Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Book Review (and some other news): Bared to You by Sylvia Day

Hello, book buddies! Guess who's back after yet another months-long unscheduled hiatus? Man, I really need to stop making a habit of those...

So, I guess I have a bit of explaining to do, particularly since 1) my last two reviews were for erotica; 2) this book wasn't even on my reading list; and 3) I'd kinda been talking and talking about how excited I was to have finally finished A Game of Thrones and was all pumped up to get my review of it out and then finally start my City of Bones sporking I've been talking about for what seems like decades. And well, I actually DID write most of my GOT review; it was detailed and thorough and awesome and so close to done... and then I lost it all.

Yep. Gone. Deleted. No more than the first two sentences inexplicably disappeared, despite repeatedly saving my draft before closing Chrome and shutting down my computer to come back to it later. And yes, I do know that I was a dummy for not copying it into Word or Google Docs as a backup, but my anger at myself only compounded on my anger at Blogger and my anxiety over having lost something important to me. So after basically cycling through all five stages of grief and thoroughly beating myself up mentally for my stupidity, I was so despondent that all my enthusiasm for my A Game of Thrones review--and even reviewing in general--completely drained out of me. Any time I entertained the thought of going back and rewriting my review I just felt all my mental energy and motivation immediately get sucked away. And after a while, when I wasn't quite so salty anymore, I would still get stressed out and depressed about it, thinking that it had been too long, that no one would be interested, that I wouldn't remember enough of the book to review it properly (this last one is still a concern of mine, but I'm going to do my best to power through a review of it next time anyway).

I realize that all of this must sound like a bunch of whining and lame excuses, and I'm not trying to say that they're not. But I am trying to give you an idea as to why, with my depression and anxiety issues that I've been dealing with for several years, this isn't always easy for me. And before you call me a quitter, before you say that it's not fair for me to give up on writing because of a few minor setbacks, no, I have not given up on writing. It's taken me three months to get back to a place where I feel confident enough to blog again, but I have been writing. And reading. Mostly reading as, uh, research for what I'm writing. Which is a drama-comedy BDSM erotic romance novel which will hopefully be the first in a series that I hope to self-publish.

Yep, you read that right.
Bet I've got you intrigued now, right? It's working title is Whip Smart, and without giving too much away, it centers around Tera, a 24-year-old sexual submissive who escapes from an emotionally abusive relationship with her Christian Grey-like so-called "dom" ex, moves back to her hometown of Pittsburgh, and decides to open a BDSM club in the city, all while dealing with anxiety, past relationship baggage, and falling for sweet, funny, nerdy Dom Eric who is everything she wants but is afraid to take a chance on. If any of that sounds appealing to you, awesome! If any of you would be interested in beta-reading it once it's finished or even getting an ARC once I'm actually ready to publish, even better! I'd be super honored if even one person--other than YOU, Boyfriend, even though I love you--expressed interest in reading and providing constructive criticism/reviews for my first attempt at an erotic romance novel.

However... it's not ready for reading yet. Not even close. In fact, considering how busy I'll be once grad school starts in the fall, my plan isn't to publish this first book until next October. But, my goal is to have the first draft done or mostly done by the end of this August (or at least this year), so if there is anyone at all who would like a chance to rip my manuscript to shreds, please let me know of your interest in beta-reading in the comments section, on Twitter, or via email at

Right! Where were we? Oh yeah, I've got a bunch of erotic novels I read for "research" to review. Let's dive in, shall we?

Bared to You (Crossfire #1)- Sylvia Day

(WARNING: Spoilers ahead. To read this review with spoilers hidden, check it out on Goodreads. Also, trigger warning for discussion of rape and childhood sexual abuse.)

My Rating: One and a half stars out of five

My Review: Oh man, reading this book was like watching a train wreck in slow motion. I once heard this book described somewhere as Fifty Shades' "hotter, crazier cousin", and whoever it was that said that, I applaud you, because I could never hope to come up with such an amazingly accurate and succinct description. Well, I could dispute the "hotter" part, but it is a hot mess and Day certainly doesn't skimp on the crazy.

