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!

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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.

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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: “Devil’s Bride” by Stephanie Laurens

I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to finish another book. And this book, of all books! What was supposed to be a quick, easy read turned into an interminable month of reading ten pages and then falling asleep. Even last night, when I had twenty pages to go before the end of the month, but no, I had to be tired.

[In all fairness to myself, I did work more than twelve hours yesterday, and on top of that, came home only to get stuck in my driveway because while Crazy Plow Guy may have plowed the school’s parking lot a gazillion times yesterday, my Plow Guy was home watching the finale of The Bachelor. I’m guessing. Because I had about four tons of slush to shovel before it froze into stalagmites and made my driveway as impassable as the Gates of Mordor. Yeah, I used Lord of the Rings within spitting distance of The Bachelor. Look at me, being all Joel McHale-ish.]

ANYWAY. The plot of this? … Do you really care? A woman named Honoria is a governess for some hoity clan in Derbyshire or whatever (I’m not looking ANYTHING up, by the way) and on the way back home, takes a shortcut through the woods, where she happens upon a murder. No, really, she sees the dude shot. As she goes to help him, this tall, dark ruffian type dude shows up on a big horse and recognizes the shot dude as his cousin, so he takes his cousin and her back to the woodcutter’s cottage, but the shot dude dies in the night. Meanwhile, heaven forbid that an unmarried lady stays in a one-room cottage with a tall, dark ruffian type dude, so Dude tells her she’ll marry him. Honoria says no, that won’t be necessary, I’m going to Africa to be a missionary or some nonsense, but he doesn’t care and …

Look, long story short (TOO LATE!), they end up getting married anyway because she not only falls in love with him, but wants to experience “the pleasure he promised” or, again, some such nonsense, the prose is all purple and flowery and shit and here’s what really bothered me (besides the rampant misogyny, when was this written? Wow, 1998? I expected an original date of, like, 1979 based on the fact that the dude wants to turn his wife into a sexual slave [but in a good way, I’m sure]): the fact that Honoria and Devil (because his real name is Sylvester, but everyone calls him Devil, and don’t get me started on his other cousins’s nicknames) agree to work towards catching the murderer of the dead cousin, but there’s like, a hundred pages in the middle where all they do is have sex. And I’m sorry, I was promised a murderer, not incredibly long and flowery love-making scenes, let’s get to the violence already!

So that’s where I’m at. The next few books I’ll read will, hopefully, be chock-full of violent goodness. Y’know, if I can get enough time to actually read again.

Grade for Devil’s Bride: Twilight Stars

Fiction: “Decadent” by Shayla Black

Oh … Oh holy dear God in Heaven above. I … all I can say is, wow.

It’s not a good ‘wow,’ okay? I don’t even want to talk about it, but the thing is, this blog kinda means I should, so I will.

But before I get into this, I am going to link (and possibly quote from heavily – not sure yet) to the Smart Bitches, Trashy Books review of Decadent. In addition, I am thisside of sleep-deprived and shouldn’t be writing at this time of night-slash-morning, but anyway, for the first time, I really can’t talk about this kind of stuff in euphemistic terms.

And so: CAVEAT LECTOR. (Lector? hold on, lemme double-check this … hey, I was right!) This entry will definitely include discussion of adult topics, especially of the sexual variety. If you don’t want to know this stuff, then for the love of God, don’t click the cut-link. Readers of my blog who may be under the age of 18 should probably skip this entry.

It should go without saying that readers of my blog who may be under the age of 18 shouldn’t be reading this book anyway (and I don’t think there are any underage readers, but you know my motto: “just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you”), but then I continue and say that no one of any age should be reading this book because holy God … so bad.

Also, I would like to apologize to my mother (if she happens to read this), and remind her that she has to have a sense of humor when it comes to her warped eldest child.

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Fiction: “Bound and Determined” by Shayla Black

It should not take someone a month to read Midwestern Philosophy. Midwestern Philosophy should not be so boring. And I’m sorry, but this one was. Horrifically boring. And look, Midwestern Philosophy plots are supposed to be ludicrous. In fact, here on loan from the American Midwestern Philosophical Society is an Actual Scientist with the Actual Scientific Formula for Midwestern Philosophy:

Man + Woman
———————-    x   Close Quarters = Sex every other chapter
Crazy Plot

(yes, it’s an actual formula. created by scientists. or, philosophers. whatever.)

And going hand in hand with ludicrous plots is the idea that you are to read Midwestern Philosophy at Ludicrous Speed. One should not be spending a month trying to get through the Ludicrous Plot to get to (or through) The Good Stuff.

Here’s the gist: Kerry’s brother, Mark, has been framed for embezzlement at his job at this bank. There’s this supersmart and superhott (yes, with two t’s) computer geek named Rafe, and Kerry tries to call him and ask him to help her brother out, and it’s convenient, because he’s coming to Tampa anyway (seriously? what great romance ever happened in Tampa?) to help with security measures at That Same Bank. But when he refuses, rudely, instead of giving up and going on with her life and hoping for a miracle, she KIDNAPS HIM FROM THE AIRPORT. She takes her to her adopted uncle’s Love Shack on the Beach (because of course one exists) and when Rafe realizes that he hates the idea of bullying her into leaving, he agrees to broker a deal: he’ll help her try to prove her brother innocent, and he gets to have sex with her for the entire weekend.

Surprisingly, no one’s Virgin Alarm went off (TM – it’s programmed to go off before you do!). Surprising, because Kerry is a virgin. Usually in Midwestern Philosophy, that card has already been played. But, whatever, because even though he was rude on the phone (horrors!), Kerry is Very Attracted to Rafe, and totally agrees with no pressure.

And … *sigh* The ‘mystery,’ if you dare to call it that, is predictable. The story sets up three people who could be the embezzeler, and of course only two of them have a real motive (and one of them is supposedly ‘in Love’ with Kerry, which Kerry doesn’t believe), and it turns out it’s the third. But she wasn’t just doing this for the money; she was doing it for a shitload of money!

In the end, as tends to happen, love conquers all and all that crap. And apparently, for a virgin, she gives great helmet. (sorry – I couldn’t resist.)

I wasn’t going to do this, because really, I don’t want to degrade the value of the label on something like this, but I really feel that this book deserves a Chuck Bass Stamp of Disapproval:

Look at him. He’s totally saying, “Why Shayla Black, you can’t possibly comprehend the magnitude of what you’ve done. Not only have you bored the upper Northeastern version of Blair Waldorf to tears, but you have managed to earn my disapproval. My cardigan has more sexual appeal than that escapade in Chapter Five. Frankly, your sex scenes lack imagination, and I can’t be bothered to assist you in that arena at the moment. My sister, however, is probably available, and Lord knows she’ll sleep with anything. She slept with Humphrey. Also, I’d like to point out that my cardigan has sharks on it. I’m surprised you didn’t throw in a shark attack; you did set your story in Florida. Oh, goodness, look at the time. I must be off; I have important, wealthy things to go succeed at, because I’m Chuck Bass. My final word of advice: be more like me; be more evil. For evil will always triumph because good is dumb.”

Grade for Bound and Determined: Twilight stars

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.

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