zelda_queen: (badfic)
[personal profile] zelda_queen
ZeldaQueen: So yeah, this book is split into three parts, for some reason. I have nary a clue why. Technically the book resets the chapters after each part begins (so the first chapter in the second part is Chapter 1 instead of Chapter 5), but because that's needlessly confusing, I'll just be counting the chapters as they go.

Chapter 1

We start off our story proper with... uh, this.

Finally, on my way. My Mustang felt sweet as it zipped down the nearly empty highway. Why is it that cars seem to drive best when they’re freshly washed?

ZeldaQueen: Yep. That's how our epic tale begins. We hear a character we know nothing about going someplace we don't know of and talking about her car.

It actually reminds me of the musical my high school put on when I was a freshman. The musical was No, No, Nanette, and pretty much was just a fluffy '20 romcom. After the orchestra played the Ovature, the curtains opened to reveal a maid vacuuming a parlor. I remember one day of rehearsal, when the director told the maid that she had to deliver her lines with a lot of energy and snap, because the audience had such a build-up and then get a maid doing housework.

This reminds me a lot of that. We have no idea who our protagonist is, and not in an intriguing way.

It really doesn't pick up from there, either. The woman, who we'll learn is named Shannon Parker, throws on a CD which is clearly some sort of Les Miserables recording, since she tells us that she “
skipped forward to track 6 and began singing at the top of my very tone-deaf lungs with Eponine about the futility of love”.

As a nitpicker and a major Les Mis fan, I would like to point out that the sixth song in the musical is “At The End Of The Day”. You know, the song where Fantine is kicked out of her job ostensibly because she has an illegitimate kid but mainly because she refused to give in to the foreman's advances? Eponine's big song, “On My Own”, doesn't come until near the end of the musical, specifically track 30 (at least, if one goes off of the song list on Wikipedia and discounts the songs from the 2012 movie only). It would have been more accurate to say that it was Fantine singing about love. Not to mention, neither “On My Own” or “I Dreamed a Dream” (Fantine's big heartbroken number) start off as the sort of songs you can sing to the top of yours to. They share a melody and both start off very delicately and gently. Towards the end? Sure. But not from the start.

Am I being fussy? Probably. But this book rides my last nerve and I will vent, dammit.

Shannon continues speeding down the street, passing a Chevy (I'm sure the other drivers appreciate you whipping around like that) and hollering, “
God, I love being a teacher!

Hey, time for our first count! Shannon will, over the course of the book, remind us many, many, many times that she is a teacher. I can understand a character referencing their profession every so often or when relevant, but Shannon does nothing but go on about how she's a teacher, how this reminds her of being a teacher, how that's exactly like a teaching thing she did, etc. So, I shall be keeping count of all the times she brings it up.


Well, we find out that the reason Shannon is so excited is because summer vacation has just started, “
pristine and virginal” (not... exactly how I'd describe summer vacation, but okay) and, as she says aloud to herself, she's looking forward to a lot of sleeping in.

You know, my dad used to teach at a high school and at a college. He told me that high school teachers (as Shannon is) do get the summer off, but they make so little that he still needed a job through the summer anyway. He told me that college teachers did make enough, but they really didn't get the summer off. So unless Shannon has some money hidden in her mattress, she shouldn't be expecting an entire summer of lounging around.

Of course, there could be another thing going on here. Shannon is a blatant self insert of PC Cast. I'm serious. We're going to see that Shannon is to PC what Zoey is to Kristin. Shannon is very vocal about how she's a high school Lit teacher with a love of mythology, especially Native American folklore, and horses and is a massive Daddy's Girl. PC, in just about all of her About the Author summaries, describes herself as a former high school Lit teacher who moved to Tulsa from Illinois, where she fell in love with Native American folklore and horses. She also dedicates the sequel book to her dad, and we see that his nickname for her is exactly the same nickname Shannon's dad has for her.


Right. My point is, I'm sure that PC was drawing extensively from her own experiences as a teacher here. So I guess it's possible that her own teaching circumstances were fortunate enough that she could have afforded to go the entire summer without a second job. I don't know. But given how Shannon will be talking very soon about how small her pay is as a teacher and makes no mention of other sources of income, it doesn't feel like that.

Okay. Onward.

After telling no one in particular about her excitement over the vacation, Shannon turns to the reader and pulls a Zoey Redbird.

