It confuses me when I read a romance and the author goes out of her way to make the male lead realistic, i.e. short. WHY?! Victoria Dahl, thankfully,...moreIt confuses me when I read a romance and the author goes out of her way to make the male lead realistic, i.e. short. WHY?! Victoria Dahl, thankfully, doesn't do this. Her male lead, Chase, is 6'5'', muscled, and blows shit up for a living. When Jane sees Chase for the first time, our thoughts are the same:
The entire Tumble Creek series was fun and well-written, even though I thought each book was drawn out a little longer than need be. A nice distraction during the holidays. (less)
I just got my paperback copy of Angelfall today, so I thought I'd revisit this book and write a proper review -- one that doesn't involve a Korean gra...moreI just got my paperback copy of Angelfall today, so I thought I'd revisit this book and write a proper review -- one that doesn't involve a Korean grandma, a cell phone, and a 911 operator.**
I've made some successful forays into fantasy recently (Finnikin of the Rock, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Seraphina), but as a genre, two elements repel me: tedious world-building and nonsensical names. The latter reason is why, despite some glowing reviews, I can't even consider a Rachel Vincent novel. Angelfall, a self-published dystopian fantasy about a 17-year-old girl named Penryn, looked like a potential disaster. However, it was only a $0.99 potential disaster, so I decided to risk it and buy it for my Kindle.
I'm so glad I did.
Angelfall throws you into San Francisco 6 weeks after angels descended and attacked. All we know is that the angel Gabriel was gunned down, unleashing an angel apocalypse all over the world. Penryn, named after an exit off Interstate 80 by her mentally unstable mom, is trying to survive in this new world order, with angels up top and humans trying to fill whatever space they can underneath, no matter the cost to themselves. It's human nature in its basest form -- survival of the fittest, kill or be killed. Penryn can fend for herself. Her paranoid schizophrenic mother made sure of this, enrolling her daughter in self-defense classes from an early age. However, Penryn isn't just fending for herself. She's caring for her handicapped younger sister, Paige. Except Paige gets taken by an angel while Penryn is defending another angel from certain death. Now Penryn must trust this injured angel, Raffe, to take her to the guarded angel aerie to find her sister.
And that's just the beginning.
Going back to my two fantasy dealbreakers, there is no tedious world-building -- some would say that there isn't enough world-building, or world-explaining, but that works for me. I'd prefer to know less, at least initially. Secondly, Penryn's name fits her completely. This isn't a cool name; this is a name chosen because it was there. Like her child.
Angels were another potential stumbling block because I consider myself devoutly agnostic. I don't mind religion if it's intrinsic to the story and the characters, like in Sorta Like a Rock Star. I just don't like being preached to.
Oh, is this unrelated? SO ARE MY REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS TO THE REPUBLICAN AGENDA.
Imagine my delight in finding out Raffe, the angel, was agnostic! And that wasn't even the turning point for me because I was already invested in the story. I loved the dynamic between our two feisty leads, Penryn and Raffe. I really loved what happened when Penryn pulled out her Ally McBeal "I am a trained kickboxer" card and punched a man twice her size, fully expecting all the people around her to swoop in and stop the fight before any harm came to her. Not in this new reality. This is the kind of detail I love. It shows how societal norms have changed, that a man fighting a woman who challenges him isn't the end all because they've seen the end all.
This is a novel that I thoroughly enjoyed -- so much so that after finishing it on Christmas, I gifted it to 5 friends that night. (And still only spent $5!) This is a quality story with quality characters written by a very qualified author. I highly recommend it.
**My original review posted on Dec. 25, 2011. Saved per Shirley Marr's request.
Review to come. Too much wine tonight. And Bailey's. And, okay, a little Johnnie Walker Blue earlier. What can I say, Christmas started with Grandma accidentally dialing 911 and yelling in Korean before hanging up. It's been a long day.
I liked Shannon Stacey's other Christmas novella, Holiday Sparks, better but this is still short and sweet -- even with Katherine Heigl's doppelgänger...moreI liked Shannon Stacey's other Christmas novella, Holiday Sparks, better but this is still short and sweet -- even with Katherine Heigl's doppelgänger on the cover. (less)
MENTAL CASTING NEWS (I put the mental in mental casting!) (Also, I've had a litttttle bit to drink.)
I read three romance authors: Victoria Dahl, Julie J...moreMENTAL CASTING NEWS (I put the mental in mental casting!) (Also, I've had a litttttle bit to drink.)
I read three romance authors: Victoria Dahl, Julie James, and Shannon Stacey. Dahl I read for the sex, James I read for the dialogue, and Stacey I read for the men. The Kowalski men. Hot damn. Of the 3 Kowalskis, Kevin Kowalski of Undeniably Yours is my favorite. He's just a good guy. He owns a bar, he loves the Celtics (forgivable), and he loves his family. He was married once before to a woman who took advantage of him, so now he's single again. After his divorce, he had his share of one night stands, but he's always been about family and relationships. Enter Beth Hansen.
Beth is independent and determined to stay that way. Even after she finds herself pregnant after a one night stand with a certain bar owner, she's determined to take care of herself. She's not looking for handouts and fights Kevin's overtures at every turn. Even when his offers are reasonable, she fights him because she doesn't want to become dependent on him. Beth eventually caves and moves into the apartment across from Kevin. Despite her resistance, Kevin slowly wins her over with his sincerity.
I was somewhat skeptical about this book because babies and pregnancy, ew. I want SMUT in my romance! There are some smutty scenes, but I was surprised by how sweet this book was. I liked how Beth and Kevin's relationship developed from strangers to lovers to unexpected partners to friends and then eventually, after much hemming and hawing, back to lovers. When I first read the book, I gave the story 3.5 stars and Kevin Kowalski 10 stars.
(I wrote the above ages ago and left it in my drafts.)
So who is Kevin Kowalski?
Hellooooo, Chris Evans. I cast him after reading this article in Details. He's such a Kowalski! And after a Tumblr search, I found the rest of my Kowalskis.
Love means a magic penis, a pink shirt, and Post-its!
And yes, it is as awesome as it sounds. Like, t...moreLove means never having to say you're sorry.
Love means a magic penis, a pink shirt, and Post-its!
And yes, it is as awesome as it sounds. Like, to the point that Shannon Stacey has (temporarily) ruined other fictional men for me. Trust me, after you read this, Exclusively Yours, and Undeniably Yours, you'll have Kowalskis on the brain too. Yours to Keep is the 3rd book in the series, and the first one I read. (Thanks, Sarah!) It centers on Sean Kowalski and Emma Shaw. Sean has just left the Army after 12 years and is keen to explore his new civilian life. His plans take an unexpected turn when Emma, his cousin's wife's best friend -- and a woman he's never met, shows up at his temporary apartment asking him to be his fake fiancé for the sake of her grandma. You already know where this is going, right? What pleasantly surprised me was how FUN it was getting there. And how HOT.
Sean is tall, dark (blond), and handsome. Not only is he well-mannered, but he also reads!
Emma is no shrinking violet either. She, according to Sean's first impression, is "tall, hot, and batshit crazy." She's a landscape artist who owns her own business.
Both Sean and Emma are probably in their early 30s, but what one of the many things I love about this book is that age isn't a point of emphasis. It's a breath of fresh freakin' air to read about a single woman who isn't bemoaning her biological clock or her eggs. I personally believe that the word "ovaries" should be banished from all non-medical text. Say "Fallopian" to me:
What was I talking about before I started mentally slapping people? Oh right, Sean and Emma. I read this with a stupid grin on my face. I loved their chemistry and their cuteness. I loved watching them go from faking a real relationship to hiding a real relationship masquerading as a fake one. I went over my Notes & Marks on my Kindle and I had 35 highlights, each one making me smile when I read over it again. This is the strongest of the 3 Kowalski books (even though I'm partial to Kevin Kowalski in Undeniably Yours), and a fun read even if you're not a romance genre diehard.
Georgette Heyer is the first author I've read who makes Jane Austen seem emo. Don't get me wrong, I adore Austen and consider WWJD to stand for "What...moreGeorgette Heyer is the first author I've read who makes Jane Austen seem emo. Don't get me wrong, I adore Austen and consider WWJD to stand for "What Would Jane Do?", but I really enjoyed this charming and angst-free Regency tale of Venetia and her Wicked Baron, the rake Damerel. Oh Damerel... Imagine Sense and Sensibility's Willoughby and Jane Eyre's Rochester without their respective issues -- or wives. Damerel is charming, mischievous, and funny. The same could also be said of Venetia, who is nearing spinsterhood at, gasp!, five-and-twenty.
Heyer touches on social issues, whereas Austen really delves into them, but don't confuse lightness of touch for lack of deftness. How can else an author get away with mentioning orgies while staying true to the time period? And not just mentioning them, but having her characters joke about them! There is so much humor and laughter throughout the novel, and not because the characters are ridiculous or silly.
You're laughing along with them, not at them. Okay, maybe you're laughing at too serious Aubrey, who nonetheless ended up being one of my favorite characters.
I keep getting sucked into those Criminal Minds marathons on ION and A&E and it's totally messing with my psyche and my friendships -- psyche beca...moreI keep getting sucked into those Criminal Minds marathons on ION and A&E and it's totally messing with my psyche and my friendships -- psyche because I'm dreaming about a gunman outside my childhood home; friendships because I think my friends are sick of me calling at 1am after encountering a potential "unsub." I tried to counterbalance that by reading some romance, but Kristan Higgins' femalecharacters made me want the story to turn into Criminal Minds.
I mentioned this to my awesome book club, and one of the girls recommended Bet Me and Agnes and the Hitman by Jennifer Crusie. I chose Bet Me because I'm trying to get away from hitmen, and the premise sounded cute. Min Dobbs goes on a date with Cal Morrissey after overhearing her ex-BF, the one who dumped her that night, bet Cal that he wouldn't be able to take her out. It hurts because she also hears the guys talking about her rumpled, dowdy suit, but Min would rather Cal win the bet than her asshole ex. Plus she knows the situation and figures she can use drop dead gorgeous Cal right back and get him to take her to her younger sister's wedding. Hijinks and chemistry ensue.
This is Cal, by the way.
Min, on the other hand, is harder to describe because she's probably a size 10:
but she sees herself as this:
I *think* Jennifer Crusie was trying to portray an average-sized American woman, who is definitely above a size 8, but if you're going to do that, actually DO IT. Don't just have a woman who's kinda-sorta-not really big, who can kinda-maybe-almost squeeze into a size 8, and then throw donuts in her face at every opportunity. It's kinda really insulting. Someone who eats more ---> Gets bigger. Okay. But that doesn't mean that a bigger girl (Size 10... That heifer!) ---> Gets an orgasm from food. And from freakin' chicken marsala at that! And unless she's Paula Deen, butter isn't a turn on either.
I get what Crusie was trying to do, but just throwing Krispy Kreme at the main character doesn't accomplish that. There's actually one scene where Cal kisses Min and she says, "No, wait." Cal then looks down to the donuts, says, "Right," and picks up another piece of donut to give her. Because a DONUT is what a big girl would be thinking about first if a hot guy kissed her.
Still, even with ALL that, I had fun with this book. Sure, I was laughing at it (I spent the first half of the book thinking Cal was gay), but I laughed with it too. And the chemistry -- the chemistry is there. The banter between two characters who love/hate/love each other is there. And ultimately, the message of accepting and loving your body is there -- just hidden under self-loathing and donut boxes.
I can count on one hand the number of fantasy books I've enjoyed, but after reading Kat Kennedy's glowing review of Seraphina, I was intrigued by the...moreI can count on one hand the number of fantasy books I've enjoyed, but after reading Kat Kennedy's glowing review of Seraphina, I was intrigued by the promise of smart heroines, dragons, and jazz hands. Really, who can turn down jazz hands?
With that in mind, I eagerly started this book. Then I got to mentions of saarantrai, houppelande, and quigutl.
Remember, amateur fantasy reader here. I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm scared off by double letters and words that start with Q.
Another thing that's kept me away from fantasy: the world building. I get that it's a necessary evil part of the genre, but... a pain in the ass to read -- especially since I am not a skimmer and I re-read things I don't understand. Quigutl? Yeah, I had to go back for that, only to find out that it wouldn't be explained til 50 pages later.
The story is a lot to take in at first because you're hit with the worlds of Goredd (human) and Tanamoot (dragon), and the half-human/half-dragon world of Seraphina. Seraphina's world is as fascinating as it is confusing because it exists in her mind, created by memories left by her deceased mother. It's populated by odd characters that Seraphina names Fruit Bat, Pelican Man, etc.
I gave myself 100 pages to decide whether to keep reading this book or not. I'm so glad I stuck with it.
Rachel Hartman takes what could easily be cliche characters and plot and makes them compelling and intelligent. She doesn't dumb it down for her readers or make it easy for her characters. Princess Glisselda, the fiancee of Prince Lucian, is also one of the most likable characters in the book. Prince Lucian is an actual knight in shining armor, but Seraphina is more often than not coming to his rescue. That brings us to Seraphina, a brilliant musician who struggles with the legacy her mother left her. I'd be pissed about metallic silver scales too.
But who has time to dwell on scales when Lucian and Glisselda's uncle has been killed and all clues (namely, the lack of a head along with the body) point to a dragon as the culprit. This murder just before the anniversary of the peace treaty between humans and dragons could tip the balance towards war. There's discontent on all sides -- humans who aren't happy living with dragons, dragons who feel they've given up too much to humans, knights who fought during the wars and were banished following the peace treaty. Assassinations are plotted and identities are revealed as the nation of Goredd plans to welcome the leader of dragonkind.
And this is just the beginning (I hope!) of a series. I don't mean to keep using the word "intelligent" but Rachel Hartman writes characters that actually use their brains. Deductive reasoning! It happens! Seraphina reminded me a lot of The Thief in that as good as it was, I know the sequel is going to be even better. Nevertheless, this book stands very capably on its own. It is as much political thriller as it is fantasy, which I love. I also loved the discussions of parentage and the legacies, both beneficial and detrimental, that parents leave their kids. I can't believe this was a debut novel! It was so assured and entertaining. I definitely look forward to reading more of Rachel Hartman's work.
Growing up, my mom tried to do the Asian mom thing and ban TV during the weekdays. So of course, I binge watched trashy daytime TV during holidays whi...moreGrowing up, my mom tried to do the Asian mom thing and ban TV during the weekdays. So of course, I binge watched trashy daytime TV during holidays while she was at work. The TV was basically on from the time she left to an hour before she got home -- you know, so the TV would be cool to the touch if she was inclined to check. From 12-3pm, I watched All My Children (RIP), One Life to Live, and General Hospital. General Hospital was the only one I ended up watching regularly.
I loved the wealthy and ruthless Quartermaines:
the hot but evil Cassadines:
and the lovable, All American Spencers.
Remember, this was the era before Wikipedia so the only backstory I knew was that Luke and Laura Spencer's wedding was the most watched daytime event in history and Elizabeth Taylor even made a special appearance. Imagine my shock when I found out that the Luke and Laura story began when Luke RAPED Laura. You know, because he loved her and wanted her SO much. Apparently in Port Charles, first comes love, then comes rape, then comes the baby in a baby carriage.
Vigdis Gunnarsdatter is beautiful and headstrong. Her doting father welcomes two men into their house. The younger man, Ljot, is tall, dark, and handsome. He quickly falls for lively, intelligent Vigdis and asks for her hand in marriage. Vigdis is also smitten but, feeling unready, she asks him to wait for her answer. Soon after, Vigdis's childhood friend Kaare, another dashing Viking specimen, comes by and shows up Ljot. His pride injured, Ljot reacts brashly and suddenly assumes the worst about Vigdis and Kaare and her noncommittal answer to his proposal. Still, he wants to marry her and asks her again for her hand. She responds,
"You cannot have loved me so much either; no sooner did you hear evil spoken of me than you believed it and spread it abroad."
So then, because he loves Vigdis as much as Luke loved Laura, he rapes her. After he's done, he assumes Vigdis will want to run off with him and become some Scandinavian Ljot and Laura. Vigdis throws a rock in his face. Finally, a proper reaction.
