Sunday, April 30, 2006

Random Thoughts...

I found this blog over at the Good, the Bad and the Unread, one of my favorite spots to visit for info. I haven't read a Harlequin or Silhouette since I graduated from high school and stopped stealing my mom's, but Jamie Sobrato is so funny, I may have to check out one of her books. Actually, I may make that my summer project exploring the world of Blazes and Harlequin Presents and whatnot.

I was thinking about the Kelley Armstrong books, and what makes them stand out to me, and I have to mention the relationship of Elena and Clay. So often, I visit these boards and loops where readers are positively swooning over having a big, scary paranormal Alpha male of her own. When I read these books lots of times I get to thinking about what its going to be like for them after the HEA. Armstrong explores this often amusingly in her books. Yes, Clay is totally gorgeous (and a great character), and totally in love with and focused on Elena, and you know what? He drives her nuts half the time. He is overpoweringly possessive, and hates her to spend time with anyone else. She loves him, but seeing them navigate their relationship, even when they are secondary characters in some of the other books, is funny and kind of sad. It's food for thought, and an interesting counterpoint to some of these overly romanticized vamps and whatnot. I mean, think about some of the relationships being set up in these books. Paradise or one-way ticket to unhealthy co-dependence? Think of those obsessive Carpathians, for example. Perhaps I'm being terribly unromantic and overthinking.

It's bad when a title...

makes you think of a goddamn Evanescence song. And it goes through your head, and through your head and through your head...At least I think it's Evanescence, I can't keep up with the crap the kids are listening to these days. Give me some real hard stuff and Goth stuff please. The singer reminds me of my old best friend, though. Anyway, I hopped on over to Kelley Armstrong's website after reading Broken (yes, I was eventually going to get to a point), and apparently, she doesn't really know why she gave this book this title. Heh, I don't really either. You can guess a lot of things, but they're all kinda reaches. Didn't dim my enjoyment of the book at all though. Btw, here is Kelley Armstrong's website. It's one of the best author sites, in my opinion--she keeps it up to date, and has lots of online extras for her fans, including novellas and short stories. Oh, and as I was blog hopping this morning, I found a little interview with her. Oh, and read her books, they're really good. Onto the review.

Kelley Armstrong's books are mysteries with romantic elements set in a contemporary world, where supernatural beings co-exist with humans. I would put her in a category with Charlaine Harris, Kim Harrison and Laurell K. Hamilton, although they all have different tones, voices, worlds, and quality levels (but I will refrain from LKH dissing today). Kelley Armstrong is my favorite of these authors and I feel that her particular strength is in her characterization. I often have a difficulty with contemporaries in that I feel the characters speak or act in completely unrealistic. But her characters feel realistic to me (heh, considering that they're werewolves, witches, and half-demons), and also in tune with what they're supposed to be (i.e the werewolves are unapologetically violent and not particularly loyal to anyone outside of the pack). And they are always intriguing, fast reads.

Broken returns to the world of the werewolves and narrator Elena Michaels. Fifteen years after Clay first bit her, things are going pretty well. So well, that she's gotten pregnant. Of course, as the only known female werewolf, and pregnant by another werewolf to boot, there are a lot of unknowns in this pregnancy, making Elena a bit anxious. But things really get complicated when Xavier Reese (from Stolen, a shady half-demon contacts her to call in a favor. He wants her to steal Jack the Ripper's "From Hell" letter. It goes pretty easily, and then, pretty much literally, all hell breaks loose.

This was another solid book from Armstrong. I did figure out the mystery pretty quick, and got a bit annoyed when the characters didn't, but no matter. It moved along and was sufficiently exciting, and I was more interested in seeing what was going to happen with Elena's pregnancy, anyway. It was like a reunion with old friends: Elena, Nick and Antonio and my favorites, Clay and Jeremy. I just love that crazy Clay and the mysterious Jeremy. I did miss Paige and Lucas, and would've preferred their presence to Jaime's. Apparently Jaime, the flaky celebrity necromancer, is going to be the narrator of the next book, so we'll see how that goes. I just hope she doesn't get together with Jeremy. That pairing doesn't work for me at all.

If you haven't read anything by Kelley Armstrong, give her a try. She's a great writer and really stands out from the pack. Just an interesting note: when I read Bitten and Stolen, they had rather arty, literary hardcovers, rather than the paperbacks' more genre-y, supernatural babes covers. I guess they changed direction in the marketing, but it's signficant because they are hard to categorize. But go read them.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Did they have hair gel in 1820-something?

Picked this up at Borders today also. The tiny cover on Amazon didn't do it justice. I especially loved the stubble. C'mon, now! Poor Loretta Chase can't catch a break in the artist department. I suppose the guy's good looking, but I don't like this hairdo on contemporary guys.

