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Jealous Hater Book Club: Handbook For Mortals Chapter 2 The Hermit or “Cifnaf annataz””

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So, in Handbook For Mortals news, brace yourselves, because there is a lot. If you need a break, I encourage you to visit author Claribel Ortega’s Tumblr, where she’s writing an excellent Handbook For Mortals fanfic.

So, remember when Lani Sarem insisted that no one gamed the system, that her books weren’t bulk-ordered, that she played by the rules and was viciously robbed of her legitimate success by jealous haters? She hasn’t exactly changed her tune, but she’s definitely singing her sad song of lies in a different key. In an op-ed for Billboard.com, she writes:

If I had purchased the books directly from my distributor, Itasca Books, they would not count as sales for purposes of the New York Times list. If they were purchased from booksellers — brick and mortar or online — they would count. While I didn’t limit my purchases to only those booksellers involved in the Times list, I did purchase books in bulk from booksellers to resell them later at events.

But it’s not a scam, she argues. It’s publishing’s antiquated model that constrains artists that’s at fault for her con game:

What I have chosen to do is to build a community of interrelated fans at these 3D, real-time events. This is part of what I believe is an innovative strategy — one that is aimed at building an entire new franchise in the Hunger Games and Game of Thrones mold, yet without having to give up creative control and a huge cut of the revenue to some synergistic studio giant a la Disney or Fox.

What Sarem is describing here is indie publishing and indie film. It isn’t new or innovative to bring your book to a convention. Self-pub authors do it all the time. And it isn’t new or innovative to make a movie without a studio.

Sarem concludes by saying that she hopes the New York Times will return her book to its rightful #1 slot on their list, albeit with their bulk-sales indicator. But perhaps the most delusional part of her piece is that despite the laughably bad writing, lack of any major star attached to the project, and the total bungling of her brilliant con, Sarem still appears to believe that she’ll be starring in a major film franchise:

That is why we published the book with the film rights already in place, set to produce the first of up to five “Handbook for Mortals” films that will star, in the lead role, yours truly, alongside my producer and co-star, Thomas Ian Nicholas. If all goes well.

However, one amazing thing has come to light in the wake of allegations that Sarem wrote the infamous troll fic My Immortal. It has brought the actual author of My Immortal out of the shadows, and she has a memoir in the works. Because the story is too fascinating to be believed, I won’t say too much here, except that rarely has an internet mystery had such a satisfying and heart-wrenching conclusion.

As Sarem continues to name-drop her connection to various celebrities, especially her former ties to the band Blues Traveler (who fired her), let’s all sing a beautiful ode in her honor, to the tune of the band’s hit, “The Hook”:
It doesn’t matter what you sell
So long as you sell at conventions
It’s such a freakin’ unique way
To make the headlines through deception

And it’s not fair that you lost face
To all those nasty trolls and haters’ campaign
The New York Times should apologize
You’ll take that asterisk and tout it without shame
‘Cause the book brings you fame
From a spot you had to buy
The book brings you fame
You got caught because you lied

The YA world is gonna miss
The stellar prose you tried to bring them
Who wouldn’t want to read another teen witch
Who’s old enough to rent a car

You could have just written a screenplay
And shopped it around to your famous friends
When your biggest names are ’90s stars
Maybe a scam was the way to go

‘Cause the film won’t get made
With the guy from American Pie
The film won’t get made
Here’s a camera you can buy

Con and win, con and win, con and win
That’s the position that you are in
If they find out all the ways you sinned
There’s always blame to pin on the community
At least you get publicity
“A lot of folks are jealous of me”
You’ll just project your problems on the trolls
Go ahead and take somebody’s art all for yourself
Stage pictures of your books up on some shelves
You tried
Now change your name and hide
From the critics who deride and all the deceptions that you tried. Your career is fried,
it died, you killed it with your lies
And all the claims that we won’t buy
about the bullies at the New York Times
You said fuck all the rules
they don’t apply to Lani
That shit might fly in music
It’s much harder to sleaze your way into YA
You’re pissed that none of us wanna kiss your ass,
we pass
And we don’t want to read you
Act innocent and victimized
To try to make a buck
With names to drop, like Mall Cop
You’re delusional please stop because we’re

Not buying your crap
It’s embarrassing to watch
You fail
Please don’t bother to try

My apologies to John Popper for mangling his rhyme scheme.

Now, on to the recap!

 When last we met, Lani had just concluded a triumphant performance of an illusion that won’t impress anyone who sees it. Now, she’s fallen asleep while waiting for Beth to return with human resources paperwork. That is, she’s fallen asleep in the house, where all of the cast and crew are hanging out for some reason.
This is another theater thing that doesn’t happen. In fact, I’ve done shows at theaters where cast and crew weren’t allowed in the house unless they were specifically doing work there or it was a part of the show. It’s definitely not a place that’s cool to just hang out in between or before performances. And definitely, you would not want to be discovered sleeping in a seat while everyone else is working.
But this is Lani we’re talking about, so:
“Hey there, Sleeping Beauty,” Cam said softly after lightly touching my shoulder and sitting down next to me. “It looked like you met everyone that works here today. The line to say hello to you after your performance resembled an autograph signing by a boy band. I don’t really know what the latest one is, but Backstreet, Five Directions, One Second of Winter, 98 Celcious, O-City, NSYNC Boys or Old Kids on a Curb or something like that.”
If comedy follows a rule of three, then a rule of seven should make this dialogue twice as hilarious!
Winona Ryder in a scene from Heathers, saying "You're not funny."
But we know that’s funny because Lani explains the joke for us:
I laughed hard at his combo of wrong boy band names and his clear indication that he knew all the boy bands; he purposely had made the small wrong switches in their names.
Oh, that’s why it’s funny. Thanks, I had no idea what you were going for, and now I am chortling with mirth.
Lani asks Cam if his name is short for Cameron, but surprisingly doesn’t take another opportunity to walk us through the pronunciation of her name. But Cam says that everyone has nicknames, so hope springs eternal that she’ll also get a nickname and we’ll have to learn how to pronounce that.
Zade is going to stay to watch the show and fill out paperwork, and she mentions that she has to do a drug test. Considering that this chapter feels like it’s written in real time, I assume the next two will be about her peeing in the cup.
“Ahem.” Cam and I both looked up to see Mac standing directly in front of us, holding a clipboard pressed against his stomach. He still looked angry and bothered for reasons I had yet to figure out. I looked at him with my eyes narrowed and he puckered his lips together in a manner that resembled a very fake smile.
He puckered his lips and smiled? How do you do that? What does it look like?
Hang on. Let me give this a shot.
I really can't describe it. But I look fucking ridiculous.
Whoa, yikes. But if that’s what Mac is doing, I guess we all have to go with it.
Mac asks Cam if he has work he should be doing, and Cam says he was just checking on Zani. This leads Mac to snap at Cam, and Lani to think Mac was rude.
As annoyed as I was, I couldn’t help but notice how piercing Mac’s deep hazel eyes were when he looked at me, despite the anger that was engulfing him.
“I couldn’t help but notice how good the food smelled, despite my hunger.”
“I couldn’t help but tap my toes, despite the catchy rhythm of the song.”
“I couldn’t help but scream, despite the fact that someone was stabbing me in the face.”
“Despite” indicates that something is happening even though an opposite thing is happening at the same time, which should make the first thing unlikely or difficult to do. If his anger is of such intensity that it can be described as “engulfing” him, then obviously his eyes are going to be piercing. That’s why when people are mad, we say they’re “staring daggers” at someone. I don’t want to have to explain how words and faces work, but here I am.
Cam gets sarcastic with Mac, but leaves to do as he’s told. Not before he can invite Lani to watch the show from the grid that night. Again, OSHA and union violation, but whatever. It’s not like this is going to get any more realistic.
So, what did Mac want?
“I’d like to schedule a crew call for you once your contract has been signed. You, me, and all of our techs, so we can go over your trick and map out how it will be safely implemented into the show.”
Before you go, “Oh, well, that certainly takes care of that issue entirely,” just wait.

He knew that calling what I had done a “trick” instead of an illusion I would take as a slight. It’s sort of like telling someone who had just won an Olympic gold medal and was proudly wearing it around their neck, that their necklace was cute.

First,

A scene from Arrested Development, in which George Sr. is saying "Hold on, I don't have time for your magic tricks," and Gob is responding, "Illusions, Dad, you don't have time for my illusions."

