Sunday, February 28, 2010

Blood of the Demon, by Diana Rowland - Review

Short Answer: Liked it a lot, will continue reading the series.

The Choice
Jackie is quite the taskmaster. I'm glad for the February challenge though; it helped me get back to more discipline about getting my reviews onto the blog. I've been a little lazy lately and hesitant to "make" myself blog -- once this starts feeling like a chore for me, I'm afraid that will be the end of Alpha Heroes, and nobody wants that!

So anyway, I have my eye on a certain ARC or two being offered in the prize package for this challenge, so I'm motivated. I hit Borders yesterday morning, looking for the first book in the Anton Strout series. However, they didn't have it. Diana Rowland's latest release caught my eye, but it's not the first in its series, so I went looking for Mark of the Demon. Which they didn't have either. This all made me a little grumpy, as I like to start at the beginning. Without Jackie's contest, I'd've just waited until I came across the first one for either series.

Stuff I Loved
So I read the first few pages of both books, standing in front of the shelves, and it turned out that I was more in the mood for this one:
The demon was little more than a mist of fog and teeth, barely visible to normal sight. It coiled in slow undulations in the backseat of my Taurus as I drove through the night, the tires of the car humming on the asphalt in low rhythmic counterpoint to the movement of the demon.
With the very first sentences, Rowland makes me smile at the thought of a demon in a Taurus, at the same time that she sets an vividly atmospheric scene. I love the juxtaposition of the familiar and the otherworldly.

I should probably get less anal about reading series in order; I think most authors work pretty hard to make the books stand alone. I could tell there was a backstory between Kara and Rhyzkahl, enough to make me want to go back and read the first book, but never felt lost and had everything I needed to stay with this story. One of the things I really noticed about Rowland's writing is her deftness in seeding the information I needed along the way, intriguing me and playing me like a fish on a line. Unfortunately I was reading too fast to flag many of the perfect little bits, but whatever the opposite of info-dumping is, Blood of the Demon could be a tutorial.

This is a good skill for any author, but especially important when you're building an alternate world. I really, really like Rowland's world of the arcane and the alternate planes. We as readers, like Kara, may not understand very much about that world, but there's a very solid feeling that there ARE absolute rules that govern the alternate world, like gravity and conservation of matter govern rules in our world. An example:
The creatures I summoned had been named thousands of years ago, long before any of the world's religions had designated "demons" as agents of evil and residents of hell.

Now, this tidbit is given to us as a caution not to think of the demons as inherently evil, but we also can infer 1) that the "naming" is significant -- she didn't say they were created or born, but that they had been named. Which is consistent with the common (ie, not specific to Rowland's world) notion about demons which is that knowing their names grants power. We also get a sense of how old these creatures are-- all in one short sentence. Rowland reinforces these "facts" or rules about her universe in tiny ways: "He looked down at me, deep and ancient eyes searching." These are the kind of things that put the "reality" into an author's alternate reality-- when the the alien-ness is simply a part of the fabric of the storytelling.

The mystery plot here is complicated and tight; fans of police procedural mysteries will enjoy the unfolding network of politics, social connections, and scandal. Rowland weaves in Kara's unfolding knowledge of the arcane as a seamless extra element to the mystery as well as a hook for future books.

Stuff That I Didn't Love
I have to say that there's plot point I really didn't get, and I hope this doesn't qualify as a plot spoiler. Let's just say that:

1. you are recovering from a horrible incident involving powerful, amoral demons
2. you are able to summon these demons but don't know a whole lot about them
3. you inherited this ability from your beloved aunt, who right now lies in a coma caused by something arcane.

OK? Now, you need some information and your aunt can't provide it because of her coma. You want access to her library, but you discover that it is locked up so tight you can't get anywhere near it. Do you

a) Give up? (OK, not likely for an UF heroine)
b) Assume your aunt had a good reason for putting up Fort Knox security and find someone who can advise on either your original question or perhaps help you investigate what's behind the locks?
c) Hey, just tear it all down. What could happen?

I was a little annoyed that Kara just broke through all the wards and "locks" without ever thinking that um? there might be a REASON for it to be locked up. So the arcane portion of the mystery wasn't all that surprising to me.

