Tag: Rants

Retro Post: Fifty Shades of Grey is Not Romance

Posted June 21, 2017 by Holly in Features | 19 Comments

Retro Post: Fifty Shades of Grey is Not Romance

I (Casee) love this post. I have these books in my TBR pile. This is the second time this post has been reposted, but I feel that it is deserving. This post was originally posted in 2012 (when the books were published) and again in 2015 (when the movies were released).

It seems everyone is talking about Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James. Whether you read it or didn’t, loved it or hated it, I bet you’ve either talked about it with someone or read about it somewhere. Maybe you only heard the title mentioned and know nothing else about it. Or maybe you’ve read it 18 times and can recite it line-by-line. Whatever the case, it’s out there.

First, let’s just get this out of the way: I read all three of these books in a day and a half. As soon as I finished the first one, I bought the second. Likewise with the third. I paid $9.99 PER BOOK for digital copies. It’s possible I was drunk at the time (or should have been). Especially while reading the third. That was just a big ball of WTF rolled up in 500-something pages.

There’s been a lot of criticism on many fronts for this trilogy. I’m not going to touch on the fanfic aspects, because frankly I know nothing about fanfic and I’d only come off sounding like a moron (if you’re interested, author Kate Davies posted an interesting piece about fanfic and Dear Author did an entire series about it) . I’m also not going to address the “mommy porn” label that’s been ascribed to these books. The term makes my head want to explode and I have too much to live for. I will say that “mommy porn” is insulting and it makes me want to punch someone in the junk (because I’m sure a man came up with that).

I would like to address two misconceptions that bother me greatly about this series.

This is a romance novel.

I disagree. While there are many similarities, what keeps this from being a romance in my book is the nature of the relationship between Christian and Ana, the main protagonists. Yes, it has many of the same tropes we find in romance: Billionaire, Tortured Alpha Hero becomes intrigued with Virginal, Malleable Heroine. She thinks she can save him and he only wants her for sex – but then becomes intrigued by her and decides he wants to keep her. On his terms, of course. Which she, naturally, doesn’t agree to. Much angst ensues. Until finally, Happily Ever After (complete with rainbows and unicorns a meadow full of wildflowers and mention of tasting breastmilk).

I know what you’re saying to yourself. You’re saying OMFG what do you MEAN tasting breastmilk??? “Gee, Holly, this sounds an awful lot like a romance novel to me.” And yes, I know on the surface it seems that way. But the truth is, at its core, this is a book about a sad, troubled man who tends toward being abusive and the woman who enables him in being this way.

After reading this trilogy I wanted to write a post titled Why Stalking Is Not OK. Actually, I still kind of want to write that post. But for now I’ll just say it here. Stalking Is Not OK.

I know some novels in recent years have glorified stalking. Most notably for me – probably because it’s marketed to young adults – is the Twilight franchise. But Edward sneaking into Bella’s room to watch her sleep without her knowing was nothing compared to this.

Let me outline a few examples for you.

A. Ana drunk dials Christian one night and he freaks out over the fact that she’s drunk and demands to know where she is. She hangs up on him. 15 minutes later he shows up at the bar. When questioned, he reveals he tracked her cell phone to find out where she was.

“How did you find me?”

“I tracked your cell phone, Anastasia.”

Oh, of course he did. How is that possible? Is it legal? Stalker, my subconscious whispers at me through the cloud of tequila that’s floating in my brain, but somehow, because it’s him, I don’t mind. (Grey p.57)

B.  Christian sends Ana gifts to and drives her home.  Only, she never mentioned where she lives, so how did he know?

“He pulls up outside my duplex. I belatedly realize he’s not asked me where I live – yet he knows. But then he sent the books, of course he knows where I live. What able, cell-phone-tracking, helicopter-owning stalker wouldn’t.” (Grey p.74)

C. He returns unexpectedly from a trip because she meets a friend for a drink instead of going straight home. Yes, he actually cancels a business trip because she met a friend. He specifically told her to go home and when she didn’t, he rushed home to spank scold her.

D. Despite having only known him for a few weeks, he knows her social security and bank account numbers. And he accesses them without her permission.

