Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Enough already...

I'm currently reading Through a Crimson Veil by Patti O'Shea. This is my first go at one of these books, which have been around since last year. In the world of Crimson City(created by Liz Maverick), humans, vampires, werewolves and demons live together very uneasily. Different authors take turns writing different entries in the series. It sounds like a cool concept, but some of the reviews I've read made me put it off. I decided to give this one a try.

Through a Crimson Veil is the story of Mika Noguchi and Conor McCabe, both half-human, half-demon. Mika has spent her life crossing the veil which divides Crimson City from Orcus, the demon world, and though she feels like an outsider in both worlds, she is far more at ease with her nature than Conor. Conor absolutely hates his demon side (he is the result of rape), and has spent his adult life hunting demons. These two crazy kids meet when Mika is sent by the Demon governing council to retrieve a spell from Conor, which will lower the veil between two worlds, and enable the spellcaster to enslave all demons. As soon as Mika sees a picture of Conor, she suspects that he is her vishtau mate. The vishtau is a preordained soulmate bond, which is characterized by overwhelming sexual desire, which later deepens into a emotional bond. Once Mika meets Conor, it's adventure, fighting, sex, running, blah, blah, blahcakes, the usual.

Now I haven't read the entire book yet, and I plan on abandoning it for Devil in Winter. When/if I finish it, I will certainly update or edit my thoughts if need be. But I just need to comment on something that's really getting on my nerves in paranormals: the soulmate thing. The idea of having one true mate, who you were destined for and who will love and cherish you for all eternity, b/c he or she has no choice, is an enticing one, I admit. But in so many books, it just seems to be the ultimate shortcut. Who needs character development? Who needs plot development? They're soulmates, they will end up together because it's destiny. I don't know, it just seems like in these sorts of books all kinds of annoying behavior (usually the heroine's) is excused, because the hero will fall in love due to hot sexin' and forces beyond their control. In this particular book, Mika is all over the reticent Conor's ass, because it is the vishtau! And he will feel it too! I'm not a fan of forced seduction and it made me uncomfortable. It was like, get your hand off his junk, bitch, he told you ten times already. Although, at one point, Mika does realize that her actions are crossing the line (b/c he wants her! no he doesn't! yes he does!no...), so she lays off a bit, and that made me like her better. But in this book, as in others, the relationship seemed like the good old device of undying love as the result of really good sex, with some mumbo-jumbo to make it more convincing. I think paranormal authors need to give the soulmate thing a rest.

Now, I'm not trying to diss on Patti O'Shea in particular, this just happens to be the most recent one I've read. I do want to point out that I really like the fact that Mika was supernatural also, with stregth and powers of her own. I imagine it's for purposes of reader identification, but I do get sick of the powerful, ages-old creature falling in love with average, innocent girl on the street. Really, after the dust settles, what are they going to have in common? Do you picture Blade the angry vampire at Walmart, pushing a cart with two screaming toddlers? (More importantly, should you? Too much reality? Perhaps just that's my own weird habit of picturing what happens after the HEA.)

Friday, February 24, 2006

More thoughts on the great mommy debate

I've been thinking more about the whole Stay At Home ws. Work Outside the Home mom argument. Each side feels that they are perescuted and judged. The working mom (so I gather) feels that others feel that she does not put her children first, is letting others raise her children, or is putting material gain ahead of her children. The stay at home mom feels that others feel that her work is not work, that she is wasting her education/career experience, that she should be contributing more financially, and of course that she sits on her ass all day, watching soaps. You know, what burns my ass the most is this notion that parenting small children is so easy that you have so much time left over. Because all they need is to be fed, changed and maybe put down for naps, right? Heck, we could probably train monkeys or dogs to do it. Perhaps that would solve everybody's problems--we could all get babysitting dogs, a la Nana in Peter Pan . Pretty cheap labor, though. Potty training might be an issue . Anyway back to my point, such as it is. I think that the arguments of the SAHM and the working mom may be rooted in their own guilt and self-doubt. Am I doing the right thing? Am I doing the best for my family? Hell no, say self-righteous law professors, by being a SAHM you're destroying society. Hell no, say the breastfeeding, organic baby food giving supermoms, your child will suffer because you're working (just kidding on the Supermom thing, I'm making fun of myself if anything). Perhaps your husband or partner or mom or sisters aren't all that supportive. So, if everyone devalues what you do, then it's up to the individual to value themselves and their choices. And I totally think people should take pride in what they do. It just sucks that so often, giving one's choices value comes out of judging and belittling others. I guess what I'm saying is take pride in what you do and be the best you can be, and screw whatever everybody else thinks. I don't know....just thinking.