Overall I'd say that the characters themselves are not the strongest part of the book, although I wouldn't call them weak. This is one point that I might have a different opinion about if I'd read the first book first. Kara's backstory includes traumatic violence and somehow dying and coming back to life -- I'll need to read the first book. In this book, she's a gumshoe with human insecurities, integrity, and arcane abilities to summon demons. As a heroine, I felt like she was likeable and adequate, but she didn't pop off the page for me like some of my favorites do.

The Wrap
Pah, I never know whether to lead or end with the things I like the least, either way seems to emphasize them too much. These last two bits are just the least good things, not awful or dealbreakers in any way.

Bottom line is, I really liked the story; tight plotting and pacing; interesting world-building; and I didn't touch on it much here, but the sexual tension with Rhyzkahl and the romantic tension and building mystery about Ryan are more than enough to draw me into the next release. Put it on your TBR list, if it isn't already!

League of Reluctant Adults Mini Challenge

Reviews for the Challenge

For my League reviews, click on the tag "League of Reluctant Adults" - this will show you everything I've talked about on these authors, whether it's part of Jackie's challenge or not.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Short Story Slackerday

Once again, here it is late Friday night and I've got nuttin' for the SSS meme. Maybe you do though? Help a girl out?

I'll try to get something up this weekend, promise.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Underground, by Kat Richardson - Photoessay

Something New
OK, so I've never done this before, but I just couldn't resist. This isn't going to be a traditional review - I'm going to just highlight Kat Richardson's genius at describing setting. Hopefully you can get a sense of what kind of book it is and whether you might like it from the snips.

There are books that could happen in any generic city anywhere in the world, or anywhere in North America, and it wouldn't materially impact the story. But for some stories, the setting itself is palpably a character, a critical element of the story. Underground is the second sort of story.

To make matters more interesting for me personally, most of the action takes place in locations that are very familiar to me -- I actually walk through one of the key story locations every weekday.

So today, I brought my camera in to work, played hooky for an hour and took shots of a half a dozen scenes that appear in the book. I was hoping for a gray drizzly day for the sake of atmosphere but unfortunately (!) managed to pick a beautifully bright sunny afternoon. In February. In Seattle. What are the odds??

Below are some excerpts from the book paired with those photos. You can click on the photos to see a larger view.

p 29. Will, on the phone to Harper:

"So. Are you free for dinner?"

"Yes, I am. How ' bout you?"

"Not only free, but eager to get out of here and meet you."

I smiled a little in response. "How 'bout the Bookstore?"

"I thought you wanted food..."

"No, silly man. it's a bar in the Alexis Hotel lobby at first and Madison. Good pub food, lots of old books on the walls, nice old furniture..."

p. 33, after dinner...
The viaduct's elevated double-decker road looms over the flatland of the waterfront like a concrete house of cards waiting to collapse onto the desolate parking lot wasteland beneath it. Blocks of old warehouse buildings on one side face the patchwork quilt of the waterfront businesses on the other. Crazed, pitted blacktop, striped with parking stalls and lane markers, stretch the width of the missing city block beneath them. An uneven fringe of stunted shrubs marks the edge of the old trolley line, but nothing else grows under the viaduct's unloved shade.

p. 44, Quinton's lair
...until we reached a poured concrete wall under the Seneca Street off-ramp from the viaduct. A three-story retaining wall held back the tumble of the hill while a wide stone staircase climed the side of the building perpendicular to it, creating a dark half room roofed by the roadbed above us.

(We got an email from HR a few months back saying that the police had reported a rash of muggings on this stairwell after dark and that we might want to avoid it in the evenings. I do. Avoid it.)

p. 45:

A rusted steel door had been set into the bunker wall and sported a triangular yellow caution sign with an odd symbol of spikes and circles and the words AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ONLY.

p. 47, Harper to Quinton:
"So the symbol on the door...?"
"Means nothing-- I made it up -- but it looks like something you ought to be afraid of, doesn't it?"
I found this logo on a Pioneer Square storefront for UtiliKilts, of all things. It does fit the description, doesn't it?

p. 213, foiling the electronic bugs:

Located on Cherry in a basement row of little lunch spots that mostly catered to local office workers, Bakeman's was determinedly-blue collar in service and atmosphere. The odor of roast turkey and meatloaf wafted out the sunken door along with the clang and shout of staff passing orders and moving customers at New York speeds. The hard, slick walls and Formica tables reflected the noises of the busy kitchen and hurried diners into a rattling cacophony.

