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jenryland

jenryland

So, brief notes on Amy Spalding's BINGO card debacle and several ironic terms

Ink is Thicker Than Water - Amy Spalding Kissing Ted Callahan (and Other Guys) - Amy Spalding
Reblogged from The Reading Perusals of Rose Summers:

  So you guys know that last year (2014) was a crummy year for me personally for more than a few reasons.  What little reading (well, 160 some books is not little but, you guys know how much and how fast I read) I did last year compared to my usual was a comfort in the midst of a lot of crummy things happening.  And I'm glad I had a chance to share what books I read with you guys whether I loved them, disliked them, or was the far measure between.

 

It's funny that Amy Spalding just so happened to be the person who crafted that BINGO card because in the past several weeks, here's what happened:

 

I read "Ink is Thicker Than Water" during a mini-book marathon I had earlier last month.  I liked the book, it was a 3.5 star read for me, and I'll admit, it had caveats. But I haven't even had a chance to mark it as read in my book catalog because of being swamped with day job and family stuff, still in spells of grief mode from life events of the past year, and focusing more on reading ARCs than writing reviews (though I'm actively trying to do more of the latter.) Each time I went on Goodreads to mark it, I kept forgetting because I was busy reading other books.  I feel guilty because I've had it on my ARC stack for a while, and it just so happened to be one of the ones that I chose out of my TBR jar at the time I read it.

 

I got an ARC approval of "Kissing Ted Callihan" not even a week ago.  And I was looking forward to reading that, too.  I even said these very words (verbatim) when I gave feedback on the NetGalley Buzz Books compilation that Spaulding's work was featured in.

 

Some of the complaints I had with "Ink is Thicker Than Water" were on that BINGO card.  I haven't even had a chance to think about, let alone write the review yet.  How do you react when someone mocks your potential commentary on a portrayal that's possibly problematic before you even have the chance to say anything? Even if it IS a common complaint in the community?  How do you not feel offended when your potential words or things that you find to be problematic are mocked relentlessly by someone who claims they love readers and reviews of all walks, but yet if you are not a certain "appropriate" age to them or have a certain perspective that agrees with the creator of the work, your opinion is deemed irrelevant and worthy to mock?

 

Following this incident, mind you, I feel very little motivation to write reviews for either one of these works.  It's killing me on the inside right now because I want to write them, but I emotionally can't do it. I'm beyond offended; it's freaking past that point. I'm being very serious here - not overdramatic, not even emotional, just point blank - probably to the point where I'm just numb at the repetition.   I feel like someone just told me that I should just shut up and read and have nothing to say about the reading experience unless it's praise or commentary meant for the author herself. Forget my personal experiences. Forget what I was taught to do in terms of voicing things that I might have a problem with - speak up.

 

*sighs* Look my end thoughts are going to be this - I'll find time to write these reviews eventually, but they won't be right now.  Not for a little while.  My love for reading is much stronger than any author's self-inflated ego who won't make room for multiple dimensions of commentary or who won't embrace the many and varied audiences that are out there that peruse said author's work.  To me, the BINGO card was a mess of inflated ego musings, prejudicial attitudes towards many different audiences, and arguments meant to "bait" just to get an emotional reaction from the mention.  And to me, that's not funny.  That will NEVER be funny to me.

 

I still don't understand the laughter or humor to be had out of this.  I really don't.  I have an open sense of humor, and I will concede there are some humored events that go right over my head.  Some may even not be my cuppa.  That's fine, everyone's different and I accept that.

 

But why is it that so many of you laughing about don't see what's wrong with this picture, or at least the willingness to see why it's problematic?

 

Nonetheless, I still have my love for reading.  At least I have that to hold onto, and the measure that at least someone out there, even if it may not be the author, may appreciate my reflections for what they are worth.

 

Voltaire said famously (paraphrased) "I may not like what you say, but I'll defend to my death your right to say it."

 

And true, even Spalding has the right to have her opinions and voice them the way she wants.  But that doesn't mean I don't have the right to disagree, nor does it make me wrong to say I've lost a hell of a lot of respect for her.

 

Two cents, and none further.

