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.

Advertisements

Fiction: “Bloody Bones” by Laurell K. Hamilton

Bloody BonesHappy New Year! … One month late, because that’s how I roll. But let’s all forget about my tardiness, roll up our sleeves, and gargle with some warm carbonated water, because it’s time for … THE RANT SONG

*deep breath*

Anita Blake’s fifth outing in her own series takes her out of St. Louis and into the ‘burbs of Branson (which I will always believe is like “If Ned Flanders ran Las Vegas”) for a client who wants her to raise a cemetery’s worth of three-hundred-year-old zombies. As Anita has reluctantly acknowledged her necromancy powers (because Anita does everything reluctantly), she agrees to look at the site and see if she can do it, but she doesn’t agree to take the job. So she and her apprentice Larry take a helicopter ride out to the Branson Burbs and the guy who wants her to raise the zombies wants to raze the cemetery and turn it into a condo complex (or something; look, I read it a month ago and I never really pay too much attention to these books as it is) and the ownership of the land is being contested. Developer Guy says he bought it outright, but this old family (the Bouviers? I think it was the Bouviers, but I’m not going to look it up even though the book is literally three inches from my knee) says it’s their family plot and wasn’t for sale.

Look, I don’t read these books for their interpretation of zombie-related property law; I read these books to see how infuriated Anita’s attitude is going to make me. If she could go for one page without complaining about something, look, I will bake a batch of cookies and air-mail them to Ms. Hamilton at my own expense. But enough about empty threats. Anita has her magical way of getting involved in, like, three different big events in this book and while they all end up being connected, Anita’s “oh no I have to get involved again and it’s only my responsibility to save everyone but no one listens to me so you can’t expect me to have feelings about any of this shit so when can I go home and get some sleep” shtick is really starting to wear thin.

Also, no lie, she started to sound like Sandy from Daria in my head a bit there.

While Anita’s scoping out the cemetery, she gets called to a murder scene as part of the St. Louis Preternatural Squad. She tells her client that she’ll be back at full dark to raise a couple of zombies for him. Then she goes to the murder scene and gets into a spitting match with the detective working the scene. Then she and Larry go to Bloody Bones, a restaurant run by fairies (not joking) to have dinner. While they’re eating, Anita gets called to another murder scene. At this house, the daughter of the family has been killed by a vampire and possibly turned**, and so Anita waits for the sheriff and some other people to go on a search. They search the woods and don’t find the vampire, but the vampire finds them and kills like, two of them. Then, she decides to call Jean-Claude to come up and visit because she needs his master vampireness to get her in with the master vampire in Branson, and because he lurves Anita, he of course agrees to fly up on his private jet, whateverTHEN, Anita and Larry head back to the cemetery to try and raise a couple of zombies and end up raising like, forty, which doesn’t usually happen, but apparently Anita’s necromancy has super juice powers or something, and then the fairy from Bloody Bones shows up and Anita’s client tries to straight-up murder the dude, but Anita and Larry stop them and the fairy gets away, and then Anita and Larry head back to Branson to pick up Jean-Claude and his werewolf pet Jason from the airport but someone stole Jean-Claude’s coffin as a prank, and finally – FINALLY – Anita gets like, maybe, four hours of sleep.

THIS WHOLE THING TAKES PLACE DURING ONE NIGHT. ONE. NIGHT. ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY-SEVEN PAGES WERE ONE NIGHT. WHAT THE EVERLOVING FUCK.

Okay so anyway. Anita orders Jean-Claude to come out and help her out, and she hates every fucking second of having to do it. Because while she’s still dating Richard, in order to maintain peace between the werewolves and the vampires, she also has to date Jean-Claude. Which, holy shit, you guys, that is one heaping piece of whatever bullshit pie. And Jean-Claude keeps trying to seduce Anita, but Anita’s too much of a bitch (a smart bitch, because what kind of self-respecting vampire hunter would let herself get seduced by the very thing she’s hunting, Buffy) to let herself fall for him, but the lady doth protest too much, methinks. Then the whole “raising a cemetery for clients” thing goes by the wayside as Team Jean-Claude gets into a war with some ultra vamps from Branson (there’s a sentence I never thought I’d type) and the fairy is involved somehow, and in order to save everyone, Anita turns herself into a human servant of Seraphina, the master vampire of Branson, but she’s able to use her necromancy or whatever and turn a vampire into a zombie for a brief moment in time and that allows her to escape, and the whole thing ends abruptly with almost everyone dying except Team Jean-Claude, who go back to St. Louis and their tale of apathetic relationships.

Also there’s a brief subplot about how Seraphina was able to hack into Anita’s wants and desires through Anita’s Dead Mommy Issues, but I’m not going to get into it because you guys, I’m really kind of depressed right now. 2015 IS THE DARKEST TIMELINE.

I had so many problems with this book. The fact that so much action occurs in such a short span of time threw me. I think, when all was said and done, the book only covered about three days. The book is almost four hundred pages long! And Anita’s life doesn’t have many spots where the action slows down so we can catch our breath; in fact, that’s almost a detriment. Because there are tons of things I still don’t understand about this world that Ms. Hamilton has created, and I’m afraid that she hasn’t explained them fully in order to keep the plots of her books moving right along.

**FOR INSTANCE, how the fuck does a vampire turn a human in this fucking series? I miss the days of Buffy where they suck your blood, you suck their blood (it’s all one big sucking thing), then the vampire snaps your neck, you die, and then you rise in three days only to see Buffy’s amazing late-90s footwear and The Slayer herself twirling a stake amidst her Ring Pop-covered fingers, waiting for you patiently with a smile and a pun. Apparently, in the Anita-verse, the older a vampire is, the more powerful he is. Unless you’re a master of a city, in which case there’s a shitload of protocol to follow, and even when they follow the protocol, the masters never play nice with Jean-Claude, for some fucking reason (REASON: the author is a drama queen). That almost makes me wish for the well-thought-out democracy the Vampire Nation had in True Blood, but while I type that I must disclaim that I’ve only watched up through season three and I have no idea what happens after that, please don’t spoil me, I only want to know when I’m right.

And I know that at some point, this series of books is going to take a hard right from horror/mystery and skid right into the supernatural erotica sphere, and I’m afraid that I’m not going to get the answers I seek before that happens.  ALL I WANT IS A FLOW CHART FOR VAMPIRE TURNING AND ALSO ONE FOR THE VAMPIRICAL HIERARCHY, IS THAT SO MUCH TO ASK

Here are a couple of things I actually found funny:

Why take the legs? A trophy? Maybe. Serial killers took trophies, clothing, personal items, a body part. Maybe a trophy? [p. 43]

Oh, at one of the murders (I can’t remember which one and I can’t be arsed to look it up), the Feds get called in. One of them is named Agent Bradford, but since it was a last name I wasn’t going to say anything. But then, on the sixth page from the end of the fucking book, this happened:

As agent on site, Bradford was in charge. Special Agent Bradley Bradford, yes Bradley Bradford, seemed to think I knew what I was doing. [p. 364]

WHAT. WHAT THE FUCK. ARE YOU KIDDING ME. That is the LAZIEST SHIT I have EVER SEEN, and I just want you to know that I could make a joke about a faulty toilet right here (and I really really want to), but I have my parents coming over on Sunday and I don’t want them to get any ideas about my housekeeping skills or lack thereof. WHO THE FUCK NAMES A CHARACTER BRADLEY BRADFORD. That’s like … I don’t even know what it’s like, Mulder! Except that it is the worst. It’s stupid; it’s lazy, and I hate it.