Sadly, I missed the rush so you're not getting a true sense of the bustle that Ms. Richardson vividly portrays. I've had lunch here and while the sandwiches are good and cheap, the atmosphere most resembles something out of a high school in a not-very-well-off school district.

P. 245 - on a quest for information:
Just beyond the totem, a trash can fire burned to warm the hands of a small circle of homeless. The obese woman at the foot of the other carving scowled at us as we passed and pressed herself into the dark. I couldn't see much of her in either the Grey or the normal, cowering as she did in the black fold of the totem's shadow. It occured to me it wasn't a nice totem-- Nightmare Bringer. I wasn't too surprised it cast a very dark shadow and I certainly wouldn't have wanted to sleep near it with such an association. The woman pulled a black blanket over herself and hunched into a shapeless mass.

Uh, yeah. I took a picture of the wrong totem. Dumb white eyes. However, I found a perfect shot on Flickr's Creative Commons. Photocredit: hairygrumpy.

On to page 254, where the action gets tense in the alley between the Seattle Mystery Bookshop and the back of the Pioneer block. This is what the alley looks like on a bright sunny afternoon. Would you turn down there at night, looking for a spooky man-eating snake-monster? Much less pull up a grate and crawl into a hole in the alley floor? Yeah, me neither.

First is the store, with the alley showing to the right:

Then the alley itself:

p. 265: Turns out there was something awful down there. And it chased our heroes:
"It's fast," Quinton panted.

"Then run faster!"

We dashed into Pioneer Square and down Yesler.

(right this way, ladies and gentlemen - shot looking west on Yesler from under the Pioneer Square pergola)

p. 266 - the chase goes on:

"Stay in the open," Quinton yelled. "It's keeping to the alleys! if we can force it into the dead end of Post at the Fed Office Building, we might be able to slip it!"

Here's where the monster turns off. I didn't creep down the alley to take photos of the Federal Building. That's kind of frowned on these days.

p. 266 - more chasing:

We ran past Post and turned at Western, keeping the tall old brick warehouses between us and [the monster]. My knee protested every step, but I didn't dare slow or limp. ... We shot out the narrow confines of Western at Marion and into the open ground

Our Heroes' view, except of course, without the daylight.

When the story opens, Harper is working on physical therapy exercises for her knee. There are quite a few references through the book about the running and climbing and slipping and the toll it takes. Here's an example of some of the terrain in Pioneer Square:

There are also numerous mentions of the Bread of Life Mission:

Well, this wasn't exactly a review, but I hope you enjoyed it. Kat Richardson writes a wickedly-plotted ghost story and hometown effect aside, the Greywalker series is a great read. I do recommend.

Oh, and one last thing:

BONUS EXTRA! This is a zoom in of the shot down Yesler Way from the chase scene. As it happens, Harper and Quinton run right past my department's favorite Friday night watering hole. See where it says "Saloon" just below the Hotel sign? Come join us sometime.

League of Reluctant Adults Mini Challenge

Reviews for the Challenge

For my League reviews, click on the tag "League of Reluctant Adults" - this will show you everything I've talked about on these authors, whether it's part of Jackie's challenge or not.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Once Bitten, Twice Shy, by Jennifer Rardin - Review

This is apparently not the most common cover for this title, but it's the one I have, so I wanted to use this version for the post. Anybody else have this slightly-weird little tic?

Anyway, I can thank Jackie for nudging me into this League of Reluctant Adults mini-challenge, because Jaz Parks is my favorite new heroine in a long time. It's possible that Ms. Rardin's husband said it best - in the author blurb at the back of the book under "extras" is this conversation:
...when I finally confessed to him my love for all things vampire, ... he said, "Then maybe you should write a vampire novel." To which I replied, "It's all been done already." And he said, "Not by you."