In my ten years of teaching I’ve noticed that teachers tend to have a bad habit of talking to themselves. I hypothesize that this is because we talk for a living, and we feel safe speaking our feelings aloud. Or it could be that most of us, especially the high school teacher variety, are just weird as shit.

ZeldaQueen: “Isn't it so weird to talk to yourself? It's because I'm a teacher and teachers are weird! Ha ha! And being a high school teacher makes me especially quirky!”

Those of you who are following the ongoing Marked sporking [livejournal.com profile] ruin_takada and I are doing will probably recognize this as akin to the behavior of one Zoey Redbird, particularly when she is all, “Tee hee, doesn't that just make me look so geeky and strange?” when whatever it is usually doesn't. I draw this comparison because I've seen folks suggesting that a lot of the flaws of the House of Night come from PC's daughter, Kristin. To be fair, I can see why people would think that, especially since Kristin openly admitted that Zoey was her self insert and the books themselves read almost exactly like every Mary Sue self insert fanfiction teenage girls fart out to FF.net.

This book, however, proves that not everything rests on Kristin's shoulders. Oh, she may be to blame for some of it (particularly the “hip to my jive” talk going on), but PC herself is a massive Sue-fic writer. And so I shall be having another count. This one is for when PC has her own self insert say or do something that is reminiscent of what Zoey would say or do. Just watch and see how little changed between Zoey and her spiritual Sue mother.


And don't forget...


Shannon goes on to say that of course someone who'd work with teenagers willingly would have to be strange. I'm not going to have a count for it, but... uh, that's another running thing in this book – Shannon comes across as just plain nasty towards her students. I know PC meant for it to be affectionate ribbing, but it really has Meyeresque resentment coming through at times. She then thinks of the reaction of her “
best girlfriend”, Suzanne, (and am I the only one who finds “best girlfriend” to be a bit awkward? I know people use it, but I always used “best friend” myself) upon being told of whatever Wacky Student Hijinks have recently ensued. Suzanne's reaction, Shannon guesses, would be a painfully chick flick-esque, “God, Sha, they’re so…so…hormone filled. Eew!

ZeldaQueen: Who talks like that, outside of cheesy movies? And is it just me, or is “Sha” an awkward as heck nickname for “Shannon”? I'd think “Shan” would roll off the tongue better. Maybe it's just me.

Anyway, if that little quote makes you wonder about how old Suzanne is, she's a grown-ass woman like Shannon and is a college teacher. Oh, that just makes her line about the hormones even better, doesn't it? I mean, it's not like college students are still hormonal and high on life and prone to doing stupid shit! Nope! That's just high school kids!

Shannon, much like Zoey, isn't very kind in her descriptions of her friends. She says that she loves Suzanne, despite her being, “
a typical college professor snob”. I'm sure she'd appreciate that. Probably she'd appreciate it as much as Kayla would appreciate knowing Zoey refers to her talk as "K-Babble".


She then says that Suzanne has no appreciation for the “
many and varied opportunities for humorous interludes that teenagers provide on a daily basis”. While I get loving that wacky stuff happens on any job, again, this sounds disturbingly condescending towards the kids she's supposed to love so much.

Shannon is pulled out of these musings by the sound of Jean Valjean's signing. Either she was spending way more time on those thoughts than we were told or that was one short song Eponine was singing. Not to mention, Valjean doesn't do much singing right after “On My Own”, if that's what Shannon was supposed to be listening to before. In fact, he doesn't show up again until after the students capture Javert. The next big number after that is “Bring Him Home”.

*straightens Les Miserables nerd hat*

Anyway, Shannon proceeds to give us this gem...

Yep, this is it—the life of a high school English teacher with a sense of humor. Doomed to having no money but plenty of comedic fodder.


… and realizes that she's about to miss her exit. She whips her Mustang over like crazy, which again I'm sure is great for other drivers, and heads towards a place called Locust Grove, which she informs us is a terrible name. Really? Compared to some of the goofier town names in the US of A, that's downright ordinary. Also, “snarky” asides that serve no purpose but to make fun of something reminds me far too much of Zoey.


She continues driving like so while dividing her attention between the road and groping around for an auction flier. I hope she gets pulled over.

Right. The auction listed on her flier is her destination, since she's apparently a major fan of collecting various knick-nacks.

My students say my classroom is like a bizarre time warp. My walls and cabinets are filled with everything from prints by Waterhouse to posters of Mighty Mouse and hanging Star Trek Enterprise models, along with an almost scary number of wind chimes (they’re good chi).

