Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Dark Lover

Ugh, I started this book months ago but ended up skimming through the end last night. I just couldn't take another description of the forced and contrived tension between the main characters. I feel like my feelings about Twilight and this book are going to give people the impression that I hate Vampires, especially romantical ones, but that is simply untrue! I <3 Gail Carriger's "Soulless" delievered all the things this book tried for but failed to achieve.

Dark Lover (Black Dagger Brotherhood, #1) Dark Lover by J.R. Ward

My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Wrath, Rhage, Tohrment, even these character's NAMES make them sound like pro-wrestlers and the descriptions in the book "giant, towering, intimidating, scary, scarred, muscled, mountainous" don't help much. In fact, I kept picturing all of the Brotherhood as the pro-wrestler "The Undertaker" and all of the "lessers" as that kid in "Powder." That isn't even the worst problem with this book, but it certainly didn't help me get into the story at all.

So, basically Darius, an important Vampire/member of the Brotherhood (protectors of vampires from some arbitrary war with the vampire hunters known as "lessers") is killed by the lessers. As luck would have it, he'd just asked the leader of the Brotherhood/future king of Vamps, Wrath, to watch out for his half-human daughter, Beth. Darius never bothered to introduce himself to Beth, but we are supposed to believe he's always watched out for her and cared for her. Evidently daddy dearest watched her from afar as she went from foster home to foster home like a creepy stalker. In Ward's world vampires don't mature until their 20s when they become vampires...a transition which they may not survive. Her world building is pretty intricate and even involves a glossary at the front of the book (thank goodness.)

Things are complicated by the fact that Vampires only really get much nutrition from feeding from the opposite sex of their own species (which must be unpleasantly intimate for the gay vamps.) Most vamps have some sort of relationship with their feeding partner, but our kingy, Wrath, he just has never been much interested in his partner Marissa. Of course, his disinterest means Marissa is totes in lurve with his beefy self. But, Wrath meets Beth, Darius's neglected urchin of an intrepid reporter (of course) and he's instantly all hot in the pants for her. She's instantly all hot in the pants for him. They basically explode from overwrought metaphor. It is pretty gross and not sexy. Also the fact that Wrath is so damn intimidating that scariness roils off of him like tangible waves in all directions scaring Beth to bits just before they hit the sack the first time makes me cringe. And I'm not really sure why, but the Vamps are kind of wussy and die easily so why am I supposed to be all gushy about them in the first place? Way to ruin the appeal, J.R.

For some reason though I really liked the servant character Fritz though. I guess because he kept trying to help Beth make sense of the crazy-storm around her, which not a whole lot of anyone else did.

Seriously, do yourself a favor, skip this book and read "Soulless" by Gail Carriger or anything by Kelley Armstrong or early"Anita Blake" stuff by Hamilton instead.

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Reading a Romance (or any other kind of book but especially Romance) is kind of like entering into a relationship for the space of a novel. And just like entering into a relationship there can be red flags or worse, dealbreakers. I mentioned a couple of these in my post the other other day, if your memory is as short as mine the two rules were The Bechdel Test and The ladyprotag must show up by the end of Chapter 2. I decided to add to this list of things that just mean that this book and I aren't going to work out.

Other rules:
1) Consent. No explicit sexytime moves should be pulled by either male or female protagonist without consent of other protagonist. Some of my favorite authors have failed at this (I'm looking at you Susan Elizabeth Phillips, with the Molly Sommerville plotline, b/c it is Rape, not "if she were the man and he were the woman it would be Rape", non-consentual sex=Rape, the end.) The rule, for a Romance, should be simple; the characters don't touch each other without express permission, no matter what dazzling desires you have to plant to make that happen. As a side note, I don't mind if there is so much barely contained passion that a character doesn't think they can hold back, but then somehow miraculously they do hold back.

2) The conflict that keeps the couple from the HEA* must be more involved than the couple just refusing to talk to each other. There is nothing more annoying than two characters going on and on about how they think the other person feels and therefore they would NEVER tell them how they are really feeling.

3) 3rd person, or at least pov switching, I needs it. Maybe a year ago, before I really knew what I was doing I would have been okay with first person from the female protag's pov. No longer, it seems. My relationship to the female protag is way, way more important how I feel about the male protag. HOWEVER, first person leads to the tendency for the male protag to be fairly invisible with all the other things going on in her life. The balance is important, and the focus. And even if I don't have to love the male lead as much as the female, I do at least need to get to know him. I may not need to spend all day in his head, but a scene or two every once in a while doesn't hurt anything. Plus this helps me know what kind of conflict is really going on here. Is it just a miscommunication? How does he really feel about her? And so on.