And I have to say, the man was ten kinds of SO RIGHT. (That must be hard to live with, eh?)

Sometime in the late 80s, popular action-hero movies underwent a bit of a shift. To make them the perfect date movie, they needed to appeal more to women. Before Die Hard, most of them < alert: sweeping generalization ahead > consisted of car chases, shoot-outs, explosions, and beautiful but diabolical female double-agents in bikinis. Sometimes all at once. With Die Hard, we got a really unexpected dose of humor but no let-up in the suspense or thrills, and IMO it changed action-thrillers forever.

This alchemy that romance and vampire mythology has got going on has been explosive and effective, but it's becoming a little bit old hat. It's not easy to come up with interesting twists. What Rardin has done is to throw in a little bit of Die Hard-style action into the UF/PNR mix, and done it so well that the next Die Hard sequel really ought to involve vampires.

The Same Only Different
Per the Official UF Style Guide, Jaz is a kick-ass, heavily armed, slightly neurotic red-head who tells her story in first person. However, Jaz's voicing of this story is outstanding. It's appealingly conversational and wise-cracky; perceptive and smart but fallible; layered and full of personality. Jaz has a complicated history but there's no info-dumping -- the tidbits about her character are handed out in the perfect balance between tantalizing and satisfying.

I also like that the term "kick-ass" doesn't actually appear anywhere; and Jaz has a professional approach to her abilities. She trains; she's a professional soldier of sorts; she understands what she can do (physically, anyway) and it's all handled without neurosis or disingenuous surprise at her abilities "under duress". The kick-ass is merely factual and comes through in the unfolding of events. I'm not sure I'm expressing this right, but bottom line is -- she pulls off the professional thing for me, refreshingly.

I really liked the political plotting of the story -- it's a modern "problem" that the team of Jaz and Vayl need to solve, and the paranormal elements are... well, I wouldn't say "window-dressing," exactly... What I mean is, this is the sort of story that has been told repeatedly through the ages: about power and betrayal and politics and double-cross. What makes it unique to us today are Rardin's wonderful characters and the unique paranormal world-building. It has the clean spare pacing of military-style contemporary, and the paranormal bits are treated matter-of-factly; in the same way another author might treat hostile terrain or enemy weaponry.

Speaking of weaponry, anybody who's a fan of Bond's Q or Inspector Gadget should get a kick out of Jaz's goodies. The scenes where they're introduced are exactly like every classic spy movie where the agent gets briefed on how they work, which seemed a little tongue-in-cheek to me in a fun way. Imaginative, useful, and within the realm of possibility, the gadgets have a high "cool factor" and are an entertaining bit of frosting on this cupcake without overwhelming or bogging down the action.

The only thing that did not come off flawlessly for me was, to some extent, the paranormal world building. I really liked the vampires, and the take-it-in-stride way that Jaz and the other human characters have just absorbed the fact of their existence. I liked most of the world-building to do with Vayl.

However, the stuff that was specific to this book's plot spun into the Very Very Complicated, with a side order of Over The Top-- demons, soul-eating, the Mysterious Happening that Happened to Jaz (I still don't really get what exactly Happened there), Cassandra (nice name for the seer!) and the Enkyklios ... I dunno, I guess it all worked out in the end but I was pretty close to getting lost there for awhile. My sense is that much of this is underpinning for the rest of the series, and that maybe some of it could have been parceled out later.

Overall though, this is the most promising new (to me) series I've started in a while; I love Jaz's voice and military-ops style of the pacing and I can't wait to find out more about Vayl and what, exactly, Jaz is to him.

League of Reluctant Adults Mini Challenge

Reviews for the Challenge

For my League reviews, click on the tag "League of Reluctant Adults" - this will show you everything I've talked about on these authors, whether it's part of Jackie's challenge or not.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Between Two Queens, by Kate Emerson - Review

Historical Fiction
It's good to step out of my reading rut every once in a while. I will often bypass historical fiction because in my experience, the storytelling is often sacrificed to historical accuracy or detail.