 

Second, Tad called it a trick twice in the last chapter, and Zani was cool with it then. Probably because he looked “blown away” by it at the time.

Third, I love how with nearly every line, Zade fires cannonballs into the sides of her own characterization. She’s modest and humble and oh gee and nobody will notice her. Now, she’s comparing herself to a gold medalist.

Zani stands up to him, literally. And she’s super, impressively tall:

I’m five foot nine inches and so while I don’t usually tower above any guys I know, I can definitely look them directly in the eye. Most girls at five feet five inches (which, I believe, is an average height for a woman) have to look up. My height was an advantage that I never took for graned and here, again, I was happy I didn’t have to look up to him–figuratively or literally. In heels I could even be as tall or taller than him and I’ve alwasy love that part about being the height I am.

Not Like Other Girls™

PS. the way the final sentence is written means that the part Zani has always loved about being tall is that by wearing heels, she could be taller than this specific dude she just met.

“Maybe you misunderstood. I don’t show anyone how it’s done. That wasn’t just for the audition. I handle this illusion on my own.”

SUNDAY! SUNDAY! SUNDAY! TWO TITANS ENTER THE CAGE, ONLY ONE CAN LEAVE VICTORIOUS! IT’S REALISM VS. WHAT LANI WANTS IN AN NO-HOLDS-BARRED SHOWDOWN! WE’LL SELL YOU THE WHOLE SEAT BUT YOU’LL ONLY NEED…THE EDGE!

But seriously, we know for a fact that she’s just going to get what she wants, as this entire book is wish-fulfillment fantasy meant to become actual real-life career wish-fulfillment. And while Mac (a.k.a. reality) might sound pretty tough:

“Listen, lady, I don’t know who else you worked for, but we don’t do that Lone Rnager stuff around here. I’m the technical director and in charge of everyone’s safety, no matter how stupid you want to be. You do what I say, and I keep your pretty self from getting hurt. Got it?”

it won’t matter because absolutely nothing is going to happen that isn’t going to make Lani happy in this story. I foresee this entire plot being a loose tangle of momentary conflicts which give Zade the chance to look like a badass, but which will ultimately resolve exactly the way she wants them to within paragraphs.

Notice that while Mac is fighting with her, he’s also calling her pretty? We have to be sure that we all know how pretty Lani Zade is. Also, how tough she is:

I could feel my hands tightening into fists. I really did want to punch him.

And how sexual tension fairly crackles between her and every man in her path:

I leaned into him so closely that it might have looked like to an outsider that I was about to kiss him.

They keep arguing over the thing, with Zani prodding him with her fingers and Mac “jolting” when she touches him, probably from spontaneous ejaculation.

I grabbed him by the shoulder, stopping him in his tracks and swinging him around to face me. My face had flushed and I’d raised my voice to a full yell. “And you need to get some manners. I’m not showing you how it’s done, okay? If we have a problem I can go to another show where the technical director doesn’t have a God complex. I’m not a girl who needs a knight in shining armor.”

I…huh? I know that Sarem probably thought she was making herself Zade come off as empowered here by spouting a line about a knight in shining armor, but like…it doesn’t apply to anything that’s happening. And remember, this isn’t even her first day of work yet. She just auditioned. Yes, she knows she got the job, but the first thing she does is manhandle the technical director and yell about how she could just get into another show?

He laughed loudly. “Ha! Good luck finding a Technical Director who will treat you like the princess you clearly think you are. If I found you locked in a tower, I promise I’d leave you there.”

Is Mac an avatar created by my own thoughts? Did I wish him into being?

Mac sends someone to get David Copperfield Charles Spellman to back him up, and Lani notices that everyone has been looking at them.

One petite, pixie-like girl who I knew was in the case, though I didn’t know her name, was standing the nearest to me. She ahd really bright red hair that was short and framed her face. I glanced her way and she immediately looked down at her arm and pretended to scratch it over and over with her bright-colored nails that were a beautiful shade of teal. She continued to stare at her arm as if there was something wrong with her perfectly tan skin.

Maybe she’s got eczema, Lani. Maybe people do shit that has nothing to do with you. But this is such a weird, in-depth description of this person that either a) she becomes a character later, or b) this is a cameo role for a friend in the eventual movie and Sarem went ahead and wrote it into the book. And note, earlier in the chapter, Zani says she the met so many people, she can’t remember all their names, but she remembers the names of every. single. male. character.

Zade blames Mac for the fact that she’s embarrassed in front of everyone because she feels he should have spoken to her privately and not in front of the cast and crew. Except, the only reason anyone took note of the conversation is the fact that she started shouting and attracted their attention.

I was back in his face, stern and loud. “Look. It was part of my deal, end of story. I dind’t know Joffrey Baratheon worked here now.” I wondered if Mac even watched Game of Thrones, but hoped he would get my reference to the child king from the first two seasons who acted like, well, a child given power he didn’t derserve or know how to handle.

Joffrey didn’t become king until like the seventh or eighth episode of season one, and he was the king until season four. Do you even watch Game of Thrones? But seriously, she just got hired onto this show and she’s saying this guy who has worked there for far longer than she has and knows the business better than he does is acting like a childish tyrant? Excuse me, but he’s not the one shouting in someone else’s face that they could just waltz into another show and automatically get hired.

I didn’t know if Mac was really a spoiled brat,

He isn’t. He’s a professional trying to do his job so that the show won’t get shut down and two-hundred people won’t be suddenly out of work.

and I knew I might have been overreacting,

MIGHT?

but I had to protect certain things–and my secrets were definitely among them.

Then maybe (and this is just constructive criticism, you can take it or leave it) DON’T PUT YOUR SECRETS ON DISPLAY IN FRONT OF SOLD-OUT CROWDS OF 2,000 PEOPLE EVERY SINGLE NIGHT, TWICE ON SATURDAYS.

Lani is done with this conversation, so she’s about to dramatically stomp out of the theater.

A black and white photo that appears to be from the 50s or 60s, of two air-traffic controllers watching a plane take off from inside the tower. The text reads, "Flounce one niner you're cleared for takeoff." But!

I had only taken four or five pounding steps when Charles appeared from behind one of the black curtains that hung down and around every stage entrance.

In a theater in the round? They’ve got legs and tabs on the stage, but the show is in the round?

Charles calls her over to talk to him, and she instantly regrets what she’s just done.

I had wanted to look professional and put together and I instead ended up looking like a five-year-old child throwing a temper tantrum. It’s not even technically my first day yet and I’ve already made this huge fool of myself, I thought as I edged my way toward Charles.

It’s okay, Zade. I guarantee someone is going to admire you for standing up to Mac. Someone important, even. Or hot. Either way, you’re not going to look bad for this, because you’re the protagonist.

I wouldn’t blame him if he changed his mind right there and just had me leave his theater.

That would be fine, though, right? Because you can get a job with any other show, right?

And of course, everyone is watching as Zade and Charles and Mac talk to each other.

Even those who had previously not cared about the spat Mac and I were having, were now also watching all of us.

Remember in the last chapter, when I talked about how Sarem uses “seemed” wrong like, almost constantly? This is a place where “seemed” would have been useful. Zade can’t possibly know the mental states of all of the cast and crew. She has no idea who was and was not previously interested in the argument. “Even those who had previously seemed ambivalent about the spat,” or something similar, wouldn’t have skewed POV to omniscient first.

Charles looked angry, but his voice was firm and calm. He slowly leaned down and forced his eye to mine. He reached his hand out and pulled up my chin.

His voice is firm and calm, but he hasn’t said anything since he called her over.

I finally allowed my eyes to look up and straight into his eyes.

But you just said he “forced his eyes” to yours. You’re already looking into his eyes. Note, now that Sarem is trying to make her self-insert seem child-like and vulnerable, she is no longer tall. She has to look up, like all of us pitiful, not 5’9″, average wretches have to.

I don’t know why he held her chin, other than to be extremely inappropriate as her employer because he lets her go to scold Mac.

“When I auditioned Zade, I guaranteed her the privacy to set up her own act.”

I am dying to know how Zade never met Charles Spellman before but somehow got him to agree to not only let her audition for his show but guarantee that she would be able to set up her own illusion under total secrecy without ever having seen her perform. I mean, the fact that she was able to get on the phone with David Copperfield is the absolute first place we would have to start in the chain of getting this whole scenario rolling, and that in itself is pretty fucking unlikely. I’m assuming that we find out Charles is either her father, as some of you have guessed in the comments, or otherwise connected to her family.