I think that I just read that Walgreen's has Devil in Winter. The local one is open 24/7. Methinks I'll be taking a ride later. I hope this isn't one of those things where I'm so excited that I psych myself out and am disappointed..

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Linda Hirshman is an idiot

There was this woman, Linda Hirshman, on Good Morning America this morning. She has written an article or book or something about how "educated", "privileged" women who choose to stay at home to raise their children are doing something that's bad for themselves, their children and society. Normally we're watching Sesame Street or something of that ilk at this time, but I had sat on the remote and changed the tv to channel 7. I'm just mentioning this because the segment had already started, and between that, my son's shouting and the fact that when I attempt to google this woman I'm coming up with nothing, and that GMA has little on their site other than a link to their message boards: Mommy Wars Rants means that I don't have more info about who this woman is and what it is she wrote. But this escalating nonsense about the so-called "Mommy Wars" has my blood boiling and so I must rant.

First, this is where I'm coming from. I have a BA in English from Wesleyan University (a "potted ivy"), and an MLS from Long Island University. I have chosen to work part-time and stay at home with my children until they are in school full-time. I'm evil to Linda Hirshman, pretty much. Part of the reason for this has to do with my own neuroses, stemming from childhood, that something could happen to my children in daycare/with sitter, i.e. abuse, and I wouldn't know about it. However this is my own issue, which shouldn't factor into the argument at large. Mostly, I chose to stay home with my children because I feel that the ages of 0-5 are the most important years of their lives, when the most brain development and learning take place, and their first experiences, impressions and learning should be from me. I feel that I should point out that I have a well-paying, flexible, convenient part-time job. And my career (librarian), though fulfilling, is not necessarily a "fast-track" career, so to speak. It is also a traditionally feminine occupation, and a job that a lot of people take up later in life as a career change, so there would not be a lot of stigma attached to me returning to work later down the line. I'm just pointing these things out b/c I am sure that they all color my perception of the issue.

Onto the "Mommy Wars," yet another anti-woman, anti-feminist issue cloaked as a feminist one. Why women must continue to pit themselves against each other as well as denigrate and de-value each others' choices is completely beyond me. Beyond me as well is why supposedly feminist scholars continue to judge certain women. I believe that the argument is that feminist scholars of the 60s and 70s worked hard so that we would be able to work, and now us stay at home moms are "opting out". Screw that. As a lifelong, self-identified feminist who's taken lots o' women's studies classes, I appreciate the work by earlier feminists to give us choices. Choices, bee-yotch. I don't care if anyone on either side agrees with me. I don't necessarily think women can have it all (at the same time, at least), but what's important is that there is an element of choice. That each mother is making what she (and her partner) feels is the best choice for her family and herself. The only people I feel bad for in the "Mommy Wars", who are of course never mentioned, are those women who are constrained by finances to either work or stay at home (childcare's expensive,ya'll, if you don't make enough money it doesn't pay to work, often). There are plenty of unhappy women, who wish that they could be at home or at work. Nobody cares about that.

That's because the arguments that the "Mommy Wars" are based upon are rooted in sweeping generalizations, misconceptions and outright fallacies. Intelligent, groundbreaking ideas like--all stay at home moms are unhappy, working moms are putting careers before family, stay at home moms stay at home all day and their children aren't well socialized, kids in day care are not as well socialized, no they are better socialized, SAHMs are selfish, working moms are selfish and so on. I know it looks stupid and contradictory, but there it is. I've seen these things written in articles, blogs and on message boards. There are so many variables determining what decisions people make and why, but instead we must reduce women and mothers down to two entities, the SAHM and the working mother. Because all SAHMs and all working mothers are exactly the same, right? Same values, same politics, same interests, same priorities. Yeah, right. What makes you a good mother is, again, choice and time. Being a SAHM does not necessarily make you a good mother if you choose to spend all your time watching talk shows and talking on the phone. Childrens' needs and development can just as easily be neglected by a mother in the home as without. Sorry, but there it is. A mother who works outside the home full-time may not have as much time with her children, but its what she does with it that counts.

