Monday, June 29, 2009

The Midnight Choir; Gene Kerrigan

I think I found this in my feed reader while browsing through the Guardian online book section. Mr. Kerrigan is or was a journalist for a newspapers and magazines in Ireland. I’ve read one other title written by an actively working journalist. Generally, I find the quality of the writing to be high & the narrative compelling. The edition I read was published in 2006 by Europa and had a drab green cover. Yes I know I shouldn’t judge a book by its cover- I ordered this from interlibrary loan without seeing the cover. Recently though I’ve found other covers on the internet.

What I didn’t realize in my first forays into crime fiction, if I can call it that, is that certain subtypes are harder edged than others. And that crime fiction, like all genre fiction is often underestimated by those who are unfamiliar with it. Yes, I am one of those people. Crime fiction has within it other subtypes. Police procedurals are told from the point of view of the police although the perpetrator is usually known to the reader from the start. Noir fiction is often told by the criminal or someone intimately involved with committing the crime and is known to be unsentimental and unsparing in its look at society’s underbelly.

I have to admit my ignorance here. I’m primarily a romance and science fiction/fantasy reader, with a sprinkling of straight up fiction thrown in. My knowledge of police procedural and whodunit crime mysteries has been limited to characters like Sherlock Holmes, Sano Ichiro, Miss Marple and Sister Fidelma. Through watching Maigret and Wallender and a German detective series called Tatort in German (Scene of the Crime by our local tv station) my interest turned to similar literature. After I finished reading The Midnight Choir it occurred to me that there are distinct similarities between D.I. Synott and to characters in the US tv series The Shield and to the movie The Secret Window.

The Midnight Choir is set in modern Ireland. The narrative takes place over the course of a week, starting on Wednesday. Point of view swings between characters depending on what case is at the forefront. Mr. Kerrigan masterfully demonstrates to the reader that the assumptions you make regarding the protagonist, in this case Detective Inspector Harry Synott, are not necessarily the truth. To be clear, these are things that it appears Det. Insp. Synott believes about himself, thus inducing this reader to believe them too. I suppose that my inherent cynicism regarding motivation in actual human beings doesn’t always translate over into fiction. No matter. When I recognized the trend things were taking, it spurred many conversations between the Hubby and I regarding power, corruption, and the slow deterioration of the demarcation between right and wrong. Not that the line was ever clear and bright and unmistakable.

Despite my own initial misunderstanding of what this book might be labeled, The Midnight Choir grabbed me from the start and didn’t let go. I’m hopeful I can find more of his work, although I think it’ll have to be via interlibrary loan as his work is in neither my local library nor the local bookstores. Excellent read.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Magician's Guild; Trudi Canavan

I think I’m late getting on the Trudi Canavan bandwagon. If you’re not already aboard, you’re missing a great storyteller. The Magician’s Guild is the first novel in Ms. Canavan’s Black Magician’s Trilogy. The second book is The Novice and the third is The High Lord both of which are available. Her newest title is __________ out in hardcover, I believe. Just a minor little rant here. I borrowed this via interlibrary loan. After I read it I requested the other two titles. They could only find one. The third one. I mean, really? What use is reading only the first and the third book in a three book series? I ended up buying the second one, so now I own only one of the set. Annoying! Yes, I’m a little OCD about my books. Why do you ask?

Imardin is a socially stratified citystate, ruled by King Merin. Most of the citizenry are nonmagical folks of every class. Dwells are ordinary everyday folk, thieves control the underground (both literally & criminally) and crafters are skilled laborers. You have House and Rogue magicians, who, once they are identified, seem to be automatically elevated into the highest class. Only the aristocracy, known as aristos, can become magicians. They’re the crème de la crème. Then you have your vagrants, society’s dregs. Homeless, jobless, uneducated & without prospects, they live in dread of being caught in the annual purge. What’s that you ask? Why, it’s when the magicians drive as many of the vagrants out of the city as they can.

Sonea is a teenage vagrant and former street gang member whose family aspires to become crafters. Parted from her friends by her family’s financial needs, she comes across some of her former pals during what turns out to be a purge. In an effort to warn her friends Sonea is caught up and her future becomes dire in the blink of an eye. For Sonea is a natural born magician, something that the Magicians haven’t seen in many many years and some thought didn’t exist at all. For a slum dweller to be a very powerful magician? Unheard of, and for some, unwelcome.