Mac continues to be the voice of reason:

“Charles, that isn’t up to O.S.H.A. requirements. I can’t run a show like this. People on this crew have to know how it’s done. We have to be involved in the production of it. She needs help with it, I’m sure. How will we even known if something is wrong? This is crazy. We would never do things that way. You’ve got to agree with me.”

Dude, that’s what I’ve been saying. Even Zeb, who apparently doesn’t usually agree with Mac, agrees with Mac. So, Charles comes to the compromise of having Lani tell him how the illusion is done, but nobody else. Which…really doesn’t fix any of the shit Mac just said. Charles knowing how the trick is done doesn’t help the crew do their jobs.

Also, remember how Lani didn’t need a knight in shining armor? She’s not exactly rejecting Charles now that he’s riding to her rescue, is she?

I didn’t really love his idea, either, but I could deal with it. I knew that he would never push to know the way it was truly done.

How? You just met him like an hour ago.

I could give him just enough information to comply. I could make it work.

How? You’re going to make up a practical way to perform your illusion, but still keep doing it the magic way? And if you can do that, why not just do it the practical way, to begin with, to protect your very important family secret? That would be a far more interesting plot, to be honest. A magician who really can do magic, but relies on practical effects so their illusions won’t appear to actually be magic would be such a cool character. Gosh, it’s too bad nobody has ever written a character like that…

A comic book cover depicting DC's Zatana.
She also reads tarot cards and her father is also a stage magician with actual magical powers and oh my god, this is DCU fanfic with Zatanna made up like Suicide Squad Harley Quinn and for some reason Madame Xanadu is her mom.

 

The entire theater was watching me. I could hear whispering. I was used to some of that from where I grew up, but even so I wanted to melt into the floor.

Of course, when the people back home were whispering about her, they were whispering about how gorgeous and kind she was.

Lani agrees to Charles’s condition, and the whole kerfuffle is settled. For them. Because it still isn’t settled for the reader. The fight solved nothing and made nothing about the plot more plausible. In fact, having a character acknowledge stuff like OSHA and safety regulations, then presenting the reader with a solution that doesn’t actually work only drives home the fact that nothing in the scene makes sense. You can’t acknowledge that something doesn’t work, then make it not work and just hope that everyone will go along with it not working.

Charles tells Zade to come to his office, then casually tosses off that they’ll be cutting his girlfriend’s act to fit Lani’s in because of course that’s what he’s going to do.

Sofia, who had been standing off to the side with another performer, looked indignantly at Charles. I watched her redden, as her eyes got wide. She looked as if she was going to kill someone. I wondered if that someone was Charles or me–or maybe both of us. She gave me one terrible death stare, so I’m guessing it was me, before storming up to Charles.

“You’re cutting my main illusion?” she huffed angrily.

So, after the huge diva fit we just saw Lani throw at Mac, we’re not expected to accept Sofia in the role of Carlotta in this particular horror-show production of Phantom of the Copperfield?

Charles met her gaze and raised his eyebrows just slightly. I could tell that she didn’t intimidate him.

Maybe she’s 5’5″.

Everything was always on his terms, including his relationships. I doubt the word “compromise” was in his vocabulary.

How would Zani possibly know this? Again, she met the guy like an hour ago. Tops.

Charles walked closely to her, stroked her face, and took her hand in his. I’m guessing it was meant to be loving, but looked more like he was brushing her off.

Obviously, Charles doesn’t love Sofia. Who could possibly love her, when she is so clearly being set up as the vapid bitch of this piece? And we already know that in stories like this, only one woman gets love, and that woman is the author main character.

Charles tells Sofia that he’s going to work on another illusion for her to be in, then walks away and takes Zade with him. After once again noting that everyone has been staring at her, Zade reminds us that everyone is staring at her:

I could feel everyone watching us as we walked toward his office offstage.

Look, Lani, if you could just stop being so pretty, kind, humble, blue-haired, tough, and talented, this wouldn’t be a problem. But thanks for the heads up about his office being offstage. I thought his fucking desk was like, right in the middle of that water tank.

As we approached his office door no one said anything until they heard the door thud to a close. It was a big heavy door that made a hard pounding noise when it shut, and then I was alone with him.

Again, POV skew. If the door is so big and heavy, she can’t possibly know if people started talking after it shut. Also, let’s appreciate the fact that his office is literally right offstage. They’re on the stage, they walk off the stage, and they’re in his office. I can’t even begin to imagine what this fucking theater looks like. It’s in the round, with legs and tabs over the entrances to the stage that negate the point of theater in the round in the first place, and then directly offstage is an office.

I’m going to draw a floorplan of this monstrosity before this recap is over.

In the office, Charles tells her to sit down.

He was facing the wall, but he spoke deliberately. “Well, my dear. Tell me everything.”

Why is he facing the wall? Is this like, “I want him to face out of the window like Christian Grey on the movie poster, but I can’t because they’re inside a theater inside a casino,” or something? Because all I’m imagining is a Sims character glitching and trying to go through a door that’s been removed.

That’s the way the chapter ends, by the way. With Charles saying “Tell me everything.” So I cannot wait to get to the next chapter to find out how Lani gets out of this mess!

103 Comments

  1. Jemmy
    Jemmy

    I don’t get how she can be 5’9″ and not look upwards at someone taller than her. I’m 5’8″, and most guys are around the 6′ plus mark here in Australia. I’m going to be looking up depending on how close I am. Yeah I know, tiny quibble but height is one of my quirks. i was super tall in high school because I hit 5’8″ at 13 when everyone was else was still short. Most of the guys in my year had overtaken me by the end of year 9, but nearly 3 years of forced old style dancing, where I had to turn under the arm of a guy who came up to my shoulders leaves a mark.

    I’m not super tall. Zade isn’t’ that impressively tall either. Sure, I know plenty of women that are 5’5″ or shorter, but I know plenty who are taller than me as well. One of my bosses’ who was over 6′, she’s tall.

    September 11, 2017
    |Reply
    • Jo
      Jo

      Same, at our height we’re taller than most women but most guys I know are my height or slightly taller. Although I guess ‘looking up’ at someone at our height is a lot less extreme than those who are shorter?

      September 11, 2017
      |Reply
      • Jemmy
        Jemmy

        Maybe? But moving from a sitting position to standing to interact with the guy probably sends a stronger message than being 5’9″. Even really short people can use body language to effect.

        September 12, 2017
        |Reply
        • Kate
          Kate

          I’m 5’2″ and can confirm that it is still possible to use body language. Also, it’s possible to have a noticeable physical presence, because a lot of that has to do with confidence. Granted, I can’t really physically loom over people, but in my experience, a lot of tall people think that they’re impressive *just* by virtue of being taller.

          September 12, 2017
          |Reply
  2. Stella Price
    Stella Price

    SUCH. CRAP. Ugh my head hurts.

    #WhitetrashZatanna Seriously.

    And BTW, I sell at Cons, I sell BEST at cons, you don’t see me ordering copies from AROUND THE FUCKING COUNTRY at book stores to fill my inventory for events (of which I’m SURE I do more than this idiot does) Some people cant handle that they gt caught being an asshole.

    And dear god, tell me… who the hell would go see this flick anyway… not even project greenlight is going to get that movie picked up for nationwide distro…

    September 11, 2017
    |Reply
  3. I have never been ashamed of being 5’9″ before but the fact that I have that in common with this character makes me wince. Also reading this as a person raised in a theater family makes me want to pull my hair out haha

    I love how she has Charles compromise with the crew so she doesnt have to tell them about how she does her illusion, and then in the bit with his girlfriend she’s all “I doubt the word compromise is even in his vocabulary.”

    September 11, 2017
    |Reply
    • Xebi
      Xebi

      I came to say that about the compromise bit! The other thing that bothered me in terms of wording was, “He was facing the wall, but he spoke deliberately.” Why would facing the wall imply that he wouldn’t speak deliberately? Because words mean things and “but” implies an exception to a general rule.

      September 11, 2017
      |Reply
  4. ViolettaD
    ViolettaD

    Where to start?
    “films that will star, in the lead role, yours truly”–You can do that if you’re doing “Good Will Hunting” or “Rocky” and are believable as the character, and even then, those projects didn’t get made without a fight. I played teenagers (and breeches parts) on stage until I was pushing 40 (at which time doctors put me on the pill for fibroids, and suddenly I developed boobs), but playing that young on camera is a VERY different thing. In addition, I was able to play young because I am SHORT. I know at least one actress, close to 30, who’s still playing 9-year-olds on stage–but she’s even shorter (and flatter) than I am or was.