Because look, as someone who imagines herself to be a writer, I take care with the names of all of my characters, no matter the word count attributed to their dialogue. I like to make sure the names sound well, and appropriate, and all I can think of in this instance is that Ms. Hamilton decided to make Bradley Bradford’s parents horrible people. What kind of mother (because I don’t know about y’all, but in the event I actually end up having kids, the rule in the house will be “Whoever pushes the largest object out of the smallest orifice gets to name the baby”) whose last name is Bradford would look at her husband/partner/whatever and say, “Honey, let’s name him after my father, Bradley,” and her husband/partner/whatever would look at her and go, “Honey, that’s a great name, I love it” and they wouldn’t realize it until they get the birth certificate that reads BRADLEY RUTHERFORD BRADFORD and instead of immediately grabbing the nearest bottle of Wite-Out and yelling DO-OVER, the parents just shrug and say, “Meh. He’ll be fine. He won’t grow up to be maladjusted whatsoever.”

It’s STUPID. IT’S STUPID, AND IT’S LAZY, AND I HAAAAAAAAAAAAATE IT.

And then there’s Anita. Surly, bitchy, “can’t be bothered to care but then cares too much and whines about it” Anita. I mean, what other reason is there besides convenience to make Anita have to date both Richard and Jean-Claude? Sure, it’s apparently to maintain peace in the city, but if Anita doesn’t like Jean-Claude as much as she proclaims, then it shouldn’t be too difficult for her to say “nah bro, fuck off.” (Although this book is the first time in my recollection where Anita actually admits that she found herself attracted to Jean-Claude. She’d never denied his overall attractiveness, but she did deny how it affected her. No denial allowed in Branson, apparently.)

Overall, Anita’s still a bitch – always quick with a deflecting quip and armed almost literally to the teeth, projecting swagger like a badass to make up for the fact that she feels like a weak little girl, except … except she’s not a weak little girl. Anita is strong, and she can take care of herself; yes, Bradley Bradford is right, she does know what she’s doing. And I think what I would love to see happen in this series is for Anita to own up to that, and not constantly deprecate herself and her abilities. I think, if Anita liked herself a bit more, I might be able to like her more.

Nah, bro; that’s never gonna happen.

Grade for Bloody Bones: 1 star

FIction: “Some Like to Shock” by Carole Mortimer

Some_Like_to_Shock_copyHoo boy.  Hoo, boy.  Holy shit, you guys — this is gonna be a scene.

So, let’s flash back about a year ago when I was on one of my patented late-night Walmart runs, most likely buying frozen potstickers and Hawaiian Punch (because that sounds like something I’d do), and I would always walk by the book aisle, mainly because I want to see if the idiots who stock the Walmart at night have blocked the books with pallets of toilet paper again.  Well, on one of those nights, I saw this book, and it was, I wanna say another 25% off the sticker price?  And while the title wasn’t that intriguing, the fact that the male love interest was nicknamed Lucifer did make me chuckle.

I may have bought it because I was expecting a shit-ton of “loving the devil” jokes, and if there’s one thing I like, it’s making a bunch of jokes in a row that have a common theme.

So I brought it home, and read it sporadically through the entire year, because holy shit you guys, it is so bad.  And I would have put it down completely, soaked it in gasoline, set it on fire, and walked away from it without looking back, if it weren’t for my friend Brad.

Oh, jeez … that sounds like there’s a connection between romance novels and Brad.  Let me be clear: THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO CONNECTION.  This segueway will make sense in about two sentences paragraphs.

See, there was this one time when I rented A Good Day to Die Hard from Ye Olde Redboxe.  And it was so bad, you guys.  It was so bad, it hurt, because dudes — I love Die Hard.  I love it so much, I watch it every Christmas Eve and every time I catch it on TV.  I could be in the middle of something Very Important, and if Die Hard‘s on, fuck it — I gotta see Alan Rickman fall to his death.  Every damn time.

So a few months ago, Brad and I were discussing movies we’d seen recently (at that time), and I got into a bit of a tirade about A Good Day to Die Hard, and when I told him that I stopped halfway through because I just couldn’t take it anymore, he — well, he didn’t yell, and he didn’t get angry, exactly, but he did say my name with force.

And after he not-yelled my name, he said this:

“Kid, no matter how bad something is, or how bad you think something is, you should always finish it to the end.  Because one of two things will happen: you will either find something in it to redeem it and make it have been worth your time, or, you will just get tons more shit to bitch about it with.”

Profound words from a guy who didn’t think Droopy the Dog was a real thing.

What he said stuck with me, and will continue to stick with me.  It’s why I will probably never have a “Did Not Finish” up here again.  Because it’s true — either you find something positive to say about whatever it is you’re not enjoying, or you’re just going to have tons more logs with which to stoke your rage fire.

And I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to feel a little chilly up in here; let’s burn this motherfucker down.

(MOM: don’t click that link.  TRUST ME.)

So Some Like to Shock is a historical romance under the Harlequin History banner.  It stars the widowed Dowager Duchess of Woolerton, Genevieve, and her paramour, Lord Benedict Lucas, also known in some circles as “Lucifer.”  Ostensibly, Benny Luke wants to get with Genevieve as a cover while he spies shit for England or whatever.  Genevieve is a girl that just wants to have fun.  They start hanging out, and then of course they end up falling in love, and there really isn’t any  more than that.

Except that the book tries to make there be more of a plot.  So, backstory time: Genevieve was married to this old duke whose first wife had died, so for those counting, Genevieve is Wife Numero Dos.  Old Dude was creepy and disgusting, and their wedding night was a bit on the violent side.  (All kidding aside, while we do not see Genevieve and Duke’s wedding night in the present timeline, we only learn about it through Genevieve telling us the story, and it could borderline on being rapey.)  But then, in trying to whatever her, Old Duke has a stroke and becomes paralyzed mid-coitus.  I wish I were kidding.  And then! When he can’t ‘pleasure’ her or whatever (essentially his injury and/or God’s justice makes him impotent following the wedding night), because he can’t beat her, he makes his son do it for him.  So now Genevieve is a battered mother-in-law, and only escapes when the Duke dies.

Except the Duke’s Son still wants to have control over her, for some reason that I can’t really suss out.  Something about how this girl he wants to marry, the girl’s father won’t like it if he learns that the Duke’s Son’s ex-mother-in-law is parading around Town with a dude nicknamed Lucifer, and I’d say “like anyone gives a shit,” but then I remember that back in the 18whatevers that’s all anyone did — give shits about what other people were doing — so, let’s just end the Sad Tale of Lady Genevieve with another “whatever.”

And what’s Lord Benny Luke’s Sad Sad Tale of Woe?  Someone murdered his parents.  Even sadder?  He didn’t take that opportunity to become Batman.

So emotionally-damaged Genevieve is working through her intimacy issues with Benny Luke, and Benny Luke is apparently just trying to control his massive erection whenever he’s in her presence.  Gross.  When he wonders why she’s so inexperienced, she tells him, but it goes on and on and ON.

And look, duh – they end up getting engaged in the last five pages of the book.  No shit lady, did you think they were just going to order a fucking pizza?!  And my worst problem isn’t with the stupidity of the plot — it’s how the book is written.

