Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Halloween!

Have a great day everybody! I love Halloween, but this year I'm a bit Halloweened out. My son is 3 and a half and really into it, and we've been celebrating all month. He's got a parade at school, then later we're going trick or treating. Not for very long I'm sure. But the weather is supposed to be quite nice.

Just an observation: Is Blogger trying to drive me nuts? Don't they know they're dealing with a woman on the edge? With how low I've been feeling, plus my sinus infection, it's been really difficult for me to sit down and write a post. My brain feels cloudy, y'know? But every time I am in the mood, to post or even to blog-hop and comment, Blogger's having issues. Everybody was napping yesterday, and no Blogger all afternoon! That just ain't right!

I'm going to attempt to write quickie reviews of Gone Too Far and Into the Night by SB later. Perhaps it will be the return of the review haiku . I also want to write a review of The Vampire Who Loved Me by Teresa Medeiros. Is anyone else getting a bit cheesed out by all the plays on classic titles and sayings with "Vampire"? Too cutesy, plus it almost never has anything to do with the book.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Sam and Alyssa, Alyssa and Sam...

I haven't read anything new since I finished Gone too Far last Thursday. I've got Out of Control and Flashpoint on my bed table, but I find myself unable to start them. I find myself feeling a little bit wistful. I read these books too fast, I fear. Because now I have to say goodbye to Sam and Alyssa. It's been a long and bumpy road, and I was right there with ya, guys. Best wishes and all that, but now I must settle for cameo appearances and mentions by other, less interesting characters. Ho-hum. I'm just not ready to continue on in a Sam and Alyssa-less SB world.

Yes, I'm afraid it's true, I'm now Suzanne Brockmann's bitch. It reminds me of J.R. Ward, where I can find so many things wrong with the books, yet I'm hanging on every word and desperate for more. I could nitpick these books to death (there were a number of small discrepancies and WTF? moments that took me out of the moment), I wasn't a big fan of the WWII subplots, there were times when the stories dragged, and a number of characters (see last post) that I wanted to bitchslap like Cher in Moonstruck ("snap out of it!"). And those were the characters I liked! Some of the love stories I found clunky. But Brockmann dragged me in. I lapped up every word, and when I finished one I picked up the next right away.

I've been trying to decide how to do this post. Every time I've been in the mood to blog this week, blogger hasn't been working, compounding the problem. So I've just decided to be my usual rambly, long winded, slightly unhinged self. This post will not so much be a straight up review as a series of observations. If you've read it, you'll get it, if not, hopefully your interest will be piqued. Or maybe you'll think it sounds like a pile of crap. Either way, I ain't going to sweat it. I'll provide links for each book for a better summary and excerpt, and if you're interested in reading more, you can find a 53 page PDF guide on the front page of Suzanne Brockmann's Website, which gives loads of info about the books. Is it just me, or should she really do something about her site? It looks like a middle school class project or something. Now, onto the books.

The Defiant Hero is the first one I read, but is actually the second one in the series. It is the story of Navy SEAL Lt.(jg) John Nilsson and translator Meg Moore, who once had a brief friendship (that didn't turn into anything more b/c of Meg's marriage), who are reunited under extreme circumstances. Meg's daughter and grandmother have been kidnapped by terrorists, and if she wants to get them back she has to grab a terrorist leader who is posing as a diplomat. Or something. I'm kinda fuzzy on the details. Did quite a bit of skimming on this one.

Observations: KristieJ warned me that Meg was her choice for worst heroine evah, and she is definitely a contender. I understand that she's been hurt in the past, and that she is in an extremely difficult situation,and determined to protect her family but her repeated refusal of help from Nils, who she had brought into the situation, started to grate. She kept flying off back into danger. Gee-zus, he's a Navy SEAL. They're, like, specially trained and shit. She? Is a translator. Maybe he could give her some tips or something, that's all I'm saying. John Nilsson is an archetypal Suzanne Brockmann hero: handsome, intelligent, capable, romantic and kinda masochistic. I'm serious. Brockmann's heroes seem to like being abused by mean women. To different degrees. There's a WWII subplot of course, because there are in all of these books for some reason. I find the WWII plots harmless, but not all that interesting either, and I just breeze through them to get back to the main plot. This one was decent, about Meg's grandmother and her brother's tutor and Dunkirk, but who really cares? I've spent enough time talking about this book, which was just ok. Let's talk about the most interesting stuff.

