Saturday, December 30, 2006

Dance of the Gods, pt. 1

by Nora Roberts
pgs. 1-124

Dance of the Gods is the second book in the Nora Roberts Circle trilogy. Like many of the popular new romance writers on the market today, Roberts has apparently decided to try her hand at the dark vampire romance genre. And, like most of the reviewers on, I have decided that Roberts should stick with what she does best and leave the paranormal romance writing to such heavyweights as Christine Feehan, Laurell K. Hamilton, and Angela Roberts, just to name a small few.

Roberts is well-known for her prolific writing. In fact, she has so many books on the market today under her own name and under her psudonym J.D. Robb that her new books come with a special logo so that fans don’t confuse them with books she’s already published. I myself have been a long-time Roberts fan which is perhaps why her characters are beginning to seem as if they have less depth than they did in earlier writing. The characters in The Circle Trilogy are a prime example.

I want to like these characters. I want to empathize with these characters. I want to care what happens to these characters. But I don’t, not really. I seems as if Roberts is so out of her depth in this area that she concentrates so hard on making the vampires and the goddesses, and the witches, and the sorcerers, and the shape-shifters seem plausible that she leaves herself little time to work on that little thing called “character development.” These characters are so flat they border on being just plain boring. As a reader, I’m on the outside looking in when where I should be, is on he inside looking about. Simply put, thus far, The Circle Trilogy lacks the main draw of her other books, which has always been the strength of her character’s personalities.

I guess, by now you’re asking why I’m even bothering to read the second installment of a disappointing trilogy. Why didn’t I just stop after the first book Morrigan’s Cross? Because, damnit, I’m curious. The story isn’t bad – it’s Nora Roberts, after all – it’s just lacking her usual sure hand. Besides that, the only character I’m really curious about is Cian, who’s story isn’t told until the last book Valley of Silence. Unfortunately, I have to get through Dance of the Gods before my curiosity is satisfied. It isn’t a trial but it isn’t the most pleasurable reading either.

The story is essentially: blah, blah, fight, blah, blah, fight some more, sex, blah, blah, fall in love, fight, some more blah, blah, the end. Well, I haven’t made it to the end yet but it’s the pattern Morrigan’s Cross followed and it’s the same pattern Dance of the Gods seems to be following pretty well. I stopped in the middle some blah, blah between Larkin, the shape-shifter, and Blair, the Eve Dallas-derivative (see J.D. Robb’s In Death series) to write this installment. I guess I’ll get back to it now. I sense some sex on the horizon, which will probably be just as bland as the characters. That was mean, wasn’t it? I don’t take it back.

The Story of Me, pt. 1

by J.S. Peyton
pgs. 1-3

It's discouraging to discover that what I am doing, or rather in this case, what I have only just started trying to do is already being done by someone else. Not only that, but that someone else is doing it much better than I could ever do it. I have no illusions that my little book blog is in no way one of a kind. After all, there is no shortage of opinions in the world and a quick navigation to will reveal that there are a plethora of people only-too eager to share their opinion on books with the world. And then there are the professional critics who make a living, however wanting, offering their studied criticism up for consumption in stately publications such as The New Yorker and The New York Review of Books.

But I had hoped that, even if certain elements of my blog couldn't be original, at least my unique combination of such elements would be. Sigh, no such luck. Only yesterday, as I'm browsing in Olsson's, a D.C.-based indie bookstore, I come across Housekeeping vs. The Dirt: Fourteen Months of Massively Witty Adventures in Reading by Nick Hornby. Shit. But I don't really like Nick Hornby. His book How to Be Good was one of the few books I never bothered to finish and I gladly gave it away to a used bookstore, which is something I never do. This book, however, is a collection of essays and every writer deserves a second chance, I figure. So I open it up and what do I see? He has, at the beginning of every section, a list of books he bought and of books he read for every month of 2005.

Double shit. It is at this point that I realize that I am essentially holding my blog, in print, written by an author who, as the cover his book so kindly tells me, was the National Book Critics Circle finalist for criticism. Great. Just great. Disgusted, I went to buy it and then realized that I didn't have any money. Even more disgusted (I get testy when I can't afford to buy books), I returned to my apartment in a piss-poor mood, talked dispassionately on the phone for a while, then rouded out the night by burying my nose in a book until finally, I dozed off.