Now, Ana does call Christian out for his behavior. But she does it in a way that says she doesn’t think it’s a very big deal. Personally I would have stabbed him in the throat called the cops the very first time he said he used my cell phone to track my whereabouts 5 days after I met him. But that’s just me. Ana sort of laughs off most of the things he does. If she does become angry and points it out to him, he apologizes and she forgives him. And then he does it again. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

As I was reading, I kept wondering in what world it’s ok to do the things he did. Were we, the readers, supposed to accept his behavior because Ana did? Or perhaps I was supposed to accept his behavior because he was just a sad little boy on the inside? One who was “Fifty shades of fucked-up” from the emotional and physical abuse he suffered as a child? Because that doesn’t work for me. Honestly, that just freaks me out even more. An unbalanced, self-proclaimed “fucked-up” guy is stalking me at my place of work, knows every detail about my life and follows me around town without my knowledge or permission? I don’t laugh it off and say “now, now, be a good boy”. I run screaming in the opposite direction.

This is a healthy, loving relationship.

No. This is a sad, destructive, abusive relationship. Over the course of the three novels it becomes slightly less destructive and abusive, but only slightly. When I finished the third book I did so with a heavy heart and a bad taste in my mouth. Yes, they are eminently readable. But they’re also depressing as hell.

The mind games and emotional bullying Christian indulges in to get his way; The fact that Ana seems more like a victim suffering from Stockholm Syndrome than a woman in a healthy, loving relationship. These are textbook signs of an abusive relationship. Cutting her off from her friends unless he’s with her or can control the environment she meets with them in, following her on a trip to see her mother even though she expressly asked for time alone to digest things, having her followed and spied on, buying her a computer and a Blackberry and a car, so he can get in touch with her whenever he wants, ordering for her and steamrolling her when she complains:

“Two glasses of the Pinot Grigio,” Christian says with a voice of authority. I purse my lips, exasperated.

“What?” he snaps.

“I wanted a Diet Coke,” I whisper.

His gray eyes narrow and he shakes his head.

“The Pinot Grigio here’s a decent wine. It will go well with the meal, whatever we get,” he says patiently.

“Whatever we get?”

“Yes.” He smiles his dazzling head-cocked-to-one-side smile, and my stomach pole vaults over my spleen. I can’t help but reflect his glorious smile back at him.

These are not signs of a healthy relationship. That Ana tolerated this behavior – and even excused it, or worse, came to enjoy it – does not make it okay.

I think the worst part, however, is the way he casually dismisses her feelings. Especially in the beginning when it comes to being a submissive. The first time he spanks her, she’s very upset afterward. She tells him she felt demeaned and abused. His response?

So you felt demeaned, debased, abused & assaulted – how very Tess Durbeyfield of you. I believe it was you who decided on the debasement, if I remember correctly. Do you really feel like this or do you think you ought to feel like this: Two very different things. If that is how you feel, do you think you could just try and embrace these feelings, deal with them, for me? That’s what a submissive would do.

And naturally, she’s thrilled he thinks of himself as hers, and brushes aside the fact that he’s told her to get over her feelings and let him humiliate and debase her.

As the series continues, Ana learns to stand up for herself a bit more and Christian learns to give in to her occasionally – oh wait, no. That didn’t actually happen. The author told us that’s what happened, but the actions of the characters didn’t change a whit.  Christian still ordered Ana about, cutting her off from her friends and managing her life whether she liked it or not. And she let him.

This does not a romance novel make.

Are these books very readable? Yes. Are they enjoyable? I would say no, but I think that depends on the individual person reading them. Are they romance novels? Not even a little bit.

Fifty Shades of Grey is not a romance.

*I made some minor editorial changes to the revised post

Retro Post: The Chin Affliction

Posted May 15, 2017 by Holly in Discussions | 10 Comments

This month I had to share with you Holly’s Chin Affliction. If anything, I think the Chin Affliction is even more prevalent today.

This was originally posted on November 17, 2009.

Have you noticed how active chins are?

“She thrust her chin out”

“Her chin came up”

“She lifted her chin”

You notice all the quotes I used above reference females. The Chin Affliction is most often used to showcase a stubborn and/or independent (though IMO many times these traits are interchangeable) heroine. The hero insults her and her chin comes up to show she isn’t intimidated. She faces an unfamiliar situation and her chin comes up to show she’s unafraid. She becomes angry and her chin thrusts out in challenge.

This is something that’s bothering me more and more lately. I like to call it The Chin Affliction. It bothers me because I feel like the moving chin is often an easy way for authors to show emotion. Her chin coming up symbolizes something, which takes some pressure off the author. Plus, I don’t think I’ve ever raised my chin in my life – not when I was angry or scared or being stubborn. It strikes me as a somewhat childish gesture, and frankly it annoys me.

Have you ever even noticed The Chin Affliction? Does it bother you? Is there something else that keeps cropping up that annoys you?