Because here’s the thing: the actual telling of the story is awful.  Whenever Genevieve and Benny Luke have any conversation whatsofuckingever, this is basically, essentially, how it goes:

– Someone says a line of dialogue.  For instance:

“I am told, however,” Benedict continued scathingly, “that there is a very thin line between love and hate — and obviously you have not crossed over that line as yet with regard to your former lover.”  He arched a coldly derisory brow. [108-109]

Then, the other person reacts, but only in their head.  In great detail.  To continue with our example, we now hear Genevieve’s thoughts:

Genevieve became very still as she took in the full import of what Benedict was saying to her. He truly did believe that a previous lover had done this to her? That a man she loved, and who professed to love her in return, had done this to her after discovering she was now involved with Benedict and that she was remaining silent now in order to protect him?

Just an example. Because in addition to losing the flow of dialogue, the thoughts that Genevieve is thinking?  Are completely repetitive!  Guys, I picked a page at random, and I can guarantee you that the reader has heard these thoughts of Genevieve’s at least twice before, just in different word order.  But before Genevieve even answers Benny Luke, she thinks for an entire two more paragraphs of thoughts.

THIS HAPPENS THROUGHOUT THE BOOK.  And maybe I’m just partial to banter and good dialogue – I am, I admit that wholeheartedly.  Han and Leia, Indy and Marion, Tony Stark and Pepper Potts, Benedict and Beatrice, Margo Channing and Bill Sampson.  Banterers have imprinted on me from a young age.  So when dialogue pretends to be snappy, but chunks of stupid inner thoughts break it up, I get super pissed.

Let’s see, what else did I want to bitch about …

OH THIS PISSED ME OFF.  So, at the beginning of the book, Genevieve meets Benny at the wedding of a mutual friend.  The following is, I shit you not, actual lines of dialogue that Benedict says to Genevieve, in chronological order.  I have omitted Genevieve’s responses and narration; imagine reading just Benedict’s lines in a script:

“May I offer you a ride in my carriage, Genevieve …?”

“Sure a lady as … daring as you cannot be feeling nervous at the idea of travelling alone in my carriage, Genevieve …?”

“But I am sure it is not too late for you to remedy that particular omission, if you so choose …?”

“Unless, of course, you feel it would be too daring to travel alone with me in my carriage …?”

“Shall we …?” [various, all from Chapter 1]

SERIOUSLY. GOD. STOP FUCKING DOING THAT.  I can just see him smarming before lifting his voice and cocking his eyebrow and just being terrible.  It’s like the smile Prince Ali Ababwa gives Jasmine right before she gives him a piece of her mind and pushes him off the balcony.

Also, see the quote about a lady as … daring?  You should really italicize ‘daring’ there.  Because the ellipses without italics following it does nothing to show tenor change in the character’s voice, and also, you’re really pissing me off.

And, as Benedict was only too aware, this past week had seen both her close friends becoming entangled in relationships with his own friends Dante and Devil. [44]

OF COURSE.  OF COURSE his friends are nicknamed Dante and Devil.  And OF COURSE her friends (Sophia and Pandora, in case you’re wondering, and also, look at me, not making a bad joke about the Devil and Pandora’s box right now) are enamored with his friends.

Okay, I just took an inventory of what else I need to cover in this stupid  book, because true confessions: I’ve been writing this review for, like, four days, and I just need to be done with it now.  I have five things left to cover; I’m going to go in order of quickest discussion to longest.

I.

“You look as tired as I, Benedict,” she spoke in self-defense.

His mouth twisted derisively.  “It is after two o’clock in the morning.” [105]

This caused me to yell, “Nothing good ever happens after two a.m.!  Listen to Ted’s mom!”

II.

Benedict’s chin rose.  “And how do you intend to go about achieving that?”

“By persuading you to drink the contents of this vial in the tumbler of water at your side.”  He held up a glass bottle he had retrieved from the pocket of his pantaloons.  [266]

Okay, first of all: the way that sentence is written, it sounds like the second guy is going to make a Boilermaker out of a vial of something and a glass of water.  Worst Boilermaker ever.  But second-of-ly, something loses its capacity for terror when retrieved from pantaloons.  I mean, is pantaloons not one of the funniest words ever?  I seriously giggled a lot when I read that.

III.
In case you couldn’t tell, the conversation referenced above is between Benedict and the villain, who, in true James Bond Villain fashion, comes in in the last chapter and monologues over the whole joint.  Not that I’m going to talk about him more, but you know I’m calling the villain Syndrome for the rest of this review.

But seriously – monologuing?  Come on, son!  Why do you need to tell Benny Luke that you’re poisoning him?  If you were a real villain (who also happens to be Benny Luke’s godfather and the only person he trusted following the death of his parents, oh whoops, spoiler alert, not that anyone cares), you’d lean over his injury-bed (not quite deathbed yet), surreptitiously pour the contents of the aforementioned vial into the aforementioned tumbler of water on the aforementioned side table, and then walk away.  THAT’S ALL YOU GOTTA DO.  It’s like the dude never went to Villain School.

IV.
How did Benny Luke get injured?  He got shot.  How did he get shot?  I DON’T FUCKING KNOW, THESE ARE ACTUAL QUOTES AND TRUFAX:

It was only when she fell down onto her knees beside him and was able to see the stain of red rapidly soaking through his waistcoat that she realized that sharp crack and whistling noise had been the sound of a bullet being fired and then fast approaching its target.

Which was when she began to scream … [NOT my ellipses, I swear]

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

“Cook has prepared a delicious chicken broth and a milk pudding for your dinner, your Grace.”  Jenkins placed the tray down upon a small table beside the chair where Genevieve sat in quiet contemplation.

[these are my ellipses, but I’m only skipping two paragraphs: … ]

It had been days, Genevieve acknowledged.  Far too many days.  And nights.  Days and nights when she had sat at Benedict’s bedside, willing him to fight the fever that had beset him within hours of the doctor removing the bullet from his side … [240-241]

I can attest by swearing on any number of religious texts you place in front of me, whether they be the Holy Bible, the Torah, the Quran, or even the Necronomicon that worships the mighty Ch’thulu: I only omitted two paragraphs up there.  That is the actual sequence of events: Benny Luke gets shot, and then Jenkins serves Genevieve some dinner six days later.

WE DO NOT SEE THE RAMIFICATIONS OF THE SHOOTING.  I was so excited when Benny Luke got shot – for many reasons, but mainly because it meant there was going to be some action for once!  Things were actually going to happen!  We weren’t going to spend page after page after page conversing about the same damn topic!  And by that, I of course mean the fact that it takes these characters entire chapters to have a simple conversation about the weather, because we’re always returning to their inner mindbrains after every damn line of dialogue.

So Benny gets shot!  And I rejoice!  But then he’s just sleeping?  And Genevieve has been nursing him but we don’t see that?  We don’t see the doctor removing the bullet and telling Genevieve to stay out of here, this is no place for a lady?  And where are Genevieve’s friends during all of this?  Shouldn’t they be there to comfort her?  Where are the constables asking questions?  WHAT IS GOING ON AND IS THE CHICKEN SOUP MADE OF PEOPLE*

(*Hannibal season 2 trailer is released tomorrow.  OMG.  OMG.  O  M  G)

So that totally pissed me off and made me flip tables.

And now, before I discuss the final discussion point, I want to put up a warning y’all haven’t seen since I reviewed Decadent: the following paragraphs will consist of somewhat explicit language.  I’m assuming most of y’all have probably peeked at Fifty Shades of Gray, though I have not.  This language won’t be as explicit as that most likely is, but it’s a little racier than I’ve talked about in the past.  So, caveat lector and all that, and also, Aunt Amy?  Maybe Emily shouldn’t read this, and I am still sorry about giving her that book, that was an accident.

