Thursday, August 25, 2011

I read this (July 2011)

I managed to find time to read a ton of romance novels last month. I was pissed about my Kindle breaking and for me, when I’m in a funk, a romance novel is the perfect pick-me-up. If the book is well written and there is a believable connection between the main protagonists, I’m a happy camper. I like the ones with a little tension, but the fluffy ones are great too. (I won’t necessarily remember a romance that is merely fluffy but I love the hell out of them while I’m reading them.)

Romance

The Princess in His Bed by Lila DiPasqua (Fiery Tales, Book 1): A collection of 3 short stories loosely based on classic folktales. Not bad, not great, these are more erotic than romantic. It’s a quick read, so if you have an hour to spare, sure.

The Dom’s Dungeon by Cherise Sinclair: Holy shit. This one is BDSM erotic romance, with lots and lots (and lots) of hot, kinky sex. There is an actual story, with relatable characters, and it is pretty well written. I’ve read just about everything Ms. Sinclair has written and loved all of it. Read this if you like graphic, kinky romance.

The Doms of Dark Haven by Cherise Sinclair, Belinda McBride and Sierra Cartwright: I borrowed this for the Sinclair story, which was fun. The McBride story was decent, but as it was a shifter romance, it was a little unexpected. I remember being vaguely irritated by the Cartwright story, but that’s it. Don’t bother with this one.

Slave to Sensation by Nalini Singh (Psy-Changeling, Book 1): Paranormal romance, interesting premise, but the execution was bland. I’m waiting for the next book to come in from the library, but mostly because I am trying to figure out why this series is so popular. The 10th book was just released, so clearly Ms. Singh is doing something right. I say don’t bother, but I am in the minority.

Silk is For Seduction, by Loretta Chase (The Dressmakers, Book 1): I love the shit out of Loretta Chase (see below) and I was super excited for Silk is For Seduction to be released. It was good, but the whole book had such a frenetic tone and the characters seemed so desperate for each other (I don’t know how else to describe it) that I felt kind of uncomfortable? This makes me sad. Read it, why not, but if you are a Loretta Chase fan, I will warn that it isn’t quite to her usual standard.

Lord Perfect, by Loretta Chase (The Carsington Family, Book 3): Yesohyes. I love this book and I re-read it every few months. I love the whole series, actually. Mr. Impossible is my favorite, Last Night’s Scandal is a close second, and Lord Perfect is third. Miss Wonderful and Not Quite a Lady are great, but not-as-great. READ ALL OF THEM ANYWAY.

Ravishing in Red, by Madeline Hunter (The Rarest Blooms, Book 1): Meh, forced marriage, irresistible lust, blah blah blah. I kept putting it down for something else. I just didn’t believe the relationship between the protagonists. I probably won’t bother with the next book. You shouldn’t either.

The Spare by Carolyn Jewel: Actually, I would have said yes, but the ending was something awful. And the paranormal bit was unnecessary. So, no.

Tempt Me at Twilight, Married by Morning, and Love in the Afternoon by Lisa Kleypas (The Hathaways, Books 3, 4, & 5): Yes, no and YES. Tempt Me at Twilight was typical Kleypas, wonderfully readable and sexy. I didn’t like Married by Morning because the characters took such an about-face from the previous books. And I loved Love in the Afternoon because I am a sucker for falling-in-love-by-letter stories.

Devil’s Desire by Laurie McBain: God, no. This was terrible. The writing was execrable, the relationship was unbelievable, and the heroine went from consuming hatred to devastating love in THREE paragraphs. This was her first book and it shows. Wild Bells to the Wild Sky was much better.

Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire: Ehhh, I don’t know. It was decently written but the relationship between the protagonists was borderline abusive, manipulative and co-dependent and it made me uncomfortable. Also, the resolution seemed like a throwaway “Here’s your happily-ever-after, now shut up” and if these were real people, I would bet on divorce in 2 years. But sure, read it. Whatever.

Something Wonderful and Once and Always by Judith McNaught: Re-reads. ‘Nuff said.

Charming the Prince by Teresa Medeiros (Fairy Tales, Book 1): Fun and sweet with just enough emotional tension to keep it from being boring. Why not?

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell: Yes, do. See here for why.

Pieces of Sky by Kaki Warner (The Blood Rose Trilogy, Book 1): I liked it quite a bit but it was a teensy bit too long. Also, there was a caricature villain. I hate those. But the story was nice enough to warrant a read.

