Book Betrayals: A List of Past Hurts, pt. 1

When it comes to books, I am a cheapskate.

In this area of my life, I value quantity over quality, blowing my budget on thrifty, vaguely-interesting paperbacks rather than the one or two pricey hardbacks I really want. Why bother when I’m going to switch them out for cheaper, less bulky, better-looking copies in six months?

hardcover
Lame…
paperback
GREAT!

If I feel I can’t live without a book, I’ll splurge. Sometimes I’m too impatient to wait for the paperback release; other times I buy on impulse, swayed by a perfect plot summary or a pretty cover.

When these books disappoint, it’s agony. It feels as bad as a breakup; all that effort and emotional energy for nothing. WE COULD HAVE SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL, AND YOU RUINED IT.

Though this isn’t a complete list of past offenders, be warned: these books broke my heart.

 

Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

The fact that I talked this book up to my friends before I read it makes the the memory of this purchase especially embarrassing.

I bought what sounded like a female-led remake of “A Horse and His Boy” with foreign fugitives, fleshed-out romance, magical mounts, and GUNSLINGERS. Make no mistake: throw ANY of those elements in a book and I’ll whip out my debit card. Add all four and you find me saying things like, “I feel like this book was written for me!” to my skeptical friends.

As always, the cover played a big part in my decision. In my heart of hearts, I prefer pretty books. And LOOK AT THIS THING.

Image result for rebel of the sands
This cover is a work of art.

(Author’s note: Free punch in the face to anyone who smugly comments, “That’s why they say, ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover!'” No one wants to read a $2.00 copy of Pride and Prejudice; Barnes and Nobles makes special editions for a reason.)

I gave up after 80 pages. I didn’t even make it to the horse. (I don’t think. See? I CAN’T EVEN REMEMBER.)

I didn’t enjoy the world or the characters, and I DEFINITELY didn’t appreciate the rushed romance with a heavy helping of denial.

A year later, I saw this book on Barnes and Nobles overstock table for $6. No one should have to pay that much for this letdown.

 

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

I find it harder and harder to like YA romances.

I had a heartbreaking moment the other day when I realized one of my all-time favorite ships isn’t healthy. I’ve become a more moderate shipper and I don’t like how it feels.

All that to say I hated the romance in this book.

Image result for star touched queen
Another tragic case of cover-judging.

The protagonist ends up married to a mysterious man who claims they were a couple in a past life. Whenever she asks for details, he says, “Just trust me.” RED FLAG #1.

The guy gets way too intimate way too fast and repeats the same justification: “No, we used to be in love! Trust me! I’m not a bad guy!” RED FLAG #2.

Nothing he did showed care for the protagonist. She spent the bulk of the novel confused, avoiding his touch and flowery sentiments. Yet he never apologized or agreed to take it slow. He practically begged her to sleep with him with the argument that he can’t help it – he loves her too much. RED FLAG #3.

Halfway in, I decided he was really the villain. The narrative purposefully muddied the waters, casting this creepo in a suspicious light.

I wish the author had followed through.

Listen, love interests: The best justifications and purest feelings don’t excuse overwhelming your partner. If she feels uncomfortable or confused, BACK OFF.

The creepy persistence paired with self-centered reasoning turned me off this series.

I won’t be picking up a sequel, no matter how pretty the cover.

 

As You Wish by Chelsea Sedoti

Fine, let’s get this cover out of the way:

Image result for as you wish chelsea sedoti
Ugh. Perfection.

Not only is the cover WONDERFUL, this book was released around my birthday; looking at it felt like a celebration.

loved Chelsea Sedoti’s first novel, the deeply-weird-yet-emotionally-affecting The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett. When I heard she’d written a follow-up, I was immediately on board.

I have nothing good to say about this book. I read it while on vacation and found myself becoming more and more disillusioned.

Compared to Hawthorn Creely from Lizzie Lovett, this protagonist had nothing going for him. I can’t even remember his name. Connor, maybe? I don’t often notice when authors write from an opposite-sex POV, but Sedoti’s writing of Connor felt particularly self-conscious, i.e., “Yo, I’m a dude, this is how dudes think.”