V.
Holy shit, the sex is bad.

Or, rather, the sex writing is bad.  Here, take a gander:

His tongue swept slowly, erotically across her lips, parting their softness as he groaned low in his throat before his hunger returned to deepen the kiss. [78]

That makes me think he’s licking her.  As in, he’s licking her face.  Like a dog would lick your face.  He’s licking things to claim them as his own.  And it’s disgusting and not sexy whatsoever.

But that’s not the worst of it!

“Have I not warned that you are in danger of finding your wings well and truly singed in a situation such as this one?”

“I already burn, Benedict,” she assured him huskily, holding the darkness of his gaze with her own as she pulled the last covering away from her breasts before leaning forwards to place those breasts enticingly close to his parted lips.  “I burn, Benedict!”  She sounded both distressed and fascinated that this should be so.  [79]

I … I can’t stop laughing.  And crying.  And neither are in good ways.  I mean, look, this scene could maybe be sexy, but she keeps saying his name!  When was the last time you were having sex and saying your paramour’s name all the time?  I mean, in a logical manner?  Or saying shit like “I burn”?  I mean – god, this book sucked.

I’m going to just write this bit of dialogue and leave where everything is going on to your imagination:

“Touch me there too, Benedict?  Give me the pleasure, all the pleasure, I have only ever dreamed existed until tonight, here with you!”  [80]

I hope that question mark was supposed to be an exclamation point; otherwise, I don’t know exactly what she’s asking.  Is she asking if he’s supposed to touch her there, too?  (“You’re touching me there, too?”)  Or is she asking him to touch her there? (“Please, will you touch me there, too?”)  I think it sounds more realistic if she just straight-up tells him where to touch her, but I guess that’s too modern of me.

And now, my final point (and I apologize for everything I’m about to say.  And quote.)

“Benedict …?  What is happening?”  She gasped suddenly, her eyes wide when he glanced up at her.  “Oh.”  Her eyes widened even further, her body tensing even as Benedict felt the first contractions of the muscles as she began to climax.  [81]

I’m not going to actually say anything for this scene.  What I want you all to do instead is think of the classic scene from When Harry Met Sally and imagine Sally ending that amazing demonstration with a simple “Oh.”

Would you still have what she’s having?

Grade for Some Like to Shock: No stars

Fiction: “The Cove” by Catherine Coulter

Oh … my god. Oh, my god. So I’m not even sure why I grabbed this for my vacation. I think I had been wanting to re-read some of Catherine Coulter’s stuff, but clearly, I had been able to block out the memory of reading this the last time. Because oh my god, you guys, I found a book that’s written worse than either Twilight or anything Patricia Cornwell’s spit out.

Because look: Twilight has bad messages and bad characters. Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta is a snobby bitch, pure and simple. But in spite of the stuff that makes me rail against them long and hard, at the end of the day I am still able to find good things to say about them: Twilight, as bad as it is, at least is able to stay true to its own canon, and the violence is pretty decent in the Scarpetta novels. But this … I’m pretty sure that if there were a rating worse than “twilight stars,” this would get it. Maybe “die in a fire stars”? I mean, I could see myself burning this at some point.

Why do I want to eradicate this from my existence through the cleansing power of fire? Because it’s badly written. And not just a couple of typos here and there like in Twilight; it’s just … awful.

The plot. Susan “Sally” St. John Brainerd escaped from a sanitarium in Washington, D.C. to hide out with her Aunt Amabel in this tiny town called The Cove, Oregon. She is hiding because she is suspected of killing her father, Amory St. John. James Quinlan ends up in The Cove as well, ostensibly to bring Sally back to DC, but he ends up falling in love with her, like, immediately, so instead he decides to protect her. Because she seems to think that her father is still after her, even though he was buried two weeks ago.

But then! James gets conked over the head and Sally gets kidnapped back to the sanitarium! And then! James enlists his FBI pal Dillon Savitch to help break her out! And when they do, Sally learns that James isn’t the private detective he said he was, but an FBI agent! So she runs away, but gets caught by James and Dillon again when she tries to escape a biker gang! So she decides to hide with James, who she is also falling in love with, until the evil Dr. Beadermeyer (not making any of this up, by the way) tries to kidnap her again, but he is thwarted. And then there’s the Poirot-esque solving of the mystery — her father wasn’t really dead! Because Beadermeyer isn’t a psychiatrist, but a plastic surgeon, and put Sally’s father’s face on a random dude so he could escape and continue to sell arms to Iraq and other naughty places. So James and Sally return to the Cove because there’s still a mystery of where some random tourists disappeared to, and it turns out that the Cove is such a perfect town because the old people citizens keep killing the tourists and stealing their money in order to beautify the town, and there are tons of mass graves in the cemetery, and when the seniors are found out, they kidnap James and Sally (again), and Sally is kidnapped by her father, who is NOT DEAD, and it turns out that he’s been sleeping with Aunt Amabel for years and also, he is NOT HER ACTUAL FATHER, which is good because when he would visit Sally in the sanitarium, he’d beat her and abuse her sexually (but not rape her, because that would be awful), and eventually all the old people die and are put in jail, and Sally’s not-father is gunned down when he tries to escape from the FBI again, and honestly, I expected Sally to be kidnapped one more fucking time before the end of the book but luckily, even Catherine Coulter has her limits.

So how, aside from the plot, is it written poorly? The entire story is told via dialogue. And look, I am notorious for telling stories via dialogue — well, maybe you guys aren’t aware, but I have numerous half-written stories in My Documents wherein the action is primarily told through dialogue between parties. Rather than have an omniscient third-person narrator (which I do employ frequently), I love when characters already have a relationship and refer to shared moments in conversation, and that is how plot points are moved along.

What Catherine Coulter does is tell the story through dialogue, but shoddily and in a disjointed manner. And boy, do I have examples. Like, she doesn’t understand that there is a balance between “Show and Tell,” and instead, she uses Telling to Show.

For example: in this scene, Sally has just fallen off her motorcycle after trying to evade both Quinlan and Dillon and a motorcycle gang, who were actually decent people after all, as one of them is a doctor:

Quinlan dropped to his knees. “Can I take off her helmet?”

[The doctor biker dude replies:] “No, let me. I guess maybe we should wear helmets. If she hadn’t had one on, she might have scrambled her brains and not necessarily left them inside her head. You’re really FBI? She’s really a criminal?”

“Of course she is. What are you doing? Okay, you’re seeing if her arms are broken. She’d better be all right or I’ll have to flatten you. You scared the shit out of her. Yeah, she’s your typical criminal type. Why isn’t she conscious yet?” [200-201]

In addition to some shitty phrasing, we are also thrown in a shitty PSA that equates to “Wear Your Helmet, Kids.” But seriously, if I were Ms. Coulter’s editor, this is how that last paragraph would sound:

“Of course she is.” The doctor started patting Sally’s arms. Quinlan reached out and grabbed his wrist. “What are you doing?”

“I’m checking to see if her arms are broken,” said the doctor, in an offended tone.

“Oh. Okay.” Quinlan sat back on his haunches, duly chastised. Sally still wasn’t waking up. “Why isn’t she conscious yet?” he asked, worried.

HOW MUCH BETTER DOES THAT SOUND? You know why? Because some of the action is being described instead of narrated, and it doesn’t feel as clunky as a ten-pound bowling ball being carried by a ballerina. (Think about it.)

AND THAT’S JUST ONE EXAMPLE. I LITERALLY HAVE 21 MORE, and those are only the WORST OF THE WORST. (I will not show all 21. But know that, at any time, I could whip one out.)

Oh, speaking of Blazing Saddles, here’s another example: Quinlan wants to get the major players together for his Poirot-dump.