    September 11, 2017
    |Reply
    • Arkle
      Arkle

      The thing I love is that the whole story about the scam and resulting publicity would honestly make a better film (as Jenny pointed out in her first post about this book.) With a good script and some nice dynamic shots of telephones and sales graphs going up (before massively plummeting), it could actually be quite enjoyable. I imagine it as Catch Me if You Can meets Saving Mr. Banks.
      But for it to really be a satisfying story, I think the author would have to realise what she’d done and apologise. Do you think she’ll give it the ending it needs?

      September 12, 2017
      |Reply
      • mydogspa
        mydogspa

        Why give the story to her? Write it yourself, it’ll be far more interesting and you’d probably get way more readers than she does.

        September 13, 2017
        |Reply
  5. So, about the theatre…I think she might be describing a thrust stage? (But using the wrong words for it). The one we used had tabs that went backstage, but also a stage that jutted into the audience, so they sat around 2/3 to 3/4 of the performance area. Not that I’m defending this at all. Just trying to help people picture the scene of this train wreck.

    September 11, 2017
    |Reply
    • H2
      H2

      This fits better in a casino venue anyway. Why would a casino have a theater-in-the-round? Unless it was some Shakespeare themed place – which, I doubt this one is. The thrust stage makes a lot more ‘casino sense’.

      September 12, 2017
      |Reply
      • Goddesstio
        Goddesstio

        I find it ironic if this is true, because she went out of her way to give the theater a specific type – which would imply some research into type – only to have none of the description of it match up to the type.

        September 18, 2017
        |Reply
  6. Kiki
    Kiki

    Why do her two love interests have mirrored names? Of all the names in the world, they had to have to same one spelled backward?

    Lani’s sentence structure is really clunky: “…she immediately looked down at her arm and pretended to scratch it over and over with her bright-colored nails that were a beautiful shade of teal. ” She only pretended to scratch, so her “bright-colored nails that were a beautiful shade of teal” didn’t actually touch her arm? Or she actually scratched her arm, but only pretended to have a reason? Or maybe hey itchy/not itchy arm was more interesting than the unprofessional temper tantrum she’s being forced to witness?

    Also, can we, please, as a society, stop referring to grown women as girls? It’s sexist and infantilizing. This bright-colored that was a beautiful shade of teal nail haver is an employee of a Las Vegas show. She is obviously an adult.

    September 11, 2017
    |Reply
    • mydogspa
      mydogspa

      They’re really brothers from the same Scottish MacCam clan.

      September 11, 2017
      |Reply
    • Lynette
      Lynette

      Her sentence structure is just baffling to me–and proof that this thing never saw an editor. Everything screams of padding the word count, and the detail of using that many words to describe the nail polish, in a context where it was literally the LEAST IMPORTANT THING HAPPENING IN THIS SENTENCE, seems like she was working off a list of targeted demographics: “Teen girls like nail polish! Be sure to shoehorn it into your descriptions!” I’m surprised she didn’t mention the brand. “Looking down, she pretended to scratch her arms. Her nails were a beautiful shade of bright teal, which I recognized as Deborah Lippman’s California Coast, available exclusively at Sephora for $26.”

      September 11, 2017
      |Reply
      • Dove
        Dove

        Yeah, although knowing the name brand of the nail polish could have been an interesting detail, if it was indicative of her interests. Sadly, I’m sure that wasn’t the case.

        September 11, 2017
        |Reply
  7. Being in the house probably depends on the theater. Where I grew up, there were two major community theater groups. One was really laid-back and you could be hanging out in the house up until they opened it (and I’ve even slipped into the back row to watch when I wasn’t needed backstage). The other one considered themselves the “professional” theater and no performers were in that house EVER.

    I haven’t worked in any Vegas magic shows but I’m guessing it’s more like the second theater.

    September 11, 2017
    |Reply
  8. mydogspa
    mydogspa

    This author is even dumber than I was initially led to believe. What idiot buys books from a retailer to sell at a Con? THEY’RE WAY MORE EXPENSIVE!!

    Any self-published author knows they can’t go to cons forever IF THEY LOSE MONEY. Between table fees, travel, hotel, food, shipping, and inventory costs it all adds up real quick. Faster if one is lucky enough to get into the big ones like San Diego. (Lots of work, leaves you exhausted, though)

    Really, for my wife’s self published comic, she watches every dime spent at a con.

    To quote Bugs Bunny: “What a maroon.”

    September 11, 2017
    |Reply
    • Mike
      Mike

      Well, you’re assuming her excuse is legitimate. It seems to me her scam is to get herself listed on the best sellers list so when the production of her movie goes seeking funding she has the clout to say it’s an adaptation of a best selling novel so she’ll get a bigger budget. Trying to convince people to give you millions of dollars to make, market, and distribute a movie is not easy. If you can sign a name you can convince some rich people to do it by including ‘get to hang out with celebrity’ to the deal, but outside that your best bets are to either show you already have significant funding (usually achieved by signing exclusive distribution deals, personal investments, and/or govt grants) or the property you’re looking to produce has some weight behind it, such as a best selling novel which is presumed to have a built in audience.

      It’s a cheap ploy to curry favour with rich people since she can’t impress them with the star power of ‘side character from American Pie’. I doubt she even cares if the book sells to be honest. I kind of suspect she wrote it in a hurry after someone told her her ‘original’ IP would be a hard sell as a movie and she would have an easier time if it were an existing property, and even easier still if it sold well. The fact that she has ties to multiple entertainment industries and already had a contract for the film rights in place before the book even came out says it all really. Why work hard when you can scam your way to a movie career? [Been struggling to get in this industry full time for a while now. The plan is actually legitimately smart. Horribly unethical, with potential to backfire massively, but man, the film industry is one where the ‘there’s no such thing as bad press’ adage really does fit. All this attention probably got the book a decent number of legit sales and the attention means way more people know the name, giving it built in press. It’s deplorable, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it worked exactly how she’d planned.]

      September 11, 2017
      |Reply
      • JennyTrout
        JennyTrout

        Unfortunately, it’s not working as she planned. The book never cracked the top 1,000 on Amazon. I’m not sure it even cracked the top 10,000. As it’s an Amazon exclusive in digital, there’s no way it’s selling enough copies to make even blip on the Hollywood radar. This wasn’t a brilliant plan, so much as a plan that *seemed* brilliant to people who had absolutely no idea how the book industry works.

        September 12, 2017
        |Reply
        • Mike
          Mike

          To be fair I’m glad it’s not working. She doesn’t deserve to get big. But she did make it onto the Times Best Sellers list. It was the fact that she was caught getting there by cheating and thus removed that killed her plan. She said right in that quote you included that she was trying to do things independent of big companies, so she was likely looking to court investors who had nothing to do with the film industry and could be more easily tricked into thinking that ‘NYT best selling YA novel’ was enough, without having to have any legit sales numbers and they likely would be older and wouldn’t pay attention to the Amazon numbers. Had she not been caught and called out so quickly she could probably have gotten a significant investment off someone, got her film made, then she would be a famous screenwriter and actor! Or the movie would be attrocious and flop, and she’d try and get a bunch of interviews where she could blame it on other people.

          Though honestly all the media attention could still net her an investor for the film. I’ve seen some truly stupid and untalented people get handed ridiculous amounts of money and freedom despite repeated failure before by convincing someone that had a ton of amazing connections and all this talent and skill! That one look at their reel would have shown was non-existent. The book industry may be smart enough to stop her plan, but the film industry sure as hell isn’t… I love this industry but it’s fucking ridiculous.

          September 12, 2017
          |Reply
          • Dove
            Dove

            If someone could just take over the idea from her, and whip it into shape, it’d be a decent movie. I’d gladly take unintentional Zatanna knock-off over a tried and true adaptation of Handbook for Mortals. Which reminds me… I’m waiting for the reveal about where the hell the book’s name comes from in-universe. I’m hoping it’s truly hilarious, instead of just sad.

            September 12, 2017
      • ViolettaD
        ViolettaD

        All the marks of a Narcissist, if not a Sociopath. I’ve read of people who are intelligent enough to get advanced degrees and certification, but prefer to weasel their way into high-power positions as impostors. They enjoy fooling people.

