I’ve always found it interesting that it’s so much easier to articulate why you dislike something rather than like it — but I guess it makes sense, as you can like something without being fully aware of everything that comes together (indeed, when it comes together so seamlessly, that’s half the intent — I don’t expect people to be impressed by draw animations and cover blends, but ensuring they look perfect to the eye only lets the mechanics involved go unnoticed). Dislike usually has reasons, things you can point to and say “This, this was a problem”.

For Four Nights With the Duke, unfortunately, ‘this’ happens to be most of the book — and spoilers, so many spoilers abound here. I always find it interesting when an author that is usually an auto-buy and generally delightful for me has a book that for me is a complete bomb, and to see what it was about the book I didn’t like — and how much of that is shaped by my experiences and views of the characters versus someone else’s.

Interestingly, I really enjoyed the book before, Three Weeks With Lady X. Eloisa James is definitely a long-time favourite author of mine with a lot more hits than misses, and while this current series is not as compelling to me as some of the previous ones have been, I liked Xenobia (okay, I loved an interior designer as a heroine). I liked Mia a fair bit as well, actually — she was brave, she was strong, she was understandably baffled by a lot of what was going on, quite understandably hurt by a lot of it, but she never doubted herself or her love for her nephew. She never doubted that she loved being a secret novelist or gave any hints that she’d ever give it up. She knew what she wanted, and part of that was to be loved the way she wanted to be loved, and respected the way she wanted to be respected.

Unfortunately, Vander is where everything kind of falls apart. He’s a bag of assholes from the start, and I never really felt he’d changed at all during the course of the book. There’s a mention near the end where he says how he wants to fuck Mia really means how much he loves her, but… well. I’m glad she wasn’t really keen on that being an excuse either? He gaslights her, insults her constantly (and she’s bang-on that he says these things in moments of truth, and he denies it, except it IS exactly how he feels), he intentionally is as hurtful as possible… basically everything that she calls him out on near the end, he’s in fact not only guilty of, but is unchanged by the end of the book.

There’s also the whole, uh, dubious role of consent in this book. There’s ONE line that attempts to clear this up (“She knew if she said no, he’d stop”) except he’s already proven in pretty much every encounter that if she says “No” or “Stop” he… will ignore her and keep right on. In fact, she says no pretty much constantly, and is never listened to. Not once. She’s not even consulted on most things, and when she flat-out says no, he kisses her to shut her up and then I guess it’s supposed to be all good because he gets a bodily reaction from her?

The scene that was most disturbing for me was the bathing-room scene, because that was outright scary, and I don’t like my romance characters scary. She had nowhere to hide or feel safe except for the bathroom with two flimsy locks on it, and when he comes to find her — and she knows he’ll come after her because goodness forbid she get the last word if that word is “no” — he breaks the door down to her yells of terror and telling him to leave her alone.

He breaks. The door. Down.

This isn’t romantic, it’s a page right out of the book of my own life, and made my skin crawl. The only reason I was ever any safer was our locks are a little better, my dad too drunk to climb the stairs or properly batter a door down, my ex too aware that it would be construed as a physical threat. Because it was. I didn’t have a lock on the door, and the day he came through it was the day I left, because it drove home that I was not safe in my own house, in my own bedroom, from the person I was living with. That words were no boundary or barrier and he’d use physical strength to get what he wanted (and what he wanted was… I don’t know. No one will ever know).

Edward being painted as a murderer and therefore totes okay for Mia to not be interested was odd, too, especially as he’s the hero of the next book in the series. I was pretty convinced that Vander and Thorn were going to kill Richard, actually — the shock was that they weren’t, especially since (of course) he comes back to almost kill Charlie and Mia. Because of course he was. Not just because of melodrama but someone had to do something heroic at some point, and fucking a woman against her will was not fitting the bill.

Not that anyone seemed to care a whole lot that Charlie was almost killed or Mia might be, y’know, mildly upset by being assaulted after watching someone almost kill her almost-a-son. Nah, time to bodily lift her around, as Vander had done the whole book to get his way (because physical intimidation, totally not a thing, short people are just “pocket venuses” don’t ya know?).