Yes, I'm sure there are differences between children of SAHMs and working moms, but again I think that has more to do with the type of parenting going on. Just as there are differences among children of SAHMs and children of working moms. Obviously, I am pro-staying at home, but that's because I enjoy it, I'm good at it (and I make a little money at a job I enjoy too). We all make parenting choices based on our situations, desires, opportunities, experiences, and other factors. Instead of generalizing and judging, it might be better to think and empathize a little. Mothers have enough guilt and self-doubt to deal with on their own, we don't need it from others. Sisterhood is powerful!!! If you want something to judge, there are a number of people and issues that are genuinely dangerous to our children and their futures. Take aim at one of them.

In happy, snoopy-dancing news, less than a week to Lisa Kleypas' Devil in Winter. Over at Squawk Radio, she's given some teasers. Squee. I'm so excited for this book. It definitely seems like a change for her. Have I mentioned that I like heroes that are genuinely a bit bad? Squeeeeee. Oy vey. A romance reading housewife. I'll have to turn my brain over to Linda Hirschman and the editors of Ms. magazine. Maybe they can find someone who'll make better use of it, since apparently, I don't use it or need it at all.

ETA: I think this might be the same woman who wrote that article that was in NYT in the fall.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Back to re-reading...

Last night I was re-reading Julia Quinn's When He was Wicked. I love the Bridgerton books, but this one is my favorite. I have all of them on my shelves, but this is the one that I keep going back to. It's really different from the others, but yet contains that trademark Quinn wit. It's just one of the sexiest books I've read, I think. The scene where Michael first seduces Francesca in the library...Oy vey. Shivers. The sex scenes are all the more sexy because of all the heightened emotions the characters are feeling: love, desire, confusion, guilt. This book is, to me, was truly daring. Francesca's late husband was truly loved by both Michael and Francesca, a real rarity in romance land, and it makes their coming together really fraught with so many emotions. And Quinn never shies away from those emotions. It's not only super-sexy, but sad. I tear up (which rarely happens). Michael is one freaking hot hero that also makes me cry. Too bad Francesca comes off as kind of a bitch sometimes. But her turmoil is understandable also. When He was Wicked is a highly emotional read, so different from the other Bridgertons, yet so satisfying.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Tale as old as time...

song as old as rhyme,Beeyoooty and the Beeeast.

Damn, that song gets into my head. With that creaky Angela Lansbury voice. So I read Goddess of the Rose by P.C. Cast. Loved it. This was my second book by Cast, (the first being Goddess of Spring) and I think that she is a very bold and original storyteller. She's not afraid to tell an unusual story, and thinks enough of the intelligence of romance readers that she doesn't take the easy way out. This book was dedicated to all those who were disappointed when the beast turned into the handsome prince. Or something very close to that, I'm feeling too lazy to get my butt up and get the book. As I state ad nauseum, I love dark and tormented heroes, and this book just takes it further. The hero, Asterius, is dark and tormented, and not human. And not a sexy vampire, but a half-man, half-beast. All the time, not like a sexy werewolf/shapeshifter thing. And it was cool. Actually it was pretty hot. And I liked the heroine, Mikki. More on the practical and nurturing end of the spectrum than the whiny and whimpy. I just loved that it was about loving and accepting somebody for who they are, because I totally HATE stories where the dark, tormented, tortured hero either changes himself or is changed by the heroine, to become socially adjusted, charming guy, all of a sudden. You want the hero to keep a bit of the beast, y'know? This wasn't perfect: the beginning was a bit slow, and Cast was heavy handed with her repeated assertions that men are patronizing and don't really want to listen to women. But muscles. Horns. Hooves. Swear to God, some sexy shit, I don't care how it sounds. And it was sweet and awwww, too. Anyway, it's well worth a read.

Friday, February 17, 2006

A Bunch of Lying Liars

Faking It by Jennifer Crusie

This is the first book that I've finished in weeks. And I liked it. I really liked it. There were slow bits, times where I wasn't liking the characters and thought about giving up, but I'm glad I didn't. I was quite pleased and satisfied at the end.

