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DNF Reviews

REVIEW:  Bad Idea by Damon Suede

REVIEW: Bad Idea by Damon Suede

badDear Mr. Suede:

This is my first DNF review here, and it’s going to be kind of an odd one, because in some ways, I thought this book was terrific… I  just got to a point where I realized there were still a hundred pages left and died a little inside. The thought of pressing the turn button one more time was so repellent, it seemed better to leave this as a “Not for me, maybe for you” DNF review than to force myself to finish and wind up giving it a D or an F from sheer hatred.

Bad Idea is a full immersion story — we’re plunged right into action, a large cast of characters, and several complicated lives. Comic book artist Trip is helping out “his bestest fruit flies” by being cameraman for a huge Zombies vs. Humans chase across Central Park. He finds himself cruising a hot zombie with meaty forearms and bright hazel eyes, who turns out to be a special effects make-up artist named Silas. After some issues finding each other again, the two begin a tentative relationship.

As a huge participant in gay and geek culture, Silas is kind of a challenge to Trip, who’s a little afraid of both his gay self and his geek self. Trip is also a challenge to Silas, who has a love ‘em and leave ‘em reputation, and is uncertain about how to be the kind of “gentleman” who can make a real relationship work. Being with Silas gets a creative spark going in Trip, who starts to create a new comic featuring a strangely familiar sex demon — but leaving his safe, uninspired niche in mainstream comics to come out with a “very graphic novel” is a terrifying step for him.

Bad Idea is filled with verve. I was bummed when I recently read a book set in several exciting places, which gave no sense of those places — not a problem here: we’re in New York, and we’re really in New York. And all kinds of creative energy is buzzing. I loved reading about Trip’s artistic process, which ties into a recurring theme — particularly pertinent coming in a romance novel — about quality in popular culture. It’s not expressed in terms an outsider to the culture would use, but in terms of what comes from the deepest parts of the artist; what’s phoney vs. what’s genuine. Trip hates the whitebread “Archie comic”-ish work he does for money:

He rolled his eyes and cashed the checks, secretly certain Swamp Thing and Deadpool were somehow more real.

Could one imaginary world be more imaginary that another? How do you measure reality?

As his friend Rita tells him, “You gotta stop thinking that what you love is some kinda race you can win.”

I also really enjoyed Silas, a beefy charmer who’s a rare romance hero that struggles with his weight. Trip nevously expects him to be very dominant, because of his size; in fact he much prefers a more submissive role, which works out well for them.

Trip, with his psychosomatic allergies, doormat relationship with his user boss, and general “twitchiness” about his sexuality, is less likable; I confess, I wondered what Silas saw in him and started to get pretty tired of his issues. That was only one of the problems I had with Bad Idea.

Have you ever read a nonfiction book with a section of genuine transcribed dialogue? I’m always fascinated by how incoherent they are. Two people will be having a conversation they both seemingly understand, but they often don’t complete their sentences or ideas, and they don’t even notice — body language, or shared knowledge, or pattern completion will fill in what’s missing. It’s nothing like the orderly language we expect from a book. Reading Bad Idea was like that for me. It didn’t help that the ARC I was reading was badly formatted, but I switched to a clean copy and still found myself feeling lost. At first the sheer energy of the writing made that okay, but as more and more of the book seemed to be about side characters having lengthy baffling conversations, my boredom started to grow. Every conversation seemed to go for pages longer than it needed to; even the sex scenes started to drag.

That, combined with my frustration with Trip, eventually brought me to the “I just can’t go on” point. I may be missing something wonderful, and I’ll probably make another attempt later. But for right now, just letting it go seems like a really good idea. DNF

Sincerely,

Willaful

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Reading List: Kelly’s Historical Romance Roundup for June/July 2013

Reading List: Kelly’s Historical Romance Roundup for June/July 2013

I’m slacking off on writing a full review because I blew through these pretty quickly, and I already used up my snark quota for the month. All but Jeffries and Willingham were new-to-me authors.