Sonea is traumatized and afraid of what is happening to her. She doesn’t know who to trust or where to turn. Her friend Ceryni (Cery) takes her under his wing. Together they embark on a whirlwind, frightening tour of the seamier side of Imardin in an effort to hide her from the magicians. The magicians of the Guild are looking for Sonea because untrained Magicians can cause great harm to the populace and the city if they don’t learn to control their gift. So the magicians want to get to Sonea before she..explodes, sort of. To either help her learn to control her gift or to bind her gift in such a way that she can never use it. Sonea and Cery don’t know any of this, though . Cery’s father was Thief and Sonea’s family are slum dwellers. Neither of them trust Magicians or Aristos at all.

That’s the basic set up: girl with strong and powerful gift tries to evade the (mostly male) Guild authorities. The end third or so of the book sets up internecine strife within the guild and potentially within Imardin. The book isn’t told in first person, but is primarily from Sonea’s point of view spliced in with one or two of the magicians who are looking for her.

I have to say that my first reaction to this book, other than “Wow, this is fantastic, I have to order to the rest of these” was “this is what I wish Sarah Monette’s book Melusine , link to my review here, was more like.” I can’t quite fully explain that impression except to say that I wish Felix’s personality was more similar to Sonea’s, that he was less damaged or that Mildmay was the protagonist. This book also had echoes of Sharon Shinn’s Thirteen Houses series. Anyhow, I recommend The Magician’s Guild for anyone who likes character centered fantasy with strong female protagonists. I already have the nest two books in the trilogy.

Cover image found on TRudi Canavan's website, link in title above.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Computer problems

Posting may be iffy for a while, the home pc has picked up a horrible illness & I'm having to post from either the hubby's laptop (which is only here at home sporadically) or from the library. Unfortunately I'd written up several posts & saved them-on the other computer. :(

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

$1 ebooks

Orbit books, probably best known for science fiction & fantasy, has started a new site where they're offering one free ebook per month. The site doesn't say how long the promotion will run, but they do say that each title will be available for one month only. This month it's Marie Brennan"s Midnight Never Come.

Next month it'll be:

Brennan cover image found on Orbit

Kindle owners beware??

If you're a kindle owner, you might want to click over to to read a little article about hidden limits on how many times you can download a title. I'm not sure how new this actually is, but I thought someone out there might like to know. Consumerist is pretty widely read but not everyone stops by. The article has the details. Go read. Might be something you want or need to know before buying. Link in title & in post. Cheers all. Onwards towards total Amazon domination! lol ;)

Monday, June 22, 2009

Ruby's Slippers; Leanna Ellis

Ruby’s Slippers by Leanna Ellis is a contemporary Christian women’s fiction novel set primarily in California. This is the second title I’ve read by Ms. Ellis, which was sent to me for review by B&H Publishing. While acknowledging that two titles is hardly a large enough soap box from which to preach, it seems to me that Ms. Ellis writes of women who are at a major turning point in their lives. A time when the confluence of events and people impel a woman to assess who she is and where she is going.

Ruby’s Slipper’s is such a novel. As both the title and the cover imply the novel follows a similar path, both literally and symbolically, as the characters in the Wizard of Oz: fellow travelers have a mission to accomplish, their path is replete with peril and misinformation, the exact destination & outcome are unknown. I have to say that while I enjoy the movie significantly more now than I did when I was a child, it is not something with which I’ve more than a glancing familiarity. I very much enjoyed figuring out which book character matched up with which movie character.

The plot is deceptively simple. Two sisters, whose mother has been deceased only a year, own a small family farm in rural Kansas. Their father disappeared when the girls were barely out of toddlerhood. The younger sister, Abby, is an actress in California, the older, Dorothy, a teacher who cared for their mother in her waning years. The farm has been a bone of contention between them ever since she died. Until the day a major tornado hits the tiny town and flattens the Meyers homestead, inflicting a head injury on the oldest daughter. Abby brings Dottie to California to recover. After that everything changes.