I suppose like any prejudice, this perception bears occasional re-examination. Whether it's a valid critique of the genre or not, I'm happy to say that Between Two Queens managed both a wonderful, engrossing story and historical context.

Of course, I'm not really qualified to judge whether the historical details are correct or not. It might be full of glaring errors, but there was nothing that threw me out of the story, like characters saying "OK" or zipping up their pants.*

Hyperbole aside, I did have the sense that the story was meticulously researched, supported by the excerpts of period letters prefacing the chapters, with exceptional personal details like Nan arguing with her mother about the quality of pearls that were sent for a court dress, and the fashionable expenses levied on the court by the caprices of the nobility.

I very much enjoyed this story of Nan Bassett, a young girl who arrives as a lady in waiting, hoping for a glamorous life at court and an advantageous marriage. Unfortunately, the queen immediately goes into seclusion and then passes away shortly after giving birth, leaving the ladies in waiting with essentially no status in bachelor court.

Point of view is meticulously maintained from Nan's character, giving the reader a great insight into not only the political machinations of her family, but the emotional struggle and maturation process of the character as she literally grows up amidst ever-shifting political sands and the precarious position of an attractive single woman with tenuous sponsorship. The novel format allows the author to bring the character to life and put the reader vividly in the time.

The letters mentioned above made it possible for the author to write about this particular, true-life person, but I think that her status as an almost-but-not-quite-major personage vividly portrays the tenuousness of life in the Tudor court: the constant need to assess whose notice should be courted, and whose avoided; always on the watch for ways to leverage advantages and compensate for disadvantages. Ulcers must have been common! Life in modern times can certainly be stressful but walking that tightrope between church, family, king, and opposing factions that might or might not someday succeed...

Well. Give me a powerpoint deck and a boardroom full of squabbling VPs any day, is all I'm saying. At worst I might lose my job but nobody's gonna chop my head off for picking the wrong side!

*I've never actually read that in an historical romance, but I've seen it on covers!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Gone With The Wind - Musings

What Is Romance?
Whenever I take a poll or fill out a questionnaire or a profile that asks about my favorite book, I always answer: Gone With The Wind. It's also one of my favorite movies, mostly because it adheres so closely to the book. AND it's my favorite romance.

Even though it's not exactly a romance. If it were written today, it would not be sold as a genre romance. It's too long; it doesn't have a happy ending, and I'd be surprised if Scarlett's many marriages survived the editor's pen. Maybe the first one to Charles (but she'd somehow still be a virgin when he died). Scarlett's infatuation with Ashley would also be an unusual element in a modern historical.

Nevertheless, Gone With The Wind started me off on a lifetime love affair with romance and it set a high standard. I have often boiled down my criteria for a truly transcendent romance as this: "Do I believe the hero and heroine are absolutely MADE for each other?"

GWTW is a book I've re-read many, many times. Through most of my teenage years and early twenties, it was my summer vacation book. I re-read it every summer. One year, I also read biographies of Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable. Somehow in my head I was trying to make the story true.

I first fell in love with Scarlett. I identified with her daddy's-girl issues; with her first-born impatience with younger sisters and deeply pragmatic streak of do-what-must-be-done. I coveted that green sprigged dress and her ability to make boys notice her. I loved how she went after and got what she wanted; how she bucked convention and did wtf she wanted to, what any fool could see that she needed to do to survive. How she understood that the old pre-war conventions could not survive.

I liked Rhett because he was worthy of her. He let her have fun when no one else would. He loved her for all the things that her social circle frowned on, things that made her what she was. And he was a fun hero; a swashbuckling privateer; handsome; utterly un-intimidate-able.

I can't pinpoint exactly when it was that my perception of the characters started to change. Sometime in my 20's, it hit me really hard that Scarlett was only sixteen when the book opens, which wasn't so crazy, but that she was not even twenty when the war ended, and perhaps 26 at the end of the book. She was so young to go through everything she went through.

And then I started looking at Rhett's character, and how he always stood back and "gave Scarlett her head," as they used to say a lot in historicals; how he let her pretty much do and be exactly what she needed to. I noticed his tender side, that he showed to Melanie and Belle Watling and Mammy, but never to Scarlett, lest she plant it squarely with a delicate green morocco leather slipper. He knew her, understood her in ways that both helped and hurt his case as a lover. He waited for her to grow up. And waited.