What the Duke Desires by Sabrina JeffriesWhat the Duke Desires by Sabrina Jeffries

If I didn’t own Jeffries’ entire backlist, I might have avoided this solely because of the dopey generic title. But she’s earned my trust, and she still has it. The illegitimate heroine is smart and vulnerable, the duke is full of hidden tragedy and repressed passion, and the intrigue revolves around their missing siblings rather than political maneuvering. It’s a typically enjoyable Jeffries book — nothing vibrantly new or different, but she’s such a good storyteller I never get kicked out of my reading trance. Grade: B

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To Sine with a Viking by Michelle WillinghamTo Sin with a Viking by Michelle Willingham

I’m pretty sure I need to read more by Willingham. This one starts out with the Irish heroine clobbering the Viking hero over the head and taking him captive, and you know how much I love stuff like that. She can’t let him go or kill him because she needs his strength to find food for their starving village, and he can’t escape because he needs her help to find his kidnapped estranged wife. Yes, he’s married, and they angst about it. A lot. But Willingham somehow works around the inherent squickiness, and she writes some really good action scenes. Book trance on this one too. Grade: B

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A Lady Risks All by Bronwyn ScottA Lady Risks All by Bronwyn Scott

The first half of this story had me hooked — the author used the theme of “risk” in different ways to define not only the hero and heroine, but also the heroine’s loving-but-conniving father. The plot revolves around billiards, and the early-Victorian historical world-building was vivid and completely believable. Until…(sigh)…the hero, a younger son of a viscount, suddenly became styled a “Lord” and the heroine a potential “Lady.” I finished the book, but I lost faith in the story and the author. Fantastic cover, though. Grade: C

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Lady Northam's Wicked Surrender by Vivienne WestlakeLady Northam’s Wicked Surrender by Vivienne Westlake

This 55-page erotic romance maxes out the short story format, but there just isn’t enough substance to sustain more. The writing is capable but uninspired, and with the sole exception of Lisa Kleypas’ Devil in Winter, I have yet to read a “Dream Sex or Real Sex???” scene that doesn’t make me laugh. For 99¢, it’s probably worth a try for some readers, but I’m not inclined to seek out anything more by this author. Grade: C-

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The Lady and the Laird by Nicola CornickThe Lady and the Laird by Nicola Cornick

I didn’t make it very far with this one. The meet-cute in the prologue was really good, and I was intrigued by the set-up with the bluestocking heroine writing erotic letters for her brother to woo his beloved away from the crabby hero. I adore bluestocking heroines and crabby heroes. But then…(sigh)…the “jilted at the altar” scene has the idiot brother and his vapid lady love eloping to Gretna Green. From the Highlands. As in, the Highlands in SCOTLAND. I just couldn’t do it. Grade: DNF

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Forbidden Jewel of India by Louise AllenForbidden Jewel of India by Louise Allen

This one sat in my TBR queue for months because I had Significant Book Anxiety. I want to love any and every romance set in India, but the cover and description made me more than a little wary. This book is, unfortunately, a solid example of “exoticizing the ‘other’.” In her author’s note, Allen describes her recent trip to India with enthusiasm, and it’s obvious that she reveres the history and culture, but the authorial (or maybe editorial) choices of which bits to include didn’t work for me at all. There are several gratuitous references to sati ritual suicides, a superfluous scene featuring a Shiva lingam statue, a king cobra attack, and excessive use of Hindi words for fashion and furniture that served no purpose other than to show off the author’s research. In addition, the romance left me cold, the hero was too perfectly perfect, and the heroine (an Anglo-Indian princess, of course) was wildly inconsistent. Grade: D+

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Not Just a Governess by Carole MortimerNot Just a Governess by Carole Mortimer

I think I need to skim a Harlequin Presents title by this author to see how consistent her writing style and voice is across genres and categories, because it’s definitely, well, unique. Mortimer loves ellipses and em-dashes and exclamation points, which should endear me to her. But when every question in the dialogue ends in an ellipsis, and every expository paragraph has an interjection offset with em-dashes, and five paragraphs in a row end with an exclamation point, the punctuation becomes increasingly intrusive. Also disruptive were the repetitive words and phrases; the hero was described as “cold” more than 25 times (that doesn’t include his chilliness, frostiness or iciness), and we’re told he has stormy grey eyes nearly 50 times. I also had major issues with the plot, in which the heroine was grateful for the hero’s light-fingered Magical Orgasm Cure that allowed her to overcome the ickiness of her recent rape at the hands of her evil cousin. But, of course, her real post-rape trauma — the loss of innocence that renders her unfit for proper wifery — lingers until the cold, grey-eyed hero’s grand gesture. Grade: D-

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