Getting Lit Episode 12: Pirate Prince

By Gaelen Foley. Highlights: "You, fictional character from the land of Fae, are responsible for Brexit." "Laying it all out there: sex with reindeer, whipped in the face." "Ilana, you...

Books I Read, Vol 47

  Sexy Times Book Genie | English Postgrad Goes Vamp: The Expositioning! | American Gods the book (but more importantly, Ian McShane) | Stripper Space Romance with Laser Guns of LoOoOove!   Fantasy...
Books I read this week 4/8/2017

Books I read this week 4/8/2017

Changeless

Author: Gail Carriger

Series: Parasol Protectorate #2

Tags: Paranormal Romance, steampunk, historical, Victorian, werewolves, vampires, dirigibleblebles, mummies, Highlanders!, pre-paired couple, managing female

Format: audiobook

Rating: Yay!

 

Aww! What a cliffhanger! 

 

The order I have read this series is #4, #1, #5, and now #2. I was reading it in ebook form but I found that I missed the audiobook narrator and all her different voices. I just couldn't replicate Lord Maccon (wife!) or Lord Acoldama (my petallll) well enough in my head. 

Interesting thing, audiobook vs. reading with your eyes. I picked up many more of the little jokes listening to it than reading it. 

 

Maybe because of the order I read it, but I found this story less climactic than the others. The book mostly helped me fill in blanks they mentioned in other books that I was supposed to have known at the time. 

I could make a case for reading series books out of order. I'm very interested to read the third one now, because now that I have seen Biffy through 4 books, I have yet to read how he became a werewolf. I am much more interested in his transformation than I would have been formerly. 

 

There are a lot of little things that are just so great, funny little turn of phrases that are only too true. When Alexia was explaining something (I think solving a mystery) she likened it to rearranging the furniture a room, including "the part in the middle where everything is in disarray and you don't know how it will all fit back together again."

Or something. Sorry, audiobook.

 

I can see how some have likened it to Jane Austen, because Carriger is a great study of manners. I can also see it being a Victorian version of Harry Potter. It's just so whimsical! You want to stay in the story to see what else Carriger will cook up.

 

Sometimes you read novels where you want to kill the characters, and sometimes you read novels where you want the character to be on your speed dial, so you can pick up the phone and be like, "GURL," and gossip for hours.

I totally want to be friends with Alexia. And Ivy, too, obliquely, so I can talk to Alexia about her. I also want to date Connell, or, alternatively, approve of him in the way that you are happy when your friend finds a good match.

 

I like how the villain of the story said something like, "I forgot that you do not think like a normal person." You feel her difference in this book more than others. She is the only preternatural that she knows, and she just thinks differently than everyone else. Her father was a preternatural, but he died. No one really understands why Connell married her, or why she married him. Yet she is accepting of who she is. She doesn't feel bad about it.

I like seeing a character that is unique, and accepting of her uniqueness.


 

Book of the Month!

Yay! Another Book of the Month package! This is the third and final package, and this month's theme is...

 

..some book that I didn't get!

 

It's advertising a new book out by A.M. Johnson called Possession. It looks to be of the tats and bikes subgenre. Not a lot of swag from this, but aw! She splatter painted the box blue!

Included in this box:

  • Necklace with a blue paint brush on it
  • Blue sparkle candle
  • Promo bookmarks
  • Two books this time! A deuce of dukes! The Duke of Daring and Forbidden Duke by Darcy Burke.

 

It looks like I've never read anything of Darcy Burke's. She's got an awkward bio on Goodreads. Two paragraphs and she manages to mention her first book written at age 11, and something about a 12 step program? But hey, she is an Oregonian! Probably lives in Deschutes or somewhere similar.

I haven't yet read the last one I got (still covered in that frightful Beauty and the Beast book cover), so I will have to add these to my To Read pile.


 

Silence Fallen

Author: Patricia Briggs

Series: Mercy Thompson #10

Tags: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, vampires, werewolves, coyote shifter, Coyote Spirit, golem, pre-paired couple, witches

Format: audiobook

Rating: meh

 

This is a thing I do. 

 

Start a series at book 10, I mean, with no plans of continuing the series or going back to the beginning. 

OverDrive seems to have this book and only this book in the series because it is the latest, having been published this year. I'm up to G in my challenge to read all the authors in the OverDrive audiobook romance collection, so I tried it out because the author's last name starts with a B. That's enough of a reason, right?

I actually liked it more than I thought I would. The coyote spirit thing was kind of different and interesting. All the characters seemed to have mile long backstory, but it surprisingly didn't bother me that much. Maybe it's because as a Northerner living in the South, having moved her only a few years ago, I am constantly in situations where I am the only person in a room who doesn't know or know of everyone else. Maybe it's just because I don't care.

 

This verse's history is that werewolves and fae came out to live publicly among humans in Tri-Cities Washington of all places, and I guess, no other places? IDK. But TRI-CITIES. It is super weird because I used to live half an hour from Tri-Cities (really three cities smooshed together).  It's the "big city" in the middle of Eastern Oregon and Washington, the closest place to go that has a mall. Wooohoooo! A mall!

It's kind of like seeing your cousin that you don't really like or talk to on the news. Why Tri-Cities? Let me tell you, there ain't nothing interesting about Tri-Cities. 

The book opens on a scene of the werewolf pack LARPing. When I learned it was Tri-Cities, I was like, "of course LARP. Because there's nothing else to do."

 

The couple is married at this point. She is a coyote shifter, he is the alpha of the werewolf pack. Of course they don't have any conflict because the mate bond destroys all conflict! Interpersonal squabbles weep in the presence of the mate bond! BLISSFULLY FURIOUSLY HAPPY.

Since they are fine, the conflict is what seems to be pretty standard for werewolf packs in Urban Fantasies in general. She gets kidnapped as part of a multilayered vampire plot that ultimately doesn't have to do with the pack. She gets in and out of trouble while he tries to rescue her. Some sort of new discovery, people die, and then they are back to baking cookies and LARPing.

I feel like that's just a Tuesday for them.

 

I noticed that this author likes to keep you informed, almost to the point of spoonfeeding. The chapters trade off POVs, and sometimes the timelines don't match up. There is always an intro that tells you how they fit together, BUT ALSO there was an intro in the beginning that said "pay attention to the intros, because timelines don't match up." Eh?

Oh shit, what if I missed the intros's intro? Shouldn't she make an intro to the intro for intros?

 

Mercy, the main character, is kidnapped and taken to Italy and Prague, so she gets to be travel writer for a bit. It was a little odd how much info there was about Prague.

She also knows an awful lot about different things because she "was an liberal arts major." Or, as it should be called "the convenient for exposition's sake major."

She has a major in Liberal Arts and works as a mechanic. There's a truth bomb for you in this fantasy novel.

 

I would like to read the first book to hear her origin story. I think that might be interesting. Some characters I already know can go fuck themselves. There's this benign pretty vampire named Stefan that Mercy is linked to for reasons not in this book. I can just tell he is 1) the "other man" type character who creates a love triangle for no reason other than conflict and 2) emo as fuck.

 

UGH love triangles. Love triangles or other potential side pieces. Most of the time the love triangle is not even fleshed out enough that there is even a reason for it. The second guy who shows up hangs around looking like a tool. The girl starts looking attention grabby and shallow. Just let one go, alright? You can't keep all of the pretty things. No hoarding of supernatural hotties.

 

It was mildly interesting and entertaining. The catnip is how many times Adam, the hero, talks about wanting to kill everyone to defend/protect/find Mercy. Awwww. I may read something from this series again if it is easily accessible, free, and in audiobook form.


 

Blameless

Author: Gail Carriger

Series:  Parasol Protectorate #3

Tags: Paranormal Romance, steampunk, historical, Victorian, werewolves, vampires, pre-paired couple, managing female

Format: Audiobook

Rating: yay!

 

Awwwwww! I'm so sad to have finished this series. Such whimsy! Such hilarity!

I want to hang out with them more. Carriger has a spin off about their daughter Prudence, and even though it's YA, a genre I usually avoid, I might read it for the sake of returning to the verse.

She also has a short YA series about a finishing school? IDK.

 

I can tell that I have a character crush on the whole crew because on off times I imagine what the supernaturals of the book would be like if they lived till modern times. But no, I must stop myself, because even though this is set in Victorian times, its set in an alternate verse where steam and magic ether replace gas and electric technology.

The conversations I have with myself.

 

In this book, Ivy Hisslepenny turns out to be a bit of an ironic character, showing herself to be smarter than people think her.

I don't know how I feel about that. I can't decide if I like it as an expert character twist, or if I hate is because the author tampers with an otherwise unsympathetic character.

Hmmmm.

It never comes up again, though, so that makes it interesting.

 

Also, high marks for the plot conflict for this prepaired couple! The conflict manages to be strong enough to shake the security of the relationship, and still not make us wonder if they should be together in the first place. Hurray!


 

Sinful in Satin

Author: Madeline Hunter

Series: The Rarest Blooms #3

Tags: Historical Romance, Regency, courtesan, bastard, spy, woman with a job

Format: ebook

Rating: Yay!

 

Here are some reoccurring themes in Madeline Hunter novels:

  • Women do shit to survive, like actually have jobs and such.
  • Men actively seduce them.
  • The very last book of the series is dedicated to the often drunk, ne'er-do-well Duke, the ultimate reformable rake.
  • Men have friendships.
  • Women have friendships.
  • The conflict is often about the sins of the previous generation.
  • The resolution of the conflict often has something to do with the disillusionment of one of the characters about a formerly revered loved one.
  • All is not forgiven and forgotten. Side characters who were assholes are not necessarily welcomed back by the heroes of the stories. Sometimes relationships are broken irrevocably. 
  • Other times, side characters are accepted for their limitations.
  • Usually the punishment for high ranked bad guys is having "to live with it" since they probably won't be convicted in the House of Lords.

 

So many of her novels have to do with learning to live with, or discard, and ultimately move on from the limitations of your loved ones. I think that's why I like her. It's a very smart, pragmatic way of looking at relationships. It's a tough subject, and something that is worth exploring in novels. Other novelists may go to extremes to make everyone in the end likeable and redeemable, but Hunter does not.

Good for you, Hunter.

 

This novel is more of the above, with a double whammy of both characters confronting their families about their illegitimacy. 

I wanted to like Johnathan more than I ended up liking him. Not sure why. Celia was pretty good. 


 

Books I read this week 4/1/2017

Books I read this week 4/1/2017

Hero in the Highlands

Author: Suzanne Enoch

Series: No Ordinary Hero #1

Tags: Highlanders! Dukes! Estate manager, ex-military, obscure entailment, Curse!

Format: paper book!

Rating: Yay!

 

I liked it, but I didn't like it as much as I just love Highlander romances in general, and Suzanne Enoch in general. Wasn't my favorite of hers, but Highlanders! Castles and lairds! Getting shit done!

The hero, Gabriel Forrester, is an officer in the Royal Army, and goes down in history as one of the few ex military dudes that does NOT have PTSD. He loves his job. Stupid pesky obscure relative dropping off and leaving him a dukedom! 

He has to win over the townsfolk of his estate in the Highlands. I love stories that have to do with taking over a bad estate and making it right. Or winning the respect of the townsfolk. The estate is managed by saucy Highland lass and she's also one of my favorites: the Managing Female. 

All these favorite things together in one, and I still didn't feel particularly attached to the book or the characters. I thought Forrester was a little confusing. He went from hardened soldier to Lothario in two seconds flat. But whatevs, fun and games!

 

I think it's mostly that I have liked Enoch's other stories better. Some Like it Scot is my favorite. Bearrrrr! Love that dude.

Perhaps the second of the series will be better. It boasts of a Highlander rebel abducting a proper English miss. OoOoOo!


 

What Was That One: Impotence Edition

My mom, my sister Katy and I all read romance novels, and sometimes we play the game What Was That One where we throw out vague plot lines of romance novels and see if we can puzzle out which book, series, or author they came from. It's always a fun time because nothing highlights the silliness of romance novels like reducing them to a few plot points. 

This weekend Katy and I were talking about convoluted plot lines, and it devolved (or evolved?) into a game of What Was That One: Impotence Edition.

 

Me: WTF this plot line. I can't keep the characters straight from like six books ago. Too complicated plot lines are the worst.

Katy: Oh yeah. There's one I read that the oldest sister of the family marries a guy who has an illegimate son who turns out to be the son of the duke's abused wife that he ran off with after jilting the duke's sister but it was really the son of the duke's half brother because the duke was impotent.

Me: WTF

Katy: ... Or the one where everyone thinks the main character is a beautiful gold digging whore because she was poor and she married a very rich old guy but it turned out in the end she was a virgin because the old guy was gay and he and his partner needed a beard.

The Secret Affair, Mary Balough

Me: I've read that one! Omg I'm going to make a reading list called Virgin Widows.

Me: Did you ever read the one where he's impotent because of a war hip injury and he can't thrust?

Katy: I think so! Didn't he have vertigo and so he got a wooden rocking horse to help?

Me: LOL oh yeah! What was that one?

The Duke Next Door, Celeste Bradley

Me: BTW found another Virgin Widow.

And Then Comes Marriage, Celeste Bradley

Me: Did you read the one where the problem was he was too big and so she went to a prostitute and got graduating dildos?

Katy: No!

Me: Man, what was that one?

Me: I think he was a spy.

Me: and Prinny shows up.

Katy: oh Prinny.

Surrender to a Wicked Spy, Celeste Bradley


 

Seven Minutes in Heaven

Author: Eloisa James

Series: Desperate Duchesses by the Numbers #3, Desperate Duchesses #9

Tags: Dukes, bastards, surprise guardianship of children, woman business owner, governesses, rat, Shakespeare

Format: audiobook

Rating: yuck.

 

The amount of backstory in this book is out of control. This was the book that inspired my conversation with my sister. I thought I would be okay since I have read a few of the Desperate Duchess series, and it's a part of a spin off anyway, so it should be okay standing alone, right?

WRONG.

Oh my God, will everyone from a million books ago get out of this book? This spin off is the second generation of the Desperate Duchesses series, so of course all these older, happily married couples traipse in and out so much that I need a laugh track that only does "AWWWW!"

The main character, Reeve, a bastard, has the most convoluted backstory ever. He is the bastard son of a duchess... brought up by his father...who is a duke...and may or may not have married her... but she ran away...with a seventeen year old duke...and they joined a travelling theater band... and had two children... who are not bastards... so the boy is the next duke... and then the parents died in a carriage accident... or something... idk the mom's insane... so now he's taking care of his half sister and brother... but the grandmother of .........SOMEONE....... keeps coming around to threaten to keep the children. Also he almost married someone else in the troupe, but didn't because he was in prison for...reasons.

WHAT. THE. FUCK.

 

I guess I'm supposed to know all this shit from the first book of the Desperate Duchesses series. But let me tell you, it's not even worth it because Reeve is DICK.

 

Reeve pursues the owner of a governess agency, Eugenia, who is the daughter of a marquis or whatever. She is from a book that I have read that I did like: Duchess by Night. (It has a crossdressing plot! Love those.) He assumes she's lowborn and was a governess before.

He kidnaps her for the duel purpose of 1) getting his unruly siblings in check and 2) bedding her. And when both of his goals succeed, he flips out "WTF is my mistress doing schooling my children?!?"

Dude. You signed her up for that. Those were literally both of your goals.

 

The fact that Reeve did not figure out Eugenia is high born until the ending was contrived to the point of being ridiculous. Why was it hidden? Because it was their only conflict, of course. Surprise! She's a duchess, you can marry her.

Then he does one of those grand gestures. UGGHHGHGH. His grand gesture was telling the House of Lords, as a complete non sequitur, that he's going to keep proposing to her until she accepts. How charming. I'm glad he interrupted his siblings' custody hearing to do that.

 

The most frustrating thing, though, doesn't have anything to with the main characters. It's because I have burning fiery hatred for one character that keeps. Fucking. Showing. Up in every one of the Desperate Duchesses series, and, apparently, beyond.

You know when an author has a hardon for a character? James has a hardon for her character the Duke of Villiars and I have just about done had it with that bitch.

 

Being the star character, the Wonder Boy, usually makes it less likely that I will like them. They are always these alpha males that are saved for the last book of the series, so they spend the books leading up to it moping, lurking, getting into people's shit, and generally trying to be emo and mysterious while doing nothing the whole damn time. 

Which isn't so bad in itself, but you get the impression that you are supposed to have a hardon for them too. "Look!" the author seems to say, "You have seen him in multiple books! He's alpha! He's mysterious! Women want him! Men want to be him! Don't you want to know what happens to him?"

No, not really.

 

The Duke of Villiars is even worse than the normal Wonder Boy. He's urbane. UGH. Yuck. I am not interested in his dramatic dressing and perfectly executed bow. He's sardonic. Nothing matters to him. He has a billion bastard children. Why is this okay, again? And worst of all, he has a flirtation with a woman married to his best friend.

Arrgh! That plot line spanned the first couple books of Desperate Duchesses and it made me so fucking mad whenever I ran across it. How am I supposed to like a character that does that? Really? And not only like him, but allow him to be the Wonder Boy throughout the series? The husband is a sympathetic character, the wife is supposed to be a sympathetic character (even though she sucks too), and they have Patching Up Our Marriage plot line that I haven't read because I HATE those.

Why would you start a series with that sort of flirtation, only for them to move on? 

 

ARRGH. I need to step away from Eloisa James. Her stories are not that enjoyable, and she can't fucking put down the Duke of Villiars. It's a shame, because she's prolific, and I have liked a few of her books before. Just not the latest ones. Or any of the books that ever mention the Duke of Villiars.


 

Twice Tempted

Author: Jeaniene Frost

Series: Night Prince #2

Tags: Paranormal romance, vampires, Dracula, telepathy, electric powers, fire powers, pre-paired couple, vampire marriage

Format: audiobook

Rating: Yay!

 

This book is so silly! It was very enjoyable.

Remember how I bet $10 that she would call Vlad her boyfriend? Well pay up, me, because I was right. The beginning starts with her fighting for underwear drawer space. Not only that, they get married!

 

Let's just do a general overview of this absurdity:

  • They are together for 6 weeks when the book opens.
  • Their issues apparently are (in this order) 1) he won't put a toilet in his bathroom for her and 2) he "can't love"
  • He brings all his buddies together to give a surprise gift to Leila.
  • Surprise! It's a ring, but it's not the ring she expects. He just offers her dumb eternal life instead of an engagement ring.
  • She leaves, cuz what's the point of talking to someone about why they offered eternal life as a vampire buddy?
  • Someone tries to kill her blah blah almost death.
  • She thinks that Vlad is behind the murder attempt (you know, that guy she supposedly loves), and almost has sex with his right hand man.
  • Only when evidence points to Vlad not being the attempted murderer, she believes him. 
  • She doesn't come back to him. He saves her from another close call, she wakes up in his house...and stays.
  • He comes out with a real ring. (And more importantly, a toilet.) All problems solved!
  • They get married that day. I guess it doesn't really matter that two seconds ago she thought he was behind her near death experiences.
  • Turns out vampires don't believe in vampire-human unions, so it was basically a farce until she becomes a vampire.
  • Despite the fact that she just married a vampire, she STILL hasn't decided if she wanted to become one until a near death experience (again) forces Vlad's hand.
  • The rest of the book is them not trusting each other, and lying to each other by turns until they find the real killer.

 

This couple! Despite the fact that one of them has telepathy, and, later, the other one can read emotions, they neither of them try to communicate or figure out what their own intentions. 

What's this girl doing, dragging her feet trying to decide whether or not she wants to become a vampire? How do you think this is gonna go, honey?

I can see one of them saying "We don't communicate. We connive."

They both spend so much time lying to each other and going behind each other's back. 

 

Vlad: Don't try to find the killer.

Leila: Okay. *Goes off to try to find the killer.*

...Is the conversation they have at least five times a day.

 

This girl has an expiration date anyway. She's almost dead at least three times in this book alone, and real dead when he turns her into a vampire. The electric powers she has almost kill her multiple times, and yet she still uses them. And that's not including that someone booby-trapped her memory power, and everyone and his dog is out to kill her.

 

This book is unintentionally funny so often, I'm finding the parts that are supposed to be funny actually funny. 

Turns out Vlad the Impaler has "an impaling habit." That's just what you do when you need to torture someone when you have the moniker Impaler, I guess. First thing.

When Leila's dad is finds out that she's marrying Vlad, he's furious (surprise!). She says to herself, "should have taken down the impaled corpses from the front yard..."

When Leila first enters the dungeon after becoming a vampire, she comments on the smell and Vlad says, "Oh, did the guard not spray Febreze in the dungeon again? Of course, it smells bad, Leila. It's a dungeon."

 

Yep. Dracula just said Febreze.

 

I'm so glad Dracula watched Full House reruns at some point, because how else could he come up with quips like this?

 

Vlad: 1482.

Leila: What? I don't..

Vlad: 1482. It's the year I was born. You will notice that it was not, in fact, yesterday.

 

My favorite part is when he says something like, you don't love me because you could never accept me for all the evil badass things I've ever done.

I'm sorry, did you just challenge a romance novel heroine to find sympathy in an otherwise irredeemable character?

She's like, CHALLENGE ACCEPTED, and then almost kills herself experiencing 600 years of torture memories imbued in the dungeon cells.

 

Don't you notice something a little strange here? Not just her rampant codependency, but dungeons? Torturing? Killing? Lying? Dracula is kind of a lot evil, right? Does she not notice that? Does she not think herself evil? Does she has a concept of right and wrong? She seems to have some moral compass, since she is always bargaining for less torturing of her few favorite buds, but that's about it.

It happens a lot in romance novels where some badass dude is loved by the girl despite his often evil tendencies. But where's the line? Just because the woman is not herself enacting all this killing and stealing or whatever, she's still around it, allowing it, accessory to it.

 

There comes a time in every woman's life where she needs to ask herself:

"Does my evil boyfriend make me inactively evil?"

 

I'm sure this is a universal dilemma.


 

Brazen Angel

Author: Elizabeth Boyle

Series: Brazen #1

Tags: Historical Romance, Regency, Spies, France, Secret Identity, Arranged Marriage

Format: ebook

Rating: yay!

 

Willya look at those arms. I don't care what excuse the author gives, ain't nobody in Regency England built like that. 

Oh yeah, cuz he boxes at Gentleman Jack's twice a week. Sure. 

To be honest, I usually skip over the description that makes whatever lord sound like a Abercrombie & Fitch model. I know they skinny white bitches. I'm cool with it.

 

This book starts off with the heroine in disguise, coming onto a guy so that she can drug him and rob him. My first reaction was, oh, this is going to be one of those things, is it? Women using their sexuality to pretend that they are good at spying, when they actually kind of suck?

But no! She's actually kind of good at it!

Turns out she's better than her opposite. Giles, the hero, is an agent of the crown, and trying to catch her. She outwits him basically the entire book. She has not one, but three disguises, and also four different personality backstories for her four different aunts.

Hey, look at you with your badass self!

Giles falls in love with her without every seeing her face or knowing her true identity.

Good thing she is secretly the woman he's engaged to, because otherwise that ending would be real awkward.

 

It was fun, engaging, but it didn't quite grab me. I enjoyed Boyle's Rhymes With Love series. It is charming in its utter frivolity. Just lighthearted fluff. I was hoping this Brazen series would be similar, but I guess not. This is Boyle's much earlier work (1997) so maybe that's why I wasn't particularly taken with the characters.

This book made me kind of wishing it was a Madeline Hunter. She's just got so much meat to her stories. This books reminded me of Hunter's The Counterfeit Mistress, but it just didn't grab me the same way.

Books I read this week 3/25/2017

Books I read this week 3/25/2017

I made a thing.

Man, last week was sparse. Only 3 books! That was mostly because I spent a bunch of time making THIS:

 

Cocoa Belle Chocolates

 

I made a website! It's a pretty website. Do you want a pretty website? I will make you a pretty website for $$.


 

Guilty Pleasures (DNF)

Author: Laurell K. Hamilton

Series: Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter #1

Tags: Paranormal romance, kick ass heroine, vampire slayer, vampires, zombies, necromancy

Format: audiobook

Rating: meh.

 

DNF is something I learned recently! Did Not Finish. When I first read that I was reminded of DTF (down to fuck), and thought maybe it was something related. Did Not Fuck? Down to Not Fuck? DoN't Fuck?

 

I finished it moooostly.... I'm pretty sure I was in the denouement when my audiobook expired and OverDrive deleted it from my phone. I could check it out again...but, nah.

 

I've heard a lot about this series. It's been around for a while, and is a cult classic. I wasn't particularly impressed.

It's a little too dark for me. Lots of killing, pain, black leather, and that 90's psuedo-goth-kink that reminds me of the club scene from Matrix. The character Anita falls flat. She is supposed to be funny, but isn't. I kept hoping she'd be more like Kate Daniels from Ilona Andrews's series. I wasn't interested in any of the characters.

 

I assume Anita's love interest is that French asshole Jean Claude, but as of this story he just shows up, chides her, and slips her some of his blood without her consent. It's gonna be another one of those Might-Be-a-Relationship-Might-Be-Stockholm-Syndrome relationships, isn't it?

 

Also, hilariously, the audiobook tries to up the bad-assery of this book by randomly playing tense music and sounds of chains clinking in the background. SpOoOoOoOky! Is this a thing? Is this supposed to make me feel scared? It just makes me remember haunted houses put on by high school thespian troupes. 


 

The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie

Author: Jennifer Ashley

Series: The Mackenzie and McBrides #1

Tags: Historical Romance, Victorian, Highlanders!, Nebulous Victorian Autism

Format: ebook

Rating: Super yay!