Today, I have just returned from Kramerbooks, another fabulous indie bookstore, where I bought, unethusiastically, Hornby's book, in addition to Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading by Maureen Corrigan (another obsessive reader), and Empires of the World: A Language History of the World by Nicholas Ostler. I bought the first two, because even as it depresses me by reminding me of how unoriginal and inexperienced I really am, maybe, please God, I'll learn a thing or two. Perhaps by reading the masters, I'll learn how to write like one.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

The 48 Laws of Power, pt. 2

by Robert Greene
Laws 14 – 18

I don’t know if the editors of the 48 Laws of Power did it by design or not, but the Laws are certainly getting progressively more interesting. I’m beginning to feel as if I should apologize for my earlier dismissal but it’s early yet and I haven’t even gotten half-way through the book. Let it be sufficient for me to say that I am certainly beginning to read The 48 Laws of Power with more respectful eyes.

I still stand by my earlier statement that attaining “Master”-status power is too much ruthless work. But oh, what interesting reading it doth make. One of the stories I have made it my business to remember is that of Wu Chao, daughter of a duke and member of the emperor’s royal harem (from Law 15: Crush You Enemy Totally). The story of this woman’s rise to power is absolutely amazing. She begins by seducing the emperor’s son in the “royal urinal”, escapes from a convent, and over the course of several years falsely befriends the emperor’s wife, the empress.

Then, Greene writes, “In 654 Wu Chao gave birth to a child. One day the empress came to visit, and as soon as she had left, Wu smothered the newborn – her own baby.” The empress is framed for murder, executed, and Wu is made the new empress. During her reign as “Empress Wu”, she poisons her niece as well as her own son, the heir apparent. She exiles the other son and, following numerous failed coups, has herself declared Divine “Emperor” of China and rules for forty years.

Now how could you not enjoy a story like that? Many of the historical examples in Laws 14-18 seem to come from China. It has made me realize that I need to brush up on my knowledge of Chinese history, which is sadly lacking. In fact, what I do know about Chinese history could probably be traced back to “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and “Hero.”

To be fair, the Laws themselves are getting more interesting as well. Law 15 (see above) is a ruthless edict but I can certainly see it usefulness when Greene reminds us: “Your enemies wish you ill. There is nothing they want more than to eliminate you. If, in your struggles with them, you stop halfway or even three quarters of the way, out of mercy or hope of reconciliation, you only make them more determined, more embittered, and they will someday take revenge.” It’s brutal but I can’t deny that Greene has a point. I could argue that mercy is just as likely to inspire gratefulness as it is to bitterness but certainly, expecting the worst is the safer course to take.

I can see the wisdom in Law 16 (Use Absence To Increase Respect and Honor). Greene’s examples of romantic seduction and product availability work really well here. And if you really want to read about the wisdom of Law 18 (Do Not Build Fortresses To Protect Yourself – Isolation Is Dangerous) read Mark Bowden’s “Tales of the Tyrant” in The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2003.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

All Souls' Rising, pt. 1

by Madison Smart Bell
pgs. xxi-55

I blame it on all that French Revolution history I’ve been reading about in The 48 Laws of Power. That’s the reason why I’m reading All Souls’ Rising right now instead of the many books that were in queue before it. All Souls’ Rising is the first of a trilogy that tells the story of the Haitian Revolution. I don’t really remember how I heard about this trilogy. If memory serves me correctly, I believe I read a selection by Madison Smart Bell in last year’s The Best American Travel Writing 2005, which, apparently, I enjoyed enormously. However it happened, Bell’s books ended up on my Wish List and, very recently, I finally bought the first book.

In the preface to his book, Bell writes, “Occupied with their quarrels among themselves, the whites of Saint Domingue [the colonial name for Haiti] gave little thought to the possible effects of the French Revolution on the mulattoes and almost none at all to its possible effects on the black slaves…Meanwhile, Revolutionary conceptions like 'the Rights of Man' circulated freely and noisily through the entire colony and were as audible to the black slaves as to anyone.” Thus, begins the story of the slave uprising in Haiti that will eventually lead to the creation of the first Black republic.