Retro Review: Shadow Music by Julie Garwood

Posted February 22, 2017 by Holly in Discussions, Reviews | 15 Comments

Retro Review: Shadow Music by Julie GarwoodReviewer: Holly
Shadow Music by Julie Garwood
Series: Highlands Lairds #3
Also in this series: Ransom
Published by Ballantine Books
Publication Date: 2008
Genres: Fiction, Romance, Historical, General
Pages: 438
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Goodreads
two-half-stars

Throughout her acclaimed writing career, Julie Garwood has captivated readers with characters who are compelling, daring, and bursting with life. Now one of the most popular novelists of our time proudly returns to her beloved historical romance roots–in a thrilling tale of love, murder, adventure, and mystery set against the haunting landscape of medieval Scotland.
For Princess Gabrielle of St. Biel, Scotland is a land of stunning vistas, wild chieftains, treacherous glens, and steep shadows–skullduggery, betrayal, and now murder. Prized for her exquisite beauty, the daughter of one of England’s most influential barons, Gabrielle is also a perfect bargaining chip for a king who needs peace in the Highlands: King John has arranged Gabrielle’s marriage to a good and gentle laird. But this marriage will never take place.
For Gabrielle, everything changes in one last burst of freedom–when she and her guards come upon a scene of unimaginable cruelty. With one shot from her bow and arrow, Gabrielle takes a life, saves a life, and begins a war.
Within days, the Highlands are aflame with passions as a battle royal flares between enemies old and new. Having come to Scotland to be married, Gabrielle is instead entangled in Highland intrigue. For two sadistic noblemen, underestimating Gabrielle’s bravery and prowess may prove fatal. But thanks to a secret Gabrielle possesses, Colm MacHugh, the most feared man in Scotland, finds a new cause for courage. Under his penetrating gaze, neither Gabrielle’s body nor heart is safe.
A gripping novel that delves into the heart of emotions–unyielding passions of love, hate, revenge, and raw desire–Shadow Music is magnificent gift from Julie Garwood and a crowning achievement in her amazing career.
From the Hardcover edition.

******As part of our 10 year anniversary celebration, we’ll be re-posting old reviews that make us cringe, laugh or sigh all over again.

Man, I love me some early Julie Garwood historicals. She lost me with her romantic suspense. I remember being so excited when she announced she was releasing a new historical. I’m still pretty disappointed it didn’t live up to my expectations. I wonder what would happen if I read it now? I might need to reread it and see if I still feel the same. 

This review was originally published January 8, 2008

This is less a review about this particular book and more my thoughts on the writing of Julie Garwood. Casee reviewed the book here. You can check that out for a plot summary and her thoughts, for they mostly mirrored mine.

Throughout her career, JG has remained a favorite of mine. Well, let me clarify. Prior to Killjoy she was a favorite of mine. Her historicals still call to me on occasion and I find myself picking them up at random, anxious to sink into an old, comfortable story, similar to how I might slip on my favorite sweats after a long day at work, or pop in a favorite DVD if I’ve had a particularly bad day.

But after Killjoy, not only did I think contemps were not her thing, I decided her writing itself deteriorated. The last novel I read by her was Slow Burn. While I enjoyed the basic premise behind it, I was sadly disappointed in the actual writing. Sentences were choppy, paragraphs seemed to bleed together, or go in odd directions that made no sense to me, dialogue was stilted, characters were half formed or one dimensional. I thought the plot was an awesome one, and had it been better fleshed out it had the potential to become her best written novel yet. But instead it fell far short.

After that, I decided not to read another of her contemps. I told myself, and others, that I’d buy her again if she went back to historicals, but otherwise I was done with her. I removed her from my auto-buy list and comforted myself with her old historicals, the ones that got me hooked on romance to begin with.

Then the announcement came. That yes, Julie Garwood, historical legend, would be returning to her roots. Love her older historicals or hate them, you can’t deny she’s a basic staple in romance. I was happy to hear she’d be returning, but somewhat apprehensive. Because although the moment I’d been waiting for had finally come, I was concerned about her actual writing style. The way she wove a story back when was unconventional perhaps, but still engaging. I didn’t think she’d be able to return to that, not after seeing evidence of her decline in her more recent novels.

I’m sad to say I was correct. She may have done quite a bit of head-hopping in her previous novels, but the focus remained on the two main protagonists. In this novel, however, she chose to write in a more narrative style than from one POV or another. So I was constantly pulled out of the story by her glossing over things, or seeming to sum things up. Very frustrating.

I’m also extremely unclear about how they H/H came to fall in love. There was hardly any interaction between the two, and what there was was disjointed and…once again, glossed over. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to her writing. A chapter would start out from one POV or another, and then half-way through she’d jump into a narrative style, summing things up rather than allowing us as readers to follow the progress.