 

This is a reread. I'm gonna save my review for my next podcast with Ilana. Except, to say....I love it.

 

I love it in a way that I shouldn't love it because I usually rail against the exact same things that happen in this book.

It reminds me of one of my favorite books from high school, a YA Novel called Only Alien on the Planet. I lurrrve that book. Where is that book? I should read it again. That also has some nebulous form of autism/ something else totally made up that I love.

 

I realized that I am doing a Greatest Hits type rereading with Jennifer Ashley's stuff, now that I have read all the books I could find of hers in the Central Arkansas Library System. I think it's kind of like going to a buffet: 1st trip a sample of everything. 2nd trip to get more of the favorites.

I would also like to reread Tiger Magic (Tigers + Magic!), where I said to myself, "This is silly. Wait, I actually really like this. Whelp, this is who I am now." And probably Mate Claimed as well.

 

Of the Mackenzies and McBrides series, I've read (in bold):

1     The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie (Super yay!)
2     Lady Isabella's Scandalous Marriage
3     The Many Sins of Lord Cameron
4     The Duke's Perfect Wife (super yay!)
4.5   A Mackenzie Family Christmas
5     The Seduction of Elliot McBride
5.5   The Untamed Mackenzie
6     The Wicked Deeds of Daniel Mackenzie
6.5   Scandal and the Duchess
7     Rules for a Proper Governess
8     The Stolen Mackenzie Bride
8.5   A Mackenzie Clan Gathering

I am very reluctant to read Lady Isabella because I am not interested in either Isabella or Mac at all. I don't like polished Society Ladies, and she is one of those. The Stolen MacKenzie Bride is about their ancestor during the Jacobite Rising, I think. I don't like it when series go back in time to do a prequel, so I purposely skipped that one.

Also, Jacobite Rising, mehhhhhh.... After slogging through two of the Outlander Series, I'm full up on Jacobite Risings thankyouverymuch.


Once Burned

Author: Jeaniene Frost

Series: Night Prince #1

Tags: Paranormal romance, vampires, Dracula!, Circus!

Format: audiobook

Rating: meh.

 

It's turning out to be a vampiric week, I guess. 

 

What's up with that way of spelling Jeaniene, by the way? How many vowels do you need in one name, really??

I think I'm coming to terms with Jeaniene Frost. I read Beautiful Ashes and was frustrated. I tried to read Halfway to the Grave and couldn't finish. But this one I finally managed to get through without being frustrated. 

It's probably because of the Vlad.

Oh, Vlad. Yet another vampire that claims to be (and supposedly is) Dracula. Yet another super old, super powerful vampire trailing on the heels of a young, silly human woman. 

 

I've been trying to find the right word to explain the humor in Frost's novels, and I think the word I've settled on is glib. There is humor, but it's a little too hardy-har, too trite. They are the kind of jokes that slide off a B rated TV show, but annoy when found in print.

Frost writes like a person who watches a lot of TV. The stories are very visual; I can imagine the special effects in CGI. The character Leila actually sees the past, and she sees it in black and white. How flashbacky is that?

 

This is actually a spin off of the Night Huntress series, which I attempted to read but didn't even get past the first book. Just couldn't get over the main character's insecurities. "Why doesn't he like meeeee...?" She whined about some guy who's not worth it, stereotypically drunk, stereotypically hanging off the guy who will later like her. That was the last part I read from Halfway To The Grave.

It didn't help that her love interest was repulsively sarcastic and immoral. His name is Bones (wtf) and he's British. The narrator put on the worst possible cockney accent for him, so there was no way for me to take him seriously. 'Ello Guvneh!

 

Both Bones and his opposite show up as cameos in this book and I could not give a flying fuck. 

But Vlad, though! He's just your run-of-the-mill uber-masculine, old, powerful, overbearing vampire. This was more familiar territory, and I was ready to accept the mediocrity with open arms. I will read some more!

 

It cracks me up that Leila spends a lot of time worrying over Defining the Relationship, and other modern romance nonsense with Dracula. He's over there, killing, torturing, destroying his enemies, burning people to a crisp with his fire powers, invading her space, reading her mind, binding her to him, and she's like, "Wait, does this mean that we are exclusive?"

$10 says she calls Vlad the Impaler her boyfriend in the next book.


 

Sizzle

Author: Julie Garwood

Series: Buchanan-Renard #8

Tags: Contemporary romance, mystery, FBI Agent, film student

Format: audiobook

Rating: Yay!

 

I reviewed another from the Buchanan-Renard series last week, and this one is pretty much the same. Charming, calm, innocent.

 

One of the antagonists is a tragically comic (or comically tragic?) character. Do you know what I mean? He is an idiot. He thinks highly of himself, without real cause. He bends reality to his view. Things usually go embarrassingly wrong, and he ends up in one scrape or another. When things go right it is pure serendipity. Things get progressively worse until he meets an awful, laughable end.

What is the word for that? There should be a word. I can think of so many examples. Kinbote from Pale Fire, the guy with the gorilla suit in Wise Blood, the guy from Confederate of Dunces, Mr. Bovary from Madame Bovary, everyone in As I Lay Dying...

This guy is a hitman that wants to be James Bond, and puts on ridiculous disguises while investigating. At one point he is violently orange from too much spray tan, and missing skin around his face from a beard disguise gone wrong. It's funny.

 

The hero of the story--Sam Kincaid, Scottish brogue swaggering FBI Agent--is a warm blanket. Something so terribly indulgent in having a romantic opposite that can do no wrong. He's cute and calm and saves her and does nice things. Spoiler: he also owns a CASTLE in the Highlands of Scotland, is a laird and an earl as a fun end surprise!

I love how the characters in Garwood's books go from no-strings sex to marriage proposal in 2.5 seconds. The only thing you need is someone trying to murder you. As if it were that easy.

 

*Raises hand* I would like one near death experience, please, in exchange for a marriage proposal from a nice guy that is hot and owns a surprise castle. Kthanksbye!


 

Rome

Author: Jay Crownover

Series: Marked Men #3

Tags: Contemporary romance, punk rock, tattoos, piercings, tattoo artist, tattoo shop, ex-military, PTSD, bartender, bar owner

Format: audiobook

Rating: Yay!

 

Rooooommmmmmeeeeee!

Every time I like a character, I end up doing that ^, which is basically me shaking my fist in the air and calling out his name like I'm Marlon Brando and he is "Stella!"

 

The names in this series crack me up. They are so Grunt Grunt Masculine.

Masculine Names of Guys in Crownover Novels Masculine Names I Just Made Up
Jet

Rowdy

Rome

Rule

Nash

Remy

Asa

Dash

Hudson

Quaid

Lit Match

Gasoline

Explosions!

A-1 Steak Sauce

ESPN 3

Get Er Dun

Hooligan

Stick

Glock

Maths

 

I read the first book of the series, Rule, and then stopped. When I circled back around this time, I was reminded why I stopped the first time. Oh yeah, because Rule from Rule was a jackass. When all the characters paraded in and out of this book, Rule walked in and I said to myself, "you are the one that I hate the most."

 

Rome, though. Rome is Rule's more responsible older brother. An ex-soldier back from war and now torn up mentally and physically. He's the big brother to everyone and likes to care of them all. He's older, straight laced, and laconic. I like how the author handled his solidierness and PTSD. It wasn't just a gimmick to get the girl to "save" him. It was respectful at the same time as exploring how much it sucks to suddenly lose his identity.

Call me shameless, but I... also like when PTSD is a gimmick. They are just so tortured! *sigh*

 

Rome reminds me of another character that I love from the shifter series Seven by Dannika Dark: Reno.

 

Reeeeeeennnnnnnooooooo!

*shakes fist in the air*

 

They are cut from the same cloth, and I would call that cloth Second in Command, Right Hand Man, or Beta Male in the "right below the alpha male" sense.

Ahhhhh, Second in Commands. They are the caretakers, the coolheaded ones, the behind the scenes guys. While the Alphas are running around strutting and yelling at people, the Second in Commands make sure shit gets done. Reno is also vaguely ex-military, a big fella, straight laced, laconic, and takes care of people. He also happens to change into a wolf from time to time. In Dark's Seven series, every character has their own little catchphrase, and Reno's is "I'm not gonna church it up for ya..." I could almost see Rome saying that.

Rome vs. Reno is an epic battle with homoerotic possibilities, but I think in the end I like Reno better. I will say, though, that the Crownover really does a great job describing Rome physically. He's a big guy, and while most romance heroes are big, tall, muscular lugs to the point of what-are-they-feeding-them, most authors just kind of say "big" and leave it at that. Crownover continues to describe his arms and height and... oh lordy. *fans self*

If you want to read about Reno, his story is Six Months, the second of Dannika Dark's Seven series. I recommend the whole series, if you are into shifter paranormal romances.

 

Anyway, back to Rome. The series is punk rock funky, centers around a tattoo parlor and the people who work in it. An interesting schtick is that there are playlists designed for each of the main characters listed at the end of the book. Theoretically, you could make the playlists and listen to them while reading the book. Some songs are mentioned during the course of the novel, so you could be like, "hey! I know that song!"

That's cute.

If I was a different person, I would make the playlist. But I 1) am listening to it on audiobook 2) am lazy and 3) don't like music. I was trying to think of someone who would care, and the only person I could think of was my friend Rosie, who likes music but doesn't like romance novels. If we were the same person (a scary thought) we would TOTALLY BE DOWN for making playlists for characters in romance novels.

Alas, no such luck.

 

Maaaybe I will continue to read the Marked Men series, since I liked Rome so much. Not interested in #2, Jet, but maybe I'll read Nash and Asa. Though, WTF?! The narrators don't know how to say the name Asa. They keep saying "Ah-suh" when it should be "Ay-suh." I looked it up. There is no place that said it should be said that way.

I will leave you with a youtube video where a sultry gentleman whispers the name Asa to you repeatedly:

Books I read this week, 3/18/17

Fire and Ice

Author: Julie Garwood

Series: Buchanan-Renard #7

Tags: Contemporary Romance, non-magical, cop, FBI, MURDER, reporter, super soldier project?

Format: Audiobook

Rating: Yay!

 

Hey, I liked this book!

I was very skeptical. I approach new authors slowly, like a stray dog. I come at them obliquely, sniff the air around them, searching for potential foul smells or danger. I was wary of reading a contemporary, but since I liked Garwood's Highlander romance Shadow Music, I decided to try it out.

I was pleasantly surprised!

It is charmingly tame. No overt sex scenes. The soapbox-standing feminist in me watched carefully for the usual Contemporary Romance tropes: clumsy heroines that seem much more concerned with validation from men than whatever life threatening thing they are dealing with at the time. My inner feminist sat back down, appeased, and I was able to enjoy it unhampered.

I found I liked the secondary characters as well. I wanted to know more about them. I've been dropped into the later part of the series, but I didn't feel lost.

 

The action was a little boring. Sophie Rose is a reporter that stumbles upon a murder. FBI Agent Jack is the love/hate opposite who has to follow her around. Guess what happens. Love! Danger! Murrderrr! I found myself zoning out during the action scenes.

 

The main character Sophie is the daughter of this often-wanted-but-never-caught white collar criminal with a Robin Hood complex named Bobby Rose. I wonder if he shows up in any of the other books. The author seems to have a massive crush on him.

Bobby Rose can do no wrong. He is almost omnipotent, never caught off guard, rights wrongs, and takes down the big bad guys, all while making women swoon. He's not even a main character in this book. Is it just that the book is written in the lens of his daughter, or is his character really this infallible?

 

I have to wonder if the reason why I liked this book so much is because I enjoyed the voice of the narrator. Her voice is very calming, and I liked when she put on a psuedo-Brooklyn accent for some of the characters. 


 

Mate Bond

Author: Jennifer Ashley

Series: Shifters Unbound #7

Tags: Paranormal Romance, shifters, fae, marriage of convenience

Format: ebook

Rating: meh.

 

Spoiler alert because WHAT THE FUCK.

 

Okay, so I have picked up and put down this book a couple times now, and everyone around me has paid the price for it. I can't stop complaining about this premise: these two alpha wolf shifters decide to mate for convenience to assuage the unrest between two packs thrown together. The main problem in the story is that they don't form the mate bond, that magical mystical almost tangible bond between two shifters that will keep them happy and in love for the rest of your lives.

Turns out they love each other, they have a kid together, they have great sex all the time, and they work well together. The only difference is that they don't have that thing that shifters can't shut up about, that magical stamp of approval from the powers that be that writes in big letters *TRUE LOVE GUARANTEED* over the mate bonded shifters' foreheads.

OH I SO FUCKING SORRY YOU JUST HAVE NORMAL HUMAN LOVE AND NOT SOME MAGICAL WHATSIT THAT STOPS THEM FROM EVER LEAVING YOU AS LONG AS YOU LIVE.

 

I have a theory (of course I have a theory) that romance novels serve a purpose. That purpose is to reinforce the myth of monogamy. Monogamy is a human concept, therefore intangible. Just as people go to church to reinforce their views of an intangible religion, people visit romance novels to reinforce their intangible concept of monogamy. 

That's why heroes in romance novels are always running around with some excuse why they will be forever faithful, be it magical mate bonding, some monogamy disease, or whatever other flimsy excuse you can muster.

I love it.

I see through it, but I love it because damn, wouldn't it be great if it were that easy.

 

One would think that a series like this, that sets up a fast track to monogamy through the magical mate bond, would not question its own world rules.

 

So what the fuck.

 

I respect the author's inclinations to test the boundaries of her own rules, but it's pretty sad that lack of mate bond cheapens just regular non-magical love. Further torture ensues when the woman is tricked into thinking she has the mate bond with someone else.

Gah! It's now a weapon! The mate bond can strike at any time, to any person, for any person, no matter what your current situation is or who that other person is. If he's a dick, it doesn't matter because you see him and SMACK! instant mate bond. No one else will fill your heart the way that this asshole you just met will. You may actually die if you don't follow your mate bond! That's AWFUL.

 

The ending of the book is the worst possible solution: you had the mate bond all along! Just kidding! J/K! Lots of love! GTG, go be mate-bond-y now.

Turns out their mate bond is so "special" that they don't feel what other people talk about. Their bond is so wrapped up in their souls that it feels part of them, and they didn't even notice.

That's fucking DUMB.

I had thought that maybe the solution would be some sort of personal awakening, or at very least a spell that is blocking the mate bond. Nope. We pulled the "it was within you all along" schtick, and left it at that.

Why didn't they come to this conclusion on their own? Couldn't they have investigated it? Isn't there some sort of magical litmus test? Pink for mate bond, blue for no mate bond?

Some magical beings can see a physical manifestation of the mate bond. The one that did in this story finally told them. If I were him, I would have totally lied and said they did even if they didn't. "Oh yeah. Totally mate bonded for life. Yep. Go on and get freaky."

 

Oh Lord.

The other premise of the story wasn't much better. An anthropology professor, who has spent his academic career studying shifters, decides to create a BATTLE READY MAGICAL WAR BEAST with the magical technology Fae used to create shifters.

As you do.

Because anthropology often translates into arms dealing with the U.S. Government.

I kept on thinking, where did he get the budget for this? Anthropology is under Humanities, which is under Dirt Poor Departments of Academia. And it's a state school.

 

"Man, I am so glad I switched to U of NC for my Anthropology major. Today in lab we abducted a faerie and made her create a griffin out of parts of many animals! Next week we will unleash it on a group on unsuspecting shifters to see if we can weaponize it for the US Department of Defense!"

"What?! No fair! At my school, we just talk about what it means to be human and stuff. What's your thesis going to be on?"

"One word: manticore."

 

Definitely my least favorite of the series so far. This was the Shifters Unbound book available to me through the library. Bummer, since I am still missing a few.

 


 

Delusions of Gender

Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society and Neurosexism Create Difference

Author: Cordelia Fines

Tags: Nonfiction, Feminism, Neuroscience.

Format: audiobook

Rating: meh.

 

It was alright, but pretty repetitive. She basically debunks myths, preconceptions, scientific articles, and "facts" that say there is any hard wired gender difference.

I only needed, like, three examples to get the idea across, but whatever.

I went from "oh yeah, that makes sense," to "Girl, I know! Preaching to the choir here."

 

Probably the best reason to read it is the snark. She throws shade on all types of scientists, specific people, and every version of parenting from ultra-gender-non-conforming to traditional. She is basically calling the woman who wrote The Female Brain out to a duel. Pistols at dawn, scientists, or be publicly shamed!


 

Episode 01 of Getting Lit with Wendy and Ilana

Episode 01 of Getting Lit with Wendy and Ilana

PODCAST!

My friend Ilana and I have decided to start our own podcast about… wait for it… Romance novels!

Introducing….

Getting Lit

with Wendy and Ilana

Episode 01’s page here.

 

It’s a book club of sorts. We will be talking about a particular book while drinking drinks. Get it? We will be getting literary, while literally getting lit! *Nudge nudge wink wink*

Today we talked about the book Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal. Ilana made up her own drink, and called it The Tableau Vivante, in reference to a special type of magic from the book. I just went with my go-to cocktail, the Negroni

Ilana’s Fancy Drink

 

Ilana’s Drink: The Tableau Vivante.

1.5 oz gin
1 oz pear snapps
1/4 cup club soda
1/2 cup ginger ale
1 maraschino cherry for garnish

shake up in a cocktail shaker for fanciness.

 

Wendy’s Drink: Negroni

Two parts gin
1 part Campari
1 part red vermouth (I use the brand Dolin)

Stir in chilled glass. Add one of those big ass ice cubes. Twist an orange peel over the drink and add to drink for extra flavor.

 

Other books we talked about:

  • Mate Bond by Jennifer Ashley
  • The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
  • The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon
  • Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly
  • The Impossible Will Take a Little While: Perserverence and Hope in Troubled Times by Paul Rogat Loeb
  • Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  • Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
  • Charles Dickens
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
  • The Bronte Sisters (generally)
  • Heart Shaped Hack by Tracey Garvis-Graves
  • Twilight by Stephanie Meyer

 

Also, there’s a specific section for Wendy’s Rants, this one titled:

It’s Not Stalking If He’s Sexy

 

Book we will read next time is The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie by Jennifer Ashley.

Next podcast slated to happen…sometime.

In the near future.

2-4 weeks from now.

Probably.

 

PS: Please excuse the shuffling sound! My dog was restless and she kept moving my laptop. Also, if anyone has any pointers on how to record two people in different states at the same time please share. Our current mode is not ideal, but works in a pinch. Total budget is about $20.

Books I read this week 3/11/2017

Books I read this week 3/11/2017

Shadow Music

Author: Julie Garwood

Series: Highlands' Lairds #3

Tags: Highlanders! Murder! Treasure!

Format: Audiobook

Rating: Yay!

 

This has been a very Highlandery week! 

 

I almost gave up on this book because of its lengthy setup. Blahdeblahblah-history-whocares. Also, I believe that the preface was a quote from the Bible.

Having a Bible quote as the preface is basically putting up a sign that says,

"Warning: there will be no D in this book."

 

I read the beginning of a Murder/Romance/Christian book that had the Lord's Prayer as the preface. Really? Talk about lack of creativity. I mean, you would think they would at least share a quote that is halfway related to the plot.

Bor-ing.

 

After I got past the weird fake history, I enjoyed it because: Highlanders!

Something about them Highland Lairds, amiright? They are always written the same. Rough, gruff, battle-worn, laconic. Always saving the women, protecting the lochs, doing what needs to be done. This one followed suit, with an arranged marriage out of necessity.

Bitches always be getting married out of necessity to avoid ruin, man.

If I had a nickel for every time I was forced into marriage to avoid ruin to a man who was scary but in a hot way and turns out to be a sweety and now I'm the mistress of a castle...

...I'd have no nickels. But who wants nickels, anyway?

 

If you want more adorably formulaic Highlander novels, I suggest Lynsay Sands. She's got a couple Highlander series. My favorite was The Hellion and the Highlander. She has a stutter, and the only way her husband found to stop her stutter was to kiss her. Dawwwww! 


 

Wild Wicked Scot

Author: Julia London

Series: Highland Grooms #1

Tags: Highlanders! Breaking out of prison! Wigs (ew), estranged marriage

Format: Audiobook

Rating: Meh.

 

This is one of those "getting back together after __ years of estranged marriage" stories. I'd be fine with it except that the female character is so terribly unlikeable for the a good part of the book. She's a spoiled English brat, and pretty much is just that.

But aw, he writes her letters!

 

This book was in need of some cheerful secondary characters. The secondary characters that did exist were just meh and the main ones are Drama with a capital D. 

 

I'm reading the next one in the series because OverDrive users can't be choosers, and I've read all the other historical romances already.


 

Book of the Month!

I got my second Romance Novel Book of the Month!

This one has Beauty and the Beast themed swag. Included:

  • The Art of Sinning by Sabrina Jeffries
  • Beauty and the Beast themed tea
  • Beauty and the Beast themed candle
  • Beauty and the Beast themed bracelet
  • Beauty and the Beast themed sucker
  • Beauty and the Beast themed book cover (!)
  • Promotional eye mask with the title of a book on it (..the fuck?)
  • Bookmarks and a pen.

 

The package is shipped to my work, and I happened to open it right when a board meeting was getting out. Luckily, the only one who noticed was my direct supervisor, and he was like, "should I even ask?" *backs away slowly*...

I'm happy with the book choice. I've picked up this book and put it back down several times, so now I have a reason to read it. Yay!

 

This book cover thingy just cracks me up. I would be super excited about it if I were 8. It's the exact right size for a paperback romance, which means that someone said to themselves, "I need something to the silly covers of my romances. Solution: Beauty and the Beast fabric."

I can't decide which would be more potentially embarrassing.

It looks like I am reading a children's chapter book. I love that people would look at this and go, "Oh, are you reading a Judy Blume?"

"No! I'm reading smut!"

 

Though to be fair, the books that are really smutty are not usually these dimensions. If I wanted to, say, cover a book called Butt Sex with Werewolves, I would probably need something a little taller and wider.


 

Sinful Scottish Laird

Author: Julia London

Series: Highland Grooms #2

Tags: Historical Romance, Highlanders!, widow, marriage deadline

Format: audiobook

Rating: Yay!

 

The second of the book I rated above, this one is about the couple's oldest son. Apparently, the third is about their second born son.

 

I was very relieved to find the female character likeable. She's an Out-Of-Fucks Widow, ready to make some decisions by her own damn self.

The male character, though, I got a little peeved with. His conflict doesn't seem to have enough for him to stand on. I can't marry her, waaaahhhh... No one seems to think to check the terms of her marriage deadline thingy. In fact, it kinda seems like they knew all along he could marry her.

 

A friend of mine once told me that Jason from the Greek myth Jason and the Argonauts was the Greek hero with the least agency. "He just kind of waits around, and things happen to him." My thought while being told that was, 

That dick. 

Since then, I've looks for Jasons in other fiction. Do they have agency? Are they doing good things, or do good things just happen to him?

The hero in this story has an infuriating bout of Jasonism. One of the things he says is "When a Highlander wants something, they just reach out and grab it." Uh, like you, then? You didn't even do anything until the lady threw herself at you, twice!

 

Also, new vocab word: insouciance.

It's great because it sounds like in-SOOS-see-ence. It is used a few times in this book, and I kept trying to pronounce it by saying in-soo-we-soo-ence, accidentally calling the hogs in the middle of the word.

Apparently it means apathy, lack of concern, indifferenceThat is one heck of word to just mean indifference.

"I don't give a fuck so hard that I'm insouciant!"


 

Primal Bonds, Wild Cat, Feral Heat

Author: Jennifer Ashley

Series: Shifters Unbound #2, #3, #5.5

Tags: Paranormal Romance, shifters, fae, cops, explosions!

Format: ebooks

Rating: Meh, Yay!, and Yay!

 

Another twofer + a novella! I belatedly remembered that I was trying to finish all of the Shifters Unbound series. Three down, five to go! Read my review of the full series here.

 

Primal Bonds was meh. I skimmed.

It seems like Ashley doesn't hit her stride with this series till Wild Cat. Female shifter + human male pairing! Guns blazing, magic bending, shifter shifting action! Explosions! The guy is a no-nonsense Latino human cop named Diego. The girl is a dominant female shifter, the second in her clan. They save each other, like, a bunch of times, and still have time for lots of steamy scenes and mate bonding. 

 

I was happy to also find out who the hell Reid is. The trouble with reading series out of order is that when secondary characters stay secondary, you can't find the beginning of their story through synopses of the other books. There was this flirtation between a dark fae (just roll with it) named Reid and a bear shifter that kept popping up, and I had no context for it for soooo long. Who is Reid? What is Reid? Where'd he come from? Where did he go? I didn't know which book to find him in.

Now I know! And it wasn't that exciting.

But Diego!!! ¡Dios mio! *fans self* ¡Es muy caliente!

 

I asked my friend Rosie what is the proper way to say "he is hot" in Spanish, and this transpired:

Rosie: depends on the context... if you know this person, or if they are a stranger

Me: What if he... happens to be... a fictional character... that you don't technically know... but feel like you do... because you just read a book with him in it........?

Rosie: "Es muy caliente" if you are talking about him.

Me: Thanks..... I'm putting this in my blog.

 

Man, talk about an "it's complicated" relationship status. 

 

Feral Heat was fun too! It was another novella, so devoured it in a couple days. I like Ashley's novellas. Maybe the size restraint sharpens her writing.


 

The Rejects (DNF)

I feel like I should say something about the two books I ended up not finishing, since I did give them the ol' college try. 

 

Heart Shaped Hack by Tracey Gravis Graves really puts to the test one of the basic truths of romance fiction:

Basic Truth #1: It's not stalking if he's sexy.