Ms. Ellis’ plot doesn’t go quite where this reader rather thought it would. It was fabulous! I became quite fascinated with unraveling the various threads in my mind and then reweaving them once I realized that I was quite wrong after all. LOL  As for theme, you’ve your pick of several. One, that there are two sides to every story and it’s best to try and learn what they both are. Two, fear and anger are often bedfellows and frequently feed each other. Three, the dawn must come eventually no matter how dark and menacing the night may be. And four, it’s always possible to begin anew.

A wonderfully fun insightful read. Excellent for the summer.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Free Lara Adrian book

Via PBackwriter, one of Lara Adrian's books is available free for download from Random House. Click here to go to their page, PBwriter says it's available only for a short time so don't wait!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell

I was first made aware of this title by Pianist's French teacher (he was in 7th grade at the time) in an email. She wanted him to read it. Unfulfilled expectations and all that. This review isn't about him, though. So the day I read the email I put myself on the library waiting list for this book. I was number forty seven. Bummer. It took five months before it was our turn. In the meantime, I watched Charlie Rose's interview with Mr. Gladwell.

In America, the mythos of the self made man is a deeply entrenched, beloved belief that is in some ways central to our culture. Generally, we're supposed to believe that here in the US anyone, from anywhere, from any background can rise to the top of our society through their own hard work & very little else. Like cream rises from milk. Unbidden & naturally. We like to pretend such things are practically guaranteed by the constitution, for heavens' sake! Or so the thought goes.

IMO, it's quite easy to sum up Outliers: it's a thoughtfully written, soundly defended debunking of the myth of the self made man. Mr. Gladwell's position is that preferential treatment can be based on such arbitrary measures as birth dates, generational size and parenting style. He argues that coincidental circumstances and arbitrary random sorting of children often boosts one group over another. Success, according to this position, results from cumulative advantages & isn't merely the result of native ability.

Mr. Gladwell reveals that parenting styles may differ by economic class- and that these seemingly inconsequential differences can ultimately have a serious impact on how much better one child may do as opposed to another. In other words, socialization training taught in the home can have more impact for better or for worse on a child's trajectory than many parents may be willing to admit.In young children an age difference as little as four or six months can make a huge difference in academic and athletic outcomes. He uses the Canadian hockey training system and American kindergartners as effective examples. In other words, future achievement is predicted better by family involvement, location, culture and cumulative advantages that started early in life- not necessarily intelligence quotient, work ethic and other nebulous characteristics.

Mr. Gladwell discusses such vagaries as how Asian language structures inherently confer advantages on their young learners that English does not- giving their children a strong and enduring boost up the ladder that lasts through their childhood into their adulthood. Gladwell shows how it may take a few generations for a family or group to boost itself out of one economic class into another and he tells us how much effort that entails & what the rewards and sacrifices may be.

Outliers isn't a book I'd've necessarily picked up on my own and for that I'm grateful to the French teacher. Anyone who is interested in the sociological origins of success and how various factors impact each individual should pick this up. It's a fascinating read.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Ebooks vs. Actual Books

I posted a column over at Access Romance discussing my love for actual physical books despite the inevitable coming digital publishing revolution. Click title above to go to column directly.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

TBR Challenge: Hidden Honor, Anne Stuart

One of my all time favorite keepers is an old book by Anne Stuart, Lord of Danger. Click title above to go to challenge webpage. Click here to go to author's webpage. So when this month's TBR Challenge rolled around & I looked up the theme I was thrilled. After all, Anne Stuart's heroes are often unique and push the boundaries of what an acceptable hero is. And I just happen to have four of Ms. Stuart's historicals in my TBR. Lucky me! So I chose this one. For those who wonder about cover accuracy: the cover accurately portrays Elizabeth's hair and dress! It's a nice touch, I think.

So, Hidden Honor is a 2004 Mira release set in early thirteenth century England (near as I can tell). For romance readers familiar with the terms, this is a combination road & in disguise romance. Young Elizabeth (17) is being sent to a convent by her widower father as she's too skinny, too ugly and too stupid to get a husband (dad's words, not mine). It just so happens that the bastard son of King John, one William Fitzroy, is traveling to the Shrine of St. Anne to confess and do penance for (accidentally) murdering a well born young woman. Fearful of an ambush on his life, an elaborate role switch takes place among William's retinue. William is disguised as a monk named Br. Matthew, a monk named Br. Peter takes William's place & yet another young nobleman named Adrian is also along pretending to be a monk, albeit using his own name.