I suppose it would be like me starting a story, in which I use rich, colorful detail and much humor only to say, once you’re engaged and intrigued, “Blah blah, yada, yada, you get what I mean” and then just leave it at that. Frustrating, no?

There were some good parts. When the POV was written from either the hero or heroine, I was drawn into the story. Unfortunately, those parts were few and far between, and when they did happen, they didn’t last long. The basic premise was also a good one, and classic Garwood. Sadly, the point of the plot was lost somewhere in the muddle of switching from one writing style to another, the jumping between characters and places (i.e., from the Barons in England to the clans in the Highlands to the heroine to the hero to the guards of the heroine to her father back to the barons to the king of England, etc, etc) and the mass amount of inconsistencies presented.

A lot of the reviews I’ve read for this book said the Priests provided a lot of comic relief, but I didn’t really see that. Sure, there were some amusing parts, but I think I assumed they played a bigger part in the overall story (with actual read time, I mean) and that just didn’t seem to be the case.

I’m sure I’ll end up buying her next book (assuming she continues to write historicals), just to see if she somehow improves…hmm, or perhaps that’s not the right word. Regresses into her old writing habits? Goes back to being the Garwood I knew and loved? I’m not sure. I have a feeling I’m going to be sorely disappointed when (if) that time comes, however.

On a related note: Ange, The Romance Groupie, posted about this book on Saturday. I mentioned my disappointment in the overall writing in the comments, and she responded with this:

Actually, I’ve noticed that many of the popular authors appear to be going down in the quality department. I’m wondering if it’s the editors, publishers, etc. that are ruining it. It just seems strange that so many great authors have gone bad in the last year or so. Is it just me? Are you seeing this trend too?

I thought about it some, and yes, I have to agree. Some of my favorite authors have seriously declined in the last few years. Could it be because of the publishers or editors? Or is it just simply something with them personally?

Regardless, I’m disappointed.

Even though I said this was less a review and more my thoughts on JG’s writing as a whole, I’ll still rate the book:

2.5 out of 5

You can buy it here in hardback or in eBook format here. When I bought it from Books on Board, they were offering a $5 cash-back incentive, bringing the total book price down to $9.95. I’m not sure if they’re still offering the promotion, but you could email them to see.

two-half-stars

Review/Rant: Meeting Trouble by Emme Rollins

Posted October 13, 2014 by Holly in Reviews | 3 Comments

Review/Rant: Meeting Trouble by Emme RollinsReviewer: Holly
Meeting Trouble by Emme Rollins
Series: Meeting Trouble #1
Published by Excessica
Publication Date: October 21st 2013
Genres: Fiction, Romance, General, Contemporary, Erotica, Coming of Age
Pages: 88
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Goodreads
one-star

Sabrina can’t believe her luck—she’s always dreamed of front row seats to see her favorite band, “Trouble,” but when she bumps into lead singer, Rob Burns, and he invites her backstage, she finds herself hoping her luck doesn’t run out—and that maybe, just maybe, all her dreams will come true. 
Full 45,000 word novel from New York Times and USA Today Bestseller Emme Rollins-----
Warning: This title the ultimate fantasy come true when a female fan meets a sexy rock star guitar god with enough pluck to make the g-string on your Stratocaster quiver for days. (Note: This title was originally published as “Happy Accident”) 

I have a confession to make. I’m sort of a sucker for rock stars. I don’t know, but whenever I see ROCK STAR I immediately want to buy. Since that’s bad for my budget, I try to refrain unless I’ve heard good things about the story from people I trust or the reviews are mostly favorable. This was a free download, so I didn’t bother to check the reviews. More fool me.

I’m going to start this review off with a little mini-rant about two things that really bug me, because both happened in this novel.

1) The editing in this book is pretty shoddy. There are typos and grammatical errors, poor sentence structure, etc. Sadly, I’m seeing this a lot. What happened to the professionally edited books of yore, that didn’t have typos and spelling errors? Can we bring those back? (And it happens with a lot of Pub Houses, too, not just with the self-pub set)

2) This is 2014. The age of technology, savvy women, and safe sex. So why would a person have unprotected sex with a near-stranger? Especially a near-stranger who happens to be a rockstar and spreads his favors around? No. No no no no no. Did I say no? Thankfully we don’t see this too often anymore, but it does happen and it pulls me out of the story every single time. Every.single.time. Authors, for crying out loud, make your boys wear condoms! Especially when your story features a one-night-stand with a rock star.