The executive director of a failing food pantry wears a tight skirt onto a tv news piece while asking for money, and garners the attention of a mystery man that drops a BAG OF MONEY on their doorstep.

Seriously.

Bag of money.

Turns out he's a hacker. We know this because when she finally meets him, he has already hacked into her computer, read all private files and search history, updated her dating profile, and ordered her things that were sitting in the shopping cart of her online Victoria Secret account. 

Creepy much?

He doesn't even tell her his last name for a long time. He could have lied, if he wanted to, instead of being all cloak and dagger, but no... 

He continues to invade her privacy and ask for trust she should not be giving him. His come-ons are crass and somewhat demeaning. She might notice, if she didn't spend so much time being grateful to him for liking her in the first place, playing "love me, love me not" as if she's got a field of daisies to pick petals from.

If that wasn't enough, the heroine herself is pretty lame, her friendships are shallow, and I would not hang out with anyone in this book for the life of me.

Creeptastic behavior, AND he's not even a vampire? No way, Jose.

 

The other one I rejected, The Outsider by Olivia Cunning, was a story for Adventures in Reading all of OverDrive.

With only an extremely vague synopsis, and a cautionary "contains mature themes," I downloaded the audiobook, and quickly found out:

  • It's about a polyamorous  2M1F group of rock stars.
  • It's not about them getting together, but them dealing with the complications of having a triangular relationship (spoiler alert: it's complicated).
  • Though it is the second book of the series, the series is a spin off of another long series, so it should really be counted as the, say, 13th, or whatever.

I think the thing that bothered me most was the last aspect, though I am not super excited about polyamory (where is the hierarchy? Where is the division of labor? This group is extremely disorganized.). All these characters kept parading in and out of the story, like I knew who they were and loved them, and I couldn't care less. 

But imagine my surprise when not five minutes in, I was balls deep in a sex scene with the three of them.

Oh, OverDrive, you take me to such interesting places.

 

It's interesting to note that after some research I found that these characters are the only ones that deal with polyamory, though other characters seem to span the list of socially acceptable kink. So why did OverDrive decide to have this book, and only this book, out of all the other books in the two series? Heaven knows.

 

Needless to say, I will not be reading more of these authors.

Getting Lit Ep 01: Shades of Milk and Honey

By Mary Robinette Kowel. Now with better-ish sound!

Side rant: it’s not creepy if he’s sexy. A big blotch of Bronte in the middle of my Jane Austen.

 

Highlights:

“Melody seems unbelievable in the way that she was such a bitch.”

“Respect the queue!”

“I have this terrible disease where I only love you, and also make a lot of money.”

Books I read this week 3/4/2017

Books I read this week 3/4/2017

Side Rant: Dreams Are Lame

I would like a refund on my dreams, please.

 

I had a dream about this guy, Dan Stevens, the dude who was in Downton Abbey. It was incredibly lame. You would think if my brain puts the energy into conjuring up a dream of an encounter with a celebrity, it would not be such a waste of time.

 

It went like this, dramatized for your pleasure.

 

I walk into a gas station.

Inner monologue: Hm, hm, I'm going to get a cookie... (in a singsong voice)

Dan Stevens, perusing magazines in the same gas station, in a stodgy British accent: That short woman appears to be struggling quite hard to reach something on top of that kiosk. Oh yes, it appears to be... a cookie.

Me: I think I'll get two cookies.... almost got it... yes! OMG they are huge.

Dan: Does that woman realize those cookies are the size of her head?

I catch him staring at me. He raises an eyebrow. I look at my cookies.

Me: Maybe two cookies are too much. I guess I'll put one back.

Dan Steven blatantly stares while I struggle to put one of the cookies away. Since I can't reach box, I come up with a strange idea to put away one. First, I put one of the cookies on top of the dirty kiosk, then I reach really hard to grab the display box. I put away the cookie in my hand into the display box, struggle to put the display box on top of the kiosk, then struggle to grab the cookie that was on the dirty kiosk. I hold my hard won prize in my hand, smiling proudly.

I look up and see him watching. He lifts the other eyebrow. 

Me, annoyed, inwardly: Shut up, Matthew from Downton Abbey. Like you are so cool. There was a whole season where everyone asked you if your penis was working.

Triumphant, I walk away and buy a cookie at a gas station.


 

Air Bound, Earth Bound

Author: Christine Feehan   

Series: Sea Haven/ Sisters of the Heart #3, #4

Tags: Paranormal Romance, supersoldiers, elemental superpowers, psychic links

Formats: audiobooks

Rating: Yay!

 

These are both almost exactly the same, so I thought I'd rate them at the same time.

 

I have already talked about this series a bit when I broke up with the other series Christine Feehan writes, the Dark Series. It's funny because every book is exactly the same. In each book, one of the seven brothers of a family of Russian supersoldiers finds himself in a small town in California, falls in love, and stays. 

You'd think they would just start putting up gates or something. 

By the fourth book, there are five supersoldier brothers living in Sea Haven, four of which all live on the same farm. There are only two single girls left on the farm, and two brothers MIA. I'll give you three guesses to what happens in the next two books. 

This is basically Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, complete with shakey definitions of consent.

 

Feehan, God bless her, is not so great on the character development. From reading this series and some of the Dark Series I have come to expect that even when they are outwardly different, all her characters sound and act the same. So why not just stick with one archetype? Supersoldier is as good as any. It's a pretty easy archetype to write. I mean, basically, his whole character trait is "bad ass."

So what's the difference between brother in #1 and brother in #2? Bad Asser.

And #4? Even More Bad Asseriest. 

 

In #4, they take down a cult that has been haranguing one the girls. Which is funny, cuz, hmmm, aren't y'all starting your own compound anyway? Six pairs of adults living on one farm, pooling resources, hiding guns in every corner, and using absolutely no birth control? Yep, that sounds about right.

 

I enjoy these for some reason, though they are so high on the melodrama and take themselves much too seriously. I had a very sobering, strange thought, though, while reading this:

Though I find overbearing ultra-masculine men typically found in Romance  novels somewhat endearing in a "in fiction but not in real life" sort of way, I realized if they were real, these gun toting, pushy, white men... probably would have voted for Trump.

 

NOOOOOOOOO!!!!

TOTAL boner killer.


 

Behind the Marquess's Mask

Author: Kristen McLean

Series: Lords of Whitehall #1

Tags: Regency Romance, spies!, costumes!, SUBTERFUGE!

Format: paper book!

Rating: meh.

 

This is the book I got from my Romance of the Month Club. It's signed by the author! Woohoo! I have never heard of the author, or read any of her books, and probably won't again, but awesome!

 

It was fun. The writing's not super great, and the plot is a little convoluted but who cares! Spies! Danger! SUBTERFUGE!

Subterfuge is the greatest word, isn't it? Because I love to look up words, I'll tell you that the definition is "deceit used in order to achieve one's goal" and it comes from the latin subter ("beneath") + fugere ("to flee")! Or, in other words, to underflee! Thanks, Google Search!

(Note: underflee is not an actual thing. Subterfugere is early Latin meaning "to flee secretly.")

 

I have some questions about the plot that will probably not be answered because of the time we spent on underfleeing. Why did he lie to her about them being childhood friends? Why does it matter that he did? Why were they friends? What brought them together? 

 

It captured my attention with the tension between the two characters. I have a weakness for those heroes that tear themselves up with love for the female protagonist.

"No! I'm not worthy! Go, and save yourself from me!" He says, as he flings his arm over his eyes, falls back onto the settee, and stays there for days, wallowing in self pity. 

Something like that. I ain't picky.

 

The only other book I might be tempted to read would be the one about Saint Brides, who is the No-Fun Upstanding Citizen Guy in the boy band type Mickey Mouse Roll Call of archetypes. Buuuut, the writing's not so stellar, so it might not be worth it.

*Noncommittal shrug.*


 

Witchling

Author: Yasmine Galenorn

Series: Otherworld #1

Tags: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, witches, shifters, vampires, other worlds, super cops, dragons

Format: audiobook

Rating: meh.

 

I wouldn't particularly call it a romance, since there isn't "a romance" in it. Sex, yes. But the whole get-together thing is somewhat missing.

Is this a trend in Urban Fantasy? The main character (of this book anyway) is what my sister calls Candy Tits. As in, "guys flock after her as if her tits are made of candy or something."

I've seen this before. The story is not optimal for a get-together romance, so the author just throws in a few dudes to make smoldering eyes at the lady heroine. There's a few charged moments, perhaps a passing encounter, and then it's business as usual for the heroine.

Camille has three love interests in this book. It looks like she continues to have them all dancing attendance on her. Her sisters both kind of have one each, but they are secondary to the plot. Mostly, it's go go go with action and mystery and fairy politics.

 

The book starts in the middle of a mystery, and just keeps going. No long set up, or in depth character development, which could be a good or a bad thing, depending how you feel about it. An ensemble cast that picks up more characters on the way, like Wizard of Oz.

Oh, of course we have more room in our merry band! Come along!

 

Most of the characters I felt pretty meh about except ERMERGERRD BABY GARGOYLE. They have a baby gargoyle named Maggie who sleeps in a shoebox and makes little gurgling sounds and OMG I WANT ONE. 

 

There are more books from the series in OverDrive buuuuut.... Is a baby gargoyle enough to keep me reading? No, probably not. Oh well.


 

One Eyed Dukes are Wild

Author: Megan Frampton

Series: Dukes Behaving Badly #3

Tags: Regency Romance, lady writer, Dukes! Eyepatches!!!

Format: paper book!

Rating: Yay!

 

I love how this author said to herself, "Eyepatches. Dukes. Go." And then just did it.

 

I have a vague ambition to make a Romance Novel Plot Generator, and have been gathering plot devices for a while. I didn't even THINK of eyepatches! Silly me!

 

I thoroughly enjoyed it. The duke is a stick-in-the-mud overly proper type character, and adorably awkward. He and the heroine choose to do "improper" things, which turn out to be a long list of innocuous activities having nothing to do with sex. The amount of sex they do not have is quite astounding. Heavy on tension, and heavy on silliness. It was a fun ride.


 

 

 

Books I read this week 2/25/17

Books I read this week 2/25/17

Magic Burns

Author: Ilona Andrews

Series: Kate Daniels #2

Tags: Urban Fantasy, Kick Ass Heroine, bounty hunter, magic, shifters, vampires

Format: audiobook

Rating: Yay!

 

What a rollicking adventure! Yet another great example of world building from the Ilona Andrews team. In this world, magic and technology coexist, but come in waves. A magic surge hits and all things techy break down, weird things happen, and everything magical gets a bit more magicaler. The magic dissipates and everything turns back on.

Kate Daniels is a hard hitting bounty hunter/detective type with a magic sword named Slayer. She has a flirtation with a lion shifter named Curran, and a secret about her heritage.

I read the first Kate Daniels a couple of months ago, so it was little hard to remember the players. I enjoyed that one a lot too. These books are set up much like a tv episode: a self-contained mystery, an overarching mystery, and a romantic interest set to a simmering boil.

 

Nothing much happens between Kate and Curran in this book, which is fine with me. I like a slow build up, as long as other things engage my interest. There is nothing worse than a couple getting together in the first book.

There are only limited supply of conflicts to do with a pre-paired couple, which include:

  • a misunderstanding,
  • a baby,
  • breaking up,
  • or "oh no! We are so blissfully paired in a perfect union!" (aka: no conflict at all).

When I pick up escapist books, I am not interested in delving into the intricacies of challenging interpersonal relationships, and babies are just boring, so I'm glad this series didn't go there yet.

At the same time, books like Beautiful Ashes drag out the love interest way too long, so that slowly beating your head with a rock is a better experience. I'm happy to say neither is going on in the Kate Daniels series yet. 

 

I am of a mind to complete the series as soon as possible, before all memory of previous books is lost. However, I have other books to finish first.


 

Marked by Midnight

Author: Lara Adrian

Series: Midnight Breed #11.5

Tags: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, vampires, vampire cops

Format: Audibook

Rating: Meh.

 

I'm not entirely sure what is going on in this series, but I caught up enough to finish this little novella. Apparently, there are Breed (or vampires/ magical people/ idk/ gross) and Breed Mates (humans chemically compatible to matebond with Breed/ also have one or two powers of their own).

The plot is set up as a kind of Film Noir: detective meets victim/suspect and falls in love, mystery ensues.

 

I have to say that the word Breed makes me feel uncomfortable and I wish they would stop using it in all the books I read.

In paranormal books, the word is often used to describe all paranormal species in one magical clump. Shifters, vampires, werewolves, ghosts, mages, etc. can all fit under the term "Breed." "He's breed." "She's breed." "In the Breed neighborhood." Etc. But doesn't it sound a little bit like the vampire in question is a purebred Yorkie? Or maybe that they should be kept in stables, only taken out to romp together in a pasture and create a lineage of strong breeding stock that will help them win races?

If that's not bad enough, when I switch back over to Regency romance, instead of saying pregnant, women say "I'm breeding."

Ewwwwwww. How is that better than pregnant? That saying is as bad as "a bun in the oven." Not matter what time period, a woman is NOT a thoroughbred mare or a kitchen appliance. I much prefer the euphemism of "increasing." I mean, that happens quite literally during pregnancy.

 

Apparently, the girl's "breed mate" (ew) superpower is that she can touch dead people and see the last few minutes of their death. Super lame! It's gross, morbid, AND has absolutely no everyday application. I mean, Bobby Drake's power is lame, too, but at least he can get a soda from the garage and cool it down instantly.

That's all I want out of a superpower, really: some kind of banal everyday application. I could deal with being a mutant/Breed Mate/whatever if it meant I could always find my keys.


 

Ravishing in Red

Author: Madeline Hunter

Series: Rarest Blooms #1

Tags: Regency Romance, tavern, mistaken identity, horticulturist?

Format: Ebook

Rating: Yay!

 

I quite enjoyed this. It starts with the two characters meeting by chance in a tavern and the girl accidentally shoots him. Which is funny because I'm in the middle of reading The Sinner, a book by Madeline Hunter about two characters who meet in a tavern and then the girl is accidentally shot!

Hey, if the motif works, use it.

 

Taverns and inns are such great locations. I love most of the books that use them as beginnings or plot catalysts. There's something about being forced into this strange situation while travelling that is somehow outside normal society. My English professor (talking about Tom Jones, NOT Regency novels) said that taverns are the great equalizer. No matter if they are a king or a peasant, everyone needs to stop and rest while traveling long distances. 

And if one needs to further an acquaintance by shooting them, so be it.

 

Other things happen, but nothing of note comes to mind. Just enjoyable. I continue to be a fan of Hunter. Not sure if I will continue the series. There are three more. I tried to read #4, but again, I found myself missing out on context. The fourth was once again reserved for the least redeemable character, much like the last books of both The Wicked Series, and The Fairbourne Quartet.

 

As far as the other book goes, I may have to give up on The Sinner, and I'm not happy about it.

It's entirely focused on the seduction of a frigid woman, which is not my favorite plotline by far. Anna Campbell's Tempt The Devil has the same plot, and wooo, that was a beast to get through. In both they conquer the woman's fear of sex through some psuedo-therapy, which always makes me wince. Halfway through I always find myself saying "dude, she might just be gay. Or asexual. Just let her do her thing."


 

Scandal Takes the Stage

Author: Eva Leigh

Series: the Wicked Quills of London #2

Tags: Regency Romance, playwright, the stage

Format: audiobook

Rating: yay!

 

This book has possibly the nicest Regency Rake I've ever read. Though he is supposed to be all seduction and debauchery, he steadfastly refuses to seduce her through the bulk of the novel.

Dawwww, how kind of him, to hear her disinclination in being pursued and to actually listen! Look at that consent going on! After reading so many Madeline Hunters, where the men openly and persistently attempt to seduce the women, it is nice surprise.

Not entirely kind, since if he were really interested in not seducing her he would not actually hang out with her, but ten points for effort.

 

I've read the other two Wicked Quills novels. I don't remember #1 Forever Your Earl (about a female Scandal Sheets writer), but #3 Temptations of a Wallflower sticks out in my memory as one of the very few Regency novels that feature a vicar as the male protagonist.

He's a vicar and she writes porn. Hooray! A match made in heaven. This will probably turn out well.

 

I am a little tempted (har) to revisit Temptations, solely because of its unlikely pairing. Also, 18th Century porn is hilarious! Check out the most famous one that you can still find in print, Fanny Hill by John Cleland.  Temptations pays homage to Fanny Hill by naming the vicar Cleland, which is, if you think about it, super odd.

 

Long story short, skip this whole series and read Fanny Hill.


 

The Rosie Project

Author: Graeme Simsion

Series: N/A, though there is a sequel

Tags: General Fiction, romance, nebulous autism, ableism?

Format: audiobook

Rating: Hmm.....

 

I was prompted to step slightly out of my cocoon of highly improbable, sensationalist escapism fiction and read this book for an upcoming book club meeting. It's not a paperback romance, and may even be classified under those bookshelves as simply Fiction. Gasp!

 

Now that I am finished with the book, I can say that I was entertained, moved at times, but ultimately perplexed.

I would say this book is Bridget Jones Meets Autism. It's written in a very distinctive tone, is funny, and deals with the main character's mishaps in romance. In explaining the plot quickly, I would say "A guy who has Asperger's sets out to find a wife."

However, is it true? The man in the book, Don, is not diagnosed with autism or Asperger syndrome, and continues to be unaware of his similarities. His friends, who are psychologists, passive aggressively nudge him to come to the conclusion himself, which seems irresponsible and silly considering that subtlety can be lost on those who can't pick up social cues. I mean, shouldn't he be made aware? Does his lack of diagnosis at the end mean that he does not in fact have Asperger's?

It's kind of a tree falls in the forest scenario. I don't pretend to have the credentials to diagnose someone, even if they are fictional, and I don't even know that much about the autism spectrum. Yet the author does seem to hold that authority, which makes me feel...conflicted.

 

Surely, someone should tell him. Especially now that he is heading in the territory of interpersonal relationships. I'm sure some of the research behind the autism spectrum can help him. The character mentions multiple times that he's "wired differently" and "unsuitable for romantic relationships".

 

I'm particularly disturbed by the fact that he manages to change some of his habits to become a more socially acceptable person. As if he just decided one day to act outside of the societal norm, and it was a simple switch back. Shouldn't the story be that he was accepted for the way he was? Shouldn't we recognize that some behaviors are not endearing eccentricities, and actually cause real challenges for the person and those around them? Which brings me to another topic...

 

Ableism.

Ah, ableism. Sometimes I wish that I wasn't so woke as am I now, and not feel guilty whenever a character has some sort of charming, harmless version of a mental disorder to create conflict.

I understand the inclination. 

I get the feeling that these storylines are based on the following belief: If you take something away from the perfect form of a healthy adult human, it will be easier to preserve innocence. Don is so much sweeter because he doesn't understand social cues. He hasn't been mired in the crass, jaded world that his friend Eugene lives in. His love is therefore that much more poignant and powerful.

Of course, the ideas of innocence, the perfect form, and that a disorder or similar is taking something away from a person, are all equal loads of bullshit. It's ableism: romanticizing, and ultimately exploiting a real human challenge for the sake of plot. The character is elevated beyond the able-bodied experience and is therefore more readily liked, sympathized with, and harder to criticize.

 

Now, as a reader of romance novels, I am constantly warring with my own inclinations towards like just these types of stories. It probably says more about myself that I am looking for any excuse to fabricate innocence in a character, than how I feel about the disorders themselves.

 

The disorders are often hidden behind the time period or magic to make it a little less overtly ableist. Ian MacKenzie from Jennifer Ashley's The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie is just that romanticized version of a mental disorder that I like to call Nebulous Victorian Autism. It's kind of autism, but it's mostly utter bullshit, almost to the point of him having superpowers. But it's okay! Because it's Victorian times! Blah blah etc. etc.

 

This is another one of those So I'm okay with this, but not this? scenarios.

Reading Ian MacKenzie made me scoff and move on, but the Rosie Project? I had to think hard about this one.

 

The difference is, most notably, that the Rosie Project is not claiming some vague magical escapist bullshit; it's claiming actual Asperger Syndrome. It's in present day, in first person, and it gives a supposedly sorta accurate view of what it's like living on the autism spectrum. We are put in that first person, and yet we are not given the full treatment. It's lighthearted. It focuses on his hilarious misadventures. I almost almost get to the point where I feel like the reader should be making fun of him, too. Oh, haha, that's hilarious! His ineptitude in social situations is such a funny joke!

 

When those kind of funny moments were happening, I was reminded of talking about Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov in English class. Kinbote, too, made an ass of himself as a way to combat the fact that others found him strange and laughed at him and he didn't know why. This isn't a particularly pleasing correlation, since Kinbote is such a tragic character. Kinbote was excessively isolated, hung on to a completely fabricated fantastical history, was a joke to even his only friend, and killed himself.

Hardy har har.

 

There's got to be some balance between lighthearted fiction that can be interpreted as ableist, and bleeding-heart seriousness that only romanticizes the other way in a "poor them" situation. The opposite of ableist, I suppose, is that people with autism can be dicks, too.

Is there a way this book could have been written differently where I wouldn't have felt so conflicted by the end of it? Truly, I was drawn in, I found it entertaining. 

 

I would not recommend this book to someone on the autism spectrum, since the character seems to have very high functionality, and ultimately changed himself to "win" a relationship.

It's like saying "I would still love you if you gained 40 lbs." But not, like, 41? What if you can't change those very behaviors Don so easily stopped? 


 

Shades of Milk and Honey

Author: Mary Robinette Kowel

Series: Glamourist Histories #1

Tags: Jane Austen, Regency Romance, magic!

Format: Ebook

Rating: Meh.

 

I almost wrote "50 Shades of Milk and Honey" at first, which I suppose would be Jane Austen + magic + BDSM. Interesting combination...

 

This book was recommended to me multiple times because of my 1) current romance novel reading obsession and 2) ever-present Jane Austen obsession. It is described as Jane Austen + magic, so excellent! I love both those things!

 

I didn't realize until I started reading it just how much Jane Austen it was until I started reading.

Echoes of nearly all Jane Austen characters haunt the characters of this book. Darcy, Edmund Bertram, Wickham, Willoughby, Henry Crawford, Frank Churchill, Lydia, Georgiana, Eleanor, Marianne, Mrs and Mr Bennett and more all take their turns in the small cast of characters that blunder along through this book. A strawberry picking expedition, an ill fated trip to Bath, a couple of clandestine meetings make the reader go, "oh, I remember that in Jane Austen's novel ___. That was a great time."

Except, since it's me, I think, "oh, I remember the Box Hill Incident in Emma where she finally realized her own awful behavior, creating a turning point in the novel, and the catalyst to bring her and Knightley together, and by the way, I wrote my thesis on this, and you did it wrong."

 

I tried, dear reader. I tried.

I am extremely proud of myself for keeping my lectures about Jane Austen to a minimum, and attempting to read the book for what it is, rather than how it lacked to be Jane Austen.

I give myself 3 out of 5 stars for effort.

 

As far as rating it on its own merits, I found the book... kinda boring. The characters are not really filled out, and Jane's sister and friend are both irredeemably awful. Not surprising, because when you combine Lydia + Marianne + Georgiana, you are not going to get the best result.

However, the magic was fascinating, and I kept reading mainly for it. Magic in this world is treated in Regency society as a female accomplishment similar to playing the piano. There are some great descriptions how they fold  and twist "ether" to create illusion, movement, light, and darkness.

 

The only character that doesn't fit into this picture book Austenland is Mr. Vincent, a resident glamourist. He's a big, dark, angry blotch among all that filigree, just standing in the corner and angsting wordlessly. Mr. Vincent has some Jane Austen hero qualities, but is more strikingly Byronic. He could have been written by a Bronte. Which is odd that he shows up in this book at all.

 

BTW, Charlotte Bronte hated Jane Austen. It makes sense. She is from the romantic period, Austen was from the Age of Enlightment, where everyone is sensible and calm and controlled. Someone once reminded me that Austen would be what Charlotte's grandmother had read. She probably felt the same way about Austen that I feel about Prairie Home Companion.

 

The author uses the anachronistic shew instead of show. How adorable. Fun fact: the verb shew was still being used even in the 1920's. Thanks, Reddit!

 

There are four more books in this series, and they seem to be centered on the now paired couple. How odd, that the author started the series with broad strokes of Austen plots, and then moves onto after the wedding. I can't imagine there being any more Darcys or Lydias in the next four novels. 

Maybe they would be good, since the author now has more time to focus on her interesting idea of magic. Or maybe not. I might never know. Will I read the next book? Probably not.

Thanks for reminding me about Jane Austen!

Books I Read This Week 2/18/2017

Books I Read This Week 2/18/2017

The Raven Prince

Author: Elizabeth Holt

Series: Princes Trilogy #1

Tags: Period Romance, Pre-Regency, wigs (boo!), growly hero, physically scarred hero, hidden identity, clandestine meetings in a brothel

Rating: Super yay!

 

Elizabeth Hoyt: delightful as usual!

I've read all of her Maiden Lane series (regency vigilante!) and they are more or less all equally entertaining. This one did not disappoint. It fits under one of my favorite plotlines: physically scarred hero. AAND he's the archetype that I like to call Growly.

Definition: Growly

Hot tempered, surly, ill mannered, stomps and blusters about, often swarthy, usually intelligent, and always has a soft gooey soul under his crunchy shell. Most likely NOT a man-whore (a rarity in Regency Romance), could be engaged in a profession. He's a little too much of a misfit to be Byronic, but Belle and the Brontes would be all over him.