Happy Surprise!

Hurrah, hurrah! I had totally forgotten that Broken by Kelley Armstrong is out. Whee, the return of Elena and Clay! A trip to Borders post-mommy and me is warranted. If you haven't read anything by Kelley Armstrong and you like paranormals. I wouldn't characterize her as romance, nor horror...its like a contemporary paranormal fantasy with romantic elements. I love her characterization of the werewolves. When I first read Bitten, I wasn't really into romance and I was like, this is my perfect book! Why is no one else out writing like this? And don't tell me Laurell K., please! Anyway, over time her world has expanded to include lots of different characters, who I enjoy (got a soft spot for Lucas), but of course, my ultimate fondness is with the prickly Elena, the hot and sociopathic Clay, and the enigmatic Jeremy. Yay!

So I've been feeling really nostalgic lately for the strangest things. Anybody remember a little cinematic gem called Teen Witch? With the fabulous songs, "In Like Boys," "I Want to be the Most Popular Girl, "and the "rap off", "Top That?"

I'm also highly unhappy that Veronica Mars was pre-empted yet again for New Jersey Nets basketball. What! Of, course, since I'm a spoiler whore, I could not help but to go to TelevisionWithoutPity to find out what happened. I missed heartbreaking, Veronica/Logan angst!!! Dammit, I've been watching all season, and they've barely thrown us a bone with them, and now Channel 9 won't show it!! I've got to see it, because it sounds right now like it was up there with the last episode of My So-Called Life, and Brian Krakow on his bicycle. Moment of silence for Brian Krakow.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Covers Galore (This One's for Steph)

So my good friend Steph recently began reading my blog. My wit and wisdom inspired her to go out and get her very first romance novel. I suggested Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase, as a good one to start with. I warned her, as a newbie, that the cover was pretty bad.

Cover in question:

So she emails me that she chickened out because of the cover. The world of romance covers is a strange and varied one. I, for one, will take an English manor house over a shirtless clinch any day. But I have discovered in my reading, that a lot of people do like characters on the cover b/c it helps them to envision the hero and heroine. They often do the opposite for me, ruining my vision of them.

It seems that authors have little control over their covers. It's the luck of the draw. Which is a shame, because although I try to preach "don't judge a book by it's cover" when recommending books to kids, I too, will not read a book based upon its cover. So I thought I'd help Steph get past her distaste for clinchy covers by showing her how bad they can be. Luckily, some hardworking bloggers have already done the work of posting some true howlers. Have fun Steph, and make sure no one's looking over your shoulder. Without further ado, get ready to cry laughing, and want to wash your eyes out with bleach:

Smart Bitches Cover Snark--so much awful goodness.

Some dude named Longmire does romance novels--The titles are obviously changed, but it's hysterical, and actually shows a wide range of cover archetypes.

Bam is hilarious, and she definitely writes better back cover blurbs than the real ones. Interesting job, by the way. How does one become a novel blurb writer?

So it could always be worse. Perhaps invest in some of the book covers that my mom had, as if we didn't know what was under them. I may invest myself, as I can be a cover phobe. I've come a long way, but old prejudices still persist for me. Ah well.

In Space, No One Can Hear You Moan...

I've never been a fan of reading Science Fiction. That is not to say that I don't like Science Fiction at all. I've actually enjoyed quite a few Sci-Fi movies and tv series (I miss Farscape!), and we watch the Sci-Fi Channel all the time (which isn't exclusively you watch Ghost-Hunters? We want to move to RI and join up!)But for some reason, in reading it, I seem to get thrown off by the space jargon (frell, frak, krek...just say fuck, for fuck's sake), and the science-y stuff seems cheesy or boring. So I was a bit surprised at myself for picking up The Ultimatum by Susan Kearney at the library, but I was intrigued by the back cover blurb.
The Ultimatum has the most,uh, original set-up I've seen in a long time. Dr. Alara Calladar is a brilliant physiologist who specializes in the study of the females of the Endekian race that she belongs to. Due to their genetic programming, Endekian females of childbearing years go through these cycles (the 'Boktai'), where they are absolutely crazed with lust and will have sex with any willing male. It seems that their cells will degenerate and they will DIE if they don't get some "male essence" to regenerate them. Not only that, but the more they do it with a particular guy, their cells become attuned to him (or something), and they become dependent on his man juice to keep them alive. Seriously, doesn't this sound like a porno set-up? Total male fantasy. Apparently, Endekian males are all short and rotund, and they don't treat the ladies well because they know that they'll be getting some no matter how they act, since getting boinked is so necessary to keeping the females alive. But fear not, because this is not a porno, but a romance novel (i.e. female fantasy?), so our heroine will be spared an unhappy marriage to a Ron Jeremy look-alike by the arrival of a hot guy from space. Xander is a Rystani warrior, an enemy race, and he wants Alara to come with him to try and cure some virus or something. But, of course Alara is at the mercy of the Boktai, and they are in outer space...Cue Bamp-chicka-wow-wow porny music...

