31 August 2010

Temptation Ridge (Robyn Carr)

Caveat: I don't mean any disrespect to either the author or her work, so I apologise in advance if I cause offence - it is not my intention to do so.

I should rename the title of this post. *shrugs* But, I'm sure you all know right from the get go that this is less of a review and more of a rant. So, I finished reading Temptation Ridge (Robyn Carr), the sixth book in the Virgin River series, earlier this week. Those of you who follow my status updates on GoodReads will have a fair idea what I thought of this book.... but since I have a hard time keeping quiet... *grin*

So, where to start? Certain things still work well with this series - I love the small town feel, the connections between the various characters. What isn't working for me is the the 'collecting'. In a way, JR Ward does the same thing...characters appear that are just what the 'collective' ('You Will Be Assimilated' [sorry, had to be said *grin*]) needs. For example, this book sees the introduction of not only a character who renovates cabins for rent (thus providing tourists with local accommodation) but also a character who becomes the new family physician (he is also a trained paediatrician, which will come in very handy [see below]) for the town....lucky coincidence, huh? And I know for a fact that an OB GYN will be making an appearance in a forthcoming book. Actually, it is slightly disconcerting how many of the characters have careers related to women's health and children... But onward and upward...err....

Early in the book I read this stunning paragraph:
...Shelby had been thinking, I want to join the ranks of women my age, women who are my friends, both old and new, and have what they have - the relationship building, romantic and physical love, idealism and passion and even the struggles. She wanted all of it. She was due. She wanted to be whole. She wanted a man.
(And those italics were of the author's inclusion, not mine.) Those of you who are thinking of getting your eyes tested need not. You did indeed read what you just read. The heroine of Temptation Ridge (Shelby) wants to be whole...and to be whole she needs a man. I wondered what my problem was.../sarcasm. Which leads me nicely into the main theme of the book, a theme that seems to be the be all and end all for every character - marriage and children. And when I say every character I mean the men too - they hold birthing parties for goodness sake! Now, don't get me wrong, marriage and children isn't a bad thing. And I don't have a problem with happy families either (I'm just not quite sure what one is). But...families come in all different shapes and sizes, some with children, some without, some heterosexual, some homosexual, some related by blood and some by love. Yes the author is writing a heterosexual contemporary romance, but...once the characters fall in love does marriage plus children have to appear over the horizon like a tropical storm? For everyone? And in case you think I'm exaggerating, I've been reliably informed that Shelby (the heroine) falls pregnant straight away (not quite sure where that leaves her college plans) and, directly after giving birth discusses additions to the family. *heads desk* (And the pregnancy rate for previous heroines? 60% [And I'm not counting the heroine of the previous book who gave birth to her first child and then fell in love with the hero.]) Now, I'll admit, I haven't had children, so I could be completely wrong...but IIRC friends who have given birth have informed me that the last thing new mothers want to talk about straight after labour is having more babies! (To be fair, said friends did say that they started forgetting how bad the labour was as time progressed - probably nature's way of attempting to ensure women have more than one child :) But still!!! Would it hurt for the author to include a couple that might want to wait to have a child...or not want to have a child? *shock horror* And what about a couple who can't have a child...nope, had that with the heroine of the first book (Virgin River) and she had a miracle pregnancy...two actually.

The difference between the current (and previous) heroine(s) and 'other female characters' is quite...obvious:

He'd get into her without falling in love when she was a young women clearly designed for true love, for permanence.

Some good, old-fashioned, all-American, slutty girls, hanging out in the bar and buying drinks for straight men...They had high, perky boobs and fluffy hair. In spite of himself, he briefly considered how much sexier Shelby was in her jeans and boots, her white shirts with rolled-up sleeves and fresh face, leaving everything to the imagination.

OK. I think I can spot the difference. *rolls eyes* Oh, and before I forget - this heroine is small! And just in case I forgot that detail I was provided with numerous reminders - four in the first love scene - with the hero commenting twice that the heroine could only weigh 110 pounds. (I looked that up - that's only 50 kg!) I get it, she's tiny. Enough already! And then there is the 'I've fallen in love' moment. More and more I want to get inside a character's head and understand why they fall in love...what draws them to the other person. And more and more that doesn't seem to happen. Don't tell me you're in love....tell me why!

I could go on (and on :) about how darn nice every character is, how beautiful all the women in the town are and how everyone seems to love having numerous (and frank) discussions about sex and women's health. But, I'm sure my ranting has gone on long enough. This book, this series, is pure sugar. (Dentists everywhere will run screaming.) And you'd think, with all these issues, it would be easy to walk away. And part of me does want to give up on the series entirely...but part of me wants to know what happens with certain characters. *SIGH*

So, do you have a series you should probably walk away from, but you just can't give up?

