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.]

Everything’s Beautiful at the Ballet

So I took a half day today to take a little girl I babysit to the ballet.

She was so cute – extremely excited, all dressed up, perfectly behaved the whole time. She’s about to turn five and not very big so we had to get a cushion for her to sit on. It was totally adorable.

I was actually really happy to be seeing Swan Lake. I got some last minute tickets in the fall from the Barnard dance department but I was way on the side and only had a partial view of the stage. This time we had amazing tickets – center orchestra, not too far back.

I’m not as familiar with ABT as I am with NYCB, as proved by a quick perusal of the program. I recognized only a handful of names. Hee Seo was dancing Odette/Odile, but I had never seen her before so I was interested to see how she did. Siegfried was being danced by Marcelo Gomes who is always perfect.

Hee Seo turned out to be gorgeous. She has beautiful legs and feet and extremely expressive arms (which is super necessary for Odette especially). Odette/Odile is a hard role – one because it’s a marathon and two because they’re basically polar opposites – but Hee did a wonderful job.

If I had to criticize, I’d say she’s not really a turner. Her fouettes, the big showstopper moment in act III, were not great. There was a lot of movement and she never pulled in for multiples, not even at the end. Not that I should really be talking, my fouettes are atrocious, but there you are. She also seemed to be struggling a bit with the step overs in her act II variation.

(By the way, if you want to see a stellar coda check out Gillian Murphy. Her turns start at 0:30 if you’re in a hurry although it’s worth watching the whole thing because Angel Corella is also phenomenal. I don’t love Gillian’s arms but you can’t argue with the bravura!)

Despite my nitpicks with her turns, Hee was absolutely stunning in all of the pas. She’s definitely a lyrical dancer. And when she was with Marcello – as;dlfjwa;lf. No, seriously, that is how inarticulate they make me. It was beautiful. Marcello is a gorgeous partner. And his turns! In his act III variation he did a pirouette, finished in passe, then gave us a cheeky grin and pulled in for more! God.

I was pleasantly surprised by a few of the soloists. In particular, one of the pas de trois girls and the four little swans. Four little swans was totally fierce – although I have to admit that no matter how good it is I cringe a little bit inside while I’m watching because four swans is a bitch  to do. Not because it’s that hard but it’s disproportionately difficult to do anything when you’re holding hands with three other girls. Anyway, I’ll have to keep an eye out for them in the future. The corps, on the other hand, was rather messy. I know it’s early in the run but some things were really obviously not together.

The production overall is very nice, with lavish sets and costumes. I much prefer it to the City Ballet version, which looks like it was designed and painted by a child. I understand they were going for a more modern look, which I don’t object to in principle, but the execution failed spectacularly. Ah, well.

Swan Lake also has one of the most gorgeous scores ever composed for ballet (in my opinion at least). It’s Tchaikovsky at his finest. And I’m always surprised, every time I go, how much of the music I know! I could probably hum 70% of the score from memory. Considering how beautiful and complex and tragic it is, it’s very catchy.

Some people complain about the mitigation of the downer ending, but I don’t mind it. Speaking of which, Marcello got some serious air time jumping into the lake.

So that was my day; it’s interesting timing because I just started reading Mercedes Lackey’s Black Swan (recommended by Tami). I’m curious to see what she does with the story and how she adapts it to novel form. I’m only a chapter in but I was pleased to see a nod to the four swans/cygnets in the first chapter, even as I cried a little inside, thinking about those echappe heads.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Ballet has its own language. If anyone is reading and wants a translation/elaboration/explanation just ask! Also some french words are probably spelled wrong (although I do try to get them right) and missing accents as I am not in the mood to figure out how to put them in on Blogger and no I do not want to copy-paste from Word right now.

Eclectic Reader Challenge

I read a lot. I always have.

What I don’t always do is read in many different genres. Sure, occasionally there will be a book someone suggests or lends me which falls outside the parameters of fantasy and science fiction, and I’ll give it a go. But those are few and far between. (Actually Lily/Rat has been force-feeding me Jodi Picoult books for a couple years now and I’m enjoying them just fine. As long as they have happy endings. I will not read the sad ones.)

So today, when I came across the “Eclectic Reader Challenge” while wasting time on the interwebs, it seemed like the perfect way to get me reading something new.

