Review – Consent to Love by Abby Wood

I was still a kid when I started reading romances (some might argue that I’m still a kid at heart/in my mind), and I used to bring my books in to school and giggle over the juicy bits with my little friends.  “He put his WHAT where?”  These days, I take most of the stuff that happens in romance novels or erotica with a “yep, that happens” attitude.  Some adjectives (turgid, tumescent, throbbing, flaccid, etc.) will always make me chuckle, but they are an expected element of most romantic or erotic fiction.  It takes a lot to shock me.

Well, color me shocked.

Cover image, Consent to Love by Abby Wood

Let’s start with the publisher’s blurb:

Twenty-four-year-old small-town girl Ana Reynold serves beer at the local bar, tries to keep her beater car running, and dreams of a better life as a painter. If she can learn to make a decent steak, she might get promoted to cook-and earn enough for her real heart’s desire. Right now, that doesn’t include romance.

But when she meets a tall, dark and sexy Native American man named Kane, Ana can’t take her eyes off him-or stop thinking about him. But she’d better. Everyone knows the proud Lakota who raises horses wants nothing to do with a townie barmaid who’ll bring shame to his people.

Except Kane can’t get Ana off his mind. He proposes a red-hot weekend in bed, a no-strings affair to end Monday morning. Yet once Kane brings the outsider onto Lakota land, everything changes…

44,000 words

By the time I was two chapters in, I was fairly certain I was not going to like the book (melodrama for DAYS), but I kept reading it because it was funny.  By the time I reached the second or third sex scene (there are a lot of them crammed into the short book), I had contracted a case of the horrified giggles.  You know the kind I mean: you’re giggling madly while reading the crazy nonsense, but you also have aftershock giggles hit you at unexpected moments during the days following.  Trying to go to sleep, are you?  Well, you can count that out once you remember this line: “He removed himself from her puckered hole…”

My top 3 dropped jaw moments:

  1. Ana, naked, rubbing her girly parts all over the saddle Kane made for her.  Ew.  How do you clean that up afterward?
  2. The sheer number of truly unhygienic moments.   Matters should always progress from front to back (and then wash your damn hands) where female anatomy is concerned.  Kane missed that day in sex-ed (so did Ana, apparently).
  3. This line: “How was she supposed to form an opinion when her dress and lack of panties allowed the hard ridge of his cock to boink her between her butt cheeks?”  Boink!!

If you leave the raunchy sex out of the picture–not an easy thing to do, by the way, as raunchy sex comprises most of the book–the remaining story swings between unreasonably emotional melodrama and implausibility.  When Ana and Kane first meet, they both acknowledge the strange attraction between them with much more emotional honesty that is typical for strangers sharing their first conversation.  Ana’s unschooled painting talent and the wide interest in her work–not to mention how instantly lucrative her hobby is–seem implausible.

Bottom line: Considering how less-than-stellar this book is, I really did have a blast reading it.  I don’t think the author intended it to be humorous, exactly, but there are some laugh-out-loud funny bits that kept me giggling for days.  Sometimes I do just want to read something silly that has a high entertainment value, and this book actually qualifies.  Boink!

*FTC disclaimer: I received a free e-galley of this book from Carina Press through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

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The Exclamation Point – a discussion and guide to usage

I’ve always been a bit exuberant.  I just have so much to say, and there never seems to be enough time or space to say it all.  I talk quickly, and I tend to be parenthetical.  I write quickly, and I am tangential.  I have this horror of being misunderstood, and I somehow think that tangents and parenthetical thoughts will help me to communicate exactly what I mean (will provide the context of my thoughts) in the least amount of time (if I’m speaking) or the fewest number of words (if I’m writing).  In my early school years, my teachers always had the same thing to say: “Kelly, you write well and with great enthusiasm, but you must limit the number of parenthetical references you include.”  When writing, I have to constantly battle my impulse to include a parenthetical thought (or two) in every damn sentence.  So if, while you read my blog, you think that there are perhaps a few too many tangents or parenthetical comments, you have no idea what I’m capable of bringing to the party.  This is me being restrained.

One could not be as exuberant as I without occasionally overusing that strange punctuation mark: the exclamation point.  I used to wonder why it even exists if there are such stringent rules limiting its use.  To me, the exclamation point (and all of the rules that attend/restrict it) is rather like a wooden spoon and a giant pot that one would hand to a toddler.  They’re obviously meant to be used as instruments of joy, to be banged upon in an explosion of obnoxious, creative energy, but the adults never like it when the children are so unconstrained, do they?  Instead that pot and spoon just sit there, taunting the child with their unusable potential.  That’s how I feel about exclamation points.  As a serious adult, I’m not supposed to use them, but, oh, how I want to!