That's right, Sam and Alyssa. So we've got Ensign Roger "Sam" Starrett and FBI Agent Alyssa Locke, who got off on the wrong foot in The Unsung Hero, which I haven't read. Sam's a good ol' boy from Texas: arrogant, cocksure and loud (and foul) mouthed. Alyssa's somewhat too good to be true: in great physical shape, super intelligent and confident, ace sharp shooter and extremely beautiful (part African American, part Hispanic, part White). A former Naval officer herself, she resigned her commission, chafing at the restrictions placed on her due to gender. Now with the FBI, Alyssa comes off as cold and bitchy, pretty much because she's hyperaware that as a gorgeous woman of color, she's going to be looked at differently, and judged differently. She's got to show no weakness in order to be seen as the best of the best. Alyssa has dismissed Sam as a rednecked, bigoted idiot and despises him. Sam totally digs Alyssa, but then she needles him and he finds himself shooting his mouth off and completely playing into her preconceived notions about him. The sparks fly whenever these two meet, and, as you know, where there's smoke, there's fire, so after celebratory whiskey, you can guess what happens. That's right, handcuffs, chocolate syrup and hot, hot sex. And angst, regrets and anger the morning after. A totally, hot glorious mess, which saved the book for me. Alyssa comes off as a bit too mean and too bitchy (though I get where she's coming from). Sam can be obnoxious, but it's pretty clear that he's way into Alyssa and just can't help reacting to her. I love him (but more on that later) I don't even know why I loved this subplot so much. I mean please, drunken one-night stands betwen two people who don't like each other, but these two just grabbed me.

Next up, Over the Edge. Observations: This one was a lot better. Our intrepid hero and heroine are Naval Reserve Lt. Teri Howe, a pilot, and Seal Senior Chief Stan Wolchonok (what a great romance hero name), a strong, steady, very nice guy. Teri was a very different heroine from Meg. She's had a troubled past, but once she realizes that she wants Stan, she goes right after him. Stan the one resisting, because he's not that good looking or he wouldn't be good for her or some such hogwash. But I got over it, because everything just gelled in this one much better. The "action" plot was much better, a hostage situation on the plane. It kept me glued. I really liked Gina Vitagliano, the hostage who dealt with the FBI. Only a college student, she had an intelligence and grace about her, lacked that grating quality of some of SB's other female characters. We also get Max Bhagat, top FBI negotiator and Alyssa's boss. Intriguing character as well. I should mention Jules Cassidy, Alyssa's flaming gay partner, who in the great tradition of gay best friends, is a very nice guy and a good listener. Luckily for him and us, he gets his own romance down the line and I hear it's some good shit.

And of course, Sam and Alyssa. Sam's been pining for Alyssa for the last six months. Alyssa is wracked with guilt and shame over sleeping with Sam, and is none too pleased to find that she's still attracted to him. So she's gets drunk with some Brits and booty calls him late at night!! Kind of a bitch move, but again, a hot scene. More regrets and recriminations the next morning. Poor angry Alyssa. Poor sad Sam. After a conversation with the gay and therefore wise Jules, Sam decides to tell Alyssa about his feelings. Just when it seems that these two crazy kids might stop with the misguided (but really, really awesome) sex, and work towards a real relationship, we all get blindsided. In an effort to forget Alyssa, Sam had engaged in a brief affair with a dumb, stacked SEAL groupie. Oops, she's pregnant! Sorry Alyssa, Sam's going to do the right thing and marry this girl, who he doesn't give a damn about. WTF!!! WTF!! Stupid, stupid, stupid! Stop it Sam, just stop it! Seriously, this should all have me clawing out my eyes in anger and frustration, but instead I was verklempt. Brockmann has me totally buying into the "love story" of these two, which so far is just a case of good chemistry and drunken sex, pretty much. Damn you SB, for making me love them.