Where do I even begin? Well, since this is the "hotter, crazier cousin" of THAT GODDAMNED BOOK, why not go back to the point-by-point analysis of the awfulness I did with those books. Believe me, there's more than enough material to cover.

1.) The Writing- Ah, the writing, always a good place to start when talking about a book, right? Let me preface this by saying that Sylvia Day isn't actually a bad writer. For the most part, her prose does have some technical merit. You can tell that she's somewhat of a seasoned author and that the editor was actually doing their job with this one, unlike SOME BOOKS I could mention. Our protagonist, Eva, has a fairly unique, realistic, and usually non-irritating narrative voice for the most part, albeit with a penchant for melodrama and purple prose, constantly jumping to ridiculous conclusions about things, and some truly whacky turns of phrase when it comes to describing the super increda-hawtness of her and Gideon's oh-so steamy love making. And I did kinda chuckle at this part:

"Establishing parameters in the beginning makes it less likely that there’ll be exaggerated           expectations and disappointment at the conclusion.”

“Are you kidding?” I scowled. “Listen to yourself. Why even call it a fuck? Why not be clear and call it a seminal emission in a preapproved orifice?” 

So while I wasn't exactly going into this book with high expectations (I'd already read the recaps of all four books on Bad Books, Good Times, so I knew what I was getting into), I was pleasantly surprised when it turned out that the prose wasn't really that bad. But then... oh, but then it came time for THE SEX. 

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I present to you Exhibit A:

"His balls were heavy and big, an audacious display of his powerful virility."

And Exhibit B:

"Gideon battered my tender sex with that brutally thick column of rigid flesh..."

Yeah, I probably should've warned you guys not to drink anything while reading these lines. "Battered my tender sex"??? For serious? Is this real life right now? All I could picture when I read that line was Gideon literally whacking Eva repeatedly in the vulva with a comically over-sized dildo.

And don't even get me started on how Gideon is always going on about Eva's "greedy cunt" or how greedy her cunt is for his dick or whatever. Look, I've got nothing against the word "cunt" itself, I just think it's one of those words that only really works in a sexy context as long as it's used pretty sparingly. So having him say "greedy cunt" once isn't all that unsexy, but he says it all the friggin' time and after a while it's just creepy and gross and bleh.

Honestly, it's not like all the sex was that bad, but it was literally all there was to the story and it was basically all the same. I think I actually skipped one or two whole sex scenes and felt like I hadn't missed out on anything. I mean, this is supposed to be BDSM erotica, right? So yeah, waiting around for the kinky stuff to finally show up--which kind of did but also kind of didn't 3/4 of the way in???--got pretty boring... as did waiting around for the PLOT to show up... which also kind of did but kind of didn't? I mean yeah, I guess the central conflict did center around Eva and Gideon working through their psychological baggage and trying to maintain a relationship, but nothing ever really gets resolved, and then in the last two chapters the author suddenly introduces an entirely new conflict and set of characters that weren't ever even fucking mentioned before... which then also gets quickly resolved yet kind of not resolved in the last chapter, so you tell me, what was the point of this entire hot mess?

2.) Let's Do the Time Warp Again!

Oh, how I wish that's what I was referring to...

The "plot" only gets even zanier when you realize just how little time passes in this book. Recently I went back and edited my Fifty Shades Freed review, specifically to add a note explaining that I had been confused about a critical plot point because the compressed timeline of those books fucked with my brain. Well, Bared to You might just give Fifty Shades of Garbage a run for its money in that regard. It's almost like these books are trying to one-up each other when it comes to insta-lust/insta-love ridiculousness.

Let me just give you a quick rundown of Eva and Gideon's sooper speshul One True Love relationship:

1. They meet, Gideon begins a campaign to pressure Eva into a purely sexual relationship with him. After several days of repeatedly telling him no, she gives in.

2. They bang in a limo on a way to a party, which is apparently sooooo gooood that some form of special and deep connection forms between them and it weirds Gideon out so much that he ignores Eva at the party and she gets all upset.

