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Review: Reese by Lori Handeland

ReeseReese by Lori Han­de­land
My rat­ing: 3 of 5 stars

And now for some­thing COMPLETELY dif­fer­ent. Yes, this book is out of char­ac­ter for me, but I like Lori Han­de­land, and since I received a free copy I felt oblig­at­ed to read it and write a review. I’m keep­ing the fact that it is a west­ern romance in mind, and judg­ing it accordingly.

I don’t know from west­ern tropes, but I do know the stan­dard romance tropes, and Han­de­land hits them all. Mary is a spin­ster school­marm who is con­sid­ered too plain and too out­spo­ken to ever be attrac­tive to any man — in fact, anoth­er char­ac­ter (a real jerk) says so. It’s her char­ac­ter, more than her looks, that is the prob­lem, accord­ing to the jerk.

But the hero, Reese, finds her beau­ti­ful in her inno­cence, her igno­rance of her effect on him, and espe­cial­ly in the fact that she’s as stub­born as he is. The fact that they have to butt heads is an impor­tant romance trope, as I under­stand these things.

Mary believes she isn’t the kind of woman any man would want, and Reese believes he isn’t good enough for Mary, so they hold back from reveal­ing their feel­ings to each oth­er, pro­vid­ing the main con­flict in their relationship. 

There’s a plot that goes beyond Mary and Reese, obvi­ous­ly, explain­ing why the town of Rock Creek need­ed to hire Reese and his lit­tle troop of gun­men in the first place. That larg­er plot sets up the entire Rock Creek Gang series. I found noth­ing to laud or com­plain about in the main plot. It’s prob­a­bly a stan­dard accept­able west­ern, to be hon­est, and it doesn’t read so dif­fer­ent­ly than any oth­er sort of adven­ture sto­ry. It worked to set things up, but obvi­ous­ly wasn’t the main focus of the book. The ener­gy is in the romance.

I think per­haps romance fans read books like this because they’re com­fort­ably pre­dictable, like an old friend wear­ing new clothes. In any case, Han­de­land has writ­ten a sweet lit­tle love sto­ry that I didn’t mind read­ing. I could see her hand in the details, and while I would have pre­ferred read­ing more of one of her para­nor­mal series, she did a nice job with this book. Fans of west­ern romances will prob­a­bly enjoy it.

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Review: Prom Nights From Hell

So, um, I tried to read this. I real­ly did. I don’t know if it’s “para­nor­mal romance over­load” or the fact that I’d just fin­ished read­ing mate­r­i­al from two incred­i­bly good writ­ers (Sarah Mon­ette and Eliz­a­beth Bear), but I had no patience for the fluff. Over­all, I gave the book a 210.

Cover of Prom Dates From Hell
i did get through “The Exterminator’s Daugh­ter” Meg Cabot. I don’t intend to read any­thing else by her. Yes, it was bet­ter than oral surgery, but I wish I’d spent the time clean­ing the sink or some­thing. To her cred­it, I did have a “laugh out loud” moment ear­ly on, when she used the phrase “tramp stamp.” I hadn’t heard that before, and I love it (although “arse antlers” is prob­a­bly still my favorite).
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Poetry: Michael Blumenthal

For my Sam

A Marriage
You are holding up a ceiling
with both arms. It is very heavy,
but you must hold it up, or else
it will fall down on you. Your arms
are tired, terribly tired,
and, as the day goes on, it feels
as if either your arms or the ceiling
will soon collapse.

But then,
something wonderful happens:
a man or a woman,
walks into the room
and holds their arm up
to the ceiling beside you.

So you finally get
to take down your arms.
You feel the relief of respite,
the blood flowing back
to your fingers and arms.
And when your partner's arms tire,
you hold up your own
to relieve him again.

And it can go on like this
for many years
without the house falling.

From Against Romance: Poems by Michael Blumenthal, Penguin Books, 1988

Romance and Roleplaying

Sam has talked about this sub­ject in sev­er­al of his pod­casts, but I don’t think I’ve ever tried to address it. I may fail mis­er­ably, but I’ll try.

Sam and I had one of our twice-week­ly “date nights” tonight. That means that from about 7pm ’til we go to bed, we do noth­ing but have fun with each oth­er. The girl amus­es her­self oth­er­wise, or goes out, and we do what­ev­er we like. Usu­al­ly, that means we spend some time gaming.
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More Fun Reading from Carrie Vaughn

I really needed another fiction author to follow, right? But I've seen this series of books about a werewolf named Kitty, and I finally got a chance to read them. I finished the first, Kitty and the Midnight Hour, today and jumped right into Kitty Goes to Washington. I have Kitty Takes a Holiday all lined up and ready to go, but I'm already wishing that I had the next volume, Kitty and the Silver Bullet. And that, my dears, is a sign of a fine author spinning a very good yarn, considering all the other books waiting and ready on my shelf.