Here are some other Growly books, if you are also growly-y inclined:

  • When Beauty Tamed the Beast, Eloisa James
  • Some Like it Scot, Suzanne Enoch (his name is literally "Bear.")
  • Marrying Winterbourne, Lisa Kleypas (I suggest reading Cold-Hearted Rake first)
  • The Bargain, Mary Jo Putney (the secondary character is growly)
  • Scoundrel by Moonlight, Anna Campbell

The book opens on a scene with where the heroine, who was walking on a country road, spooks the horse of a gentleman riding past, huge dog in his wake. I was like, "okay, so we are starting at the first interesting part of Jane Eyre." I know that scene well, since it is permanently bookmarked in my copy of JE as a "start here for Rochester."

Fair enough. It's a good scene. I don't begrudge her stealing it.

It sets the tone for being a Jane Eyre themed book, but with far less angst. He has small pox scars so he's angsty, but the heroine is not. It goes on to add in the whole meeting in a brothel thing: you know, those brothels that allow women of high station to hide their identities behind a mask and sleep around. There should be another name for that, other than "brothel."

Perhaps the worst part of the book I was able to skip this time! Elizabeth Hoyt. I love her writing, but she likes to add little fake fairy tales as quotes to the beginning of her chapters. After reading all twelve of the Maiden Lane series with the fake fairy tales interrupting my reading every chapter, I'm all out of fucks to give about this fairy tale bullshit. I read them all as audiobooks, which makes it much harder to skip. But this time I read it in paper form! Yay! I am happy to say I have no idea what the fairy tale of the Raven Prince is about.

You know what? I am going to give this a Super Yay because I wouldn't mind owning this one.


 

Seduce Me in Dreams

Author: Jacquelyn Frank

Series: Three Worlds #1

Tags: SciFi Romance, interplanetary politics, ragtag team, the SciFi version of Black Ops, psychic abilities, superpowers

Rating: Yuck.

 

Okay, first of all: shirtless dudes on covers. 

I don't know what I'm supposed to get from this cover. You'd think that since it's about interplanetary military ops, they'd give some kind of visual cue to tip you towards the plot line. Shirtless dude with gun? Shirtless dude in a rocket ship? Shirtless dude in ripped army fatigues holding an alien chick with some kind of magenta mindpower force field coming from her head? Something other than a jacked dude with some etching that kind of looks like a tramp stamp.

Also, that face looks like Tom Welling.

 

Second of all, don't you think it should be "Seduce Me in My Dreams"? It just doesn't sound right without the "my." The meter is off. If you add the "my" it would be iambic.

 

Third of all: UGGGGGHHHHH GIRL POWERS.

Telepathy, empathy, shield, invisibility, healing, precognition: the girl powers that suck ass. The powers in themselves sound pretty awesome, but when put on a female character, they are just lame and vague and there is a whole lot of blubbering about not being able to handle it. How come you never see a girl with super strength or fire powers? Is it because girls aren't supposed to sweat?

Books like this always remind me that a female author does not = feminist characters. The girl characters are so lame and two dimensional. They are the kind that give coy smiles, break into tears often, immediately defer to the man, always look hot when they are using their powers, probably strike poses instead of stand.

It probably also didn't help that the woman reading this book used an affected psuedo-English accent for the female character and her species. The narrator can do just about as good an English accent as Charlize Theron did in Snow White and the Huntsman... which is just making your R's long.

I gave Jacquelyn Frank another go because she had this other series, but it wasn't worth it. Apparently the third of the trilogy might not even be published. I can't say I'm broken up about it. I still can't tell the difference between her writing and Christine Feehan's. 

Needless to say, I will not be reading the second book.


 

Bayou Moon

Author: Ilona Andrews

Series: The Edge #2

Tags: Paranormal Romance, other worlds, kickass heroines, shifter, changeling, magic, the South

Rating: Super yay!

 

Wiillllllllllllllllllllllliaammmmmmmmmmmmmm!

Omg, I love William. 

He's a werewolf shifter changeling, at times violent, doesn't understand social niceties, and just wants a family! The opening scene is him sitting on his porch, talking to action figures that he buys because his childhood was squandered with supersoldier training. That's just freakin' adorable.

There is much to be said about the excellence of Ilona Andrews books. Every time I read an Ilona Andrews, it stands out as brighter, more engaging, more imaginative, and more entertaining than the paranormal books I read before or after. Their (Ilona Andrews is a husband and wife team) most well known series is the Kate Daniels books, but I have also really enjoyed Burn for MeOn the Edge, and a handful of short stories in anthologies I've read lately.

I wouldn't strictly categorize their novels as Romance. There usually is at least one romance, but there is also a lot action, fun, mystery, and magic that takes the main stage. I would recommend them to friends who aren't necessarily into the romance thing.

They also consistently write some pretty kick ass heroines. Basically, if you like Buffy, or most things from the Kick Ass Heroine era, check out Ilona Andrews.

On the Edge is the first of the Edge Series, and while I couldn't quite get behind the male protagonist Declan (golden boys don't appeal to me), I LOVED the kids. They make an appearance in this one, and there are some other kids that show up. I have enjoyed most of the kid characters written by Ilona Andrews, which brings me to...

 

Kids in fiction.

Man, I hate a good majority of the kids characters in fiction. They come in three categories:

  1. Perfect little cherubs that are all hugs and innocence and giant puppydog eyes.
  2. Wizened adults trapped in tiny childlike bodies, whose only purpose is the move along the plot with sage relationship advice and "From the Mouth of Babes" type wisdom.
  3. Actual children.

Kids IRL are not perfect. They are smart, they have feelings, and they can figure things out on their own, but are still trying to figure out life, and can at times be exhausting, annoying, or crazy. Like adults. 

Ilona Andrews writes kids like they are adults with half the answers to the quiz missing. I like that. I'm am much more impressed by that kind of kid than the perfect little innocent ball of blond curls, brown eyes, and chubby little fingers.

 

William, being a changeling, is also kind of like an adult with half the answers to the quiz missing. He doesn't get that Cerise might like him, and misses all the social cues. Cerise is kickass, in the usual Ilona Andrews way. She is the begrudging matriarch of her little clan, takes the weighty responsibility of searching for her kidnapped parents in stride, and has some kickass fighting moves to boot.

The worldbuilding is so wonderfully imaginative. The Edge is what they call the edge between the magical world (the Weird) and the non-magical world (the Broken). Only certain people can travel between worlds, and the Edgers live in a kind of lawless no-mans-land.

On the Edge sets up the worlds, and in Bayou Moon, you learn more about the Weird's history. There's this group of government spies called the Hand, and they are deliciously grotesque. They use body modification to enhance their magic, so there are all these weird, monstrous human creatures running around with tentacles, gills, and plants growing from them. It reminds me of playing the Resident Evil video games. 

 

This is an Actual Recommendation for those that like imaginative stories. Check out Ilona Andrews!

I'm off to read the third novel of the Edge Series, byeeeee.


 

Fate's Edge

Author: Ilona Andrews

Series: The Edge #3

Tags: Paranormal Romance, other worlds, kickass heroines, grifters, cons, shifters, changelings, dragons, wyverns, magic,

Rating: Yay!

 

So great. 

Another reason why I love the Edge series is because I love stories about misfits, the people on the fringes of society. I mean, the Edge is literally the fringe of both worlds, and therefore houses a whole lot of thieves, ex-cons, grifters, and other disreputable people.

This one focuses on two grifters -- one trying to go straight, one grifting for a cause -- that come together to steal back a valuable and potentially dangerous item from the wrong hangs. They stage cons! And heists! And solve mysteries! And fly on dragons and flirt by stealing!

Also, the word grifter. Using that word already makes me feel streetwise and gritty, like I'm in dark alleys in a trench coat, passing small items through inconspicuous handshakes. It means con man, or generally, small time crook. 

 

Also the kids from #1 and 2 show up in this one as secondary characters! Awww Jack. He is changeling like William except he's a lynx and 12. Normally, I don't encourage overusing a character, but I want him to grow up and have his own book to get a girlfriend.

One of the kids is named Gaston, and I totally thought it was something like "Gaskin." Audiobooks are so informative. I didn't know another way to pronounce Gaston was "GAStin." If I had been reading it instead of listening to it, I probably would have broken song every time I read it: ...is the best and the rest is all drips!

 

The only hard thing about this series, and most fantasy series in general, is that you can't read them out of order. UGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHH, you are going to make me work for it, aren't you? It is SUCH a pain to hunt down books in chronological order, in the way that I would be putting any effort in at all. Then, you have to remember names, and what happened in the last book, and where relationships left off... SIGHHHH.

That's why I like Regency Romance. Each book is usually in this nice little self-contained package, so that you can read #4, then #2, then #14, then #35 and not be confused. There are overarching themes, yes, possibly a mystery interspersed throughout the series, and previous characters show up as Special Guest Stars in subsequent novels, but most of the time it's just one girl, one dude, and some sort of theme or archetype they are working off of at the time.

The part of me that loves lists wants to take all Regency and reorganize them by archetype instead of series. Because it is always a boy-band type Mickey Mouse Roll Call of archetypes. I'm the Mysterious One! I'm the Playboy! I'm the Serious One! As if all of these men of such different personalities would all hang out together.

 

I'm attempting the Kate Daniels series now. I only read the first novel about 6 months ago, but man, I am having a hard time remembering where it all left off.


 

The Serpent Prince

Author: Elizabeth Hoyt

Series: Princes #3

Tags: Pre-regency, period romance, wigs (boo!), fop, vengeance!

Rating: Yay!

 

Oh, Iddesleigh. You so cray cray.

I've been pronouncing his name in my head as "Idle-slee," but now I realize it is could be Ide-slay. Which makes me sad I don't have that last name. If I did, I'd-slay all day and all night!!!!

OHHHHH, corny.

 

I would categorize this book as "the well-dressed, urbane playboy, who is so styled and put together and O MY GOODNESS JUST KIDDING HE'S CRAZY!" He has this pact to avenge his murdered brother, and he's kinda sorta consumed by it, which is weird because he also wears impeccable 18th Century clothes, and red heels (that knave!).

Also, by the way, wigs. Ugh, wigs. I have a theory that most writers pick Regency as their time period because that was the farthest back time in English history where the men didn't wear wigs. It is super hard to read about a male hero, who is so supposedly sexy, wearing a snowy white wig on his head. I have a pretty good imagination, but whenever they talk about the wigs, I immediately do a quick revision in my visualization, and plop some kind of ill-fitting contraption made of cotton balls on the hero's head.

It's just. Silly.

 

Elizabeth Hoyt TRICKED me this time! She put the fairy tale within the story instead of as quotes at the beginning of chapters! I had to read the whole thing! A consolation was that the characters were able to comment on it, so when the fairy tale got dumb, the character went, "that's dumb." Preaching to the choir, sister.

 

I enjoyed it. It was an easy read. However, I am a little bummed that I bought this book in paper form instead of the Raven Prince one. I probably won't read this again.


 

Books I read this week 2/11/17

Books I read this week 2/11/17

The Counterfeit Mistress

Author: Madeline Hunter

Series: Fairbourne's #3

Tags: Regency Romance, French, spy!, ex-army

Rating: Super Yay!

 

I have a book crush!

Check out my review here, with bonus:

  • 8 ways to tell if you have a book crush
  • Rant on third person narrative
  • Side rant on Jane Austen
  • Side rant on quoteunquote best seller novels

 


 

Gideon

Author: Jacquelyn Frank

Series: Nightwalkers #2

Tags: Paranormal Romance, demons, imprinting... 🙁

Rating: Yuck

 

UUUUUGGHHHHH. Why. Why are you so borrring?

Do you have any conflict whatsoever. No. No, you don't. You are conflictless and boring and just like the Dark series and I'm sorry that I put my faith in you to be better.

There is something about vampire (sorry, demon) stories where the male characters are just bitter old nagging great aunts in a hot man shell. Think about it. They coddle the girl, they are surprised when they do anything halfway competent, and, apparently, they just call her a mouthy female just for speaking.

Nope. Nope nope nope. 

Is there really an appeal behind Gideon? He's super old, super powerful, super stoic, super knowing, super misogynistic, and he doesn't do anything wrong. He takes everything in stride, so even the sorry excuse for conflict (he and a hot demon chick imprint on each other. Gasp! Shock! I feel so sorry for you! It must suck to have a life mate.) is null because he takes it in stride. What's the point.

Ugh, I'm gonna have to break up with you, Nightwalker series. I'm a little pissed about it, but you are too boring to bear.


 

Timeless

Author: Gail Carriger

Series: Parasol Protectorate #5

Tags: Paranormal Romance, Victorian, steampunk, dirigibles, vampires, werewolves, Egypt, dirigible-dwelling Egyptian nomads, LGBTQ friendly, humor

Rating: Super yay!

 

Aww! Another great book from the Parasol Protectorate series!

I try to explain this series to people, and it becomes one of those moments where words are leaving your mouth and you realize that they are taking on exactly the connotation that you did not mean. This series is completely, unapologetically, no-holds-barred silly. There is just no way around it. It is silly and it knows it, so everyone better get used to it. But good. So funny and entertaining! Why does silly have to be bad? Why are we all so serious all the time?

I think non-readers are sometimes under the mistake impression that reading 1) improves your mind or whatever and 2) has to be a serious venture. I feel like when I say "I read a lot" people think I am pouring over dissertations on the musings of Kant, or something. No, man! I'm reading a made up story about a werewolf and a vampire in cravats and waistcoats riding an extremely inefficient and obsolete form of air transportation!

The vampire named his dirigible Dandelion Fluff on a Spoon.

Also, dirigible. That word, which I didn't really know until reading the first book, is so incredibly silly. So many i's! It's one of those words I have to pronounce out to make sure that I am adding the right amount of i's... like Mississippi. I could mess up and still be none the wiser. Dirigibible. Diribigirigible. Dirigigigiblebleble.

It doesn't change. It was 100% silly spelled correctly, and it's just 100% silly no matter how many syllables you put it in.

I think dirigibleble sounds almost better than dirigible, now that I think about it. Something about a pentameter, I suppose...

 

I guess another reason I like paperback novels is that when I get into a story I REALLY get into it. I almost teared up when there was a plot twist. Then I'd just be crying at my desk while listening to an audiobook about vampires and werewolves and dirigibles. You know, that girl.

It's for the best that I stick with lighthearted paperback novels, and not delve any deeper into more serious books.

 

I really should get my hands on the books that I haven't read yet: #2, and #3. I think they are available on ebook at the library. Carriger also has a short series on Alexia's daughter Prudence, and another unrelated series, but those are categorized as *sighhh* YA novels. I am suspicious.


 

Beautiful Ashes

Author: Jeaniene Frost

Series: Broken Destiny #1

Tags: Paranormal Romance, Angels, Demons, Biblical References, Other Worlds, Destiny, YA

Rating: Meh.

 

Man, this main character. 

She dumb.

She real dumb.

I don't really know the exact definition of a Young Adult (YA) Novel. Does a 20 year old character count? Even if it doesn't, this has some very heavy YA themes.

  • Recently acquired powers to whine over? Check!
  • Superly angsty dark not-a-boyfriend to play a long, drawn out game of will-they-wont-they? Check!

 

Why is it that YA characters just seem so whiny to me? Yes, you have superpowers. Yes, your life has turned to shit because of some stupid prophecy you didn't learn about till just now. (Wo)man up already, and stop fucking complaining. Some people just get the fuzzy end of the lollipop, and your lollipop comes with a healthy fuzz ball of Must Save the World, so stop crying, and start problem solving already.

 

I understand an author's desire to withhold mysteries from the story in order to create suspense, but every character but the main character in this one is just so painfully secretive. This girl, Ivy, comes to find out about a new, magical reality, and her new allies only spoon feed her one fact at a time. When she asks for more, they just glare and give her some "you're not ready" answer. Of course, when she finally does learn more than one fact, she breaks down and starts whining again, so maybe that was a wise choice on these dudes that are "protecting her."

 

Maybe it's just that if I were in a similar situation (you know, when you find yourself in an alternate magical reality, like all the time), I feel like I would go into immediate Problem Solve Mode, and be like, "Tell me everything so that I will be the most help I can." No sense in crying over broken former beliefs. We got a world to save, people.

This girl is just the sort of character you see in stories like this. She freaks out and runs headlong into situations with little knowledge and a whole lotta feelingz. That is, if she is not obsessing over her not-a-boyfriend. She spends so much time in her little cloud of angsty-love, that I started to think, "yeah, he's hot, but don't you have a sister to rescue or something?"

Then she makes bonehead mistakes for the sake of the climax. I don't care what you think, lady, I would never going into a demon realm without any allies, weapons, or plan ALONE.

 

Runs headlong into situations with lots of feelings and no plan?

To which, I scoff and say inwardly with marked disdain: Psh. Griffindor.

 

I will try again with Frost. She has some vampire hunter series that is on my hold list. We will see.


 

A Mysterious Package and a Manifesto

Alllssssssoooooooo....

My sister got me a subscription to a Romance Book of the Month type package from My Guilty Pleasures Book Crate (historical romance edition), and I got my first package in the mail! It was amazing and hilarious because there was a shit ton of bonus swag for the upcoming movie 50 Shades Darker.

I am not a 50 Shades fan. And not because it's too risque or whatever. It's just. So. Badly. Written. I kinda get a bit peeved when people hear I read romance and then go "oh, so 50 Shades of Grey?" wink wink nudge nudge. No, dude! I read books that have sentences with mostly correct syntax! They have more than the average talking vocabulary! They most of the time understand the idea of consent! I mean, the books I read aren't particularly special, but shit.

Not that I'm against people who like 50 Shades. To each their own, really.

I just thought it was more than funny to get a whole bunch of 50 Shades swag in a package that I opened at my cubicle. And penis soap! Who can begrudge getting a little baggy of cute penis-shaped soaps?

The book was wrapped in tissue paper, and while I opened it, I sent a silent prayer to the heavens that is was NOT a 50 Shades book. Luckily, it's some book called Behind the Marquess's Mask. I'll read it and let y'all know what I think.

 


 

And lastly, I made a new post that is to further explain how the fuck I read so many books in a week, and why I read the books I read. I mean, besides the obvious reasons, which are 1) I like them and 2) they are ridiculous.

Why I Love Audiobooks and The Challenge

Why I love Audiobooks

I love audiobooks. Mostly because:

Radio sucks.

There are only about five Nationally Recognized Corporation Approved artists that cycle the pop hits lists anyway. I can’t tell the difference between Taylor Swift and Katy Perry and whatever other recent addition to the girl pop star crowd. Which only makes it worse that…

I listen too hard.

If I hear a song one too many times, I start to try to make sense of the words, which is a futile attempt when it comes to pop songs. How can someone “fall into the sky”? That’s an annoying girlfriend, not a Black Widow. And who, by God, can possibly justify putting the emphasis on “tion” in the word “UncondiTIONal”??? That is the least important syllable in that word.

My own music is old.

I don’t care enough to update my music, so I will be literally listening to the same shit I listened to since college. And, how many times do you need to listen to the same song, really? Such a waste of time! I’d much rather learn or hear something new.

Audiobooks are great for trying new genres.

Just like a music rut, people can also get into a book reading rut, where they only read from a specific genre. I like to try new things, but I can’t for the life of me get myself to read something that I don’t immediately love. Even books that I enjoy but are not enthralling end up being a chore to slog through till the end. I’m a one book kinda girl, so I’ve spent a couple months reading one book that I didn’t even like.

Audiobooks, though, are great for books you can’t quite get into. Usually, I am doing something while reading an audiobook, so I am not exactly “wasting time.” For some reason, crappy writing doesn’t bother me as much if I am listening to audiobooks. Not sure why. I’ve read quite a few books that were really good, but I probably wouldn’t have finished it if I read it in book form.

And the browsing!

In prementioned book rut, a person might go to the same familiar area of the library each time. I like the limited selection that comes with CD audiobook perusing. They are all lumped together.

The engagement!

Have you ever noticed how often everyone takes their phones out while watching TV? TV is not engaging enough to capture your whole attention. I have a theory it’s because you don’t have to use your mind to picture what’s going on. Then, with commercials, you have completely lost me. I find myself playing games on my phone, aimlessly looking at Facebook, or getting something to eat. What the point of entertainment that doesn’t really entertain?

Audiobooks are so much more involved, with deeper plotlines, more in-depth characters, and fun, fantastical worlds that activate your imagination. I’ve found myself reading an audiobook instead of watching TV a lot lately. Most of the time, if I’m not doing anything else, I will play a game on my phone while I listen, but sometimes I get so involved, I don’t even do that.

The multitasking!

Audiobooks have the engagement of a paper book, but you don’t have sit down and dedicate time to them.

I have found that I can listen to audiobooks most of the time while I work. Since I do a lot of graphic design and web design, I have (another) theory that my pictures brain can be engaged while my words brain can listen elsewhere and be sucked into the magical world of an audiobook. The only thing I can’t do while listening to audiobooks is write or do heavy problem solving. Low engagement tasks like data entry, however, are excellent with audiobooks.

So, basically, I listen to audiobooks when I drive, work, clean, exercise, play games, and sometimes for fun. That’s pretty much all day. A typical audiobook is about 10-20 hours, so, if I like it, I can knock out a book in a day or two. That’s a pretty fantastic turnaround, considering that even if I like a book, I don’t usually finish a paper version faster than a couple weeks. Add to the fact that I also read paper books when time permits, I can put away quite a few books in a month. Which leads me to one of the things I have been doing for a while now…

The Challenge

Here are some essential things about me: 1) I like to try new things 2) I like to set myself massive, near impossible goals 3) I hate choosing and 4) I like documenting my progress.

All these culminated into the birth of The Challenge.

It started when the CD player in my car broke. I couldn’t get audiobooks on CD player anymore, so I finally tried out OverDrive.

OverDrive lets you check out audiobooks through an app on your phone, just a simple download and then you have them for 14 days. No going into the library, no late fees, etc.

OverDrive is useful, but it has some problems. It has thousands of books, but just kinda random ones. It can have book 3, 4, 27, and 32 of a series, but no others. It has some of the popular ones, but not all. I think it has to do with your library’s subscription. There are also waiting lists for many books.

The worst thing about OverDrive, though, is that it kinda hard to browse. You can look by subject, but it’s just not the same experience as a real person library.

When faced with a whole lot of random books I’ve never heard of only sorted by subject, I thought to myself, “well, I guess I’ll just read them all.”

The first goal I set was to read all the Regency Romance novels. I sorted by author and started at A. Well, I finished them all. So, now I have The Challenge.

The Challenge:

Read all audiobooks in the romance subject category of OverDrive.

There are 1,215 audiobooks in OverDrive right now. They are constantly updating, but I guess they get rid of some too.

Of course, now that I have a goal, I also came up with limitations.

The Rules:

  • Sort by author, and work through the whole catalog from A to Z.
  • Try each author once. If I don’t like the book, I can skip the other books by that author.
  • Make a valiant effort, however, to give the author a chance, if possible. Trying another book from another a different series is a good example.
  • Subgenres I’m allowed to skip: Christian, YA, Amish, and some Contemporary.
  • When looking for new books, start at A to see if there are any new additions.
  • When I finish a book, I can change the GoodReads listing to “read” and write a review.
  • Books consider “read” need to be at least half finished. If I give up on the book before then, I can skip the author,  but I can’t count the book as “read.”

 

I’m right now on the letter F.

This time around I am focusing on Paranormal Romance, but will also read other subgenres if they don’t look too boring. I am least in love with mystery romance, chick lit, and contemporary, but I’ve read some good ones from those so I’m willing to try.

 

To check out my list of have-reads, take a look at my 2016 Book List.

The Counterfeit Mistress, Madeline Hunter

Title: The Counterfeit Mistress

Author: Madeline Hunter

Series: Fairbourne’s #3

Tags: Regency Romance, French, spy!, ex-army

Rating: Super yay!

 

9 ways to tell you have a book crush:

  1. You don’t notice when you stay up too late reading, and when you do notice, you don’t care.
  2. You put a bookmark where you want to stop reading, and then accidentally read past it so you have to move the bookmark.
  3. 15 minutes or less is too little a space of time to dedicate to your book, since you won’t properly get into it in such a short space of time.
  4. However, you pick the book up at every moment, and pretend you can put it down at a moment’s notice…which, you can’t.
  5. Daydreams and fantasies consist of a blanket, a pet to cuddle, and the book.
  6. When the book is coming to the climax, you avoid reading it, in order to avoid the inevitable end of the book.
  7. Sometimes the conflict is just too much and you take off a day or two “to process.”
  8. Moments of the book pop into your head during the day.
  9. You are on first name basis with the characters in the book, and hold mental conversations with them, in which you scold them for their actions.

 

I have a book crush.

I admit that I didn’t finish it as soon as I could have. I just didn’t want it to end! Not only was this book good, but it was also the last book to read in that series. I didn’t want to say goodbye to the characters yet.

 

Have you ever read a book and then went, “oh yes, I forgot. That is good writing.”? “Show not tell” is something you hear in Fiction 101 ad nauseum, but how many times it is really used? As an avid reader of paperback novels, I am surprisingly lax on the show not tell principle when it comes to one particular plot point: emotional vulnerability. The end goal is vulnerability, and I’m pretty okay with getting there through any means necessary. They can “tell” as much as they want, though I draw the line at actually using the word “vulnerable.” Anyone who has a book published with the word “vulnerable” in it needs to donate 10% of all proceeds to a MFA grant fund.

But, oh, isn’t it great when they actually do show and not tell?

This book presents a limitation of perspective. The male character, the Viscount of Kendale, is a man with very limited vocabulary on women, emotions, and general social niceties. He is an ex-army, and continues to live his life as if he is still in the military. He is described as always sitting stiffly straight, as if he was riding his horse through a parade. If he has something to say that’s not nice, he doesn’t hold back. He’d rather stay silent than lie or gloss over something.