Faking It is the story of Tilda Goodnight,an art forger and the dependable one in a family of flakes, and Davy Dempsey, the con man brother of Sophie from Welcome to Temptation. They meets cute in the closet of Clea Lewis, who was also featured in Welcome to Temptation. Davy is trying to steal his money back from Clea, Tilda, a painting that she painted as part of a long-ago scam. I won't spend a lot of time going over the plot, that would take a long time, and I don't think I could. But it features lots of lies and misunderstandings, eccentric family members, con artists and marks, hit men, FBI agents, sexed up vixens, and lots of lies and misunderstandings. Yeah. It's a real testament to Crusie's skill that she makes most of this cute and fun, rather than annoying and grating.

I really liked the moral ambiguity of the characters. I like my comedy dark and my characters gray. I'm often drawn to stories that feature characters that are not quite on the up and up. I think that everyone in this story lies at least once, and almost everyone engages in behavior that if not downright illegal, is ethically ambiguous at best. And even if they feel guilt, it's not that much (except for Tilda) because they feel they are doing it for a good cause--family, to right a wrong etc. I would imagine that this might bother some readers. Oh well, not me. At first I thought that Tilda and Davy were a bit too enigmatic, or detached, or something, and that I wouldn't be able to get into their story. But ultimately this is the story of Davy and Tilda accepting who they are and because of that (in spite of that?)being able to truly love each other. I believed in them by the end.

I liked Davy especially. He was pretty self-aware and accepting of his feelings for Tilda, if a bit surprised by them at first. Tilda on the other hand, got on my nerves a bit. Intellectually I could understand why she was acting the way she was, but please, sister. You've got this guy, you find him very attractive and he's given you an orgasm, but you're going to repeatedly and bitchily turn him down, even though he's pretty much begging for sex. OK. Actually, I found all of the Goodnights, despite their endearing eccentricities, to all have this passive, life-just-happened to-me-and-now-I-have-to-suffer thing going on which grated a bit. And they would all believe anything anybody said to them, just so they could be like, "Oh well, I thought that things would change, but (insert name here) is an FBI agent, so now I'm stuck forever." They're a bunch of liars themselves, but no one ever considers the fact that someone else might be less than truthful? However, as I'm writing this, I'm admiring Crusie, b/c this behavior really could be seen as a family trait, although I didn't really think of it that way at first, and it makes the Goodnights seem that much more, uh, family-like and connected.

Of course Faking It contains a lot of the usual Crusie wit including, a really hilarious denouement. I thought this book was fun. Thumbs up to Jennifer Crusie, I'll be tracking down more of her books soon.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Tiny steps...

I finally figured out how to add links to the blog. And it was fairly painless. Cool!! Now different sites I look at all the time are all in one place. My own little Internet portal. What a concept. Can't believe it took me so long to figure it out. Now if only I coud figure out how to do that thing where you put up part of the post and the reader can click to read the rest. I think it looks better, is easier on the eyes and you can get more on a page. I can't find "help" for it. I'm also going to do a little author link section.

Last night I watched "Corpse Bride." I love Tim Burton. Almost always (I'm looking at you "Planet of the Apes.") I liked it. It was about Victor, dreamily romantic, wussy son of nouveau riche fish merchants who is to marry Victoria, the daughter of obnoxious, impoverished aristocrats. They hit it off right away, both being passive, pointy faced and wan (but nice). However, Victor freezes up at the Wedding rehearsal and is sent off to rehearse his vows. While practicing, he unwittingly promises himself to the Corpse Bride, who died tragically and has been awaiting her groom ever since. The animation was beautiful in a macabre way, and I loved the little details--the "Head Waiter", the maggot who lives in the Corpse Bride brain and gives her advice. The land of the Dead was fabulous. My favorite part was when the dead people came back to the land of the living, and the living people were afraid until they realized it was their grandfathers, husbands, friends etc. then everyone goes to the church together. Classic Burton. That being said, I don't think it was the best. Nothing was compelling enough that I'd go out of my way to watch it again. It was an amusing novelty. I'd say it's worth a try for anyone who likes Tim Burton,animation, or black humor. Expect to be amused but not blowm away.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Random Thoughts

What I'm reading:

What I'm thinking about ditching the book I'm reading for:

I'm enjoying Faking It, just can't focus. Always looking ahead, always looking for better. This is becoming a problem. Oh well, two weeks to The Devil in Winter, three to Lover Eternal. Not that I'm counting or anything. Dork.

