Monday, October 20, 2008

Gena Showalter 'The Darkest Pleasure'

Having recently read an amazingly articulate argument as to why reviewers should not couch their reviews in self deprecating terms like, 'maybe it's just me', or 'you might like it but it's just not my thing' I'm a little daunted as I begin this latest review. My favorite romance genre is certainly historical but I'm pretty open to the paranormals as well. This third book in the Lords of the Underworld series was mediocre. I do think the first fourth of the book was a slog for me due in large part to my jumping into the series with the third book. But then I got caught up in a little of the mystery of the plot and more importantly, would these two overcome their difficulties and 'get together in the end?'

So complaints: convoluted world building since we have real mythologies woven into created mythologies; greek gods, titans, pandora's box, heaven and hell. One dimensional characters, especially our hero's view of our heroine, yikes, if he mentioned her fragile angelic beauty and glowing white tresses one more time, ugh. The internal/emotional difficulties preventing our couple from being together sort of evaporate, or never materialize. This is not a riveting way to resolve what is supposed to be a major aspect of the book.

What I liked: the external-to-couple plot was mildly interesting and was effectively resolved yet continued for purposes of the series. The hero is suitably alpha and totally devoted to the heroine in that 'must have you, you are my destiny' sort of way. There are a lot of gorey descriptions that don't result in death, since these guys are immortal within reason, which was fun in an entertaining unrealistic violence sort of way. And how else do I put it, the sex was hot.

Overall, what's the word I'm looking for? Meh.

Paranormal Romance 2008: 2.5 of 5 self inflicted stab wounds.


Anonymous said...

Nice link to the article about subjectivity in book reviews. Coincidentally, we were just talking about that in our household after reading a different blog complaining about how literary criticism is all subjective.

That dismissal always annoys me and it seems so insulting to those writers who carefully craft their art. Clearly, some writing is pure dreck and there's little subjectivity about recognizing it as such. (And presumably, writers who can't even construct a sentence won't get a print publication.) Thoughtful readers, particularly those with experience in a specific genre, can develop a criteria that separates the grain from the chaff. Now admittedly, that criteria may vary from person to person, but that doesn't mean those viewpoints have absolutely no merit.

On a related note, it was never a great opening when a student of mine would come with a grade complaint and say "Well, it's all just subjective." Sure, there's always a degree of subjectivity in grading. But I think students would be surprised about how clearly papers can fall into the A, B and C categories, especially when you've read at least 140 papers per semester over many years. (There are, admittedly, agonizing moments over those borderline grades though.) And really, if you're going to quibble over your grade, don't start out by dismissing your instructor's criteria or judgment--duh!

Anyway, thanks for the thought-provoking topic!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the linkage and the compliment! I wasn't trying to deny that there are subjective elements of reviews, only that there's more to it than that.

But your post also makes me think that the claim that there is at least some objective component of reviews implies that reader-reviewers should really think about what they write. I hadn't thought about it that way before, so thanks!

I have wanted to try Showalter, but your review suggests this is not the right one to pick!

Heloise said...

Glad I engaged you, Anne. I thought the link laid out the arguments on both sides really well. (You go, Jessica.)

It made me think about what I'm doing here as well. I do think that the subjectivity component of genre fiction review is higher than non-genre fiction review, since it relies a lot on familiar triggers to engage readers emotions. But I'm way to disgusted by the "loved this book so much" reviews all over the web to think I'm not looking for some objectivity as well.

Not being a writer, I'm embarrassingly aware of my limitations as a reviewer; grammar, not my strong point. I'm often frustrated by my inability to pin down what about someone's writing style is driving me insane. However, I do think over the years I've gained a pretty good bead on well executed character development.

So I try to be honest about my personal 'triggers' (things I enjoy even if smeared all over with silliness) and my own limitations in evaluation ability (hmm, is that third person omniscient or fourth dimensional perspiration?) And hopefully that allows people to get a feel for how they might respond to a book I'm describing.

Or, I just try to be funny to amuse my friends who are nice enough to read this blog. :)