Oh yeah, and there's a WWII subplot about Denmark and the Nazis. Is there anyone out there who really loves these subplots? Who feels that they bring something to the table? I can't be bothered. They aren't bad, but they're taking up valuable page time. I'm going to stop here, because I wrote way more than I was planning to. What a surprise. Will pick up tomorrow.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Stop it!

So since my last post I have read The Defiant Hero, Over the Edge, Into the Night, and Gone too Far, all by Suzanne Brockmann. Hopefully, I'll have something up about them by the end of the weekend. I think my reading slump is officially over, and I think I can be declared an official SB fangirl. But I love these despite some issues, the chief of which there was at least one character in each book that I wanted to shake until their teeth rattled.

I very rarely watch MadTV, but every once in awhile my husband will watch it on Comedy Central. It's been on for, like, a million years, did you know that? Sometimes it's funny, sometimes not, but there's one sketch that I love and we always say it to each other. In it, Bob Newhart plays a therapist who has two words of advice for everything his patient has to say--Stop It!! Not to make light of actual emotional issues and the therapy process, but I think we've all had those moments, say when a friend or relative is going on about something for the millionth time and you've given them a million pieces of advice that they never listen to, where you just want to say, Stop it! Get over it! Enough already! Here's the sketch: YouTube--Stop It!. Warning: It's bit long and the audio's out of sync, which gets a little annoying.

So now I'd like to put on my therapist/friend hat and give a little advice to some of Brockmann's characters. This is how I felt while reading these books. My apologies to those who haven't read any of SB's books, I'll clear up their identities next post.

Alyssa Locke: I love you, I really do. You're a bitch sometimes, but I totally understand your frustrations at being a woman of color in a man's world. You have to work so much harder than everyone else, and show no weakness. But you know what? Stop it. Just stop it. You're a little too mean, and protesting a little too much. Relax, have a drink or two (the liquid courage helps, doesn't it?), and go booty call Sam. I know, I know, he's a redneck, arrogant asshole, but just...stop it. Go get some redneck ass. And stop it.

Meg: Stop it! Now, seriously. Stop it! Because as much as I'd like to say I understand your trust issues due to your lousy marriage, and your desperation as a mother to save your child, you pretty much define "too stupid to live." You've got your adoring Navy SEAL ready to do anything for you. He's a trained professional, idiot! And you are annoying on a number of levels. Unlike Alyssa, I don't like you that much, but I just wanted to tell you to stop it. Shut up and accept some help.

Stan: I really like you. You seem like a great guy, your name is Stanley, and you're scary looking, which I like in a man. But you're kinda insecure, and I'm here to tell you, stop it! When the gorgeous woman of your dreams starts throwing herself at you, don't set her up with one of your men. And say that you're not good for her, when there's no evidence that you are anything but a stand up guy. Stop it!!

Joan DaCosta: Ditto for you. Don't look a gift horse in the mouth. You started off okay, but I really stopped liking you. Stop it already. Go find your young stud and have some fun, before he realizes how shallow and annoying you really are. Stop it!!

Max: Okay Max, I adore you. And again, I understand your reasons for wanting to keep your distance from Gina. But she's definitely Brockmann's best female character. She rocks. So just stop it. I'll give you a little hint, if you want to keep your distance from someone, you don't make sure you know their whereabouts at all time. And don't have sex with them (although I'm kind of glad you did, 'cuz it seems like you needed to get laid). And don't ask Alyssa to marry you b/c it'll be easier. Really, man! Any romance novel character can tell you that's not a good idea. Just stop it, godammit!!! And as your fake therapist, I'd like to recommend that you go see a real therapist. I love you, man, and I'm looking forward to your book, but stop it! And get some help. You worry me.

Man, giving advice is exhausting. But better than doing the bills. Ta for now.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

I Feel a Glom coming on...

What is a glom, or in its verb form, glomming? See here and here.