The story itself is beautifully told thus far. Bell’s writing is smooth and quiet. It makes you feel as if he’s taken you to a quiet corner of his fictional world and, if you’re silent and still, you will see wondrous and horrible things. And they are wondrous. See: the renegade slaves calling on the gods to bring them food and the slave Riau being possessed by the spirit Og√Ľn. And they are horrible. See: the slave woman being crucified for killing her illegitimate newborn child and the male slave wearing a head and mouth guard as punishment for being caught eating cane in the field.

Generally, I rarely read books about or set during the period of slavery, unless it’s assigned reading. I dislike reading them for the same reasons that I tend to avoid stories with unhappy endings: too sad. Just too damn sad. And at times, physically painful. How else can I explain the gut-wrenching agony that always comes when I read about the atrocities of slavery? I hate that feeling. Maybe the pain serves as a way to remind us of the horrors of slavery. But I don’t need to be reminded. I live with it every day; it runs in my blood, and, as far as I’m concerned, there are enough horrors today sufficient enough to keep me occupied.

But the Haitian Revolution is a story I’ve never heard before. I know the fact that it happened; I know the fact of it’s result, but I don’t know the story. It’s a different kind of slave story than the American one I learned about in school. So I’ll work my way through Bell's trilogy a teach myself a thing or two. Even if it’s not required.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

The 48 Laws of Power

by Robert Greene
Laws 6-13

Apparently, during the year that I spent in Japan The 48 Laws of Power became extremely popular, especially among those in the hip-hop community. This was all news to me, particularly since I'd bought the book about six months before I left the States and hadn't found it terribly interesting. I'd made it to Law 5 ("So Much Depends On Reputation - Guard It With Your Life") and decided that I could wait until I returned from Japan to finish it. Well, I'm back now and I'm determined to finally finish it. Strangely enough, I'm finding it more interesting reading the second time around, but maybe not for the reasons that have made it so popular.

I'm less interested in the Laws themselves than I am in the history that Greene uses to illustrate those laws. Even if I do think that most of the Laws are little too cutthroat for my idealistic tastes, I love reading about the disastrous love affairs of Lola Mendez, the double-dealings of Talleyrand, and the gullibility of Al Capone. The only explanation I have for this is that, having studied Classical Civilization for four years, it makes sense that I would find the story of the Corinthian and Corcoran ambassadors at Athens more interesting and, to me at least, more informative than the law itself ("Law 13: When Asking for Help, Appeal To People's Self-Interest - Never To Their Mercy Or Gratitude").

As for the Laws themselves, well I've already stated that I think I'm a little too idealistic to fully appreciate their feasibility and usefulness. There are certainly some Laws I can appreciate ("Law 10: Infection: Avoid The Unhappy And The Unlucky" and Law 13: (see above) for instance). But most of the Laws I find too ambiguous and too dependent upon your own particular situation and the people with whom you are dealing to be of any use at all. Few of any of the laws are infallible. In fact, the only one that is infallible so far is Law 10 (see above) according to Greene himself.

The one thing that Greene has managed to impress upon me so far is something I knew before I even picked up the book. That is that attaining and keeping power is difficult, arduous, and, at times, dangerous work. I can understand the reasons why someone would like to have the kind of power that Greene discusses in the 48 Laws. After all, we all like to have at least a little power over ourselves and others. But to attain the kind of power it takes to reach "Master" status just seems like too much manipulative, unhappy work to me. There never seems to be a point at which you're allowed to just enjoy your life and your position. During Law 11 ("Learn To Keep People Dependent On You") Greene writes, "You cannot rest at ease, and what good is power if it brings you no peace?" Amen, Greene. Amen. That's the kind of law I can get behind.

How to Sail Across the Atlantic

by Paul Bennett
from The Best American Travel Writing 2006

Out of all of the great images and lessons on sailing around the world Paul Bennet presents in "How to Sail Across the Atlantic," this image sticks with me the most: On trying to remove an obstruction in their boat's plumbing he writes, "As I pulled the hose free from the valve...(I)n the next moment, the obstruction in question shot out the line with fire-hose ferocity. It caked the walls, the ceiling, and the floor. It covered me completely from head to toe. I can say, unequivocally that being showed with another person's crap has been the single worse experience of my life." It sounds like something from a gross-out comedy movie: both funny and disgusting at the same time. It might also be a part of the reason why I enjoyed this selection.

