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review 2018-09-15 19:22
Color of Grace (Cost of Repairs #2)
Color of Grace - A.M. Arthur

Warning: Grumpy review ahead.

 

Don't let my rating or review sway you from reading the book. Most of the issues I had with it are of the personal taste variety. And one thing at the very end that ticked me off. ... Two things. ... Maybe three things, lol.

 

The writing is strong, and Barrett and Schuyler (pronounced Skylar) are interesting characters who despite their various flaws and hangups might just be perfect for each other. I didn't completely feel the love connection between them, since half of their "relationship development" that took place seemed to happen in the bedroom. But when we did get actual relationship development, it was pretty well done.

 

Since it's been so long since I read the first book in this series - and the primary thing I remember about it was that ridiculous drama-ridden fourth act - I didn't recall if I had issues with Schuyler or not. I know there was a reason I initially decided to skip this one, but lord help me if I can remember it now, lol.

 

I should have listened to my former self.

 

For the most part, I really liked Barrett and Schuyler, and there was certainly enough there in their backgrounds that could have made a truly compelling story, but most of what we get is a watered down contemporary romance that doesn't distinguish itself from the mainstream m/m genre. Barrett had the most interesting background, so of course we only get snatches of it. Schuyler's backstory is... well...

 

Ok, so Schuyler's cousin, Matty, drowned in the lake when they were teens. Schuyler was there when it happened. He drinks himself into oblivion every year on the anniversary, blaming himself for what happened. For 85% of the book, that's all we know about it. Then we find out a couple of Matty's friends were also there. And then it just gets stupid because

despite every indication that Danny is seriously unstable, Schuyler decides to just drive down to the lake when Danny leaves a note on his car requesting a meeting with him there. Without telling anyone where he's going. Or who he's going to meet.

 

So he drives down there like a buffoon and confronts Danny, who is upset that Schuyler still exists. And then we find out what really happened that fateful night: Danny started bullying Schuyler for being gay, taunting him to kiss Danny's girlfriend - why the girlfriend was all for this idea, who knows; she's incidental to the story and never appears on page except as a blurry fuzzy afterthought on this backstory - all because ... wait for it ... Danny's also gay, but in the closet and hates himself for it. So of course he HAS to bully Schuyler for also being gay. And of COURSE his teen self has to attack teen Schuyler for being around and TEMPTING him and making him feel his horrible gay feelings. And of COURSE Matty ends up in the lake during this fight and no one notices until it's too late and Matty was too drunk to get himself out of the lake on his own.

 

And that's how Matty died. And that's why Schuyler blames himself. Because showing up when Matty asked him to come and having Danny bully him clearly makes it his fault. (Guilt isn't logical, I know that, but still. Put the blame where it belongs.)

 

But that's not all! Danny isn't torn up about accidentally knocking his friend into the lake and killing him. NO! He's been tormented all these years by his gay feelings. That's what keeps him up at night. That's why he's so maladjusted. That's why he's a walking blowhole.

 

So naturally, since he's got this horrible crush on Schuyler he's got to call present-day Schuyler down to the lake, then ask him why he was always around back them - um, because Matty was his cousin????? - and attacks him again!

 

And then - AND THEN - after all this goes down and Schuyler's released from the hospital and Danny's locked up, Schuyler finally sits down to tell his aunt Dixie, Matt's mom, what actually happened that night 15 years ago. AND WE DON'T GET DIXIE'S REACTION! We just go from him saying "There's something I need to tell you" to jumping six weeks ahead to the epilogue so Schuyler can get a fracking tattoo to memorialize Matty. You know, that's sweet and all, though why he'd want angel wings made out of water to remember how his cousin died is beyond me. You know what I wanted to know though: What did Dixie say or do when she found out? It's only her son that she lost, right? Her one and only child. So who cares what she thinks about all this. (We also don't get Barrett's reaction but his really doesn't matter here.)

