Eclectic Reader Challenge Published in 2013: The Ocean at the End of the Lane

So…this sort of died a slow death when school started back up.

The challenge was to read all these books within 2013, and it’s now just over a year since I began it. Whoops. But I still intend on finishing, as it’s good for me to read outside my comfort zone. I just won’t put a time limit on it.

The Actual “Review” (Scare quotes because I was too overcome to actually come up with a cogent review)

“I liked myths. They weren’t adult stories and they weren’t children’s stories. They were better than that. They just were.” -page 53

The Ocean at the End of the Lane just is. Beautifully.

Lush, mythic, gorgeous. Haunting. Memorable.

So, so, incredibly lovely.

It was only a duck pond, out at the back of the farm. It wasn’t very big. Lettie Hempstock said it was an ocean, but I knew that was silly. She said they’d come here from across the ocean from the old country. Her mother said that Lettie didn’t remember properly, and it was a long time ago, and anyway, the old country had sunk. Old Mrs. Hempstock, Lettie’s grandmother, said they were both wrong, and that the place that had sunk wasn’t the really old country. She said she could remember the really old country. She said the really old country had blown up.

 

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Where Did the Novel Go?

 I Didn’t Abandon Princess

It’s still there, I promise. And soon I will get around to editing the side bars. But I will admit to not doing a lot with it, mostly because by the time I’m done with classes and homework my “producing” abilities are severely compromise, and soon I am too burnt out to do anything but consume (books, some TV, food) and sleep.

But rather than simply not blog at all, I’ve been experimenting with some new things. Like the Black Swans series, which I will continue (but slowly, because that actually involves some research and writing of coherent sentences). Also like book reviews.

I’m not planning on turning this into a review blog, but there will be more reviews coming. Mostly because they’re helpful to me, as a writer.

Reviews are a Teaching Tool

Reviews lead me to read critically, and to think about books critically. And that is something that is vitally important to improving my writing. Reviewing books allows me to see what works and what doesn’t, what plot devices feel fresh or overused, what dialogue sounds natural and engaging….etc. etc. etc. until the cows come home -there is so much to be learned!

Also, reading is fun.

The Friendly Bit

So, anyone else review the books they read? Why/why not? If you’re a writer, do you find it helps your writing?

The Dominance of the Alpha-Male

Okay so Monday I totally derailed my own post. What did I mean to talk about? Alpha males in fiction. Right. Let’s do that. [EDIT: I sort of derailed this one too, with pictures.]

I feel like in a lot of the romance I’ve read lately, the love interest is a big, strong, muscular, ‘hot’, manly man. And he’s got the personality to match — conceited, overprotective, needs to be in charge, I could go on. If it’s a paranormal, often he’s a werewolf or other shifter. And if he is, he’s always the alpha.

God forbid any woman fall in love with the beta of the back. Or just a regular member.

Here’s the thing – I get that alpha males are the fantasy of many in the female population (and probably some in the male population too – I should be inclusive). But I don’t like them.

I don’t find them attractive. Well, sometimes I do, but my tastes usually run to the more…bookish types. Or the charming ones. I certainly don’t enjoy the kind of personality their fictional counterparts usually possess. (And yes, I know some of it is distortion because you’re viewing them through the eyes of another character BUT STILL.)

Here are some manly men:

Here are some men who are more my type (and yes I am aware some of them are gay, this is one of my problems):


(Bonus: these two sing). (Also Matthew Gray Gubler IS HOLDING A PUPPY)

Also like 90% of the guys on this woefully incomplete list

So what about me? What about the girls who don’t want an alpha male, a hyper-manly man? (Manly in the stereotypical sense. Yes, problematic gender norm things, but this post isn’t about that.)

Are there any books where the female protagonist falls in love with a werewolf who loves the opera? Or a man who isn’t super ripped, and instead likes to read? I’ve seen a few, but usually the guys are  still also super possessive and annoying. And yes, books need conflict, and having the super possessive guy annoy the female until she discovers that really she loves him and he’s just trying to keep her safe seems to be a popular one. But there are other kinds of conflict.

I JUST WANT A NERD BOY ROMANCE. IS THAT TOO MUCH TO ASK?

So, my dear readers, I ask for your help. (If you are willing and able). Are there paranormal romance books, or SFF books with a romantic subplot, that feature ‘nerdy’ love interests? Or — let’s go crazy — even romances with no speculative element whatsoever? They must exist, and I just haven’t found them yet.

Otherwise I’ll have to write one myself.

Romance Woes

I’ve been reading more romance lately – it’s not my first choice of genre, but I find that more and more of the urban fantasy I read these days is edging farther into paranormal romance. And I’ve been picking up more kindle freebies lately, and most of them are heavy on the romance.

My conclusions: I’m starting to get a little more into the whole romance thing. I’ve always been sort of a late bloomer, and I spent the first 13 years of my school-age life at an all girl’s school and dancing ballet. There aren’t a lot of boys in ballet. So let’s just say that I wasn’t really interested in relationships for a long time.

But now, maybe I am? I don’t know.

The problem is that I’m not very extroverted. I don’t drink or go to parties (because I don’t like parties. They tire me out and stress me out and are really just not at all fun for me). If I ever complain about not meeting anyone, the advice is 90% of the time “you need to go to parties or you’ll never meet anyone”.