Countdown

Countdown - Michelle Rowen 100% plot-driven, a bit insta-lovey, and had some aspects that didn't make sense, but if you're in the mood for a fun, fast-paced book crammed full of action, suspense and romance, this will fit the bill!Review soon.
WILD CARDS - Simone Elkeles Full review will be on my blog, YA Romantics,on September 26. Plus, I'll give away my ARC on September 27!If you've read any books by Simone Elkeles, you know that she's great at writing steamy, forbidden YA relationships -- drawing out the tension and amping up the emotion. She also offers up diverse and authentic-seeming teen characters. Wild Cards has all of these trademark elements. The emotional aspect of this book really worked for me. Derek's anguish over the loss of his mother was particularly moving. Plus, Simone Elkeles is a master of writing sexual tension. Derek's attracted to Ashtyn, she has a boyfriend, and the two of them are living in close quarters. I also liked the dual narration and I think that Simone Elkeles also writes guy narration particularly well. I'm not a football fan, so I'll leave the discussion of this book's football elements to those who are. But I was surprised that a book about a female football player actually had very little football games as part of the story. Ashtyn is a kicker, so maybe she's not a huge part of the game? I don't know. However, here was a part of the book where Ashtyn was the only girl at football camp, and I thought the portrayal of the special accommodations the camp had to make for her -- and the hostility and outright sabotage she suffers -- both interesting and heartbreaking.At times I felt that Derek and Ashtyn's plot lines worked against one another. There's a reveal about Derek near the end that, for me, ended up limiting Ashtyn's opportunity to have the triumphant moment that I'd been waiting for. I felt that the reveal that Derek was not just a football player himself, but one of the best quarterbacks around, really limited Ashtyn's ability to shine as a female athlete. I was really wishing that after Landon left the team, she would have the chance to rally the guys (who, after all, voted her captain) and help them play to the best of their ability as a team. I was a little disappointed that the ending handed her a boyfriend to rescue her instead of letting her shine on her own.
A Mad, Wicked Folly - Sharon Biggs Waller An engaging story of a upper class Edwardian girl who dreams of becoming an artist. Great art themes, lots of information on early 20th century female suffragists, and a sweet love story. Perfect for fans of Downton Abbey who miss poor Sibyl... Review to come.
The Dream Thieves - Maggie Stiefvater Wow -- amazing.I am putting a spoiler-free review up on the blog tomorrow. But I have so many questions, and most of them are spoilers: Who's Greenmantle? Who is Butternut? Is Chainsaw some kind of enchanted love interest for Ronan? Someone in the story must be related to Glendower, but who? Ronan? Gansey? Blue? Is the third book going to be all about Blue and Gansey trying not to kiss each other? Is Mr. Gray going to go find Maura?

Relativity

Relativity - Cristin Bishara Loved that this book provided a more science-based take on parallel universes. Loved Ruby. I did have a few quibbles that had to do with the way the premise limited my emotional engagement with the story (I will explain when I review) but overall I enjoyed this one.
The Burning Sky (The Elemental Trilogy) - Sherry Thomas This had its ups and downs for me...The story world is fun and interesting -- one where magical people and events exist alongside a non-magical world, like the world of Harry Potter. The human part of the world seems to be in the Victorian Age, so the book had a historical fiction + fantasy vibe that I liked. I wished that the connection between the magical world and the human world had been better clearer.There were some scenes that were really well-done and memorable -- in particular, one in which Iolanthe is transformed while Titus is in danger.As I started the book, it had a sort of sweet, didactic I'm-going-to-tell-you-a-story tone that, along with the omniscient narration, made it feel to me like middle grade. (Okay, okay. I know that not all YA needs to be edgy or told in first person present, but I just couldn't shake the feeling that this book was meant to be middle grade. Some readers have compared it in feel to Harry Potter, and I can see the parallels. So, okay, it read to me like upper middle grade with crossover potential.)The book begins with Iolanthe being discovered as a great elemental mage. That sounds awesome, but poor Iolanthe then spends most of the rest of the book in hiding/in the middle of an overlong training sequence. I wished that she'd been given more exciting stuff to do than hide by disguising herself as a boy. I also wished that the characters' feelings hadn't been so spelled out for me. We're told stuff like "She never wanted to feel sympathy for him. But she did" or "the sharp feeling in his heart was not concern but a stab of envy" or "She turned around ... willing herself to feel no sympathy for him. And not succeeding."Iolanthe is cast as a reluctant hero, which is fine, but I laughed when Iolanthe said: in the books she'd cherished as a child, this was the moment the protagonist rose to the occasion and embarked on the legendary journey. No one in the stories ever said, 'Thank you but no thank you, this really isn't for me." Clearly Iolanthe hasn't read those breakdowns of the hero's journey, in which "refusal of the call" is step three.None of these things spoiled my reading experience, as I did find this an engaging read. But I guess that I prefer my YA fantasy a little darker and more complex. Though it wasn't a perfect fit for me, I can see that a lot of people have really loved it, so you should definitely give it a try!

