The Hating Game by Sally Thorne – aka Fat-Shaming for Fun and Profit

The Hating Game by Sally ThorneHi! It’s me, calling out some problematic shit in the latest squeed-over bestseller!

  • Title: The Hating Game
  • Author: Sally Thorne
  • Published:  August 2016
  • Source: Library
  • Length: 384 pages
  • Tropes: Enemies to Lovers, Lust in the Workplace, Fat-Shaming
  • Quick blurb: Office rivals compete for the same job while flirting and otherwise generally engaging in an HR nightmare of inappropriate workplace behavior.
  • Quick review: If only….(see below)
  • Grade: D

I had this on hold at the library for weeks, and did a little chair-dance at my desk when I got the notification it was waiting for me. I picked it up on my way home yesterday and read the whole thing last night.

It did live up the the hype for truly funny banter and bone-melting romance, so I in no way fault anyone for liking it.

However.

HOWEVER.

*~*sigh*~*

1) Towards the end, the hero describes himself as “socially retarded.”

These are supposedly smart characters. Putting words like “retarded” in their mouths is lazy writing and it’s offensive to many readers.

It’s 2016 for god sake. FIND BETTER WORDS.

ALSO.

This is where I get really cranky.

2) The heroine’s boss – a chain-smoking anorexic – brings in doughnuts or cookies or something and jokes about “bringing on diabetes” in her short, fat colleague.

“Ha ha ha let’s make the pervy boss fat and sweaty and tempt him with cookies so he gets diabetes.”

And it’s even funnier because the hero is ripped and the heroine is a teeny-tiny!

HAHAHAHA NO.

FUCK OFF. Not funny. In any way. Ever.

I mistakenly assumed the offensiveness of this cringe-inducing bullshit was common knowledge as well, but apparently not, so let’s review, shall we?

A) Fat-shaming is not, never has been, and never will be funny.

B) Diabetes is not, never has been, and never will be funny.

C) Openly mocking a character by assigning these traits is GROSS and INSULTING and even lazier writing.

This book might have been one of my favorite reads of the year. But nope. I lost all trust in the author and will probably never read her again.

I sincerely hope she gets a better editor and better beta readers who have the compassion to actually notice this bullshit and the balls to call it out.

TBR Challenge: Good Time Bad Boy by Sonya Clark

  • Good Time Bad Boy by Sonya ClarkTitle: Good Time Bad Boy
  • Author: Sonya Clark
  • Published: Self-Published, June 2015
  • Source: Purchased
  • Length: 316 pages
  • Tropes: Good Ol’ Boy, Smartass Heroine, Small Town, Music, Dysfunctional Families
  • Quick blurb: Country singer on the skids has to make amends for getting hometown barmaid fired.
  • Quick review: New-to-romance author needs to write more romance.
  • Grade: A-

This month’s TBR Challenge theme is Recommended Reads, and boy howdy, do I choose my friends wisely.

I bought Good Time Bad Boy last year when everyone else (e.g., Sunita and Janine at Dear Author and others) was raving about it. And of course it got buried pretty quickly because I rarely make an effort to keep contemporaries at the top of the queue.

I finished it in one night.

I haven’t read Liz’s review yet, but I’m sure she’s done her typically smart things with it. I’ll just do my usual thing because otherwise we’ll be here until next Tuesday.

The premise is pretty simple – the heroine is a small-town barmaid who puts the smackdown on a handsy drunk customer, who just happens to be the hometown celebrity. He gets his shit together enough to make amends and there’s an HEA and a crap-ton of angsty-yet-fun goodness in between.

The meet-cute…

She walked around him, headed for the coffee urn stationed at the entrance to the kitchen. He mumbled something as she passed then slapped on her the rear, hard enough to sting and make a cracking noise that seemed to echo in the nearly empty restaurant.

Somebody said “oh shit.”

…“So I guess you won’t be giving me your phone number,” Wade said to her back. She slipped her hand behind her back and responded with a raised middle finger.