 

AND THEN Schuyler doesn't even press charges. And neither does Dixie apparently, so the only thing that happens to Danny is he has to go to therapy for a few months and do some community service. Oh, and he's getting a divorce. Oh, and Danny's therapist thinks it would be a really good idea for Schuyler to go and see Danny again so Danny can get closure. ... HE NEARLY BEAT A MAN TO DEATH BUT HE DESERVES CLOSURE.

 

 

And of COURSE Schuyler is an absolute saint about all of this. Why should he be angry about nearly dying? Or all those years he was bullied as a teen? And all those years he was scared into silence about that night Matty drowned because Danny threatened him?

Thank God we didn't get a scene of him actually going to see Danny again, so there's that.

(spoiler show)

 

So anyway, all that aside this was a decent read. Except that 20% in the middle of the book that had practically three or four sex scenes in a row. I ended up skipping most of that. I did like the one toward the end though, before all the stupid happened.

 

I might be rating this too highly, lol. But I didn't hate all of it, and most of it was decent, and some of it was even nice and sweet. So 2.5 stars it is.

 

P.S. You can't open both eyes wide when one of them is swollen shut.

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review 2018-09-14 21:11
Truly Madly Stupidly
Truly Madly Guilty - Liane Moriarty

This book made me want to stab something. 

 

Nobody in it was likeable except Tiffany the former stripper and her husband Vid, who spoke like Gru. Everyone else acted like elementary schoolers. The passive aggressiveness, the snide comments, the two-faced behavior. Nothing spoke of adults. And the children were monsters, with the exception of Dakota who didn't have much of a personality at all.

 

The plot was so transparent I could see my hand through it. I had it figured out within about 50 pages. Nothing makes me angrier than a short story that was stuffed to make a novel. This was a prime example. Too much cliche plot filler, too much fluff, too much everything. And none of it was even good. This should have been a novella of max 40 pages. Not 400. Your eyes just glaze after a while. And with the audiobook, it JUST. KEPT. GOING. Every time I thought it was done, it pulled a Return of the King, and popped back up. God. 

 

Yes, this was a overhyped popular book with little substance, one-dimensional characters and a plot any middle grade could see.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-09-08 04:11
Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus
Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus - Barbara Park,Denise Brunkus

Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus by Barbara Park is a very engaging book for young readers where students can relate to the main character Junie B. Jones. Junie B. has her first day of Kindergarten and has to ride the school bus to school, which Junie B. does not enjoy.  At the end of the day, instead of going home on the bus, Junie B. hides in the school causing lots of chaos.  Junie B. eventually agrees to ride the school bus if she gets to be with a friend.  Julie B. Jones is very clever, but still has many lessons to learn.  This book would go well with teaching the importance of rules, especially those enforced at school.  Using Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus, teachers could have students help make classroom rules and specifically point out dismissal rules at the end of the day.  The Fountas and Pinnell text level for Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus is Level M (Grades 3 and 4).  

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text 2018-08-30 04:34
Update on the power pole -- yes, I'm screaming

Further update at the end of this, so you don't have to wade through the comments.

 

 

The new power pole was installed two weeks ago.  On the Thursday after the installation, I went to the cable company office and explained to them that they needed to move their lines from the old pole to the new one.  I explained that I would not be home on Friday, but I would be here all day Monday, all day Tuesday.  They entered all of this information into the computer and said they would call before confirming the appointment.

 

They had all of my account information because I was in the office to pay the bill.  They had the bill.  I gave them my address again.  I gave them my phone number again.  Before I had left the office, I received the automated text message that my payment had been applied.

 

The following week, I waited until Wednesday because had received no call from them on either Monday or Tuesday.  So I called again.  I explained everything again and was told they would call to schedule.  I still received no call.  That was last week.  So this past Monday, I called again.  This time I was angry.  I did not use any bad language, but I was not nice.  The best I could get from them was that they would have someone here on Wednesday, between 8:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m.