More Than This

More Than This - Patrick Ness

Read more YA reviews and find great giveaways on my blog, YA Romantics!

 

More Than This has a lot of elements that I dread in a book: a character with memory loss, a (possible) afterlife setting, and a WTF-is-going-on-here plot. But I think that More Than This is proof that in reading, as in life, you must keep an open mind. I loved this book! More Than This is a thought-provoking, heart-wrenching book about the power of small acts of bravery and human connection. Part of my enjoyment of this book was trying to figure everything out, so I will keep my review spoiler-free.

 

More Than This begins with the death of the main character, Seth. Then …. Seth is conscious again. He's not sure where he is, except that he thinks that he's back in the English town where his family used to live. The town his family moved away from after a terrible loss. He's also completely alone. Like a post-apocalyptic survivor, Seth roams around his new environment, looking for answers. And so is the reader. Is he alive again? In some kind of afterlife? Hallucinating?More than This masterfully weaves together three different timelines. First, there's Seth's lonely existence in this afterlife/new life/whereever-the-heck-this-is. Then, bit by bit, we learn about Seth's life immediately prior to his death. Also, bit by bit, we learn about the event that prompted Seth's family to move from England to America, and the part that Seth played in that.

 

"I don't like this." "Don't like what?" "Not knowing stuff." She gives him a look. "We just found out there's new stuff not to know."

 

I'm not fond of not knowing stuff. Of being confused when I read. Therefore, I'm deeply suspicious of amnesia plots and all sorts of attempts to mess with my mind. I was loving every minute of it here. Patrick Ness does a masterful job of doling out crumbs of information, connecting dots, raising questions… amazing!I really don't want to say too much about the plot, because the best part of this book is watching all the pieces fall into place. But I do think that More Than This has something for just about every reader. Do you love eerie, post-apocalyptic-like landscapes? Check. Are you into scary, faceless villains and nail-biting suspense? Check. Are you more of a contemporary fan, someone who needs to have a deep emotional connection to a book's characters? Check. Are you the kind of reader who likes books that shock and surprise you? Check. The kind of books that make you really think? Check. Seriously, how is this possible? "But then I knew you were there. And I knew.. I guess I just knew that someone remembered who I was…" I read More Than This right before Rose Under Fire and maybe that's why I saw some parallels between the two. Both books celebrate the strength and resiliency of the human spirit and our wish that our lives and experiences matter, in large ways or small.

Source: http://jenryland.blogspot.com/2013/09/just-finished-reading-more-than-this-by.html
Night Film - Marisha Pessl Very solid. I've read a LOT of mysteries and maybe that's why I'd have to say that I found this book very good but not blow-me-away-amazing. What mysteries do I think are blow-me-away-amazing? The ones that manage to be both intellectually challenging and emotionally wrenching, that feature a non-gimmicky twist that I never saw coming, or the investigator transitioning from innocence to world-weariness, or just a deeply resonant example of justice triumphing over evil. WHAT I LOVED ABOUT NIGHT FILM: -- The New York setting was beautifully done. One of the best uses of Manhattan (and a touch of Long Island and upstate NY) as a setting that I've read in a while. -- Loved the use of newspaper articles, screenshots, etc. Those really added another dimension to the story and I appreciated all the work that went into them.--The creep factor got pretty high, peaking for me during the scene when the main character walked through Cordova's film sets. --Loved the world building around Cordova and his career, especially the whole analysis of all the elements of Cordova's films near the end. I feel like the author actually "made" all his movies in her mind, and that's deeply impressive.LOVED LESS:--The whole trope of the fortysomething, crusading, disgraced journalist, which I've seen before a bunch of times. Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, etc., etc.--Ashley. She seemed too good to be true -- beautiful, brave, magnetic, self-sacrificing, insanely talented, yada, yada….--The sidekicks, Hopper and Nora, were also remarkable competent and a little convenient. -- The deductive process was clunky and repetitious. I got a little tired of the whole "witness refuses to talk to them ….. OMG! --witness was just pretending not to want to talk to them but actually desperately wants to talk to them" song and dance, which happened over and over.--For me, the strongest mysteries include some sort of high personal stakes for the investigator, and I wasn't really feeling that here. The whole "disgraced reporter" thing was an attempt at that, and the opening scene was another attempt to make McGrath care deeply about what happened to Ashley, but I wasn't buying it. He must solve the murder because … he recognizes her coat. And because she was perfect. Which leads to the fact that:-- Ashley started to feel like a sort of ghostly MPDG for McGrath. And I was so worried that he would take up with Nora. Loved the way this was handled. The part where he drops her off in the cab toward the end was really well-done! -- All in all, I wanted more emotional resonance for McGrath. I wanted the case to be personal for him. And the ending felt anti-climactic to me. I got the whole parallel about how Cordova's films end in uncertainty and so does the book. So for me the ending was a clever conceit, but not entirely satisfying.
The Song of Achilles - Madeline Miller I'm going to (finally) read this!