So I've been thinking a lot about those couple nicknames that everyone keeps saddling
real life and fictional couples with: Brangelina, Vaughniston, LoVe (Veronica Mars). Is there a name for these totally lame things? But more importantly, who comes up with them? And how does the media, the blogosphere, the world, decide which is the best name, the one that will stick? Seriously, how many people came up with "Vaughniston" while sitting in front of their computer? Was the Vincifer faction pissed? I first saw this practice with soap couples, reading Soap Opera Digest. (It was at my parent's house, I almost never watch soaps, I swear :)) But I suppose it is symbolic of the fact that the media no longer thinks of them as individuals with accomplishments, lives or anything to contribute apart from being part of that soul-sucking entity known as...Brangelina. Or whatever.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Ho Hum...

So it snowed. A lot. Its making me very unmotivated to go out. We've all got colds too. Seems like a good day to sit around and play on the internet. Prince of Magic has disappeared to wherever Master of the Night went. Saves me the trouble of debating whether or not it's worth it to continue. Read 50 or so pages of Return of the Warrior by Kinley MacGregor. Put it down. Read 50 or so pages of The Stone Prince by Gena Showalter. Put it down. Seriously not in the mood to read anything, though in the mood to read. Does that make sense? I have several contemporaries by Elizabeth Bevarly and Jennifer Crusie in my TBR baggie, including Bet Me, which gets such rave reviews. Perhaps I'll try one, I'm trying to get over my contemporary bias. I've read Welcome to Temptation and I liked it, though not as much as most people seem to. I just felt that the connection between the hero and heroine was just sex, pretty much (not that there's anything wrong with that), and I wasn't sure that their HEA would last. Also read Strange Bedpersons, which I also didn't love, because I felt that the heroine was of the arrogant and judgmental masquerading as liberal and free-spirited variety.

Its funny that I rarely read contemporaries, because I think that if I actually ever get a romance novel written, it would probably be one. I don't feel confident that I would have anything new to add to the historical or paranormal genre. The problem is, many of the contemporaries I've read just don't seem realistic. Isn't that ridiculous? It's just that so often the characters and motivations seem so contrived, rather than adhering to any sort of logic. People are always acting like assholes for stupid reasons. Of course, the annoying-ness of this is so often aided by character development that can only be described as broad. I'm willing to explore and try to overcome my bias though.

Speaking of adding something new, I think that they need to cool off on the paranormals. A lot of mediocre stuff is coming out. But I love how authors keep trying to come up with new stuff. I read a review by Bam (she's got two great blogs)of a novel featuring gargoyles. Yes, gargoyles, those ugly stone creatures that stand guard on Cathedrals and swanky apartment buildings, and who also had a cartoon series in the mid-90s that my younger cousin was into. He would make all of us be characters, even though I was like, 21. Anyway, I'm intrigued to see what the author does with this. It got me thinking too, what's next? We've got vampires, werewolves and other shapeshifters, witches/sorcerors, dragons, demons, aliens fairies and now gargoyles. How about the Loch Ness Monster? A beautiful young American on holiday in Scotland meets a mysteriously damp yet sexy young man...How about the Abominable Snowman or Sasquatch? Preferably brooding and in leather. Banshees, centaurs, fauns,brownies, the Shoemaker's elves? The Chupacabra (I love saying that word)? Perhaps some creative and enterprising author can do something with this. Actually I read that PC Cast did something good with centaurs, and I've been meaning to read more by her because I loved Goddess of Spring. Oh well, it's up to someone far more original than I.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Book ADD

Lately I've been having this problem that I never have,where I just can't focus on a book. I can't decide if it's me or the books. I'm going to blame those books though. I've attempted "Master of the Night" by Angela Knight. I can't even find that one now. I think its under the bed. Then I started "Good Girls Do" by Cathie Linz, dropped it for "Mr. Impossible" by Loretta Chase (which I read really fast and wish that I read before I voted in the AAR poll, b/c Rupert Carsington is my new favorite hero. Also awesome heroine and setting. I lurve me some Egypt), picked it up again and now have abandoned it for good. Now I've been working on "Prince of Magic" by Anne Stuart and I may give up on it. Part of me wants to finish, and a large part of me is saying just skip to the end and see what else is in the TBR pile. The sad thing is both of these books seem like they had elements that would make them surefire hits with me, but just didn't do it.