I loved Daisy. I really loved Daisy.

Wooing with music….

The crowd fell away and Wade sang directly to Daisy, only to Daisy. It pleased him to see that it stopped her in her tracks, empty beer bottles balanced precariously on her tray. She brought a hand to her throat and bit her lip. He smiled to her as he sang and he told himself that the heat he knew must have shone in his eyes was just part of the performance. If it affected her, well, that was just an unfair advantage singers sometimes had.

That’s just one. There’s more.

The chapter endings….

“Hey.”

“Yeah?” “I just. I like it that all those holy relic instruments are the constellations that guide you. That’s really nice.”

Emotion clutched at his heart and clogged his throat. “That’s…that’s the most amazing thing anybody’s ever said to me.”

“I’m so tired, I was afraid it wouldn’t make any sense.”

“It makes sense to me.”

“Good.” Daisy smiled and waved, then went inside the trailer.

He listened for the sound of the door being locked before turning back to his truck. He sang more Gram Parsons to himself all the way home.

The guitar constellation thing? OH MY GOD *~*swoon*~* <thud>

The angsty bits….

This was the closest Daisy got to prayer anymore. She closed her eyes briefly, picturing a smiling, happy mother and child, then blew out the candle. She sat in the dark for a while, her hands folded in her lap and thinking of nothing and everything.

Some of angst was pretty uncomfortable to read, but in a good way — absolutely wrenching, but never manipulative or melodramatic.

The quiet moments….

She said nothing for what felt like a long time but was probably not even a minute. Just stared at him with her eyes full of emotion. “I feel like I’m about to walk a tightrope without a net here.”

“If it helps, you won’t be alone.”

And there’s an utterly lovely grand gesture disguised as a quiet moment. You’ll just have to read it yourself.

The smartass females….

…“What are besties for if not to make you feel good about your boobs?”

…“For God’s sake, just pick a George Strait song.”

…“Do you think she’s talking dirty to him?” Jillian sipped her drink. “I hope she’s talking dirty to him.”

The overcoming poverty thing….

A twenty-eight cent difference between generic spaghetti and a brand name should not have made a difference to her. She didn’t want it to make a difference to her. Her gaze ping-ponged back and forth between the two price tags for nearly ten seconds before she finally put the generic in her cart. Pasta was pasta. She’d spend that twenty-eight cents on decent sauce. Maybe one of these days she’d try making her own sauce, with tomatoes from the farmer’s market and whatever the hell else went in spaghetti sauce. Generic labels and dented cans, birthday cupcakes bought from the red tag sale cart full of stuff about to go out of date. Boxes from the food pantry. Fast food burgers if her mother had a little money for a change. That’s what Daisy grew up on, and that’s why she was working her ass off going to school so she could buy some fucking brand name groceries without having to skimp elsewhere or debate whether it was worth it or even look at the price. She didn’t need to be rich. She didn’t even need to be full-fledged middle class. She just wanted better than generic spaghetti and a rusting rental trailer.

Did I mention that I loved Daisy?

One more that I don’t have a single good except for….

The small-town southern vibe — to which I usually give good side-eye — was completely genuine. Clark neither vilified nor idealized the setting, and by the end she managed to make the tight-knit community a character of its own, quietly supporting the main characters and nudging them to their HEA.

*~*happysigh*~*

Only two niggles that made me add the minus to the grade…

  • Use of the analogy “mushroom head” in the middle of an otherwise scorching scene. STOP WITH THE MUSHROOM THING FOR THE LOVE OF GOD.
  • Some noticeable typos, increasing in frequency in the last few chapters. All are easily overlooked homophone and apostrophe errors, but it needs a good proofreader.

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*AHEM* SONYA CLARK

Re: Your next romance novel….

waiting-patiently

Are you done yet? How about now?

Recent Reads

I’m currently reading Riveted by Meljean Brook (audio) and The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons.