Well… I don’t think anyone could confuse me with a serious adult.  I self-identify with toddlers…

Anyway, for all my enthusiasm for the dear exclamation point, I do think it’s possible to use it in ridiculous ways, and it really annoys me when my favorite punctuation mark is so misused.  To be honest, the main reason I haven’t bothered to read the 50 Shades of Grey series is that several book review blogs mentioned the author’s outrageous exclamation point use.  Ana entered the elevator and pushed the button for the fourth floor!   Sebastian was so angry!  (not actual quotes from the book(s).)

So I decided to write a quirky little guide to the exclamation point, and I’d love to hear/read feedback on whether I’m right or cracked in the head (could be both, honestly).

The Exclamation Point – A Guide to Usage

Correct usage:  to punctuate an exclamation, to denote enthusiasm, to provide commentary on questionable behavior, to convey silliness, to creep people out with inappropriate enthusiasm (workplace use).

Incorrect usage: to punctuate statements that are neither enthusiastic, ironic, nor silly.

Examples of Proper Usage

Look out!  There’s a bear coming right for you!
I can’t wait for dinner tonight; I’m going to eat a steak the size of my head!
While I was out on my walk last night, I saw a dude who was out jogging wearing nothing but his running shoes and a sweater (because it’s cold)… !!?!!
And then they fell in a ditch and died!
Thanks for responding so quickly and helping to coordinate this visit!!

Examples of Improper Usage

Jonathan was wearing jeans! (exception: if it’s completely bizarre that Jonathan would wear jeans, that exclamation point could justly indicate the writer’s surprise at encountering denim in connection with Jonathan.)
Betty made a stop on the way home to get some coffee. She added two sugar packets and some cream! Armed with her coffee, she headed home and planned to spend the evening watching Dancing with the Stars.
I went to a funeral yesterday! (This one is just a socially unacceptable usage… we aren’t supposed to be excited about death and its various celebrations.)

Exception

An exclamation point is an appropriate terminal mark to any sentence that references bacon (e.g. I ordered a BLT! or That macaroni and cheese has bacon in it!).  Bacon is always a reason to celebrate(!).

I love early 90s hip hop – and I think I might be a feminist…

I’m helping some friends put together a playlist for their wedding, and that means I get to listen to some of my favorite guilty-pleasure music: early 90s rap and hip hop!  On my way into work this morning, I was rocking out to House of Pain’s “Jump Around,” and I realized that my favorite early 90s hip hop songs always feature the ridiculous–the threat of violence combined with the exhortation to dance, for example–and I wonder what that says about me.

Officially, I love every single thing about this song–I love anything that makes me laugh–but my favorite verse refers to Vanilla cruising through the town perusing all the lovely ladies and grabbing–but not using–his 9 while he runs away from chumps who may or may not be full of 8-ball.  Running away in bumper-to-bumper traffic is hard core?  Seriously?  I love it.

Honestly, white people, just stop it.  Bagpipes are not hard core.  Anyway, I love the notion that House of Pain’s lyrics are so brutal and effective at administering whoop-ass that an actual shotgun is necessary to use as defense against them, but everything will be OK if you just get out of your seat and jump around.

Regarding this one, can I just say that it’s ridiculous that curse words and pot references were edited out of the radio/MTV edits of this song, but the lovely lyrics: “Uh oh, I crave skin, rip shit, find a honey to dip it in, slam dunk it stick it flip it and ride that B double O T Y oh my” are A-OK?  What does that say about our society?  But I still love the song… I’ve got a shovel, and I can dig it, fool.

This one is not my favorite early-90s hip hop songs.  If I’m going to listen to a song that blatantly objectifies women, it’s going to be “Baby Got Back.”  Anyway, I included this one because it’s just so blatantly awful.  To be honest, the sad thing about all of these videos is that these dudes probably did get a lot of booty.  In a just world, a honey who saw Vanilla Ice coming towards her with all of his hubris and dorky sweatshirts would have laughed at him and walked the other way.  But that’s not the way the world works.  Wreckx-N-Effect oh-so-elegantly stated the dominant mores of our society: “Now since you got the body of the year, come and get the award.  Here’s a hint – it’s like a long sharp sword.”  Hooray for you sweetheart–in exchange for being so beautiful and shaking your rump so mightily, you have the privilege of having your body used.  How wonderful.

I was in junior high when these songs came out, and I admit that, at the time, I loved them because they sounded cool, not because they were funny in an ironic way.  And it’s only as I grow older (and because I have daughters instead of sons) that I see what’s so awful about the lyrics of some of the songs and what they represent.

Anybody else love early-90s hip hop?

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.

