Saturday, December 31, 2005

2005: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Why yes it's yet another end of the year roundup!

This was an interesting year for me. Had a second child, turned thirty, attempted to take care of two small children, chopped off my hair, got highlights for the first time in 4 years. All in all almost lost my mind. This was also the year I heavily got into reading romance. I had started last year, but this year I started reading alot. And I branched out into historicals. So right now I'd like reflect a bit on my reading for the year.

Best New Author: Gotta go with JR Ward. Perhaps she overdoes the slang a bit, and perhaps some didn't like those names. But I really enjoyed Dark Lover. She's got style, man.

Best New Authors I hadn't read before:There's alot in this category
Eloisa James, Connie Brockway, Laura Kinsale, Loretta Chase

Author who is so bad that it makes me think I really could get published:Just kidding...well there are some but I will only be mean spirited in my own mind. Well really mean spirited anyway.

Author who I just don't get the love for:
Christine Feehan and eternally, Laurell K. Hamilton (more specifically,the Anita Blake series. I do enjoy the Merry Gentry ones)

Best Books published in '05:
Dark Lover (Ward), Sex, Lies and Vampires (Katie MacAlister), Seize the Night (Sherrilyn Kenyon--this actually came out last week of '04, but I'm including it)

Best Older Books that I just read for the first time and will re-read and re-read:Again, a big category, read a lot of keepers this year
Dreaming of You (Kleypas), As You Desire and My Pleasure (Brockway), Lord of Scoundrels (Chase), The Shadow and the Star and Flowers From the Storm (Kinsale). Read these. Trust me I have great taste.

Biggest Disappointment(s):
Sins of the Night (Kenyon)
Undead and Unreturnable, Undead and Unappreciated, Really Unusual Bad Boys (MaryJanice Davidson)
MJD, where art thou? You who gave me so many hours of reading pleasure last year? I suspect with both of these authors, that it's a case of being overextended. Both have like a million irons in the fire and something coming out every other minute. While I truly admire their work ethic and imagination, the work is suffering. The Betsy books were extremely light on plot and character development, and when there was an intriguing moment, it was wrapped up too quickly or left dangling. Since it is a series, I hope that this is all part of the arc, and we'll get something more meaty soon. SK started off '05 with my most favorite DH book, evah, Seize the Night, but Sins sucked. Sorry. Totally devoid of the scorching tension and hot passion I look forward to from her. I just could have cared less about what's his and her name. Ah well, we shall wait and see what '06 brings. Just started Unleash the Night.

That's enought crabbing for now. Part 2 tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Good blog, good post, go read

About 6 weeks ago I found this blog,Smart Bitches, Trashy Books , and now I have to check in every day. The two "Smart Bitches", Candy and Sarah, write intelligently and snarkily about romances. It's a great read. Beware of bad language and creepy, perverted covers, though. Anyway, check out the December 13 entry, which will link you to Candy's column at "Romancing the Blog." Interesting stuff on Paranormals and taboos. Perhaps because I was an English major, I can't help giving lots of thoughts to the "Why's" of paranormals. Why they appeal to me in particular, and why they appeal to readers in general. I wrote this long, unusually lucid comment, then I fucking lost it. Yeah, I said fucking. Damn. And I was going to post it here too. Oh well. I will have to save those deep thoughts for another time.

Friday, December 09, 2005

On the Fly

Things are crazy. At this rate I'm going to turn into one of those people who constantly bitches about how they hate the holidays. It's not that bad, especially if you go the online route. I think what's really getting to me is that the increasingly bad weather/impending arrival of Santa Claus is turning my son into a nightmare. I think his head's going to explode by the time Christmas actually arrives. He really needs to be able to run around outside for at least 1/2 an hour to work off some energy. He's scaring the other kids at Mommy & Me. I'm serious, and I can relate b/c I was the shy kid who used to be terrified of the maniac with the weird gleam in his eye. And now I've given birth to one.

The good:
Flowers from the Storm by Laura Kinsale. If you haven't read it, turn off your computer and go get it. GO. NOW. Really. Just Do It. I liked it even better than "The Shadow and the Star."