You can see where this is going right? Peter, pretending to be William, falls in lust with Elizabeth. Elizabeth is kept in the dark as to who is whom, and her father sends her on her merry way with this group since she is to join the convent at the Shrine. Understandably squicked out by the attention the murderous William pays to her, Elizabeth is confused by her intuition, which tells her that William (in truth, Peter) means her no harm. Along the way they pick up a cookie cutter 'wise whore with a heart of gold' named Joanne so that she can impart some words of wisdom to young Elizabeth along the way.

Really, this could've been an excellent read. I mean, Ms. Stuart's rep is for truly out there heroes. Peter's past history with William is only slowly revealed & late into the book- but plays a crucial role in what unfolds. I think Peter could've been, should've been, edgier. He is portrayed as remorseful, penitent, guilty over what passed between himself and William, but he never seems to question his judgement. And what transpired between them should've raised quite a few questions regarding his own judgement and morality and responsibility. Aside from wishing Peter was edgier & sharper, I really enjoyed the secondary romance between Joanne and Adrian. Elizabeth annoyed me, to be truthful. I had to constantly remind myself that she's only seventeen & what can you expect from a teenager after all?! I would've been happier if Elizabeth was older, more experienced, to match Peter's issues better. I mean, really, a seventeen year old?

So, yeah, kinda disappointed here. Not quite up to par, IMO. Good but not quite there. :( Aw well, we can't always be at the top of out game, can we?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Sinful Life of Lucy Burns; Elizabeth Leiknes

This is, I believe, Ms. Leiknes' debut novel published by Bancroft Press out of Charm City (aka Baltimore MD), up the road a bit from Bookwormom Central.Link to author's website in title above. I received a copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review. The flap lists this as romantic comedy, my assessment is that it's paranormal chick lit- a subgenre that's currently selling well & is popular. I like the voice & the pacing & the story is cute and hides its deeper meaning pretty well. I wish Ms. Leiknes much success & future book deals.

The plot is your classic Faustian bargain: as an eleven year old Lucille Burns' older sister is hit by a truck and is hospitalized with a coma. Lucy writes a letter 'to whom it may concern' and promises that if Ellen is ok she will 'be forever in your debt' and put the letter in their magic mailbox. The next morning Ellen is miraculously healed. In the magic mailbox a note appears, "it's a deal..I'll be in touch."

Fast forward nineteen years: Lucy has had to give up her family and forgo personal relationships with men because her job requires her to be on the down low all the time. What is her job? Lucy's a facilitator for the Devil. She's to ensure that evil people get to their final destination. To do this she's given a few paranormal powers, a magic basement that leads to hell, and a type of were-dog that's alternately a normal scruffy mutt and satan's minion. She has inhumanly perky breasts and never breaks out during her period. She can eat lots and lots of chocolate and never gains weight.

For all of the her superficiality and her physical perfection, Lucy is unfulfilled and lonely. Although she's good friends with the earth mother neighbor and her kids next door Lucy misses her sister and really wants a steady man in her life. Kids of her own maybe. None of which are available to her unless she can figure out how to break the contract she made as an eleven year old. The turning point comes when the earth mother neighbor takes Lucy to a concert to see Lucy's favorite easy listening idol perform.

The novel hangs together tightly- which I loved. Sometimes story elements are unevenly treated in shorter novels, but the author avoids that this time around. Ms. Leiknes touches on some deeper themes than your usual genre novel: the disconnectedness of modern life, wish fulfillment vs. personal development, morality, ambiguity, and others. I did have some problems with the narrative, mostly to do with characterization and plot details and the too neat wrap up at the end. Mostly minor, and not enough to stop me dead in my tracks. The story fit well for the length of the book (only 167 pages). The Sinful Life of Lucy Burns is a light quick read- good poolside or beach umbrella reading. Or, if you prefer, it can be a meditation on modern life,moral ambiguity and easy listening lyrics! Enjoy!