26 August 2010

Archangel's Consort (Nalini Singh)

Isn't the cover gorgeous? Archangel's Consort is the third book in Nalini Singh's Guild Hunter series. The book is scheduled to be released on 25 January 2011. A slightly belated birthday present for me perhaps? *grin*

So, who else is counting the days?

24 August 2010

Expectation

Note: In this post I discuss around a spoiler for Queen of Song and Souls (CL Wilson). I don't specify the spoiler per say, but...you may infer from the post something of its nature...

Remember my post on peeking? When y'all admonished me for...ummm...peeking *grin* Well, I picked up Queen of Song and Souls (CL Wilson) from the library the other week, and as is my want when doing so I was flitting through it. And flitting is fine, right? Ah, but the temptation to peek is there...you can see where this is going, can't you? I succumbed, and got my heart smashed to pieces by an event right at the end of the book. Yes, I know, I was peeking at the end of the book, so I got my just desserts, right?

The problem is, I can't forget what I learnt. And...now I'm not sure if I still want to read the book. I'm angry. I wanted...that particular issue to have a resolution. I should qualify that statement by saying I wanted a happy resolution (which is not what happened at all), although I think that should be a given considering I'm reading a romance. Or am I? Would you classify this series as romance or romantic fantasy? And if the latter, should I perhaps not have any expectations as far as happy resolutions go? (In all honesty I wouldn't if it were a straight fantasy novel.) Because in a romance, shouldn't I be expecting happiness? For everyone? (And now I feel like I'm channeling Carrie from Sex & The City with all the questions :)

So, how do you feel about a book when you expect one thing and get something entirely different (and not in a good way)? Should we, as reader, be expecting certain things from a book that has been classified in a certain way? (Yes, this is that age old question - is a romance a romance when there is no HEA - rephrased :) And in spite of this....lack of resolution should I read this book?

21 August 2010

The Ordinary Heroine

While cleaning the front door path today I was struck by something - I know I prefer ordinary heroines to...extra-ordinary (for want of a better word) heroines, but...what does everyone else prefer? (And no, I'm not quite sure what I mean by extra-ordinary...) See, I'm currently reading Sea Glass (Maria V Snyder). The heroine - Opal Cowan (aged 20 years) - has gone from having what she thought was little to no magical gift to a rather unusual gift (that everyone wants to exploit) and then to a very unusual gift (that everyone is afraid of). And then there is the not one but two (although that could be three) male characters who have expressed an interest.
And to be honest, I found Opal far more interesting when she didn't have all these unusual gifts. When she flew under the radar so to speak. And that got me to thinking about one of my favourite children's books - MM Kaye's The Ordinary Princess:
Along with Wit, Charm, Health, and Courage, Princess Amy of Phantasmorania receives a special fairy christening gift: Ordinariness. Unlike her six beautiful sisters, she has brown hair and freckles, and would rather have adventures than play the harp, embroider tapestries . . . or become a Queen. When her royal parents try to marry her off, Amy runs away and, because she's so ordinary, easily becomes the fourteenth assistant kitchen maid at a neighboring palace. And there . . . much to everyone's surprise . . . she meets a prince just as ordinary (and special) as she is!
I've always loved this book. The heroine is...ordinary, and yet in spite of that...ordinariness she... See, I used the phrase in spite of... What is so wrong with being ordinary? Do we want to read about extra-ordinary heroines because we want to put ourselves in their shoes? Be other than what we are? Is this perhaps why we (and I'm using we very loosely) voraciously follow celebrities...because we see their life as glamorous? As...not ordinary? Is it our way of cloaking ourselves in a little bit of extra-ordinariness? And is reading about extra-ordinary heroines just another part of that?

The weird thing is, I can't put myself in the shoes of someone extra-ordinary, although it is slightly easier the further removed from reality (in other words - fantasy :) the setting is. And maybe that's a self-image thing or maybe not. I don't know. But...I find I relate that much better to a heroine who isn't...souped up (yes, like a car). A heroine like Amy.

So, which do you prefer? The ordinary heroine or the extra-ordinary? Or somewhere in between? And if you read just m/m romance feel free to apply this question to the hero(es) *grin*

Edited to add: Apologies for being offline for most of this week. I have a heap of chores to get through tonight but I hope to be back online tomorrow visiting!

18 August 2010

Hands Up

Hands up who has stayed awake way past when they should have to read just one more chapter?

Hands up who has tried to squeeze in reading just read one more paragraph while in the middle of doing something else (e.g. walking)?

Hands up who has become so invested in characters that their heart pounds and their hands sweat?