If I had to sum up the plot, it would be “Brainwashed town keeps magical secret on orders from power-mad mayor and everyone learns a lesson at the end.”

That sounds more like a TV episode I’ve seen 1000 times than a compelling idea for a novel.

This concept had so many possibilities and Sedoti chose to tell a standard fable. Too bad.

 

All These Things I’ve Done by Gabrielle Zevin

I haven’t thrown enough shade at this novel.

I love alternate histories. I find speculative fiction fascinating because it examines extremes. I don’t remember the exact plot of this book, but I remember the ban on caffeine being part of a religious revival. The ban results in a new Prohibition era with Mafia members smuggling chocolate and opening coffee shops around the city.

Also, a girl becomes a crime boss, which is in no way a power fantasy of mine.

Image result for gabrielle zevin all these things
Also, the title is a Killers reference.

The first third of this book was solid, with a great set-up, interesting characters, and the promise of romance.

I hate, hate, HATE when an author rushes a potential romance. The star-crossed, slow-burn sexual tension ramped up to true love way too early, shunting aside the more interesting crime plot.

AUTHORS! Stop using your plots as elaborate vehicles for more typical fare! ENOUGH WITH THE FALSE ADVERTISING.

I wouldn’t have been bothered if this had a been a romance/crime combo. Had both parts been equal, I could have maintained my interest. But the crime plot became an afterthought, the stakes plummeted, and the leads wasted their time on dramatics.

In an extra disappointing twist, I love (er, loved) Gabrielle Zevin’s work. In the past, she’s delivered high concept character studies. I took her name on the cover as a sign of quality.

This is why I have trust issues.

 

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Get out of here with your stupid cover and your stupid circus, you worthless, worthless book.

Of all the books on this list, this one makes the angriest.

I love the hell out of magical realism, okay? Magic and romance and circuses and book covers inspired by The White Stripes are my favorite things.

Image result for night circus
At least they WERE.

I saw this book everywhere for TWO. YEARS.

Every time I went to Target, I glimpsed it on the shelf.

Every time I turned around, it had won another award.

Every encounter increased my desire to read it.

Finally, I got it.

And…nothing happened.

I felt…nothing.

NOTHING.

LIKE MORALES IN HER ACTING CLASS.

I WAS SUPPOSED TO BE MOVED BY THE CHARACTERS AND INVESTED IN THEIR LOVE BUT ALL I FELT WAS EMPTINESS AND RAGE.

IT REALLY MADE ME BURN.

My low-level annoyance didn’t escalate to blinding anger until the climax.

First of all, I COULD NOT understand what was going on. It felt like hearing a bomb go off without being sure it was a bomb. The other characters kept reacting as if to tragedy without ever revealing what had happened. I felt panicked, scouring for clues and not finding any. Something big had happened in the climax; I just didn’t know what or why or how.

Then one of the characters, a creepy redheaded child (let’s call him Pickle), sat down and preached the theme of the novel to me. Nothing Pickle described matched the events I’d witnessed. WERE WE READING THE SAME BOOK, PICKLE?

(I want to say this is the moment I turned against ensemble casts.)

AND YOU, ERIN MORGENSTERN: YOU DON’T JUST PICK A THEME OUT OF THE BLUE. YOUR ENDING HAS TO MATCH WHAT CAME BEFORE.

I remember throwing this book across the room during Thanksgiving dinner.

Forget this book. Forget the glowing reviews. Forget its best-seller status. I curse this story and all its success. MAY YOU NEVER KNOW TRUE LOVE OR FRIENDSHIP.

 

To be continued…

 

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The Truth About Sex After Marriage

The church I grew up in taught a lot about sex.

The intent was to help (I think.) Sex is a big deal and the church SHOULD be talking about it.

By “talk,” though, I mean “dialogue,” and no such conversation existed at the time.

Adults told teens “DON’T HAVE SEX” without telling them how or why. They squeamishly avoided listing potential consequences of unprotected intercourse, making high school Sex Ed look competent by comparison.

More embarrassing was a series on married sex taught by the three senior pastors. They lauded their bravery for talking “openly” about the subject without using medical terminology or addressing the “how” of how to improve your sex life. They discussed sexual pleasure with extreme discomfort, transmitting their shame to the rest of the congregation.