 

I reiterated - as I have every single time - that because I have dogs and a locked gate, it is absolutely imperative that they give me a minimum of 30 minutes advance notice of their arrival.  I need that time to sequester the dogs, unlock the gate, or whatever.  I do not sit here excitedly anticipating their arrival.  Sometimes I might have to go to the bathroom or something.

 

I warned them repeatedly, do not show up in the driveway and THEN call me.  If the dogs are out, it will be that much more difficult to corral them.  I need 30 minutes advance warning.  Period.

 

So here it is Wednesday.  I overslept, but I had the phone in bed with me, so if they had called it would have wakened me.  I was up by 8:40 anyway.  I had things to do that I put off - like changing the toilet valve - so that I could pay attention to the phone for their call.

 

I had also given them explicit instructions to leave a message if I didn't answer.  They utilize contractors for a lot of this work, and they have their own phones. I don't answer calls from unidentified numbers, so I did my best to impress on the customer service people that they have to leave a message.

 

Today I got exactly one phone call.  It was a spam call.  They did not leave a message.

 

At 3:00, BF decided he wanted to go out to eat.  We would leave the house around 5:00 and be back around 6:30.  We would never be more than 15 minutes from the house, so if/when the cable people called, there would be ample time to get home.

 

They didn't call.

 

We didn't leave until 5:20.  We finished eating and headed home about 6:30.  There had been no call from the cable company.  BUT THEIR TRUCK WAS SITTING IN THE DRIVEWAY.

 

We pulled in and I jumped out of the car to open the gate so the technician could drive in.  Instead, he drove away!  I pulled out my phone to see if somehow I had missed the call, but there had been no call.  While I was looking at the phone, it rang; the caller ID said it was coming from New York.  I am in Arizona.  I almost didn't answer it, but on the chance it was the cable company, I did.

 

It was them.  I told them I had been no more than five minutes away at any time (a slight lie) but that it didn't matter because they had never called!  And by then their technician had already left!

 

Well, she called him back and he came in and it was almost dark and he was dressed in shorts and a tee shirt and didn't look like much of a technician. 

 

Originally, there were three different service lines on the pole: electricity, phone, and tv/internet cable.  SRP, the power company, moved their lines when they installed the new pole.  I had to contact the cable company, since that's my service.  And because my neighbor is elderly and doesn't deal with this stuff very well, I took it upon myself to take responsibility for the phone lines even though I don't have a landline any more.  The pole is on my side of the fence anyway.

 

The guy from the cable company didn't seem to know exactly what he was supposed to do.  He thought he had to drop a whole new line from the pole on the street, and he was going to need another person and another truck to do that.  I explained -- and he observed -- that all that needed to be done was move the existing line from the old pole to the new one.  He said he could do that himself.

 

Twenty or so minutes later, he had unhooked the cable lines from the old pole and moved them over to the new pole.  It looked like he was actually moving the phone lines instead, but when he had finished I confirmed with him that he had indeed only moved the cable ones.  He said that there was actually a cable to the neighbor's house, even though apparently she doesn't have cable tv.  (She's had satellite service ever since I've been here, though she may have had cable tv before.)

 

He said he didn't touch the phone lines.

 

Okay, fine.

 

By this time it was almost full dark.  The dogs hadn't been out yet, and there was still the worry about snakes, so we wanted to get them outside to potty before it got completely dark.  BF came out and took a quick look at the poles, and both of us immediately realized the job wasn't done.

 

 

This is the old pole, before the new pole was installed.  The orange wire visible at the bottom is the tv/internet cable.  It is attached all the way up the pole to the top, where along with the electric and phone service it comes in from the pole at the street, as you can kind of see here below.

 

 

The neighbor's lines all go from the top of the pole directly to her house.  All of the lines to my house come down the pole and are buried underground the rest of the way to the house.