Rose Under Fire

Rose Under Fire - Elizabeth Wein

Find this review, and my other YA reviews and giveaways on YA Romantics!

 

Code Name Verity was one of my favorite YA titles of 2012, and I was both excited and apprehensive to read Rose Under Fire. I'd call Rose a companion book to Code Name Verity. It also features women who piloted planes during World War II, uses a similar narrative technique and has one crossover character from Code Name Verity. But you don't need to have read Code Name Verity to enjoy and appreciate Rose Under Fire. And I thought the two books are also quite different, each powerful and heartbreaking in a unique way.

 

Code Name Verity was a story about the bonds of love and friendship, a more closely-focused look at two characters and their relationship in the context of war. Rose Under Fire takes a more wide-angled approach, looking at the incredible suffering endured by Rose in a concentration camp, but also giving the reader insight into what millions of others in other camps endured. In piloting terms (and I'm not a pilot, so bear with my metaphor here) Code Name Verity was an aerobatic book -- daring and dramatic, with a plot that took my breath away. Rose Under Fire was like a flight over a devastated landscape, a trip with more of a solemn and resolute feel.

 

Each book's title is also telling; Code Name Verity was a book about truth and lies, while Rose Under Fire is a book about a stubborn, thorny plant that survives adverse conditions to bloom again. Both books are technically epistolary stories. If you're a regular blog reader, you may remember that epistolary stories are not my favorite. However, in these two books I think the technique works beautifully. Using fictionalized "documents"to create a work of historical fiction adds to its authenticity and authority. Rose begins her story in work reports, then (and I don't think this is really a spoiler because it's revealed on page 70) Rose is presumably unable to write while she's a prisoner, and we read the rest of her story after the fact through journal entries and poems. This does reduce the suspense the book was able to create, but it's also more believable, given the circumstances. In her afterword and bibliography, Wein explains that Rose Under Fire is based on a real concentration camp and talks a little about her visit there.

 

Rose Under Fire is a story that touches on the very best and worst of humanity. One of the most moving things to me about Rose Under Fire was the way it highlighted our innate need for connection, our desire to be remembered, our belief in the power of storytelling. It's a story about hopelessness, but also about hope.