Peppermint Mocha Lattes. I'll ignore the fact that they coat as much as a Happy Meal. McDonald's also counts as good.

Brokeback Mountain. Haven't seen it yet, and God only knows when I will, but it looks awesome. Very romantic, star-crossed love. And Heath Ledger's appeal has grown on me. I used to not think much of him.

The bad:
Veronica Mars from last Wednesday. Well, actually it wasn't too bad. Just meh. Which is baaad for this show. The worst part is that there's like 6-8 weeks until it's back.

The fact that my son came up to me while I was holding the baby and asked to touch her head "gently" with his foot. And he had taken his sock off. What is UP with that? I am at my wit's end with his obsession with her head. Very weird.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

The Shadow and the Star by Laura Kinsale

So I finally read a book by Laura Kinsale. I'd read so much about her and how she pushes the boundaries, yada yada yada, so of course I needed to read one. I went on All about Romance and this got a fabulous review by none other than Lisa Kleypas, so I went out and bought it. Wow man, wow. She really does push the boundaries of the typical romance novel (this almost didn't have a romance novel feel to it), but what I liked and respected more than that was the fact that she respects the romance reader's intelligence. She didn't rely on shortcuts or stereotypes to spell things out or move the story along, instead allowing the reader to draw their own conclusions. One actually has to read carefully. But it's worth the work!

The hero of this book, Samuel, lived through horrific sexual abuse (don't worry, only hinted at)as a child before being rescued and going to live with a wealthy aristocratic English family in Hawaii. He is taken under the tutelage of their Japanese butler, and learns the ways of the Neen-jah. Sorry, Ninja. Samuel has a strong sense of guilt and shame regarding himself and his past. He is highly uncomfortable with his sexuality and wants nothing more than to provide a sheltering haven of chaste love for his foster sister, Kai. His world is rocked when his path crosses with Leda Etoile, an orphan raised by an aristocratic spinster now living in borderline destitution, during a London trip for Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee. I will now gloss over lots and lots of stuff and just say a forced marriage and a return to Hawaii results. Will Samuel get over Kai and his past and love and live HEA? Well, of course, it's a romance novel, but I was worried there for awhile.

It was just that rocky. I was initially very uncomfortable with the whole Kai subplot. I do not want a romance where the heroine is the hero's second choice. And I was going there for awhile--Leda believed Samuel was in love w/Kai, Samuel believed Samuel was in love with Kai. But without telling me straight out, Kinsale did make me understand that, while Samuel loved Kai, he didn't lurrrve her. Similarly, I was also concerned for awhile that what Samuel only lusted after Leda. But there are clues that he is in love with Leda, long before he realizes it himself. One has to read the dialogue and his actions very carefully. Kinsale lets the reader fill in what is unsaid. Neither of these characters are in touch with their emotions at all. They are products of their upbringing as well as Victorian repression, and were realistic and consistent within that setting. At times Leda seemed a cipher, but within the context of being a Victorian maiden raised by an older "lady" who clung to already faded notions of gentility and proper comportment, her insistence on propriety seems realistic. Actually, as a orphaned young lady without the protection of money or family, her reliance on and love for etiquette, even if tiresome, seems like a means of self-defense. She desperately wishes to remain respectable and safe, yet barely has the means to do so. Her self-image is all she has. She is a survivor, and she had quiet strength and sometimes, a spark of something more. They all don't have to be feisty misses, do they? And come on, I'm sorry, but hot blonde Ninjas rock.