Image found on B&N.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

15 Books, 15 Minutes

Found on Annie Kelleher's blog, writers and witches and words oh my, a quick game where you list 15 books that made an impact on you, but you can only take 15 minutes to list them:

1. Summer Lightning, PG Wodehouse

2. Edgar Allen Poe's short stories

3. To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee

4. Robert Louis Stevenson's children's poems

5. Book of Nursery and Mother Goose Rhymes, Marguerite d'Angeli

6. Merchant of Venice, William Shakespeare

7. The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne

8. The Great Sermon Handicap, PG Wodehouse

9. A Lesson Before Dying, Earnest J. Gaines

10. Breath, Eyes, Memory; Edwidge Danticat

11. The Strangeness of Memory, Lydia Minatoya

12. The Complete Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle

13. Moreta, Anne McCaffrey

14. Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll

15. The Ocean Between Us, Susan Wiggs

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Shameless Plug

I've been following this blog for years, Random Acts of Reality, written by a London native who goes by Tom Reynolds. MBMS&ACOT is based on Reynolds' work based blog & is, in fact, his second book. It's great stuff if you're into behind the scenes medical realities all too often glossed over. My hubby's a nurse, many's the time when I've bookmarked a post & made him read it later. Or I've handed him the laptop demanding "read this!!"

Reynolds' book, titled More Blood, More Sweat and Another Cup of Tea, linked here to Amazon page. Need a review? The Guardian has a combo review interview up, click here to read (can't remember if you have to register, sorry). Click here to read Harper Collins page.

As I mentioned, I've lurked on his blog for years & love to read his stories. I'm not a shill, I've not received an arc or a free box of latex gloves for mentioning his book here. Simply put: I like to cheer on fellow bloggers who've successfully made it into print. Reynolds has a deft way of delineating both the light and the dark sides of humanity. Please try it out, it's well worth it.

London Ambulance Service vehicle image found on policeblue999's Flickr photostream

Cover image found on Harper Collins UK.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Simon & Schuster & News

Via the New York Times, Simon & Schuster & have signed a deal to make S&S titles available on Good news for ebook lovers!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Blogvertisement Rules Coming?

Found on last night, Consumerist says (via Consumer Reports) that the Federal Trade Commission is proposing to require bloggers to post whether or not they have received payment or compensation to post and or discuss an item on said blog.

Personally I think this it's only right that bloggers tell people when they have received compensation to review/discuss/promote items on a blog. Here on my blog, I will put a note in the post and in the tags on the bottom of the post if I've received a promotional copy (arc or galley) of a book. I do very few of these. The majority of books reviewed or discussed here are either owned by me or a member of my family, was a gift or was borrowed from the library.

What do you think?

Which Fantasy Writer are You?

Found at Grasping for the Wind: a little quiz called Which Fantasy Writer are You?

Your result for Which fantasy writer are you?...

China Miéville (b. 1972)

9 High-Brow, 11 Violent, -13 Experimental and -3 Cynical!

Congratulations! You are High-Brow, Violent, Traditional and Romantic! These concepts are defined below.

China Miéville writes in the British fantasy tradition of authors like Mervyn Peake and Michael Moorcock, a tradition which is a little darker than the Tolkien kind, but Miéville is also a great renewer, as he has taken care to challenge, for example, race-related (or, to be exact, species-related) stereotypes in fantasy. His great breakthrough came with the award-winning novel Perdido Street Station (2000), which is set in the sprawling city of New Crobuzon in the secondary world Bas-Lag. Apart from its urban setting, Perdido Street Station also differ from Tolkien-style fantasy by taking place in an era reminiscent of the Victorian age rather than the typical quasi-medieval setting of so-called high fantasy. This means that Miéville has the opportunity to explore his socialist beliefs in a fantasy environment, even if both Perdido Street Station and its two sequels also feature monsters, adventures and such.

Setting his book in a rather dictatorical society and occasionally spinning his sories around resistance against an oppressive government means that Miéville's books sometimes contain rather horrible violence, made all the scarier because it's often conducted legally by a ruling government. This also makes the boks rather romantic; although the struggle is difficult, the struggle continues and whether you are a socialist like Miéville or not, it's easy to sympathize with the message that the world can be changed for the better. It should also be pointed out that although Miéville is often inventive and has a love for spicing up his prose with archaic words, his books are, narratively speaking, traditional adventure stories. Actually, Miéville has made a point of taking genres such as the pirate story and the Western story and retelling them in a fantasy environment.

Still, Miéville has brought fantasy to new literary heights and can be said to represent hope for the genre's future.

You are also a lot like Michael Moorcock.