It’s funny because I likely sound more upset by this book than I really am. I didn’t enjoy it — the first 50% was an exercise in heartache and hoping it would get better. When it hadn’t by 98%, well. Yeah. I wouldn’t re-read this nor recommend it, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to say “Oh this is awful, don’t ever”. It’d fit as a 2-star if I had to do stars, mostly because 1-stars mean it was awful with no redeeming qualities. This was just something that I didn’t enjoy, bothered me a fair bit, but I read from start to finish and I’ll likely read the next in the series (although I’ll wait for it to go on sale first).

There were things I enjoyed. I loved Jafeer and his characterization. I liked Charlie. I liked Chuffy (I’d rather see HIM as the next hero!). I delighted in the not-very-secret homages to Julia Quinn and Lisa Kleypas and still get a kick out of the shared characters and world between some of the books (especially Miss Butterworth and her continuing misadventures). I’m pretty sure a duke wouldn’t get away with just hanging out in the stables all day and it’s rather disheartening that he didn’t seem to care at all about his tenants (or Mia’s, although she briefly thinks of them regarding re-thatching roofs at least) or interest in the local justice, but hey, if billionaires can be playboys who do nothing all day, I guess dukes can be stablehands, too.

So, I just received a mass-mailed ad from NetGalley about a rape fantasy book.

I don’t even have the words for why this sort of thing is so fucking not okay. Not about the book’s content, or it being marketed —  but that they just blasted it out with no fucking warnings, no targeting, and most importantly AS AN IMAGE so that filters could not even fucking catch it.

Because I have to have filters that filter out rape threats and mail.

Because I am a woman-identifying person online, who has been raped, and has PTSD.

I don’t request books from Berkley. I don’t intend to. So holy shit is it really necessary to make me feel unsafe opening emails from NetGalley?

Naturally, this comes when I have exactly one anxiety pill left. I guess we get to see now if Prazosin is any good for daytime panic attacks as well as nighttime flashbacks.

I hate this. I hate being so upset by something that I should just be able to click delete and be done with. I hate being blindsided, caught with my armour off, and that the reaction is so fucking visceral — vomiting, crying, the whole fucking deal.

I hate being so broken, and every time I feel like I’ve got things taped up, something taking a swing at me without even the slightest consideration that hey, maybe this isn’t the best idea we’ve ever had.

It’s so nice to have all my stuff, and it’s nice to finally be able to put everything with my ex behind me! I still have to do a final move, but that will likely be in a few months. No more ticking clock, no more pressure, no more stress regarding all of that! Sadly, no more of several of my plants as well, but at least my snake plant was salvage-able and I still have the jade plant that was originally a cutting from my mom’s, which was a cutting from HER mom’s. I swear I learned how to not murder plants just to keep this thing alive.

It also meant going through some of my work stuff from last project and the notes are bizarre out of context: “Put horses in gym” “Blend crossbow cover snap animation” “Figure out why gold is more attractive than not dying to AI hierarchy”. On the plus side, it means I have my tiny teapot back, as I am totally not drinking 6 cups of tea at a time these days.

I need about a week of quiet to recover from what was one of the emotionally most difficult weeks I’ve had since before I left in December, but that’s… not going to happen. PA days keep happening with “no warning”, meaning I have the three kids, who are currently running in circles around the place and have been doing so for the better part of an hour — oh, wait, there’s the tears.

Yeah that’s pretty inevitable. Still, I’d like a little warning before surprise!babysitting three kids under 6 for the day, especially because mysteriously everyone works late on days when they don’t have to pick them up from daycare at a set time.

Oh well. I love these kiddos, they just mean I take more of my anxiety meds (which I am currently trying to brain through, and it’s not great). At least they’re easy to feed and the girls still nap so I get a chance to spend time with all of them!

I keep wondering where, for me, a book changes from a “try to wade through” to a DNF. I’ve become a lot more conservative with my time in the last couple of years, unwilling to give a whole lot of it to a book that rubs me the wrong way (or, almost as damning, fails to capture any of my interest). My DNF points on books seem to be in the first 10% for most of them, first 30% for almost all of the rest.