3. Two days later, they have lunch and decide that because they formed a magical luuurve bond or whatever during their limo bangin' that they decide to start dating. Gideon immediately becomes super possessive.

4. By the next day, this is referred to as a "passionate, committed relationship" and Eva thinks she might be falling in love with him. A friend suggests they try going to couple's therapy. After 24 goddamn hours.

5. The day after that, Eva reveals a dark secret from her past, they get into two crazy arguments, agree to try couple's therapy... and by midnight or whatever ambiguously break up.

6. Four days later they get back together, have sex an implausible number of times, and Gideon gives her a "submissive ring", which... it's never really made clear what it means?

7. The day after that, Eva tells Gideon that she loves him, he reacts weirdly and she takes it as a good sign, and then she goes out and buys him a "dominant ring"... whatever that means.

You get the gist of it. So yeah, I think this whole relationship takes place over the course of less than a week, not including the break up and the time before they got together? And that above list doesn't even begin to adequately explain just how fucking crazy this whole relationship is. There's so much drama, so much angst, so much codependency, and so much miscommunication bullshit packed into such a short time span that I it hurts my brain to try and comprehend how two people can live like this and call it "love".

How in the world is this shit considered to be any kind of romantic ideal? If anyone out there can tell me the secret to reading these kinds of books without wanting to scream/laugh/throw my computer out the window I'd really love to know.

3.) Gideon Cross is Fucking NutsoWell, there's one thing the fans and I can agree upon: Christian Grey has nothing on Gideon Cross! He rich, insanely hot, possessive, creepy, controlling, brooding, mercurial, with a tortured, damaged soul... wait, isn't that exactly like Christian? Oh no, dear readers, Gideon Motherfucking Cross is much, much more than that; he's also far crazier than you could possibly imagine. Swoon! Totes my dream guy. Back off, bitches, he's mine!

That's a sarcastic sploosh, in case you couldn't tell.
Gideon has to be one of the craziest, creepiest, romantic "heroes" I've ever come across. Right from the very beginning he's a fucking nutjob who's got stalking and sexual coercion down to a science, to the point where it almost seems like he practically gets off on treating such matters like coldly logical business transactions. The various wackdoodle things he does in the name of getting to fuck Eva only get more insane as the book goes on. If I had to pick just one quote to illustrate my point, it would have to be this:

"I recreated your room based on the photo I took of you sleeping."


Well, context matters, right? But considering the context in this case is that Gideon recreated Eva's bedroom in his apartment over the course of their 4-day breakup from their 2-day relationship--BTW, he insisted that they "never broke up" and that they would "never be over", creepy much?--in order to give her a "safe space" to keep her from leaving him any time she needed personal space to think about their relationship? Yeah, doesn't exactly make it better. Oh, and this also gets revealed right after the part where Gideon TELLS Eva that she's a submissive. Um, rude much? If I was Eva, nothing would make me madder than having my boyfriend tell me about my own sexuality.

Oh, and he's always telling Eva to shut up, too. Ok, maybe not ALWAYS, but in a story about two people who are supposed to be falling in love I feel like just one time is too many. Plus, you know, the "greedy cunt" thing.

4.) Bisexual Stereotypes: Fun for the Whole Family!- I hate pretty much everyone in this book, but I have a special kind of hatred for the character of Cary Taylor, Eva's bisexual male roommate and best friend. Full disclosure: I'm not bi, but bisexual people being treated as either nonexistent or as a big joke in fiction is something that really pisses me off.

What makes it even worse is that Cary starts off as a decent friend to Eva and a reasonably likable character, as well as kind of implied to be gay? I think? It's hard to tell when Cary comments to Eva that a guy he's dating is worried that Cary might be "bi-curious", but then the author soon makes it clear-ish that Cary is in fact bisexual by having him hook up with a chick... and therefore cheating on the guy he's dating. So either Day originally intended for Cary to be gay in an earlier draft and forgot to change that part later, or Cary lied to his boyfriend about only being into dudes. And then of course by the end of the book he goes completely off the rails, whines like a fucking child when Eva calls him out on his cheating, and ends up having a surprise orgy in their apartment while Eva's not home.

