At the beginning of 2011, a few of my book-loving friends decided they were going to read 100 books in the entire year. Always one to jump on the bandwagon, I accepted the same challenge, but with a twist: not only do I intend to read 100 novels, but I also plan to review them all.
However, there were a couple more rules to add to my challenge. They are as follows:
1. I must read 100 books or more in 2011.
2. I must keep track of how many I read.
3. I can only read books that I haven’t read before. However, books that were read to me as a child or ones that I haven’t read in over 5 years are also acceptable.
4. Recommendations are welcome. (Seriously, please give me some in the comments. I have a growing list, but that’s only made up about 30% of the hundred, so any and all suggestions are more than welcome.)
With this inaugural post comes my first review, of Nora Roberts’ Happy Ever After. Read away!
To Go: 99
1. Happy Ever After – Nora Roberts
Happy Ever After is a book that I borrowed it from my mother which, if you know of my mother, means that it was a romance. It was also the fourth, and last, in a series, so keep that in mind.
The nature of the series was to explore the lives of four friends who ran a business planning weddings (the girls were a photographer, a florist, a pastry chef, and a planner, respectively) as they, one by one, fell in love with four shockingly handsome men. Happy Ever After followed Parker, the detail-obsessed wedding planner and her love interest Malcolm, a buff, emotionally closed-off yet stunningly handsome mechanic as they worked past their own inner turmoils to trust each other while falling head over feet in love.
The book itself was a good read overall. It was light and fluffy and enjoyable – exactly what I expect from chick lit/harlequin. But as I read through it, I was finding myself editing instead of getting lost in the novel. My disbelief wasn’t exactly suspended, which was unfortunate.
The dialogue drove me up the wall. It wasn’t realistic, and it read like a narration. Most people don’t talk like this: “did you get his plates, his make?” (I don’t have the page number for citation, sorry.) That type of thing just killed me, because of the comma; in regular dialogue it would be phrased differently – someone would say something along the lines of “did you get his plates [and] his make?” or “did you get his plates, [or at least] his make?” The comma doesn’t suffice because it makes the sentence, spoken, sound like either “did you get his-plates-his-make?” or “did you get his plates…[long, awkward pause]…his make?”
I mean, Roberts is a really good author – she has the talent, for sure, and she’s definitely an old veteran when it comes to publishing. And I know this is her writing style, which I shouldn’t attempt or wish to change (a cardinal rule of writing, editing, and reviewing), but God, every time I read dialogue that was blatantly unrealistic, it was like nails on a chalkboard. No one, and I mean no one, says, “You smell like the flower that was just outside my window when I was stationed in Florida. It gets its hooks right in me.” (Again, I don’t have a citation – sorry.)
Instead of swooning, I snorted.
Not only that, but I find her method for conveying internal dialogue to be particularly irritating. One word of the sentence is separated to “strike you,” followed by the ‘he thought’ or ‘she thought,’ and then it continues on with the thought. Like so: “It was, she thought, particularly grating when the author chose to write like this. It, she thought again, was confusing and got on readers’ nerves.”
If it happened occasionally throughout the novel, I could live with that. But she does it every time.
There are other ways to convey thought! Ways that are much less irritating! I mean, half the time I was rereading for clarity because the sentence just mind-fucked me.
The last thing that drove me nuts was the way that Malcolm, as a character, was overly pushy. His narration states many times that he’s trying to keep his hands off Parker and stay the hell back, to respect her wishes in the early stages of their “situation” (his words, not mine), but if his actions were his idea of giving her space, he’s fucked in the head. Maybe it’s just the feminist in me, but I don’t think pushing yourself on a woman without her consent and groping her breasts is giving her appropriate space.
No suspension of disbelief will ever make me think that kind of behaviour is okay. In the real world, that’s called sexual assault if it’s unwanted – especially if the woman in question is saying ‘no’ loud and clear (which Parker was).
I just felt that there was this undercurrent of sexism and, coming from a woman author, that’s pretty insulting. It wasn’t just in the above example; it was in a small jab one of the other girls’ fiances made – “The women are in the kitchen, as they should be. Let’s go watch some football.” I get that it was probably supposed to be a joke, but forgive me if I don’t think it’s funny.
Anyway, aside from all my issues with the novel, I did enjoy it (bet that’s hard to believe now). The dialogue is witty and snappy, the author displays her knowledge of the business of planning a wedding, and it’s really easy to get caught up in. When I wasn’t getting outraged, I was having a little laugh because the back-and-forth between characters is unfailingly witty.
So that’s all on Happy Ever After. The next book I’ll be starting, to give you a little spoiler, is The Bone Cage by Angie Abdou.