It would be very easy to write a character like that and then let the narration put together all his flowery feelings to say everything the character himself could not. However, Hunter stays true to the character by allowing the third person narrative to stay in his voice while it is his scene. This leads to a lot of fun layers to the story. For instance, Kendale is asking his friend about a girl he thinks is a spy. His friend, who is a bit of a sly devil, answers in a roundabout way that suggests he is making fun of Kendale, but neither Kendale nor the narration seem to pick it up.

 

Kendale: “It is my intention to unmask Marielle de Lyon. Have you heard of her?”

His friend, the Duke of Penhurst: “Yes, I am told she is very pretty. Is that true?”

Narration: Kendale did not honor such an irrelevant question with an answer.

 

The Duke knows that Kendale is a little smitten. The reader knows. The narrator knows. But Kendale doesn’t know so the narration only hints at it through omission.

His opposite, Marielle, is similarly limited. She is an outsider, being French, and is not part of the little group that has been developed in the first two novels. She sees Kendale in a completely different light than his friends, who see him as somewhat of a social dunce. She gets a little angry at his friends who treat him cavalierly because of who he is. Her narration is another easy opportunity for her to, say, look into his eyes and see the wealth of emotion brimming with love and flowers and poetry or whatever. But she is a no-nonsense person, so she instead the narration goes, “he got out of the carriage looking serious, which for Kendale is nothing new.”

Marielle is a openly mysterious. She claims to be a French aristocrat refugee during the Napoleonic wars, but no one believes her. The question on everyone’s mind is not whether she is an aristocrat, but what she is hiding behind that lie. Kendale guesses Spy for France, and (perhaps out of boredom) decides to investigate her on his own time. He follows her around for months, tailing while she is out doing errands, and she makes a game of it. She calls him “Handsome Stupid Man” or “Annoying Stupid Man” in her head.

 

I geek out a bit about POV (point of view). It’s one of the reasons why I love Jane Austen. Open one her books and point to a random spot, and you could (or at least I could) write a ten page essay on who’s POV it is in the narration, and why. She wields POV like a weapon, sometimes making fools of the characters, sometimes making fools of the readers. It’s something they never talk about in high school English.

 

You have your first person: I do this…

The much hated second person: You do this…

And then third person: They do, he does, she does…

But WHICH third person??

 

To say that third person is just the omnipotent view, not belonging to any of the characters, is doing a disservice to novel writing and skimming over half of the meat of the novel. Just because it is in third person doesn’t mean that is it not coming from the perspective of a particular character. In fact, most of the time it is coming from a particular perspective, it’s just less noticeable. Even something as simple as which name the narration chooses it use for the character can show POV. Think about it: what does a stranger call you? Your mother? An old friend? Someone that is mad at you? People have different names for different situations, and the name used denotes who is speaking that name.

By the way, you can thank Jane Austen for bringing free indirect speech to the English novel. That was her contribution to the English novel. Basically, she’s the reason why the passage above did not say in the narration: “Kendale thought to himself, ‘that is an irrelevant question so I will not answer it.'”

You’re welcome.

 

Authors that use free indirect speech poorly drive me BONKERS. I hate it when they go too far into the character, explaining every tiny little thing after one sentence of dialogue, only to jump out another character and explain every tiny little motivation after they speak. I kind of see it visually in my head as a ghost possessing and hopping into each character. Too many jumps, and I start to feel sea sick. I much prefer the trend to stay in one character the whole scene, and only to jump into the other character when there is a visual break or new chapter. You can even rehash a previous scene from the second character’s point of view. I don’t care. As long as you know where your POV is, I’m happy.

 

I’ve read some quoteunquote best sellers that are quoteunquote really good, and I’m sure they see themselves as the Next Best American Novel. And yet, their POV is all over the fucking place. Those are the times when I stop myself and I ask, “why is this better than some of the novels I read?” Flat characters, poor motivations, POV all over the place, awkward word choice, plot holes, and this is best just because it doesn’t have a woman in a period dress on the front?

#Patriachy.

Just kidding. (Not kidding).

 

There are times when the writing is so bad, there is another type of third person narrative going on. I ask myself, who’s perspective is this, and the answer is, oh, the stuck-up self-important douche bag that is writing this. No woman would think like this. No man would think like this. This is just the author patting themselves on the back for doing such a bang up job on putting words together into sentences.

 

ANYWAY.

The way that this book plays with perspective between straightforward Kendale, his sly friends, and no-nonsense mysterious Marielle is a great time all around. Remember that show not tell thing? The way you find out about Kendale’s feelings is almost completely without narration explaining it. Kendale says nothing, Marielle expects nothing, so it is only by his actions that you get to know how Kendale really feels about her, despite his best attempts to ignore it.

There are lots of great moments in this book, and some of them are that Kendale has a ragtag team of army buddies that keeps as a sort of private army. They live in a barracks under his country house, and do odd jobs for him, including going on missions as a sort of vigilante service to the crown. The English government is a little afraid of him, because, uh, private army. Kendale is an odd guy, and Marielle accepts that about him without reservation. When she accepts his marriage proposal she says, “yes, and I will even let you keep your weird barracks of private army guys.” Awwwww. Twue Wove…

 

All of this is not to say that I would particularly recommend this book to everyone, or that it is good, better, or best compared to other books.

 

I wonder how I would feel about this book, or all these books, if I had read the quadrilogy in order. Probably about the same, though I might have liked #4 a little bit better after seeing the Duke do some good deeds for Kendale. Also, I might have been riding the high of this one, while reading the the fourth one, so that might have added a bump as well. Ah, well.

Farewell, Fairbourne series. Onto another Madeline Hunter!

Books I read this week 2/4/17

Books I read this week 2/4/17

The Accidental Duchess

Author: Madeline Hunter

Series: Fairbourne's #4

Tags: Regency Romance, Dukes!

Rating: Yay!

 

 

Yay! This one wasn't as fun as The Surrender of Miss Fairbourne, but I still liked it. 

Funny coincidence: in the Wicked Trilogy by Madeline Hunter, my least favorite book was the last one about the duke, as well. Huh. Maybe I don't like dukes.


 

When a Scot Ties the Knot

Author: Tessa Dare

Series: Castles Ever After #4

Tags: Regency Romance, Epistolary, Highlanders!, Illustrator, Lobsters

Rating: Yay!

 

 

Ooops.

I have already read this one. I was playing the game What Was That One. You know...

What was that one where she made up a suitor and wrote letters to him in the army, but a real guy got them, so he decided to come find her and blackmail her into marrying her so she could have his land, then they fall in love, and there's something about lobsters? 

Oh yeah. When a Scot Ties the Knot.

One day later, I finished the audiobook. 

That's normal, right? To read an audiobook in a day?

Never mind. I don't care.


 

The Conquest of Lady Cassandra

Author: Madeline Hunter

Series: Fairbourne's #2

Tags: Regency Romance, Private Investigator!

Rating: Yay!

 

I'm reading all of Madeline Hunter's books, if you haven't guessed.

This series is a teensy bit more involved than other romance series, so it was kind of a bummer to read #4, and then go back to reading #2. The woman is a Woman of the World (unmarried non-virgin female, gasp!) and the guy is the Friendly Guy: diplomatic, witty, easy going, with a hard inner edge. He also likes to privately investigate stuff for a bit of extra cash, and play the violin! 

I love the repartee between friends. Ashbury (the friendly guy), and the next protagonist Kendale (a straight laced ex-military) especially play off each other, and it is fun to watch. I'm excited about the next book because Kendale is kind of the butt of most of their jokes. His serious ways will be sure to bring a hard fall to his pride.

I'm reading that one right now!

 


 

The Viscount and the Vixen

Author: Lorraine Heath

Series: Hellions of Havisham #3

Tags: Regency Romance, refusing to love, marrying a stranger, marriage under contract

Rating: Yay!

 

Aw, characters that refuse to love. They are almost as great as characters that think they cannot love, and are better than characters who don't believe in love. By the way, what is with the last option? "Love is just a chemical reaction" characters crack me up. Well, duh. Aren't all things chemical reactions? I approach those characters the same way that I approach creationists or people that don't wear seat belts. Who are you? Where have you been living all this time?

In this one, the Viscount refuses to love because his dad was driven mad by the death of his wife, who he loved very much. He is hoodwinked into marrying a mysterious woman claiming to be only interested in his money and prestige. Though he figures out eventually that she is not in it for the money, he is SO SURPRISED to find out the real reason for her haste. I mean, there are only a handful of reasons why a woman might marry super fast to a stranger. Predictable, but if I wanted a real surprise I'd read mystery, or even romance-mystery. I enjoyed it, nonetheless.

This the third of the trilogy, the first and second being Falling into Bed with a Duke and The Earl Takes AllFalling was regrettably forgettable. I read it a while ago, but kept running across it and forgot that I had read it. I've read at least three other books that have the exact same plot. A spinster decides "to hell with virginity" and disguises herself to have a liaison. I think I shall try it again in the near future, now that I have finished the trilogy. She's not only a spinster, but a bluestocking spinster! One of my favorite things. I should have liked it.

The Earl Takes All, though, was great because TWINS. Oh man, I love stories about twins. They inevitably do the whole Parent Trap Switcheroo, and then hijinks! I love all variations of twins stories: Good Twin Bad Twin, Dead Twin Alive Twin, Scarred Twin Okay Twin, Twelfth Night Girl Twin Pretending to be Boy Twin, Accidentally Marrying the Wrong Twin, Switching Places Twins, Loving the Same Person Twins... I could go on. This one is Dead Twin Alive Twin. He has to pretend to be his brother so that she doesn't lose her baby. He secretly loves her! It's great.

There is also a novella of the story of the Viscount's father, which I kinda find disturbing. This whole series is about how the father was driven by grief to stop living for years, neglecting everything, including his son and his other wards. So, yeah, uh, I don't necessarily want to read his love story if it inevitably ends with "then she died in childbirth and he was really sad for the next forty years."

Apparently that novella is a Christmas Special. *Shakes fist* Christmas Specials!!!


 

Jacob

Author: Jacquelyn Frank

Series: Nightwalkers #1

Tags: Paranormal Romance, demons, druids, prophecies, librarian

Rating: Yay!

 

This book gets an enthusiastic Yay! just because it is almost exactly the same as the Dark Series by Christine Feehan except it didn't bore the shit out of me. (Breaking Up with the Dark Series)

You see, it's about a race of magical immortal vampires demons that are facing a crisis, because if they wait too long to find their life-mate, they become horrible monster versions of themselves, what the human world knows as true vampires  demons. Otherwise they are your typical friendly magical beings, with unique gifts of telepathy and transformation elemental related powers, haughty personalities, and really long lifespans. They are sworn to protect humans from themselves and hunt down the monster vampire  demon versions, which are usually old friends or family members gone to madness. At the same time they are also hunted by a secret society of human vampire hunters Necromancers.

Apparently, when they find their life-mate become imprinted on a mate, they develop a psychic connection, and they must always be around each other, or else they will lose the will to live or go mad die.

There is also a 1,000 year old vampire demon named Gregory Gideon with healing abilities, who's in love with the Dark Prince's daughter Demon King's sister. That's the fifth second book.

I was very skeptical of this book because it was JUST SO MUCH like Feehan's Dark Series. The writing's not tip-top, and it does take itself a little too seriously, but GUESS WHAT? I asked some questions after reading three books from the Dark Series that were all exactly the same, and this book addresses them! Specifically, what happens when you separate a mated pair? Could it be used against them?

This series seems to me like Dark Series Plus. It's still got the same vibe, but plot is played with a bit more here. There's a prophecy, which I usually dislike, but this one added a bit to the story. The girl in this story has more agency than the girls in the Dark Series. She fights. The powers are more interesting. There was a twist! There was action!

I have no idea how I would like this book if I had never read the Dark Series, but since I did, congrats! My expectations are lowered!

Also, bonus that it's a story about a librarian that suddenly gets superpowers. Hellz yeah. Besides powers of general badassery, she picks up their ancient language and reads everything in their Demon/Druid archive library place. #BookwormGoals

Is it just me, or do paranormal stories usually start with a magical/human pair, and then move on to magical/magical pairs in the subsequent books? I find magical/magical less interesting, and I'm always a little bummed when they go too far into the magical world. From reading the synopses of the next books, it looks like they are mostly magical/magical stories. Which is a bummer. And yet, I will read because: audiobooks.

 

 


 

Supernatural

 

Tags: Paranormal Romance, demons, druids, vampires, shifters, dragon people?

Rating: Meh.

 

This is a compilation, so I'll quickly go over the different stories.

Vampire Fight Club by Larissa Ione: yay! I may look for more of this series.

Darkness Eternal by Alexandra Ivy: yay!

Kane by Jacquelyn Frank: Meh. The reason why I read it, since this is #1.5 of the Nightwalker series.

Dragon on Top by G.A. Aiken: Meh. Uhhh.... shapeshifting dragons? Ok, whatever.

Books I read this week 1/28/17

Books I read this week 1/28/17

The Hunter

Author: Kerrigan Byrne

Series: Victorian Rebels #2

Tags: Regency Romance, Victorian

Rating: Ummm....

 

Eek!

This book was a lot o' the rapey. Oodles of rapey. Rapey themes, and an actual rape (in flashback). I ended up skipping that part, and that is something I rarely do.

I've read the other two from this series The Highwayman and the The Highlander. This one was definitely the most rapey of them. Second comes The Highlander (attempted rape), and third is The Highwayman (just rapey themes). 

I mean, I enjoyed the book, but it was pretty extreme. Not just that, but also the emotions and danger and other stuff. Why do have to go there, really? I like a man with a scarred past as much as the next lady, but not, like, THAT scarred. Like maybe someone called him a bad name or something. Let's do that, shall we?

He slept in a Harry Potter closet to feel safe! Sad face!

I give this the rating of "will read another of the series if it comes my way in audiobook form, but will not seek it out otherwise." Is there a shorter way to say that? WRAOTSIICMYIAFBWNSIOO

Nope, acromyn fail.

 

 


 

Soulless

Author: Gail Carriger

Series: Parasol Protectorate #1

Tags: Steampunk, Victorian, Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, Vampires, Werewolves, British Humor, Romance, Managing Forthright Spinsters

Rating: SUPER YAY!

This book made me laugh, giggle, titter, chortle, snort indelicately, and snicker. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

It's set in a fictional Victorian Era where supernaturals live public lives among normal people. There is a whole government system set around them. So you get a little bit of intrigue, along with good natured jibes at Victorian society.

I want to say it's about a detective agency, but that's not really true. Miss Tarrabotti, a managing forthright spinster (my favorite kind), is mixed up in a murder that brings in the supernatural side of the law... and a growly werewolf Earl who she spars with flirtatiously. They unravel the mystery, and hijinks ensue! Werewolves! Vampires! Secret Societies! Dirigibles! Hideous hats!

It's great. It's also one of those books that just throws you into the world. Not much explanation. I love that. I'm not an idiot. I can catch up. Sure, I TOTALLY know what a dewan is. All my best friends are dewans.

I'm sorely tempted to check out the rest on ebook, even though it's a little less romance than I would like. They are together now, so the initial will-they-won't-they dance is over. I read the fourth one on audiobook and it was similarly hilarious.

 


 

Dark Challenge

Author: Christine Feehan

Series: Dark #5

Sub-genre: Paranormal Romance, Vampires

Rating: Yuck.

 

This book apparently deserved a Dear John, where I rant about the stupid world building, and then break up with the series. Because even when the book is bad, it's fun to tear it apart.


 

Cream of the Crop

Author: Alice Clayton

Series: Hudson Valley #2

Tags: Contemporary, Humor, Steamy, City girl vs. small town, plus size heroine, food?

Rating: Yay!

 

Another home run from Alice Clayton! This is the next in the series after Nuts, that I read last week. Swap out Chef with Commitment Issues for New Yorker Girl with Weight Issues, Nut Farmer for Dairy Farmer, and you have #2 in the series. Fun, funny, steamy, sassy.

I will say, though, that I was not excited about the weight issues part of the book. Ughhh, why do we have to make this a plot device? This is escapism, after all. I would like a new plot trend to be "She's a size 18, and she never had a problem with it, and no one ever made fun of her about it, and she forgets about her size because she finds strength in herself and others and does important things unrelated to jean size. The End."

It wasn't as bad as others I've read. At least she was happy about her size in present tense, and those times were fun and empowering to read. But then, of course, the Past Emotional Baggage had to do with her size. That coupled with some verbal domestic abuse, and I found myself pressing the Skip button real fast. No thank you.

I can understand the inclination to make body image a plot point. In today's image-obsessed world, it would be a little weird to write a contemporary novel and not have body image come up. It's also a universal experience. Who hasn't felt like that kid going through an "awkward phase," or the adult who's surprised at what their body has become? Because bodies are weird, and we have little, if any, control over them, and it's a little awful to have little control over something. 

I avoid weight issues as plot points for the same reason that I avoid awkward teen years as plot points. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt. The t-shirt fits weirdly, and is made out of that scratchy cotton, so I'd rather not get another one.

I am, however, excited about #3 of this series. Now that we have conquered weight-as-conflict, the next girl in the series is going to have some other kind of baggage. And it's about cinnamon rolls! #3 is titled... Buns. Of course.

I am not a foodie particularly, but I have a special place in my heart for novels that have a side love of talking about food. Have you noticed how prevalent that is? That should be a sub-genre: Romance Novels About Food.

There is a hilarious scene about a butter churning contest. Just sayin.


 

Winter Moon

Author: Dannika Dark

Series: Seven #7.5

Tags: paranormal romance, shifter, Christmas, SHIFTER SANTA CLAUS

In the tradition of Christmas specials, this little book has absolutely no conflict.

All of the characters have already been brought together, so everyone’s fine. It’s just a little reunion of your favorite characters to make you go, “dawwwwww I remember them!”

Also, SHIFTER SANTA CLAUS. With absolutely no explanation.  Just a cheerful older shifter bestowing a treasured gift in the nick of time.

….SANTA????

via GIPHY

Add this to another one of those times that I am listening to audiobooks in my cubicle at work, and I very quietly and SUDDENLY GET EXTREMELY EXCITED for the most ridiculous of reasons. It involves a lot of me whipping my head around and mouthing words for a minute or so.

I believe in Shifter Santa Claus….

 


 

Epilogues, Christmas Specials, and Romantic Tyrants

Epilogues and Christmas specials always remind me that women are ruthless tyrants when it comes to romantic fantasies.

It’s not enough that they fall in love. It’s not enough that they overcome ridiculous odds to be together, strip away considerable emotional baggage to be together, grow into the people they were meant to be. It’s not enough that he owes his allegiance to her for patching together his broken soul. It’s not enough that we are in their minds through narration, hearing their devotion and love at every breath. It’s not even enough when, such as in paranormal romance, they are chemically unable to stray or stop loving their partner for the rest of their long lives thanks to some mystical matebond.

We want our happily ever after, dammit. And by happy we mean blissfully, perfectly, irrevocably

Happy.

Fucking.

Ever.

After.

The human female, suspicious by nature, is not going to stop at a wedding scene to make sure that this couple is actually a good match. Nooooo….. we want epilogues. We want her to be big and ugly pregnant and him still attracted to her. We want reassurance that love didn’t dissipate, they haven’t come across hardship, everyone is well and hearty, and his devotion to her only grows every day.

Show me a romance novel with an epilogue that says “…And they lived happily ever after. Until she died from childbirth, and he wasted away from syphilis left over from his rakish youth, which he, by the way, passed on to his children. The End.”

No hardship.

No change in feeling, unless that euphoric love he felt has increased over the years.

Because love isn’t love if it dies when the passion fades. And the story isn’t just about love: it’s about the couple becoming partners. If they loved each other but were actually kind of terrible at working together, then all of it would be for nothing. So many things can go wrong in a relationship, so, dammit, give me the exact perfect ending that shows what their life will be like from here on out.

That’s what I think when I read those overly saccharine epilogues. ABSOLUTE FEALTY. TAKE NO PRISONERS. You have him for life, now run with it!

No romance novel ever explores the possibility that the woman could fall out of love. These men are physically incapable of ever altering their state, but the women are free agents, just normal human women. The assumption, I suppose, is that by making the man a prisoner of his own love for her, man and woman are on equal ground.

It reminds me a of a Sex in the City episode where they talk about how men ready to married are taxis with their lights on. Miranda asks “what about women?” and Charlotte says “I guess our lights are always on.”

I don’t believe that’s true, but I believe that romance novels perpetuate that stereotype. How else would a teenage girl get paired with a hundred year old vampire?

 

Christmas Specials

The way I see it, literature is fiction that challenges your beliefs, your perspective, and makes you think about things in a different light.

Hack fiction just reaffirms your own beliefs.

Escapism reaffirms your own beliefs, but not just that. It is a hyped up remix of your beliefs, hopes, and desires into one ridiculous, self-indulgent package.

Christmas Specials, I believe, are Escapism Plus.

First of all, there is such a sub-genre called Christmas Romance, and that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about those series romances, whether they be paranormal, contemporary, regency or other, with a novel stuck somewhere in the chronology that happens during Christmas.

I’ve read two of these books before: Winter Moon by Dannika Dark, and A MacKenzie Family Christmas by Jennifer Ashley. They seem to be a protracted form of epilogue, with a healthy dash of Christmas fuzzy feeling. You usually see characters that have already gotten together live out their humdrum, blissfully happy lives. The conflict is never about the couples (because we settled that, remember? Blissfully happy or DEATH), but instead is some inconsequential thing that could be solved a lot faster if we didn’t spend so much time watching their humdrum lives, which is a bunch of kissing of babies, and cuddling, and married people sex.

It all kinda feels sort of pointless, because there is no conflict, not really. It’s just a quick reunion with your favorite characters. You pull them out of the drawer, shake off the dust, feel the warm fuzzies you felt when finished the book they came from, fold them up and put them away. There might be some kind of conflict started, or hinted at, with new characters, but nothing is definite.

Mostly, it’s like that scene in X-Men that we always love. You know, the one where the X-Men kids use their powers for everyday stuff? We see our favorite characters putting up Christmas trees and picking out presents. Celebrities do everyday things too!

I am a fan of the X-Men scenes, I tolerate epilogues, but Christmas Specials I can take or leave. Just like other self indulgences, the sticky sweetness of the novel sometimes gives me a tummy ache.

Unless, of course, there is a SHIFTER SANTA CLAUS.
Winter Moon

Author: Dannika Dark

Series: Seven #7.5

Tags: paranormal romance, shifter, Christmas, SHIFTER SANTA CLAUS

In the tradition of Christmas specials, this little book has absolutely no conflict.

All of the characters have already been brought together, so everyone’s fine. It’s just a little reunion of your favorite characters to make you go, “dawwwwww I remember them!”

Also, SHIFTER SANTA CLAUS. With absolutely no explanation.  Just a cheerful older shifter bestoying a treatured gift in the nick of time.

….SANTA????

Add this to another one of those times that I am listening to audiobooks in my cubicle at work, and I very quietly and SUDDENLY GET EXTREMELY EXCITED for the most ridiculous of reasons. It involves a lot of me whipping my head around and mouthing words for a minute or so.

I believe in Shifter Santa Claus….

 

Side Rant: Breaking Up with the Dark Series

Okay, Vampire Series. We need to talk.

We’ve been together for three novels now. Dark Prince, which was alright,  Dark Magic, which was creeptastical, and I just finished Dark Challenge, which was just boring. I’ve got a good handle on your verse, and I’m seeing some issues here.

Let me break it down:

The Carpathians are a race of vampire-like immortals that mostly live in Romania. They were hunted back in the day when people believed in vampires and are dwindled in number. If the males live a few hundred years without ever finding their soulmate they start to lose their humanity: colors, feelings, etc. Eventually they lose it completely and become evil and a real vampire, reeking havoc on the human race. There are less women than men, so many men wander the earth for hundreds of years without finding a soulmate. When or if they do, though, they get all their colors and feelings back and are mated to this one person forever.

Oookay, not bad. Every vampire story has to come up with a mythos, and the whole “poor, misunderstood immortals” bent is a common one. The soul mate thing, a little heavy handed, but we’ll go with it.

Where it gets a little creepy is the way they find their mates. So far, the way a Carpathian knows his mate is that colors and feelings and desire flood back to him at first sight of her. No such metamorphosis happens on the female side, except a bit of “damn he hot”. He goes after her full force, and is like “hi my name is Your Soul Mate, you are mine now.” She is understandably confused, and resists, or at the very least tries to get to know the guy. No such luck. He just bites her, gets the mating ritual over with and then they are bound together forever.

I mean, I’ve read my share of possessive vampire romances, but damn. Doesn’t it bother anyone that his love for her is a chemical reaction that in itself saves his life? He gets A LOT out of the relationship, and she gets… What now?

 

Oh, yeah. NOTHING.

In Dark Challenge, there are two unattached Carpathian women who have managed to hide from the immortal society and live 300 years without getting a mate. They did not lose colors, feelings, or general humanity. They have special powers of healing and other girly shit. The guy who just found out about them was blown away by their special powers; he’s older than them and had never seen a female do that. From frequent attacks, child birth, and low female birth rate, he just didn’t know any Carpathian women that old.

So wait a minute. Carpathian women don’t have any downside of getting older unmated? They in fact get stronger and develop special powers. And yet the man who says they should get married for their own safety also has not met a woman of his race as old as the unattached females he just met.

 

And oh, yeah, let’s talk about soulmates.

Once they are mated, they can’t be far from each other for very long. They are psychically connected all the time. There is a suggestion that one would die if the other died. The males are combatative, possessive, controlling. They regularly hunt the bad vampires, putting themselves, and therefore their mates at risk.

Basically, a Carpathian female is looking at a shorter lifespan if she gets mated to these dudes.