He handed [Sally] the phone.

“Mom, then Scott, then Beadermeyer.”

[After hanging up with her mother …] She started to dial Scott’s number. Quinlan lightly touched his hand to hers and shook his head. “No, I think your mom just might get the other players there.”

“He’s right,” Dillon said. “If she doesn’t, then we’ll talk to her alone. We need to anyway. We need to know exactly where she stands in all of this mess.”

“James is right,” Sally said and swallowed hard. [240-241]

Okay, first of all, who else went in their heads, “Howard Johnson is right”? Second of all, YOU JUST ASKED HER TO CALL ALL THREE PEOPLE. Thirty seconds later, you decided to let her mom do the dirty work and NO ONE QUESTIONED THE CHANGE OF MIND?! I — I —

Then, when they finally do get to see Sally’s Mother, she is just as clueless to how dialogue should sound as the rest of them:

“Mrs. St. John, we saw the car parked on Cooperton. Sally was here. Is she still here? Are you hiding her?”

Noelle St. John stared at his ID, then at Dillon’s. Finally, after an eternity, she looked up and said, “I haven’t seen my daughter for nearly seven months, Agent Quinlan. What car are you talking about?”

“A car we know she was driving, Mrs. St. John,” Dillon said.

“Why are you calling my daughter by her first name? Indeed, Sally is her nickname. Her real name is Susan. Where did you get her nickname?” [176]

Wouldn’t … if you were curious as to a stranger using your daughter’s nickname, wouldn’t that, I don’t know, immediately follow the stranger’s use of said nickname? And not remember three questions later?

And then there are the moments when characters answer the same question multiple times in the same line of dialogue. Have a few:

“Please tell me you believe me. I wouldn’t kill your father.”

“Yes, Noelle, I believe you — although if you had shot him I would have applauded you. But no, I never really believed that you did.” [174]

“You found him?”

“Not yet, but I found his footprints beneath your bedroom window and the indentations of the ladder feet. Yeah, our man was there. What size shoe does your husband wear, Sally?” [113]

“She’s going to her mother’s house. Not her husband’s house. You know my intuition, my gut. But to be honest about it, I know her. She feels something for her mother. That’s the first place she’ll go. I’ll bet you both her father and her husband put her in that sanitarium in the first place. Why? I haven’t the foggiest idea. I do know, though, that her father was a very evil man.”

“I assume you’ll tell me what you mean by that later?”

“Drive faster, Dillon. The house is number 337 on Lark. Yeah, I’ll tell you, but not now. Let’s get going.” [172-173]

You know what else I’m noticing? Catherine Coulter has never embraced the awesome punctuation mark that is the semicolon.

Which also leads me to believe that, for her original draft, she was paid by the word. Because otherwise, there’s no reason for extraneous information that doesn’t move the plot along, or come back to be recalled later. For instance:

Quinlan told him about the old couple he was looking for. He didn’t say anything about the townspeople lying to him.

“Over three years ago,” the sheriff said, looking at one of Amabel’s paintings over Sally’s head, this one all pale yellows and creams and nearly blueless blues, no shape or reason to any of it, but it was nice. [57]

Why? Why describe the painting, as if it were going to have a clue in it later on down the road? What’s the point? Or how about the bajillion times the old lady told Quinlan and Sally about the gyrowhatevers her husband What’s-His-Face made before he died of pneumonia the year Eisenhower was elected? Dudes, I didn’t have to look that up to paraphrase it, it was mentioned that frequently.

And then there’s the times when characters just get confused about what they were talking about in the middle of a scene. For your amusement, the first page I dogeared with a sigh of disgust:

Suddenly she stood up, her eyes fixed on something just off to the right. She shook her head, whispering, “No, no, it can’t be.”

He was on his feet in an instant, his hand on her shoulder. “What the hell is it?”

She pointed.

“Oh my God,” he said. “Stay here, Sally. Just stay here and I’ll go check it out.”

“Oh, go to hell, Quinlan. No, I don’t like Quinlan. I’ll call you James. I won’t stay put.” [49]

CLEARLY, Sally sees something that scares her. Instead of merely voicing her protest at being treated like a scared female (which is something else I may discuss, if I still have the energy later), she also in that moment decides what she’s going to call Quinlan. In the middle of being mad at him. That sentence does not make logical sense!

And before I get into the Sally-as-Damsel, I have to say that she’s not the only person afflicted by What Was I Talking About-Itis. Even the villain gets in on it!

“I should have known you two goons would fuck it up. Pick up the damned needle, you idiot. Jesus, it’s dark in here, but not dark enough. I knew I should have just knocked her out. Or shot the little bitch. Damn, let’s just get out of here. Forget the needle, forget her.” [233]

And just think — these aren’t even the best of the worst! I realize that, by this time and this many words, I have made my point and made it well. But when have you ever known me to stop? And besides, if this little post does anything, I’m hoping it will ensure that you, dear reader, never picks up The Cove. I was actually having a conversation about this very book last Sunday with some friends after midnight, and I was discussing what I hope this blog does. I hope it inspires people to pick up books they may not have picked up. Sometimes (and what I hope is the majority of the time), I hope it inspires the reader to pick up a book that sounds interesting. However, I admit, that there are times that it could inspire a reader to pick up a book by saying, “No way is it that bad.”

For a prime example of that, I’d like to take a moment and redirect y’all to the fun time I read Decadent, and that was all because my friend Sarah saw that I had read Bound and Determined and said “ALAINA you HAVE to read Decadent because one of the lines in it is, hand to God, ‘Fucking her ass, saving her life.'” And I said, “It can’t be that bad.”

And lo, it was. So guys, if you’ve gotten through all this and are still contemplating picking it up because it can’t be that bad, please: allow me to continue with a couple more.

Because now we get into the good stuff. The ludicrous stuff. The I Can’t Believe This Got Published Stuff.

The Melodramatic Stuff.

She waved away his words. “Someone was after me, James. Nobody was after you.”

“It didn’t matter.”

She began to laugh. “Actually there were two someones after me, and you were the second, only I was too stupid, too pathetically grateful to you, to realize it. I’m leaving, James. I don’t want to see you again. I can’t believe I thought you were a hero. God, when will I stop being such a credulous fool?” [162]

Oh, this is a good one. Here’s the quote, and it’s Sally telling James about a family incident.

“Once when I’d been visiting Noelle, after I left to go back to my apartment, I realized I’d forgotten my sweater. I went back into the house and there he was, kicking my mother. I went to the phone to dial 911. As far as I was concerned, it was the last straw. I just didn’t care anymore. He was going to pay. You won’t believe it, but my mother crawled to me, grabbed my leg, and begged me not to call the cops. My father stood there in the library doorway and dared me to do it. He dared me, all the while watching my mother sobbing and pleading, on her knees, her nails digging into my jeans. Jesus, it was horrible. I put down the phone and left. I never went back. I just couldn’t. Nothing I did mattered, not really. If I was there for a while, he just waited until I left. Then he probably beat her more viciously than if I’d never been there at all.” [238-239]

Now, if you had flipped back about fifty pages [pages 171-172, to be exact], you would have seen this exact same scene, but given with the dialogue as Sally remembers it to herself. So instead of saying something along the lines of Sally told Quinlan about the last time she had seen her father beat her mother, Ms. Coulter recounts it nearly exactly from when she had first introduced the scene fifty pages ago. I maintain: paid by the word.

So, remember that Sally was institutionalized by her father and her husband because they thought she was crazy? Here’s her husband’s rationalization for her insanity:

“Why did you believe I was sick, Scott?”