The challenge is to read one book in each specified genre. The categories are:

  • Translated fiction
  • Historical mystery
  • Romantic suspense
  • Made into a movie
  • New Adult
  • Urban Fantasy
  • Dystopian
  • Memoir
  • LGBT
  • Action Adventure
  • Humour
  • Published in 2013

 Join in, if you’d like and have the time. And suggestions are welcome, particularly in categories I don’t usually read (LGBT, Action adventure, Romantic suspense) or anything I don’t already have a book listed for.

I have some ideas already for what I will read, which I will share here. And I’ll offer some comments, if not a full review, after each book.

  • Translated fiction – THE HOUSE OF THE SPIRITS, ISABEL ALLENDE
  • Historical mystery – A MURDEROUS PROCESSION, ARIANA FRANKLIN
  • Romantic suspense – THE HEIST, JANET EVANOVICH AND LEE GOLDBERG
  • Made into a movie – The Silver Linings Playbook, or Sense and Sensibility. Or both.
  • New Adult – DARK LIGHT OF DAY, JILL ARCHER
  • Urban Fantasy – MAGIC BITES, ILONA ANDREWS
  • Dystopian
  • Memoir -MAO’S LAST DANCER, LI CUNXIN
  • LGBT – ASH, MALINDA LO
  • Action Adventure
  • Humor- SHADES OF GREY, JASPER FFORDE
  • Published in 2013 -THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE, NEIL GAIMAN

Review: Hunting by Andrea Host

I’m still getting the hang of writing reviews, so this is less a proper review and more my ramblings on the book.

Also posted on Goodreads.

I would rate it 4.5 stars if I could, but I enjoyed myself so much reading this book that I’m rounding up instead of down.

I bought Hunting on sale ($0.99) and it was more than worth the money. The world is inventive and feels fresh, the characters are generally well written, and the dialogue is funny.

I have a few quibbles with the book, one being that the motivations of the antagonists feel a bit murky to me, even after finishing. I don’t quite follow the logic – and that’s even more frustrating because I feel like it could all make sense if there was just a little more book to explore it. The ultimate antagonist was never really defeated, and if that avenue was just explored a little more…

The romance between the two main characters felt a bit rushed, again, something that could easily have been fixed with just a couple more chapters of angst.

Because the world/political system/religion was complex and unique I wanted a little bit more explanation. I muddled through and mostly got it by the end, but I would have liked to be clearer from the beginning.

It also just felt too short to me.  I finished the book wanting more.

Having said all that, I thoroughly enjoyed Hunting and will certainly seek out more of Ms. Host’s work

On a more serious note

WARNING: This post is not for the kids. Also, spoilerish things ahead. Also, a bit of a rant.

Many things are circling around in my head right now, and I’m not going to be able to sleep unless I try to work them out a little.

I just finished Deerskin, by Robin McKinley. There are many things to be said about this book. I found the prose to be a bit…architectural?…and sometimes hard to follow, but with its own kind of beauty that grew on me as I kept reading.

And then.

Much of the story is about Lissar’s recovery from the experience of being raped by her father. I repeat that, because it’s important: the book is not about rape, it’s about survival and recovery and the way she moves forward after that trauma.

Parts of it are brutal, and parts of it are moving…when she reclaimed her body, which she had previously been unable to even look at, which felt alien to her – I had chills. When she confronted her father towards the end, I cried.

And between this, and a recent post over on Tami’s blog about female characters, and the episode of criminal minds I watched today, and conversations which have been happening at school about this subject, I’ve been thinking about things.

I have fortunately never been sexually assaulted, or had anyone attempt to assault me, or really anything of that nature. And, although there are problems with the idea that women have to take precautions to avoid rape, I do take care to behave certain ways (don’t go out alone late at night, don’t get drunk at parties, etc. etc. Not that I go to parties anyway, but still).

And yet, there are moments.

I’ve been walking down the sidewalk, not even that late, but it’s dark outside, and there’s a man walking in the other direction. Doesn’t matter if he’s black, or white, or polka dotted. Sometimes, I just feel this stab of fear. It feels like something is constricting my chest, and my heart beats faster, and I have a feeling that I had barely put into words. It’s not that I think this other guy *is* going to attack me, it’s just that I have the sudden realization that he *could*.

That I could suddenly find myself in the situation where something is being done to my body that I didn’t choose, that I have no control over.