Usually if a book is at the “wading” point I may not have many strikes left before it becomes a DNF, but still feel there’s something worth reading. A lot of the time, wades are books where I’m just not terribly enjoying the author’s voice, which is a shame, but I will power through because I’m interested in the story. Infected: Prey was one of these, del Toro’s vampire books were another, there are several more. As I’m not a huge fan of suspense or thrillers that’s enough to turn a book into a wade for me on its own. Sometimes things as simple as tense (first person present eurgh) is enough to do it, but then again, with authors I trust I will take the plunge and sure enough they will take advantage of tropes or tenses I can’t stand and turn them on their heads enough that I’m thrilled (see: Bella Andre, especially my-best-friend’s-sibling + bonus secret baby, or Courtney Milan’s Trade Me with the should-be-damning trifecta of contemporary, billionaire and first-person-present, but is instead glorious). So yeah, wade I will, but the books already have several strikes against them.

Then there are outliers. I recently read J. C. Emory’s “Ride” (Bayonet Scars, Book 1) as I’ve been desperate to find something similar to Kit Rocha’s Beyond series, and figured hey, maybe Motorcycle Club/Gang books will fit the bill somehow, plus they’re pretty popular and I haven’t read one. This may not have been the one to start on, but foolishly I let Amazon’s “best selling in…” or rankings get the better of me (plus a 4.1 average out of over 240 reviews). I should have checked the reviews, but I was honestly boggling my way through all the different MC romances on offer.

First up: This isn’t a romance. If it hadn’t been billed as one, I wouldn’t have picked it up — I wanted a little schmaltz with my leather and bikes — but if you take out the romance classification, then the book might be forgivable. As a romance, there’s no way, and interestingly enough this was not what made it a DNF (although it definitely made it a wallbanger). The protagonists (nothing heroic about either of them) don’t like each other, much less love each other — by 80% of the book, he’d raped her, but that was it. Oh, she kept having pantsfeelings for him (and getting off with other people but hating them and pretending they were him so that totally doesn’t count I’m sure) and he decided to “fuck her out of his system” and deliberately made it as painful and awful for her as possible, and man, if those things don’t scream love, I don’t know what does.

The woman (sheltered girl, really) spends most of her time crying, and if she’s not crying she’s running away and then using her newfound freedom to… get drunk. She spends most of the book drunk, in tears, or both. It’s only after she’s killed more than half a bottle of tequila the dude fucks her. He’s not real big on consent. Dude spends most of HIS time drinking or doing drugs (“he’d needed to do a line just to be able to see her”), and again, some folks may take “I have to hit the hard stuff just to be around your face” as true love, but I’m not really into that.

Actually, all the Motorcycle Club seems to do is drink, get high, and apparently either jerk off or have sex and never clean anything up ever. I’m not sure how this lifestyle supports hundreds of bikers, but there you go. I’m also guessing this is the ultimate dude fantasy, although it sounded so vile I really don’t know many people who would ever let their homes get like that, women involved or not. I just finished a series about bootleggers and liquor, and it had less drinking in it, and definitely less “I hate myself and my life so I will get drunk and then sleep with someone and then hate them and myself even MORE yes” going on!

All of this made it a slog, but it was at the 85% mark where the POV swaps to the dude’s and he is mentally calling everyone (his mom, the girl, everyone) a slut and a whore that I was finally done. I was hoping for redeeming qualities — I got nothing. It was bad enough that every woman in the book is either outright called a slut or is an ineffective drunk that the DOGS get more characterization and page time than any woman, but once the hero started echoing the heroine’s views of everyone that way? Yeah, done. I know authors argue that it’s the character’s beliefs and not their own and to not judge them accordingly, but seriously, when every single character has the same belief — and the book is also written fully in support of that belief — I judge, indeed.