Hands up who has become so angry at the actions of a character in a book (whether the hero, heroine, villain or a secondary character) that they have wanted to jump into the book and rip, tear, shred and rend? (Yes, I'm channelling the basilisk from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.) *looks sideways* Or perhaps just give someone a few home truths?

Hands up who has started talking to their book, perhaps uttering the immortal phrase 'I can't believe you just said/did that'? And perhaps while muttering has been given a strange look by a passerby (please refer to the second point)?

Hands up who has become so invested in a book that you were dying to finish it while at the same time dreading its end?

Have I missed anything?

I felt that way about Keeping Promise Rock (Amy Lane) earlier this year. And I'm feeling that way about The Curse of the Mistwraith (Janny Wurts). *pauses* Come to think of it, I don't think I wanted to rip anyone apart in Keeping Promise Rock...oh, actually I did (the stepfather). The ripping and tearing I want to do to certain characters in The Curse of the Mistwraith has to do with what happens to the clan women and children in the last two chapters. Yes, with my bare hands. I don't remember feeling this much rage when I first read the book, so obviously 'The Wall' has chinks... The jury is still out on whether this is a good thing or not.

What books have driven you to any (or all :) of the above?

15 August 2010

The Angst


Found on: The Book Smugglers

For the past few weeks, the lovely Ana & Thea from The Book Smugglers have been hosting a Young Adult (YA) Appreciation Month, with giveaways, guest posts and interviews, along with numerous reviews. They also issued an open invitation to write a YA post. And although I have been rather conspicuous in my absence of late (apologies Ana & Thea) I thought I would attempt to write...something YA *grin*

I had an interesting conversation earlier this month with a work colleague... We started with Twilight, but then branched off into a discussion about one particular pervading theme and how we, as adults, related to it. I'm referring, of course, to angst. Teenage angst. Something that permeates throughout the Twilight books and...a large majority of YA books. (Yes, I will stipulate that I'm generalizing :) Even though my work colleague is an adult and a mother, for her teenage angst makes sense. It was something that she had experienced as a teenager and thus could relate too as an adult. I confessed that I didn't get the whole teenage angst state of mind, but then, as our conversation continued, I realized that I wasn't what one might consider a 'normal' teenager. To all intents and purposes, my teenage days centred on and around one person and whether, on that particular day, he was in a good mood or not. Nothing else mattered, nothing else penetrated but making him...content (making him happy just wasn't going to happen). So, I guess what I'm trying to say is that teenage angst just....doesn't make that much sense to me :) Which is rather interesting because I usually love books with angst...

So, I'm curious. Do you read YA books and, if so, do you relate to the teenage angst? And, out of interest, do you think there is too much angst in the YA genre ATM?

11 August 2010

Vacillation

According to the Oxford English Dictionary:

Vacillate • verb 1 waver between different opinions or actions. 2 be indecisive: I vacillated between teaching and journalism. Origin: late 16th century (in the sense ‘sway unsteadily’): from Latin vacillat- 'swayed', from the verb vacillare.

Vacillation • noun 1 the inability to decide between different opinions or actions. 2 indecision: the First Minister's vacillation over the affair. 3 state of being unable to do something.

And its obvious from looking at GoodReads that vacillating is what the publishers of Deanna Raybourn's masterful (YUP, that's the word I want to use :) Lady Julia Grey series are currently doing.
Now, I know publishers from different countries decide on different covers. (Yes, UK and USA I'm looking at you!) I know that sometimes publishers decide that the adult version of a book should have a different cover from the non-adult version. (Yes, Bloomsbury I'm looking at you and thinking of the Harry Potter covers. Do you know how many time I had to explain while placing my pre-order for the next Harry Potter book that no, I didn't want the ugly adult cover, and yes, I knew that I was an adult but I still wanted the bright, non-adult cover.) Can't you just pick a cover and stick with it? Especially in this day and age when a reader can sit at their computer and order a book from the other side of the world! Do we need all this variety? I mean the covers for the first two books are just so different! I really, really, really want to buy this series, but until I have a definitive idea of what style of cover the publishers are going with I'm not parting with a penny. And I know I say that it's size that matters, but...if I'm going to buy all of a series in one go I would like to have the covers match. That doesn't seem too much to ask, does it?

So, where do you sit on the covers fence? Do covers need to match?

08 August 2010

Finally!

After what feels like weeks of (im)patient waiting, Amazon has finally updated its catalogue!! I have therefore been able to pre-order two books that I have been desperate to read for what feels like forever. Which books are these I hear you ask?

