Sometimes I read terrible books…

So for this post, I’m doing a review blog… sort of.

Lately, it seems that I mostly read terrible books.  My lately includes only the last week.  I read quickly and often, so I clear a book every day or two.  Normally I don’t read so many truly awful books, but I “bought” a bunch of free books on Barnes and Noble and, well, you get what you pay for.  Here’s a full accounting of all the books I read in the last seven days, counting backwards from today:

The Wary Widow by Jerrica Knight-Catania (I hope that’s a pseudonym).  If the author is younger than 20, this book makes some sense.  I suspect it would appeal to teen girls who really enjoyed Disney’s The Parent Trap.  It doesn’t appeal so much to me.  I’m halfway through this book, and I can tell it’s about to go from bad to worse.  Here’s how I know: the hero, who is engaged to the cousin of the heroine, and the heroine have just been interrupted from a brief garden tryst by the cousin (that’s the fiancee of the hero) who has magically just received an urgent letter from the sister of the heroine, conveying the plot-moving information that the sister is deathly ill and that the heroine needs to leave London with all due haste to rush to Essex to be with her before she dies.  The heroine and cousin are at a family dinner party… how did the letter arrive?  How did the deathly ill sister write such a letter?  And I know, even though I haven’t read that far yet, that the heroine will rush off to be with her sister, and the hero will follow her, even though he’s betrothed to her cousin.  Did I mention that the hero has a twin and they do the swapping places thing several times in the book?  Yeah… it’s awesome.

Cover image, The Wary Widow by Jerrica Knight-Catania

All’s Fair in Love and Seduction by Beverley Kendall (wow, it was just shocking how awful this one was…).  In this book, the author sets up this whole dramatic (and fairly stupid) trust crisis–the hero does not trust the heroine because he suspects she has misled him, and the heroine does not trust the hero because he purposefully sets out to seduce and ruin her and does so quite spectacularly–and then just drops it when it no longer suits her purposes.  The hero finds out he was wrong, and everything just comes together as though he wasn’t a total asshole for the first two-thirds of the book… I wanted to smack the heroine character silly for being content with his sheepish, “whoops, my bad” apology.  Terrible.

Cover image, All's Fair in Love and Seduction by Beverley Kendall

Wicked Mourning by Heather Boyd.  This one was billed through Barnes and Noble as a regency historical romance, but the author’s note called it historical erotica.  It is neither, really.  It’s more like a glorified short story with a couple of really lame sex scenes and an abrupt end.  It was about 60 pages in length on my nook, and I read it in 40 minutes.  The cover… well…  I don’t even know what to say about that.  There wasn’t really a story, and that’s sort of a problem.  The first page gives a brief synopsis that I skipped, but it turns out that the one-page blurb actually gives you the information you will need in order to understand the next 60 pages of crazy.  I guess the moral of the story is: free doesn’t mean good.

Cover image, Wicked Mourning by Heather Boyd

A Week to be Wicked by Tessa Dare.  This book was actually really well-written and well-conceived, and I had a blast reading it.  It’s funny, on purpose!  I’ve read a lot of Dare’s books over the last few months (but not Legend of the Werestag… I’m not going there unless someone promises me it’s worth my time), but this one is my favorite.  What I love about romance novels is that they tell love stories, and they have happy endings.  I know that life isn’t like what you find in the romance novel–that’s a fantasy–but after dealing with life all day long, the last thing I want is to read something that’s going to make me feel worse about it all.  Hell, sometimes the last thing I want is to read something that’s going to make me think big thoughts.  So, yeah, romance novels are never going to give me fodder for interesting conversation at dinner parties, and they won’t lead to my being well-respected in the academic community, but they make me happy.  And this book accomplished that goal more than most by being funny as well as charming and heart-warming.

Cover image, A Week to be Wicked by Tessa Dare

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.  I’m certainly not the only person who liked this book.  There were, of course, times that I wanted to shake Katniss like a rag doll, but on the whole I found the story to be good in all the right ways.  Did it change my life?  Nope.  Did it entertain me?  You bet your booty!  From the time I opened the book until I finished it, I was in a state of suspense, desperate to know what happened.  I haven’t felt that on-the-edge-of-my-seat about a book since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.  Strangely, though, I feel no real urge to rush to read the other two…

Cover image, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

You might wonder why I continue to read books even after I’ve determined that they’re terrible?  I don’t, always.  I stopped reading The Charterhouse of Parma when I was about halfway through because there was a suggestion of sexuality between the hero character and his aunt, and I just couldn’t handle it, and because I just didn’t care what happened to any of the characters–zero personal investment.  But when romance novels are bad, they’re usually really funny.  So I’ll probably finish The Wary Widow even though it’s abysmally bad, because it’s bad in funny ways.  From a review that I happened to catch online while I was hunting down the cover image, I have reason to believe there’s a miraculous cure after one instance of the doctor bleeding the sister, and I can’t wait to see how the author handles it!  I don’t really know what all that says about me, except that I love a train wreck.

What is analysis anyway?

Right now, I am reading Elizabeth and Hazel: Two Women of Little Rock by David Margolis, The Capture of the Earl of Glencrae by Stephanie Laurens, and The Charterhouse of Parma by Stendhal.  As I have time, I’ll post about these books and any others I pick up.  I am not certain that I will finish Charterhouse.  120 pages in, I still hate all the characters, and I don’t really care what happens to them.  I am reading Elizabeth and Hazel for a book club at work, and I am really enjoying it.  Glencrae is pure fun–not much to analyze about it, per se, but self-analysis is possible regardless of the quality of the stimulus–but fluffy books of its ilk give me blessed relief from my ever-churning thoughts.

There are a lot of very good book review blogs out there, but reviews aren’t precisely what I’m going for with this blog.  My starting perspective is that everything that we experience in our lives changes us in some often ineffable way so that, every day we have the opportunity to get to know ourselves, to incorporate these changes and figure out where they leave us.  I have this horror of waking up one morning, looking in the mirror, and seeing a stranger.  It is so easy to allow habit and mental laziness to work their magic on our lives, to slip into mental somnolence until we no longer know our own minds.  It is easy to hide things from ourselves, to fool ourselves into believing that we are better than we are.  I am absolutely terrified by the very real possibility that I could, one day, be a stranger to myself.  As I mentioned earlier, I’m quite neurotic!

Analysis, then, is my means of making sure that I never get away from myself.  And, since I spend an awful lot of time reading every day, a good deal of my analysis is directed at what I’m reading: what I think about it, how it changes or challenges my beliefs, how it might be changing me.  So this isn’t really a review blog, although I will doubtless give my opinion of what I’m reading.  What I am interested in is having a record of my thoughts and, if possible, entering into a dialogue with others about those thoughts so that I can move forward with the ones that make sense and have a certain universal (ish) applicability and reject those thoughts that don’t.

Abrupt subject change: I made a wonderful and dangerous discovery a few months ago at work: there is an automatic espresso machine on campus that doles out free custom-made cappuccinos (or lattes or americanos) all day long.  In addition to the three cups of brewed coffee that I had this morning, I have had three of those lovely cappuccinos, the last of them with an added shot.  It is wonderful to have no real limit on the amount of caffeine I consume, now that I am no longer pregnant or nursing.