 

Man, it blows to be a Carpathian woman. I mean, you get a sexy vampire man, and kids, etc., but that’s a lot to give up for the D. They are watched by possessive males from birth to adulthood, and then are mated off immediately at 18 to an equally possessive partner. If they don’t mate immediately,  they run the risk of being hunted by the crazy bastards who have lost all humanity. Meanwhile, males travel the world for hundreds of years, get their kicks with human females, and only under duress of losing all humanity, do they find their soulmate. Which is all chemical, by the way. He doesn’t know her, she doesn’t know him, neither have choice in the matter at all.

If one of them dies… then what? I haven’t seen it played out yet in the series,  but the way it’s written, they kinda go insane and lose their will to live. So the men engage in risky, violent behavior and the women just, what, throw themselves on a pyre if their lovers die? In the paraphrased words of Jane Eyre, when Rochester sings her a song about a woman who commits suicide when her lover dies, “I ain’t signing up for that shit.”

It reminds me of the statistic that men live longer if they get married, but women don’t [enter citation I was too lazy to look up] [enter citation that previous citation is unfounded].

 

Sigh…

I was hopeful for you, Vampire Series. You have so much of what I like: magic, vampires, star crossed love, steamy scenes, men driven crazy with love…

And yet, I find you creepy and lacking.

 

I was excited about it because I liked a few other books by Christine Feehan: Water Bound and Spirit Bound.  They were fun. Why can’t you be fun like them?

The Bound series is kinda funny because it’s about these six women witches in a small coastal town who each have a connection to a different element. One after another, they meet guys who all happen to be Russian supersoldier brothers. I mean, sounds a little risky, right? Imagine if Jason Bourne settles down in, like Eugene, Oregon, and then his five other actual brothers–Jared, John, Jake, Jesse, and Jackson Bourne–came to the exact same place and just stay. And it’s fine. The Russian government super soldier squad must be hella stupid if they can’t find all six rogue soldiers in the same place.

“Woopsie, another one’s missing. Should I check Eugene again, sir?”

“Nah, they wouldn’t be so stupid.”

….OR WOULD THEY?

 

Anyway, it makes me laugh because typically a romance series has a boy band type roster of male protagonists to go through: the bad boy, the funny one, the mysterious one, etc. But the Bound series just has one type–supersoldier– over and over again. I mean, if you have a niche, go for it.

I had suspected that using the same type over and over again was a little unoriginal, but I let it go. There is variety in the women, after all. They all have different elements! See how little it takes to appease me? If this were a real novel, I’d be pissed that the characters are so two dimensional, but since it’s not, I’m like, “ooh, the next element is fire!”

I should have been more worried. This vampire series is the same thing over and over again. The men are exactly the same. The women are exactly the same. The plot is exactly the same. And none of it is altogether that interesting.

 

There are a lot of hyperboles in the character. The men are unfailingly strong, the women are unfailingly sweet, feminine and delicate. And everything is molten! Eyes, desire, need, feelings, hair, heat, heart, blood, certain feminine and masculine parts… These Carpathians are just little walking volcanoes, let me tell you.

There is nothing I love more than the give and take, the push and pull of two characters. These characters are too perfect to the point of boredom. Where is the conflict, really?

 

After three books, the banter is getting to me.

Guy: “you are a mouthy, independent female.”

Girl: “you are overbearing and old fashioned.”

Guy tells girl what to do. Girl does it.

End of banter.

 

Vampire Series, despite the fact that there are 11 more audiobooks available to me on OverDrive, I believe it is time we part. Perhaps we shall meet again another day. When I’m more bored than usual. I will miss your incredibly ridiculous cover art.

Keep rocking those ponytails,

Wendy

 

Books I read this week 1/21/17

Books I read this week 1/21/17

Nuts

Author: Alice Clayton

Sub-genre: Contemporary, humor, Girl Moves Back to Small Town, hipster? slow food movement?

Rating: Yay!

Not much to say about this book, other than the fact that I was pleasantly surprised. It's funny, light, and steamy. A fun book all around. The girl is a chef, the guy is a bearded hipster-esque slow food movement farmer. I would recommend it to most of my friends who want to read something sexy and fun.

I have the second of this series on hold at the library. The others available, a short series about a curvy redhead, are not really my bag, since they seem to deal with her weight issues in Hollywood. Even though I'm sure she triumphs at the end, I hate most books that focus on weight as conflict.

But maybe I'll read them someday.

Yay!


 

Beautiful Pretender

Author: Melanie Dickerson

Series: Medieval Fairytale #2

Sub-genre: Fairytale Adaptation, Beauty and the Beast Adaptation, Christian Fiction, possibly YA?

Rating: Meh.

I spent a lot of time trying to figure out if this was indeed Christian Fiction. It's a medieval tale, so technically, everybody praying all the time is more historically accurate than not. I mean, there have been some historical fictions I've read that have a suspicious absence of mentions of God from clergymen and such. Sometimes I think, "if this was written by a Bronte, all y’all would be spouting God this and God this like crazy.”

Surprise! Dickerson is a celebrated Christian Fiction writer. Who knew. Besides the praying, the only other indication is that the book is rated solid G in the romance category. There were a few stolen kisses and that’s about it. To which I respond, "Fiiiiiine… *grumble grumble*"

I skipped the first of the series because it bored me. But this one, I think, is modelled loosely after Beauty and the Beast, so it kept my attention a bit longer. It cracks me up whenever fairy tale adaptations are really Disney adaptations. You know fairy tales existed before the inception of Disney Studios, right? This one had the wolf scene straight from the Disney version. So much so, the soundtrack ran through my head during the scenes. *Mimics picking up a wolf and roaring in its face.*

No Stockholm syndrome, though! Bonus!

I’d recommend giving this book to a child or young adult. Probably won’t read more of her, though, personally.


 

The Surrender of Miss Fairbourne

Author: Madeline Hunter

Series: Fairbourne Series #1

Sub-genre: Historical Romance, Regency Romance, Spinster With a Job

Rating: Super Yay!

Can I tell you how much I love Madeline Hunter?

Yes. Yes, I can.


 

Pride Mates

Author: Jennifer Ashley

Series: Shifters Unbound #1

Sub-genre: Paranormal Romance, Shifters

Rating: Good.

The only reason I'm not giving it a Yay! is because this has been my least favorite of the Shifters Unbound Series.

For more on that, and the Ashley book I read this week, read the review here:


 

Guardian's Mate

Author: Jennifer Ashley

Series: Shifters Unbound #9

Sub-genre: Paranormal Romance, Shifters, werebears!

Rating: Yay!

Awww! I've read some many of these stories right now, it's kind of like a TV Show to me. Romance! Danger! Explosions! Onto the next book! I liked this one in particular because Zander is funny! That's kind of rare in these books.

For more on that, and the other Ashley book I read this week, read the review here:


 

Dark Magic

Author: Christine Feehan

Series: Dark Series, #4

Sub-genre: Paranormal Romance, vampires

Rating: Meh.

My library's OverDrive has a weird smattering of Dark series available as audiobook. I read 1, now 4, and will probably read the rest, which are something like 8,12, 17, and 18. 

O my Lord, the cover of this book makes me LOL. Sometimes my friends catch a peek of the covers of the books I'm reading, and I want to say, "No, it's not that bad, I swear!"

This is that bad.

The "good" vampires call themselves Carpathians, a race of immortal humans that live in the mountains of Romania. All the men, so far, are big swarthy fellows with long dark hair. They wear silk. They take women back to their lairs. They speak with the conciseness of a character that is supposed to be ancient. They are, in short, The Early Nineties Vampire.

It took me a long time to figure out who I was picturing while picturing the main character. White guy, dark hair, ponytail, martial arts? Silk? I think I figured it out! Highlander the TV Series!

See??

Yep, the series has nineties written alllll over it.

The story goes that Carpathians need to find their life mate or they will eventually lose all humanity and become a vampire. Psychic connections abound in this group, not only with other Carpathians, but there's a special private line for life mates. I dislike psychic abilities as a superpower. In this one, he was reading her true feelings, she was reading his true feelings. "I know that you know that I know that you know..."

It's just too easy.

Every vampire story's got an element of creeper in it. This book was Full On Creeptastical. Not only can these vampires control humans, they can control other vampires. He's like, "go to sleep, woman." And she does. Also the guy, Gregory, is a friend of the father of his girlfriend, and basically preps her from birth to be his life mate. Creeper much? He's 1000 years old and she is 23. Talk about robbing the cradle by 977 years. 

Now, I say all this, but I'm probably going to read the rest, at least as far as what's on audiobook and readily accessible. I liked Water Bound and Spirit Bound by the same author, though a different series. And the first one (Dark Prince) wasn't so bad.

At least we got Creeptastic Gregory out of the way. The rest might be better. Right? Right?


Shifters Unbound, Jennifer Ashley

Shifters Unbound Series

Author: Jennifer Ashley

Sub-genre: Paranormal Romance, Shifters, werebears!, tiger+magic!

Rating: Yay!

 

So far, I’ve read, in bold:

0.5   Shifter Made
1      Pride Mates
2      Primal Bonds
2.5   Bodyguard (werebears!)
3      Wild Cat
3.5   Hard Mated (Aww!)
4      Mate Claimed
4.5   Perfect Mate (werebears!) (Aww!)
4.6   Lone Wolf
5      Tiger Magic (Super yay!)
5.5   Feral Heat
6      Wild Wolf
6.5   Bear Attraction (Super yay!) (werebears!) (shifter girl, human guy: rare pairing)
7      Mate Bond (worst. ever. urgh)
7.25 Lion Eyes
7.5   Bad Wolf
7.75 Wild Things
8      White Tiger
9      Guardian’s Mate (werebears!)
10    Red Wolf (not out yet)

 

For those of you that don’t know, the decimals (XX.whatever) mean that they are short stories, written with the intent to be published in collections of various authors as a kind of marketing scheme. The number gives you an idea of where they are in the chronology, but doesn’t necessarily mean they were written before the others.

There are so many short stories in this series that I managed to power through quite a few of them during Christmas Break. Though most of them in paper form are hidden in anthologies, they are easily accessible in ebook form. Now that I figured out how to use my fancy ~*Kindle*~ (fancy to me, anyway), I have ready access to all the little Shifter short stories I can find.

These books remind me of the days of Buffy Seasons 1-3, Angel Seasons 1,2 and 5, and Dark Angel Season 1. You know, that time in the beginning of fantasy show where are the characters are new, and they are still using their powers, and every episode is a Monster of the Week plot line.

Definition: Monster of the Week

A self-contained episode with a villain, beginning, middle, and end. Every villain is unique from the previous ones, and is suitably vanquished by the end. No or little main character drama. Don’t have to see them in order to know what’s going on.

Most fantasy series start out that way, and then inevitably the story line is bogged down by the need for “serious” plot development. I hate that part of the series. The characters are so stuck in their own drama, all other things—magic, personality, plot of the episode, variety—are left to the wayside, and the only thing they seem to do is run around putting out fires and yelling at each other.

The most common catalyst of the downfall of fun episodes is the, also inevitable, Super War.

Definition: Super War

The __ vs __ war that is set to happen at the end of a season. Humans vs Supers, Werewolves vs Vampires, Something vs Something Else, that is supposed to be the end-all-be-all of the tension that has been building the whole season.

UGH, Super Wars. I hate them for the following reasons:

  1. A fun show suddenly becomes “serious” (see previous rant about serious plot development)
  2. They are not self-contained in an episode or two. Whole seasons have been dedicated to the gearing up of a Super War.
  3. The author/writer/director says to themselves “It’s a war, so SOMEONE has to die.” And then they play Eenie-Meenie-Minie-Mo with your favorite characters. If they don’t kill anyone, it’s a cop out. If they do, and it’s someone you like, you are PISSED.
  4. The buildup is nice, but the war itself is ALWAYS a letdown. The villain is never villain enough; the carnage is never carnagey enough; the characters lose their characteristics and become a drone for The Cause. The hype is not worth the effort to slog through the pseudo war jargon and angry expressions.

I’d rather skip Super Wars completely, if that’s alright. And yet, they do come. Just think about all of the scifi wars that have sucked: Matrix 2 and 3, Deathly Hallows, Angel season 3… So many. So so many.

 

It’s a good sign that 19 Shifters Unbound books and short stories have passed without a Super War. The characters have started hinting about it (dammit), but can we at least squeeze out a few more of Monster of the Weeks before completely turning to the Shifter vs Fae war brewing?

Fuckin’ Fae, man. They ruin EVERYTHING.

 

Least Favorite: Pride Mates

The first one was my least favorite, and that is most likely because how I have been reading this series, which has been all over the place, chronologically.

Pride Mates is the first of the series and necessarily has a lot of exposition in the story. I’m pretty well versed in fantasy and paranormal romance so it was no problem for me to jump into the middle of the series and read them all out of order.

I noticed that Jennifer Ashley used some terms in the first book that she later discarded. Fae-Cat, used for the animal form that the shifter turns into, is never used again, thank God.

The guy is Irish, and for the life of me I cannot conjure up an Irish accent to read it in mentally.

Other than that, it’s just a regular ol’ Alpha Male Meets Human Woman story, which is good, but not the most exciting.

 

Most Favorite: Tiger Magic

Tiger Magic! It’s about a weretiger named Tiger! It was the first one I read, I specifically remember thinking “hee hee, this is so silly…. Oh wait, I think I actually like this. Welp, this is who am I now.”

Awwwwwww, Tiger. I have a special place in my heart for the Strong, Silent, Something Might Be Wrong With Them types. So does Jennifer Ashley, apparently, because the star of the Highlander Series she wrote is Ian MacKenzie, a “mad” Scottish lord that has some sort of vague undiagnosed form of autism. I can’t fully enjoy Ian because it makes me feel a teensy bit ableist. But Tiger! He’s just weird because he’s magic!

 

Honorable Mention: Bear Attraction

See my thing about werebears. I liked this one is particular because she’s the shifter, he’s the human.

 

Most Recent: Guardian’s Mate

It’s interesting to compare this one (the most recent) to Pride Mates (the first one). This one is light, loose, and funny. It’s firmly set in the series plot structure: boy meets girl, danger!, boy mate claims girl, explosions!

Zander is a polar bear shifter, and is particularly weird dude. I love it when outcasts get together.

My only issue is that I had a hard time picturing him. Big dude, short black hair, two long white braids/dreadlocks, black goatee. Eh? Say what? First of all, dreadlocks and braids are two different things. While I am battling with that, I always forget the damn goatee.

 

Bonus! Sneak Series!

I will probably finish all of this series eventually, but after I do, I found out that Jennifer Ashley has a pseudonym: Allyson James! Or maybe Jennifer is Allyson’s pseudonym? Or they are both pseudonyms? Who keeps track of these things?

I read a short story from Allyson James in an anthology, and I’m excited to read it eventually. It’s called the Stormwalker series. She owns a hotel! Aw, reminds me of Angel.

 

The Surrender of Miss Fairbourne, Madeline Hunter

Hey, Wendy. Read any good books lately?

Why, yes, Hypothetical Person Who Has the Same Taste in Books as Me, I have! Thanks for asking! Have you read the author Madeline Hunter?

No, is she good?

Yes, I have really been enjoying her books. You should check them out!

I will, thanks!

 

…Is the conversation I have been having with myself lately. I don’t have many friends that enjoy reading the same kinda romance novels as I do, so I have a hard time biting back my mirth when I find a particularly enjoyable book or author. Let me tell ya, not everyone is receptive to the “latest greatest Regency Romance Novel I’m reading” rant.

 

There seem to be three different types of recommendations I give when it comes to books and movies.

 

The Overexcited Recommendation

I try to be cognizant of the differing interests, temperaments, and tastes of my friends. I really do. As much as I love Jane Austen, I would be the last person to put down a statement like “everyone has to read Pride and Prejudice and love it.” Buuuuut sometimes I’m just so damn excited about a book or movie. I read/watch it multiple times; I think about it all the time; I rave about it to anyone around me. I somehow manage to convince myself that other people I know would like it if they give it a chance! I just can’t control my mirth and I want to share it with the WORLD.

Sorry, guys, for those times. The Overexcited Recommendation often goes awry, and I end up feeling a little embarrassed whenever someone actually listens to me and finds it lacking. Or ridiculous. I kind of love ridiculous things, and I’m always a little surprised that other people don’t.

 

The Recommendation… I Guess…

So, knowing that I get overexcited about stuff I like, and that very few people have the same taste as me, I end up doing The Rant to get out my excitement. People hear how excited I am and want to get excited about it too. “What’s the name of that again?” they ask, with some vague interest. That triggers the I Guess Recommendation. I know you will hate it. You know you probably won’t look it up. But I’m excited! So I tell you. I mean, maybe there is a slight chance that you would actually look it up and you would actually like it.

This recommendation is full of disclaimers. “If you want to read it…” “If you’re interested…” To be clear, you were the one that asked for the recommendation. I was just ranting, minding my own business. It’s not my fault if the recommendation goes awry.

 

The “Actual” Recommendation

If I say “I think you might actually like this,” hooray! You’ve unlocked an actual recommendation! Somewhere in my mass of recently consumed media, I have found something that might actually be palatable to people other than me, which might actually fit your personality in a way that you might actually enjoy. Hooray for you! Now that you have a real recommendation, I know that there is a 5% chance you will actually read/watch it. If you do, yay! If not, it’s all good.

Anyway…

 

Madeline Hunter

Did I mention that I’m really liking her? So far I’ve read:

  • His Wicked Reputation
  • Tall, Dark, and Wicked
  • The Wicked Duke
  • The Surrender of Miss Fairbourne

I’m not exactly sure why I get the feeling that she is different than other Regency Romance authors. I think it might be that the characters seem so.. adult. At least the women do. 3 of the 4 female protagonists so far had jobs, were supporting themselves. All of them are spinsters making the most of their situation. I love me a good book about a spinster getting shit done.

These women don’t take shit from anyone. I love Miss Fairbourne in particular. Her dad dies and she takes over the family business of an auction house without letting anyone know about the fact that it’s being run by a *gasp!* woman. She’s so forthright and no nonsense, she is constantly befuddling the male protagonist: a normally smooth and controlled Earl. He keeps on thinking that he’s going to talk her out of something, and leaves each time thinking, “dammit! What just happened??”

It’s hilarious.

Also there is a pretty great scene at the beginning where he mistakes an advertisement she made for a position at her auction house as an advertisement for a “male companion.” He offers himself as a candidate and everyone involved is SO CONFUSED.

So great.

I like how the women approach their relationships, too. They are very realistic about their expectations. As they should be, since ain’t no merchant class spinster gonna land a duke by sleeping with him before the banns are read. SERIOUSLY. Luckily, for all involved, the men fall in love with them, so the realistic expectations are all for naught.

Tall, Dark, and Wicked is also pretty great. He’s an exacting lawyer, she’s a extra smart bluestocking. They go toe-to-toe. It’s marvelous.

You know what I love about the Wicked Trilogy? They’re brothers! *in a gushing tone* The three brothers have a witty repartee that is just so brotherly. It’s great to watch.

 

Ah, well, this wasn’t very organized. But I love it! Watch out for those Overexcited Recommendations, y’all.

Bear Necessities, Dana Marie Bell

Bear Necessities, Dana Marie Bell

Title: Bear Necessities

Author: Dana Marie Bell

Sub-genre: Shifters. Werebears!

Rating: meh.

 

How ridiculous is this title? I have had Bear Necessities stuck in my head for the past month because of this book. It just gets worse, by the way. Here are some more titles from this series:

2.5) Bear With Me

3) Bear Naked

And, how great is it that it is a pun? I’ve already gone through all of the OverDrive audiobooks to find all the books about dukes, and then to read all the books that are Regency. What if my next thing is to read all the books with puns for titles? Regency romance in particular is pretty great about using puns for their titles. See Sarah Maclean: Scot in the Dark. Every Good Earl Deserves a Lover. The Rogue Not Taken. Need I go on?

So, pun for a title? Check.

Trying to make something sexy, all the while getting a Disney song by a cheerful but slovenly bear stuck in readers’ heads? Check. 

Besides the pun, there was only one more reason why I picked up this book.

One word:

Werebears

Werebears, or bear shapeshifters, crack me up. I prefer the term werebears because it sounds silly and rhymes. In the shifter novels I’ve read, werebears are usually the jolly giants of the shapeshifter community. While wolves and wildcats are often mired in shifter politics, pack politics, weird rituals, and angst enough to hit the broad side of barn, werebears are somewhat set apart from the drama. They participate, backup when needed, but are generally less drama than all that hierarchy bullshit that goes on in shifter novels. They are usually big, bearded, and cheerfully no-nonsense. Think Little John from Robin Hood. Or, I guess, Baloo.

More Sexy Than Complex-y

As much as I love werebears, I have to admit that I skimmed this book. It was, shall we say, More Sexy Than Complex-y. More Hotty Than Plot-y. In short, it wasn’t that great.

I’ve been toying with ideas to better quantify the smuttiness of romance novels. The romance novel to erotica spectrum is not very clearly delineated, and I think it would help the female population to know! There are visual cues by the cover, of course, standards in particular sub-genres that you come to expect, but you never really know what you are getting into until you start reading.

One of my latest theories is to make an XY graph of Kinkiness and Frequency of smuttiness. I could predetermine it so I don’t have to get into the nitty-gritty each time I want to tell you how smutty this book is.

I would give this book a C4 on my hypothetical graph, I think. Which is pretty standard for shifter novels, if not a teensy bit on the high end. You will never know what that means, probably.

Bitches Always Be Mate Claiming

Also, what’s with the mate determination in this series? Apparently, each shifter has one mystical “mate” for them in the world, a sci-fi take on the whole One True Love story. Pretty standard, but with this one, the two characters knew that they were each others’ mates before they even saw each other. He just walked into the tattoo shop where she worked, and he was like “my mate’s in here behind the curtain.” And she was like “my mate’s out there.” And then they were mated. That easy, huh? Boring.

So what is it? Smell? Pheromones? Some kind of mystical gut feeling? Obviously not sight. And then you don’t fight against it at all? It’s just smooth sailing from here on out?

Even though this is the first of the bear series, it’s building off of a previous series of the characters in the same town, so I’m guessing I missed the initial explanation of how that whole thing works.

Superman Syndrome

Silly me for wanting some actual romancing in my romance novels. Not much in the back and forth of figuring each other out here.

This series has a bad case of the Superman Syndrome. You know how Superman is kind of boring because he’s just so invincible? Too many superpowers, too much strength, too much resilience. I mean, it’s so hard to create conflict when the only people who can take him down are the few left from his stupid dead planet.

Magic of all kinds is fun, don’t get me wrong, but sometimes magic puts the plot at risk by making things just a little too easy for the characters. The mate theory in this book is so easy, it kind of takes the fun out of the book.

 

I probably won’t seek out any more of Dania Marie Bell’s books, unless I somehow come across them in audiobook form.

Until then, look for the bare necessities, the simple bare necessities, forget about your worry and your strife…

 

ONTO THE NEXT BOOK!

Highland Velvet, Jude Deveraux

Highland Velvet, Jude Deveraux

Title: Highland Velvet

Author: Jude Deveraux

Sub-genre: Highlanders! Historical Romance

Rating: Yuck.

Holy shit, this book was written in 1982. This book is older than me. I don’t really think genre books stand the test of time.   I’m pretty sure dog years apply, which means this book is fucking ancient.

This is the first Deveraux I read, to my knowledge, so I wasn’t sure what I was getting into, but I did know that I would have to make some allowances for the age. You know, like when you sit down for a chat with your racist grandmother.

It was alright for most of it. The woman’s kinda dumb, but whatever. The characters do a love/hate back and forth for most of the book, mostly dealing with her hotheaded behavior. Felt vaguely Taming of the Shrew-ish (which is, by the way, another one of those where you have to walk in saying, “okay, this will be sexist.”)

90% of the book is them rolling around in the Highlands, with misunderstandings and hijinks and then HOLY HELL shit goes down out of nowhere! Maybe I should have known it was coming (this is the second of the series after all) but I was lulled into complacency with absolutely nothing happening for most of the book, then wham! Murder of a dog, a rape, and a suicide, all in one go.

It entertains me to no end when my ideals are tested through fiction. Most people know that I’m a take-no-shit kind of feminist, and then turn around and read trashy romance novels. My favorite game to play is, “so I’m okay with [insert institutionalized form of sexism]… but not [similarly heinous action/ undertone/ metaphor/ plot device]?”

With this book, my reactions went like so:

Taming of Shrew type undertones?

Insert eyeroll.

Gratuitous rape?

A strongly worded mental reprimand towards the author, complete with shaking a finger and saying, “shame on you!” in hypothetical conversation with author.

Dog murder?

I WILL KILL YOU ALL.

I was so upset I took off my headphones (I’m listening to it through audiobook), threw up my hands, and started sputtering in outrage in my cubicle at work. I was ready to give up on the book completely.

What the fuck, Jude? What did a dog ever do to you? Besides love you, like the adorable, big-eyed creatures they are?

I WILL Go John Wick On Your Ass

I HATE it when authors/directors kill dogs. It is a low blow. I mean, it’s a desperate grab for an emotional reaction, since dogs are pure in their goodness. Dogs don’t have mean parts to them, they love unconditionally, and they have nothing to protect themselves. They can’t even speak, so they don’t ruin their goodness with some dumb shit thing they said once.

So, yeah. If you are an author and you can’t handle making a character complex enough that is good without being insipid, that we would miss if they were gone, by all means. Kill a dog. Kill a whole pack of them. But I’m not going to be there when you do it.

I also hate it because even though it’s low blow, it works. Every. Fucking. Time. I am often way more distraught about the happenings of whatever dog on the screen than anything happening with the characters.