If you want something more gentle, try Susan Cooper.

If you'd like a challenge, try your exact opposite, Orson Scott Card.

Your score

This is how to interpret your score: Your attitudes have been measured on four different scales, called 1) High-Brow vs. Low-Brow, 2) Violent vs. Peaceful, 3) Experimental vs. Traditional and 4) Cynical vs. Romantic. Imagine that when you were born, you were in a state of innocence, a tabula rasa who would have scored zero on each scale. Since then, a number of circumstances (including genetical, cultural and environmental factors) have pushed you towards either end of these scales. If you're at 45 or -45 you would be almost entirely cynical, low-brow or whatever. The closer to zero you are, the less extreme your attitude. However, you should always be more of either (eg more romantic than cynical). Please note that even though High-Brow, Violent, Experimental and Cynical have positive numbers (1 through 45) and their opposites negative numbers (-1 through -45), this doesn't mean that either quality is better. All attitudes have their positive and negative sides, as explained below.

High-Brow vs. Low-Brow

You received 9 points, making you more High-Brow than Low-Brow. Being high-browed in this context refers to being more fascinated with the sort of art that critics and scholars tend to favour, rather than the best-selling kind. At their best, high-brows are cultured, able to appreciate the finer nuances of literature and not content with simplifications. At their worst they are, well, snobs.

Violent vs. Peaceful

You received 11 points, making you more Violent than Peaceful. Please note that violent in this context does not mean that you, personally, are prone to violence. This scale is a measurement of a) if you are tolerant to violence in fiction and b) whether you see violence as a means that can be used to achieve a good end. If you are, and you do, then you are violent as defined here. At their best, violent people are the heroes who don't hesitate to stop the villain threatening innocents by means of a good kick. At their worst, they are the villains themselves.

Experimental vs. Traditional

You received -13 points, making you more Traditional than Experimental. Your position on this scale indicates if you're more likely to seek out the new and unexpected or if you are more comfortable with the familiar, especially in regards to culture. Note that traditional as defined here does not equal conservative, in the political sense. At their best, traditional people don't change winning concepts, favouring storytelling over empty poses. At their worst, they are somewhat narrow-minded.

Cynical vs. Romantic

You received -3 points, making you more Romantic than Cynical. Your position on this scale indicates if you are more likely to be wary, suspicious and skeptical to people around you and the world at large, or if you are more likely to believe in grand schemes, happy endings and the basic goodness of humankind. It is by far the most vaguely defined scale, which is why you'll find the sentence "you are also a lot like x" above. If you feel that your position on this scale is wrong, then you are probably more like author x. At their best, romantic people are optimistic, willing to work for a good cause and inspiring to their peers. At their worst, they are easily fooled and too easily lead.

Author picture by the talented artist "Molosovsky". Visit for more!

Take Which fantasy writer are you?
at HelloQuizzy

Monday, June 08, 2009

Award Time!

The Lemonade Award

Gwendolyn B of A Sea of Books awarded me the Lemonade Award. This is a real feel-good award for blogs that show great attitude or gratitude. What a compliment!

1) Put the Lemonade Award logo on your blog or post.

2) Nominate at least 10 blogs that show great attitude or gratitude.

3) Link to your nominees within your post.

4) Let the nominees know that they have received this award by commenting on their blog.

5) Share the love and link to the person from whom you received your award.

Due to my perpetual disorganization and my unholy love for google feed reader I'm primarily a lurker. I don't comment much anymore. If you have no idea who I am, that's ok. LOL :) You're probably on my reader & one of my regular morning coffee cup reads so to speak. I really like the nominated blogs & I hope you accept the award in the 'spread the love' spirit in which it was intended.

1. Kailana at The Written World

2. CindyS at Nocturnal Wonderings

3. Jessica at Racy Romance Reviews

4. Jill at Romance Rookie

5. Karen & Aztec Lady at Karen Knows Best

6. Louise at Lous_Pages

7. Keishon at Avid Reader

8. Nath at Books, Books & More Books

9. Orannia at Walkabout

10. KristieJ at Ramblings on Romance

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Beyond Heaving Bosoms; Wendell & Tan

Beyond Heaving Bosoms: The Smart Bitches Guide to Romance Novels by Sarah Wendell and Candy Tan was published by Fireside Books in April 2009. Link to their blog & bbook page in the title above. It’s a little tough to categorize, since I think it’s a hybrid between humor and literary criticism. I found my copy in the lit crit section of my local B&N. The authors run a romance book blog, eponymously named Smart Bitches Trashy Books. I’ve been a loyal lurker on the site for several years now & I was thrilled beyond belief to find this in a brick and mortar bookstore.