The Linz book, GGD, highlighted why I tend not to read Contemporaries. The contrived reasons for the hero returning to the town where everyone shakes their head and whispers that he's a bad seed, the forced conflict, the cardboard small-town characters, the heroine's annoying new-age-y, free-spirited mother and sister... I loathe this sort of characters, with only the most superficial trappings of individuality--the belly ring, the yoga, the crystals, vegetarianism etc. Their nonconformity comes off as petulance, arrogance and narrow-mindedness. They are sooo above others. Hey, it's kind of like me at 17! According to the excerpt at the end of the book, annoying sister is going to be the heroine of her own book and promises to be even more annoying. Sad thing is, the masochistic part of me wants to check this out to see if its as irritating as it looks, or at least to see if someone will bitch slap the heroine. Anyway I won't comment much more, b/c I did give up on the book, so it's not fair. A librarian and a biker, just like me and my hubby. He even commented on the cover when he noticed it on the counter, where it sat for days. Oh well.

I was looking forward to Anne Stuart's "Prince of Magic" because she's supposed to be wonderful and the Queen of dark, tortured heroes. This looked awesome--the hero is a defrocked priest with an interest in pagan religion (awesome!),and he's a royal bastard (literally! awesome!) the heroine was banished from her home for dancing in the woods at night, in her nightie (awesome!), dark Yorkshire forest, monk ghosts, crazy aristocrats/Druids (awesome, awesome, awesome!). I thought it would be like one of those Barbara Michaels or Victoria Holt books that I used to love, but with sex. But it just didn't do it for me. I think the problem is a lot of telling, not showing. We are told a lot of things about the hero and the heroine, that are not necessarily born out in their words or actions. I'm not feeling their romance. And the hero's a bit of a dick, frankly. I should wait until I finish to make a final judgment though.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Very Cool Heroes

The Charmer by Madeline Hunter: Again, I wanted to love this book but didn't, quite. There was something about the characters, I don't know how to explain it, I felt a distance from the story. The hero was great, though, a third, illegimate son of an Earl, in truth half-Turkish. He was very self-aware about his feelings for the heroine, a duchess, as well as very aware of the fact that their relationship could quite likely go no further than an affair. But he just wants to be with her for as long he can, however he can. Sigh. Sophia, the duchess, was a bit annoying, in an understandable way. Used to being used, she keeps Adrian at arms length for most of the story. Perhaps that accounts why I felt their romance lacked something, some passion. Really liked that Adrian though. Worth a try, I think. I do like the vision of Regency England that Hunter has, a bit darker, perhaps more realistic...but the romances themselves just don't grab me.

The Proposition by Judith Ivory: My first by her, and definitely won't be my last. This was a really sweet, fun, sexy read. It was a twist on the whole "My Fair Lady"/Pygmalion deal, with Cornish rat-catcher Mick Tremore as Eliza Doolittle (I freaking love that movie by the way, though the end, get my shoes thing bugs a bit). Anyway, Mick was a fabulous hero, strong, smart and really sweet. Really different and refeshing and totally sexy. The spinster, scholarly heroine came thisclose to being totally annoying, but redeemed herself when she began to let her hair down. I was really rooting for them. A different and worthwhile read. I checked it out of the library, but I'll be looking for it at the UBS to add to my keepers.

I put down Good Girls Don't by Cathie Linz, to read The Proposition, and I'll be trying to get back to it. I couldn't resist the librarian meets biker scenario, since I am a librarian married to a biker. But it heavily features one of my most hated romance "characters": the new-agey, "non-conformist" "free spirit". Two actually. Shudder. Yes, I am using the quotes librally for a reason. More on this later, when I finish or decide to give up for good.