 

He didn't move the cable off the old pole except at the top.  It's still attached all the way down the pole.

 

I have to call them tomorrow and go through it all over again.

 

Thursday update:

 

They hung up on me twice.

 

I had to go through the whole recitation of everything that happened THREE TIMES.  Their "technician" had filed a false report about what happened last night; he claimed he called and no one responded to open the gate, but he in fact did not call nor did he leave a message.  When the cable company DID call, I was already home.

 

The first person who hung up on me insisted that the technician had done what he was supposed to do:  transfer the line.  When I tried to explain that there was still wire attached to the old pole, the customer service person had no clue what I was talking about.  I demanded to talk to a supervisor.  Instead of connecting me as promised, she disconnected me.

 

The second person who hung up on me told me it wasn't the cable company's responsibility to change the wires; it was the power company's.  I told her no no no no no no and asked to speak to a supervisor.  The supervisor told me she was checking to see if/when a technician would be available.  She put me on hold and I never heard another thing.

 

I called the power company to verify that it was indeed my responsibility to contact the other service providers.  She said she'd call me back.  I haven't heard from them yet.

 

While I was on the phone with the power company, I got a text message but I couldn't get to it.

 

The third time I called at the cable company I got an automated message that I was scheduled for a maintenance call this afternoon.  Never mind that no one had confirmed that schedule with me.  When I finally got hold of an actual person, she reiterated that the technician who was out last night had completed the job and there was nothing else they could do.  I demanded again to speak to a supervisor, since one person was saying there was nothing they could do but SOMEONE had scheduled me for a maintenance call!

 

The supervisor had no clue what was going on.  I had already gone through this three times.  I was on the edge of serious tears.  Another call came in and I was pretty sure it was someone from either the cable company or the power company.

 

This time it was another technician and he was on his way.  He got here 10 minutes later.  I had to explain everything all over again while he looked at it and told me the lines had been moved and he didn't know what else was supposed to be done.

 

"Hello?" I said.  "This line that's coming up from under the ground and is still connected to the old pole is supposed to be connected to the new pole.  Is this so difficult to understand?"

 

The old pole is getting more and more fragile, by the way.  I took more pictures this morning and it's leaning pretty bad.

 

Well, he finally figured out what had to be done, and about 45 minutes later the line was moved.  I still have to deal with the phone company, and I'm not even a customer any more so that ought to be fun and a half.

 

Now I have to pick up some groceries, then replace the toilet valve.  It's gonna be a fun day.

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text 2018-08-28 01:35
Would I do it again? Absolutely, even knowing the price. (very long rant)
The Hepburn - Jan Westcott

If you've been following the current brouhaha on Twitter regarding alleged plagiarism and dishonesty of promoting one's own books and what is or isn't ethical, you'll maybe recognize the source for this. 

 

One of the tweets this morning was about a perceived culture in which Romancelandia tends to overtly deplore dishonorable actions but maintains a telling silence when certain dishonorable actions are committed by certain untouchable writers.  If the accusation is made by a lesser light (or an Unknown!) of a Big Name Author, the accuser is automatically dismissed.  If the BNA is big in Romance Writers of America, the sweeping under the rug can be painfully obvious.

 

There is also a tendency for those who are the dismissed accusers to believe that they are alone, that no one ever comes to their defense. It's a horrible feeling, and I know because I've been there.  More than once.

 

The big example, the one I point to frequently, pertains to the linked novel, The Hepburn, written by Jan Westcott.  I happen to have two copies.  I read it for the first time in the mid-1960s, not long after I read Leslie Turner White's Lord Johnnie

 

The main character of The Hepburn is not Patrick Hepburn; it's Jane Gordon, who is given in marriage against her will to the eponymous hero.  Jane is "fiesty," and independent and not afraid to speak her mind or even physically confront this man she sees as her mortal enemy.  In a lot of ways, she's not much different from Leanna Somerset, the heroine of Lord Johnnie, or any of the other strong female characters in the historical romances written by men in the 1930s through 1960s.  But Jane is the main character.  Did Westcott's publisher require the book be titled after the male lead because of market expectations?  I don't know.  I just know that Jane is the main character; this is her story, not Patrick's.