        No wonder this “project” looks so slapped-together. She’s not interested in writing novels or scripts, nor is she interested in theatre, magic (real or the entertainment kind), rebels from stifling small towns, or anything but putting one over on the media and the public, so she can laugh at what suckers we all were.

        This isn’t even a Mary Sue project in the classic sense. Jane Eyre was almost certainly a stand-in for Charlotte Bronte, but there was passion behind it: revenge on the repressive school that contributed to two sisters’ deaths, rewriting an unrequited crush for a married man, filleting beautiful but shallow society girls like Blanche Ingram who had so many undeserved advantages.

        There is no passion here, except the desire to put one over on the world.

        September 13, 2017
        |Reply
        • Janina Pilczuk
          Janina Pilczuk

          and get money, she realised that after 50 shades and Twilight this kind of fiction with a “Mary Sue” was popular so she just went the easiest, effortless way not even bothering to make this copy of those two works interesting or even have it make sense. She saw that garbage like 50 shades filled with plot holes and bad grammar has made a success and made a lot of money. She she took a shot at it too, because there will be a number of people who will gobble it up and she might get rich and famous without moving her proverbial finger. That she can rob or knock down a lot of people who worked harder for it….

          September 14, 2017
          |Reply
          • ViolettaD
            ViolettaD

            Becoming clear why Blues Traveler fired her. Saw them in the ’90s;. Their only big hits were “Hook” and “Runaround,” but the audience acted pretty happy with lesser-known tracks on their setlist.
            They must have felt pretty insulted at her assumption that their work couldn’t stand on its own, without her promotional “Magick.”

            September 14, 2017
          • Amy
            Amy

            Yeah, I was telling my mother about this controversy and all she said was, “Yeah, but every time you complain about it, she [Lani] gets paid with every insult.”

            And she has a point. I dunno the specifics about this, but is Miss Lani getting paid for every time an article talks about this/her?

            (but I wonder if that matters in the end. If Miss Lani gets sued for her stolen cover, what’s the point of getting so much money when all of it is going to go towards legal fees)

            September 16, 2017
        • Dove
          Dove

          Ironically, if Zade had been written as that kind of narcissist, the story would make a lot more sense and be a lot more interesting. I recently posited on another blog that’s sporking this mess of a novel, that Zade could’ve been like a magical girl version of Tyler Durden with a superiority complex, if only Sarem had some skills.

          September 16, 2017
          |Reply
          • Jay Pear
            Jay Pear

            Someone else is sporking this mess? Got a link?

            September 20, 2017
  9. Lynette
    Lynette

    We really, really need a terminology for “only character in a novel who behaves and reacts like a reasonable human being and refuses to enable the protagonist’s nonsense, therefore we all appreciate and root for them, yet who has been plainly conceived as a ‘bad guy’ who dislikes the protagonist for no reason and we’re supposed to hate them, too.” I vote we name this character The Mac. (Previously I was leaning toward “the Leah” from the Twilight character, but Mac’s even better because the name’s gender-neutral.)

    September 11, 2017
    |Reply
    • shel
      shel

      Except I anticipate Mac will become part of the love triangle and he’s so grumpy with her because he’s already falling in love with her.

      September 11, 2017
      |Reply
    • Jellyfish
      Jellyfish

      Good idea! I nominate “The Kavanaugh”, because around these parts, Kate “plum dress” Kavanaugh is the first appearance of this ostensibly buzzkilling, but actually 100% correct character.

      September 11, 2017
      |Reply
      • Perlite
        Perlite

        I like the idea of “The Plum Dress” of the group. Someone, usually female, who doesn’t buy the main character’s, or their love interest’s, BS but is framed as either “bitchy” or unreasonable by the author. Especially when their criticisms are valid.

        September 12, 2017
        |Reply
    • Raven
      Raven

      I’ve seen the term Scary Sue used to describe this sort of character

      September 11, 2017
      |Reply
    • JaneDoe
      JaneDoe

      Scary Sue/Hairy Stu is the term used on the blog Das_Sporking.

      October 13, 2017
      |Reply
  10. Cavalish
    Cavalish

    I live for the Jealous Haters Book Club. There is something so cathartic about someone taking these terrible writers to task, and it always makes me laugh so hard.

    September 11, 2017
    |Reply
  11. Megan M.
    Megan M.

    This just gets more and more ridiculous! I’m delighted at the prospect of getting more recaps. I can’t look away.

    Wow, that My Immortal news is incredible! Such a fascinating story.

    September 11, 2017
    |Reply
  12. Doedee
    Doedee

    I bet Mac is secretly in love with her

    September 11, 2017
    |Reply
  13. Hel
    Hel

    I laughed so hard at the clunky explanation of a clunky joke, it makes it even worse!

    September 11, 2017
    |Reply
    • Dove
      Dove

      The book is so bad, the first time I read the boy band joke, I took it at face value, because everything was so incredibly awful. I was deeply confused, thinking he’d used the wrong word, and then I couldn’t tell if it was meant to be ironic, because there were way too many names, which sailed right over my head. The explanation relieved the confusion, but it reminded me of this… http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/texplainthejoke.jpg XD

      September 11, 2017
      |Reply
  14. falalala
    falalala

    I immediately played “Hook” so I could sing along using your lyrics. That was fun. 🙂 I also snort-laughed at the glitchy-Sim comparison – I’m totally picturing all the characters in this book as Sims from now on, because they appear to have very Simlike levels of emotional depth and personality. And hey, maybe that means at some point Zani will do her trick – I’m sorry, her ILLUSION – and land in the pool and someone will delete the ladder for her to get out. We can only hope!

    (Incidentally, on top of everyone being Sims, in my headcanon, Zani will now do all her ILLUSIONS to the tune of “The Final Countdown,” complete with GOB Bluth-style dancing. I feel like that mental image is going to make all the inevitable scenes of people staring at her ILLUSIONS in awe much more bearable.)

    Also, Zani is now super-unique because she likes thunderstorms, thinks black is a flattering color, isn’t afraid of heights, and is somewhat taller than the average woman. I eagerly await seeing what other astonishingly unusual traits she will reveal in future chapters. Perhaps next we’ll learn that unlike other, less special people, she enjoys watching football, or that unlike other, less special people, she likes chocolate ice cream better than vanilla, or unlike other, less special people, she thinks motorcycles are pretty cool. I mean, we wouldn’t want to break the streak and have her smugly announce a remarkable trait that ISN’T true of millions and millions of other people, after all.

    September 11, 2017
    |Reply
    • MayaB
      MayaB

      There’s an idea! We can make a list of all the things by which she differs from the normal people and expand it with each recap. Something like with Buffy’s recaps’ checklist.

      September 13, 2017
      |Reply
  15. MaS83
    MaS83

    First, I love this recap. If I ever get around to finishing/publishing my book, I hope never to see if recapped here, because that will mean I did such a terrible job, my focus on English in school will have been for nothing.

    Second, the very fact that it’s three weeks later and she’s still crying “No one understands me or my process!!!!” just screams of unprofessionalism. She broke the rules, she got caught, and she just needs to take it like a (proverbial) man and apologize before skulking back into the shadows to wait for everything to blow over. And, you know, maybe take some creative writing classes.

    Lastly, I would just like everyone to know that this book still has a 4-star rating on B&N. My review is the only negative one there, and I know I’ve seen the other two worded reviews on both Amazon and Goodreads. Please help change that.

    Link: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/handbook-for-mortals-lani-sarem/1126901986?ean=9781545611456#/

    September 11, 2017
    |Reply
  16. Jen
    Jen

    Since I assume all the book lines in the review are just copy+pasted from the book, this begs the question,

    ‘Lone Rnager’ ‘I dind’t know’ ‘She ahd really’

    Where the fuck were the editors??
    I shudder to think how typo riddled the book is if that’s the case.

    September 11, 2017
    |Reply
    • Jenny Trout
      Jenny Trout

      Nooooope, sorry those are not in the book. The clunky phrasing and poor word choice is, but WP screwed up a bunch of stuff in this post and I probably typoed trying to fix it.

      September 11, 2017
      |Reply
  17. Artemis
    Artemis

    I would much rather just read Zatanna fan fiction.

    September 11, 2017
    |Reply
  18. I got the impression that Cam is meant to be read as gay, actually. He’s described as being “pretty” (to the point that Zade wouldn’t even want to date him), knows boy bands (which I think is a stereotypically gay thing maybe?), calls Zade “girl” in a very gay-BFF way, and isn’t immediately in love with Zade while still being inexplicably supportive.