Riveted by Meljean Brook   The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons

Both are good. Really good. As in this kind of good:

snoopy_library

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A quick disclaimer: I’m friendly with several authors below on Twitter.

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The Art of Sinning and The Study of Seduction by Sabrina Jeffries

The Art of Sinning by Sabrina Jeffries    https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25814323-the-study-of-seduction

Jeffries has been an auto-buy for years, and there’s no sign of breakup. I inhaled her entire backlist when I first started reading romance, and the Hellions of Halstead Hall and Duke’s Men series are constant re-reads.

The latest titles are just as good. Sinning has an artist hero and you know I can’t resist those. Seduction has a marriage of convenience between a grumpy hero who makes lists and a secretly-smart social butterfly, and adds in a truly creepy stalker who cooks up some creative blackmail over Deep Dark Secrets, and just put that crack in a bowl and give me a spoon, OK?

I can’t say more without spoilers, but Seduction was especially memorable because of the social butterfly heroine’s Deep Dark Secret, which made the consummation of the marriage…heart-wrenching. I think Jeffries handled that potentially problematic trope really well.

I keep trying to articulate why Jeffries’ books work so well for me. She’s not a particularly flashy or profound or incisive writer. Her books are standard dukes-a-million regency fare that never bust out of the usual tropes – but they’re never wallpapery fluff.

I think it’s the simple fact that I know I can rely on her consistency. That might not sound like a compliment, but I mean it the best way – she’s just a damn good storyteller. Every. Single. Time.

Source: Edelweiss

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All I Have and All I Am by Nicole Helm

All I Have by Nicole Helm  All I Am by Nicole Helm

Helm is kind of the contemporary version of Jeffries — nothing flashy, just consistently good storytelling with really memorable characters. The realistic small-town settings and kick-ass heroines really set her Superromances apart. Also, dogs. I like dogs.

Her latest Harlequins are both close to perfect contemporary romances for me, and I think Helm just keeps getting better with every book. I’m a very character-driven reader, and Helm knows my sweet spot.

You need to read Falling for the New Guy too, because ANGST-O-RAMA. And Too Friendly to Date, because LADY ELECTRICIAN. Trust me.

I have Rebel Cowboy in the TBR; cowboy hockey star on a motorcycle usually isn’t my kind of thing, but we’ll see.

Source: Purchased; Provided by Author

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The Sport of Baronets and A Gentleman’s Game by Theresa Romain

The Sport of Baronets by Theresa Romain    A Gentleman's Game by Theresa Romain

Romain is another Regency author whose titles and covers have that wallpapery vibe.  But like Jeffries, Romain has the kind of character-driven stories that push every one of my buttons.

Her latest series centers on horse racing. I love it when authors give their characters hobbies and obsessions, and when unlikely couples are thrown together under high-conflict circumstances, so just put that crack in a bowl and give me a spoon, OK?

I also love how Romain’s heroines (in all her books, not just this series) always have equal agency in the relationship, regardless of their social status.

Source: NetGalley

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Once Beloved by Amara Royce

Once Beloved by Amara Royce

I need Royce to write faster. Character-driven stories with unusual — but always realistic — conflicts. Royce isn’t afraid to take risks, and it’s a Book Trance every time.

Source: NetGalley

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A Woman’s Worth by Audra North

A Woman's Worth by Amara Royce

North tweeted something about her newest novella featuring a single mother and of course I one-clicked immediately.

This trope is a really touchy one for me, and this story got nearly everything right. The heroine is a marketing executive who loves her job and values her career. The initial flirty-sexy times with her enigmatic boss were a bit squirmy, but in good way, and I loved how their relationship developed.

The parenting bits were spot-on. I highlighted a lot of bits about the ex that really resonated with me, and I *loved* that the Other Woman wasn’t a shrewish harpy.