Besides learning how not to repair the plumbing on a boat, Bennet divulges many other valuable lessons such as pirates are still real, tankers can come out of nowhere and split your boat in half in a second, on average, it takes amature sailors four and half years to circumnavigate the world, and whales are just as dangerous as sharks in the open water. Despite all of that, it all still sounds hopelessly romantic to me. I just returned from my first cruise a week ago, and there is definately something to said for being able to look out your window and see nothing but blue, blue ocean. I bet it is scary, expensive, and exhausting to set sail around the world but the rewards - the sights you'd see, the things you'd do along the way - would be well worth it. I love a good adventure.

The Selling of the Last Savage

by Michael Behar
from The Best American Travel Writing 2006

How can you not like a selection that begins with a sentence like this: “I’m somewhere in a godforsaken rain forest on the north coast of West Papua, Indonesia, and I’m ready to get the hell out of here.” Talk about gripping. The rest of Behar’s account is no less so as he recounts his experiences on an expedition called First Contact, an exploratory trek in West Papua in which participants attempt to make contact with tribes who have never seen outsiders. Several times throughout the piece, Behar questions whether First Contact is a hoax. We’re never entirely sure if it is, mainly because, even after all that he experiences on the trek, Behar is never entirely sure himself. One thing Behar is sure of though is his very real fear when, at one point, members of a native tribe rush out of the bush shooting arrows above his head. If it is a hoax, it is apparently very well done.

Besides the question of whether there are even “uncontacted” tribes left to be discovered, Behar questions whether it’s even ethical to “contact” these tribes if there were. At one point during the expedition, Behar says, “That’s when I notice that their hands are trembling. They look absolutely terrified. A wave of guilt washes over me…‘We shouldn’t be doing this. They’re really freaked out.’” Is it ethical to seek out remote jungle tribes just for the cheap thrill – if $8, 000 a pop could be considered cheap – of getting a peek at a people never seen before? Consider this: What if you, living the way that you do, eating the way that you do, were the out-of-date oddity (Brave New World anyone?)? How pissed off and terrified would you be if some scary-looking stranger invaded your home, inspected your life, and took pictures to show the amazed family back home? I don’t know about you, but I think a lot of people might do what some West Papuans do: shoot first and ask questions later.

At one point during the expedition, Kelly Woolford, the creator and leader of First Contact, says to Behar, “Papuans are scared of the unknown.” The question is: At the end of the day, aren’t we all?

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Megan's Mark, pt. 2

by Lora Leigh
pgs. 242-295 (End)

Lora’s Leigh’s books are the kind that I wish I could hide when I have company. The problem is I have too many of them to hide. I have serious, plentiful problems with Megan’s Mark, a few of which I’ve already included in my first entry on this book, i.e. annoying female, cardboard male, and a predictable plot. I could point out a few other problems I found within the last quarter of the book.

For instance, why would a deputy sheriff living in a small, remote desert town need “an impressive display of weapons and ammunition” that includes items that not even members of the Navy SEALS posses? Why would Megan have trained in the canyons with her military family members since she was a child? Were they expecting some war on the home front Leigh hasn’t told us about? Maybe Leigh wants us to believe that that’s what people who live in remote, desert towns do: collect expensive weaponry and train at the age of infancy to prepare for the coming Armageddon. I would have thought that that’s just a stereotype but then I’ve never been to a remote town in the desert, so what do I know?

And who in the world edited this book? I’m generally willing to ignore certain egregious typographical and consistency errors in eBooks such as the ones published on The same cannot be said for books published in hard copy. I would think that editors working in hard copy production would be a little more diligent than those in eBook publishing simply because it’s much easier (and cheaper) to correct a mistake in electronic format. The editor working on this book must have been asleep. I don’t know about anyone else but I get annoyed when I read that a character is sitting one moment and suddenly standing in the next with no transition whatsoever. That’s just sloppy writing and sloppy editing.

Yet, and here’s the clanker, I know I’ll be chucking out another $6.99 for the next installment in three months. Two of the things at which Leigh excels, is creating enigmatic secondary characters and mysteries set within the existing plotline which are seductive enough to hook poor readers like myself. I’m not burnt out on the Breed series just yet but, I suspect, that just as I’ve tired of Christine Feehan’s Dark series, I’ll wear myself out this one as well. One can only read about the same characters except with different names but so many times.