So I'm not going to write a review, because after much effort, I'm giving up. I only read about 125 pages in a week. A lot of it's my Sci-Fi prejudice. For example, it's not a penis, but a tavis. Tavis Smiley is a fellow with a PBS talk show, at least in the New York metro area. I just can't deal. I really wanted to like this, because of the wonderfully porn-worthy set-up, but I was bored out of my skull. But perhaps it will be some other reader's cup of tea. I couldn't let it go by without mention. Plus, I went to BJ's for a birthday cake this morning and picked up Dead and Loving It by Maryjanice Davidson, although I swore to the heavens I would ILL this after shelling out for two hardcovers and a trade paperback last year, all shitty. She's got a great a genuinely humorous, and snarky voice that really stands out. She's just getting extremely light on substance. But hey, it was 35% off. So yeah space rangers, you're getting tossed aside for obnoxious werewolves and vampires.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Sword in the Sheath

Okay, totally cheap. And rather lame. Which is kind of appropriate, because today I'll be discussing Sword of Darkness by Kinley MacGregor. I was very psyched for this book. Being a total medieval and Camelot wonk I loved the premise, in which there is a shadow Camelot, presided over by Morgen LeFay, Arthur's half-sister, who has been given lots of different interpretations over the years. Here she's full-on evil, but we don't know if Arthur's the father of her son Mordred (I'm guessing no, too dark). She's surrounded by dragons, gargoyles, and dark and tormented possible future anti-heroes. Avalon is presided over by the female Merlin, and she is surrounded by the not-so-dark, but still tormented former Knights of the Round Table. Everyone's immortal and can time travel, so that they can make all sorts of 'witty' and 'sarcastic' comments inappropriate to the time period. First up at bat: Kerrigan, the Pendragon, or ruler, of this "dark" Camelot.
So I didn't hate this book. I did put it down a lot, which I usually don't do with Sherrilyn Kenyon (who is MacGregor). It was not nearly as compulsively readable as many of her books. The problem for me was the hero and the heroine. Kerrigan, the king and wielder of Caliburn (sort of a dark counterpart to Excalibur), is supposed to be the baddest of the bad, demonic in fact. Instead he is pure Kenyon: he had a rough childhood, nobody's ever been kind to him. He's not so bad, he just needs a good woman to listen to him, empathize, and downright pity him, and he will dissolve into a puddle of luurrrrve. Seriously, some smiles from an innocent virgin and Kerrigan's grinchy heart grows three sizes. Bleh. That brings me to Cindy Lou Who, er, Seren, the apprentice weaver, who I actively hated as I have not hated a heroine in a long time. Oy vey, the self-righteousness, the innocence, the purity, the torture. She firmly believes in the good in people, and is constantly chastizing Kerrigan for not being nicer, even when he's saving her sorry ass. She's just so good, I kept expecting her to chime out, "God bless us, every one" A la Tiny Tim. At one point she's like, oh, I love the good part of Kerrigan, oh no I love all of him. Yeah right, you know she'd constantly be lecturing him and trying to change him. Ooh, she bugged with her platitudes.

Seren the super annoying has been chosen to be the mother of the next Merlin (not a specific person here, rather a title for a wise and powerful magician). Both Merlin and Morgen want her, for her child will shift the balance of power between the two realms. However Kerrigan kidnaps her out from under Gawain and Agravain (good guys from Avalon), and things progress much as you would expect from there. I wanted this to be darker, and it was a bit by the numbers--Kerrigan was classic DH, as was Morgen (Artemis). There was the usual humor, sometimes funny, sometimes clunky. But it was really Seren and her "might does not make right" schtick that killed it for me. I'll keep reading (though perhaps from the library), because with a better h/h this could be good. I'm left with the impression that MacGregor/Kenyon really enjoyed writing this, she knows her Arthurian lore, I just wish she would push her boundaries a bit, stray from what has become rote. Darker and more tormented please. Or not. More something, though. Please.