I've never read any Suzanne Brockmann before, though she's very popular and generally gets good reviews. Not really a big romantic suspense fan, and Navy SEALS, nah. That particular fantasy doesn't appeal to me at all. Don't get me wrong, from the little I know about Navy SEALS, I would imagine they'd probably be a high percentage of hotties in real life too (best of the best and all that), and I can defintely understand the larger than life appeal...but not for me. Though I was intrigued by the fact that Brockmann has a recurring gay character who even gets his own love story (highly unusual for a mainstream, high profile author), that wasn't enough to push me past my RS bias. Terrorists, secret agents, military? Eh, I'll stick to the English Aristocracy, and leather-clad vampires.

Never let it be said that I don't try to expand my horizons, however, so I bought Brockmann's Everyday, Average Jones at work last week. First off, I should mention that I would characterize this book, despite the action-y opening scenes, as a straight up contemporary, rather than a romantic suspense. I think that this book and the other ones in her "Tall, Dark and Dangerous" series are contemporaries, and the "Troubleshooters" series is the RS. Just to clarify. So, anyway, in this book, Harlan "Cowboy" Jones rescues Melody Evans from a hostage situation in the Middle East. They have instant chemistry and celebrate their escape to safety with six days of hot sex in the unnamed Middle Eastern Country and in Paris. Then they go their separate ways, Melody back to her Massachusetts hometown, and Jones back to his life of dangerous missions. Melody made it clear that what she wants from life is an ordinary, average guy, not an adventurer she'd be worrying about constantly. But Jones can't get Melody out of his mind, so he decides to surprise her seven months later. But Melody's got a leetle surprise for him too, and I'll bet you can guess what it is. That's right, it's a big, fat belly. So Jones decides he's going to do "the right thing", whether Melody wants it or not. Ah yes, getting married for the sake of the baby, though we barely know each other. How romantic. And usually successful.

I enjoyed this book a lot though. Brockmann had both characters acknowledge the fact that they didn't really know each other all that well, and if it wasn't for the baby, marriage wouldn't be discussed. I liked that, thought it was honest, that scorching attraction doesn't equal lasting love and that both had genuine fears. Then Brockmann created a situation where the characters did actually get to know each other over time, which made the happy ending more believable. Jones, the hero, was great. Hot, intelligent and thoughtful. Melody was a bit annoying. I agree with Sybil's comment a few posts ago that she needed to get over the whole "I want a normal guy" thing. Because that guy? Was really cool. Good secondary characters as well. A B+.

So after I read and liked this book, I went over to Brockmann's website for a bit, to find out about her other books. And I read and read and read, including her 53 page PDF guide to the Troubleshooters series. I'm totally intrigued now. Besides the fact that the books and characters sound interesting, I'm also intrigued by the diversity of her characters. And there seems to be a significant subtext of tolerance in a post-9/11 world. Curious to see how overt it is. And just because she's so proud of her gay, tap-dancing son. Seriously, guess what I'm doing at work tonight? Finding people Halloween books and tracking down Brockmann's backlist. What's the best? What to start with? I have a feeling those Troubleshooters books will be easier to find.

Even Vampires Get the Blues

It seems to me that Katie MacAlister is kind of hit or miss author for a lot of people. I like her. I really like her sense of humor. It's wacky, but I don't find it forced or corny, like I do with some other "funny" authors. There's always a couple of genuine laugh out loud moments in her books. Her paranormals work far better for me than her contemporaries, which I've pretty much given up on. I've enjoyed her "Dark Ones" series, which seem to be a tongue in cheek homage to Christine Feehan's Carpathians. MacAlister's heroes are Moravian "Dark Ones", born without souls. They cannot go out in the daylight, and they require blood to survive, plus their souls can only be redeemed by "joining" with their one true soulmate, their "Beloved." This process takes seven steps, and in the meantime wacky hijinks ensue. And I mean that in a good way. The first book in this series, A Girl's Guide to Vampires, was merely eh, in my opinion, but I loved Sex and the Single Vampire and Sex, Lies and Vampires. I adored the heroes, liked the heroines and felt that they had a nice balance of silliness, sex and genuine emotion. But the excerpt for the fourth book, Even Vampires Get the Blues didn't grab me at all. I didn't bother with the book until I found it for 75 cents at the library. Verdict: I'm glad that I waited for the bargain. This was quite disappointing.