I don’t think I should have to change my personality in order to meet someone; anyone I meet that way wouldn’t have the same interests anyway. It would be a friendship, or a relationship, predicated on a lie and it just wouldn’t go well.

My struggles are well known in my family – it’s to the point where by future boyfriend has become a figure of legend, known as “nerd-boy”.

Anyway, enough about my romantic troubles. I’ll meet my nerd-boy in med school, and he will like to read and enjoy going to the ballet (or at least find it pleasantly tolerable and be willing to take me), and be romantic and handsome and smart. (Nope, not setting my sights high at all…)

Eclectic Reader Challenge New Adult: Dark Light of Day

I did some waffling as to whether I was going to call this my NA book or not. The majority  of NA books out there seem to be contemporary romances, but with slightly younger protagonists. However, New Adult is like Young Adultit’s an age category, not a genre. Just like a book can be YA distopian, or YA fantasy, a book can be NA paranormal romance or NA science fiction or NA post-Armageddon demon lawyers. And yes, the point of the challenge is to lead me to genres I don’t normally read. But I know for a fact that I’m not interested in 90% of the contemporary books out there so I’ll stick with demons, thanks!

4 stars.

Armageddon is hundreds of years in the past, and yet life goes on. The Host – the females with waxing, healing magic and the males with waning, destructive magic – control the demons; the Hyrke (humans without magic) adore them.

Noon Onyx and her brother Night are anomalies – twins whose magic seems to have been switched in the womb. Noon enrolls at St. Lucifer’s to become a demon lawyer, although secretly she wants nothing more than to reverse her magic. Noon’s struggles to accept who she is and learn to control her magic are interwoven with a mystery surrounding disappearing healers and her best friend’s quest to find a magic-reversal spell.

I thought the concept was extraordinarily unique, and despite there being an overwhelming amount of information in the first few chapters I followed along okay and the book quickly hits its stride. I reached a certain point perhaps 2/3 of the way through where I was no longer able to put the book down. In fact, I stayed up far too late to finish it!

I also enjoyed the romance subplot. While there were two potential love interests in the book there wasn’t really a love triangle. I loved reading about the progression of a single relationship rather than a which-boy-should-I-choose situation. (And I knew Peter was a jerk from the beginning. Actually, I didn’t quite understand why Noon ever liked him. I mean, I can hypothesize all sorts of reasons but the way he came across in the text was inherently unlikeable.)

The major theme of the book -accepting yourself for who you are rather than trying to change- was  skillfully woven through the whole novel without ever being too blunt or too trite.

Though the conclusions is satisfying, enough loose threads are left to leave me wanting more. I’m eager to read more of Noon’s and Ari’s adventures.

Eclectic Reader Challenge Urban Fantasy: Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews

3.5 stars.

Ilona Andrews absolutely has a talent for worldbuilding. It’s the greatest strength of Magic Bites, the ability Andrews have to put a new spin on tired tropes.

I loved her treatment of vampires, having them be 1. Evil, nonsparkly monsters and 2. Bloodthirsty brutes controlled by necromancers. She was creative with the shapeshifters as well, having were-rats and were-bears and were-felines along with the wolves. I liked having an intermediate form as well as man and beast, which harkens back to traditional werewolf legends. And I thought the idea of both wereanimals, infected humans, and animal-weres, infected animals, to be borderline genius.

The whole magic/tech situation was really interesting, if not really explained. I’d like to see it affect the main story more, become an important plot point, something like that. The Order of the Knights of Merciful Aid was an interesting concept. All in all, the backdrop to the story is rich and fascinating.

It’s in the substance of the story where Magic Bites falls a little short. For the most part the plot is fine, suspenseful and quick-moving, but nothing that struck me as exceptional. Two issues presented themselves. One, I though the fake-out big bad came out of nowhere. I don’t mind the idea of having a big battle with an enemy who’s not the true enemy, but I had almost no context for her and it felt sort of random.

SPOILER

I also hated the Crest-as-the-Upir thing. It was NOT KATE’S IDEA, and yet she gets the blame (and she blames herself) when Crest turns out to be human. Stupid. Irritating.

END SPOILER

Obviously Kate and Curran are being set up to eventually become a couple, but I have to say there were lots of places where Curran really got on my nerves. Maybe the sequels will win me over but every time he did something to redeem himself in my eyes he followed it up with something entirely aggravating. Yes, he’s an alpha, and that’s going to make him behave a certain way. But sometimes I really felt like smacking him.

I’m interested enough to read the sequels, although I much prefer Ilona Andrews’ web serial Clean Sweep to Magic Bites. Just as much inventive worldbuilidng, a much more engaging plot, and a slightly less irritating alpha-male.

Read ALL THE BOOKS

I got a little excited that summer was here and checked out approximately 1 million books from the library. Here, in no particular order, are the books sitting on my desk waiting to be read.

 

PLUS Bill’s novel (WHICH IS TOTALLY #1 I AM ALMOST DONE PROMISE). So I’m a busy girl.

[UPDATE: Since scheduling this post I have finished Throne of Glass and Magic Bites. I’m still working on Bill’s novel because Amazon is stupid.]