He didn’t say anything, just waved his pipe at her. “You weren’t a good wife. Your dad swore to me that your career was just something for you to do until you got married. He said you were just like your mother, a woman who really wanted a husband to take care of and children to look after. I wanted a wife to stay home and take care of me, but you wouldn’t do it. I needed you there, to help me, to understand me, but no, you never stayed there for me.” [259]

I’ve decided I’m too tired to get into the misogyny found in this novel — from Sally’s multiple kidnappings to the abuse she suffered at the hands of Dr. Beadermeyer, his assistant, and her not-father, there’s plenty enough to talk about. So I’m not even going to bring up the fact that apparently Scott only wanted Sally to be barefoot and menial in the house.

What I am going to bring up? The fact that Scott’s gay. And has a lover in London. What type of gay man would want a female beard to clean the kitchen? Because lemme tell you, that kitchen is spotless.

This … this one, I’m not going to say a word. Just read it.

She gave him a long look, and again that look was filled with quiet rage. “You are nothing more to me. None of this is any of your business. Go to hell, James.”

She turned away from him and walked down the wooden steps. It was chilly now. She wasn’t wearing anything but that too-small shirt and jeans.

“Come back, Sally. I can’t let you go. I won’t let you go. I won’t see you hurt again.”

She didn’t even slow down, just kept walking, in sneakers that were probably too small for her as well. He didn’t want her to get blisters. He’d planned to go shopping for her tomorrow, to buy her some clothes that fit her, to — damn, he was losing it.

He saw Dillon standing near the water line, unaware that she was walking away.

“Sally, you don’t know where you are. You don’t have any money.”

Then she did stop. She was smiling as she turned to face him. “You’re right, but it shouldn’t be a problem for long. I really don’t think that I’m afraid of any man anymore. Don’t worry. I’ll get enough money to get back to Washington.”

It sent him right over the edge. He slammed his hand down on the railing and vaulted over it to land lightly only three feet away from her. “No one will ever hurt you again. You will not take the chance of some asshole raping you. You will stay with me until this is over. Then I’ll let you go if you don’t want to stay.” [163]

And finally, the piece de resistance. The ultimate in Badness. You are going to be astonished, I promise you.

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. THANKS, NOT MY DAD. Thanks for caring about my immune system’s health while you jacked off to the sight of my drug-addled body.

I can’t even, you guys. I can’t even. All I know is about halfway through the book, I would read a page, roll my eyes, and then proclaim loudly, “I am reading a book with substance next. I can’t take this shit anymore.”

Alaina Patterson: Reading Shit So You Don’t Have To (since 1986). You’re welcome.

Grade for The Cove: Twilight stars

Fiction: “Breaking Dawn” by Stephenie Meyer

Oh, my god, you guys. You GUYS. I’m FINALLY DONE with these stupid vampires.

I don’t even know where to begin with this. I have five-and-a-half pages of quotes from this book in a Word document. If I had thought about it ahead of time, I would have taken a picture of the book with all its little Post-It Flags throughout. Way more than New Moon did.

I guess I’ll start with the plot. It begins with Bella and Edward engaged, about a week before the wedding. Now, I’ve read a lot of books and watched a lot of movies, and let me say that I was totally expecting the wedding to result in a horrible, awful bloodbath, sent down by the Volturi, or maybe that kid from Bella’s high school who loves her, or maybe Edward would end up in a panic and just frickin’ shave his head like Marshall did on How I Met Your Mother, but as I think that I realize that would be ridiculous, because according to this “canon,” everything about a vampire is strong, which means he would break the razor on his head, and then that makes me think about Pauley D from Jersey Shore, I mean have you seen that hair? That hair is immune to nuclear bombs.

That is how my mind works, ladies and gentlemen. (You’re scared now, aren’t ya?)

Okay, so anyway, I was expecting the Battle of the Bride or something at the wedding. But it went off without a hitch. Seriously? No cold feet? No explosions of fire that aren’t fireworks? Nothing? I would be disappointed, but then I remember that I’m reading a Twilight book, and I stop being disappointed and start being awesome instead.

[Note to self: stop watching so much How I Met Your Mother.]

So Bella and Edward go on their honeymoon, which is on their own private island (well, Carlisle’s own private island) off the coast of Brazil. And there they have sex once (FINALLY, but oh it is the vaguest of vagues. It’s all “we went to bed and FADE TO BLACK and then I woke up and it was AWESOME” but NO ONE GOT TO SEE ANYTHING. And folks, there are TWO REASONS I read romance novels occasionally, and those reasons are “They’re Cheesy” and “And so is the sex descriptions.” BUT AT LEAST WE GET TO READ ABOUT QUIVERING MEMBERS), and because apparently there are bruises all over Bella’s body from teh sexing, Edward actually takes a stand with Oprah and says LOVE SHOULDN’T HURT and refuses to have sex with Bella anymore. Until she seduces him, because apparently, our little Bella, she likes it rough. (Who knew? She’s so whiny all the time, I didn’t expect that.) So they have sex like, one more time, and all of a sudden SHE’S PREGNANT.

And — how — I doo—

IF VAMPIRES ARE SUPPOSED TO BE DEAD, AND THE “VENOM” IN THIS CANON “FREEZES EVERYTHING INTO PERFECTION” or whatever, then HOW THE FUCK IS EDWARD’S SPERM MOTILE?

*sigh*

So ANYWAY, Edward wants to bring Bella home to Carlisle immediately to perform an awkward vampire abortion, but no she wants it she needs it her preciousssss and she uses Rosalie, previously known as The Bitch of the Cullen family, to her advantage: Rosalie only wanted BABBIEEEES, and now she has a chance to have a BABBIEEEEE in the family, and Bella wants to keep her precious little fetus that, oh right, is also killing her slowly.

At this point, the narrative switches from Bella’s whiny emo tones to Jacob’s funny, sarcastic side. Which doesn’t really serve a purpose other than: we don’t have to hear Bella’s thoughts while the baby kills her from the inside, we only see what Bella goes through. In such awful, horrific detail, but then I saw the movie and was saddened that there wasn’t more blood.

So the baby gets born, and it wasn’t the son that Bella was hoping for, but instead a girl, and she picks the STUPIDEST NAME ON THE FACE OF THE EARTH: Renesmee, a mash-up of Renee and Esme, her and Edward’s ‘mother’, respectively. Also, the middle name is a mash-up of Carlisle and Charlie, or, Carlie. Dear god, when did Bella hit her head on something hard?

So THEN, Edward turns Bella into a vampire, and I’m like, FINALLY, but it turns out that Bella is not only a vampire, but only the bestest vampire in the history of vampiring. Apparently the vampires are supposed to go through a one year “newborn” phase, where everything is BLOOOOOOOOD and there is no logic, only thirst, but Bella wakes up and she’s like, “Where’s my baby I want my baby and also why am I in this beautiful dress ALICE oh hey honey, let’s have sex now, you couldn’t possibly break me in two.”

Oh, and did I mention that Jacob imprints on the baby? Meaning that, at some point when Renesmee is no longer a baby but a full grown person (because she’s half-human, half-immortal, I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS), Jacob and Renesmee are going to be a couple.

HA HA HA HA HA oh Jesus make it stop.