I'm not going to bother with a synopsis. Here's the back cover blurb. Gives you the basic idea.

The problem with this book was the hero, pretty much, which was the feeling I had from the excerpt provided at the author's website. Paen Scott, supposedly sexy Scottish Dark One was, well...a douchebag. Although he has a howling void for a soul, and can do nothing but brood and be detatched, he insists that he is perfectly happy the way he is, and that he doesn't need no stinkin' Beloved. He doesn't believe in emotional involvement with a woman yada, yada, yada. Get over yourself. It's kinda dumb. So I'm waiting for the revelation of his past heartbreak or some shit that turned him against women, but no, he just doesn't really want one for more than sex. So despite his professed lack of interest in a Beloved, he goes through the joining with half-elf Samantha, then rejects her. I call douchebaggery!!! Douchebag! I ended up feeling bad for Sam and not really respecting her. She forgives Paen super quick when he changes his mind, which nearly gave me whiplash. I didn't buy that particular scene at all. Tsk, tsk sister, you can do better, sexy vampire soulmate or not! I just couldn't get behind them as a couple at all. When the basis for the romance is an instant, deep connection, there had better be some good chemistry.

I think the other problem was the first person point of view. MacAlister writes exclusively in the first person, as far as I can tell (one exception is the prologue of this book). One problem of this style is that, for me at least, the heroines can begin to run together, similar snarky voice and all that. Also, it can be tell-y, not show-y, if you know what I mean. I just didn't really buy the connection between them, even though we were repeatedly told by Sam how much she lurrrved him. And I wonder if Paen would've seemed like less of an ass, if we had gotten any of his POV.

There were some funny moments. I liked Beppo the monkey, and Sam's cousin/business partner, Clare, who's in the denial about the fact that she's a fairy.

Ah well. A C for this one. This was a miss, but I'll give future ones a try. The next installment of her Aisling Grey series, Light My Fire, is out in November. I like this series too, but it's a bit of a guilty pleasure b/c the heroine's rather TSTL, and the hero's kind of a douchebag too. I would rec Sex and the Single Vampire and Sex, Lies and Vampires as paranormal romantic comedies to try, though.

Monday, October 09, 2006

More Buys...

I can tell the new Friends of the Library bookshelves are going to be the death of me. I can't walk by without grabbing something off of the shelves. Saturday I bought Dead in Dixie by Charlaine Harris, Vanquished by Hope Tarr, and books by two very popular authors that I have limited experience with: Son of the Morning by Linda Howard, and Everyday, Average Jones by Suzanne Brockmann. I hope these aren't their worst books ever. Years and years ago, when I was in high school, I read a novella by Howard that made a huge impression on me. It featured an asshole-alpha male, who had made his secretary into his mistress, gets her pregnant and wants nothing to do with the baby. Guy was a total jerkoff, but I totally fell in love with the story (Hey, I was 17). Awhile ago I put my mad librarian skills to work and tracked down the title, which I have since lost. But I think it was "No Place Like Home." Anyone read it? Despite that killer story, I haven't read anything else by her. Never read any Brockmann, not my usual thing, but why not? I'm trying out the Brockmann, but I'm in the mood for a paranormal. I guess it's that time of year. I'm wanting some vampires or witches or demons or ghosts. Been that way since the beginning of September. It's funny because before that I hadn't read a paranormal in a long time.

Dead in Dixie is a Science Fiction Book Club omnibus of the first three volumes of Harris' "Southern Vampire" series, featuring Sookie Stackhouse. This cover is a jaw dropper. Check it out:

In preview this is looking blurry, so I hope you can get the full effect. Sookie is straight outta 1993. She's wearing black rolled up jeans shorts, and those slouchy socks that we used to tuck our jeans into. The color of the socks would match the color of your Champion sweatshirt. And Black Reeboks to boot. Ok, kinda cheesy and outdated, but the really strange part is the guy behind her, who I assume is Vampire Bill. He looks like a 17 year old Emo boy. It' s a really weird combo. I've seen some others of these SFBC books and they all seem to have really fugly covers. I dunno.