And that’s just my classroom. They should see my condo. Guess they really wouldn’t be surprised. Except at home I’m a neat freak. My classroom is always in a perpetual state of disarray. I can’t seem to find anything if everything is found. Whatever the hell that means.

ZeldaQueen: Okay, her house I can understand. But... uh, how does she get away with decorating her classroom like that? I could buy it if she brought in things that were literature-related. I could understand if she brought in unrelated items that were small and kept on her desk and such. But she's apparently bringing in lots of large items that take up room and are kept in a state if disarray. If anybody in Viewerland is a teacher and wants to chime in on how likely or unlikely this is, please feel free. Also...


That would have worked just fine if Shannon only mentioned decorating her house like that. But no, she is a teacher and therefore it must be dragged into this.

From that one mental mention of “hell”, Shannon suddenly screams at herself to stop swearing. Dude, that was in your head. Nobody cares if you swear worse than Lewis Black, if you keep it in your head! And Shannon doesn't even curse badly, by any stretch of the imagination! Nor, might I add, does she have a bad habit of accidentally swearing in front of kids or during inappropriate situations or anything. No, much like Zoey and her “bullpoopie”s, this is just another way to try to make Shannon look quirky and charming.


And we suddenly get Shannon commenting on how she's not interested in hearing Javert singing – seriously, where the fuck in the soundtrack is this? Does Shannon just have an out-of-order mix CD? - puts on the Tulsa jazz radio station, and then makes a jab at Locust Grove being so small that she blinked and passed through it.


Shannon pauses to tell us how beautiful the scenery is and, while a bit of description is always nice, I'd like to remind everyone that we're almost done with the first chapter and it's been nothing but her driving a car, yammering to herself about inane things. She informs us that she went to the University of Illinois (you know, like PC Cast did?) and how EVERYONE there apparently stereotypes Oklahoma as a dust bowl and thinks she's totally insane when she tries to tell them otherwise. Oh yes, because stereotyping is so horrible, don't you know? Only ridiculous, narrow-minded people stereotype! I mean, whatever next? Will people start saying that blowjobs are something only evil sluts do or that lesbians are a collective hive mind?


AS THE RED BIRD FLIES: 6 (Because Miss Zoey Redbird had a tendency to complain about people being narrow-minded, which is just as hypocritical as it will be with Shannon)

One random comment about the bad naming of the town of Leach later...


… and Shannon starts talking about how beautiful Oklahoma is. This immediately moves to her talking about how awesome it must have been in the Good Old Days, when pioneers roamed the untamed land. And yes, yes, yes, I know Shannon is not the first person in fiction or real life to romanticize a time period, but PC and Kristin Cast do it so damned much in the House of Night series that it pisses me off. Living back then would have been a much different experience than living now, but it also meant many fewer laws in regards to racism, sexism, land ownership, protection of workers, and general health and safety, not to mention none of the comforts of modern day amenities like working toilets or well-cooked meals.

Shannon charmingly says that it all must have been exciting, “
not exciting like facing the principal after he has just heard from a parent who is upset about me calling Guinevere a slut”. Oh, that's just fucking GREAT. That's a wonderful way for a teacher to behave! It's also a damned fine feminist way to act towards that character, especially considering how many ways she's interpreted in media! I think teaching kids “Guinevere's a slut” warrants getting a talk from the principal! (Although I must ask, how often would a parent call in over something like that? Even if a student came home and said, “My teacher called Guinevere a slut”, I'm not sure how many parents would get up in arms over that. This isn't elementary school.)


Oh, and a brief digression. Some of you may know about the Goddess Summoning series that PC write, which pretty much follow the same formulas of bored, middle-aged single women being taken to mythological places and hooking up with the Hottest Men Ever. She recently published a new one. In it, the Mary Sue protagonist is sent back in time to seduce Lancelot away from Guinevere to save Camelot from falling, but instead falls in love with Arthur and becomes his True Love (And is able to make Mordred be a good guy with a stern talking to, but we'll discuss that when we get there). So with that in mind, in hindsight, Shannon dissing Guinevere here comes across as disturbingly Gethesemane Butler-ish.

Amazingly, Shannon does admit that romanticizing old timey periods is better than actually living there. She also acts like using the term “way back when” is another sign that she's an English Lit teacher.


Nobody tell that to Mr. Peabody and Sherman.