    And we know that Lani Sarem is totally the type to give her self-insert a gay best friend instead of a female best friend with whom she might have to compete for attention.

    September 11, 2017
    |Reply
    • Chris
      Chris

      Good one!

      September 13, 2017
      |Reply
  19. Mike
    Mike

    “I instead ended up looking like a five-year-old child throwing a temper tantrum.”
    No, A five-year old child throwing a temper tantrum is normal. You looked like a grown woman who was b e h a v i n g like a five-year-old child, and that’s much worse.

    September 11, 2017
    |Reply
  20. Dove
    Dove

    “I thought his fucking desk was like, right in the middle of that water tank.”

    This book would be a million times better if it had that kind of inventive creativity! Furthermore, if Zade actually allowed the crew to know the truth, so they could either offer suggestions and/or help mollify OSHA, or hell, if she at least pretended to play along and enchanted them with real magical illusions, so they’d see what they wanted to see, then it’d be a lot easier to salvage this mess. I really hate how pathetic this resolution was. Zade has magic, but she almost never uses it! WTF? ;P

    September 11, 2017
    |Reply
  21. Izzy
    Izzy

    Everything about this story is confusing and horrible and rage inducing.

    I’m 5′ nothing and one of my Y.A pet peeves is reading about the heroine bemoaning her height of 5’3 like at the ripe old age of 16/17, all possibility of another growth spurt is out of reach forever. So I would have actually given Sarem credit for the change if not for a) this not being an actual Y.A novel b) Sarem being a horrible writer/person and c) Zani using her height as yet another example of her superiority. Just because she doesn’t have to hit someone in the kneecaps with a baseball bat to be on eye level with them.

    Also f**k Sarem thinking her readers need everything explained to them, from jokes to who Joffrey is. Especially when she can’t even get a simple detail like how many seasons he was in right.

    September 11, 2017
    |Reply
    • Don’t give Zade/Lani too much credit. If you look at Lani Sarem’s Model Mayhem page, it says she’s 5’9″, which means that Zade also had to be 5’9″. And there was no way there would be anything negative said about Zade’s height, so Lani Sarem *had* to spin it positively.

      September 12, 2017
      |Reply
    • Laina
      Laina

      I’m five two and a half. By eleven I was five one and a half.

      I’m only 24, I so could still grow, right??? XD

      September 12, 2017
      |Reply
      • Erin C
        Erin C

        I went through a weird growth spurt in grad school around that age and ended up two inches taller, so maybe.

        September 12, 2017
        |Reply
  22. Indigo
    Indigo

    I’m going to guess that the author is five foot eight and a half, and is also the kind of person who thinks that being slightly taller than average makes her super interesting.

    September 12, 2017
    |Reply
  23. Perlite
    Perlite

    Each chapter, the terrible elements keep coming in sooner and sooner.

    “I laughed hard at his combo of wrong boy band names and his clear indication that he knew all the boy bands; he purposely had made the small wrong switches in their names.” I’m so glad that Lani was there to not only beat this joke into the ground, but also explain why this joke was obviously so HILARIOUS it warranted two paragraphs-worth of words.
    I burst out laughing at your imitation Mac smile. (Mac, Cam. Why did no one notice that she’s in a love triangle with palindromes?) Funny that a woman who was rude to Zade is framed as a “bitch” (even though she has very valid reasons to be furious). But Mac, who consistently is rude and moody towards her? Oh, so sexy and mysterious. There must be a reason behind his unwarranted rudeness.
    Also, Zade, we don’t need an entire paragraph every single time you want us to know to how “not like other girls” you are. We understand how heights work!
    An she’s calling Mac unreasonable and bratty? Excuse me if rules and safety regulations are getting in the way of your “humble beginnings”. This is one of the few times I’ve sided with the broody jackass.

    September 12, 2017
    |Reply
    • Dove
      Dove

      Yeah. Not to mention, the broody jackass is literally just doing his job, and trying to abide by safety regulations that keep people alive. For someone with her own car and presumably car insurance, you’d think she’d understand, instead of getting unreasonably angry with HIM. Furthermore, all she had to do was act like she was playing along, and no one would’ve been wiser, but the very fact she’s aggressively refusing help implies she’s hiding something… or that she’s emotionally unstable, since she bounces around pretty fast between casually mellow, furious indignation, and cowed meekness. Mac isn’t the Tsundere in this situation…

      For someone trying to hide in plain sight, Zade is really bad at it.

      Also… I just realized something about chapter 0. If Zade somehow literally never found a single rebellious teenage boy in her provincial town, who was willing to date the hot blonde on the sly, does this mean she hit age 25 without even one chaste date? I could believe it, except she’s not written as a meek little thing or disinterested in dating, so if we find out later that she’s supposed to be clueless about Mac’s love interest status, I’m gonna hurl. I mean, there’s 100% nothing to build up their chemistry yet, but I think that’s what was implied… ;P

      September 12, 2017
      |Reply
      • ViolettaD
        ViolettaD

        “there’s 100% nothing to build up their chemistry yet”
        But…but…they’re ARGUING! Doesn’t that mean foreplay?
        He MUST be resisting (unsuccessfully) her appeal; it couldn’t be that he just thinks she’s an unprofessional pain in the porthole, could it?

        September 13, 2017
        |Reply
    • Jane Eyre
      Jane Eyre

      Yeah, like the guy is right. He doesn’t know she uses magic and therefore would be alright every time. He is the responsible one for this shit, like from his perspective if something happened to her esp if she got killed doing something like that(which again seems highly likely from where he is BECAUSE HE DOESN’T KNOW SHE IS A WITCH) he takes the fall. If a worker dies during work, and it comes out something was off with safety check-up then it’s his fault and his legal responsibility. People are going to care very little for wherever the performer argued she doesn’t need it. The result is, it’s his job to ensure her safety and if he caved into her demands he wasn’t doing the job right. If she dies the show gets shut down and while Big Dog like Charles probably will be ok bc he’s rich(and white) Mac could get in prision because a)as I said it’s his job to ensure safety no matter what others say b)he is an employee, so he has less fame, recognition and backup than Charles and therefore is a person someone like Charles can shift all the blame on and have as the one to take a fall. Mac is actually doing his job well here, acting like a professional and an adult. Yes he sounds rude, but Zani is acting in a way that warrants him using such tone because she not only will not listen but she’s incredibly arrogant thinking she just can do as she pleases and tell people how to do their job even though she’s a newbie. It’s her day and she acts like she fucking owns this place.
      Also it’s not his fault people are staring at her. People weren’t staring when he talked to her, because he wasn’t making a scene out of it, he was just rigthfully trying to get through her thick skull; she attracted attention by yelling and throwing a temper tantrum.

      September 12, 2017
      |Reply
  24. Mylissa
    Mylissa

    I agree with the other commenter who suggested it might be a thrust stage, which would put the audience around part of the stage, but still have legs further back on the stage. Bug ugh, why didn’t she SAY this is a thrust stage – plenty of people know what a thrust is, and there are a million pictures on google dot com for those who don’t, and it would be far less confusing.

    I have been in NON-UNION houses where we actually sat an audience member in the catwalks and there was an office right offstage, but this is not normal in professional houses. The audience member we sat in the catwalk was another theatre person who had been up in catwalks before and had done tech work at that theatre, so it wasn’t super weird. But again, NON-UNION house, no one was union in the place. Also, the grid would be a terrible place to watch the show. The catwalks would be good, because you are over the audience. The grid is literally over the stage, you would only see the top of everything.

    I’ve also had an office turned into a dressing room, but that was at a college, so I wouldn’t expect that to be normal. I’ve worked at union houses where there were offices in the building but usually on a different floor. Technically I guess at one of them – the rehearsal space was also a black box space and could be used as a theatre and the offices were on the same floor. But she clearly isn’t in a black box.

    I wonder why she thinks she can get away with poorly written theatre stuff when SO. MANY. PEOPLE. have been inside theaters and would know this is all nonsense.

    September 12, 2017
    |Reply
  25. Roz
    Roz

    “But thanks for the heads up about his office being offstage. I thought his fucking desk was like, right in the middle of that water tank.”

    This made me think of the 1960s TV series ‘The Avengers’ (not the Marvel one), where their boss, known only as ‘Mother’ used to have offices anywhere and everywhere, including in the middle of a swimming pool.