Anyway, coming soon: a review of Even Vampires Get the Blues by Katie MacAlister.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder

In Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder, readers are introduced to the alternate reality of Ixia, a country once ruled by a corrupt monarchy, and now under strict military rule. The former provinces have been turned into military districts, ruled by Generals, who are all in allegiance to Commander Ambrose, the architect of the coup. Societal position is no longer determined by money and connections, but by skill and loyalty, and all subjects are held to a strict Code of Behavior. The code dictates that if you take a life, you lose your life, whether it was on purpose, by accident, or in self-defense. At the beginning of the book, 19 year old orphan Yelena awaits her execution for the murder of the son of one of Ixia's Generals. At the eleventh hour, she is given a second chance by Valek, Ixia's head of intelligence, a skilled spy and assasin. The catch? If she wants to live, she must become Commander Ambrose's food taster, checking his food and drink at each meal for poison. In addition, to prevent any chance of escape, Yelena will be given a small amount of poison each day. If she does not go to Valek each day for an antidote, she will be dead within days. If she doesn't get poisoned by one of the Commander's meals first. Or, if the vengeful General Brazell doesn't get to her. Is it worth it to Yelena to prolong her life for a time? The practical Yelena thinks so. She soon finds herself neck-deep in intrigue, corruption, danger and unexpected love.

I really, really enjoyed this one. Yelena was a great heroine: strong-willed, intelligent and practical. She does what it takes to survive, and her growth and development from scared convict to brave woman was very interesting. It was also a fast paced and exciting book. I liked the world of Ixia, which was both very strict and strangely fair. I enjoyed the romance as well. I did feel that it was a bit out of the blue, but since I would characterize this book as fantasy rather than a romance, this didn't particularly bother me. The romance is only part of Yelena's journey. She and her romantic interest (I'll leave that a surprise, though I'm sure you can guess), were quite well-suited and have a lot of potential. Her hero is somewhat less than heroic, and he did remain a bit of a cipher, but that didn't bother me, either. He was characterized in a particular way throughout the book. I'm glad it's a trilogy, because I'm looking forward to reading more about him and their relationship. Good secondary characters as well. Loved the twist concerning Commander Ambrose.

All in all, I was quite pleased to get an email newsletter from Harlequin announcing that the sequel Magic Study is out today. Hope to find it at the library soon.

Some other reviews: here,here and here. I'm know there are others, this one's been making the rounds. Gotta go, season premiere of Veronica Mars in 5 minutes.

In short, strong fantasy, strong heroine. B+.

My Theme Song?

Your Theme Song is Back in Black by AC/DC

"Back in black, I hit the sack,
I've been too long, I'm glad to be back"

Things sometimes get really crazy for you, and sometimes you have to get away from all the chaos.
But each time you stage your comeback, it's even better than the last!

My husband loves this song. Loves AC/DC. Me, not so much. I find as
I get older, I enjoy classic rock less and less. Perhaps this is because the playlists haven't changed significantly since I was 12. How many times can you hear "Behind Blue Eyes" or "Another Brick in the Wall," anyway?

Monday, October 02, 2006


Is there a sci/fi/futuristic romance that recently came out that has to do with cyborgs? I feel like I've read a review or two recently, but I can't remember any details. I would just putter around, looking for it, but I've been really busy.

P.S.--Reading Poison Study, really enjoying it.

P.P.S.--Re: the JR Ward kerfuffle of a week or two ago.
There are two posts up at her board, one by Ward, one by the Mods, about respectful and welcoming behavior. Not trying to stir the pot or anything, just letting ya'll know. Either Ward was checking out Smart Bitches, or someone else let her know that it might be a smart thing to do.

P.P.P.S.--Kelley Armstrong has the prologue and first chapter of her new book, No Humans Involved, up at her site, and it's made me more excited for it than I was before. Also, next year, she will be doing a short graphic novella of Elena's first days as a werewolf. Online! Awesome!!

P.P.P.S.--Sorry about the lack of links, but the kids have had it, gotta go.