She thinks how “
reality reminds me that in actuality they did without penicillin and Crest. As my kids would say, 'What’s up with that?'” Uh, what's up with that is that it was before those things, or even the reasons to have those things, were discovered. It's not that weird to think about.

The good news is that Shannon is nearly at her destination. The bad news is that we're nowhere near the end of her inane thoughts. She reaches her turnoff, tells us, “
Turnoff number one, as in a road sign, not to be confused with the blind date who comes to your door in navy blue double-knit trousers and a receding hairline.” Yes, a stupid amount of this book is devoted to Where Have All The Good Men Gone. It's not quite enough for a count, but it makes it even more blatant when the love interest shows up that he's just PC vomiting a cardboard cut-out of her Dream Guy onto the page and not actually developing a character.

We get several paragraphs describing her following road signs to the auction, which I'm skipping over because I love you guys and don't want to bore you to death. We're “treated” to Shannon's unfiltered narration of what songs are stuck in her head, how she considers antique dealers “
bane of every broke auction-goer” and hopes this place is out of the way to dissuade them (I think most sellers would rather attract buyers who can pay what items are worth), and how she finds the lyrics of The Beverly Hillbillies vaguely disturbing. At this point, I want to claw my own eyes out, just to distract myself from how God dammed DULL this is.

Blah, blah, Shannon gets soapboxy about dividing up romantic, large ranches to be “
subdivided into neat little housing divisions so upper-middle-class folks could commute to…well, wherever.” and how that's job security for her because “[u]ppermiddle-class folks always have the prerequisite 2.5 kids, plus an additional 1.5 kid (from a previous marriage). And those kids gotta pass English to graduate from high school. God bless America.” God, help my sanity.

Fucking FINALLY, Shannon reaches the place. Apparently this house in the middle of frigging nowhere is this sprawling estate-ish place that Shannon compares to the House of Usher. Because she's Literary.

An old man waves her in and we're instantly told how, when she rolls down the window to talk to him, he smells God-awful and is built like he's worked out in the elements and his skin is all sallow. Anyone who knows anything about the House of Night series can probably guess whether this guy turns out to be good or bad, but we actually aren't going to find out until it's nearly the end of the book and everyone no doubt has forgotten him.

Anywho, Shannon charmingly mentally refers to him as “
the daddy from Children of the Corn” and tells us that he smells like something died and very briefly thinks that she's a terrible person for thinking that because he's probably sick with something. Yeah. Oh, and she hates herself for using the phrase “learn something new everyday” because “Clichés are the bane of educated mankind”.

Before getting out of the car, Shannon stalls for several minutes. Yeah, God forbid we actually have anything happen here. She tells an unfunny joke about how she takes a while to leave cars because the longer a woman takes, the more attractive she is, and then starts giving an incredibly detailed description of the house. The house which we're not going to see or hear of again after she leaves, by the way. Suffice to say, it's Gothic and Creepy and looks mismatched. Again, I'm not sure how likely it is to find a mansion like that in the middle of nowhere in Oklahoma, but I can't say. Anyone in Viewerland have an answer?

Upon establishing that this house apparently used to belong to the Adams Family, Shannon finally gets out of the car. And then... this happens.

Muttering to myself, I got ready to tear my eyes away from Usher’s abode when a shiver tickled down my spine. A thick cloud passed in front of the sun and the “walking on my grave” feeling hit me like a bad dream.

ZeldaQueen: Jesus Christ! At this point, I wouldn't be surprised if there was a thunderclap and the sound of a wolf howling! We get it, PC. This place is incredibly creepy. And folks, like with the Creepy Old Dude she just met, we won't find out why until it's so far into the book that everyone likely forgot about the house entirely.

Shannon promptly waxes pretentious, quoting Medea, “
Is it late? It seems to me that the light darkens”. Why? Because she's a fucking English teacher, that's why!


The chapter concludes, in all ways, with her thinking, “
Greek tragedy, replete with revenge, betrayal and death. Seemed, in an inopportune way, appropriate”. Woman, Medea is a play about a woman who abandons everything for her husband and, when he leaves her for another woman, murders his new wife and her children! You're going to an auction on a somewhat cloudy day. A slightly creepy setting does not equal “appropriate to think about revenge, betrayal and death”!

And...that's where it ends. Her getting out of the car after being kind of creeped out.

I have to ask, don't most publishers want something interesting enough to grip the reader's attention to happen in the first five pages or so? I don't think driving a car would really be that gripping for most people.


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