In summation, this is an excellent read, and a definite change from the usual. It may be slow at first, but it definitely pulls you in. Good story, good characters, sexy sex. And great writing. I will now be reading Ms. Kinsale's entire back catalog. Next up, Flowers From the Storm. I also read Kiss Me,Annabel by Eloisa James, which was a pleasant read. If you like James, you'll like it. However, she's walking a very fine line with some of these characters, concerning likeability. The next title is to be called "Taming the Duke," but I highly hope Imogen gets a smackdown, hopefully by Rafe (fingers crossed). Will I ever get back to "Blow Me Down?" I just picked up 10 for $10 at the Used Bookstore, so either "Flowers from the Storm" or a double shot of pointy stakes by Rosemary Laurey is up next. Sorry, virtual pirates.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Ritual of Proof by Dara Joy

So I was looking at this fun blog and this particular entry, besides being hilarious, made me curious about the book. So I went to Amazon and the huge amount of highly diverging reviews, made me even more curious. As I was off to the library with the kiddies later that morning, I was pleased to find the book in the hardcover version, which, I must note, was quite attractive and tasteful. Anyhoo, this was my first foray into Sci-Fi romance (except for an Ellora's Cave, which was all about the kink really--there are lots of bdsm planets, it seems). And it was...interesting and pretty clever. ROP (as I will call it) takes place on a planet where, it is insinuated, a ship of radical feminists crashed and proceeded to settle a civilization based upon regency romance novels except with the traditional gender roles/balance of power reversed. Hmmm, Yes, Okay. Well, I could buy a group of radical feminists wanting to destroy traditional society and recreate a new one, and I can even buy that they might want to subjugate men, particularly if they were those mean 70's Andrea Dworkin type feminists, but Regency? Please. Why would they recreate a society with such a rigid social hierarchy? I guess they weren't Marxist Feminists, because they sure don't care about social equality. Although, I do find it amusing that the old docs in the archives are romances. Anyway, shall we press on? The plot is the spirited young lady chafing against societal restrictions married off(against her will?) to the strong yet fair aristocrat who can take her in hand. Can they love and live together in harmony? Except of course, the young untried lady is a man and the older, more experienced peer is a woman. Whatever, it was fun. I really did like the hero, Jorlan. I didn't find him wimpy or overly submissive. I thought that Joy did a good job of making him strong, yet still be "the wife." Green, the heroine was a little annoying and arrogant, but then I think that it's my own gender assumptions that made me uncomfortable with her. By the way, the reviews on Amazon are fascinating to read. So many readers were so uncomfortable with this premise. It seems as though romance readers want traditional gender roles and male alphas. In their books, that is. I found this to be an unusual and entertaining read. It does require a strong suspension of disbelief (don't get me started on the "male hymen", that shit must chafe in one's trousers), a tolerance for dumb sci-fi speak (klees, kloos, mack-mock etc.), and a bit of open-mindedness. I must say, despite the intriguing premise, this book didn't say anything to deep about gender. The role reversals were too pat. For a fantasy world in which females rule, and it's a lot more interesting, read the "Blood Jewels" trilogy by Anne Bishop. They are more straight up fantasy, but there is also some romance. And they rock. So , so hard.

P.S. I was curious to see if Joy had placed any other novels in this world so I went to her website. It seems that Ms. Joy is tied up in some sort of litigation with her publisher, unfortunately. But check out this incredible cover. Ha. Cat did get my tongue indeed.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Colds Suck

Seriously. I feel like I'm dying and will never feel better again, which always happens to me by fourth day of a cold. They always turn into sinus infections. The pain, the aches...I feel like someone's been pounding on my head and also like there's enough inner pressure that my eardrums are gonna pop.
Banged out of work today. Just couldn't do it. Worked a full day in YA yesterday. It wasn't too busy and the regular librarian hadn't left me anything so I read. Re-read "Blood and Chocolate" by Annette Curtis Klause. If you like werewolves, read this. It doesn't matter how old you are, it rocks. I just love Gabriel. Also read "The Book of Mordred" by Vivian VandeVelde. I'm medieval history wonk, and I love any take on Camelot. I also love villains/antagonists/antiheroes. This left me a bit cold, though. The description was great. It was in three sections, narrated by three different women in Mordred's life: a widow named Alayna, the sorceress Nimue and Alayna's daughter Kiera who possesses strong magical powers. Kiera's section was the longest, and she was the strongest character by far. Perhaps it would have been best if she alone had narrated. I never really got a handle on the other characters' feelings and motivations. Specifically Mordred, which was particularly annoying. So for contrast, I pulled out "I am Mordred" by Nancy Springer, a quick read that I have never gotten around to. Different take, very sad, cool ending. I'm looking forward to Sherrilyn Kenyon's new Camelot series, interesting concept. It will piss me off if it sucks:Look here for more info .