4) Muscles do not need to pile on top of muscles. Actually let's just call this one the "cool it on the hyper-masculinity already." J.R. Ward did a lot of world building for her Black Dagger Brotherhood series, and I applaud that. Every times she describes a Black Dagger Brotherhood brother I picture The Undertaker from pro wrestling. I don't mean just for one of the characters. I mean for all of them, just with different haircolor or whatever. I'm sorry, but when you hypermasculinize dudes and go on and on about their muscles and maleness than that is what you get. I understand that while the Undertaker is not my cup of tea he might just do it for someone else. But, he is so aggressive and masculine to be a caricature of the alpha male. So, there's that. Also, please see my review of Dark Lover where I get into this book a little deeper.

Obviously this is all very personal to me, but I think it could be expanded out to other readers. What are your likes and dislikes and absolute dealbreakers when you read Romance?

After by Amy Efaw.

I've started and restarted this review. I've recommended this book and been a proponent of it though it is not an easy read. I picked it up and put it down and picked it up because it hurt my heart to read. Before I give you my review, let's talk about pregnancy. Once I, not all that long ago, told someone that I'm more terrified of the idea of being pregnant than I am the idea of dying. This point of view of mine is slowly changing with age, maturity, and stability. But, age, maturity, and stability are all luxuries really. Not everyone (or most even) has that kind of privilege on their side when dealing with a pregnancy. And even though I know this is not a fear I will actually have to face in this lifetime, there is still nothing, not one thing, I can think of that is more terrifying than the idea of being pregnant and being (or even just feeling) completely alone.

After After by Amy Efaw

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Denial and fear are two of the most motivating emotions that drive this story. Ripped from real life, the actuality that dumpster babies exist is a tough issue to explore from any side. Especially tough to explore from the perspective of the person who did the dumping. By the end of the story, not only do you feel for Devon Davenport, but you hope for her too.

On the surface, it seems impossible that Devon would be able to hide her pregnancy from everyone, including herself. But, until IT was born, she managed to suppress any of the clues. The story is a riveting character study, not only of Devon and her motivations, told mainly through flashbacks and through interactions with her court appointed lawyer. This topic is so harsh, so hard to wrap the mind around, but Amy Efaw does so with grace and a storytellers knack for spinning tale. A sad, disturbing tale that is skillfully told.

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Friday, March 26, 2010

Way better than Oprah.

This middle school reworked the "I've got a feeling" song by the Black Eyed Peas into a "flash mob" all about reading. Seriously, this is totally cheesy and is making my Fuming Friday (oh and it is fuming!) better by inches.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


I thought I was just reading yet another unreliable narrator. A kid who may or may not be in some kind of trouble. I did not realize what I was getting myself into, and all because twitter set ablaze over the white-washing of the cover.

Liar Liar by Justine Larbalestier

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I'll admit it. I started this book because of all the controversy over the cover. But, I finished and loved it because of the unreliable narrator's voice and story. I did not know what I was getting into, and 1/2 through the book I almost threw it to the ground with a giant WTF? But I couldn't tear my eyes from the page long enough to actually throw anything.Micah is a lot of things. Top of that list is: liar. We cannot believe a word she is saying, though she claims she is trying to tell the truth. She amends things, over and over she amends them. Though she's telling us lie after lie the voice is scary authentic. I can't tell you more of what happens without ruining the book for you. Except this: her boyfriend is dead. Some of the people at her school think she did it.(One of the bullies, Brandon, is the most one-dimensional character. But, he serves his purpose. Most of the rest are nuanced, and that's as told through Micah's voice.)There are irksome things about the story that take away from the overall satisfaction of the book. But, it is the kind of read designed to leave you unsettled and disquieted. Last, but not least, the most believable thing about Micah are her passions, running, the people she cares about most, and science. I love that she loves science, and talks about it at a level that may be beyond the scope of some readers, but will serve to ignite their interest, rather than bogging down the story.

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Monday, March 1, 2010

When awkward librarians attack

Today I was at this thing with these people.Librarians, maybe some teachers. The purpose of the thing was to highlight the Best New Young Adult Books. And that was sort of accomplished. More useful were all the nifty ways I'd never thought of to booktalk and promote. Including book folders (so you don't lug books all around) with the cover on the front and an excerpt, reviews, blurbs on the inside and back. I also really enjoy the idea of doing one of those "make your own recordable card" in which you record a booktalk and put the cover in the picture slot instead of a goofy and tactless picture with a recorded message like "happy birthday and like um yes, hey how's it going? WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
Maybe that's just how my bumbling birthday greetings sound.

The bad part about today was that with a room full of introverted librarians all sitting next to people they already know, it is very hard to talk strike up a conversation when you don't know anyone and are Awkward Librarian.