Naked in Death by J.D. Robb (In Death, Book 1): Okay, so Nora Roberts/J.D. Robb is absurdly ubiquitous. This series is still going strong (some 38 books later) and I can understand the appeal. It’s fast paced with an appealing lady-protagonist and a sexy dude-protagonist. The writing style is pretty simple and straightforward but I think that’s why it’s so popular. It’s easy to read but complex enough to be interesting.


Fantasy/Urban Fantasy

Heartless by Gail Carriger (The Parasol Protectorate, Book the Fourth): Good grief, these books are just terribly clever and funny. This one isn’t quite as good as Soulless (Book the First) but still a fun read. What I love most is that these books don’t take themselves too seriously. And the steampunk accents make me green with envy. I would very much like to travel by dirigible. Read this, but make sure to read the first 3 books or you will be hopelessly lost.

The Children’s Hospital by Chris Adrian: Fuck you very much. That is all.

The Anvil of the World by Kage Baker: It had a slow start and the pace didn’t really pick up until halfway through the book, but overall it was a fun, funny, engaging read. I will definitely be picking up more by Kage Baker. May not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I think it’s worth reading.

Something Rotten by Jasper Fforde (Thursday Next, Book 4): A more cohesive plot than The Well of Lost Plots but a slightly less fun read. As a whole, another great addition to the Thursday Next series. Read this for sure.


YA Fantasy

Rose Daughter and Beauty by Robin McKinley: Beauty and the Beast is one of my favorite fairy tales (no really, I watch the Disney movie ALL THE TIME.) Both Rose Daughter and Beauty are re-tellings of this story. I enjoyed reading Beauty more because the story arc made more sense and adhered more closely to the traditional style. I liked how in-depth Rose Daughter was but thought it got a little too metaphysical towards the end. Both are worth reading. Just maybe not within 2 weeks of each other?

Hourglass by Myra McEntire (The Hourglass, Book 1): Interesting premise, a likeable teen-lady-protagonist, smooth writing, but honestly, someone should revoke my nerd card, because time travel makes no sense to me. This is a debut novel and is plenty impressive, but ends on an annoying cliffhanger. I like it despite that. So, yes, read it. (This was just released, be prepared for a loooong wait for the sequel.)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Tinker by Wen Spencer (Hey look, an Elf!)



I found this one through the comments on SBTB too. Seriously, unless you have hours and hours to spare, don’t read comments on the book-recommendation posts.

Encapsulate This

Set in the near-future, Pittsburgh (due to a faulty inter-dimensional gate) is now part of an alternate dimension called Elfhome (where the elves live, no doy). One day a pack of wargs chase a super-sexy elf noble into the scrap yard where genius inventor Tinker works/invents stuff. She saves the super-sexy elf noble (his name is Windwolf, or Wolf Who Rules Wind, or Wolf Who Rules, take your pick) from the weird-not-quite-wargs. Practical and intellectual, Tinker is eighteen, has never been kissed, and has never been on a date. Naturally, she is infatuated with (super-sexy elf noble) Windwolf. There is a whole lot of stuff going on in this book, so I will summarize thus: Tinker goes on a date with a long-time friend, things go badly, she meets up with Windwolf again, things go badly, she is kidnapped by good guys, things go badly, she meets the elf Queen, things go badly, she is kidnapped by bad guys, things go really badly, she sort-of saves the day, REALLY ABRUPT ENDING. (Even for a cliffhanger, it was a little ridiculous.)

Ruminate on That

As I said, there is a lot of stuff going on in this book. With the combination of magic/science, mythology, romance, sexy times, alternate dimensions, super-smart heroine, and super-sexy elves, it has a lot of potential but Tinker can be a bit of wet rag sometimes and there were a number of unresolved sub-plots (some due to the existence of the unexpected sequel). A large part of my problem with this one is that Tinker is absurdly smart but in a really narrowly defined way. Yes, she’s a genius but because she has little life experience she’s na├»ve and doesn’t ask questions when she should, so things happen to her instead of her making things happen.* I’m hopeful that this is intentional and we see some character growth in the next two (!) books.

Final Reckoning

Read this? I think the premise is interesting enough and the writing/style is good enough to mostly forgive the wishy-washy heroine. Honestly though, I may just like it because I love elves.

Tinker by Wen Spencer, Book 1 of Elfhome

*Real Talk: This bit is a little spoiler-y, so don’t read it if that bothers you.


