, that whole paragraph pissed me off royally.)

CATEGORY TWO: Douglas, Sherlock’s Ex-Brother-in-Law, Is a Terrible, Terrible Person

He is. He is a terrible, terrible person. He is a misogynist. He is abusive, both mentally and physically so. He is hitting on Sherlock while married to a woman who is just as awful as he is. He makes me so angry, he just makes me want to – set him on fire!

poor-freddie-lounds

This is part of our first introduction to Douglas:

“Let’s go eat, Lacey.”

“You look like a prince and I look like a peasant. Let me change. It’ll take me just a minute. Oh yeah, everybody calls me Sherlock.”

“I don’t like that, I never did. And everybody has to make a stupid remark when they meet you. It doesn’t suit you. It’s very masculine. Is that what the FBI is all about? Turning you into a man?” [p. 51]

Here, we have another instance of somebody going “Yeah, [statement]”: this time from Sherlock. But let’s talk about Douglas. He takes her statement – “everybody calls me Sherlock” – and interprets it that the FBI is taking away Sherlock’s femininity. Go fuck yourself, Douglas.

At dinner, Douglas brings up the fact that he’s probably going to marry some woman back home because she claims he got her pregnant. And to show how absolutely awful Douglas is, that’s not the worst part of it:

“She claims I got her pregnant and I suppose that I could have, but I’ve always been so careful. Living in San Francisco, you’re probably the most careful of any American.” [p. 53]

WHAT THE EVERLOVING FUCK. FIRST OF ALL, GO FUCK YOURSELF, DOUGLAS. And SECOND OF ALL, GO FUCK YOURSELF, CATHERINE COULTER. 

This is not the first time Catherine Coulter has elevated the link between homosexuality and the AIDS epidemic in a completely unsympathetic way. I remind you of this, from my review of The Cove:

So Sally has been kidnapped for the umpteenth time, this time by her not-father. And her not-father is monologuing about his reasons for institutionalizing her and making her life a living hell. And here is where he brings up her gay husband:

“And, you see, I knew all about his lover. At least I made sure you didn’t get AIDS.” [316]

At least I made sure you didn’t get AIDS. [“Fiction: ‘The Cove’ by Catherine Coulter”]

I mean, goddammit. And before y’all start saying, “Alaina, this was written twenty years ago,” fuck you, twenty years ago was 1997! 1997 was recent enough to realize that gay people are not walking contagions for AIDS, which is exactly what Ms. Coulter is implying, in both of these novels. You cannot tell me with a straight face that Ms. Coulter is merely referring to birth control when it comes to Douglas “being careful” while “living in San Francisco.” This is homophobia, plain and simple, and I will fucking call people out on their fucking bullshit when I see it. So both of them – the fictional character and its creator – can go fuck themselves.

What else does Douglas do? Oh, how about lurk outside of Sherlock’s apartment, waiting for her to come home?

“Is that Savich?”

She was so startled she nearly fell over backward. As she was flailing for balance, he came out from behind a tree. “Oh my heavens, it’s you, Douglas. You nearly stopped my heart. Is something the matter? Is everyone all right?”

“Oh yes. I’ve been waiting for you, Lacey. I came over hoping we could have dinner. But you weren’t here.” [p. 60]

What the fuck. Also, he kisses Sherlock without her permission, and then his wife, Candice, who I’m fucking getting to, barges in and accuses him (rightly) of being a cheating pig, and then this happens:

“Candice,” he said very patiently, as if speaking to an idiot witness, “Lacey is part of my family. Just because Belinda died, I didn’t cut her out of my life.”

“I saw you kissing her through the window, Douglas.”

“Yes,” he said quite calmly. “I did. She’s very innocent. She doesn’t kiss well and I like that.”  [p. 151]

I … I don’t even have any more vitriol left for him. Go fuck yourself, Douglas. Go find the most splintered broomstick in your woodshed and just … go to town on your own asshole with it. Fuck you, you disgusting excuse for a fictional character.

CATEGORY THREE: Douglas’s Wife Candice Ain’t Much Better

So remember, Candice was the woman who Douglas at first thought was knocked up. Turns out, she was lying to get him to marry her. When they got married, she admitted that she was not pregnant. So Douglas returns to attempt to get Sherlock back – even though he never had her in the first place, so “back” is a misnomer. And then Candice follows Douglas – from San Francisco – and manages to follow Douglas back to Sherlock’s apartment, unbeknownst to either Douglas or Sherlock.

