Archive for March 6th, 2014

Once Bitten Twice Shy – C.C Wood (spoilers spoilers spoilers)

I picked up this book on Penny Reid’s rec. Which, btw, if you have not picked up Love Hacked or Neanderthal Seeking Human, you should go do that, stat.

First thing: the title is an issue.

Once Bitten turned up 2881 results on Amazon. Once Bitten Twice Shy turned up 2745. Twice Shy turned up 571.

We have what we call in Taiwan “supermarket names”. The ones where you shout it in a store and more than ten people of various ages look toward you.

You do not want one of those for a title. You have one chance to grab your audience — make it count. It will also help if when your avid fans mention your title to a friend in passing IRL, the friend can then have a good shot at grabbing the right book.

I liked the voice of the narrator. Her personality was vivid and she was amusing. However, she did have a tendency toward over-explaining. It’s in first person POV and she goes into a lot of detail over what she’s thinking and why she’s thinking it. For me, it slowed down the pace and pulled me out of the story because a lot of what she was thinking had no bearing to what was going on at the moment.

For example, she has this complex about her weight. Which, by the way, I’m tired of seeing. I’m done with heroines who are beautiful but somehow magically don’t know it or don’t believe it. I’m also done with heroines who both support their right to be curvy and think it’s healthy but have deep, abiding complexes about it. It’s been done ten million times. Let’s move on.

I stared at her blankly for a few seconds. “He said I’m losing too much weight?” I asked incredulously.

I was short, but not a small woman. In fact, my mother, who had been the same size since high school, gave me a huge guilt trip about my weight almost every time we spoke. I even had a bit of a complex about it. I had curves and I likely always would. No way in hell would I starve myself to fit what society considered the ‘norm’. Did I want to be healthier? Yes, but I didn’t necessarily think those stick-thin women were healthy either.  A person who enjoyed good nutrition shouldn’t be able to count every rib.

All right.

So couple of things:

1. Way too much info. A lot of it could have been woven in with a more delicate hand instead of being a huge chunk of text that interfered with the flow of the action/plot.

2. -ly words. Watch ‘em like a hawk.

3. Saying her mother had been the same size since high school doesn’t mean much because for all we know, her mother could be a blimp and that’s why she is so hard on Ivie because she wants her to be healthier/prettier.

4. The way she mentally speaks isn’t actually how most people think. It feels like she’s talking to the reader, so breaking the fourth wall. It’s distracting and it disrupts the flow of the writing.

5. The author tends to repeat. It’s been mentioned before, prior to this, that the MC’s mother was a nag about her weight. To repeatedly come back to it is distracting, disruptive, and shows lack of faith in the reader’s ability to read and retain.

 Note: She said she was 5 foot 4 somewhere prior. For the record, that’s the average height of women in the U.S right now. I’m not sure why she keeps insisting she’s short. 

Another thing: careful of over-description and over-writing.

That night, after Donna and I spend the day hanging out and going to the movies, we were sitting in the hot tub, drinking wine. It had been a wonderful, relaxing day, one of the best I’d had since the attack. wearing my utilitarian black swimsuit, I let my head loll back against the side of the hot tub and took a deep drink of the red wine Donna had opened. It was superb.

Since the last chapter ended with Donna suggesting a movie, repeating it is redundant.

And show, don’t just tell.

I let my head loll back against the side of the hot tub and took a deep swallow of the red wine Donna had opened. It was superb.  My muscles loosened and softened in the heat. My mind felt pleasantly fuzzy from the alcohol. I hadn’t felt this relaxed in ages, not since the attack.

Some other quibbles:

The vampire mind-reading trope doesn’t do it for me usually. Either the heroine has no privacy to speak of or she learns, really fast, how to block. 21% in and Ivie is still broadcasting really loudly.  It’s also inconsistent whether or not the other vampires can hear her thoughts, which is a little bit frustrating for me.