*There are a few aspects of this story that make my inner feminist shriek. Lack of consent (as it pertains to sex and other things) is an obvious one. Windwolf takes advantage of Tinker’s lack of knowledge about elf customs more than once. Is it intentional? I don’t know. The elves divide themselves by caste, so maybe it is just supreme arrogance on his part. Maybe he assumes that Tinker knows what’s going on simply because she’s supposed to be super-smart. Either way, even when she does ask questions, she’s given evasive answers. For example, he turns her into an elf because he “doesn’t want her to die” which she takes to mean “immediately” but he means “eventually” because she’s human and thus mortal. This is a seriously fucked up thing to do to someone without EXPLAINING and giving them a chance to accept or refuse. And then there is a scene with a sexual assault that is treated dismissively. A victim of SA is entitled to deal with it how they choose, but it happens and is never mentioned again. An attempted rape should be more than a mere plot device. It felt like it was added to provide an out for Tinker to be with Windwolf without the annoying love triangle bit. I have a suggestion: Instead of using attempted rape to rid the narrative of an unwanted character, how about we just don’t have the unwanted character? Hmm?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Stolen Synopsis of Atlas Shrugged [OMFG THE IRONY]


I spent the last two months of my life reading this and I honestly ... honestly ... cannot say it better than this.

Dagny Taggart is, you know, not unlike Anita Blake. A Mary Sue to end all Mary Sues! The parallels were, to me, hilarious.

And the website is great! Go to it! GIVE IT UR HITZ.

Also: To recover from the trauma of reading this book, I am going to read nothing but HP Lovecraft & Dean Koontz. Cthulhu and trashy horror = two of my very favorite things.

----------
Atlas Shrugged (by Ayn Rand)
ATLAS SHRUGGED: THE ABRIDGED VERSION (with spoilers)

AYN RAND
Hello, I'm Ayn Rand. I wrote a novel based on my Objectivist philosophy called The Fountainhead, but I don't think 700 pages was quite enough to get my point across, so I will write the exact same novel, only it will take 1100 pages this time.

READERS
Hey, great.

HEROINE
I'm Dagny Taggart. I am a railroad tycoon, woman-in-a-man's-world, stunningly beautiful heroine. I am the only person capable of running this railroad. I am the only woman in the universe worth a damn. I am also the only woman in the universe with a real job. I am basically the only woman in this novel.

LOVE INTEREST #1
I have worshiped you, the only woman in the universe worth a damn, from afar for my whole life.

HEROINE
That's nice.

LOVE INTEREST #2
I have worshiped you, the only woman in the universe worth a damn, naked on the forest floor. Yet I will nobly step aside in the name of noble idealism, despite the fact that I love you and want you, the only woman in the universe worth a damn, desperately.

HEROINE
Okay.

LOVE INTEREST #3
I worship you, the only woman in the universe worth a damn. Let us have creepy rape fantasy sex now. I will not ask permission to do all these kinky things to you, but luckily you want to be forced into all the kinky things, you dirty bitch.

HEROINE
This is clearly true love! Stick it in me.

ALL
Who is John Galt?

AYN RAND
I am not telling. Instead, please listen to someone pontificate about my Objectivist philosophy for a while.

SOMEONE
[Pontificates]

VILLAINS
There are many of us, but we are all exactly the same. We are caricatures of evil socialists and embodiments of pure evil. Let us create a perfect socialist world order ruled by the inept! We all suck! Socialism sucks! Ha ha!

HEROES
We are all exactly the same. We are noble and perfect and have very angular and insolent faces. We can read each other's minds and the minds of everyone else in this novel, leaving less room for misunderstanding and more room for pontificating. And we are all in love with Dagny Taggart, the only woman in the universe worth a damn.

ALL
Who is John Galt?

VILLAIN
[Threatens hero.]

HERO
[Flips coin]
If it's heads, I will gaze apathetically. If it's tails, I will laugh heartily.

VILLAIN
Although these are the only two things any of you heroes have done for the past 800 pages, I am shocked at this response! How could you! How dare you!?!

HERO
I will now pontificate about Ayn Rand's philosophy. It has been at least 50 pages since you've heard it.

AYN RAND
It is so convenient that all of my heroes are in perfect agreement about my philosophy so that their pontificating is so interchangeable.

ALL
Who is John Galt?

JOHN GALT
Hello. In this, the culmination of all the pontificating, I will explain Ayn Rand's philosophy for a full 57 pages. No, I am not kidding. This one monologue will last for 57 pages. Oh and also, I love Dagny.

DAGNY
I love you too. Man, this is really going to suck for Love Interest #3.

LOVE INTEREST #3
Despite my passionate love for you and enjoyment of our rape sex, and the fact that there is no other woman on earth worth a damn, and the fact that I sacrificed my life's passion on your behalf, and that I spent my entire fortune to get a divorce to be with you, I will now nobly step aside in the name of noble idealism.