 

This sidebar on The Hepburn is by way of explaining why it meant so much to me and therefore how I knew, that Sunday afternoon in 1990, something horrible had happened.

 

I was on my way to the airport after the 1990 RWA national conference in San Francisco.  Sharing the taxi with me were authors Connie Flynn and Pat Potter.  Connie was a friend from my local RWA chapter in Phoenix; I didn't know Pat at all.  But it was Pat who asked if we had heard the rumors going around about a major instance of plagiarism.  We hadn't, so she explained that apparently Zebra superstar author Sylvie Sommerfield had copied parts of some old book called . . . The Hepburn.

 

"The Hepburn?"  I gasped.  "By Jan Westcott?  That's one of my favorite books of all time!"

 

I bought a copy of Sommerfield's Fires of Surrender when I landed at the airport in Phoenix.  I recognized familiar passages immediately.  Not just here and there but throughout the book.  And that was before I got home and could compare it to the original.

 

When I did, I was horrified. 

 

Samples are here on my external blog; I'll try to get some better scans later and post them here.

 

There was no question that the Sommerfield book was an infringement.  The following Monday morning, I contacted Romantic Times magazine.  They were skeptical.  I mailed them photocopies of selected pages.

 

Eventually the stories came out from Sommerfield.  First it was that she had been under extreme deadline pressure and had hired an assistant to help her with research.  The assistant took notes and Sommerfield was so impressed that she incorporated those notes into her manuscript.  Then the story changed to the manuscript was written by a hired ghostwriter, and it was all the ghostwriter's fault.  None of that made any difference of course, because the infringement was just too obvious. 

 

And Westcott was still alive. 

 

Eventually a settlement was reached, though the details were never released to my knowledge.  The speculation was that Zebra/Kensington, who had published Fires of Surrender, turned over all the royalties to Westcott. 

 

Without digging into my personal archives, I'm not sure whether Sommerfield resigned from RWA at that time or not.  RWA did not have any means to expel members who committed plagiarism or infringement, but the Sommerfield event did prompt the organization to write expulsion terms into the RWA by-laws.

 

That was 1990.  I was a nobody.  I had published one book with Leisure, one with Pageant, and had just sold my first title to Zebra shortly before that 1990 conference.  No one knew who I was.  No one cared.

 

That was 1990.  I was a nobody.  No one knew who I was.  No one cared.

 

And pretty much for most of the past 28 years, that's what I believed.  Until this morning.

 

This morning I remembered another instance when I had called out plagiarism/infringement.  And suddenly, for the first time in decades, some things made a little more sense.

 

In 1982, before I had ever even heard of RWA, I came across an article in The Writer magazine that really hit home with me.  It became my bible as a writer.  I shared it with my penpals.  When I did join RWA in 1984, I shared it with everyone I encountered.  I never claimed it as my own.  I gave the author full credit.

 

 

 

 

It's 2018 now.  I still have that February 1982 issue of The Writer.  I scanned these two pages (there are two more as well) this afternoon.

 

In March 1988, the following article appeared in the official RWA magazine, RWA Report.  Yes, I still have the magazine.  I scanned these two pages this afternoon.

 

 

 

 

For six years I had been promoting Shelly Lowenkopf's article, giving him 100% full credit for it.  I distilled a dozen points from it, printed them on a card, and pinned that card over my desk, but even that carried the appropriate attribution.

 

I was stunned by Ginna Gray's article.  Stunned, shocked, appalled.  I ran out of words.

 

I reported it.

 

Nothing happened.