One more thing, t hen I'll shut up

So I've been following Eloisa James' "spoiler trail" on her website. The things she mentions as clues are things I did notice, but rather than reading them as signs that Imogen was realizing who Gabe really was, I just saw them as signs of Imogen's confusion over her feelings for the two men. Even the whole Silchester thing (see her April 13 note),where Imogen realized it was Rafe prior to their first lovemaking, I was like "yeah, okay, whatever you say." I think Ms. James was too subtle for my simpleminded ass. I will re-read this book at some point, but for now I'll quit my bitching, and just accept the fact that it didn't work for me.

So I got two wisdom teeth taken out Tuesday morning. Yeow, I'm so glad I didn't get all four. I swelled up so much, I'm just starting to feel better this evening. Well, except for the sinus infection and my period. Somebody put me out of my misery now.

Over at Smart Bitches, they're talking about inaccurate historical names. My name gets bashed several times, but since I'm not a regency-era male, I won't take offense. The only hero named Devon I can think of was in The Windflower, which most squee over, but I don't remember it at all. I read it in high school, and I probably didn't like it 'cuz a dude had my name.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Much Ado about Taming of the Duke...

I guess I wasn't the only reader who had some issues with this book. Over on her website, Eloisa James is leaving a spoiler trail, mapping Imogen's discovery of Rafe's masquerade. She is also planning to write an additional chapter to cover this. Also, over on the Avon Author's Board she has answered a lot of reader's questions (I have not read the whole thread yet myself).

I don't get much sleep these days. My daughter doesn't sleep at night. I'm trying to get her to sleep, resulting in even less sleep for me than before. So maybe, in my sleep-deprived haze, I was overly harsh on TOD. far, I'm not convinced that Imogen knew, and I'm not convinced that she was in love with Rafe. Falling in love? Yes. Confused and conflicted about her emotions? Definitely. I guess I'll have to keep reading, in order to understand when Imogen fell and who she fell for. Even "the little a-ha moments" pointed out so far, seem murky. I kinda think that James is doing a lot of telling w/o so much showing, but I'll follow the threads and spoiler trail and whatnot and try to re-read the book before she posts the new chapter to see if I feel differently. I'm kinda sadly obsessed with this, but again I really wanted to like this book better.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Test Post

I don't know what I'm doing, but I'm going to try and figure out this expandable post thing if it's the last thing I do. I know I'm a wordy mofo, and it's too much text for people to scroll through. Let's see...

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Loretta Chase is worthy of fangirly adoration...

Finished Lord Perfect yesterday. I loved it. Loretta Chase has such a great, witty, unforced style. Her books are always fun. And her characters are always memorable. They also seem true to the time, rather than 21st century people set down into the 1820's. And I adore her sense of humor. I love how her characters always fall madly in love at first sight, although they are never quite aware of it. Instead, they are disconcerted by the fact that they're becoming undone. By the time Chase's heroes and heroines get together however, it is always clear that it is an attraction of the mind and spirit as well as the body. That truly makes her stand out. Oh well, my brain's not functioning well enough to write a real review, but Lord Perfect is defintely worth a read. If someone were to ask me for a rec for a great historical romance writer, she's the first one I'd think of.

Fangirls scare me!

You know the ones I'm talking about. Those posters at the author loops and message boards, as well as more general boards and even Amazon, who obsess over and dissect the minutiae of their chosen authors' creations, and who dismiss even then slightest criticism of said author and her works. Their rebuttals to such criticisms usually include such in-depth thoughts as, "You just don't get it!", "So-and-so is a goddess and I will read every piece of crap she has ever and will ever write!," or "If you don't get it, we don't want youto read so-and so's book anyway." Yeah,hmmm, whatever. As a complete spoiler whore, I lurk around author websites and loops, desperate for hints or excerpts, and I find these types by turns amusing, annoying, and sometimes creepy. Sometimes I love a book, despite the fact that I know that there are (sometimes glaring) flaws. Something about it will just draw me in and make me ignore the flaws. While I may disagree with another's opinion, I can still respect it and often find truth in it. If I like the book, someone else isn't going to change my mind about it. Whatever, if a person's going to put a product out there, they should be able to handle some criticism. It just weirds me out that these fans are so impassioned that they need to respond to everything with they typwritten equivalent of sticking their tongue out. If you don't have anything halfway intelligent to say, don't say anything at all. I've even seen posts where these so-called fans actually post links to negative reviews etc., just so they can reassure the author and the community that this person's an idiot and they're full of crap. Wha? You love this author so much that you'll bring negative info that she might otherwise miss to her attention?