I learned that porn is a fantasy without learning about the reality of sex.

I heard over and over the gender myth that men like sex and women don’t.

College proved worse; Christians shut down honest conversation with red faces and whispers of “inappropriate.”

Finding Debra Fileta’s website in 2014 came as a huge relief.

You mean to tell me Christians can honestly discuss sex?

Debra posted an excerpt from her newest book about why we save sex for marriage. I find it helpful having a reason aside from “JUST DON’T” or “WOMEN DON’T LIKE IT.” It helps, too, that she’s honest, ratcheting down the expectation of the Super Awesome Pinnacle of Experiences many Millennials were promised in youth group.

I so appreciate an author willing to tackle lies and point to Scripture instead of bolstering false teachings.

Debra Fileta’s new book drops today at Amazon or your favorite book seller.

Buy it. Borrow it. Learn. Dialogue. Enjoy.

Why You Should Read “Choosing Marriage” by Debra Fileta

Choosing MarriageI don’t often recommend Christian relationship books.

I’ve found Christian authors take one of two tacks: either the author treats love with a measure of whimsy that makes them sound stupid, or they quote, “Marriage is HARD,” enough times to show they have no faith in the reader’s ability to retain information.

Licensed counselor Debra Fileta embodies a perfect combination of practicality and hope. Combining Scripture with modern psychology, she finds a balance between empowering readers to make good choices and encouraging them to trust God.

Her perspective is both realistic and refreshing. She never presents formulas, hoping instead readers will take the path toward health. Using examples from her own life, Debra outlines common difficulties that come up in marriage and how to solve them. Unlike others, however, she doesn’t make her experience The Standard; she acknowledges often that every marriage is unique and couples need to find what works for them.

I can tell Debra loves her husband, Jon. That’s what has turned me off about marriage advice in the past; Christians can fall so heavily on the “difficult duty” view of marriage that it’s hard to tell they even like their spouse. Debra writes about the differences between herself and Jon without dinging her husband. As she writes in her book, she and Jon are a team, a fact evident with every page.

The best part of the book, a true miracle in Christian writing: with Debra’s readable style, the 200+ pages fly by.

Want a good marriage, either present or future? Say hello to your new best friend.

 

Release date: May 1, 2018

Purchase here

R.I.P. It or Ship It: Round 15

FINAL ROUND!!

For round 15, I picked

Anakin Skywalker from Star Wars
and
Cress Darnell from The Lunar Chronicles

Background
Anakin Skywalker feels very attacked right now because EVERYONE KEEPS TREATING HIM LIKE A CHILD. Thought to be the Chosen One, Anakin excels in acting rashly and crying about it later. His flirting skills need WORK.

Sand

Forced out of Lunar society, Cress Darnell spent most of her youth on a satellite hacking Earth’s security feed. Easily impressed, Cress swoons over scoundrels and expresses delight in mundane things like sand. Her flirting skills, along with her life skills, do not exist. Girl is DUMB.

Trustworhty
“HE SEEMS TRUSTWORTHY.”

The Couple
Alas, Anakin’s hatred for sand might keep these two apart.

I find it hard to ship someone as unlikable as Anakin. Who wouldn’t be disillusioned by all that child murder? Or, you know…regular murder?

Sand people

But come on. These two have plenty in common, including childhood enslavement and a love of space travel.

Sure, there are things to dislike about this pairing. Rage. Jealousy. A disturbing height difference.

And, yes, the character Cress fears most is an angry giant with murderous instincts…which pretty much describes Anakin.

Know what? I don’t care.

At least this dynamic is interesting.

At least there’s contrast.

IT’S NOT TILNEY AND LUPIN. THAT’S ALL I CARE ABOUT.

This is the final round and I’m calling it.

Verdict: SHIP IT

R.I.P. It or Ship It: Round 14

For round 14, I picked

Remus Lupin from The Harry Potter series
and
Henry Tilney from Northanger Abbey

Background
Remus Lupin taught at Hogwarts until Lucius Malfoy outed him as a werewolf. He loves chocolate, books, and acts of bravery. He also briefly abandoned his pregnant wife and I’m still not over it.

Weirdest ship
WHY WAS THIS A SHIP?

Perfect party host Henry Tilney flirts with everyone without making it weird. He teases without overstepping. He even puts up with idiotic heroines for the sake of romantic resolution. That takes class.

Related image
R.I.P. IT.

The Couple
I can’t think of a more boring couple.

What would they do together? Drink tea? Talk about books? Hide Lupin’s monthly transformations from Henry’s family?

Related image
“I heard ‘werewolves.'”

You KNOW a ship is boring when I have to use CATHERINE MORLAND as my punchline.

Sure, Henry’s shares personality traits with Remus’ closest friends…but is that enough?

And Remus used to be a notorious prankster…but now? He’s so stodgy! He would grade papers during Harry’s parties…while wearing a cardigan. (Sidebar: Why was Remus friends with the Marauders? Why am I questioning canon? THIS SHIP IS DESTROYING MY LOVE FOR HARRY POTTER!!)

Until this pairing, I didn’t think anything could be worse than both these characters’ ACTUAL CANON SHIPS.

I didn’t come here to be bored.

Verdict: R.I.P. IT

R.I.P. It or Ship It: Round 13

For round 13, I picked

Kate from You Know Me Well
and
Shigure Sohma from Fruits Basket

Background
Kate runs away from things. She dedicates her painting portfolio to a girl she won’t speak to and ditches a lifelong friend for an understanding acquaintance. She freaks out and changes her mind over and over but rarely tells people why.

Shigure plays dumb so well almost no one suspects him. He uses his trashy romance novels as a cover for more devious schemes. His closest friends don’t know what he wants; they just know he’s up to something.

The Couple
know I said I aged up the characters, but…

…Shigure loves high school girls.

Why am I saving this
It’s canon.

One of Shigure’s exes described him as a ripple on water; every time you try to get close, he moves away. Now that I think of it, he embodies the lyrics to “Marry Me A Little” almost perfectly. I didn’t think that was possible.

Kate admits she’s kind of a mess. Romance terrifies her; college freaks her out. She buys people artichokes instead of flowers…when she decides to show up. With the amount of overwhelm she experiences, Kate can only handle one day at a time. (There were several solid title puns in that sentence, but I resisted.)

Luckily for her, Shigure wouldn’t care. He wouldn’t invest either. Shigure’s not one for moving forward; he stays firmly in the moment. Others running away has never bothered him; he’s good at biding his time.

These two wouldn’t help each other grow. This pairing doesn’t burst with health. I don’t want to be on board, but the rapport between these two makes sense.

To be clear, I don’t condone settling. AT THE SAME TIME…these characters both struggle to make healthy choices. Why push them to do better when this easy dynamic exists?

IN CONCLUSION, these characters are confused…and so am I.

Related image
Sorry, dawg.

Verdict: SHIP IT????

R.I.P. It or Ship It: Round 12

For round 12, I picked

Mia Thermopolis from The Princess Diaries
and
Princess Azula from Avatar: The Last Airbender

Background
Mia started as an awkward nobody with bad hair until her father revealed their royal lineage. Now she’s an awkward somebody with slightly better hair and control over a small European principality.

Related image
Much to her dismay.

Azula, the Fire Lord’s favorite child, prefers flunkies to friends. She pursues fratricide with dogmatic devotion and nearly succeeds. World domination she saves for her nights off.

Casual
This is CASUAL Azula.

The Couple
For eight books, Mia’s main antagonist is Lana Weinberger, a catty cheerleader who bullies Mia’s friends.

To get Azula, take Lana and add firepower and a predilection for murder.

Yeah, that’ll work. Nothing says love quite like torment.

I love villain ships, but come on.

“Opposites attract” won’t fly here. Mia donated her entire salary to Greenpeace. Azula eats puppies.

Image result for sad puppy
Probably.

Mia has never been much of a flunkie. She lacks the sunny confidence or cool indifference necessary to put up with Azula. Mia is too high-strung to handle a princess one bad hair day away from a breakdown.

There it is
Too late!

Verdict: R.I.P. IT