The only thing that bothered me was the timing. Characters jumping head-long into a new relationship immediately after a divorce is one of my eye-twitch triggers. I broke up with Marie Force over it. Authors, do your research and think long and hard about rebound romances.

Source: Purchased

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Tycoon by Joanna Shupe

Tycoon by Joanna Shupe

Just put that crack in a bowl and give me a spoon, OK?

Read this. Trust me.

Source: NetGalley

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The Silk Series by Cassandra Dean

Silk Series by Cassandra Dean

Olivia Dade made me buy the first in the series. Then I had to get all the others.

Source: Purchased

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Chasing Jane by Noelle Adams

Chasing Jane by Noelle Adams

A little bonus for reading this far: It’s a freebie!

All of Adams’ novellas are great comfort reads. This one is just fluffy friends-to-lovers cuteness and I loved every word of it.

Source: Purchased

Year in Review: The Page O’ Lists

Have I mentioned that I ♥ bullet lists? And…ellipses. Also — em-dashes.

Favorite historicals….

Virtuous Scoundrel by Maggie Fenton

Favorite contemporaries….

Favorite inspies….

Author Binges….

Panda rolling in snow

Me reading Carla Kelly

  • Carla Kelly
  • Molly O’Keefe
  • Julie James
  • Meredith Duran
  • Laura Kaye
  • Donna Thorland
  • Edith Layton
  • Sarah Mayberry
  • Susanna Fraser
  • Laura Frantz
  • Erin Knightley
  • Sarina Bowen
  • Amanda Quick

New Adult….

Did someone say FANGIRL?

Did someone say FANGIRL?

Yes, really. I actually read — and liked — some New Adult.

Favorite audiobooks….

Tangled

Me listening to Susanna Kearsley

  • All the Susanna Kearsley — I’m on my second go-round. The Firebird is the current fave.
  • A boatload of comfort reads — Tessa Dare, Lisa Kleypas, Cecilia Grant, Loretta Chase. And holy cow, I almost forgot how much I love Rupert and Daphne in Mr. Impossible.
  • A bunch of Amanda Quick — With This Ring, I Thee Wed, The Paid Companion, Otherwise Engaged
  • Virtuous Scoundrel by Maggie Fenton — Did I mention that you should READ THIS BOOK?
  • The Queen’s Fool by Philippa Gregory – A bit more repetitive than I remember from traditional reads (and re-reads), but still my favorite Gregory.
  • The Proposition by Judith Ivory — First listen from library, then I had to buy it so I can keep it on my phone at all times.
  • Ransom by Julie Garwood — Everything I was hoping for that I didn’t get with The Prize.
  • Heartless and Silent Melody by Mary Balogh
  • The Siege Winter by Ariana Franklin and Samantha Norman — This helped me get over my blah about Hild (see below).
  • The Gilded Hour by Sara Donati — Someone else needs to read this because I neeeeeed to discuss the ending.

Catching up….

Black Ice by Anne StuartStuff everyone else has read that I just got around to and why in the hell didn’t I read these earlier.

Disappointed….

Still with the Book Anxiety….

The Big Fat Books….

  • Middlemarch by George Eliot
  • Forever Amber by Kathleen Winsor
  • A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens — This is still a work in progress. A very…slow…work in progress.

The TBR Challenges….

The Heyer Project….

I documented Part II of the quest, in which I color-coded a spreadsheet of Heyer’s character archetypes and plot tropes.

I’ve listened to Bath Tangle and Black Sheep and Venetia three times to erase Cousin Kate from my brain.

Deconstructing For Such a Time, Parts 1-17

I'm not coming down until someone apologiesI know I went overboard on my continued ranting about this book and probably pissed off a lot of people, but I desperately needed to think through the depictions of my faith on the page.

I learned a lot, and what I learned will forever change the way I read inspirationals and historical fiction.