The library has the books labeled as horror, but I'd put them in the paranormal romance/dark fantasy category. Happily, the "romance" part isn't the most significant one, and doesn't get in the way of good plot. There was a moment today when I wondered if ">Vaughn and Kim Harrison had shared a brain to a small extent, but they've dealt with a superficially similar issue in very different ways.

If it weren't for the fact that I just finally got done with my school assignments for the week, and must get up when Sam does in the morning, I'd probably be sitting up reading!

Now I really need to find a source for these short stories, though. Any of you have the relevant magazine issues?

  • "Kitty Loses Her Faith" Weird Tales, #333, Fall 2003
  • "Kitty and the Mosh Pit of the Damned" Weird Tales #338, Jan-Feb 2006
  • "Looking After Family" Realms of Fantasy, February 2007
  • "Kitty's Zombie New Year" Weird Tales #345

Review: A Lick of Frost, Laurell K. Hamilton

I honestly didn't think Laurell K. Hamilton had it in her, but A Lick of Frost moved me to tears in spots. She managed real romance. I don't even like reading romances, and I really hate crying, but I couldn't help it. I even found a quote to keep.

A Lick of FrostI don't want to give out any spoilers, especially since it's quite new, but this novel could reasonably be seen as the end to the Merry Gentry series. I believe Hamilton will write at least one more book, to tie up some details and bring the series to seven volumes. All of the volumes have been fairly slender, and Hamilton is a guaranteed cash cow, so who knows how many books there will actually be? I could, however, stop reading now.

This series is not one to start if, like me, you don't like waiting for another book in order to know "what happens next." Generally, I try to wait until a series is finished before I begin to read it, in case it isn't ever finished. I detest cliffhangers, most especially, and Hamilton has indulged in several.

Unlike most, the Merry Gentry series is good enough that I keep reading despite my personal preference. I've never lost track of any important details between books, which is also striking. I'd actually like to have copies of this series to keep, as I might re-read them. In contrast, I stopped buying the Anita Blake books years ago, although I would consider picking up used paperbacks to accompany those I already own just because Katie has expressed interest in them.

Sam is totally disinterested in just about anything having to do with vampires, werewolves, or anything else that is too similar to World of Darkness. I think it's a reaction to having been so immersed in research and development when he worked for White Wolf, but I'll leave him to explain it if we wishes. He does tend to scoff at anything too far off the "canon," as it were.

Since he was involved in Changeling (his favorite), I would have thought the same applied to urban fantasy concerning faery. That's true, usually, but he's been drawn into the Merry Gentry books once or twice, and that's saying something (if only for the quality of some sex scenes).

I know that one reason the Blake series has gotten so tiresome is that sex has taken them over, but Hamilton's attempts to make the sex part of the plot fall flat. An even bigger one is Anita's angst over the species and numbers of her loves and sex partners. While she occasionally mentions her religious upbringing as justification, as an animator (one who raises zombies) she left the safety of the Catholic church behind years ago. One could argue that its theology left reality behind, but in any case, her life is permeated by and depends on magic that is bound up in religion, but her overt religious beliefs no longer match her reality or how she's truly living.

I don't even like to include the books in that short list of those that truly deal with polyamory, due to the fact that Anita has been so guilt-ridden and unhappy (until the last book or two), while continuing to follow her crotch (okay, the magic, if you believe Hamilton, but seriously…).

Meredith Gentry never has that problem. It is unfortunate that Hamilton has to reach into an imaginary culture to depict people who are comfortable with their sexuality, including multiple sexual partners, but at least she has done so. There is still an annoying "I must pick only one!" theme, but it is made clear that Merry is being forced into such a choice by relatively recent Sidhe custom—not her heart or her conscience. She repeatedly stresses, in her interactions with humans, that she has absolutely no shame about her lifestyle, and that the Sidhe have very different ideas about such things than humans do.

I especially appreciate the repeated theme of accepting diversity and appreciating beauty in everyone. "Everyone" never goes to far as to including, for instance, fat people, but there don't seem to be any of those in fairy. Her lovers are all terribly beautiful, even the half-Goblin and half-Sluagh, but she expressly does not reject those who are scarred or "different" because of their heritage or experiences. There is overmuch attention to description of appearances for my tastes, especially details of every character's clothing, but that seems to be all too common in anything with any focus on relationships these days (or I'm just noticing it more—was it always there?)

While there's still a lot of sex, the reasons for the abundance of sex and variety of partners has been integrated into the Gentry plot from square one. Despite that, it doesn't feel like the sex scenes take over the books. Anyone with the least bit of prudery should still stay away from the series completely, of course, but that's made clear on the covers and in the excerpts on the book flaps. Nobody who has ever picked up a Laurell K. Hamilton book in the last five years, at least, has any excuse for claiming naÏveté if he finds the content too racy!