 

I have a fat folder in the top drawer of my big filing cabinet. That folder contains all the documentation of my attempts to get to the bottom of Ginna Gray's copying from Shelly Lowenkopf's excellent article.  That fat folder contains the originals of the two magazines and the correspondence I undertook.  Some of my reporting was done by telephone, and I don't have recordings of those calls.  But I do still have the written correspondence, some of it printed on my first dot matrix printer.

 

 

 

 

 

A few days later, I got this reply:

 

 

 

Ms.Cresswell did call me regarding the official response to my communication, but I did not receive any further written notice from her.  She reported in her call that Ms. Gray was shocked and shamed and offered the excuse that she had received the information as a hand-out at another conference and incorporated it into her article.  Essentially, nothing was done.  Nothing.

 

That was 1988.  I was nobody.

 

In 1989, I brought the Ginna Gray episode up in a letter to another RWA official as part of longer letter on a variety of issues.  Again, I received a phone call, but nothing was put in writing to me.  According to my notes on this call, everything regarding Ginna Gray was discussed in secret RWA executive board session and special permission had been obtained to even give me what little bit of information I got.  Ultimately, however, the RWA board of directors did nothing.  No vague warnings were published in the RWR about not "borrowing" someone else's writing, whether fiction or non-fiction, without proper attribution.

 

So then came 1990 and the Sylvie Sommerfield mess, and I was right smack dab in the middle of that, too.  And I felt guilty.  I felt guilty about reporting Ginna Gray and I felt guilty about reporting Sylvie Sommerfield.  But no one else was.

 

By the summer of 1991, the Sommerfield thing had blown over or been settled, and I assumed the Ginna Gray thing had been dealt with, too.  I made plans to attend the national conference that summer, held in New Orleans.  When I saw that Ginna Gray was scheduled to deliver one of the workshops and that it was titled "Great Beginnings," I had a bad feeling in my gut.  I considered calling the conference chair about it, but I shrugged it off.  I was already in enough trouble with RWA.  So I said nothing.

 

But I did attend Ginna Gray's workshop.

 

This was 1991.  I was nobody.

 

Ginna Gray used even more of Shelly Lowenkopf's article, verbatim, in her 1991 workshop than she had in the 1988 article.  I purchased the official cassette recording of the workshop and transcribed it.  There was no doubt in my mind that she had copied.

 

Against my better judgment, I reported it again.  I included copies of previous correspondence as well as the transcript I had made of the tape.  Once again, nothing happened, other than I was told to stop harassing everyone.  I was told Ginna Gray had done nothing wrong.  I was told I was the one in trouble.

 

It didn't take long for me to locate Shelly Lowenkopf.  I took the drastic step of contacting him and giving him the details.  We had a long phone conversation, and then I received the following letter from him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nothing happened.  RWA did nothing.  When Janet Dailey infringed on her friend Nora Roberts in 1995 or so, RWA did nothing.  (Dailey was not a current member at the time, so there wasn't much they could do other than decline to continue to grant her "Janet Dailey" award.)

 

I have other documents in my fat file folder that take the issue into the late 1990s and my departure from RWA.  Those documents aren't quite as relevant, but I have them.

 

Why did I keep all of it for well over 30 years?  I'm not sure.  I guess it's because I'm a mean person, maybe vindictive and vicious.  I've never denied that I can be self-righteous, and I can certainly be stubborn.

 

But this latest bullshit with authors "lifting" from other authors and lying about it and shrugging it off as nothing, and then other authors coming along and shrugging it off because it's not really, technically, precisely plagiarism because it's just common tropes and blah, blah, blah, well, that just got to me.  And it reminded me this morning that maybe my persistence over Ginna Gray -- who I believe is a charter member of RWA, one of the original group that met in the bank basement in Houston and formed the organization -- played a larger part in my being a kind of persona non grata in the organization.  Because the vaunted sisterhood of romance writers is, after all, bullshit.

 

I offer no apologies.  I offer only the evidence.

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