I am going to talk about religion (even though God don’t think stuff’s funny)

I like writing and thinking about religion, but I really hate talking about it.  You know how it is–you’re talking with a friend or a stranger about some random, innocuous subject, and all of a sudden Jesus joins the conversation.  And it isn’t even Jesus, really, it’s your version or her version of Jesus, and maybe those versions don’t match up.  All of a sudden, instead of being able to listen to one another and continue your formerly give-and-take conversation, you’re caught up in a battle of right and wrong (your opinion invariably representing the side of Right and your interlocutor’s opinion invariably representing the side of Wrong).  Ugh–I hate it!

I so hate talking about religion with people whom I do not yet trust to control that oh-so-human instinct to do religious battle at the drop of a hat, that I often hide my participation with my church until it seems safe to give it a casual mention.  After a year of knowing someone, if the topic of music comes up, I might mention that I sing in my church’s choir.  If a conversation happens to veer towards leadership or service, I might mention that I serve on my church’s vestry (as an aside, I didn’t know what a vestry was until I joined mine, so this mention tends to be safe due to general obscurity).  For the most part, however, I hold to a scrupulous silence about everything even remotely connected to religion.

Why?  Well, the fault is mine, really.  Religion tends to be viewed as a Serious Subject about which one should not joke, and I just can’t help but find parts of it funny, even while I believe in it.  I have offended more than a few people with my manner, an odd mix of irreverence and sincerity.  When I am glib about Serious Subjects (like the Eucharist, the Bible, God the Father, the Apostles, the Holy Ghost, etc.), folks who feel strongly about those subjects tend to reason, unsurprisingly, that my mortal soul might be in peril.  I don’t particularly like it when other people try to save my soul, so I tend to get even more snarky and glib, and it may be that I hold grudges.

This year, though, I have challenged myself to stop doing things just because I’ve always done them.  So I’ve had a problem in the past with people misunderstanding me… Since when do I have the right to control how other people view me?  Why in the world should I allow the potential for misunderstanding to justify my not being myself at all times?  Do I really have to be so damn neurotic all the time?  (Answer key: since never; I shouldn’t; no, ideally.)

On Saturday, I attended the Diocesan Ministry Fair for the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, along with a host of clergy and old people.  (Seriously, out of a few hundred, there were probably fewer than 20 under the age of 35.)  It isn’t exactly accurate to say that I learned a lot–most of the plenary session seemed to be pitched towards the clergy and other folk who keep up on their modern theology (I don’t), so I spent at least the first half hour trying to figure out what the speaker’s topic was, what she meant by “Emergence Christianity” or “The Great Emergence”.  She seemed to presuppose that we would have a passing understanding of those terms, and it was my first time hearing them.

Once I caught on, I learned that we are on the cusp of a great cultural shift between the before and the after.  Advances in science and information technology have created a new world and a new culture, and people who are 45 and younger tend to accept these changes as a fact of life, while people who are 46 and older view them as scary change that is best resisted.  Quite aside from (or perhaps in concert with) these cultural changes, Christianity is changing as well.  The Emerging Church (which is apparently not the same thing as the Emergent Church, but hell if I know what the difference is) focuses on narrative and the power of story and will not be content with the simple sales pitch of traditional Christianity (believe in Christ or go to hell).  The Emerging Church wants to know about the Holy Spirit.  The Emerging Church believes in many paths to God.  The Emerging Church believes in mission, outreach, social justice, doing good in the world, and serving the Kingdom of God in all its many forms.  That last is, perhaps, the most important point about the Emerging Church: rather than believe that the Kingdom of God is encapsulated in the universal Church (the small-c catholic church), the Emerging Christians believe that all churches (all religions, perhaps?) are encapsulated within the overarching and universal Kingdom of God.

These are big thoughts, and I would never have expected to encounter them at a Diocese-wide event for an established Church.  Honestly, it was amazing (awesome, almost, in the real sense of the word… not awesome like hot dogs) sitting there hearing my secret thoughts about religion amplified around the room by a voice with a charming Tennessee accent (Phyllis Tickle.  You can look her up here: http://www.phyllistickle.com/index.html).

I have always felt vaguely heretical for believing that there are many ways to reach and serve God, for refusing to believe that I have magically stumbled across the right answer to the big questions of life.  What are we doing here?  What’s the point?  Those are big questions, and I really don’t believe that any human being has the ability to even comprehend the answers.  Maybe we aren’t even asking the right questions.  So it turns out that I’m a quasi-Emerging Christian–decidedly un-evangelical–and that there are millions worldwide who entertain similar thoughts about religion.  Goodness!

As an aside: for a blog about reading, I haven’t talked about books in a while.  I’ll have to fix that.