Then there’s this other coven, the Denali clan or whatever, and one of them sees Renesmee prancing about and immediately assumes that the Cullens have created a vampire baby, so she runs to the Volturi to tattle. But while Renesmee is a baby of vampires, she is not a human baby that was turned into a vampire, so the Cullens should be safe from the Evol Volturi. But they have to gather other vampires to act as witnesses, and since Renesmee is growing at, like, creepy speed (her first words after a week, reading poetry after a month, like, WTF), the other vampires can see proof that she is a different thing than a vampire baby, so they should hopefully be safe. And Renesmee also has a power: she can touch someone and show them her thoughts, which is how she shows everyone her grisly birth.

Charming.

And that’s totally where I lost interest. Seriously, it’s five hundred pages of Bella and Edward having sex then not having sex then being pregnant then Jacob turning into his own One Man Wolf Pack, then Bella giving birth and becoming the bestest vampire ever and then more sex between Bella and Edward and then … a month of visiting vampires, new talents, and talking, oh dear god so much talking.

And when the Volturi arrive, there isn’t even a fight. Lame.

Anyway. Everyone lives, nobody (that anyone would care about) dies*, and everyone lives happily ever after. The end. Thank fucking God.

*Except Irina. Poor Irina, the scapegoat. And what really makes that funny for me is that, in the movies, Irina is played by Maggie Grace, the girl who played Shannon Rutherford on Lost, which is also the sister of BOOOOOONE!, played by my favorite Ian Somerhalder, who now plays the ultimate character Damon Salvatore in that superior television program The Vampire Diaries. But really, I’m almost looking forward to Breaking Dawn II so I can see Shannon die again.

So here’s the part where I show you some quotes. I have to say that the majority of Post It’s were for the category I created called, “Edward is perfect and I am awful.” Because even as a vampire, Bella has problems with self-esteem.

This quote is, like, on page three. I distinctly remember uttering, “Good Lord,” and then restraining the urge to throw the 754-page book across the room.

… I just couldn’t reconcile a staid, respectable, dull concept like husband with my concept of Edward. It was like casting an archangel as an accountant… [6]

Let’s see, what else made me roll my eyes?

The rush was due to the fact that I was getting closed to nineteen every stinking day, while Edward stayed frozen in all his seventeen-year-old perfection, as he had for over ninety years. [16]

Sometimes it was so easy to forget that I was kissing a vampire. Not because he seemed ordinary or human – I could never for a second forget that I was holding someone more angel than man in my arms … [23]

Here, Bella forgets the Number One Rule of Weddings: No One Looks At the Groom Except the Bride:

I stared at the long counter, covered in all the paraphernalia of a beauty salon, and began to feel my sleepless night.
“Is this really necessary? I’m going to look plain next to him no matter what.” [44]

Even after she becomes a vampire, Edward is still Perfect and She is Still Awful:

The greater part of my senses and my mind were still focused on Edward’s face.

I had never seen it before this second.

How many times had I stared at Edward and marveled over his beauty? How many hours – days, weeks – of my life had I spent dreaming about what I then deemed to be perfection? I thought I’d known his face better than my own. I’d thought this was the one sure physical thing in my whole world: the flawlessness of Edward’s face.

I may as well have been blind. [390]

I could not answer immediately, lost as I was in the velvet folds of his voice. It was the most perfect symphony, a symphony in one instrument, an instrument more profound than any created by man … [391]

NO. NO NO NO. That cannot happen. There is NOTHING more beautiful than the Pastoral Symphony. Except maybe the Sleeping Beauty ballet. But COME ON. Robert Pattinson’s voice is AWFUL.

Some other categories of choice: Bella is Dumb, and also, Jacob Speaks the Truth:

“So why hasn’t Carlisle done anything?” I growled. “He’s a doctor, right? Get it out of her.”

He looked up then and answered me in a tired voice. Like he was explaining this to a kindergartener for the tenth time. “She won’t let us.”

It took a minute for the words to sink in. Jeez, she was running true to form. Of course, die for the monster spawn. It was so Bella. [177]

Even more examples of Jacob Speaking Truth (which is why Jacob’s my favorite, if I can have a favorite in this hell):

“I thought the whole point was that you wanted your vampire more than anything. And now you’re just giving him up? That doesn’t make any sense. Since when are you desperate to be a mom? If you wanted that so much, why did you marry a vampire?” [193]

“Why do you always have to love the wrong things, Bella?” [197]

And one rare instance where Bella Speaks the Truth:

I’d never done anything good enough to deserve a friend like Jacob. [60]

Now, let’s just take a moment and recognize that some things can be learned over time:

Behind the light, I could distinguish the individual grains in the dark wood ceiling above. In front of it, I could see the dust motes in the air … [387]

I DID NOT CHANGE THAT, that is an ACTUAL quote! YAY!

Renesmee, meanwhile, is a creepy little fucker:

“Renesmee is healthy and well,” he promised, a gleam I’d never seen before in his eyes. He said her name with an understated fervor. A reverence. The way devout people talked about their gods. [396]

See, and Bella’s not being ironic or creeped out about this. Devout people talking about their gods is not a creepy thing for her.

There’s also a category for “Seriously?! You guys are just messing with me now, right?”

“But he’s a smart, practical man. She thinks he’ll come up with his own explanation. She assumes he’ll get it wrong.” Edward snorted. “After all, we hardly adhere to vampire canon.” [301]

Vampire canon?! You guys acknowledge that there is a vampire canon?! Amazing!

And speaking of amazing,

“What an amazing creature she is,” Edward murmured, almost in agreement, as if Jacob’s comment was meant as a compliment. He was both dazzling and dazzled. [523]

Oy.

And speaking of vampire “canon,” here’s a tidbit that made me go all Barbara Walters on Herman Cain What?!:

Edward’s jaw clenched and unclenched, then he answered evenly, “They aren’t even werewolves. Aro can tell you all about it if you don’t believe me.”

Not werewolves? I shot a mystified look at Jacob. He lifted his huge shoulders and let them drop — a shrug. He didn’t know what Edward was talking about, either. [704]

No, really: you guys are messing with me, right?

I read the emotions as they scrolled across [Charlie’s] face.

Shock. Disbelief. Pain. Loss. Fear. Anger. Suspicion. More pain.

I bit my lip. It felt funny. [506]

COME ON. ALL KRISTEN STEWART CAN DO IS BITE HER LIP. ARE YOU KIDDING ME.

And now, my favorite parts: The Crazy Random Happenstance References, which only make sense to me.

Here’s this one, from Jacob’s perspective (note: the italics are the voices of the members of his wolf-pack he can hear in his head. No, don’t ask):

They all saw the horror – Bella’s mottled stomach; her raspy voice: he’s strong, that’s all; the burning man in Edward’s face: watching her sicken and waste away … seeing it hurting her; Rosalie crouched over Bella’s limp body: Bella’s life means nothing to her–and for once, no one had anything to say.

Their shock was just a silent shout in my head. Wordless.

!!!! [198]

See, in one of my favorite short-lived series, The Middleman, the Middleman and his apprentice Wendy Watson face an evil killer that is making something called !!!!, which is an energy drink that, when drunk, turns people into zombie trout. Again, don’t ask, but this made me laugh, at least.

This did notmake me laugh; instead, it made me cry for the withdrawal I am currently undergoing:

The dark one grinned when I came into view. “Well, well, Carlisle. You have been naughty, haven’t you?”

“She’s not what you think, Stefan.” [627]

STEFAN! WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH THE CULLENS? AND WHERE THE FUCK IS YOUR BROTHER AND WHY ISN’T HE SHIRTLESS (Vampire Diaries comes back in one week holy shit I can’t fucking wait)

Here’s the quote:

Caius stood alone beside the blazing remains of Irina, the metal object in his hand still throwing a thick jet of flame into the pyre.