    September 12, 2017
    |Reply
  26. AJ
    AJ

    I am aware there are worse things about this book. But this is going to just rub at me if I don’t rant about it.

    The Hermit? Seriously?

    Jenny briefly made fun of the arcana motif, but I didn’t find it an inherently bad idea. Not only does each card have several themes you can work with, but the major arcana has a sort of arc to it that could work pretty well from a narrative standpoint. But that second point only works if you go in order. Skipping ahead to the hermit makes no sense.

    It doesn’t even make sense thematically. The hermit is a card about self reflection and solitude. She spends the whole chapter attracting crowds with her non self aware hissy fits. And even if we were being literal like last chapter, there aren’t any hermits here. Unless Mac is the hermit? That seems to be a stretch.

    If only there was a major arcana card about secrets and trusting your own intuition. Possibly a female coded card that could simultaneously symbolize Zade replacing Sofia as the woman of power in the show.

    Seriously, is any thought being put into this book at all?

    September 12, 2017
    |Reply
    • Dove
      Dove

      I was briefly thrown by the Hermit name when I first read the sample, but there’s so much weird stuff going on, that it didn’t fully register and I completely glossed over it. I’m not super knowledgeable, but I do know a little about the Tarot Arcana (beyond liking the Persona franchise, I’ve read a few books and drooled over some beautiful decks.) You’re right! It really is a shame this chapter wasn’t titled the Empress! Especially since it’s the only excuse for having the Fool listed as Chapter 0, instead of calling it a prologue. Although I’d honestly call this whole section of the book a useless prologue and easily something to skip, since there’s no good reason to introduce the reader to everyone when Zade does, chronologically.

      It’s possible that the chapters are arranged to invoke the sense of having a fortune told, which could explain them turning up out of sequence, but a typical reading wouldn’t have enough results for all the chapters that she needs and it would still limit her to one card per chapter soooo… Meh. She might as well have done it in sequence!

      God, this book is like being gas-lighted by the author on so many levels. Even small decisions feel like reality is being warped to deceive, rather than a consensual shared experience. I don’t think Jenny’s disbelief being violently shattered with a gut punch was that far-fetched. I’m a woman and the authorial tone feels aggressively belligerent towards the reader the deeper we fall down this rabbit hole… I’m not sure it’s only the casually internalized misogyny either. I think Sarem may genuinely hate her readers and think they’re stupider than she is. 🙁

      September 12, 2017
      |Reply
      • Dove
        Dove

        Er, no reason to introduce the readers to everyone when Zade meets them chronologically, I mean. I wish there was an edit button in this comment section. ^_^;

        September 12, 2017
        |Reply
      • JennyTrout
        JennyTrout

        Yeah, the Major Arcana theme would have maybe been interesting if she hadn’t just gone, “Well, I’ll just use the cards in order.” If she wanted to evoke that sense of fortune telling, she should have themed this after a Lenormand deck and set it up like the Grand Tableau.

        September 12, 2017
        |Reply
      • Athena
        Athena

        I feel I should forward this with the fact that I don’t remember much about the more subtle aspects of the Major Arcana, only the literal meanings of the names, but Hermit makes no sense unless she making a statement about Mac’s personality.

        I was actually reading these recaps and rewriting the chapters as:

        O The Fool: Zani (18) living in a boring little town where nothing ever happens, is bored, but thinks she’s never going to have a chance to leave.
        1 The Magician: Charles Spellman enters the scene due to his show is on tour and headed to Nashville and stops in the town because of a vehicular issue. (cliche, I know) Zani is immediately mystified by the glamour of it all.
        2 The High Priestess: Something happens and Zani has/accidentally uses her magic in front of Charles. He immediately tries to get her in his act because real magic!
        3 The Empress: Mom says “HELL NO,” to Zani joining the magic act. Possibly this the first inkling Zani has that her mother has been using magic to keep her home.

        I haven’t thought out more than that, but I feel I just did more plotting in ten minutes than the author did for the entire book.

        September 12, 2017
        |Reply
        • Jamoche
          Jamoche

          And very nice plotting too – which made me realize that if she meant this as a screenplay, having chapters at all was a complete afterthought. So the Tarot aspect probably got nothing more than “Chapters have to have titles… um, what do I have around here that’s really cool?”

          September 13, 2017
          |Reply
          • Athena
            Athena

            That’s exactly what it sounds like, she just wanted to look cool and edgy.
            And, if that’s the case, it’s energy that could have been used to actually make the book readable since I can think of plenty of authors who don’t title their chapters.

            Also, I haven’t seen anything so far that would qualify as “handbook” material, so the title missed the mark too.

            September 13, 2017
  27. Sausage Mahoney
    Sausage Mahoney

    Don’t worry, you’ll get your Sephora brand name checks soon enough, with a side trip into “this is not theatrical strength and definitely not waterproof theatrical strength”

    September 12, 2017
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  28. shel
    shel

    So my thought is that she just found a book about theatre or a website or something but didn’t read it, and is just randomly throwing vocabulary words in there to make it sound like she knows stuff about the theatre.

    September 12, 2017
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  29. Mae
    Mae

    That whole argument scene between Zade and Mac gave me Anita Blake flashbacks, even down to the language used. I’d swear that specific sentences were pulled from every Anita pissing contest Laurell K Hamilton has ever written. Damn you, Lani! I will never forgive you for making me relive Anita Blake!

    September 12, 2017
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  30. Dove
    Dove

    Crap… I feel so stupid. I just realized something. Considering the light allusion to Zod, I think Lani Sarem knows about Zatanna. Remember the throw-away dyslexia paragraphs in The Fool? I forgot until now that’s how Zatanna says her spells, and Lani tried to excuse some criticism about her unrealistic portrayal of dyslexia, from an Amazon book review, by saying that she has dyslexia IRL, which works exactly the same way. You may want to keep an eye out for just how much of a rip-off Zade is, if the dyslexia actually turns up again.

    I hope DC notices the kerfuffle surrounding this book, and green-lights a Zatanna movie. It can’t possibly turn out worse, right? I hope not…

    (Also, I’m sorry I keep commenting so much.)

    September 12, 2017
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  31. Erin C
    Erin C

    The author wanting to play the lead is really taking the self-insert to the next level. Meyer didn’t try to play Bella, and I don’t think Dan Brown or Steig Larsson had any ideas about playing their ridiculous Gary Stu book selves.

    I’ve read my fair share of YA nonsense, but this book is truly Not Like the Other Books. There is such a massive amount of plot missing here that would make the story more interesting and add some tension. How did she score the audition? What was the thought process that took her from “I want a normal life” to using magic on stage?

    Of course the only other woman is presented as being a massive B for what would be completely justified anger. Why wouldn’t a performer get upset to have her act cancelled in favor of someone who apparently wandered in off the street, is immediately getting special treatment and inappropriate touches from their partner?

    I would love to see a parody YA novel or movie from the POV of a normal person trapped in a bad self-insert story. Their life is upended when out of the blue everyone around them starts fawning over the new girl in town, and reality itself starts changing to accommodate her. It could make for a cool horror-comedy.

    September 12, 2017
    |Reply
    • Jenny Trout
      Jenny Trout

      Oh my god, I want to write that so bad.

      September 12, 2017
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      • mydogspa
        mydogspa

        You’d have fun with that. Reminds me of John Scalzi’s novel, “Redshirts:” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Redshirts_(novel)

        “In the prologue, several senior officers of the Intrepid, flagship of the Universal Union, lament the unusually high number of casualties of low-ranking crew members during recent away missions and conclude that they will need more crewmen to replace them.

        Docking at a spaceport, the Intrepid takes on five new ensigns including Andrew Dahl, an expert in alien religions and xenobiology; Dahl quickly discerns that the crew is extremely phobic of being near the senior officers and of going on away missions due to their unusually high fatality rate. Over the course of several away missions, various crew members suggest that the deaths are due to incompetence, superstition, or cosmic forces, requiring “sacrifices” of some crew members so that others will survive.

        After several close calls, Dahl meets Jenkins, a crew member who offers a different theory: their reality and timeline are under periodic influence of a badly-written television show from the past. As the writers create the plot, their free will temporarily ceases in order to progress “the Narrative” of the show. This is why otherwise good officers occasionally seem incompetent, Ensigns make poor decisions, and the ship has mysterious technology on board to produce last-minute inventions and medicines which would otherwise be impossible to produce.”