More Sappy Holiday Goodness: No Christmas Like the Present by Sierra Donovan

  • No Christmas Like the Present by Sierra DonovanTitle: No Christmas Like the Present
  • Author: Sierra Donovan
  • Published: Zebra, October 2014
  • Source: Library (and then purchased)
  • Length: 257 pages
  • Tropes: Mysterious Man of Mystery, Lady Scrooge
  • Quick blurb: A glorious mash-up of A Christmas Carol and It’s a Wonderful Life. No, really.
  • Quick review: BUY AND READ THIS RIGHT NOW TRUST ME
  • Grade: A

I don’t use gifs (except for Tessa Dare books), but this one calls for a gif.

Belle gif

This is only $1.99 and everyone should read it immediately. The premise could have been horribly wrong, but it’s everything right. So of course I had to live-tweet it.

NoChristmasLikeThePresent

Accessible (screen-reader friendly) version

TBR Challenge: Free Agent by Roz Lee

My first #tbrchallenge — woohoo!

  • Free Agent by Roz LeeTitle: Free Agent
  • Author: Roz Lee
  • Series: Mustangs Baseball, #0.5
  • Published: State of Mind Publishing, May 2013
  • Source: Purchased
  • Length: 65 pages
  • Tropes: BDSM, Insta-Lust, Insta-Love
  • Quick blurb: Star ballplayer hooks up with new sub
  • Quick review: *YAWN*
  • Grade: D

“If you sign the contract tomorrow, we’ll seal the deal with a good fuck. How’s that?”

Yeesh. It’s a good thing this was a freebie, because it’s got every possible erotica cliché. I annotated every other paragraph with a variation of “Of course.”

  • Honey-blonde hair hung in soft waves over bare shoulders, framing fine features, porcelain fair skin, and blue eyes. [Of course.]
  • It was as if she saw past his defenses, right to his soul. [As he’s eye-fucking her while she’s fingering herself. Before they’ve even spoken. Because OF COURSE.]
  • Brooke licked her lips…. [Of course she did. How else would he know she’s horny?]
  • “…say yellow if you need a minute before we continue, red if you can’t take anymore.” [Because we all need BDSM 101 in every.single.book.]
  • Glossy pink petals framed a perfectly shaped slit. [Of course it’s perfect. Duh.]
  • …the most amazing orgasm of her life. [At their first actual encounter at the dungeon. Of course.]
  • He’d claimed a part of her no one else ever had—her heart.  [After their first encounter at the dungeon. And they’ve only shared first names. Of course.]
  • Now, she understood. The real pleasure came from pleasing her master, not the other way around. [*yawn*]
  • ...until he met Brooke, he hadn’t truly understood the submissive partner held as much power—perhaps more—than the dominant one. [*YAWN* Will this be on the quiz?]

Other random thoughts/observations:

  • There is zero character- or relationship-building. These people are completely cardboard and interchangeable with every other bad erotica I’ve read.
  • Might have been a D+ if not for the pluralizing-with-an-apostrophe egregiousness (“two single Dom’s looking…”) throughout.
  • The meet-cute occurs at a munch. Yes, a “munch.” I cannot believe I’ve never come across that term before.
  • The contract is “Concise and well written with headings, subheadings, and bullet points.” She wonders if a secretary prepared it for him. [No, really.]
  • The word “slurping” is used.
  • Secondary character is a sub named Candy. There are dessert jokes.
  • The characters contradict themselves ALL THE TIME, sometimes even within the same sentence. “Punishment is not intended to be pleasant” — but then he teases her about being a pain slut and yammers on about how sexy her moans are. “I don’t enjoy leaving those marks” — but, um, dude, YOU’RE A DOM WITH A FLOGGER.

I was hoping for something quick and fun to prep for a Spring Training baseball theme. I’ll keep looking.

Author Binge: Teri Wilson

An impulse download from the library, and now I’m waiting very impatiently waiting for February because I neeeed the one with the ballet dancer.

These are all loosely related, but work as stand-alones. If you’re not an inspie reader, be prepared for some brief on-page praying and a few earnest Bible verse conversations.