Friday, December 22, 2006


by Kelly Link
from McSweeney’s Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales

In the introduction to this collection of short stories Michael Chabon, whose Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavelier & Clay I thoroughly enjoyed, posits that the “short fiction” of yester-year has been replaced with “the contemporary, quotidian, plotless, moment-of-truth revelatory story.” For the most part, I’d have to say that I agree with him. I love “The New Yorker” but I tend to skip their short fiction selections. Of course, I feel like a fat failure when I do but when I read a short story I tend to appreciate it more if it has a plot. This is why I enjoy reading anthologies of classic short stories that include selections like Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery”, Kate Chopin’s “Story of an Hour”, or Guy de Maupassant’s “The Necklace.” It’s also the reason why I decided to try out Thrilling Tales.

As strange as it is, “Catskin” does satisfy the plot requirement…kind of. In a nutshell, – I think I can do this in less that three sentences – “Catskin” tells the story of a witch and her devoted son. For much of the story, the witch, who is actually dead and has consequently turned into a talking cat, and her son, who is dressed in a cat’s skin (don’t ask), journey to the house of Lack, the witch responsible for killing the ‘cat’ witch, seeking revenge. That would have been all well and good if the story hadn’t been so damn creepy and just plain odd. Take this selection for instance, a story the witch tells Small, her ten year-old son:

“A long time ago, when men and women were going to build a house, they would
dig a hole first. And they’d make a little room – a little, wooden, one-room house – in the hole. And they’d steal, or buy, a boy or a girl to put in the house in the hole, to live there. And then they built their house over that first little house…The boy or the girl stayed in that little house…They lived there all their life, and they are living in those houses still, under the other houses where the people live, and the people who live in the houses above may come and go as they please, and they don’t ever think about how there are little houses with children sitting in the little rooms, under their feet.”

The creepiest part of the tale above for me was not only its content but also that, in the world of “Catskin” it’s quite possible that it’s true. There's a scene in the story in which they actually open up one of the houses in a hole. Nothing comes out but I think Link wants readers to believe that it could. The creepiness of “Catskin” lies in that it plays upon the complete vulnerability of children. Children are kidnapped, abandoned, tossed into rivers, burned alive, and turned into captive kittens. I’m sure if I liked the story more, I could come up with something like “it’s-commenting-on-the-fragile-bonds-that-exist-between-parents-and-their-children” critical analysis – I was after all, an English major – but I don’t. I don’t like stories in which children seem to die just for the hell of it.

And the cats were just so damn creepy, ands I like cats! But after reading this story, I think I’ll be avoiding them for a while. Plus, I understand that in the world of “Catskin” we’re dealing with witches and magic so everything isn’t going to be explicable, but what was up with those gold bars miaowing, and how is a ten-year old boy dressed in a cat suit small enough to look like an actual cat? And what was up the red ants that spurted out of dead bodies carrying “pieces of time’ in their mouths? Okay, I get the metaphor but still, disturbing. And what happened to the ending in the story? It’s as if the writer got bored with her story and just ended it and purposely left the story and its readers with no resolution. How else do explain the last paragraph:

“The Princess Margaret grows up to kill witches and cats…There
is no such thing as witches, and there is no such thing as cats, either, only
people dressed up in catskin suits.”

Allll-right. And what was up with those damn cats?

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea

Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea
By Guy Delisle
from The Best American NonRequired Reading 2006

I generally never read comics. I don't have anything against comics at all, I just don't read them - I watch the cartoons. But if there are comics out there like this Delise selection then maybe I should start quick, fast, and in a hurry. Delise's account of his experience in the "ultra-secretive communist dynasty of North Korea" reminds me of my...interesting experience in China last year (that's a whole other long, painful story - Canon Powershot 700, I miss you wherever you are). But this isn't about me; it's about Delisle and his hilarious account of the "daily deification of Kim Jong Il" and the North Koreans who love him. Did I mention that this is all done with graphics? The "scene" in which he sees Kim Jong Il's face in the mirror instead of his own is hilarious. And there's a mystery too: what were the bags of rice for? And how in the world do two men with military training loose a sharp-shooting contest to a man who has never held a gun? If that were me, I'd have hung the bullseye on my wall too. Thank God I don't have any portraits of Kim Jong Il hanging there too.