        September 13, 2017
        |Reply
        • Erin C
          Erin C

          I love Redshirts, yes something like that but with maybe more horror.

          September 13, 2017
          |Reply
    • Ange
      Ange

      Sounds a bit like “The Rest of Us Just Live Here” by Patrick Ness – written from the point of view of a normal character in a typical YA novel.

      September 12, 2017
      |Reply
    • Carla
      Carla

      Yeah, I mean, whatever can be said about Stephenie Meyer, she definitely seems to care about the books and the characters. She was invested in writing, and it’s pretty unlikely she had any idea Twilight would become the massive movie franchise that it did when she started the books (and Imo there was a big drop in comparative quality with the last book, which was written after she knew that the books were going to be turned into movies). Seems like Lani didn’t write the book because she was passionate about the story, more like she wanted to star in a movie, and this is the kind of movie she wanted to be in.

      September 17, 2017
      |Reply
  32. small jar of fireflies
    small jar of fireflies

    As a point of craftsmanship, I don’t get chapter 0 or 1. The “Mom” character she freed herself from doesn’t seem to have launched a theme of freedom, or escape. It’s not to show that Zade’s a newbie; she launches fireworks and teleportation on her audition. She’s crushed her female rival, the love interests are unclear, and the only obstacle is the one she created for herself.

    It feels like the story started with the small town because it’s convention for movies to have a small-town girl hitting it big in show biz. But there’s no reason for the book to start when Zade leaves town, or even when she passes her audition. It feels like the story hasn’t started.

    September 12, 2017
    |Reply
    • Dove
      Dove

      I agree. The only relevant backstory information could have been sprinkled around during the unfolding of the plot, whatever that might be. Then this novel could have started after Zade got settled into her new daily routine in Las Vegas, maybe during one of the shows on Saturday. Her life might have been upended when she moved, but everything in these first three chapters is uninteresting and mostly irrelevant to the eventual love triangle, or whatever is going to happen, thanks to her witch status. 😛

      September 12, 2017
      |Reply
    • ViolettaD
      ViolettaD

      When people leave small towns to hit it big (or try to) in show biz, they’re usually trying to escape a “normal life,” more like having to fake one. The wondrous thing about living in NYC or San Francisco is you fit right in with all the other freaks. You can stop faking normal at last.

      September 15, 2017
      |Reply
      • small jar of fireflies
        small jar of fireflies

        Ok, but there’s no sense of her wanting to fit in. So far, she’s judged a guy for being too pretty, gotten mad at another guy for not agreeing with her, and crowded out another woman instead of wondering what she could learn from her. In the meanwhile, she’s trying to hide a huge secret from everyone. So if anything, she’s opposing the mood of her chapter 0.

        September 19, 2017
        |Reply
  33. candy apple
    candy apple

    So far, Mac is my favorite character.

    September 13, 2017
    |Reply
  34. Cat
    Cat

    I’m 5’6. The average woman is 5’4 or 5’5 so I’m above average. But, like, not by a lot. I’m just a little above average so slightly on the taller side but not, like, really tall. I’m just slightly above average enough to warrant talking about my super interesting height because it totally matters. Unlike other women, I’m taller when I wear heels. It’s true, I can make myself appear physically taller by wearing special shoes.

    NO1CURR. Can you imagine being cornered by this person at a party? After the requisite 15 minute explanation of how her name is pronounced (zAIDE), you’d then have to sit through some lengthy chit chat about all the other completely normal and uninteresting things about her. All while giving her a murderous look right into her eyes that appear below her perfectly cut bangs because we all know how jealous we’d automatically be.

    September 13, 2017
    |Reply
  35. ViolettaD
    ViolettaD

    BTW, if anyone wants to check out a novel SUCCESSFULLY using screenwriting techniques, William Osborne’s “Hitler’s Secret” (two teens infiltrate Nazi Germany on an Allied mission) is a good example. As some reviewers noted, the nonstop action outweighs character development, but the author knows his genres well enough so you can “see” what’s happening even if you’re not much of a visual thinker.

    September 13, 2017
    |Reply
  36. Vix
    Vix

    I think everyone’s being a little hard on Zani. I mean, I owe her a heartfelt thank you. I don’t pay much attention to the YA NYT bestsellers list, but when this story broke, my book group decided to read The Hate U Give and it is just awesome.

    Zani’s book may be awful and she seems like an unpleasant person, but she HAS inadvertently led me to some truly amazing, thought provoking fiction.

    September 13, 2017
    |Reply
    • Dove
      Dove

      I’d thank the people who figured out her little scheme a lot more. Without their help, you still wouldn’t have noticed. XD

      And The Hate U Give is definitely awesome! I started reading the sample as a pallet cleanser, after reading the Handbook for Mortals sample, and it’s like night and day. I struggled with Handbook, and had to force myself to keep going. With T.H.U.G. I only stopped, because it was getting late and I had to get to bed.

      I need to buy T.H.U.G. soon, so I can reread the beginning with the missing pages (Amazon wisely removed some, but allowed me to get at least two or three chapters deep), and then pick up where I left off. I’m eager for the movie too, and I don’t go to the theater very often now a days.

      September 13, 2017
      |Reply
      • Vix
        Vix

        Actually, that’s a good point. I guess I really <3 Phil Stamper and Pajiba! Zani can crawl back under her rock now.

        I'm about half way through THUG and, like you, I only stop reading because I get too sleepy to concentrate properly and it's so good I don't want to start skimming through tiredness.

        September 13, 2017
        |Reply
  37. Jamoche
    Jamoche

    Lani replied to reviewers on Amazon, so I followed the links and found her wish list: her book is #2 on her list. Didn’t she just order, like, several thousand copies of it?

    September 14, 2017
    |Reply
    • Cat
      Cat

      I like that it isn’t even number one on her own wishlist.

      September 14, 2017
      |Reply
    • ViolettaD
      ViolettaD

      Wait! This could be exactly what’s needed. Just let her keep buying, and pretty soon the only one with a copy of “Handbook for Mortals” will be Lani herself. Problem solved.

      September 14, 2017
      |Reply
    • keaalu
      keaalu

      “Didn’t she just order, like, several thousand copies of it?”
      – according to one of her very many super-verbose articles in her defence, those were “pre-orders”.

      Is it common for authors to put their own book on their own wish list? *ponders*

      Maybe someone should buy it for her.

      September 14, 2017
      |Reply
    • Tez Miller
      Tez Miller

      There’s probably some Amazon algorithm – some Most Wished For thing. “Shoppers who Wished for this also Wished for that” maybe.

      September 14, 2017
      |Reply
      • Cat
        Cat

        I really hope she actively put it on her wishlist. Not only is it not her number one desire, it is on her wishlist, not in her cart as she goes to checkout.

        I also hope she actively did that because it makes me think of people who “like” or “love” their own comments on Facebook.

        September 14, 2017
        |Reply
      • Jamoche
        Jamoche

        You have to put it on yourself; it’s what you want other people to give you. Amazon may be money hungry but they’re also savvy enough to know that, given how horrible their algorithm can be, they should leave it as private suggestions. Most notoriously in SF circles, if you like Lois McMaster Bujold, it’ll rec all the other authors by the same publisher even though many of them are polar opposites.

        September 14, 2017
        |Reply
  38. Anna Bullen
    Anna Bullen

    SMIRK.

    THE FACIAL EXPRESSION YOU WERE LOOKING FOR WAS A *SMIRK,* LANI.

    Of all the things, I don’t know why THAT was the one that bothered me most.

    P.S. Jealous Hater Book Club makes my day. Thank you, Jenny.

    September 14, 2017
    |Reply
  39. Renee Burton
    Renee Burton

    I’m enjoying this so much. I just had to say that “Spontaneous ejaculation” and “Phantom of the Copperfield” made me spit my drink across the room with laughter. 😀 Oy vey. We tend to have to purchase the NYT Best sellers at my library and I’m so glad they removed this crap. Blah.

    September 21, 2017
    |Reply
  40. I too enjoy wearing black, I adore thunderstorms and I’m not afraid of heights. Can someone write a book about me and my “uniqueness”?

    Oh wait – my hair is brown, I’m short and I can’t perform magic with a k. Damn. 😀 In all serious though, I love these recaps. Thank for for taking the multi-colored bitchy bullet for us all. I have to read them slowly and enjoy the snark in every true word.

    September 23, 2017
    |Reply

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