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Sleigh Bell Sweethearts

  • Sleigh Bell Sweethearts by Teri WilsonTitle: Sleigh Bell Sweethearts
  • Published: May 2012
  • Source: Purchased
  • Length: 224 pages
  • Tropes: Small Town, Wacky Inheritance, Dreams Deferred, Mr. Grinch, Tragic Past, Dogs
  • Quick blurb: Newly-licensed pilot is grounded by an unexpected inheritance.
  • Quick review: A whole lot of funny business and some seriously sweet smooching.
  • Grade: A

“Are they always so quiet? I feel as if I’m looking at a dream…something that’s not quite real.”

He took a sidelong look at Zoey and felt a wholly unexpected flicker of connection with her. “They typically don’t make much noise. I think they like the cold. They seem happy to run and play most of the time.”

Then she opened her mouth, and the moment was gone. “You mean play reindeer games?”

This was my squee-fest on Twitter:

Sleigh Bell Sweethearts by Teri Wilson

Palmer the Reindeer also has an expensive public display of affection with the wooden Nativity scene on the courthouse lawn.

I loved the Christmas Eve Full Schmaltz Ending with every cell of my cheesy, sappy heart. There may or may not have been an unexpected Santa suit involved.

And in case you were wondering, people will pay $300 an hour to rent a reindeer. And both genders have antlers, but boy reindeer lose theirs after rutting season, so antlered reindeer at Christmas are female. Girl power!

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Alaskan Hero

  • Alaskan Hero by Teri WilsonTitle: Alaskan Hero
  • Published: May 2013
  • Source: Public library (and then purchased)
  • Length: 224 pages
  • Tropes: Small Town, Just Passing Through, Danger Zone, Grumpy Gus, Dogs
  • Quick blurb: Coffee shop owner makes world-renowned rescue trainer rethink his nomadic lifestyle.
  • Quick review: Falling in love over dog training  = here, take all my money.
  • Grade: A-

Her Bible was still new enough that the spine cracked when she opened it. She hadn’t really expected to find anything inside that would speak to her situation, but the book itself — the heaviness of it — was always a comfort.

She hadn’t been quite sure what she was looking for. Something along the lines of “Blessed is she who kisses a handsome man by mistake” would have been nice.

And this was me on Twitter a few days earlier:

Alaskan Hero by Teri Wilson

There’s a really, really good Total Drama Moment. And then more smooching.

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Alaskan Hearts

  • Alaskan Hearts by Teri WilsonTitle: Alaskan Hearts
  • Published: May 2012
  • Source: Scribd
  • Length: 224 pages
  • Tropes: Small Town, City Girl, Grumpy Gus, Tragic Past, Dogs
  • Quick blurb: City-girl journalist and her Pomeranian-in-a-purse take on a bearded Alaskan sled-dog racer.
  • Quick review: Just the right amount of humor, angst and smooching, with a great backstory about dog sledding.
  • Grade: B

He cupped her face, tipped her chin toward his and paused. In that sweet moment of anticipation, he gave her one last lingering look. “I’m going to kiss you now. Doesn’t that sound better than learning to shoot?”

She nodded wordlessly.

And he lowered his lips toward hers.

This one is quite a bit heavier on the Bible verses, but it’s also a bit heavier on the angst — the hero has a Tragic Past that had me cringing and nearly in tears. Because, you know, dogs.

Speaking of dogs….!

When Clementine bent to scoop the unruly dog into her arms, she caught a glimpse of a pair of mismatched eyes peering out at her from ice-covered shrubbery nearby. One blue, one brown, she recognized them instantly as sled dog eyes. She’d never seen any other kind of dog with two different-colored eyes before.

Have I mentioned that *I* have a husky mix with blue/brown eyes? I may have posted a few pics on Twitter….

Pokey and the bunny she loves a little too much

Pokey and the bunny she loves a little too much

I love it when authors write books JUST FOR ME.