“I followed you, Douglas. And you came here just like a little trained pigeon. I knew you’d come to her, even though I prayed you wouldn’t. Damn you, I’d hoped our marriage meant something to you. Just look, you let her kiss you. You’ve got her lipstick on your mouth. Damn you, you smell like her.” [p. 151]

This isn’t the first time Ms. Coulter does this, but do you notice how she repeats key phrases in the same paragraph? That’s another thing I’d use my red pen on with my employees.

A hundred pages after this, Candice is badmouthing Belinda to Sherlock and Savich:

“Belinda had low tastes. I’ve heard that she went to dives, to real low-class places. That’s where she would have met this killer. Yes, I’ll bet she did sleep with him. She slept with everyone. Why don’t you ask her?” She turned and gave Lacey a vicious look. “Yes, ask the little princess here.” [p. 248]

“Now, Candice, how do you know so much about Belinda? She was killed seven years ago. You weren’t even around then.”

“I’m an investigative reporter. I looked up everything. I spoke to people who’d known her.” [p. 249]

I just … I don’t see the point of having such an antagonistic person in this story. What purpose does Candice serve? How does she contribute to the narrative? This book has so many stupid plot tangents that you could completely cut out the whole Douglas and Candice shit and you’d still have … well, you’d still have a mess, but that’s because the whole motive behind testing women by having them walk a maze is fucking stupid.

CATEGORY FOUR: … Oh my god.

And not just any normal “oh my god.” This is the Bob Belcher, pinch-the-bridge-of-his-nose-in-disgust “oh my god.”

bob-oh-my-god

So when I read these, please realize that the primary reaction I had was to facepalm myself and mutter, “oh my god.”

“What’s your name?”

“Lacey Sherlock.”

“No one’s named that. That’s stupid. That’s out of some dumb detective story.” [p. 134]

YOU MEAN LIKE THE ONE I’M READING? oh my god.

“What’s going on, Savich?”

“My gut. You’ve never before mistrusted my gut, sir. Don’t mistrust it now. I’m out of here and on my way to her house. She was going there to get more stuff. We made a firm time date. She isn’t here. Sherlock’s always on time. Something’s happened and I just know it’s Marlin and Erasmus. Put out an ABP on her car, Mazda, 4X4 Navajo, license SHER 123.” [p. 307]

HER LICENSE PLATE, YOU GUYS. WHAT KIND OF FUCKING AMAZING FBI AGENT HAS A GODDAMNED PERSONALIZED LICENSE PLATE. ESPECIALLY SUCH A STUPID ONE. OH MY GOD.

And now, the moment that I truly felt bad for Savich:

It was nearly morning when Savich came slowly awake, aware that something strange was happening, something that was probably better than any pesto pasta he’d ever made, better even than having won a huge bet off one of his relatives. The something strange suddenly intensified and he lurched up, gasping. She was leaning over him, her tangled hair covering his belly, her mouth on him. [p. 263]

I may not know too much about blowjobs, but I do know how to tell one apart from pesto pasta. I am so sorry for Savich. I can only imagine his train of thought while he was waking up. What’s — what’s that I’m feeling? Is that … is that pesto pasta on my dick? No, it’s the mouth of the girl I went to bed with last night, and the mouth is on my dick, and it’s doing things that I like. Like, dudes, answer me a question: how much time actually elapses between “being asleep” and “knowing you’ve got a woman sucking your cock”? Isn’t it pretty immediate for you guys? Like, that’s a feeling you know immediately, deep within you(r balls)? HOW DOES HE NOT KNOW WHAT’S GOING ON

oh my god.

Before I get to Category Five, the Katrina of the book, I have one random thing to add because it makes me laugh:

Savich put his elbows on the table, looked directly at the man, and said, “Detective, were there any repairmen in the Lansky household within the past two months?”

Dubrosky reared back, then rocked forward again, banging his fist on the table. “Do you think we’re fucking idiots? Of course we checked all that!” [p. 32]

escalated-quickly

I just want to point out here: this rant is officially longer than my rant on The Revenant. I am so sorry, you guys – I didn’t realize how epic this was going to be.