WTF, Sylvia Day? See, this is exactly what pisses me off, the fact that bi people are seen as acceptable targets for jokes and lame plot lines like this because of the stereotype that they're all just greedy, selfish "sluts" who can't remain faithful to just one person. Oh sure, the narrative pays some lip service to the main characters being chill with the gay and bisexual side characters in the story, but you barely need to scratch the surface to uncover the ugly undercurrents of prejudice. Cary's by far the biggest example, but there are other moments, too, such as when Gideon and Eva are discussing their potential relationship and being monogamous with each other. Gideon mentions that he somehow knows her roommate is bi and wonders if she is, too, with the implication being that bisexuality and monogamy are mutually exclusive.

Like, what's even the point of having all of this in here? Why bring it up? Why do you have to drag bisexuality into this? Gah, it's like all that lame bullshit about Christian being TOTALLY NOT GAY in Fifty Shades all over again...

5.) The Obligatory Point in the Story Where I Almost Rage-Quit Reading It- It happened in Fifty Shades of Shit with the pregnancy plot line; here, it was the totally tasteless and insensitive handling of Eva's reveal of her tragic backstory. So, throughout the first half of the book it had been hinted at that Eva had suffered some kind of sexual trauma in her past, which she irritatingly refers to as "juicy dirt" which could somehow embarrass Gideon if it ever came to light, so she's afraid to tell him what it is, but feels obligated to so he won't find out from someone else first. Now, to his credit, Gideon actually has an appropriate human reaction when she reveals the horrifying and sad details about how she was repeatedly raped by her stepbrother for years as a child, saying that embarrassment is the farthest thing from what he's feeling. But just when you think the characters are learning, just when you think Day might actually pull through and treat this difficult subject with the tact and sensitivity it deserves, it all falls apart spectacularly and it quickly becomes apparent that the whole dramatic scene was just a setup for more angsting followed by more fucking followed by more angsty fucking.

It's actually kind of impressive how quickly it derails into melodramatic nonsense. Day wastes no time getting right into the drama, with Eva's first thought immediately after telling her rape story being "OMG the spark of lust is gone from Gideon's eyes and now he only feels pity for me and he doesn't want me any moooooreeeee!!!" See what I mean about her jumping to conclusions?  Even Gideon's completely baffled that she immediately jumped to that after giving him all of about two seconds to let her story sink in. But Day doesn't waste time letting Gideon being a reasonable human being for once in his life either, not when that precious time is time they could be spending having sex! Yep, that's right! Because everyone knows that there's no better way to reassure your girlfriend that you're still sexually attracted to her after learning about her history of sexual abuse than whipping out your dick, shouting "IS THIS HARD ENOUGH FOR YOU?" (actual line of dialogue spoken by Gideon Cross) and going at it like rabbits.

Then again, Eva and Gideon's relationship is 100% based on them fucking, so why should have I expected anything different? Silly me, getting my hopes up that this book would be able to have two characters communicate about their problems and work through their trauma together in a sensitive, reasonable way. And it's not like I'm saying that you can't have a scene in which a couple has sex in the aftermath of something tragic and have it be emotional and cathartic and appropriate to the situation, you absolutely can if it's done right. But this? This isn't the way to do it. At all.

This is basically just the shortlist of what's wrong with Bared to You; I have a whole bunch of minor issues that I could go on about, but I'm a little exhausted from getting all of this out of my system. I'll give Sylvia Day that extra half star for being a far better writer than E.L. James, but that's about the extent of the praise you'll hear from me about this book.


Phew! Glad I got all that out. Again, thank you so much for putting up with my sporadic posts on this blog. I just hope I can make it worth your time whenever I do get around to writing these reviews. You guys are the best! Hopefully it'll be only a week or less before I can get another post out, and hopefully next time it will be my A Game of Thrones review. 

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