Yet sadly I must now write this post. She simply has gone way too far this time. Over the past few weeks on Twitter, after I modestly noted that I could stomach reading almost anything (after all, I've not only had to read hundreds of Hitler speeches for my undergrad and grad theses, but have read/reviewed such luminaries as Robert Stanek, Terry Goodkind, and even a yaoi novel), she has taken upon herself the task of breaking my will to live, or at least to read. I naively thought her #killallmen Twitter hashtag was just rhetoric, intended to inflame those who in most cases deserved to have their asshattery exposed. But no, she seems to be living up to her online moniker, as she seems to be exhorting me to give in, to accept that I require only hate, or at least shitty novels as my due.
At first, I thought I could handle anything she dared me to read. So I read and reviewed Dahlia Lu's The Dark God's Bride. It was risible and under normal circumstances, I would have glanced at its (e)blurb, smirked, and moved on. But no, I had to read and review this one on a dare. After I passed that ordeal, I next was challenged with writing a substantive, honest assessment of Victoria Hoyt's execrable Save the Pearls Part One: Revealing Eden. Uhhh....sure, I guess, I thought. But there was nothing to smirk at: the content was deplorable and while the prose and characterization was shoddy, there was little else but the near-constant level of drivel espousing tired, old racist and sexist concepts. Yet I managed to make it through.
But on Thursday, she decided that she would be cruel and up the ante. I received two paranormal romance novels by Shirin Dubbin, Keeper of the Way and Chaos Tryst. My sanity was almost broken by this new onslaught. Let me share with you a few choice quotes so you can understand just how ROTYH is truly sans merci:
He wasn't technically a man, but he was seriously male. Sweet water and shade trees. Thank goodness she had the presence of mind to push her sunglasses tight to her face. Never mind it'd likely leave bruises. She had to protect herself. His addictive-as-dark-chocolate scent made her want to get naked...That was a lie. His scent made her want to go five or six steps past naked and straight into 'how'd they do that?' Mmm, but it was more than the way he smelled. In her eighty-eight years of life she'd known no emotion so...so untamed.
Uhh....ummm....don't think I really want to know what "man scent" from this "wasn't technically a man" she was smelling, thank you very much.
Two stoic gargoyles almost as large as the dragon, but with sculpted bodies and royal bearing; several pixies possessing the large wings and spun-glitter hair that marked them elders. Two orcs, the blue-gray skin of their baldheads [sic] polished to gleaming – each ring in their lagomorphic ears marking a century of life, and most notably, a basilisk and a gryphon – Severin's kin.
Like Severin, the other two chimeras had chosen their elf-like forms this evening. All three were larger than most elves (but not as large as dragons or gargoyles), their shoulders broader, their ears more tapered – noticeable but minute differences. When in elfin form the chimeras' eyes were their true distinguishing feature. The gryphons had eyes of semi-precious stone, the basilisks' granite and marble and the qilins viewed the world through pools of molten metal, liquid and mercurial.
Leaving aside the unimaginative borrowing of mythological creatures without rhyme nor reason, read those descriptions again. What...the...hell...is she trying to describe there? Are those actual "pools of molten metal," as the lack of a true sense of the metaphorical might seem to indicate upon a first, quick skimming through this crap?
By this point in reading the first Dubbin e-story, Keeper of the Way, I had already determined that this story was poorly-written, with an unoriginal plot and a supposed heroine that spent more time thinking about a male quasi-human's trouser snake than on anything else. Then I noticed this scene roughly 3/4 into this mercifully short novel:
"Is this how it's going to be with us?" he said, his voice husky with arousal. "you taking me into your hands every time you want your way?"
"No," she said, cupping his softer parts in one hand while the other continued to work its magic. "When you're really stubborn, I'll take you into my mouth."
Gulp! She covered her face with a hand. What in the Betwixt...? Had she said that?
"Yeah, you did," he said, wrapping her up tighter. "And I'm going to hold you to it." He chuckled.
Embarrassed, she pulled away. Wanting to escape his knowing gaze, she looked down and promptly jumped back four feet.
"What are you? A donkey?"
"Wha–?" He glanced at himself, and this time pride laced his chuckle.
Gulp, indeed, but not in that way. Yep, standard old romance trope of having the male stud be hung like a barnyard animal with the heroine making futile gestures of surprise and alarm, just so she won't be viewed as a "slut" by readers and the fictional characters that inhabit such scenes.
At this point, I was wondering if my brain was about to shut down. I did finish it and the second novel, but I see I was so benumbed by this crap that I barely bookmarked any of its awful passages (afterward, I read Alan Garner's The Owl Service as a reading palliative, but I am afraid that my enjoyment of his YA novel was greatly lessened due to the trauma I experienced just minutes beforehand). If it weren't that both stories were barely 200 e-pages on my iPad, I think I would have contemplated e-seppuku. It was that bad. Only someone as cruel or (heaven forbid!) crueler than myself could ever want to inflict this suffering on another human being. So it is with great regret that I must accuse ROTYH of being a very cruel person who came very close to breaking my will to live.
But coming very close is not the same as succeeding. I shudder to think what worse things she could find next in her next attempt to break my reading soul :(
Edit: Writing this so soon after the trauma of reading those banal paranormal romance novels led me to overlook listing a few other weaknesses of the novels, which was so kindly pointed out to me on Twitter. Due to my male "weakness," I focused overmuch on the ridiculousness of the sex dynamic and the reduction of men to polished male sex machines, while overlooking the implication that the man in question is described in terms similar to those stereotypes for non-white males. After all, he is "not quite human," he is somewhat "exotic" based on the description, and well...there does seem to be the animalization of his sexual features/prowess. Perhaps Dubbin intended for him to be white, but the descriptions, poor as they are, can create something even more troubling. Then there were the references to the heroine NiaMora's "Chinese" ancestry (and her elf heritage) that were so wrong even to this non-Chinese that at the the time I just shook my head and forgot to quote that passage last night.
I could cite a few more, but in my "weakness," I think I'll just only add brief references to the other deficiencies found in these two novels.