On to CATEGORY FIVE, THE MOST SERIOUS OF CATEGORIES: Sherlock isn’t as cute as you think she is

One of the traits that comes out in Ms. Coulter’s dialogue is Sherlock’s awkwardness when it comes to speaking. Here’s an example: for context, her direct superior just witnessed Sherlock Poirot-ing about how she solved a case in front of the entire staff meeting, but she neglected to inform her direct superior first.

“There honestly wasn’t time, Ollie. No, of course there was time. It’s just that I, oh damn, this sounds ridiculous, but I really wasn’t even thinking about it until it popped right into my head. Surely you’ve done the same thing.”

[…] “It wasn’t a very nice thing to do, Sherlock.”

“No, you’re right. It wasn’t. I can only say that I honestly wasn’t thinking about it.” It was true. She hadn’t known that Savich would put her on the spot in front of the whole Unit, but he had. There’d been no time then to say anything to Ollie. No, there’d been time. She just hadn’t thought about it. [p. 77]

Between the stuttering and the going back and forth about how there wasn’t enough time to tell Ollie, no actually there was, she was just dumb – it’s an annoying quirk.

She’s even indecisive about when she intends to kill Marlin Jones:

“All right, the truth.  He hasn’t told us everything.  If I could have gotten all of it out of him, then I would have shot him clean.  Well, maybe.  Yes, we have to get him to tell us everything, then I’ll shoot him in the chest, I promise.”  [p. 119]

And here, she’s actually doing a rather decent job of defending herself to Jealous Hannah, but then no, wait — yup, there she goes, fucking it up:

“Ollie told me that Savich doesn’t believe in becoming involved with anyone in his unit. That includes all of us, Hannah. If you want him, then I suggest you transfer out. Listen, I just want to catch this monster in Boston. Actually I did lie. I do want Savich’s brain and his expertise. Does that count? Is that brain lust?” [p. 82]

Now, let’s talk about her time being “under””cover” when attempting to bait Marlin Jones into kidnapping her. I know I’ve said it before, but remember: when it comes to Marlin deciding who his next victim will be, the secret word is fucking.

“What are you doing with the plywood, ma’am?” [asks Marlin.]

“I’m building props for my son’s school play, and that’s why I need to use plywood, not hardwood. They’re doing Oklahoma! and I’ve got to put together a couple of rooms that can be easily disassembled then put back up. So I’ll need some brackets and some screws too.”

“Then why’d you pound a nail through it?”

“That was just experimentation. My husband, that fucking son of a bitch, won’t help me, drinks all the time, won’t take part in raising our son, won’t show me any affection at all, well, so I’ve got to do it all myself.” [p. 105]

escalated-quickly

Like, she just decided to fucking go for it. Marlin doesn’t like women who swear? And he doesn’t like women who badmouth their husbands? Okay, let’s call the pretend husband a “fucking son of a bitch”, an alcoholic, and a neglectful parent and lover. Can’t just say “motherfucker,” huh, Sherlock?

Now, this next quote is from just before Marlin kidnaps Sherlock, and I’m not sure what this sentence means:

Her heart pounding, she whirled about, a gasp coming out of her mouth. “Oh goodness gracious, Marlin, you scared the stuffing out of me. Oh yeah, you scared me shitless.” [p. 107]

Is it just another example of Ms. Coulter’s “Yeah, [statement]” tic? Or is it Sherlock realizing she could have swore in the first sentence, so to cover it up she goes, “Oh yeah,” where it could mean “Oh yeah, I mean, you scared me shitless”? I’m not sure. But I do know it’s dumb either way.

This description of Savich’s voice is just fucking lazy:

“Your voice made me quiver – all dark and soft, like falling into a deep, deep well. If I were a criminal, I’d say anything you wanted to keep you talking to me like that. It’s a wonderful voice. Plummy – that’s how a writer would describe your voice.” [p. 183]

NOBODY SAYS ‘PLUMMY’ IN REAL LIFE. You overplayed your hand, Ms. Coulter.

And finally, speaking of Ms. Coulter’s hand, I want to leave you with this statement from her acknowledgements:

Whenever I hear writers brag about how their editors don’t require any changes to their manuscripts, I’m honestly floored. It’s an editor’s job to be the reader’s representative and thus make the manuscript better. And believe me, a manuscript can always be made better.  [Acknowledgements, pg. I]

Well, as I just typed 5,000 words to prove that your editor isn’t worth a goddamned dime, I just have to say: no shit, Sherlock.

jon stewart boom

Grade for The Maze: Twilight stars.