The Witch of Painted Sorrows by M.J. Rose

M.J. Rose’s new novel, The Witch of Painted Sorrows, feels more like a very long draft of a novel rather than a fleshed-and-thought out story.

Along those lines, Sorrows does not pick up until the last 100 pages or so. Up to that point, it’s a horrible slog, not just a slog like the last 100 pages.

Furthermore, the plot elements introduced at the beginning to propel the main character to Paris, where the book takes place, feels haphazard at best and the very first draft at worst. Her husband is described as “dangerous.” He is a killer! Except he’s not. The main character’s treatment of her husband, meant to be a plot point, appears more like she’s actually crazy because of the level of hysterical thoughts and feelings attributed to him.

“But I would not live with a brute who had my father’s blood on his hands.”

Also, there’s a sleep rape scene perpetrated by the female main character against her male lover, which is portrayed as totally OK. Switch the genders and it would not be OK.

Sleep rape is not OK.

All in all, not worth reading.

This book (an advanced uncorrected proof) was received, free of charge, from the Goodreads First Reads program.

Update on Jan. 26, 2015
The author, Ms. Rose, took to Facebook on Jan. 18 to complain about my review and defend the offending scene in the book, which I believe I have correctly described as sleep rape perpetrated by a female on a male. This can also be called made to penetrate.

I don’t have a problem with portraying rape in fiction. I have a problem with portraying rape as anything other than rape, and therefore, acceptable.

The offending lines in my original review (above) (besides being negative in general) are as follows:

“Also, there’s a sleep rape scene which is portrayed as totally OK. Switch the genders and it would not be OK.
Sleep rape is not OK.”

As I wrote in the original post, my problem is the portrayal of sleep rape as acceptable, as the norm, or as Ms. Rose would have one believe, not possibly because the victim is a man and the perpetrator a woman.

Ms. Rose proceeded to defend the scene to her nearly 80,000 followers.

Many of those commenters wrote that I must be puritanical, prudish, that I confuse sleep rape for lovemaking or that I live in the 19th century.

As evidenced by Ms. Rose’s post on Facebook, she intended the scene to be seen positively.

“An early reviewer has blasted the book claiming I have a sleep rape scene. Ahem. In said scene Sandrine – a FEMALE – arouses her MALE lover while he is sleeping and they proceed to make love while he is half-asleep.”

Please observe what is wrong with Ms. Rose’s defense of the sleep rape scene: “a FEMALE – arouses her MALE lover while he is sleeping.”

Ms. Rose uses the argument that because a woman is doing the perpetrating, it’s obviously not rape.

Unfortunately, this is a wrong-headed and entirely false conceit. Neither rape nor consent know gender or gender roles.

She also uses the argument that what her main character does to her lover is acceptable because of their romantic relationship.

This would not be an acceptable argument if the gender roles were reversed. After all, marital rape has been illegal in all 50 states since 1993.

Below are three very good articles on the issue from three different publications:

Slate — When Men are Raped by Hanna Rosin…
Choice quote: “By portraying sexual violence against men as aberrant, we prevent justice and compound the shame.”

Vocativ — The Hard Truth About Girl-on-Guy Rape by Elizabeth Kulze…
Choice quote: “Of course, for even the gentlest male sleep-rapist, ‘I assumed she’d be into it’ doesn’t exactly fly in court. Consent reigns supreme, and to pursue a female without it is to invite culpability. In
‘made to penetrate’ cases, the line is often far more ambiguous. Still, there are plenty of female aggressors who don’t leave much to interpretation.”

Pacific Standard — When Women Sexually Assault Men by Livia Gershon…
Choice quote: “THE NOTION THAT SEXUAL assault of a man by a woman is impossible, and even laughable, rests on the same gendered assumptions that are also used to downplay assaults on women by men”

The Light in the Ruins by Chris Bohjalian

Another reviewer is entirely baffled as how this book has such incredible reviews. I fall into this reviewer’s camp.

The light in the ruins only has a single redeeming quality: the female, post-war detective attempting to solve the series of murders plaguing an aristocratic Tuscan family.

The female detective is great, and she holds great potential. This is not a vehicle for her. Nor is The Light in the Ruins a vehicle for anything.

There’s some sporadic narration by the killer, which is entirely clichéd, boring and pointless. There’s the primal serial killing done in the name of revenge. There’re Nazis, and the people allied with them and there’s the resistance and some ruins and a weak love story.

Really, there’s nothing worth writing about and there’s nothing worth reading about.

Really, the writing is weak and the emotions are boring and the plot moves so slowly as to be worthless.

This book was received, free of charge, from the Goodreads First Reads program.

On Goodreads

Madame Picasso by Anne Girard

Madame Picasso is . . . Cute. It’s enjoyable. It is not deep. It does not leave a lasting impression.
It is well written and a quick read but it does not rise above the mediocre. I do not doubt it was never meant to rise above the mediocre.
Since it seems necessary for a plot synopsis you, the reader, has already read: here you go. Picasso’s one true love, Eva Gouel, from her first time in Paris to her untimely death.
The book’s main problem is its length. It does not need to be 400 pages, short as those pages are. In the middle, it starts to drag quite a bit.

This book was received, free of charge, from the Goodreads First Reads program.
All quotes are taken from an advance uncorrected proof of the book and may, or may not, reflect the final commercial edition.

On Goodreads

The Anatomy Lesson by Nina Siegal

The Anatomy lesson is a poorly-written and bloated novel, nothing but a slog of a let-down.
Its pedigree is promising: six years spent in Amsterdam, a former New York Times writer, rave reviews from fellow authors and an MFA. Pedigree, in this instance, has no claim on the quality of the novel, of the writing, of the novel’s coherence or anything else.
Whole sections of the book are nothing but useless bloat and should have been cut.

“Most excellent and ornate men of Amsterdam: Honorable Burgomaster Bicker, Amsterdam burghers, gentlemen of the Stadtholder’s court, magistrates, inspectors Collegii Medici, physicians, barber-surgeons, apothecaries, apprentices, and public visitors to our chamber, on behalf of the Amsterdam Surgeon’s Guild, it is my greatest honor to welcome you all to the Amsterdam theatrum anatomicum on this, the opening night of the winter festival 1632.”

That claptrap goes on and on and on. For 13 pages. Thirteen pages of pure, pointless claptrap.

The plot
The plot is, the lead up to Rembrandt painting The Anatomy Lesson. That’s it. So, really, there is no plot. There is no middle and there is no end. There is no conclusion to most of the story lines.
The publishers touts at least seven narrators, none of whom are given enough time to develop into characters. It is unclear at best, purely bad writing at worst, whom the narrators are speaking to, especially as the narration goes from first to third persons. Then the narration goes from past tense to present tense to past tense. Then one of the characters is flying over the city, trying to atone for his minor sins. Because that belongs in a historical fiction novel.

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