Source: http://jenryland.blogspot.com/2013/09/just-finished-reading-rose-under-fire.html
Antigoddess - Kendare Blake Read the full review on my blog, YA RomanticsI loved Kendare Blake's Anna Dressed in Blood and Girl of Nightmares and could not wait to get my hands on this book!I've read both the Odyssey and the Iliad, the latter recently, and I think that having a familiarity with the Iliad really helped me understand Antigoddess and its characters. (Note: I have never seen the movie Troy, but watching that would probably work too, and you'd get to look at shirtless guys for two hours.)Antigoddess begins with Athena and her brother Hermes crossing the desert on a desperate quest for answers. The gods are dying and can't figure out why or what to do, but Athena and Hermes are told by Demeter that they must find an oracle. Meanwhile, in upstate New York, a teenage girl called Cassandra amazes her friends with her psychic parlor tricks. Hmmmm… I'm not psychic, but I can guess what girl Athena and Hermes might be looking for. The story shifts between their perspective and Cassandra's until their paths finally cross.I loved Kendare Blake's writing style in the Anna duology and I also love it here. But for me, the great pleasure of Antigoddess was its creativity and sly wit. Kendare Blake has taken each god and goddess (or mortal Trojan war character) and updated them to the present day. Athena and Hermes are on Cassandra's trail and end up at an escort service. There they find this guy in a private room hanging out with three beautiful women and it's …. nah, I'm not going to tell you. But I laughed. There was one character that I was positive was a Trojan war hero and … yep, I was right. I loved the fact that the book featured Greek gods who wear jeans and watch Robert Rodriguez movies. And are kind of living in a Robert Rodriguez movie. There are explosions, car chases, fight scenes, and epic showdowns. It's pretty fun. And, on another level, sad and pointless. As I was reading the Iliad last year, I was struck by a) the futility and bloodshed of war and b) how all the gods kept butting in to change the course of the war in a way that didn't really seem fair. In Antigoddess, some of the the alliances and betrayals of the Trojan War are revisited, rehashed, and reenacted. The characters also debate whether their fates are predestined, or whether they might be able to escape them.My only tiny gripe about Antigoddess is that I expected, at some point, to find out why the gods are dying. I mean, maybe not the whole reason, but just a hint? A clue? I'm that kind of person who wants all the information. Now that I've finished reading, it's clear to me that Antigoddess is just the first installment in a longer story. The ending was one of those "wait… what?" endings, so I'm very curious to see what happens next. If you haven't yet read this book, I recommend that you forget about getting all the answers and just sit back and enjoy the ride.

Thin Space

Thin Space - Jody Casella I went into Thin Space expecting a paranormal grief book and got something more like a cool paranormal suspense story. Marsh, still mourning the death of his twin in a car accident, wanders his New Hampshire town in bare feet, trying to locate a "thin space" where he can cross over into the world of the dead. He becomes convinced that one of these thin spaces is in the house of Maddie, the new girl at school, and he befriends her as a way to get access to it.I loved the isolated New Hampshire setting and the whole eerie mythology behind the thin spaces. As I read, I began to wonder if a certain plot development would come to pass -- there are plenty of hints and, while it would have probably have been more fun if I'd been caught completely by surprise, it was still pretty fun to find out that I was right.Because so much of the story is spent setting up a big reveal, Thin Space doesn't pack the kind of emotional punch of other realistic YA books that deal with the aftermath of a sibling's death, books like The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson, Personal Effects by E. M. Kokie, or Saving June by Hannah Harrington. But Thin Space has the spooky, fun vibe of a creepy story you'd tell at a sleepover.