Scarlett never treated Rhett like a lover or a suitor - he didn't fall into step with her plans. He was really almost more of a father figure; someone she could turn to for help, to lean on when everyone around her was leaning on her. In fact, she treated him pretty shabbily, reacting to what she saw as him being "mean" to her -- ie, not groveling at her feet.

Her infatuation with Ashley, and along with it, her emotional maturity, was stunted by the war and never played itself out as an adolescent crush normally would. Rhett knew better than to set himself up as competition to a phantom, but waiting it out took longer than anyone could have imagined. Part of Mitchell's genius is that as readers, none of us want Ashley and Scarlett together. We know, as Rhett and Melanie both know, that Ashley would never make her happy.

This bit here, where she accepts Rhett's proposal, I think sums up the push-pull tension between them perfectly:

"And you are the only man I ever saw who could stand the truth from a woman, and it would be nice having a husband who didn't think me a silly fool and expect me to tell lies-- and-- well, I am fond of you."

"Fond of me?"

"Well," she said fretfully, "if I said I was madly in love with you I'd be lying and what's more, you'd know it."

"Sometimes I think you carry your truth telling too far, my pet. Don't you think, even if it was a lie, that it would be appropriate for you to say 'I love you, Rhett,' even if you didn't mean it?"

What was he driving at, she wondered, becoming more confused. He looked so queer, eager, hurt, mocking. He took his hands from her and shoved them deep in his trouser pockets and she saw him ball his fists.

"If it costs me a husband, I'll tell the truth," she thought grimly, her blood up as always when he baited her.

"Rhett, it would be a lie, and why should we go through all that foolishness? I'm fond of you, like I said. you know how it is. You told me once that you didn't love me but that we had a lot in common. Both rascals, was the way you--"

"Oh, God!" he whispered rapidly, turning his head away. "To be taken in my own trap!"

"What did you say?"

"Nothing," and he looked at her and laughed, but it was not a pleasant laugh. "Name the day, my dear," and he laughed again and bent and kissed her hands. She was relieved to see his mood pass and good humor apparently return, so she smiled too."

She's not spiteful, she's genuinely clueless.

The theme in the book that totally fascinates me is the polarization of "earthy love," or sex, and what they used to call "courtly love" in Eleanor of Aquitaine's time. You see the dichotomy everywhere in the book-- in the first paragraph:
In her face were too sharply blended the delicate features of her mother, a Coast aristocrat of French descent and the heavy ones of her florid Irish father."

And on the same page:
But for all the modesty of her spreading skirts, the demureness of hair netted smoothly into a chignon and the quietness of small white hands folded in her lap, her true self was poorly concealed. The green eyes in the carefully sweet face were turbulent, willful, lusty with life, distinctly at variance with her decorous appearance.

While Ashley is the man she thinks she should love, with his intellectual ideals and angelic looks, Rhett is the one she wants with her heart and body-- and she rejects that desire because she aspires to her mother's unattainable ideals, and associates her desire for Rhett with her father's lower-class influence. Ashley sees Melanie as his courtly ideal, but is tempted by Scarlett's earthiness-- and when Scarlett realizes this, she's mortified.

Anyway, that's a tangent I can wax on about for way longer than that -- it's everywhere in the book and constantly leads Scarlett astray as she tries to resolve the two incompatible needs. (I also like discussing how Melanie represents the grace and weakness of the past while Scarlett is the youthful, strong, but crass and sometimes ugly progress of the future, but that doesn't have much to do with the romance question).

Happily Ever After
I really do want -- nay, demand, the HEA with my modern genre romance. I still remember the one I read in the 80's by Danielle Steele that killed off the hero. WTF, Danielle Steele? YOU CAN'T DO THAT. But let's remember, the "rules" of genre romance developed quite a bit after 1939. There's a certain perception that sadness is worthier than happiness; that tragedy is more intellectually satisfying that comedy. That making someone cry is deep but making them smile is shallow.

I think that perception persists today; you'll find it wherever literary snobs who've never looked further than the Fabio cover of a romance declare the entire genre unworthy. I mean, we know better.