Tonight I'll attempt "Blow Me Down" by Katie MacAlister. I like her Dark Ones and the Aisling Grey, but I've been eh about her contemporaries, and I'm apprehensive about this one for some reason. Well we shall see.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

The best show that'll probably get cancelled on me

I love Veronica Mars. I love it soooo much. I'm not a big TV watcher, a lot of it I could take or leave but there's always one or two shows that I'm obsessed with that invariably get cancelled. Right now it's Veronica Mars. So well written. So tightly written. Nothing on this show is carelessly done. Things that seem like throwaway lines or characters turn out to be important. If something seems off, that's because it is, not just because of crappy or careless production or writing. It's a real treat for a mystery fan to watch and absorb and wonder what it all means. Whodunit? Why? Plus the show is really well cast and almost uniformly well-acted. Plus easy on the eyes, not that I'm horrible for drooling over guys that are supposed to be in high school or anything. Last night's episode was awesome, awesome I tell you. Anyway, hopefully more people will start watching it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The "WTF? " Cover

So one day I walked into the bookstore and I picked up this book.
Having already passed over "Dark Lover" and something by Lynn Viehl (I hoped that's right), I picked it up and was like "Oh, another one. Enough already. And look at this stupid cover, they were really phoning it in with this one." And then I see in the corner "A Zebra Regency Romance." Huh? I look back down at the stupid cover people and flip over the book. The premise actually sounds pretty intriguing see blurb), and I really do have a hard time resisting vampire books so I bought it. And read it. It was ok. I loved the hero, but the heroine, one of those bluestocking types, started to get on my nerves a lot. Some of the secondary characters were fun. Part of the problem is that I don't read traditional Regencies, although I've read plenty of historicals that take place during the period, so I'm not real familiar with the style. I kept waiting for the sex. It was a bit by the numbers: Sexy, brooding hero--check. Equally brooding and sexy vamp buddies--check. Telepathic connection between hero and heroine--check. I did prefer that one by Teresa Medeiros that came out recently, but it's worth a try particularly if you like Regencies.

But the cover? Readers of Romance are often treated to a variety of absurd and downright insane covers, but this cover is noteworthy for having absolutely nothing to do with the book. What is with the dimpled, square-jawed hero's shit eating grin? "Look Ma, no fangs." The tousled hair, the tux, he looks like he's headed to a charity auction to become some repressed bachelorette's dream date. Definitely not a regency era Romanian count. Whatever. Is the heroine supposed to look like Samantha from "Bewitched?" She looks nothing like the frizzy haired, John Lennon specs wearing heroine. And nothing, nothing about this cover says Regency. Well, except the writing in the corner. It looks like the cover for a cheesy chick lit. This cover totally burns my ass. If you can't find something suitable, just stick a picture of a house on the cover or something. Someone was feeling pretty lazy at Zebra that day.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