Aside from the lack of editing and the unprotected sex, the story fell pretty flat. Sabrina was obsessed with the band, caught the eye of the married lead singer and took him home for a weekend. They fell in love. Then he asks her to tour with him, which means giving up her job as a school teacher right in the middle of the school year. All this in two days. Which totally seemed legit, by the way. Oh, and the matter of his pesky wife? Well, that’s not really a big problem since she was a bitch anyway and he’s going to divorce her. Which is sweet, when you think about it. He’s willing to divorce his wife after two days with this other girl. That’s a sign of true love, babeeeee.

Except, no.

Did I say no?

1 out of 5

one-star

Publisher Ellora’s Cave Sues Book Blog Dear Author #ChillingEffect

Posted September 30, 2014 by Holly in Discussions, News | 6 Comments

I’m sure most of you have heard about this. For those who haven’t, a quick recap.

On September 14, Jane of Dear Author wrote a blog post titled The Curious Case of Ellora’s Cave. She outlined the history behind the company – praising them for being one of the first e-publishers to offer authors and readers erotica-type content – then related news of their slow decline in management and business practices. Per Jane’s article and the subsequent comments from EC authors, editors and cover artists: authors and sub-contractors haven’t been paid in a timely manner; royalty checks are at an all-time low and Tina Engler/Jaid Black, the founder and owner of the company has been taking shopping trips, buying new property and looking into starting new ventures (this, apparently, from her Facebook page, Twitter stream and personal blog).

EC is suing Jane and Dear Author for defamation, claiming what Jane wrote in her blog post was false.  I am not a lawyer. I don’t claim to understand a whole lot about the law in general and defamation in particular, but my basic understanding is that in order for EC to win this suit they have to prove that what Jane said – their authors/cover artists/vendors/editors/tax liens/etc not being paid – isn’t true. In order to do that, I would assume they’d have to provide company records, financial statements, etc. I may be mistaken about that, so don’t take my word for it, but I do know part of a defamation suit is proving what was said was untrue and that the untrue statements hurt the reputation of the one filing. So how else would they prove what she said wasn’t true but opening up their records for public scrutiny? Even worse, however, is that EC is demanding the anonymous commenters’ true names be revealed.

Here’s the thing, though. This suit isn’t about EC’s reputation.  Not really. It’s about is instilling fear in a community of authors and bloggers. Engler has been rumored to be notoriously vindictive when it comes to authors speaking out against her company. As bloggers, we’re often threatened by authors when we write bad reviews/report about the goings-on with the community, etc. That’s a scary thing for those of us who aren’t lawyers and don’t treat our sites as a business venture, but rather a hobby. I don’t know about you, but spending thousands on a legal battle isn’t my idea of a good time. Especially since this site doesn’t make any money on its own.

The Chilling Effect, defined by Wikipedia as:

In a legal context, a chilling effect is the inhibition or discouragement of the legitimate exercise of natural and legal rights by the threat of legal sanction.

Basically, I think EC filed this lawsuit as a scare tactic. They want bloggers and their authors/staff to be scared of speaking out against them. Sunita wrote a post about it that goes into more detail, but essentially EC  is saying “we’re watching you”. As Sunita says in her post:

EC picked the wrong person to sue, no question. But by filing at all, they’re also reminding their authors and editors that they have no compunction about publicizing the personal information of anyone they see as an adversary. It’s not necessary to sue an individual person in this case; suing Dear Author LLC would have taken care of their needs.* But it wouldn’t have sent the same “we know who you are” message. EC has already stipulated in internal communicationsthat authors “include both legal name and pen name when communicating with Ellora’s Cave.” This just ups the ante.

Author Courtney Milan wrote about not being cowed by EC and their tactics. In her post, On Limited Purpose Public Figures #notchilled, she discusses the effect this lawsuit has already had in terms of the Chilling Effect and says she is Not Chilled (#notchilled).

CM notchilled 2

 

Jane has hired a lawyer and plans to fight this. I say good for her. Good for all of us. We shouldn’t be silenced. We shouldn’t be afraid that speaking out about a publisher or author will result in the worst possible outcome. We’re saying we won’t be silenced and we hope you won’t be either.

Today Jane asked for a bit of help. If anyone who worked for or with EC has any information they’re willing to share, please contact her.

DA Request for Info

 

Also, if you’re an EC author, be sure to take a look at the Ellora’s Cave Author Exodus Support Thread, hosted by author Deirdre Saorise Moen.

For those interested in following the story, here’s a compiled list of links detailing the troubles at EC and the coverage of the suit against DA.

Also, LATimes Jacket copy picked up the story.