But let's not go too far the other way. Just because there isn't a happy ending doesn't mean the story isn't romantic. That the love story isn't amazing and emotionally wrenching. Kristie writes that without that HEA, it's just not a romance. I will agree that a tragic ending means that the story doesn't really provide what I am usually looking for in a genre romance. But the sad ending doesn't negate the romance of the emotional journey.

There's a bit here at the end of the story that just give me chills, it makes me ache so hard for Scarlett:
She had never understood either of the men she had loved and so she had lost them both. Now, she had a fumbling knowledge that, had she ever understood Ashley, she would never have loved him; had she ever understood Rhett, she would never have lost him. She wondered forlornly if she had ever really understood anyone in the world.

Who among us cannot relate to that feeling? If you can't, consider yourself very, very fortunate.

And the end is not unambiguously tragic. It's true that Rhett's dumping of Scarlett has all the hallmarks of utter finality, as even she comprehends it. But still...
There had never been a man she couldn't get, once she set her mind upon him.

"I'll think of it all tomorrow, at Tara. I can stand it then. Tomorrow, I'll think of some way to get him back. After all, tomorrow is another day."

I wouldn't underestimate her.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Short Story Saturday

Got something to say about short fiction? Link it here!

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Inspired Analysis - Boneshaker Vs. Brady Bunch

I just might be cut out for this academic literary stuff after all. I was deeply inspired by Carolyn Crane's post today; inspired, and yes, readers, suspicious. Her attempt at mythbusting smacks a bit of protestething too much, don't you think? I was particularly skeptical at the Brady Bunch denial.

Now, I've really just gotten started on the League's February Challenge hosted at Literary Escapism, so I certainly can't speak to 99% of the Leaguer's books, but I have to say that while Boneshaker may not be outright derivative, it certainly shares some Jungian archetypes and literary conventions with the Brady Bunch Goes To Hawaii. It's just undeniable, and the more you look for the commonalities, the more you find. I made some rough notes of my own observations.

Draw your own conclusions.

League of Reluctant Adults Mini Challenge

Reviews for the Challenge

For my League reviews, click on the tag "League of Reluctant Adults" - this will show you everything I've talked about on these authors, whether it's part of Jackie's challenge or not.


The email account I use for this blog was hacked this morning. If I've ever sent you an email before, you probably got spam from me. I've reported it and changed my password; hopefully that will fix it.

APOLOGIES, and DON'T CLICK. It appears to only be an ad and not a virus, but I'm not clicking to find out.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Ooooo, YAY!

It's not like I actually know css or html. I have dinked with what I've got here enough to get the template looking pretty much how I want it, but every now and then I see a widget that I covet. But when I figure out how to get what I want? It makes me ridiculously happy.

Do you worry about your blogroll getting too long? I do. I have hesitated to add book blogs, usually ones that aren't really romance blogs, just because I didn't want that list to get too long and unwieldy.

And I know there are ways around that. I just didn't know what they were. Not too long ago I saw one that had a short list of blogs, but then the magic little clicky that says: "Show All." Perfect! I made a mental note to email the blog author to ask how to do it, but mental notes are not worth the paper they're written least mine aren't, with apologies to Sam Goldwyn... huh, I thought it was Yogi Berra, go fig.. YOU SEE HOW I FORGET THINGS?? ... and so I promptly forgot to email AND also which blog I saw it on.

Today I was adding a new blog to my non-book roll, and LO AND BEHOLD IT'S THE SIMPLEST LITTLE BLOGGER CHECKBOX EVER!

Thanks, Blogger, I love it! And now I can grow my blogroll to ridiculous proportions. WIN-WIN.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Short Stuff

Some weeks run like a well-oiled machine. I'm reading good stuff, I have a review or two scheduled ahead of time, maybe something for a publisher plus something from my own list. Another one that I knock out in real time. Maybe a T-13 or a Lazy Post or a contest plug for variety.

Yeah, this is not one of those weeks.