The “vampires can hear all the things” thing also seems to be inconsistent. Donna and Ivie have conversations that according to everything else said before, should be less than private, yet the two of them seem fine with it.

If you’re going to write in first person POV and it’s in past tense —  you cannot have the narrator describe something that they don’t remember. Can I repeat that for emphasis? If they don’t remember, and it’s in past tense, then it cannot be in the book as a “this is happening” thing. It needs to be a retrieved memory or a flashback later. Also? The “I said something but I didn’t realize it/ forgot” thing is ridiculous. If you have “no idea” you said something — you have no idea you said something. The person you said it to needs to let you know.

I don’t get the women insisting on tagging along to dangerous things thing when they’re going to be more of a liability than help. I really don’t. It makes them look stupid and makes them look like petulant brats. If they are going to be helpful, that’s fine. But most of the time that isn’t the case. The fact that usually authors have them somehow magically save the day doesn’t make it better. It actually makes it worse. Either they are competent or they aren’t.

I really also wasn’t fond of the BDSM aspect. For a while it felt like she was being non-con dominated and then sometimes it felt like the D was spilling over into daily life when they weren’t in a 24/7 D/s relationship. Didn’t work for me. Someone who really does the BDSM thing that works for me is Sophie Oak.

…and the ending gave me a cranky.  There’s this other vamp, Finn, who apparently was into Ivie and was in a way the catalyst of them finally getting together. Which is fine, although I hate the “throw another guy at the MC and watch sparks fly” trope, but at the end it turns out that he’s been dream-communicating with his real soulmate. So now I feel like he’s a skanky cheater.

 

…welp. All in all?  I’d give it a D-.

I’d suggest that C.C Wood get a content editor. There’s a good story there and it could really shine, but I feel like it’s a bit obscured. Her writing style and the plot reminds me of Kristin Ashley, so take that as you will. Personally, I’m not sure it’s a plus, but then I’m getting a bit tired of bratty, childish subs and their Doms who think they’re adorbs.

 

 

Power differences in romance

I read a book by an author I usually enjoy a couple of days ago.

As you might have guessed from the title and the “usually”, I didn’t enjoy it.

There was a significant power difference between the heroine and the hero. The sort of power difference where it was like watching a ten year old beat on a three year old. It wasn’t just age, or knowledge, resources, physical capability, mental capacity, and sexual prowess — it was that he trumped her soundly in all of those areas. It was painful to read, because he’d do something terrible and then he’d put his hands on her and she’d just melt. Then she’d hate herself for it afterward. Rinse and repeat. As one other reviewer put it, it was like a BDSM book without the safe, consensual, or willing sex. Forced orgasms don’t make things okay, just for the record.

There were other issues I had with the writing and the plot, but that stood out overall.

I like my conflicted heroes. The alpha males who are intelligent, ruthless, and just a bit too much on the bad side. The ones who don’t flinch at killing when death is needed and those who you want on your side in the dead of night and on a battlefield. Anne Stuart writes really good ones. So does Anne Bishop.

But this didn’t remind me of those men. This male reminded me of a bully. The sort who bloodies his wife’s face and then cries over it and apologizes and does it again. It would have been all right if he groveled at the end, but he didn’t need to. She just rolled over and forgave him everything because somehow everything was magically her fault.

I have a friend who can’t read Nalini Singh’s Archangel series because of the power discrepancy. I love that series. For me, I can accept it because Elena is a hunter, with her own abilities, and her mind is almost always her own. Raphael is also vulnerable to her and for her, which helped balance things out for me. When they tangled, I was never certain who was going to come up on top and Raphael’s code of honor made me feel that Elena was safe, no matter what was going on.

I need to know that even if it’s not an evenly balanced fight, that at least it’s a clean fight, and the other person has a fighting chance.

It’s a line to keep in mind when writing in the paranormal or fantasy realm, where the men are larger than life and have ten times the testosterone.

Any fellow Anne Stuart lovers who have bad boys to recommend?