Maybe something happens in the last 10% of the book and there’s suddenly truuuue loooove (because they kept touching PINKIES dontchaknow, that totally makes the rape and hatefuck and abuse a-ok!), but nothing ELSE happened in the rest of the book. There’s all this woo and talk about how dangerous it is to be in the club and how dude will die if he gets soft and has feelings for someone, yet we never see… anything happen. Oh they shoot up an empty house in the beginning, but that’s in the first couple of chapters. I imagine the last 10% involves the girl running away a few more times, getting drunk, and while they’re drunk the dude proves that he has feelings for her ’cause he touched her pinky all those times, it’s true love, and she’s happily-ever-after in the life she hates with people she hates on the back of his bike (that doesn’t really go anywhere for most of the book except around town). 85% is way more of a chance than I give most books. This one was just… what?

Also the numerous misspellings, the bizarre unrelated quotes that start each chapter (that are occasionally misattributed or at least attributed to someone whose name is spelled wrong!), the homonym confusion, missing words, racist phrasings and really weird “I don’t think that means what you think that means” turns of phrase… yeah. I probably should have gone with my gut on the wallowing, but I really wanted to finish a Club book and see what the heck it was all about.

This clearly was not the one to do that with.

Gamer Gate Bullshit

I’m posting this here because I’ve said it a few times elsewhere, and I stand behind my words.

I absolutely stand with the people opposing Gamer Gate. I’m a game dev who works on some of the biggest titles in the world — I’m also a woman and have been doing this for over a decade. In some strange logic, because I make games people enjoy playing, they feel the need to threaten to rape and kill me.

So you know what? Don’t buy my games. Because my studio is focused on diversity, representation, and equality (we fuck it up royally at times, but we ARE working on it — you should have seen the internal blowup after E3). So every penny spent on these games helps fund all of these things. Our office is one of the better ones (still not great, but working on it) in terms of gender diversity and IS one of the best in the world in terms of women in leadership roles, it is THE best in the world in terms of multicultural diversity, and we take seriously giving back to our community which includes charity events of sponsoring game jams for kids, game-a-thons, talks for girls and young women regarding STEM subjects and representation, talks for high-schoolers about getting into gaming development and what their broad range of experiences bring to the table, and gaming nights with the local Gaymer groups. In fact, if you don’t agree with this stuff and DO buy my games, you’re a fucking hypocrite, because that’s where your money is going.

We’re going to keep making these games, and we’re going to keep making better, more representative, more diverse games. You can’t stop that. You can’t stop me from going to work. The ONLY way would be to stop my livelihood from existing. So you know what? If you support GamerGate, don’t buy my games. Don’t buy the new AC games, the new Farcry, the new driving games, the new dance games, the new shooters. Don’t buy my games, because I promise you that hundreds of women (and people of every gender, sexuality, skin tone, nationality, and religion you can imagine) have touched every single one, have been major driving forces, content creators, creative decision-makers, writers, modellers, programmers, marketers for every single one. These games don’t exist without us, NEVER HAVE, and never will. So don’t buy my games.

I don’t want to play online with assholes anyhow.

I’m done with being afraid. There’s nothing left but anger and an oh-so-lovely burn of determination. I love my job, I am proud of my job and the games I have made, and I am proud to be making these games and making them ever better, ever more able to reach people so they can say “This is fun!” and “Hey I’m in this!” and let their fantasies and imaginations and enjoyment run wild. I wanted to be an astronaut as a kid. Now I’ve made video games to let millions of people drive spaceships. I’m pretty okay with where my life has wound up.

Emotions are weaponized, the damage they do is dismissed, the people who have been hurt are dismissed, the entire thing is done – rather effectively – in the interest of making space unsafe for certain people and punishing them for having the gall to be there in the first place, and finally the possibility that maybe this isn’t necessarily how it has to be is foreclosed upon.

Sarah W. – http://thesocietypages.org/cyborgology/2014/08/13/break-them-the-weaponization-of-emotion/

“The victim of abuse is taught to believe that although she is hurting, she shouldn’t be, or that she is in some way responsible. From childhood, she is conditioned not to understand her feelings and so not to recognize the truth. This truth is that she is being abused and blamed for the abuse (as if it could be justified) and for feeling bad about it (as if her feelings were wrong).