Short Story Saturday is back here at Alpha Heroes for February, after taking its January turn at Literary Escapism. I've taken the bold step this week of rigging pre-populating Mr. Linky with a couple of anthology reviews that I noticed around, so if one of those belongs to you, I hope you'll a) forgive me b) check around on the other links and c) come back next Saturday with another one. As a fledgling meme, SSS is not getting a lot of lift. If you want it to stick around, your links are appreciated!

I have been trying with the short pieces this week. The lovely Book Smugglers pulled my name from the internet version of a hat and send me a faboo package of contemporary fiction, including several anthologies.

Hot for the Holidays
'Member this cover? Sure you do. I almost bought the book JUST for the cover. I mean. That spot right there by his thumb? Is one of my favorite spots-- and I don't like peppermint. I'm sayin'.

Anyway. The stories, right. *opens kitchen window* That's better. Where was I?

Yeah, so this is one of the books that the Smugglers sent me, and I am familiar with most of the authors. I started with Anya Bast, because I wasn't in the mood for Leigh's forced-mate/weird penis Breed stuff or Knight's kooky mages, and I liked Bast's offering for the What Happens In Vegas anthology a couple years ago quite a lot. And so far, Sweet Enchantment is OK. However, I, uh, have fallen asleep twice and gone onto different books, but I have come back to it and I do want to finish it. I've been pretty tired lately... but still. Fell asleep twice. That's the closest I've got to a review so far.

Wrapped In Seduction
You know, I don't review erotica. It's too hard for me to analyze what I like about it without giving a lot of context about what I like in bed, which is TMI. For you, and for me.

Fortunately, this particular anthology is more just piping hot romance than erotica, I think; in what I think of as true erotica, it's the exploration of sex and sexuality that is the center of the story. In this little trilogy, there is some serious steam but they really are love stories. Overall, three decent stories about three sisters finding love in their hometown. As a whole, the stories fall prey to the general weakness of a novella -- not much conflict and they read very fast, as in over before you hardly know what's happening. I found only one or two scenes truly scorching, but that might just be me. It's a small town Christmas theme, so that may factor into when-- or whether-- you'd be in the mood for it.

Blood Lite
OK, I'm not very far into this one but I'm loving it. I do not know if the title is a play on "Bud Lite," but I suspect so after sampling a few stories.

So I've been really trying to avoid paranormals for awhile. I feel really burned out on them and have been enjoying a stroll through historicals and contemps for the last month or so. I have a feeling that that break made these stories just that much more entertaining.

People have been telling me for awhile now that I need to try Jim Butcher's Dresden Files series, and I finally believe them after reading Day Off, a scant 30-odd pages in which Harry finishes a [thinly disguised D&D game in which actual wizards and weres are playing wizardy, warrior-ish characters. A debate about how a magic firebomb spell would work possibly gives some insight to the author process of "how 'real' do I need to make this magic stuff, anyway," which I could easily see becoming one of those tangents that take a long time to come back from.

Ooo, speaking of tangents. Anyway, after the game, Harry encounters some teenage goth "Darth Wannabes" with Harry Potter accoutrements and a faux pipe bomb, an inept apprentice who keeps blowing up his basement lab, and a swarm of insect-sized magic parasites... all before he can go on his big date. It's mostly very funny, though you could see how some elements might turn more serious in a full-length story, and it really made me want to read more. Which is about the highest praise I can give a short story.

In other stories, Kelley Armstrong's Ungrateful Dead was a cute little character sketch of a necromancer who leverages her talents into seances and spiritualism shows that are mostly completely faked. I was enjoying the ride, but I felt like it ended too fast -- I was just getting into the world-building and the characters and BOOM, the end.

Following that act is a creepy story titled Mr. Bear, a bizarre imagining of what happens when a mild-mannered traveller is caught up in the orbit of an anthropomorphized, English-speaking, cigar-smoking, booze-guzzling Smokey the Bear. Complete with the hat. Oh yeah, and he's utterly sociopathic. Can a bear be a socio-path? Good question. Gitchyer black humor here (by Joe R. Lansdale).

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Short Story Saturday: February Edition


My Short review isn't ready yet. Hopefully later today or maybe tomorrow.

In the meantime, if you've got one ready to go, by all means, hit it!


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