DAGNY
Great! I will miss our creepy rape sex. Farewell.

LOVE INTEREST #3
Bye.

READER
Wait, what?

ATLAS
[Shrugs]

THE END

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente

I loved that title until I had to type it out. Anyway, if you are at all a fan of books that straddle the divide between poetry and prose, I suggest that you read Catherynne Valente’s books for adults immediately. I am particularly fond of In the Night Garden, Book 1 of The Orphan’s Tales. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland… is her first book for children. Ignore the age recommendation, it’s perfectly wonderful for adults too.

Encapsulate This

I am going to lift the synopsis from the book jacket because I am finding it difficult to summarize without ruining the magic. Because seriously, this book is magic.

“September is a girl who longs for adventure. When she is invited to Fairyland by a Green Wind and a Leopard, well, of course she accepts (Mightn’t you?). But Fairyland is in turmoil, and it will take one twelve-year-old girl, a book-loving dragon, and a strange and almost human boy named Saturday to vanquish an evil Marquess and restore order.”

Ruminate on That

I think what I love best about this story is the calm acceptance of whatever-may-be that September has. Of course the Green Wind has come to take her to Fairyland. And of course, she meets a Wyvern whose father is a library. She decides to do something, and then she just does it. That’s one of my favorite aspects of fairytales. There isn’t a lot of excuse-making.

I don’t really have an objective opinion here. I just love the hell out of this book. The writing style, the story itself, the lovely illustrations, pretty much everything made me happy. The only (slightly) low point for me was the villain’s motivation. It was the weakest point of the story. However, the ending made up for it. It ended concretely, but with lots of space to imagine the future. I hugged the book when I finished it. And if it hadn’t been 11:00 p.m., I probably would have read it again (I did that the next day instead).

Final Reckoning

Should you read this? ABSOLUTELY. Actually, you should buy it. But buy the hardcover, this is definitely one of those books that are better in print than they are in digital.

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente

Monday, August 1, 2011

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

Disclaimer: I may be more hyped about this book because I just finished The Children’s Hospital by Chris Adrian and it was GODAWFUL. Really, it was the sorriest-sack-of-shit book I’ve read since The Corrections. It’s on my list of Books I Hate A Lot (not a real thing, I just made that up). What the fuck, Chris Adrian? That was 600 pages of bullshit.

Anyway, in order to bleach my brain, I decided to read Attachments. It was exactly what I needed to stop hating the whole world. Romance, geeky boy, funny gal, movie jokes? Awesome. (Just FYI, I found this book through Dear Author.)

Encapsulate This

Best friends Beth and Jennifer work together at the Courier. Jennifer is terrified of starting a family with her husband Mitch and Beth is waiting for her long-time boyfriend to propose. They send each other long, extremely personal, funny emails even though it’s against company policy and they know that someone is watching. That someone is Lincoln, who hates that it’s his job to monitor the employees’ email. Even though he knows it’s wrong, he reads every email between Beth and Jennifer. And bit by bit, he finds himself falling in love with Beth.

Ruminate on That

First, allow me to say that reading someone’s email is totally creep-tastic. Lincoln was a genuinely nice guy and he struggled with the ethicality of what he was doing but in the end, he did the right thing by Beth. So, yay for that. Also, yay for him not actively trying to break up Beth and her tool of a boyfriend.

The whole story alternates between the Beth/Jennifer emails and Lincoln’s point-of-view. The emails between Beth and Jennifer are really endearing/funny/sad and I totally get why Lincoln fell in love with Beth. The fact the he fell in love with her before he ever saw her face made my stomach hurt (in a good this-is-so-romantic kind of way). And watching his transformation from a lonely, kind-of-lost, awkward, adorable geek to a hopeful, finding-his-way, slightly-less-awkward, adorable geek was wonderful. I especially enjoyed watching his perspective on himself change. I was less convinced of Beth’s feelings, but she wasn’t formally introduced until fairly late in the story so I didn’t feel like I understood her reaction to Lincoln.

Parts of the story are pretty damn sad, parts are pretty damn funny and as a whole, it just flowed well. It could have felt jerky and disjointed with the back and forth between Lincoln’s POV and the emails, but oddly, I found the switching to be less jarring than some novels with traditional POV changes.

Final Reckoning

I really, really enjoyed reading this. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I finished it in one sitting. It was just a lot of fun. Have I mentioned that this is a debut novel? It is. So it gets double points for being awesome. And it gets bonus points because the emails reminded me of the ones Danielle and I send each other. I love books that have genuine friendships between lady-characters and not just potential-rival-hate-fests. Read this? Definitely.

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell