Friday, October 30, 2009

One of the Guys, by Kristan Higgins - Review

NOT A ROMP.
Ms. Higgins, I have a BONE to pick with you.

You are supposed to be light. You are supposed to be a romp. That's what everyone says: a romp. You are supposed to be sweet and happy and bubbly and frothy.

You know what I got from this book, Ms. Higgins? Soggy kleenex is what.

You made me cry like a little bitch, Ms. Higgins. I'm talking weepy, sniffly, unattractively moist sobs and hiccups. That bittersweet secondary romance? The way you spun out the tension on our poor Heroine, tighter and tighter and tighter until the HEA was in real, true, serious jeopardy? ROMPFAIL.

Hmpph. I do not read romance because I like sobbing into tissues.

And really, it's the rare author who can accomplish that. So, okay, you're an AWESOME author who writes a FANTASTICALLY emotional romance.

Fine. Be that way.

___________
Disclaimer: Purchased at retail.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Demon Forged, by Meljean Brook - Review

Risk Profile
Do you have a go-to author, one whom you KNOW, for every book, you're going to love certain things? That the heroine will be feisty, or sweet, or the hero will be wounded but honorable, etc. etc.? I don't want to say "predictable," but maybe... "reliable" ?

I think a lot of authors come to be repeat best-sellers by reliably providing what their readers like. Nora Roberts and Jayne Ann Krentz come to mind, to name just two.

The Guardian series isn't like that.

I can see why Brook might be a hit-or-miss author for some readers. Her characters are so different, so extreme, that readers who like a certain kind of hero or heroine are almost guaranteed to a) find that in at least one of her books and b) not find it in others. She goes out on a limb with every book, breaking fondly-held genre rules here, while taking others to new extremes there.

Because Brook is so skilled at bringing her diverse characters to life, I personally find something to love in every book. In Demon Forged, we have Irena, one of the oldest Guardians after Michael, and Alejandro, a dashing Spanish nobleman. ( He's a millenium or so younger than Irena, but that doesn't seem to bother anyone.)

These two have A History. With Baggage. And when your bad guys are actual demons, and you've spent centuries trying to deal without the benefit of a good therapist... well. You wind up with Issues.

One of the themes that intrigues me with every Guardian book is the idea of "humanity." What does this mean when most of the characters are not human? What does it do to a person (or Guardian) to exist for sixteen centuries?

While Brook doesn't explicitly dwell on this a lot, I did find Irena's character to glimmer with small, telling details consistent with an ancient character. Irena is barely literate. Her idea of relaxation is hiking or hunting or sculpting in her forge: elemental. She's blunt, straightforward, lacks subtlety. I loved this exchange:
"No." He straightened. His eyes shuttered. "I will not fight. I do not like the man I become with you."

The words stabbed her chest. Reflexively, her hands fisted. Irena held them at her sides, struggling against the fury and hurt that urged her to batter them into his face. He stared down at her and she thought, prayed, that he might take the words back.

Olek shook his head and turned. "Your vampire friend has gone into the city."

He walked away. Irena watched, her heart hammering.

*I do not like the man I become with you.*

He should have hit her. She'd have known how to respond to that. But this pain, she did not. [chapter end].

Irena and Alejandro/Olek have spent the last 400 years in a state of tension, avoiding each other or relieving the tension in violent training sessions. It's certainly valid to wonder, "why now?" Why is now the moment when this tension comes to a head? Brilliantly, it's because of

The Series Arc
Somewhere around the 5th or 6th book of a series, I tend to start getting series fatigue. Either the stories become repetitious, or the series arc starts to feel artificially drawn out... or maybe I just get bored.

Not so with the Guardians. Every book has revealed Big News about some aspect of the world, and this one is no different, except perhaps that it's more so. The shocking events of Demon Forged shakes the delicate balance of power to its core, and all without the least hint of contrivance. It's not easy to provide an individual book resolution while still building tension for the series, but Demon Forged does it in spades.

Meanwhile, the series as a whole posits our world on the brink of massive change: apocalyptic disaster, Biblical armageddon. The unseen (by humans) tension between Guardians and demons that keeps the realms in balance is threatened by the recent mass Ascension, by power struggles among the demons, and by the release of new powers into the playing field: nephilim and more. Select humans are drawn into the struggle and the Guardians are taxed to keep them safe.

This then, not only drives the series forward, but provides the change catalyst for Alejandro and Irena's relationship, as they can no longer afford to avoid each other. I just love how the individual story and character arcs weave in and out of the series arc, always complementing, never competing.

I feel like I should say more about Alejandro, about his and Irena's character arcs, and their romance... but I'm going to cop out and plead illness-- I've had a monster of a cold for over two weeks now and keeping my thoughts collected has been a ridiculous effort. I think it's safe to say that fans of the series won't be disappointed (of course, most of them have already read it by now!) and once again recommend that if you haven't read them? Do.

Series Reading Order:

1. Hot Spell*
2. Demon Angel
3. Wild Thing*
4. Demon Moon
5. Demon Night
6. First Blood*
7. Demon Bound
8. Demon Forged
9. Must Love Hellhounds*

*Anthologies containing a Guardian-universe novella

_______________
Disclaimer: Purchased at retail.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Good News, Bad News

So I was home from work all last week, and spent a fair amount of time online (you'd think I would've managed a couple of posts, but... [insert excuse here] ). I found this neat little utility/service thing called CoComment. Maybe you already know about it, but it's new to me.

I do have a tendency to forget where I've left comments, especially if I've been browsing around further than my usual neighborhood. I know you can click on the rss feeds for various blog posts, but for whatever reason that never worked very well for me. CoComment puts all of the conversations I'm following in one place and makes it pretty easy to see when there's something new. It's also easy to jump directly to the site if you want to add something or see the actual page.

I imagine there are other ways to do this and I don't know if it's the best one out there-- two things I don't like is that there are lots of blinky ads and it installed an icon thingy in my toolbar - I don't remember authorizing that, which always kind of disconcerts me. It also adds a couple of clicks whenever I leave a comment somewhere to add the conversation to my list, which some might find annoying.

That's the good news. The weird thing is, it tracks comments on my own blog too, which I didn't think I needed because I have my settings configured so that I get an email whenever someone leaves a comment.... except apparently, Blogger has missed some of my comments. RRRJessica left a comment the other day on my most recent post that doesn't show up on the blog, and didn't show up in email. BUT, it showed up on CoComment. Very Weird.

I'm not moderating comments-- I don't know why this didn't go through.

Readers, have you left comments here before that didn't show up? Bloggers, any suggestions on what's going on here?

I'm clueless, and more than a bit peeved at the notion that I'm missing comments! If nothing else, I'll keep CoComment around for awhile to see if this happens a lot...

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Windsor List: Top 16 All-Time Favorite Romances

I'm jumping on Jessica's bandwagon here, to honor Kathleen Windsor, author of Forever Amber. See link for more details.

This is hard. And they're not in order. I tend to remember authors better than individual titles, so in some cases I've picked the author and then guessed on which book it was that I liked the most. And yeah, I cheated-- they're not all exactly romances, but they all have strong romantic elements. (links go to related Alpha Heroes posts)

1. Gone With The Wind, Margaret Mitchell (duh)
2. Outlander, Diana Gabaldon
3. Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley
4. Kushiel's Dart, Jacqueline Carey
5. Captive Passions, Fern Michaels.
6. Earth Song, Catherine Coulter
7. Through a Dark Mist, Marsha Canham
8. Spymaster's Lady, Joanna Bourne
9. LaVyrle Spencer, either Sweet Memories or Morning Glory
10. Captives of the Night, Loretta Chase
11. Shattered Rainbows, Mary Jo Putney
12. Lover Revealed, JR Ward
13. The Lady Chosen, Stephanie Laurens
14. Timeless Passion, Constance O'Day-Flannery
15. Bet Me, Jennifer Crusie
16. Fancy Pants, Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Hmmm. Maybe in 2010 I'll see if I can actually review all of these. That would be a fun goal.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Thursday Thirteen, Edition 15


Wow, really? I haven't done a T-13 since JULY?? Jeez, what a slacker.

Anyway, I have up for your T-13 pleasure today my favorite kind of T-13: a list of blogs you should check out. These are all book blogs; most of them have a romance aspect though not all are strictly focused on romance books.

1. Book Junkie
2. Penelope’s Romance Reviews
3. Bodice Ripper Reviews
4. Romance Reviews By Alice -Insightful, honest, articulate – a new fave blogger.
5. Galaxy Express - The scoop on the hot Science Fiction Romance subgenre
6. Renee’s Book Addiction
7. Rosario reads a wider variety of fiction and non-fiction than I do, but it’s still pretty heavy on romance and she agrees with me a lot of the time so she must be smart. ;-)
8. Bibliophile Musings - A mix of all kinds of fiction, but plenty of romance included.
9. Love Romance Passion - lots going on here, with tons of guest bloggers.
10. Marg is a regular here (hi Marg!) and has a fun blog with a variety of fiction – plenty of romance with a lot of straight historical fiction mixed in.
11. Night Time Romance Reviews - Erotica and PNR. I confess I find this one a little bit hard to read with the scrolling background, but it’s good content.
12. Fantasy Girl Reviews - All kinds of romance reviews, heavy on the UF/PNR.
13. Caffey’s Reads


Visit the Thursday Thirteen site here.
The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others' comments. It’s easy, and fun! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Covet, by JR Ward - Review

Finally.
I know, I know. Inertia has its claws in me. I'm reading a ton, honest, but finding it real work to sit down and do the reviews. So Covet has been out for almost two weeks; I finished it over a week ago. Yeah, finally.

Divided Loyalty
First off, if you don't like the direction Ward has been going with the BDB series, I'd recommend you skip it.

However, if you're good with a somewhat divided focus for the sake of the ongoing series arc, I think it's good news. The new premise feels fresh--don't know about you but I was getting kind of tired of the lessers. Ward's whys and wherefores of demon possession have an original spin while borrowing perhaps more heavily from traditional medieval Catholic lore than some of the current trendy demon-based UF.

I'm trying to think of another series that has a strong romantic focus on individual couples (as romance does) while also keeping a constant, catalyst character in the forefront (as UF does), and not coming up with anything comparable. The closest I can think of is Meljean Brook's Michael, but he's not directly involved in the protagonists' relationships the way Ward's character is. I'm guessing that Kenyon's Acheron might be similar, but I'm only going on buzz -- haven't read them myself.

Anyway, I'm finding it promising how deliberately the structure has been created-- I think it's a bit harder to take when that third-party role evolves through the series and risks feeling like shark-jumping. And it's a risk, because it breaks form-- some readers have complained that the focus is too divided, which I can understand. I'm reserving judgment about that because I did find both stories interesting with satisfying arcs, and the teaser for Jim's continuing story is compelling. Though some of the information about Jim's former life skirts the line between teasing and frustrating.

The new series is also set in Caldwell, NY, which I enjoy. I like having "insider" info, and find the cameos from Trez, Detective de la Cruz and Phury entertaining BUT if you haven't read the BDB first and don't want to, you won't lose any comprehension.

It's the End of the World As We Know It
I think Ward is taking herself-- or this series-- a little less seriously than the BDB, and it's good. She's always been able to write humor and absurdity into her books, especially in dialog, but I think a lot of what happens to Jim is pretty tongue-in-cheek. It might even tempt you into eye-roll territory (cricket-playing angels? a fortress castle = heaven? divine assistance via television messaging?) but it worked OK for me and was effective, if slightly silly, imagery.

Wardisms, and The Very Long Book
You'll find the voicing familiar, as both Jim and Vin sound very much like any given Black Dagger Brother, perhaps V, if I had to pick one. (Vin also gets premonitions about people's deaths, and he is NEVER WRONG-- coincidence?) The weird tendency to add an "ie" to the end of words like "freshie" for a "fresh drink" is still in here but toned down a bit (thankfullie) and O'Donovan? just for you? not a "shitkicker" boot in sight. (I was watching.)

It's no secret that I'm a fan of The Very Long Book. This is probably a requirement for a reader to enjoy this book-- if you merely tolerate long books only when the complex plot and characterization absolutely require it, you might pass this by. If this were Ward's first book, I would dare to say an editor might have been a bit more, um, editorial on this page count. As Mandi* astutely points out in her review, there are a couple of subplots that are not especially pertinent or, um, logical. At least one of them might become clearer as we get to know Jim's sidekicks in future books though, so I'm looking forward to that.

Bottom Line
I think just overall I have lowered expectations from JR Ward these days. I'm happy to see the last two Ward books rise above the barrel-bottom-scraping of Lover Enshrined, but I've stopped expecting to get that heart-stopping OH MY GOD reaction I got with the first few BDB books. Maybe it was the novelty of the formula, and it just only works so many times. If it happens again, that'll just be a fabulous bonus.

In the meantime, I'm still a loyal reader. If I gave ratings, it would probably be something like a B+ for Covet-- good solid read, but not knock-your-socks-off, and I'll be reading the next one. Rumored title is Crave.

Honestly though? I don't think Ward is going to remain a Hardback Author for me. I might be hitting the library or waiting for Lover Mine to come out in paperback.

Around the Web:
*Smexy Books
Smokin' Hot Books
Darque Reviews
Dear Author (Brrr. Cold.)
Bibliophilic
I Heart Book Gossip
... and as always, if you've reviewed Covet and I've missed it, please feel free to leave your link in comments!

Disclosure: Purchased.

Next Up From JR Ward:

Lover Mine, John Matthew's story

Monday, October 5, 2009

Thrillsville

I heard a rumor that this might happen, but I guess I didn't believe it until I actually saw it. I didn't even remember it was supposed to happen until I'd had the book a couple of days.

Turns out, the rumor was true:



And-- OMG -- did you notice? I'm above ROMANTIC TIMES!!

Does that mean anything? I don't know if it means anything.

But what if it does?

Can't. Stop. Grinning.

So there you have it. Me. In a book. Holy Moly!



I suppose I'd better get busy reading this one, eh? I'm on page 90, love it so far! (the review was for Demon Bound).

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