Seriously, they should put warning labels on the dog killing books and movies.

The Hierarchy of Innocent Things to Kill

I have this theory that there is a hierarchy of Innocent Things To Kill For Easy Emotional Reactions. The more you take away from the character, the more innocent they seem, the higher the tragedy.

From least to most powerful, I would say the order goes: girlfriend, wife and kids, kid, adult that is impaired, kid that is impaired, sentient robot that can speak, cat, sentient robot that cannot speak, other animals that have bonded with a human, dog. And, off the charts, is puppy. DON’T EVEN GET ME STARTED.

Sometimes there are combos. Like in AI when Haley is a kid AND a robot. Not fair. Also, impaired robot is also a thing. Do you think Bumblebee would be as interesting in the first Transformers if he didn’t do all that cutesy remixing, and instead just spoke like the rest of them? Doubt it.

Think about it. Why does every love R2D2 but hates C-3PO? Because C-3PO keeps opening his damn mouth. It’s really hard to superimpose feelings of innocence on the guy when he’s being all talky and annoying.

This superimposing of innocence is all kinds of bigoted, of course. The character no longer has agency, or characteristics; it’s only a vehicle for some plot device. The characters that have the luxury to be a dickhead are the characters with the real power.

ANYWAY.

Not that any of this matters. *Spoiler Alert: the dog (Rab?) is, thankfully, not dead. He was just wounded (by an axe?) and comes bounding up later to the very surprised heroine. I was hoping that the other plot line would conclude in just kidding not dead and not raped, but no such luck. Ah, well. I finished it, so that’s saying something.

I try to give authors second chances, so I’m trying out another of Jude Deveraux’s. So far no dogs, dead or otherwise, so here’s hoping.


UPDATE!

I just finished an abridged version of The Duchess by Jude Deveraux. I did not hate it as much as I did Highland Velvet. This was most likely in large part due to the 100% survival rate of all dogs in the book. There were none, true, but there were also none with an axe sticking out of their neck.

There are more Deveraux’s in Overdrive, but I think I will stay away from her for a while.

In loving memory, XOXO Rab.

 

ONTO THE NEXT BOOK!

Rule, Jay Crownover

Rule, Jay Crownover

Title: Rule

Author: Jay Crownover

Sub-genre: Bad boys? I dunno.

Rating: Meh.

Aww! Look at them soulful blue eyes, and fake sleeve tattoo! He looks super young, and in fact he is. I don’t think that character is older than 23. Makes me want to call him a Dashing Young Whippersnapper.

This is the first I’ve read from Jay Crownover. When faced with a whole series of romance novels that don’t have dukes, princes, werewolves, vampires, ex-cops, or Simple Girls Moving Back to Hometowns, I was a little dumbfounded. I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. You are a boy with tattoos, and, what? A shapeshifter? Nope? Just a boy with tattoos? Okay.

A Man Named ESPN 3

“Rule” is the first book of Crownover’s Marked Men series. I love that this series is just titled whatever butch name the author could think of. Rule. Jet. Rowdy. Nash. Rome. The only way it could be more butch is if the author titled them Random Masculine Objects: Knife. Barbecue. ESPN 3. Camouflage. Libertarianism.

I could do this all day.

I’m not personally into the Bad Boys thing. I feel the same way about Cirque De Soilel: it’s fluff and nonsense. You gotta back it up with something beyond the tattoos and lip rings, or I’m not interested. That being said, it was a refreshing to step away from the masterful manly man ex-cop that is pervasive throughout romance novels set in modern times. So many authors are still from a generation where getting one small tattoo on your butt is still considered Full Scale Societal Rebellion. It’s nice to read something that is closer to how my generation sees things.

I finished the book. It didn’t piss me off. But also didn’t pull me in.  Two things that bothered me. If you read romance novels you might have noticed that most female heroines suffer from an olfactory obsession. How many times have I read “he smelled good”? And then they try to explain it, usually ending with “and something indefinably male/ [guy’s name]/ him.” Well this dude, Rule, rolls out of bed after a crazy night of debauchery, throws on some Axe body spray, and hits the road with the girl, taking a one hour drive in a small car. All I could think was, “omg, he must smell awful.”

You Whippersnappers and Yer Sneak YA

Also the girl isn’t even 20 when the book starts. This series is not billed as YA, but I kind of think that this is a Sneak YA, something that is billed as adult but will attract young adults in a Omg-I-Can’t-Believe-I’m-Reading-This way. The characters are coming of age, still connected with their families, adjusting to life as an adult as well as the typical romance. If those are not YA themes, I don’t know what are. I can just imagine my high school self stumbling upon this book and freaking loving it. Now that I am an old, bitter, jaded woman I can’t help but shake my fists at these youngins, with their lives ahead of them, telling them they don’t know their minds being so young. Turn down that music! And stop driving so fast! No one has compassion for my poor nerves…

Of course, it can’t be YA because there are a few explicit sex scenes. Nothing too crazy, but I did learn some interesting things about piercings.

Also, at the end of each book, the author lists a “soundtrack” for that novel. Awww! If I liked that sort of thing, I would track down the songs and listen to them while I read the next ones. But I don’t. So I won’t.

Probably won’t read the rest of the books available. Except maybe Rome. He’s the older brother and has his shit together more than the other boys introduced in this novel, so I might entertain the idea of skipping the rest and reading that one. We’ll see.

Long story short, I could see someone being into this series if you 1) like bad boys or 2) are tired of all the cops, ex-military, and cowboys that make up the Non-Magical Present Day Romance section.

ONTO THE NEXT BOOK!

2016 Book List

Thanks in large part to audiobooks that I listen to instead of the radio or streaming while working, driving, cleaning, and lately instead of TV, I have read a shit ton of books this year. Goodreads said I read 126 books in 2016, but I looked back on it and I think I actually read 199, some even in paper form!

Despite the fact that as an English Major, I can talk ad nauseum about the merits and downfalls of plot line, character development, literary devices, etc., I actually think the 1-5 star system is kind of bullshit. Especially for genre books, which are mostly your favorite brand of escapism. In the end, you like what you like, and there’s not much others can say about it. Buttttt….who doesn’t like to rate things? That’s why I’ve created an incredibly sophisticated rating system.

Wendy’s Incredibly Sophisticated Rating System

Yuck. – It’s safe to say I will not try this series, author, or even subgenre, depending on how deep my ire for this particular book goes. Rare cases may induce twenty minute rants of everything wrong with this book from yours truly.

Meh. – Maybe mildly entertaining, maybe just bothersome enough to finish the book and then be done with the series. Strong feelings are reserved for other books. I may read another of the series if it were easily accessible,  or I may part amicably from the series/author.

Good. – in between meh and yay. The feeling is most accurately described with a thoughtful nod gesture. “yeah. It was good.”

Yay! – Rolicking good fun! Swashbuckling adventures! Angsty soulful love affairs! Characters that don’t suck! After reading a Yay! I may even seek out the rest of the series or author to finish it! High praise indeed.

SUPER YAY! – Yay +! Some of my favorites. I may even purchase these books!


2016 Booklist – Books that aren’t Romance

A hilariously small list of books that I read that do not have a single duke or vampire in them.

AuthorTitleRating
Ajayi, LuvvieI'm Judging You: The Do-Better ManualYay!
Alameddine, RabihAn Unnecessary WomanMeh.
Benchley, PeterJawsYuck
Crouch, BlakeDark MatterYuck.
Dean, JeremyMaking Habits, Breaking Habits: Why We Do Things, Why We Don't, and How to Make Any Change StickMeh.
Mullan, JohnWhat Matters in Jane Austen?: Twenty Crucial Puzzles SolvedYay!


2016 Bookliest – Period Romance

Periods include: Regency, post- and pre-Regency,  Victorian, nebulous pre-Regency olden Highlander times, Vikings (?? Never again.), and even alternate reality steampunk Victorian.

authortitleSeries#RatingOther thingsComments
Alexander, VictoriaSecrets of a Proper Lady Last Man Standing3Yuck
Ashe, KatharineCaptured by a Rogue Lord Rogues of the Sea2Meh.pirates!
Ashe, KatharineI Adored a Lord The Prince Catchers2Meh.
Ashford, JaneThe Bride InsistsMeh.
Ashford, JaneMarried to a Perfect StrangerMeh.
Ashley, JenniferThe Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie Mackenzies & McBrides1Yay!Highlanders!Aw! Ian! He almost has superpowers, what with his nebulous undiagnosed autism
Ashley, JenniferThe Many Sins of Lord Cameron MacKenzies & McBrides3Yay!Highlanders!
Ashley, JenniferThe Duke's Perfect Wife MacKenzies & McBrides4Yay!Highlanders!I love this one. He's so sneaky, makes all these plans, and then loses it every time when he's around his GF
Ashley, JenniferA Mackenzie Family Christmas: The Perfect Gift MacKenzies & McBrides4.5Yay!Highlanders!
Ashley, JenniferThe Seduction Of Elliot McBride MacKenzies & McBrides5Yay!Highlanders!
Ashley, JenniferThe Untamed MacKenzie MacKenzies & McBrides5.5Yay!Highlanders!
Ashley, JenniferThe Wicked Deeds of Daniel Mackenzie MacKenzies & McBrides6Meh.Highlanders!
Ashley, JenniferScandal And The Duchess MacKenzies & McBrides6.5Meh.Highlanders!
Ashley, JenniferRules for a Proper Governess MacKenzies & McBrides7Yay!Highlanders!
Ashley, JenniferA MacKenzie Clan Gathering MacKenzies & McBrides8.5Yay!Highlanders!
Balogh, MaryA Secret Affair Huxtable Quintet5Meh.
Balogh, MaryThe Secret Mistress Mistress Trilogy 3Meh.
Balogh, MarySimply Perfect Simply Quartet 4Yay!
Banks, MayaSeduction of a Highland Lass McCabe Trilogy2Meh.Highlanders!
Barrett, JoHighlander's Challenge Challenge1Meh.Highlanders! Time Travel!I might read the rest of these.
Beverley, JoA Shocking Delight Company of Rogues15Meh.
Beverley, JoTempting Fortune Malloren2Good.
Boyle, ElizabethAlong Came a Duke Rhymes With Love1Yay!
Boyle, ElizabethAnd the Miss Ran Away With The Rake Rhymes With Love2Yay!
Boyle, ElizabethIf Wishes Were Earls Rhymes With Love3Yay!
Boyle, ElizabethThe Viscount Who Lived Down the Lane Rhymes With Love4Yay!blind
Byrne, KerriganThe Highlander Victorian Rebels3Meh.Highlanders!
Camp, CandaceEnrapturedSecrets of the Loch3Meh.regency with a side of magicCouldn't finish it. Regency woman was surprised to find that archeologists don't take her seriously! The horror!
Campbell, AnnaSeven Nights in a Rogue's BedSons of Sin1SUPER YAY!Love this series! This is my favorite one!
Campbell, AnnaA Rake's Midnight KissSons of Sin2Yay!Love this series!
Campbell, AnnaWhat a Duke DaresSons of Sin3Yay!Love this series!
Campbell, AnnaA Scoundrel by MoonlightSons of Sin4Yay!Love this series!
Campbell, AnnaCaptive of SinYay!Not one of Campbell's best, but it had enough of her patent soul-twisty angst that I love
Campbell, AnnaTempt the DevilYay!
Campbell, AnnaUntouchedYay!
Campbell, AnnaMidnight's Wild PassionYay!
Carlyle, LizThe Bride Wore Scarlet Fraternitas Aureae Crucis2Good.regency with a side of psychic abilitiesMagic politics
Carlyle, LizThe Bride Wore Pearls Fraternitas Aureae Crucis3Good.regency with a side of psychic abilitiesMagic politics
Carlyle, LizThree Little SecretsMacLauchlan Family4SUPER YAY!regency with a side of psychic abilitiesI liked this one the best. The Fraternitas series is a continuation of this series. But I got less and less interested in the other series.
Carriger, GailHeartless Parasol Protectorate4Yay!steampunk victorian paranormal, vampires and werewolves oh my!This one made me LOL. Very cute series! I want to read more, but I first have to track down the first of the series.
Chase, LorettaLord of Scoundrels Scoundrels3Yay!
Chase, LorettaDukes Prefer Blondes The Dressmakers4Good.
Chesney, MarionMiser of Mayfair A House For The Season1Yuck.Ugh. Marion Chesney/M.C. Beaton. Stop writing boring regency! They are clogging up my audiobook selection.
Clare, TiffanyThe Seduction of His Wife Hallaway Sisters1Meh.
Dare, TessaRomancing the Duke Castles Ever After 1Yay!blind
Dare, TessaSay Yes to the Marquess Castles Ever After 2Yay!
Dare, TessaWhen a Scot Ties the Knot Castles Ever After 3Yay!highlanders!
Dare, TessaA Night to Surrender Spindle Cove 1Yay!Favorite series!
Dare, TessaA Week to Be Wicked Spindle Cove 2Yay!Favorite series!
Dare, TessaA Lady by Midnight Spindle Cove 3Yay!Favorite series!
Dare, TessaAny Duchess Will Do Spindle Cove 4Yay!Favorite series!
Dare, TessaDo You Want to Start a Scandal Spindle Cove 5Yay!Favorite series!
Dare, TessaOne Dance with a Duke Stud Club 1Yay!
Dare, TessaTwice Tempted by a Rogue Stud Club 2Yay!I liked this one!
Dare, TessaThree Nights with a Scoundrel Stud Club 3Yay!
Dare, TessaSurrender of a Siren The Wanton Dairymaid Trilogy 2Meh.pirates!Not as exciting as Dare's other stuff
Duran, MeredithThat Scandalous Summer Rules for the Reckless1Yay!
Duran, MeredithFool Me Twice Rules for the Reckless2SUPER YAY!I love the ones where the men are raging and angsty and the women go, "calm down, dude. You smell like feet."
Elliott, CaraTo Sin With a ScoundrelCircle of Sin1Yay!
Elliott, CaraTo Surrender To A RogueCircle of Sin2Yay!
Elliott, CaraTo Tempt a RakeCircle of Sin3Yay!
Elliott, CaraScandalously Yours Hellions of High Street1Meh.
Elliott, CaraSinfully YoursHellions of High Street2Meh.
Elliott, CaraPassionately YoursHellions of High Street3Meh.
Elliott, CaraToo Wicked to WedLords of Midnight1Yay!
Elliott, CaraToo Tempting to ResistLords of Midnight2Yay!
Elliott, CaraToo Dangerous to DesireLords of Midnight3Yay!
Enoch, SuzanneA Beginner's Guide to Rakes Scandalous Brides1Yay!
Enoch, SuzanneTaming an Impossible Rogue Scandalous Brides2Yay!
Enoch, SuzanneRules to Catch a Devilish Duke Scandalous Brides3Yay!
Enoch, SuzanneThe Handbook to Handling His Lordship Scandalous Brides4Yay!
Enoch, SuzanneThe Devil Wears Kilts Scandalous Highlanders1Yay!Highlanders!
Enoch, SuzanneRogue with a Brogue Scandalous Highlanders2Yay!Highlanders!
Enoch, SuzanneMad, Bad, and Dangerous in Plaid Scandalous Highlanders3Yay!Highlanders!Least favorite. I hate it when the woman has to browbeat the man into liking her.
Enoch, SuzanneSome Like It Scot Scandalous Highlanders4Yay!Highlanders! Breeches partOmg I love Bear.
Galen, ShanaWhen You Give a Duke a Diamond Jewels of the Ton1Yuck.
Haymore, JenniferA Touch of Scandal James Family2Meh.Omg, the woman in this is such a hussy
Heath, LorraineFalling into Bed with a DukeThe Hellions of Havisham1Good.
Heath, LorraineThe Earl Takes All The Hellions of Havisham2Yay!Twins!
Hill, SandraThe Outlaw Viking Viking I2Yuck.vikings, time travel
Hoyt, ElizabethTo Taste Temptation Legend of the Four Soldiers 1Yay!
Hoyt, ElizabethTo Seduce a Sinner Legend of the Four Soldiers 2Yay!
Hoyt, ElizabethTo Beguile a Beast Legend of the Four Soldiers 3Yay!
Hoyt, ElizabethTo Desire a Devil Legend of the Four Soldiers 4Yay!
Hoyt, ElizabethWicked Intentions Maiden Lane 1Yay!regency vigilante!
Hoyt, ElizabethNotorious Pleasures Maiden Lane 2Yay!regency vigilante!
Hoyt, ElizabethScandalous Desires Maiden Lane 3Yay!regency vigilante!
Hoyt, ElizabethThief of Shadows Maiden Lane 4Yay!regency vigilante!
Hoyt, ElizabethLord of Darkness Maiden Lane 5Yay!regency vigilante!
Hoyt, ElizabethDuke of Midnight Maiden Lane 6Yay!regency vigilante!
Hoyt, ElizabethDarling Beast Maiden Lane 7Yay!regency vigilante!
Hoyt, ElizabethDearest Rogue Maiden Lane 8Yay!regency vigilante!
Hoyt, ElizabethSweetest Scoundrel Maiden Lane 9Yay!regency vigilante!
Hoyt, ElizabethDuke of Sin Maiden Lane 10Yay!regency vigilante!
Hoyt, ElizabethOnce Upon a Moonlit Night Maiden Lane 10.5Yay!regency vigilante!
Hoyt, ElizabethDuke of Pleasure Maiden Lane 11Yay!regency vigilante!
Hunter, JillianForbidden to Love the Duke The Fenwick Sisters Affairs1Yuck.
Hunter, MadelineHis Wicked ReputationWicked Trilogy1Yay!
Hunter, MadelineTall, Dark and Wicked Wicked Trilogy2SUPER YAY!lawyerfavorite of this series.
Hunter, MadelineThe Wicked Duke Wicked Trilogy3Yay!
James, EloisaAn Affair Before Christmas Desperate Duchesses2Meh.
James, EloisaDuchess By Night Desperate Duchesses3Meh.
James, EloisaWhen the Duke Returns Desperate Duchesses4Meh.
James, EloisaFour Nights With the Duke Desperate Duchesses8Meh.
James, EloisaDuchess in Love Duchess Quartet1Meh.
James, EloisaA Kiss at Midnight Fairy Tales1Meh.
James, EloisaWhen Beauty Tamed the Beast Fairy Tales2Yay!doctorI love growly surly type guys.
James, EloisaThe Duke Is Mine Fairy Tales3Meh.
James, EloisaThe Ugly Duchess Fairy Tales4Meh.
James, EloisaOnce Upon a Tower Fairy Tales5Meh.
James, EloisaEnchanting Pleasures Pleasures3Meh.
James, EloisaMy American DuchessMeh.
Jordan, SophieA Good Debutante's Guide to Ruin The Debutante Files1Meh.
Kleypas, LisaTempt Me at Twilight The Hathaways3Yay!
Kleypas, LisaLove in the AfternoonThe Hathaways5Yay!
Kleypas, LisaMarrying WinterborneThe Ravenels2SUPER YAY!Growly department store owner. It's so cute!
Kleypas, LisaCold Hearted RakeThe Ravenels1Yay!
Ladd, Sarah E.The Headmistress of Rosemere Whispers on the Moors2Yuck.
Laurens, StephanieLoving Rose: The Redemption of Malcolm Sinclair Casebook of Barnaby Adair3Yuck.Ugh Laurens books seem too long and too serious for me. But I may try again when I get to the Letter L in audiobooks.
Leigh, Eva Forever Your Earl The Wicked Quills of London1Yay!
Leigh, Eva Temptations of a Wallflower The Wicked Quills of London3Yay!
Maclean, SarahNine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake Love By Numbers 1SUPER YAY!
Maclean, SarahEleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke's Heart Love By Numbers 3Yay!
Maclean, SarahThe Rogue Not Taken Scandal & Scoundrel 1Yay!
Maclean, SarahA Scot in the Dark Scandal & Scoundrel 2Yay!
Maclean, SarahA Rogue by Any Other Name The Rules of Scoundrels 1Yay!
Maclean, SarahOne Good Earl Deserves a Lover The Rules of Scoundrels 2SUPER YAY!Favoritest!
Maclean, SarahNo Good Duke Goes Unpunished The Rules of Scoundrels 3Yay!
Maclean, SarahNever Judge a Lady by Her Cover The Rules of Scoundrels 4Yay!Breeches part
MacKenzie, SallyBedding Lord Ned Duchess of Love1Meh.
MacKenzie, SallySurprising Lord Jack Duchess of Love2Meh.
MacKenzie, SallyWhat to Do with a Duke Spinster House1Meh.
Maxwell, CathyThe Devil's Heart The Chattan Curse3YuckSome sort of magic nonsense
Maxwell, CathyA Little Thing Called LoveMeh.
Noble, KateThe Game and the GovernessWinner Takes All1YuckThe dude's a tool.
Putney, Mary JoLoving a Lost Lord Lost Lords 1Yay!
Putney, Mary JoThe Bargain Regency 1Yay!
Sands, LynsayDevil of the Highlands Devil of the Highlands1SUPER YAY!Highlanders!
Sands, LynsayTaming the Highland Bride Devil of the Highlands2SUPER YAY!Highlanders!
Sands, LynsayThe Hellion and the Highlander Devil of the Highlands3SUPER YAY!Highlanders!
Sands, LynsayAn English Bride In Scotland Highlanders1Yay!Highlanders!
Sands, LynsayTo Marry a Scottish Laird Highlanders2Yay!Highlanders!
Sands, LynsayThe Heiress Madison Sisters2Yay!
Sands, LynsayThe Husband Hunt Madison Sisters3Yay!
Sands, LynsayThe Countess Madison Sisters 1Yay!
Sands, LynsaySweet RevengeYay!Highlanders!
Sands, LynsayThe SwitchYay!Twins!
Sands, LynsayAlwaysYay!Highlanders!
Sinclair, MicheleA Woman Made for Pleasure Promises Trilogy1Meh.
Sinclair, MicheleThe Highlander's Bride The McTiernays1Meh.Highlanders!
Styles, MichelleThe Lady SoldierYay!Breeches part

2016 – Paranormal Romance

These are usually set in modern times, and most often start as “I’m just a normal girl making my way through a world of ___” Vampires, werewolves, psychics, witches, shape shifters, and whatever the hell else you want to glean from folk lore.

authortitleSeries#RatingOther thingsComments
Alexander, CassieNightshiftedEdie Spence1Yay!werewolves, vampires, etcShe's a nurse in a paranormal hospital
Alexander, CassieMoonshiftedEdie Spence2Yay!werewolves, vampires, etcShe's a nurse in a paranormal hospital
Andrews, IlonaBurn for Me Hidden Legacy1SUPER YAY!kickass heroine, more paranormal than romance-ishI'm excited for more books of this series
Andrews, IlonaMagic Bites Kate Daniels1Yay!kickass heroine, more paranormal than romance-ish
Andrews, IlonaOn The EdgeThe Edge1Yay!kickass heroine, more paranormal than romance-ishVery interesting premise. The world between magical and nonmagical worlds
Andrews, IlonaBayou Moon The Edge2Yay!kickass heroine, shifter, more paranormal than romance-ishAw William! What a nice guy!
Ashley, JenniferBodyguard Shifters Unbound2.5Yay!Shifters, werebears
Ashley, JenniferHard Mated Shifters Unbound3.5Yay!Shifters
Ashley, JenniferMate Claimed Shifters Unbound4Yay!Shifters
Ashley, JenniferPerfect Mate Shifters Unbound4.5Yay!Shifters, werebears
Ashley, JenniferLone Wolf Shifters Unbound4.6Yay!Shifters
Ashley, JenniferTiger Magic Shifters Unbound5SUPER YAY!ShiftersTIGER + MAGIC = TIGER MAGIC!
Ashley, JenniferBear Attraction Shifters Unbound6.5Yay!Shifters, werebears
Ashley, JenniferWhite Tiger Shifters Unbound8Yay!Shifters
Banks, MayaGolden Eyes Wild Series1Yuck.Shifters
Barrett, JoHighlander's Challenge Challenge1Meh.Highlanders! Time Travel!I might read the rest of these.
Brady, KiraHearts of Darkness Deadglass1Meh.ShiftersKinda long winded. Lots of Shifters politics.
Brady, KiraHearts of Chaos Deadglass3Meh.ShiftersKinda long winded. Lots of Shifters politics.
Cabot, MegInsatiable Insatiable1Meh.vampiresIt was funny, but it was a little cutesy for a paranormal romance. In the end, I didn't want to look for the others in the series. I think she usually writes ChickLit, so it's a step out of the box for the author.
Camp, CandaceEnrapturedSecrets of the Loch3Meh.regency with a side of magicCouldn't finish it. Regency woman was surprised to find that archeologists don't take her seriously! The horror!
Carlyle, LizThe Bride Wore Scarlet Fraternitas Aureae Crucis2Good.regency with a side of psychic abilitiesMagic politics
Carlyle, LizThe Bride Wore Pearls Fraternitas Aureae Crucis3Good.regency with a side of psychic abilitiesMagic politics
Carlyle, LizThree Little SecretsMacLauchlan Family4SUPER YAY!regency with a side of psychic abilitiesI liked this one the best. The Fraternitas series is a continuation of this series. But I got less and less interested in the other series.
Carriger, GailHeartless Parasol Protectorate4Yay!steampunk victorian paranormal, vampires and werewolves oh my!This one made me LOL. Very cute series! I want to read more, but I first have to track down the first of the series.
Cassidy, DakotaThe Accidental Dragon Accidentals9Good.dragons, vampires, werewolves, etcFun. Cute.
Cole, KresleyThe Warlord Wants Forever Immortals After Dark 1Meh.vampires, valkeriesThis one was just a little bit too silly, but it was short and on audiobook so I finished it.
Dark, DannikaSeven Years Seven1SUPER YAY!ShiftersSeven guys live in a house together…. It must smell like feet.
Dark, DannikaSix Months Seven2SUPER YAY!ShiftersAw! Reno!
Dark, DannikaFive Weeks Seven3Yay!Shifters
Dark, DannikaFour Days Seven4Yay!Shifters
Dark, DannikaTwo Minutes Seven6Yay!Shifters
Dark, DannikaOne Second Seven7Yay!Shifters
Feehan, ChristineDark Prince Dark1Meh.Vampires
Feehan, ChristineWater Bound Sea Haven/Sisters of the Heart1Yay!psychic, elemental abilitiesWhy are all these Russian supersoldiers coming to one small town in CA to shack up with ladies? I don't know but I still kinda like it.
Feehan, ChristineSpirit Bound Sea Haven/Sisters of the Heart2Yay!psychic, elemental abilities
Hill, SandraThe Outlaw Viking Viking I2Yuck.vikings, time travel
Maxwell, CathyThe Devil's Heart The Chattan Curse3YuckSome sort of magic nonsense
Putney, Mary JoA Distant MagicGaurdians2Yuckpsychic, elemental abilitiesFar too much telepathy going on here.
Sands, LynsayA Quick Bite Argeneau 1Meh.Vampires

2016 – Modern / Non-Magical Romance

I try these out once in a while but as you can tell, it’s not really my bag. For some reason I can’t turn off my inner feminist if it doesn’t have an element of whimsy to it, and the characters in these drive me up the wall. Save me from books that have “A Novel” in curling script under the title. Also, who cares about murder mystery, really? I don’t like my books straying too far from the genre of romance, and that means more than cursory plot development for whatever mystery, crime, or supernatural war in the mix. But thumbs up to books about firemen!

authortitleSeries#RatingOther thingsComments
Ashley, KristenBreathe Colorado Mountain4Yuck.Cop, small town
Barton, BeverlyDead By Midnight Griffin Powell 11Meh.MURDER.
Bernard, JenniferHow to Tame a Wild Fireman The Bachelor Firemen of San Gabriel4Good.Firemen, Small Town
Bond, StephanieBaby, Drive South Southern Roads1Meh.The South, Construction, Ex-Military
Bond, StephanieBaby, Come Home Southern Roads2Meh.The South, Construction, Ex-Military
Bond, StephanieBaby, Don't Go Southern Roads3Meh.The South, Construction, Ex-Military
Brockmann, SuzanneOver the Edge Troubleshooters3Meh.Marines, MURDER
Brockmann, SuzanneBody LanguageMeh.

