Junk Novel Roulette: Heaven is For Real

Marc Velasquez, our resident Catholic, got the unenviable task of reading and reviewing Heaven is for Real, in which an Evangelical pastor exploits his sick child to sell books about Jesus.

Luckily for Marc, we allowed 40′s and chicken wings while doing his audio review. WriteByNights‘s Dave Duhr joins the Page Count gang while Marc expounds on this infuriating book. Fun and games abound at the Burpos’s expense, Dave takes an on-mic pee, there’s some bible lessons that incorporate Moby Dick and the Godshocker™ and Marc reveals himself as perhaps the best human being here at C4.

If you already subscribe to the Page Count podcast, check your iTunes, the DRUNK REVIEW bonus episode should be waiting for you. If you haven’t subscribed yet, you can get all our episodes past and future for free from iTunes here. You can also stream it below.

The Page Count Podcast, Episode 6 and 6b are live!

By “2Die4Kourt, Inc., Kimsaprincess, Inc., and KhloMoney, Inc.” Seriously. It’s in the copyright page.

The Page Count shuffles on! (Can you shuffle pages? Perhaps I mean “rifles on”? That doesn’t sound right.)

This time around, we decide who has to read the deeply disturbing book, Heaven Is For Real, which authenticates the claim that bad parents will exploit their children for money.

We also discuss the Jonah Lehrer incident, and I give a dramatic reading of Aaron Block’s angsty teen poetry.

In episode 6b, Sean reviews Dollhouse, by the Kardashian sisters, a powerful, nuanced tale about the sacrifices of fame.

Just kidding, it’s a terribly written novel about the soulless, vapid existence of America’s trashiest family.

You can listen or download the episodes below, or you can find us on iTunes here, or you can subscribe in your favorite podcast player by searching for “The Page Count.”

Junk Novel Roulette: Fifty Shades of Grey

Sometimes you read a book that’s so bad you can’t review it without publicly humiliating yourself. Fifty Shades of Grey was one such book. For our latest incarnation of Junk Novel Roulette, Aaron decided he could only do E.L. James’s hit novel justice by getting incredibly drunk and rambling into a microphone, so that’s just what he did. You can listen to the whole thing on our special edition Page Count DrunkCast, which you can stream/download here. We were going to write up a full transcript, but that was too much work. Instead, here are a few select excerpts from that magical evening. Look for Sean’s drunken review of Dollhouse by Kim, Khloe, and Kourtney Kardashian later this summer.

On sex:

So…he’s into her. And he tries to get – he seduces her, sort of. I don’t know. They have sex. It’s just stupid.

On porn:

Porn exists on the Internet for a reason…and that reason is mysterious to me. It’s not at all, I know exactly why.

On morality:

I don’t want to murder anyone while having sex.

On Portland:

that’s where everyone goes to get spanked.

On Fifty Shades of Grey:

This is easily, without question, the worst book I’ve ever read in my entire life.

On Mary Gaitskill’s short story collection, Bad Behavior:

That book is…good book.

On Christian Grey and business:

He’s, like, a young businessman, and, uh, he just does business. His business is just business. He doesn’t have a specific – he doesn’t do shipping. He doesn’t do…publishing. He doesn’t do oil. Or anything. He’s just business. His business – he talks about generic business stuff it’s just like generic business, like “Make sure you copy that, and forward it to my man, and and uh” <laughter> I don’t want to know about it, just do it! It’s so stupid.

On Christian Grey’s sexual preferences:

I don’t like girls that have fully-functioning nervous systems.

On spoiling the ending:

Eventually he spanks the shit out of her, and she’s like “Oh, I don’t like it anymore! Sorry, I have to go!”

On graphic design:

If there was a fist covered in poop on the cover of this book instead of a necktie, I feel like it would’ve set a different tone.

Coming Soon: Podcast #5 + Fifty Shades of Drunk

Howdy y’all. In case you didn’t know, we’ve been recording a podcast for a few months now. It’s called The Page Count (Bookâke couldn’t gain enough favor). It’s still a work in progress, but we’ve posted to the internet all the same. You can subscribe through iTunes here. We don’t really care if you listen or not–it’d be nice if you did–but we’d certainly appreciate if you’d subscribe to help get our numbers up. We talk about the books we’re reading, books we think you should read, issues in the publishing world, as well as plenty of off-color nonsense.

Now’s a good as time as any to join in, since we finally got the mics working properly for episode 5 and the recording sounds decidedly not subterranean. It will be available on Friday, and if you subscribe it will be right there waiting for you in your iTunes. (If you hate iTunes, you can pull it straight from the RSS feed.)

In our previous episode, we watched, then broke down the terrible Age of the Dragons, in which Danny Glover plays an over-the-top Ahab obessed with vengeance against a white dragon. Most importantly, we learned Marc Velasquez does a bang up Danny Glover impression.