Lord of the White Hell Books I & II!
Aren't the covers so pretty? Thanks to the wonderfully sweet and lovely Christine from The Happily Ever After, who awarded me not one but two Amazon gift vouchers earlier this year, I pre-ordered both books yesterday! And well, yes, I will be waiting until October (not sure exactly when) for delivery, but...they are coming! *happy dance*

I also went a little mad and ordered five, yes, five books from The Book Depository at the end of last week. See, I had this epiphany. Five years after leaving the UK I still have a bank account there...and it has money in it! Not a lot, but it is in pounds. And The Book Depository's prices look rather good when you're buying in pounds and the postage is free! I was saving the money in case I went back - and I do hope to go back at some point - but I don't know when so I've decided to use the money for books! And so I bought:

* Flesh and Spirit (Carol Berg) [fantasy]

* Breath and Bone (Carol Berg) [fantasy]

* Ai No Kusabi the Space Between: Destiny (Rieko Yoshihara) [yaoi novel]

* Quis Custodiet (Manna Francis) [m/m]

* First Against the Wall (Manna Francis) [m/m]

So, I'll be lurking around the postbox for the next little while. So, what book(s) are you desperate to read ATM?

04 August 2010

Juggling

Sometimes I feel like I'm on the firing range, impersonating a target, but...instead of bullets, its books that are being fired at me. Books, books and more books. What's a gal to do? Dodge what I can and juggle the rest, right? Because...not everything is going to pass me by and end up stuck in a tree (which in this analogy is my TBR list/pile/tower etc.). Yes, I know as analogies go this one is bad because I've thrown both shooting and juggling into the mix, but...bear with me?

So, I'm juggling. But, it's not that simple because the items I'm juggling aren't necessarily all the same 'size' or 'shape'. Apart from size (which as we know from The Big Book Challenge is important), one book can differ from another in a multitude of ways. There's the complexity of the plot, the number of characters (and their depth), the author's writing style, to name but a few (what else did I miss?) that all contribute. So, how does one juggle all that?

When I was young I used to juggle books all the time. But then I grew up (Peter Pan - you never did appear and whisk me off to Never Land!) and in the turmoil that is RL juggling books became harder, so I stuck with just one. But, when it comes to those big books, reading the same book endlessly (for what feels like weeks and weeks) can be soul destroying (which is probably why I have been avoiding them and thus why I instigated The Big Book Challenge :) But, upon joining the GoodReads group Beyond Reality, I discovered this brilliant system. Beyond Reality has just started reading Janny Wurts' War of Light and Shadow (fantasy) series. It's a big series, with big books and a complex plot. Janny Wurts is one of my favourite fantasy authors, but her writing style is not...straightforward. She doesn't always use everyday words and...I suppose the best way of describing it is that her sentences have an unusual structure. This structure gives the sentences layers...nuances, but you can't skim through the book or else you lose the underlying meaning and the beautiful imagery. So, to allow for this, a cunning plan was instigated - to read one book every 6 weeks or so...or three chapters per week. It's brilliant! Three chapters is approximately 100-150 pages, which means you have time to read other books during that same week. And that's what I'm doing. I don't feel like I'm bogged down on one book, regardless of how brilliant it is; I don't feel like my TBR list is getting away from me. (Well, maybe ATM because the 'other' book I picked to read is another complex fantasy novel. Yes, I'm an idiot! Still loving both books though :)
And because this approach is working so well for me I'm going to use it when I read my 'big book' - Kushiel's Dart (Jacqueline Carey). As for when I'm starting it...when I take a week's holiday in a month or two *grin* After all, no sense is not taking advantage of my annual leave:)

So, do you read more than one book at once and, if so, how do you juggle them?

Edited to add: Sometimes I re-read my posts and honestly wonder what I've been smoking (except I don't smoke) they are so off the wall!

01 August 2010

Books 2010: July Update

Total to date: 77 books (12 books this month: manga [seven books]; m/m romance [one book]; urban fantasy [two books]; young adult [two books])

The 2010 Support Your Local Library Reading Challenge total to date: 28 books (four books this month) [Over halfway!]

The 2010 Big Book Challenge total to date: one book (Not Kushiel's Dart (Jacqueline Carey) - but watch this space!]

The M/M Romance Challenge 2010 total to date: 13 books (one book this month)

A list of all the books I've read to date (from 01 January 2010) can be found at GoodReads.

Favourite book of the month?

* Cheating Chance (James Buchanan) [Nicky & Brandon are...words fail me!]

Currently reading:
 
* The Curse of the Mistrwaith (Janny Wurts)
 
* Stalking Darkness (Lynn Flewelling)
 
And the book I'm most looking forward to reading next month:

* Sea Grass (Maria V Snyder)

So, what did you read last month?