However, in addition to the physical and emotional pain of the rape, Ljot leaves Vigdis with one more thing -- she's pregnant with his child. This is really where the story begins, and it is a great story. I picked this book up after scouring my local bookstore for authors whose name start with "U" for the A-Z Author Challenge, and I nearly gave up after the first page (I mean, really, FOUR footnotes on the FIRST page?!?). Fortunately, I stuck with it and was pleasantly surprised by this very readable story. Sigrid Undset manages to write an epic that deals with vengeance, consequence, family, and love in a scant 200 pages. And this book, published in 1909 and set in the 11th century, deals with the issue of rape in a way that leaves modern writers in the dust. Undset follows the lives of both the victim and the perpetrator after the rape, but Vigdis refuses to live victimized. She is up there with Evanjalin in terms of female characters who kick ass. Ljot is also not your stock villain, and he regrets what he did, but Undset and Vigdis refuse to romanticize or condone him. He also lives with the consequences of his actions and has the most beautifully twisted line towards the end of the book.
Books like this are why I do random reading challenges. They're not what I would normally pick up, but they end up being worthwhile and rewarding. I highly recommend this short saga. It's no wonder that Sigrid Undset ended up winning the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1928. Gunnar's Daughter is a stunning debut novel.(less)
If you have any interest in reading this book, DO NOT READ THE GOODREADS SUMMARY. Read Tatiana's review instead. It's not that the summary is so spoil...moreIf you have any interest in reading this book, DO NOT READ THE GOODREADS SUMMARY. Read Tatiana's review instead. It's not that the summary is so spoiler-heavy, but it tells you more than you need to know. Some people may prefer that -- I suspect these are the same people who go on guided tours and stick to detailed itineraries when they explore new places. Not that there's anything wrong with that.* But I think you tend to miss the forest for the trees when you're too focused on finding the next turn, and what a forest Megan Whalen Turner creates. Okay, it's not a forest so much as a Sea of Olives, but you get the idea.
One of the reasons I loved this book was why I love books like Mockingjay and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: the politics of war. I love seeing how decisions made up high affect the battle on the ground and vice versa. I also love seeing how an ice cold queen, or a Tom Riddle comes to be the way they are. (Not that the Queen of Attolia and Lord Voldemort are anything alike.) My complaint about The Thief was the lack of action, particularly in the beginning. Whalen Turner more than makes up for that with this book. From the first page, things -- major things -- are happening. You don't even see an olive tree reference til, like, the SEVENTH page. And after that, the next reference doesn't come up for another hundred pages or so. Seriously though, how often do you see two powerful female heads of state battling it out? I wish HBO would buy the rights to this multi-layered, fascinating, incest-free story.
I'm not really into romance, aside from the Jennifer Echols variety, but I thought I'd give this a try because every other book in LAPL's e-library is a romance and I love Christmas -- like, feel it in my fingers and feel it in my toes love.
Now I wasn't expecting much because hello -- cover, title -- but I figured I'd be in for some good smut or at least some hot leading men. Let's start with the description of the two leading men.
"While JJ's fashionable sunglasses hung from his neck on a neon yellow cord, Duncan had left his dark shades in place. A black sports band creased his damp hair from ear to ear."
But surely guys of such fashionable sunglasses have hot sex, right? Who knows because the all the sex in the first 80% of the book happens off the page! Why do you think people are reading this, author whose name I couldn't be bothered to look up?? For your descriptions of "the purely female lobes of her ears"? And why didn't you clarify what makes earlobes female? Should I be worried a man may find my earlobes too male for his taste?!
So after the majority of the book being spent with our sexay lead character Duncan having more chemistry with his 80-year-old landlady than the female protagonist, he finally gets to have the sex -- not with the 80-year-old landlady unfortunately. Not only is he having the sex, he's having shower sex! Now, if you've actually had shower sex, you know that unless it's with a Viking god, it is the least sexiest thing ever. When hot water isn't blinding you, you have to make sure you don't slip on all the sexy soap. Seriously, all I was thinking as the author described his burning ache, her wet skin, and the berry-scented bubbles that foamed around her feet, ooooh, was, This bitch is gonna fall and hit her head!
In conclusion, this is my opinion on my first foray into romance: (less)
Enter Darcy Franz Pele Walker. He's just a regular guy with a regular life -- two parents, some friends, a crush. I think the book was titled Slice: Juicy Moments from My Impossible Life because such normalcy is kind of impossible to find in YA these days. (Seriously, there needs to be a No parents were harmed in the making of this book disclaimer.) I forgot how charming a simple slice of life story can be. I loved Darcy and his smartass comments. I loved his parents and his relationship with them. I want there to be a sequel where Darcy meets Dan Cereill and the greatest bromance since Turk met JD ensues.(less)