The Waking Dark

The Waking Dark - Robin Wasserman The Waking Dark is an atmospheric, creepy, bloody story of murders and madness in a small Kansas town, crimes which, as Truman Capote described in another story of mass murder in Kansas, "stimulated fires of mistrust in which many old neighbors viewed each other strangely, and as strangers."The Waking Dark opens dramatically, as a teenage boy narrowly survives a massacre in the town drugstore. In fact, murders are taking place across the town of Oleander, as seemingly normal citizens turn on one another for no apparent reason. When the killing spree winds down, the town buries its dead, locks the only surviving perpetrator in a mental hospital, and tries to go on. But when a tornado seems to be causing madness to swirl though the streets again, the town is quarantined, and a group of kids is determined to get to the bottom of what's going on.These kids are an unlikely bunch: the son of a crazed man who preaches the gospel on street corners, a girl who thinks that God speaks directly to her, the black sheep daughter of a group of trailer-park dwelling meth makers, one of the murderers, and the sister of one of the victims. Together, they piece together what's going on and try to stop it. I guessed pretty easily the why of the sudden madness, but I didn't figure out the how. Will I still get a flu shot this year? Yeah, probably… But overall, The Waking Dark does a great job of sketching life in a small town, showing us residents from all walks of life, from football heroes to eccentric old women to town outcasts. The story shows how things like religion and science, can be twisted and misused in the most perverse ways.The Waking Dark also raises interesting questions about human nature. Can madness be induced? Would you be able to retain your humanity in the face of mass chaos and insanity? As the townspeople of Olender searched for answers, I began to wonder if they were being driven crazy by the power of suggestion, like the characters in The Crucible, or by being trapped in a confined setting, like the characters in Under The Dome -- a Stephen King book about a small town trapped under a weird, invisible barrier. (Okay, I haven't read that book, but I am watching it on TV.)Speaking of Stephen King, if you love his books, you should definitely give The Waking Dark a try. And if you love YA horror, I don't think you'll be disappointed by this dark and gory tale.Thanks to Knopf for providing me an e-ARC for review.Read full review and find more YA reviews and giveaways on my blog, Jen @ YA Romantics
Fangirl - Rainbow Rowell Read full review and enter to win a hardcover of Fangirl on my blog, YA RomanticsI adored this book. It's a quirky, touching story and I think a lot of book lovers will really connect with Cath and her struggle to find her own voice and place in the world.Cath and Wren are not only identical twins, they've also had to band together survive their mother's abandonment and cope with their father's manic depression. After their mother left, they discovered Simon Snow, a character in an uber-popular series of children's fantasy books. The two began to write Simon fanfic -- stories set in the story world of the books and featuring the same characters -- and became pretty well known in the Simon Snow fandom. Now they're headed to college. Wren is dying to spread her wings and fly solo (sorry -- couldn't resist!) while Cath is sort of panicked by all that college entails -- new people, a new place, and a new writing teacher.Yes, Cath is older than the typical sixteen year-old YA heroine, bordering on New Adult age. And yet, Cath faces some classic YA issues. Not only is she leaving home for the first time, her twin also requests a separation of sorts when she tells Cath that she doesn't want to be roommates. So Cath gets paired up with Reagan, a cranky upperclassman with a boyfriend who's always hanging around their room. Which makes it difficult for Cath, who wants to hide in her room, eating energy bars and falling back into her comfort zone -- the imaginary world of Simon Snow.Simon Snow will probably feel familiar (*cough*Harry Potter *cough*) to most readers. But Cath puts her own twist on things in her fanfic. I've never actually read any fanfic, but I can completely empathize with the desire to keep living in a fictional world that you adore, to keep imagining stories for beloved characters that seem almost like real people. At the same time, it seemed to me that fanfic was used as a metaphor for Cath's conflict. She can choose to stay in the safe, familiar cocoon of Simon Snow's imaginary world, or she can break out and experience the real world, which is a far scarier place, and begin to write her own original story.Part of Cath's inching toward independence is meeting new people. Given her mother's abandonment and the fact that she always had Wren as a security blanket, Cath is definitely not the friendliest, most trusting person. Her roommate, Reagan, is hilariously snarky, and I loved the way that I thought Fangirl used the relationship between Reagan and Cath to mirror the uneasy relationship between Simon and his roommate Baz. It was fun to watch these pairs of roommates figure each other out.I also loved the romance. I don't want to say too much, because part of the pleasure of the romance in this book is that you're not really sure who (if anyone) Cath is going to pair up with. Let's just say that some of the characters really surprised me. Reading Fangirl was a complete pleasure. I felt the same way about Cath as she felt about Simon Snow -- I really didn't want her story to end!Thanks to St Martin's for providing me with an e-galley of Fangirl!

The Chocolate Touch

The Chocolate Touch - Laura Florand When I requested this book on Netgalley, I didn't realize that it was part of a series of companion books. (Of course, it says so right here on Goodreads. Duh.) While I don't think it's necessary to have read prior books in the series, it would have given me more background on some of the secondary characters.At first I was really not so sure about this book. Dominique's POV was a little off-putting to me at first and Jamie, with her big mystery, seemed just a little off and I almost stopped reading. But as I kept going, I began to enjoy the book more. The best part by far was the chocolate. Clearly the author has done a lot of research on chocolate-making, and I got hungrier and hungrier as I read. (Unfortunately, I was reading on a plane, eating stale pretzels.)I'm not always a fan of books that use the whole "I know who you are and you have heard of me but I won't tell you my name and then there will be this big, shocking reveal" as a ploy. And, at times, the book relied on the whole thing about him being big and a little rough and her being small and oh-so fragile a little too hard. But by the last third of the book, I was practically yelling at that big lunkhead Dominique to believe that Jamie loved him. Sheesh.