By Judy Budnitz
from The Best American NonRequired Reading 2006

I’m in love the Best American series. Our flaming hot love affair began three years ago with the 2003 edition of The Best American NonRequired Reading in a quaint little bookstore called Borders at Pentagon City. Since then I've branched out to the other editions in the series, particularly TBA Travel Writing, TBA Essays, and, most recently, TBA Science Writing, all of which I love. But nothing ever really quite compares to my first love, TBA NonRequired Reading. Judy Budnitz short story “Nadia” is one of the reasons why.

“Nadia” is about how the lies that we tell ourselves to hide from our true feelings can distort our point of view until we’ve reached a position in which we’re unable to recognize the truth in others and, least of all, in ourselves. It’s about the masks that we wear to hide from our loneliness, our disappointments, our depression, our pain, our insecurities, and all those other bleak emotions we’d rather not think about. The story’s narrator, whose name Budnitz never divulges (likely for stylistic reasons; the narrator doesn’t need a name because she is us and everybody), is largely driven by the former.

Despite her claims to altruism, it becomes apparent in the way that she constantly justifies her actions that she is motivated, not by her concern for her friend Joel or his new mail-order bride, but by her selfish need to alleviate her own loneliness. Not that that makes her a bad person but by the end of the story it’s apparent that it doesn’t necessarily make her a good or even safe person either. Instead, it’s made her jealous, conniving, vindictive, and evidently, to judge by the last scene and the fate of poor Nadia the mail-order bride, it’s also made her and her “friends” dangerous.

The one quibble that I may have with this story is that Nadia herself remains a bit of mystery. You never really understand her motives or even really those of Joel. We’re given only a picture of their relationship as seen through the eyes of the narrator who’s still in love in him. It would have been interesting, I think, to hear the story from Nadia’s and/or Joel’s point of view but, alas, such is the plight of short stories: so much story to tell, so little time.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Megan's Mark, pt. 1

Megan’s Mark
By Lora Leigh

I’m three quarters of the way through this book and I’ve yet to find anything new or exciting here despite its jazzy cover and its odd claim to be the first in a series that’s already at least eight stories deep (see Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on how I feel at the moment, Megan’s Mark is turning out to be typical Lora Leigh fare: gorgeous alpha male, inexplicably bitchy and irrational female, action bordering on the absurd, and sex that really does singe the fingers when you turn the page.

As always, I approached this book with more than a little hope that this time I would actually like the heroine and not be annoyed every time she opened her mouth. No such luck. Why – someone please tell me why virtually every female character Leigh creates is an all-out, no hold’s-barred bitch? Since when did being strong and independent mean that you had to be a bitch in the process? Since when did being horny turn out to be a good excuse for being snappy, sarcastic, and plain-old mean? I don’t know. Maybe I missed the memo for that one.

And another thing: on top of being bitchy, do the women always have to be so stupid and stubborn? I have nothing against stubborn people. Hell, I can be stubborn too when it suits me. But even I know that there’s a fine line between being stubborn and stupidity. What right-minded woman denies even the possibility of danger and refuses the help that she knows she needs, a day after she is baited, trapped, and almost killed by highly-trained, stronger than human soldiers?

Apparently, we’re supposed to believe that she doesn’t want Braden on her couch because she’s attracted to the half lion/half man Breed. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I didn’t think that being attracted to sexy, single, exciting man was necessarily a bad thing. Neither did she, it seems, until she realized that he was a Breed. Alright, one might say, maybe she has something against Breeds. But no wait. We’re quickly told that she’s not prejudiced against Breeds which becomes hard to believe at times considering the snide “Puss in Boots” and having him “neutered” remarks. But if we take her at her word and believe that she’s not prejudiced then what the hell is her problem? I couldn’t figure it out and trying to follow Megan’s ever-changing “reasoning” for why she didn’t want to sleep with Braden is like trying to plot Bush’s reasons for going into Iraq.

I’m so tired of push-and-pull heroines being presented as strong independent women who, at the end of the day, don’t know their own minds or hearts. How many times do I have read a scene that boils down to: Kiss me. – Don’t kiss me. Hold me. – Don’t hold me. I love you. – I don’t love you. No wonder there’s always some great, macho male ready to take these women on. Who else would put up with such bullshit?