For episode 5, we’ve decided to bring more literary-tinged nonsense, this time focusing on Fifty Shades of Grey. As part of our Junk Novel Roulette game, Aaron Block “won” the unenviable task of reading and reviewing E.L. James’s smutty fanfic phenomenon. What what better way to do it than down a whole bunch of hard cider and Island Blue Pucker then let your friends record your drunken rant. To make it a bit more accessible it’s broken off into a separate download–but still in the podcast feed. Whet your whistle with the video trailer above, and look for the audio download as well as full JNR “review” and the rest of episode #5 on Friday.

Junk Novel Roulette: Queen of the Darkness, Lessons in Hierarchical Obfuscation

[Sean had to read this book and review it because of reader votes in Junk Novel Roulette. Find more JNR here.]

Author: Anne Bishop

2000, Roc

Note: [We're not scoring or filing JNR books as reviews--that's just too mean.]

My initial thought was to do this write-up in the style of an adventurer’s journal, as if I were traveling across the great unknown with only a small sheet of cryptic clues to guide me. I found myself often lost and confused, as in a dark forest. Other times I found myself zoning out, staring blankly ahead while trudging onward across a barren plain in a tedious march. But since I was just able to get my metaphor across in three sentences, I’m no longer going to bother with that approach. Here’s the only thing I’m going to write about Queen of the Darkness that could possibly be construed as praise: this novel was nothing at all like what I expected.

In the interest of getting us on the same page as quickly as possible, I’m going to excerpt the two pages that preceded Part 1 of this beast in their entirety:




Tiger Eye



Purple Dusk








*Opal is the dividing line between lighter and darker Jewels because it can be either.

When making an Offering to the Darkness, a person can descend a maximum of three ranks from his/her Birthright Jewel.

Example: Birthright White could descend to Rose.
Continue reading »

Junk Novel Roulette: Hellion, Confessions of a Romance Novel Virgin

[Eric had to read this book and review it because of reader votes in Junk Novel Roulette. Find more JNR here.]

Author: Bertrice Small

1997, Ivy Books

Note: [We're not scoring or filing JNR books as reviews--that's just too mean.]

When I received my Junk Novel Roulette assignment, I made it my mission to love Hellion. I promised the other C4 editors I would write a glowing review, and I would do it without my tongue in my cheek. No irony. No sarcasm. Just pure adoration.

It was an impossible promise, but during my MFA I heard a lot about genre fiction versus literary fiction. Usually, people made the distinction as an off-handed dis, like “It’s just chick-lit” or “Doesn’t this seem science-fictiony?” All I learned from these accusations was that I never wanted to be one of those readers who presumed to hold a monopoly on taste.

Whether I like it or not, though, I am one of those readers. I thought I could love a mass-market medieval adventure romance about a “brazen beauty” named Belle because I assumed, without ever having read a romance novel, that I knew what cheap thrills I would find there. Having finished Hellion, I can’t say I loved it, but I was surprised by it, by all the ways it did and did not fit the mold in my head.

I expected sex; I did not expect porn. I expected bad writing; I didn’t know the half of it. I expected plot; I never imagined I would find it, even if only in part, so gripping.
Continue reading »

Junk Novel Roulette: Round Seven, David Duhr

And then there were two! So we’ve decided this will be the final round of JNR Season One. Thanks to all you who offered to be the 8th, but we’ve determined it’s best to be able to declare one book a Survivor. So which will it be? Between The Godmother and The Cereal Murders, one will be read and reviewed by David Duhr, the other will be crowned the first JNR Survivor. Help us determine the outcome by voting below. And be sure to check out all the great reviews that forthcoming from this venture.

Which book must David read?

  • The Cereal Murders (61%, 14 Votes)
  • The Godmother (39%, 9 Votes)

Total voters: 23

Loading ... Loading ...
Mike Beeman Never Deceive a Duke 1 yes
Marcos Velasquez Miss Wonderful 2 not yet
Nico Vreeland A Sorcerer and a Gentleman 3 not yet
Sean Clark Queen of Darkness 4 not yet
Aaron Block The Main Corpse 5 not yet
Eric Markowsky Hellion 6 not yet
David Duhr ??? 7 n/a

Junk Novel Roulette: Round 6, Eric Markowsky

Nearing the end of JNR Season 1. As a matter of fact, we haven’t yet pinned down a reader for round 8. So if any intrepid C4 readers/lurkers/passersby feel brave enough, shoot us an email at info@chamberfour.com saying you’re  interested. We’ll draw a name out of a hat and send the “winner” a crappy novel stuffed with stickers, a koozie, and maybe some other swag–put “JNR” in the subject line so it doesn’t get misplaced. In the meantime, vote below for which of the remaining bad books C4 co-founder Eric Markowsky must read and review.