With a small clicking sound, the fire shooting from Caius’s hand disappeared. [708]

And here’s the reference:

And then “The Final Countdown” runs through my head and I have to run away laughing.

The final reference (da duh daa daaaa! da duh da da daaaaaa!) is actually a conversation my friends and I almost had one fateful New Year’s Eve night:

“So there are real werewolves?” I asked. “With the full moon and silver bullets and all that?”

Jacob snorted. “Real. Does that make me imaginary?” [745]

And I can’t remember where I’ve mentioned this instance before, but we were all talking about zombies versus vampires, and Jen at one point said “Oh, you’re talking about Resident Evil zombies, not real zombies.” And Emily whirls on her and says, “REAL zombies!? Did you just say REAL zombies?!”

Finally-finally, as if Stephenie Meyer knewI’d need something happy to take away from all of this, she leaves me with this quote: [Context: Bella has found that she can draw her shield or whatever into herself so Edward is finally able to hear her thoughts, or, whatever]:

“I can’t keep it up if I’m even the slightest bit distracted,” I warned him. [754]

Ahem.

THAT’S WHAT SHE SAID.

Grade for Breaking Dawn: Twilight Stars

Fiction: “Cause of Death” by Patricia Cornwell

Why do I keep doing this to myself? Why? Oh, right: I’m a fucking masochist.

So because I have some weird, genetic disposition that requires me to read Patricia Cornwell whenever I fly on a plane, I brought the next book in the series with me to California. And it is worse than From Potter’s Field.

The scene opens with Kay Scarpetta housesitting for one of her deputy chiefs on New Year’s Eve. She receives a phone call about a dead person found at an old Navy Yard. But then the cops call later in the morning, and it’s the first time someone from the police called her, meaning the killer called her first or whatever. Turns out the dead guy is a reporter she knew and was friendly with (of course he was!), and he died while scuba diving.

It was on page 7 when I made my first dogear:

I hid a key only [her niece, Lucy] could find, then loaded medical bag and dive equipment into the trunk of my black Mercedes. [7]

DIVE EQUIPMENT?! Okay, FIRST OF ALL: who the fuck brings scuba equipment to a housesitting gig on NEW YEAR’S EVE in VIRGINIA. I might understand it if it was in the Bahamas or St. Thomas or somewhere, but VIRGINIA?! And SECOND OF ALL, since WHEN does Kay scuba-dive?! This is the seventh freaking book in the series, and this is the first time I’ve ever heard about her being able to scuba-dive. And though it doesn’t say so anywhere, I’m sure she does it perfectly.

She’s still such a snob. And lords it over everyone. For instance, she’s a superior cook:

I surveyed the kitchen, which was pitiful compared to the one I had at home. I did not seem to have forgotten anything yesterday when I had driven down to Virginia Beach to shop, although I would have to do without garlic press, pasta maker, food processor and microwave oven. I was seriously beginning to wonder if [Deputy Chief] Mant ever ate in or even stayed here. At least I had thought to bring my own cutlery and cookware, and as long as I had good knives and pots there wasn’t much I couldn’t manage. [4]

Oh, come on, Kay — we both know you’ve never used a microwave in your life.

I pulled [Lucy] over to the stove and lifted the lid from the pot. A delicious steam rose and I felt happy.

“I can’t believe you,” I said. “God bless you.”

“When you weren’t back by four I figured I’d better make the sauce or we weren’t going to be eating lasagne tonight.”

“It might need a little more red wine. And maybe more basil and a pinch of salt.” [53]

YOUR NIECE MADE LASAGNE SAUCE FOR YOU. BE NICE, KAY, JUST SAY ‘THANK YOU.’

And of course, God forbid she be an expert about just cooking.

“Do you always see indications in drownings?” he reasonably asked. “I thought drownings were notoriously difficult, explaining why expert witnesses from South Florida are often flown in to help with such cases.”

“I began my career in South Florida and am considered an expert witness in drownings,” I sharply said. [105]

But I can’t believe she didn’t take a moment to show her superiority in this tiny moment:

“Well, irregardless of what you call it, his orientation might somehow be important.” [39]

IRREGARDLESS is NOT A WORD. WHY DID YOU NOT SAY ANYTHING? In the middle of an autopsy, even? If I were you, Dr. Kay Scarpetta, as you insist on introducing yourself every damn time, I would have swung that Stryker Saw backwards towards his head yelling “IRREGARDLESS IS NOT A WORD YOU FUCKING ASSHOLE.”

It’s a pet peeve, okay?

In addition to being annoyingly superior and kind of bitchy, Kay also has a bit of an Annie Oakley-type fetish, in that she must be able to do anything better than a man:

My legs trembled as I climbed, for I was not as strong as Jerod and Ki Soo, who moved in all their [scuba] gear as if it weighed the same as skin. But I got out of my BC and tank myself and did not ask for help. [26]

And, of course, there’s her All About Me Syndrome:

“Good God. All this happened because of my car. In a sense, because of me.” [207]

So, what happens in the book? Does it matter? Oh fine. The dead reporter turns out to have gotten himself involved with this crazy whack-a-doo religious cult called the New Zionists, who have ties to Moammar Qaddafi and Libya, who want plutonium to build an atom bomb.

Three things:
1. If this stupid book causes me to get searched by the FBI for mentioning Libya in the same breath as plutonium, I will send a nasty letter to Patricia Cornwell. I may want higher blog traffic, but that is for TOTALLY the wrong reason.

2. How does a book written in 1996 have a reference to something that’s almost going on today, but not quite? I mean, come on, how weird is that?

3. NOT THE LIBYANS AND PLUTONIUM MARTY GET IN THE DeLOREAN AND GO BACK IN TIME TO SAVE DOC BROWN

My final question is: why do I keep reading these damn books? Well, I guess I have to answer with another question: why did I read all those Twilight books (and still have Breaking Dawn in my to-read pile)? Partly masochism, yes, I’ll grant you that: I take innate pleasure in groaning at some of the shit Kay Scarpetta pulls. But also, a tiny bit of curiousity. And a smidgen of hope. Hope that the books will get better, the curiosity to see if they do, and the realization that they probably won’t, but at least I’ll feel better ranting about it later.

And also: I read these on planes because you aren’t allowed to throw books on planes.

Grade for Cause of Death: 1 star

Fiction: “Wideacre” by Philippa Gregory

WideacreI can’t believe I tried to read this again. Actually, wait, I take that back – I totally believe I tried to read this again. Because I? Am a masochist. Seriously, if there were a group for masochists, I’d be their leader. I would lead the masochists, and they would worship me, and they would worship me by giving me pain that I ask for, because that’s what I do – ask for pain. (Please don’t tell me if there is a group for masochists.)

I read Twilight twice. And then I continued and read New Moon and Eclipse. And when my stomach settles and things calm down and I can actually finish a freaking book again, I’ll most likely order Breaking Dawn from the library. So it really doesn’t surprise me that I attempted to read Wideacre again.

I read Wideacre the first time back in 2007, and finished it. I attempted to read the sequel, The Favored Child, that November, but couldn’t finish it. Wideacre is the first book in a trilogy, and the weird thing about me is that I couldn’t pick up another one of Philippa Gregory’s books until I felt that I had truly put the Wideacre series behind me. Which is why The Other Boleyn Girl has been sitting on my shelf for about three years.

So I’d been stuck when it came to Philippa Gregory. I really wanted to read The Other Boleyn Girl, but couldn’t, because I wanted to know how the Wideacre series ended. And so, I, the masochist, ordered Wideacre from the library, thinking that I could get through the entire series and call it good.

Continue reading