The ‘pink aisle’ of your local bookstore, aka the romance section, is, if you believe readers’ gossip, the dregs of literature. There are so many snide, attitude laden smears repeated about romance I couldn’t list them all: they’re all the same, they’re porn for women, since they all end happily they have nothing valid to say, they encourage unhealthy relationship stereotypes, romance is so bad it makes science fiction and fantasy look good, and on and on and on. Loyal readers are known to make or buy book covers to hide their books in so that they won’t get hassled for their choice of reading material.

Yet, these same supposedly mouth breathing soap opera watching uneducated unemployed unfulfilled housewives buy billions of dollars worth of romances every year. We joke that we bankroll the publishing industry year after year after year, and will continue to do so even in the Depression 2.0. We are some of the most loyal, most prolific book buyers out there. If asked many devoted readers say they will cut back on every other budget item- except books. Many of us are also dedicated library patrons.

What does Beyond Heaving Bosoms have to say about romance? A lot, truth be told. Much of it quite blue and quite funny. This isn’t intended to be an academic treatise defending romance, but it is an in depth look at could be called an insider’s body of knowledge. Things that long term readers are familiar with, but which usually confuse and annoy newbies. For example: hero and heroine character types, common plot tropes, romance novel code words (for example, did you know that the word mistress when used in an Harlequin has it’s own definition?), rape, sexual agency, those horrible clinch covers, and finally, theories on the directions in which romance will be moving in the future. The online ‘you must be nice no matter what” aka “if you don’t have anything nice to say..” culture is discussed. Oh- there are also games such as romance mad libs, funniest book related game EVER.

Beyond Heaving Bosoms is a must read for long time romance readers, even if you only want to be able to defend your choice of reading material. For those readers who have wondered why romances have been likened to “book crack” this a great way to familiarize yourself with the neighborhood. Welcome. Come on in. The water’s fine.

Cover image found on Barnes & Noble.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

20th Anniv. Tiananman Square

Please take a moment to remember the student democracy activists who were killed in Tiananmen Square twenty years ago today. Click here for wiki article. I think in China dragons are said to represent good luck, and thus I wish true representative democracy growth, prosperity and good luck.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Weekend Fun

We had a great weekend. Busy, but great. Saturday was the first weekend day off Hubby's had in way too long. We planned some fun & thankfully the weather held.

Drove to Arlington to see the Air Force Cycling Classic (formerly CSC Invitational). We found a nice spot under a tree although it was on the inside of a curve, so we didn't get the head on perspective like last year. Anime Queen & Hubby are quite fair skinned though, so it all worked out for the best. We left before they were done, although #123 had nearly lapped the peloton.

Drove fifteen minutes down the road to watch the 2nd annual Mayor's Cup Rugby match- Alexandria Select 15 Vs. Dundee HS Select 15. As is to be expected, Dundee won. I am totally in the dark about rugby, but I must say it was very exciting. I'm totally a convert. It's depressing, though. We'll have to travel quite a way to see games here. Both of the kids expressed an interest in playing if we can find a league closer to home.

Have pix. Will load them tonight.

Monday, June 01, 2009

May Synopsis

Listed below are the books I read last month. #6-8 have been reviewed & are hyperlinked. Reviews for #1-5 will be hyperliked when the reviews go up or when I make my June synopsis. #8 is actually a reread, but since it wasn't in my archives I'm counting it toward my annual numbers.

Edited 12 July 2009~ Added hyperlinks for #s 1-5

1. Outliers; Malcolm Gladwell

2. Beyond Heaving Bosoms; Sarah Wendell & Candy Tan

3. The Magician's Guild; Trudi Canavan

4. The Midnight Choir; Gene Kerrigan

5. Scar Night; Alan Campbell

6. When He Was Wicked; Julia Quinn

7. Rooftops of Tehran; Mahbod Seraji

8. Four in Hand; Stephanie Laurens