Since I’ve got no new reviews in the wings yet – A Soldier’s Duty coming up soonishly – I thought I’d share a little about what I’m reading at this point in time and, subsequently, what it has my Musings Machine wondering about. Before we go on, yes, there will be spoilerish things for the book in question, so please redistribute your line of sight where appropriate. If you’ve signed on, just proceed as usual.
I thoroughly enjoyed the first book, Spellbent, back in February of 2010. So much so that I graced it with my (in my mind only) much-coveted Books with Balls review title. Books with Balls is reserved for a book I felt really pushed the envelope and went there. You know where. The Where that makes us cringe. The Where that makes us break out of the monotony of Same ‘Ole Same ‘Ole. The Where that makes an impression amongst a never ending tide of books fighting to be noticed. The Where that makes us feel rewarded, finally, for finding an awesome book.
I’m finally reading – and enjoying – the second book in the series now, Shotgun Sorceress, a book that’s languished far too long in my TBR pile. The more I read this book, though, the more I wonder sometimes if I’m gelling with its shocking, ballsy moves, or if it’s getting a little OCD on the shock value. Some seriously screwed up shit happens to the heroine in book one, and in book two, this theme carries on quite enthusiastically. She lost and eye and a hand and part of an arm in book one for F’s sake – what else can go wrong?
There were also the Jizz Kids – I just…I. Ugh. No, I can’t talk a whole lot about that after all. You’ll have to read book one for that.
I will tell you that she gains this fiery “hand” in place of her real one that she can’t control. When she and her boyfriend, Cooper, are making love in book two, she doesn’t realize her magic hand is shooting purple…stuff….all over the walls as she orgasms, which catches fire with anything it touches and the bedroom they’re in burns down around them and the neighbors could see in and she’s nekkid.
When done well, elements that lend a shocky touch to the story can lend a comedic air (this series is pretty funny) or punch up the tension and conflict. They mean something in the long run. Or the immediate run, whichever.
But there’s this side to the whole shock value reading scenario, and that’s simply that it can get old quick if not used carefully, especially if it feels as if it’s shock value merely for the sake of shock value. Sometimes these elements make me feel incredulous and it gets a little hard to continue taking a book seriously. I’m all for things that are shocking and weird and awful and weirdly great when they add to the overall story, but there’s a lot more in book two that feels thrown in for basic shock value and not much else.
The heroine is way too naked (to the point I’m up to ATM – pg. 134) in way too many circumstances that made me…well, uncomfortable. No, I’m not a prude, I merely keep wondering why all this undignified stuff keeps happening to her, and on top of it all she has to be naked while flying through the air. Even though I completely understand that a heavy, strapless ball gown would be hard pressed to remain on her when cruising higher altitudes via her large, flying familiar who grabbed her by the arms…
Yeah, I’m probably not explaining this very well.
I skipped ahead a little to see if she gets any clothes on anytime soon (because of course she’s getting ogled by her boyfriend’s brother) and came across a part where her boyfriend gives her her underwear back all fixed and sewn back together. Uh…OK then. So she keeps losing her clothes.
I guess where this is all going is: have you ever read a book where the shocking events went one shocking step too far? Did it make the book feel ludicrous or over the top? Or did it make it more enjoyable?
I think that’s where I’m at ATM. I’m enjoying Shotgun Sorceress – for realz. I’m laughing. I love the heroine. Jessie is kick-ass. Even when naked. I’m also mystified and weirded out at times, but despite the shock value reading, I cannot look away. I suppose only time will tell if that’s a good thing or not.
ETA: I think there’s a big difference between saying there are shocking events in a book and shock value tactics. There can definitely be shocking events in books and said the book still feels cohesive. Indeed, what would a book do without something shocking once in a while to spark conflict or ramp up tension.
Shock value doesn’t really add anything to the overall story. It feels added in merely to titillate in the hopes that something extremely weird or odd will keep the reader going. Maybe that works for some people – heck, it might even work for me sometimes, but when it doesn’t work, it tends to stick out like a sore thumb. Repeated use just makes it tiresome.