Which book must Eric read?

  • The Cereal Murders (22%, 8 Votes)
  • Hellion (49%, 18 Votes)
  • The Godmother (41%, 15 Votes)

Total voters: 37

Loading ... Loading ...
Mike Beeman Never Deceive a Duke 1 yes
Marcos Velasquez Miss Wonderful 2 not yet
Nico Vreeland A Sorcerer and a Gentleman 3 not yet
Sean Clark Queen of Darkness 4 not yet
Aaron Block The Main Corpse 5 not yet
Eric Markowsky ??? 6 n/a
David Duhr ??? 7 n/a
TBA ??? 8 n/a

Junk Novel Roulette: Round 5, Aaron Block

Only half the original 8 books are left. We’ve already got one review in, with three more coming. Vote below to determine which book our fifth victim, Aaron Block (a.k.a. =ab) must read and review.

Rotated 180 degrees, this image says "fa" in Braille. What does it mean?

Which book must Aaron read?

  • The Main Corpse (50%, 14 Votes)
  • The Cereal Murders (18%, 5 Votes)
  • Hellion (0%, 0 Votes)
  • The Godmother (39%, 11 Votes)

Total voters: 28

Loading ... Loading ...
Mike Beeman Never Deceive a Duke 1 yes
Marcos Velasquez Miss Wonderful 2 not yet
Nico Vreeland A Sorcerer and a Gentleman 3 not yet
Sean Clark Queen of Darkness 4 not yet
Aaron Block ??? 5 n/a
Eric Markowsky ??? 6 n/a
David Duhr ??? 7 n/a
TBA ??? 8 n/a

Junk Novel Roulette: Never Deceive a Duke

[Mike had to read this book and review it because of reader votes in Junk Novel Roulette. Find more JNR here.]

Author: Liz Carlyle

2007, Mass Market

Note: [We're not scoring or filing JNR books as reviews--that's just too mean]

Despite the deceptive title, a duke is in fact deceived by a dashing damsel in distress in this dreadful Dickensian drama. Antonia Warneham somehow deceives duke Gareth Lloyd (perhaps by forgetting to spout her back story immediately, in everyday conversation, as all the other characters do) and, boy, does she ever pay the price.

Apparently, the book is Carlyle’s warning against the damning deception of dukes, because Antonia suffers greatly for her deceit. If you deceive a duke he will do terrible things, like have sex with you while you are sleepwalking on the rampart (which is considered rape by most) and later say things like, “Let me feast my eyes on your pure English beauty” when the consensual sex actually occurs. (“Let me feast my eyes on your pure English beauty” is what a serial killer says to someone he is keeping tied up in his basement.) So take warning. After deceiving a duke, you will be subject to both his cringe-inducing constant narrative and the awkward sex that nearly, but not entirely, interrupts his babbling. And, of course, a healthy amount of “throbbing” and “thrusting.”

Along the way through the authors plodding, maddenlingly-predictable plot, Carlyle shoe-horns in themes of the time’s antisemitismby with the subtly of a jack-hammer, casually mentions Gareth’s teenage rape at the hands of some scurrilous sailors, and fails to set off even the most basic love triangle. If you were playing a drinking game to this novel by taking a sip of beer whenever you found a romance stereotype, you’d be passed out or sick in less than an hour.

John Fowles’ great novel The French Lieutenant’s Woman is, for all intents and purposes, similar to Carlyle’s novel. Both books are set in Victorian England, both concern romance between star-crossed lovers thwarted by the aristocracy and a rigid class system, and both feature main characters rebelling against their era. What’s missing from Never Deceive a Duke, though, is the character of Fowles himself. In The French Lieutenant’s Woman, Fowles’ narrator often deliniates to educates the reader on the customs of Victorian England, not only setting the story’s place in history but also countering the social sniping and stuffy Victorianism with a modern voice of reason reflecting on a socially confused time. Together, both reader and narrator shake their heads at the plight of poor Charles Smithson and Sarah Woodruff, and see them as they are: casualties of Victorian England’s moral hypocrisy.

In Never Deceive a Duke, the reader is left to provide this voice of reason for him (or, much more likely, her) self. Maybe all that’s really missing is someone to look pityingly on the two dunces in this novel, and giggle at the author’s abysmal prose. With a narrator like Fowles’ elucidating the conventions of the Romance genre, pointing to the myriad clichés as they arise, and cringing, as any modern reader does, at the mystifying dialogue, Never Deceive a Duke could be enjoyed not for the romance that it fails at conjuring, but for the unintentional comedy that so often succeeds. “Come along with me,” such a narrator might say as she takes out her scalpel to dissect this awful novel. “Let us feast our eyes on this pure B-rate beauty.”