I mean, I’m not particularly strong, but I do know some self-defense. It doesn’t matter, I still get this feeling. And I get it sometimes when guys say things to me on the street, like “Hey guapa”, or “Smile, gorgeous”. I’ve gotten real compliments, from women and men, and they’re different from these. These are aggressive. And they give me that same feeling.

And I hate having that feeling. I really really really HATE that we live in a world in which rape is such a pervasive part of the culture that I sometimes feel afraid of random guys on the street, most of whom are perfectly nice I’m sure (obviously not the catcalling guys here, but for instance the random guys I walk by at night).

So this brings me to Criminal Minds. The cold open of this episode had a woman outside of a nightclub, talking on her cellphone. She hangs up. This guys starts coming down the alley, wearing a dark hoodie. He looks a bit menacing. The woman starts to feel uncomfortable. The guy reaches into his pocket…but just pulls out a cigarette. He’s still walking towards her. She starts to freak out. The tension is building, until the door opens and a waitress comes out and it turns out the guy is her boyfriend and he was coming to meet her. Then once she’s relaxed she turns around and sees a body among the trash in the alley.

Basically, we’ve (we meaning the TV audience) seen so many of these shows at this point that they feel like they have to trick us to make it “different” or “interesting”. We know, since we’re watching a show about serial killers, that there will be dead bodies, so our assumption is that the guy in the hoodie is going to attack the woman in the alley. And she thinks so too.

That fear that I have – that apparently, if it’s on primetime television, many women have – is used as a CASUAL PLOT DEVICE. It’s a throwaway. This woman is totally insignificant to the overall narrative of the episode. Her fear is just there to fake out the audience, to keep us on our toes in the fourteenth season or whatever. (Okay, fifth or sixth or seventh, but the point remains).

That scares me too, that it’s not a big deal and just gets thrown into the episode like it doesn’t matter. That yes, OF COURSE the guy coming down the alley is a rapist/murderer. That’s portrayed as the default assumption. And it is a crime show, so yes you’re expecting a rapist/murderer to appear at any moment, but still, it bothers me.

Anyway, to bring this rant back to Deerskin.

It’s a beautiful book. Aside from certain quibbles I have with it, which I am more than willing to forgive for the sake of other things. The rape is handled very well, and the story of Lissar’s recovery is gorgeous. I’ve read a couple reviews that find fault with the romance; I thought it was well done. The ending was typically abstract and…sensory, I guess…which is typical for McKinley, but it actually worked better for this book than it has for others. The father is a truly frightening figure, although I actually find the mother to be completely terrifying and nightmare-inducing and the two of them give me goosebumps, but it works.

I’m glad this book exists. It’s made me think about a lot of things. I don’t think I’ll be able to read it again for a while, but I will eventually.

Banned Books

 Books should never be banned. Will I read all the books on this list? No, of course not. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t other people who would enjoy them, or whose lives would change because of them. We should all be free to choose. Just for fun, I’ve bolded the books below that I’ve read. What about you all?

Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books: 2000-2009

1. Harry Potter (series), by J.K. Rowling

2. Alice series, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
3. The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier
4. And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell
5. Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
6. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
7. Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
8. His Dark Materials (series), by Philip Pullman
9. ttyl; ttfn; l8r g8r (series), by Lauren Myracle
10. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
11. Fallen Angels, by Walter Dean Myers
12. It’s Perfectly Normal, by Robie Harris
13. Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey [Thanks to my younger brother]
14. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
15. The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
16. Forever, by Judy Blume
17. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
18. Go Ask Alice, by Anonymous
19. Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
20. King and King, by Linda de Haan
21. To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
22. Gossip Girl (series), by Cecily von Ziegesar
23. The Giver, by Lois Lowry
24. In the Night Kitchen, by Maurice Sendak
25. Killing Mr. Griffen, by Lois Duncan
26. Beloved, by Toni Morrison
27. My Brother Sam Is Dead, by James Lincoln Collier
28. Bridge To Terabithia, by Katherine Paterson
29. The Face on the Milk Carton, by Caroline B. Cooney
30. We All Fall Down, by Robert Cormier
31. What My Mother Doesn’t Know, by Sonya Sones
32. Bless Me, Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya
33. Snow Falling on Cedars, by David Guterson
34. The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things, by Carolyn Mackler
35. Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging, by Louise Rennison
36. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
37. It’s So Amazing, by Robie Harris
38. Arming America, by Michael Bellasiles
39. Kaffir Boy, by Mark Mathabane
40. Life is Funny, by E.R. Frank
41. Whale Talk, by Chris Crutcher
42. The Fighting Ground, by Avi
43. Blubber, by Judy Blume
44. Athletic Shorts, by Chris Crutcher
45. Crazy Lady, by Jane Leslie Conly
46. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
47. The Adventures of Super Diaper Baby: The First Graphic Novel by George Beard and Harold Hutchins, the creators of Captain Underpants, by Dav Pilkey [Again, younger brother]
48. Rainbow Boys, by Alex Sanchez
49. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey
50. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
51. Daughters of Eve, by Lois Duncan
52. The Great Gilly Hopkins, by Katherine Paterson
53. You Hear Me?, by Betsy Franco
54. The Facts Speak for Themselves, by Brock Cole
55. Summer of My German Soldier, by Bette Green
56. When Dad Killed Mom, by Julius Lester
57. Blood and Chocolate, by Annette Curtis Klause
58. Fat Kid Rules the World, by K.L. Going
59. Olive’s Ocean, by Kevin Henkes
60. Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson
61. Draw Me A Star, by Eric Carle
62. The Stupids (series), by Harry Allard
63. The Terrorist, by Caroline B. Cooney
64. Mick Harte Was Here, by Barbara Park
65. The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien
66. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, by Mildred Taylor
67. A Time to Kill, by John Grisham
68. Always Running, by Luis Rodriguez
69. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
70. Harris and Me, by Gary Paulsen
71. Junie B. Jones (series), by Barbara Park
72. Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison
73. What’s Happening to My Body Book, by Lynda Madaras
74. The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold
75. Anastasia (series), by Lois Lowry
76. A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving
77. Crazy: A Novel, by Benjamin Lebert
78. The Joy of Gay Sex, by Dr. Charles Silverstein
79. The Upstairs Room, by Johanna Reiss
80. A Day No Pigs Would Die, by Robert Newton Peck
81. Black Boy, by Richard Wright
82. Deal With It!, by Esther Drill
83. Detour for Emmy, by Marilyn Reynolds
84. So Far From the Bamboo Grove, by Yoko Watkins
85. Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes, by Chris Crutcher
86. Cut, by Patricia McCormick
87. Tiger Eyes, by Judy Blume
88. The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood
89. Friday Night Lights, by H.G. Bissenger
90. A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeline L’Engle
91. Julie of the Wolves, by Jean Craighead George

92. The Boy Who Lost His Face, by Louis Sachar
93. Bumps in the Night, by Harry Allard
94. Goosebumps (series), by R.L. Stine
95. Shade’s Children, by Garth Nix
96. Grendel, by John Gardner
97. The House of the Spirits, by Isabel Allende
98. I Saw Esau, by Iona Opte
99. Are You There, God?  It’s Me, Margaret, by Judy Blume
100. America: A Novel, by E.R. Frank

Hey look it’s…more vampires.

Okay, so I know I said last time that this time (oh boy) I would talk about rereading, but I changed my mind. I will eventually talk about that, but not today.

Today, we shall be talking about trends in literature.

Or rather, Things That Will Make Me Put the Book Down Immediately Unless There Is a Really Good Reason Not To. And they are:

1. Vampires/Werewolves

Unless there is something seriously interesting or different going on with them, I will not read about either. I’m tired of vampire boyfriends. I will read about bloodthirsty vampires, or British vampires (think Gail Carriger). Another example I saw recently was a woman who was the only (and I mean only) female werewolf.

2. Angels/Demons

 I have a naturally low tolerance for this subject matter. I have read very few books dealing with angels/demons that don’t annoy me immensely. Exception: I was recently very pleasantly surprised by Sarah Reese Brennan’s The Demon’s Lexicon. I read her blog and really wanted to enjoy her book, but wasn’t able to make myself pick it up because of the demons for a really long time. I regret that; it was excellent.

3. Distopian

There are just too many, and I don’t have the energy to try to sort the good from the bad. So many seem terribly derivative. I’m not sure if it’s just the jacket copy, but with so many excellent books on my to-read list, I don’t have time to waste gambling on books that may just be the latest Hunger Games rehash.

4. Mermaids

Just never been a fan. Personal preference. I’ve yet to find a mermaid book which will prove me wrong, though I kind of hope Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama, which I found over at Preturnatura, might be the one.

There are more, but I won’t bore you. I have to say, I really hate that I feel this way because it means I’m almost certainly missing out on some really great books.