"Dark Lover" Love

I have to say in the past couple of months, I have experienced a number of reading disappointments, beginning with Sins of the Night by Sherrilyn Kenyon, continuing with the 2 most recent installments of MaryJanice Davidson's Undead series (and others) and I was even a bit meh about It Happened One Autumn. I got all these gift cards for my birthday and I was increasingly angry that I was throwing them away. I had passed over J.R. Ward's Dark Lover, because, like others, I felt "been there, done that." Then I read the review at "All About Romance" (let me attempt to link it here). Sounded really promising, so I ran out and got it. Loved it. Lurrved it. Seriously, enjoyed it more than any new title I've read this year. I really like Ward's writing style--I liked the pacing and the way she switched between characters. Also not too romance-y, yes there are hard, hot, haunted vampires in black leather but the verbal drooling over their spectacular sexiness was kept to a minimum. Likewise, the sex was hot, yet straightforward, nary a turgid member in sight. More Kelley Armstrong than Sherrilyn Kenyon, although I don't feel that she is very similar to Armstrong. I just feel that like this book could be placed in categories other than romance. Well, almost. I am still a bit shy of recommending it to my husband, because, although there are things I though he would enjoy, I still think the romance element was too strong for his taste. I really liked the characters, am waiting for Zsadist's book desperately (Did I mention that I like tortured anti-heroes, the more tortured the better? Is it the sadist or the masochist in me?)
About the name thing: I kinda dug their names. It worked for me because the vampire were presented as a separate race with their own language, religion and societal customs. Warriors are a particular class within their hierarchy, they are bred and raised to be part of that class, so I saw the names as titles almost particular to that class. And look, I later found an interview w/Ward saying almost the same thing: look here.
Go me! Anyway, if you wanted to like the Dark Hunters but didn't, you might like this, and if you do like the Dark Hunters you'll probably like this too. Try it, definitely.
I totally need to figure out the cut thing, you know the one. I'm still learning. Well my kids really don't want me to write right now, but next: the book I originally passed DL over for.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Four and a half years and counting...

Long before we had children, before we were married even, my future dh and I discussed the whole kids issue. I highly recommend this, because I know so many people who came in for nasty surprises when children come into the picture. Anyway, as on so many other issues, we were highly compatible, and I made it very clear that when I had children I only wanted to work part-time. I won't go into or defend my reasons why, it's something I feel strongly about for me and my family only, everybody else's decisions are up to them. I am very lucky to be in a profession with a number of part-time, decently paying opportunities. So here we are, 6 years and two kids later, and things are working out ok. I love being home with my kids, having worked out the issues of feeling like I must keep house like Marie Barone and feeling the guilt of whether or not I'm "wasting" my degrees and that I'm not contributing enough to the family bank account. And I've got a great part-time job. But the clock is ticking...after my daughter was born 6 months ago, we decided that I would go back to work f/t in five years, for benefits pretty much, so that my dh can try some new things himself. And it took awhile to occur to me, why don't I use this time to get back to writing? I really haven't done any since college, and this is my opportunity to write the great American novel! Or at least a halfway decent romance novel! And how much work can two small children be! Just kidding about that last one. But really it's better than two school-age children, with after school activities and my own school job (most likely) with all that comes with that. Plus home, husband and dogs. So this is somewhat of a exercise to get me writing again regularly, to get the rusty gears turning, as it were. I've been doing a lot of thinking, but not a lot of doing, ya know what I mean? So we shall see how it goes.
And next time I'll start writing about books. Because that was my original intent.

And away we go...

Wading into the blogging fray. Not sure how I feel about the title. Too cutsey? Cliched? Lame? I'm not real good at titles, but I wanted to come up with something that gave a clue as to what this blog is about. You can view my profile for more info on me, no need to repeat, but I plan to spend most of my time discussing writing and reading. Specifically writing and reading romances, because that's what I spend most of my time reading. More specifically paranormal romances. I am a paranormal junkie (and I wasn't even a Goth! But my best friend was). Movies, TV, books, I will try them all. But I hadn't really read romance since high school, when I would steal my mom's--more on that some other time. Then one day at work in the fall of 2003, I was looking at one of the review journals, and there was this whole column on paranormal romance. Since there's nothing I love more than a tortured anti-hero in need of redemption, what could freaking be better than a supernatural,torturedl anti-hero. And whee, Night Pleasures by Sherrilyn Kenyon was in the library, and that night a love affair was born. Now I've branched out a bit, but I always find myself reading paranormals complusively, even when they suck. Even when they suck, I kinda like them too. But as a former English major and aspiring writer (again, more on that some other time), I tend to read very critically. And I don't know anyone else who reads this stuff. Thus this will be the place for my snark, rants, and yes, the love. Because romance blogs are the first place where I've come across some really good, intelligent, funny commentary on romance. Gotta love the love!