Why I Art

In order from favorite to least favorite: charcoal, colored pencils, watercolor, acrylic, markers, pens, pencils, other paints, alternative media (anything I can get my hands on), writing, flower arrangements, knitting, cross stitching, latchhook, cake decorating, quilting.

Subjects: portraiture, self portraits, people, photos of people, live things, colors, abstract.

Why I do it:
There’s a need in me to make art. I’ve done art for a long time now. I always thought that of I didn’t have the structure of classes, I would stop making art altogether, but here I am, still trying to find a way to make more, get better, ease myself into the artistic world.

I’ve been very afraid of sharing my work. For a long time, I was afraid to do anything creative related as a career. Though I have always been interested in creative writing, I haven’t written much of anything in the past decade. Now that I work creatively, I can’t go back.

It’s not just about opening myself to ridicule, though that is a large part of it. It’s about opening up at all. I use art as a mood regulator. Usually I am compelled to make something out of this great need to get a feeling out. I journal, but words sometimes leads you down the “why?” trap, that is a downward spiral. Most of the time, I don’t need to know why, I just need to feel it, and words are too black and white for the full spectrum of what I feel.

“Art is a great way to say what you want without saying it,” said one of my art teachers. It’s true: you can clamp down on your pen and scribble ferociously, saying I’m so mad at you. And people will read the anger in it, sometimes subconciously, but they won’t know who or why or even if you are actually angry. The moment is communicated, but not, and passes quietly.

Google search “creativity excess emotion” and you can read a bunch of articles on how therapeutic art can be. Sometimes I combine the two, journaling and drawing together, or sometimes I journal and my brain loses words, and I start making a line, diagram, or image of what I mean to say but can’t. I hate to see my extreme emotions so clearly written in words, visible for chance encounters while I flip through the pages of my journal, so I sometimes draw over them. Charcoal over penciled words engraved on the page make an interesting relief to view so slightly, almost know what the words are saying. 

The scary thing about sharing my art is that it is my journal: that’s my heart out there. Though maybe you can’t read art and see the emotions behind it, I certainly can. It’s scary to know that people will see me at my most extreme, when I was most depressed or angry or self-denegrating, or sad or lonely or just trying to weed out some sense in the mass of feelings and confusion that is my brain.

I want to share it but I don’t. I want people to know when I hurt, but I don’t want it to be edified so much as to put words to it. I put on a cool exterior and I’d like people to think of me that way. Why would people need to know that happy, easy going Wendy is not as cheerful as she seems?

Some people, such as myself, need to come to terms with the fact that they feel. That’s what art is to me.

Because I use art as a journal, the feelings behind them are barely ever positive. I can look at the accumulation of my work and thjnk “what bright, violent colors I use. What moments of anguish and despair. Surely I am not like that all the time.” And I’m not. Those are just the most extreme.

I guess all that is to say that art is:

Expressing my emotions in a way that doesn’t hurt people.
Expressing them without becoming them, “I am a person who…”
A search for order and sense in the tumult of emotion without words.

You should try it sometime. You don’t need to have talent to express yourself through art. It’s remarkably freeing to not worry about defining anything, to speak only in the language of color and lines.

Why self portraits:
My art teacher (the same one as earlier; he teaches classes at The Drawing Studio in Portland, best teacher I’ve had. Look him up if you want some classes) said that he switched from abstract to portraiture because he realized that without a subject, his abstract art all came out the same. It’s true: without limitation, its harder to be creative. Your actions slide back into your normal pattern, and you don’t challenge yourself. Portraiture is a subject that he can focus on to try this and that, always something new to see and try.

I wholeheartedly agree. I like portraits because there is nothing more interesting than people. I often forget to worry about background, position on the page, etc. Its the subject I work best through, and I don’t want to trouble myself with supercillious details.

I choose myself as my subject because 1) I’m always free for a sitting, and I don’t have to stand the embarrassment of asking someone . 2) pictures are fine for a while, but the real challenge is to translate a live object to the page.

But mostly the reason is that I often experience what I like to call moral vertigo. I made the term up. I empathize too much, put myself in other peoples shoes so easily, always see two sides of same story, focus on the future and past and what people might think till I’m so turned around I have lost my footing in the world. It’s like when you stare at words so long they just become shapes. Self portraits help me come back to me, to reality. “This is my nose, these are my cheeks…” Often I am searching for the real true version of myself, the accumulation of all that I am, minus fake things like future and what should be and what others might think. The search is of course impossible, but the experience brings me back to me in a way that little else can.

Staring at myself for a period of time, following my shapes with my charcoal reminds me that I am in fact a human being, flesh and blood, not a dark cloud of thoughts and feelings that stretches out every which way.

Now that you know my secrets, you can see some of my art at

http://ghostwendy.tumblr.com

Yes, I judge your online dating profile

Ah, the Internet. Where the saying judge not lest ye be judged should be changed to judge away, for ye will never see sirrah in person. We all judge and are judged and leave the Internet world unscathed, unless you become part of a flame war.
Online dating sites are particularly fascinating, since people, with all their stunted self knowledge and literary skills, are required to describe themselves. Ever stumbled upon a friend of yours, and thought “is that what you think you are?” It is scientifically proven that we usually think better of ourselves than we are in reality. But what about those people who are completely off the mark? The uptight “laid back” person or the “spontaneous” planner? And how many of us, really, “like” to exercise, or claim to have a hobby we haven’t picked up since the ’00s?
The problem is not just our self knowledge, but also language: its limitations, connotations, how we use it and how much we think about what it means. People use “laid back” because they hear it a lot, because they’re not a complete tight ass, or if they are they don’t know it. But if at least half the population of heterosexual men on dating sites are laid back, does that word even hold meaning anymore?
I’m not saying that my profile is any better or more accurate. Heaven knows the other half of the Internet saying is ye will be judged but not know it so ye will save your fragile psyche. But as an English major and a lover of language I have SUCH a hard time getting past the words to see the person on the profile.
So judge away, ye hypocrite. Here is the latest list of common mistakes on online profiles.

1. Laid back / laid-back / chill / easy going

Much like the word hardworking on a resume, this phrase is so ubiquitous it no longer holds meaning. I have now begun to translate the word as “lazy” and “dumb” because it is usually their first few adjectives, now a knee jerk reaction to writing a profile.

What is a laid back person anyway? They go with the flow? They don’t make tough decisions? Do they not care enough about their situation to take a stance on something? I tend to go with the flow but I would not describe myself as laid back. Sure in social situations I sometimes take a backseat, but I have passions, dammit. I make choices.

2. Hardworking 

Is this a resume? Even if it was, you’d still be failing because hardworking lost its meaning in the 70s. Have you ever thought about what that means? “I work hard” as in “I try hard.” That’s it? You’re not, like, good at your job or efficient or smart or innovative or personable? Just an “A for Effort” kind of deal?
My friend and I joke about people who use the adjective hardworking to describe themselves as if it’s a personality trait. Oh, God bless those hard workers–the worker bees, the work horses, the rule followers, the Hufflepuffs. There is a place for them in the world, and thank God they exist because I would never want their jobs. Lots of people are hardworking, but that’s kind of a base trait for other more notable traits. If a person was hardworking and efficient, there would be no reason to mention the first one; it’s implied. And absolutely no reason to mention it on a dating profile, unless you are trying to get across that you have a job, any job, though not an ambitious one. So thank you taking that job at the DMV, but I will pass on a person who lacks originality.

3. Loyal

My first reaction to the mention of loyalty is”… And?”. Thank God this man is loyal, otherwise I would never expect a relationship that starts with dating and inevitably leads to monogamy as stated by years of heteronormative human mating habits. It’s like they want a gold star for it or something. Might as well add on a couple more super awesome personality traits such as “won’t beat your kids” and “am 38% less likely to murder you in your sleep.” 1000 points. Platinum Level. You win a girlfriend. 
My second reaction is, wow, I am super lucky to never be cheated on. It must be my lack of experience that has not jaded me to the trickeries of mankind. It seems like most people I know have at least one cheat story. Imagine the naivete of me expecting loyalty, should we embark on a monogamous relationship together. Even worse, lack of personal experience has had me come to the conclusion that not all cheaters are manwhores or crazy bitches, that sometimes an affair is a symptom of a greater problem neither party wants to admit. I’m sure my day will come when I learn otherwise, but for now, it’s hard to accept the thinly veiled hostility in the word. 
A few subcategories of this are “Poor Me” “Nice Guy Rant” and “Not Like That Last Bitch”. People say the weirdest things on profiles. I’ve read a few where they actually spell out how many times they’ve been cheated on. And the Nice Guy: holding over our head that you will give us basic respect is not the pinnacle of altruism. No gold star for you. Also, whenever I read “I want a girl who’s loyal or trustworthy” I always add mentally, “not like that last bitch I dated. She’s a whore.”


4. I have a job / car / mortgage / etc

Ah,  the sad reality that this is somewhat needed. As much as I cringe at the implication that “a job” is enough to make a person desirable, I learned a while ago not to make allowances for guys who don’t have their shit together. 
I like Mindy Lahiri’s example of Boys versus Men as shown by a conversation between two women (paraphrased).
“So, he’s going back to school for another Master’s? Doesn’t he have five already? How many more does he need?”
“Oh just one more, I think.”
Having standards and being superficial are not the same thing. And you know what? If you are superficial, and recognize you won’t date anyone under a certain tax bracket, then you own it and rock on with your bad self. At least you are being honest. No one should make you feel bad about who you are, least of all the gender most likely to put “no fatties” on their profile page.
But like, “a job?” That’s it? I mean, a job could be 20 hrs at Burger King. I mean, a paycheck’s a paycheck, but I’d also like to meet someone with passion, and hopefully enjoys what they do.

5. I’m 185 lbs / brown hair / brown eyes

I’ve actually seen this. I’m not sure if they are are at the DMV or on a dating site. Never mind the fact that this is a super strange way to start your profile, I also have no idea what to do with your weight. What does 185 lbs look like on man? What is that supposed to be? Skinny, fit, fat, buff? I mean, depending on your height and build, it could mean any of those things.

Women usually have preferred body types, but they have little to do with the exact number on the scale. I wish instead he would describe himself in squishiness. Things like:

“1-3 inch stomach squishiness, but muscly arms.”
“No squishiness, skinny AF, can probably wrap your arms around me twice.”
“Excellent amount of squishiness. I’m basically a giant meat pillow in bed.”

I don’t give weight much thought except to discern optimum cuddle-ability.

6. I like sports

Yes, we have established that you are a heterosexual male. That’s why you’re in my search results. The fact that you like sports is implied. What would be unusual (and for me, preferable) would be you NOT liking sports.

I don’t give a flying fuck about sports. Never have, never will. And that’s okay. I watch a lot of crappy wedding themed reality shows, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to mention it on my profile. Chances are, if you list watching sports as one of your main/only hobbies, then we will probably not have anything in common.

Last but not least,

7. Any kind of spelling or grammar mistake OMG WTF

In the age of smart phones that autocorrect and browsers that put little squigglies under words that are spelled wrong, how in the HELL are people getting away with spelling things wrong??  One man said he loves “intelictual” conversation. How do you get past “inteli” without some form of technology correcting you? And when did using capitals and periods become passe? This is not a text message, people.

I once made the rule to not talk to anyone unless they use proper grammar structure. I didn’t talk to anyone for two weeks. As much as I lecture myself about how this is an age where literary acumen is not a prized trait, and there are a lot of different types of intelligence out there, I just cannot get over it. I’m not asking for definitions of plural perfect possessive or whatever. “I am a man.” is more grammatically correct than most of the sentences I see.

I don’t know if you can tell, but I’ve been holding this in for years. YEARS. YEEEEEAAAARRRSS. There’s probably more I can think of, but omg I’ve complained enough. The silver lining in all of this is that it doesn’t matter how many are not right for me, because I don’t need an overwhelming majority. I just need one.

I told my friend once that dating for me was hard because I was kind of a niche market. She laughed and said “everyone’s a niche market.” I suppose that’s true. So on with the search.

P & P

Don’t mind me I was just thinking about the ideal situation of me in Pride and Prejudice and who I would want to sleep with most, Darcy or Elizabeth, because they are both pretty awesome, though I thoroughly respect their relationship and wouldn’t want to mess it up so maybe I would just be BFFs with Elizabeth and admire Darcy from afar because he is kind of scary, and I would hang out with them a lot and Elizabeth and I would get drunk and giggle and I would hope that Darcy had friends like him but of course he does not because he’s fuckin DARCY, he don’t need no friends except Bingley who is a puppy and not my type at all and married to Jane besides, so of course I don’t meet anyone and would just be a spinster taking up space in Pemberly which is fine cuz they got like a gazillion rooms, and maybe I would marry Col Fitzwilliam because he seems nice though he’s not Darcy though Darcy’s kind of scary so maybe that’s a good thing. But FO SHO girl time with Elizabeth NONSTOP we will be the best of friends and it will be awesome.

I Love Jane Eyre Like I Love the Angel Series

I love the Angel Series more than Buffy, and every time I think about it, I go, “I love Angel! It’s so good!…Except for seasons 3 and 4, some of 2, anything with Conner, and a lot of Cordi, and the 5th season’s not super great either, but still!” That’s kind of how I react to Jane Eyre.

Jane Eyre is one of my favorite books of all time, so I was super excited to read it via audiobook. Listening to it, however, turned out to have its limitations. As much as I love Jane Eyre, even I have to admit that there is so much of this book that is drop dead boring.

Jane had a terrible childhood?
Got it. Moving on.

Lowood School sucked and everyone died of typhoid?
Yep. Fantastic.

We have to get through her mean aunt, her crappy school, her best friend Helen dying (omg, Helen), her years as a teacher, her application to become a governess, meeting Mrs. Fairfax, and living at Thornfield for a couple weeks. Then, only then, do we finally reach Rochester. There are a few glorious chapters devoted to their tete-a-tetes and a Gothic mystery, then back we are again to Boringsville. She crawls around on the moors, hob nobs with St. John (pronounced Sin Jin, wtf), teaches rustic children, all to our torture. We are chomping at the bit to get back to Rochester and conclude the love story.

I read somewhere that Charlotte Bronte wrote Jane Eyre feverishly over something like 6 months. Word has it that she finished it, took it to an editor, who told her he wouldn’t print it unless it was longer. Otherwise she would have to print it with another story, much like Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey were printed in one book. So Bronte took it home and made it longer.

I bet you anything that extra part is the dreaded St. John section. Charlotte had a special love for My Childhood Sucked stories, as pretty much every novel she’s written has a large section (if not the whole novel) devoted to the subject, so it probably wasn’t the beginning. The pace between the Rochester part and the St. John part is just so dissimilar, one impassioned and a quick read, the other strangled with particulars. They are almost two different books.That part where she is so destitute she tries to trade her gloves for a muffin? Shoot me.

As a devoted fan, I read Jane Eyre from beginning to end without skips. But I realized while I was reading it via audiobook, that my normal process for reading Jane Eyre can’t be done with audiobook. Normally, I skip ahead to the Rochester parts to fortify myself while trudging through the Lowood stuff, then go back to where I left off. Cannot be done with audiobooks.

So. Boring.

In reading it the first (hundred) time(s), I actually didn’t mind most of the non-Rochester sections. As a 9th grader, Jane Eyre’s struggle hit me right in my teen angsty heart. Her struggle to be heard, to be seen, to be understood definitely resonated with me. And that moment, when she is staring out the window of the highest floor, looking out onto the grounds of Netherfield as if it were the world laid out for her, untouchable. I get that feeling, an urge to do something, anything, and feeling all roads closed. I now recognize it as part of my depression. I feel like that’s most of Charlotte Bronte’s writing, a lifelong catharsis of her deep depression. Jane Eyre is her most cheerful, actually. Read Villette sometime, if you want to feel what it’s like inside of the mind of a deeply depressed person. That book’s a trip.

Even the part where she is wandering around on the moors, I could get behind for a while. It’s kind of like a YA Novel. The main character, previously a child, encounters the world completely on his/her own, and goes through the basics, My Side of the Mountain style.

Oh my god, Jane Eyre is totally a Young Adult Novel. She’s even a teenager! (18-19 I think) She’s all #struggleisreal, though not in a belittling #firstworldproblems way.

Anyway, I don’t feel so angsty these days anymore. I still appreciate those sections, but more out of nostalgia. I still feel like that top floor moment is something true and valuable: the harrowing constraints of a woman in her situation. And if you think it’s all Ra Ra Women stuff, St. John is there to prove that it sucks for most people without the advantage of money and situation. Charlotte Bronte puts her truth in these (less interesting) parts, so I think they should be valued and enjoyed, at least the first hundred times.

But not Angel, seasons 3 and 4. Those just suck.

July 2015 Drawing Challenge

July 2015 Drawing Challenge

I challenged myself to draw every day. Didn’t quite make it, but managed to get some artwork out of it. Here are the good ones.

The Ten Cent Plague

The Ten Cent Plague: the Great Comic Scare and How it Changed America
David Hadju
2008
Read by Steven Rudnicki
The whole “how it changed America” bit is a bit heavy handed. I would say that the thesis of this book is more how America changed comic books, but whatever.
If you are a comic fan or even if you are just a bit batty for them (see what I did there?) you have probably heard of Seduction of the Innocent. You know, that incendiary book that spearheaded a movement to regulate comics to inanity, the main thesis being that all comics containing any whiff of violence, sex or nefarious undertones (Freudian exaggerations included) will immediately turn children down the path of inevitable Satanism? It’s talked of in comic book circles mainly because author Fredic Wertham takes particular pleasure in tearing down the DC Trinity, saying that Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman promote fascism, homosexuality and sado-masochism, respectively. Okay, so the last two are kind of on the mark, but the rest of it is baloney. Basically this book was kind of responsible for the change from Batman killing criminals to Joker making Batman and Robin wear donkey costumes as his idea of a “crime” (this really happened). And why did Batman and Robin get hypnotized SO often to fight crime in the past and with fictional characters? Regulations brought on by good ol’ Wertham did it, that’s why!
Ten Cent tells the tragic tale of a completely new medium blossoming into its own creative force, only to be crushed under the castrating rubber band of censorship and McCarthy Era paranoia. It starts with the birth of comic strips: a gimmick for newspapers to finally grab the attention of that pesky illiterate class. Since it was geared towards the illiterate, comics mostly centered on stereotyped immigrant hooligan types. Surprisingly, it was more of a homey reiteration of their culture, and not necessarily insulting.
The early objections of comic books are pretty interesting. When the comic book industry was invented in the 1930’s, they were geared towards kids because their cheapness (10 cents) made them easy targets for kids with money for the candy store. Candy and comics. I already have a problem with this. Looking back on my childhood years, I have kind of come up with the theory that one of the reasons why I loved candy so much is it was my only outlet for independence before the age of 18. I mean, can’t drive, can’t drink, can’t go anywhere or do anything without supervised schooling, regimented extracurricular activity, parental approval of every action. What kind of decisions do kids make on their own? And of course comics are challenged in the 50’s so now what do children have? Just candy.
I digress. A great, miraculous thing happened with this new medium: since comics were geared towards children, nobody gave a rip about them. Adults immediately wrote them off as kid stuff and never touched them. So suddenly there was this new, marketable outlet for artist types that allowed almost complete creative license. Minorities, women, struggling writers and artists that were disillusioned with the more regulated businesses flocked to comics. A lot of them were in it for the money, and they pumped out comics in a mass producing, factory atmosphere. One person for the script, one for the drawing, one for the lines, one for the coloring: that sort of thing. But many also took this on as an art form, and embraced it as a new way to innovate storytelling. Batman was of the mass producing kind… you can tell by the dopey storylines and occasional skin colored leggings if you take a look at the early editions. Ten Cents makes a point that the comic book Spirit was ahead of its time, though, with storylines that are interesting and thought provoking. It kind of makes me want to read the Spirit, despite its horrendous looking adaptation by Frank Miller. Ten Cents also highlights EC Comics, company that made mostly horror and romance comics of reportedly good quality.
Yes, sex and violence and hype sold, even in the forties. They did what they thought would get kids to buy comics: yay, Capitalism! Hadju makes a point that superheroes may be vigilantes but they also have very rigid moral structures. Maybe that’s why I like them. Superheroes relate to the childish desire to bypass silly adult red tape for a greater moral purpose, says Hadju. Very interesting.
The early objections seem to be not so much the unregulated freedom in showing half naked ladies and bloody heads, but the fact that it existed at all. People thought they were low class, like the comic strips in the newspapers. Adults never read them even when they started to criticize them.
Comics slipped under the radar for quite a while, until post World War II. The book gives a few interesting ideas on why there was such widespread derision of the art form, mainly blah blah xenophobia, paranoia, McCarthy Era widespread censure, etc. I mean, we talk a lot about 50’s suburbia but I guess it never hit me how scared everyone was back then.
Werthum was just a means to an end. He didn’t ever read any comics, he didn’t do any students, he just made up some Freudian bullshit in a book and started pushing it full force through the government.
The scariest part of the Ten Cents was watching how far they took it. The book focused on a single publisher that seemed to be specifically targeted: they made something like “Weird Tales” and “Tales of Horror.” The new regulation banned the words “Weird” and “Horror” from titles. Just absolutely arbitrary decisions. Comic book industry was backed into the corner and decided to regulate themselves, but they had to put the guy spearheading the regulation campaign as the president.
There are stories of censurers taking out knives from the hands of attackers, and making restrictions on themes that have nothing to do with morality. A black astronaut, for example, was asked to be taken out.
I really liked reading this. It’s great to watch a country and a media over time. We tend to rush to judgment on early comics and shake our fingers at the authors for digressions against feminism, etc. This is a great book to pick up if you want to lecture to your friends on media, America Society, comics, etc. I know I’m not the only one out there that loves to do that. Yeah, I see you, Nerd Boy. Read this before your next visit to the comic book store. Maybe then your “friend” the store manager will want to hire you.
(PS: sorry if this seems like a disjointed review. I found this is my draft box and decided to finish it.)

Journal Entry

I incorporate journaling with drawing sometimes. Here’s an example.

Sketches

Sketches, of myself and my friend Rosie. The sketch of Rosie looks better if you are looking at it from above at an angle, like if you are sketching in a book on your lap, say.

Kim is Helping

Kimmy’s helping me photography my pictures. With her new collar she kinda looks like Scooby Doo. (but TINY!)

Why the Long Face?

I’m pretty proud of this one. It was made in one of those moments where you work furiously, completely absorbed, and then stand back and say, “whoa.”

Batter My Heart, Part 1

 

Holy Sonnets: Batter my heart, three-person’d God

By John Donne

Batter my heart, three-person’d God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp’d town to another due,
Labor to admit you, but oh, to no end;
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captiv’d, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be lov’d fain,
But am betroth’d unto your enemy;
Divorce me, untie or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

Batter My Heart Part 2

Holy Sonnets: Batter my heart, three-person’d God (Cont’d)

By John Donne

Batter my heart, three-person’d God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp’d town to another due,
Labor to admit you, but oh, to no end;
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captiv’d, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be lov’d fain,
But am betroth’d unto your enemy;
Divorce me, untie or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.