Also, they just seem to be just a little toooo into it. I love paranormals and part of the fun is getting into the world building, and seeing characters develop over time. But for me the fun is seeing what the author does with the character(s) etc. and if I'd do the same if I was her or whatever. I wouldn't go so far as to say that people have completely lost their grip on reality, but I think that some of them are thinking about these characters waaay too much. While I can get fangirly (see my continued devotion to SK while sooooo many things bug me about the DH books), I can recognize that books are books, and sometimes mediocre ones at that. Really though, some of these posters freak me out. I think they might stab someone who doesn't recognize their genius of their object of devotion.

I also worry that some of these authors might get caught up in the slavish adoration of their fangirls. I kinda think that this is what happened to LKH. If a vocal group is telling you that your shit don't stink, well hell, you should keep churning out shit for them. The rest of us misguided fools just don't get it. I'm going to go there and say, that after the stuff that I've read over the past year, Sherrilyn Kenyon is in grave danger of succumbing to this. People adore her no matter how meh it is. Or else she's just overextended and has got to start saying no to her agent.

Is this primarily a paranormal phenomenon? Do the authors of historicals or contemporaries have such rabid and defensive fans? 'Cuz all the examples I'm thinking of are paranormal authors. It's interesting...

Monday, April 03, 2006

Taming of the Duke (spoilers ahead)

I first ran across Eloisa James when I read a novella by her in "The One That Got Away." I liked it. Then I found out that she was an English prof at Fordham University, which a number of family member attend/have attended. So as some kind of show of solidarity, I continued to seek her work out. I like her, with qualifications, so it was interesting to see, as I got into the whole romance thing, that she inspires such mixed and strong feelings. I admire the fact that she is trying to do something different. She plays with structure, supporting large than usual casts of characters and multiple subplots. She also writes more human characters: they can be weak and selfish, even annoying. Her heroes are strong, but beta, and her heroines can have very strong personalities as well. It seems to be for these reasons that a lot of readers dislike her work. I actually like these elements. She's got a nice writing style as well. My beef with James is that in the process of challenging herself and readers, she seems to lose sight of the primary challenge of a romance: to create a clear, engaging, believable love story between two characters.

I was really looking forward to The Taming of the Duke. I put aside Lord Perfect for it.
I had enjoyed the two previous books in the "Sisters" series, and I had enjoyed Rafe Jourdain, the Duke of Holbrook's appearances in them. He looked to be an unusual hero, a drunk with a gut, but there was definitely some kind of tension or feeling between him and Imogen, and I was excited to see what James would do with it. Similarly, I didn't particularly care for Lady Imogen Maitland, she was often petulant and immature, but there were glimmers of something likable and I wanted to see how the author would make these two over and give them an HEA. In TTOTD, Imogen returns to the home of her guardian, Rafe, just as he's getting to know his illegitimate half-brother, a Cambridge professor named Gabriel Spenser. For reasons I'm not going to bother getting into, the two are going to mount a theatrical production at Holbrook Court. Rafe drives Imogen crazy as usual, but she is intrigued by his brother, who looks a lot like him, but has a sober dignity that Rafe lacks. Although, he is unmarriageable due to his birth, Gabriel is the perfect candidate for the affair that Imogen is desperate to have (yeah, she's still a bit annoying). But just who is it that Imogen is meeting in the shadows, bearing a fake mustache?


Wait for it...

WHAT A DISAPPOINTMENT!! I really wanted to like this story. The weakness can be summed up quite easily--not enough Rafe and Imogen. There was too much Imogen and 'Gabriel' and too much of the real Gabriel's romance (Although I enjoyed the character and the love story, it needed its own forum 'cuz it took away from the story at hand). Furthermore, it really bugged me that Rafe continued his charade thoughout the book. It made him seem stupid at best, downright creepy at worst. I couldn't believe that he wouldn't think that Imogen wouldn't hand him his balls when she found out that he had sex with her while pretending to be someone else. If they had had sex, he had come clean, had the inevitable blow up, and continued from there, I would've liked it much better. As it was, Imogen was in love with a made up person for reasons based on lust. Although I definitely believe that there were strong sparks between the two, and feeling (which makes it all the more disappointing), I just didn't believe in their (especially Imogen's) declarations of love at the end. We just didn't get enough of their love story. They weren't there yet, y'know? I'm really curious to see if the element of dishonesty bothered anyone else.

Ah well, I'll still look forward to Josie's story. I wonder if she'll hook her up with Mayne. I suppose it's realistic, but James' habit of heroes that are much older than the heroine yucks me out a bit. Very Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones. Especially since the heroes comment on the heroine's youth. It's like they know they're stealing them from the cradle.

ETA after reading reviews on Amazon: I just want to state that there was not a glimmering of evidence that Imogen had realized Rafe's charade until the denouement. As written, I really don't believe she made that discovery until his proposal. Just one line to acknowledge it. Again, disappointing.