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Review: Reese by Lori Handeland

Posted by Cyn | Posted in Book Reviews, Reading | Posted on 30-08-2012

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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.

View all my reviews

Review: Prom Nights From Hell

Posted by Cyn | Posted in Reading | Posted on 17-02-2008

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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).

Poetry: Michael Blumenthal

Posted by Cyn | Posted in Poetry, Reading, Relationships | Posted on 29-01-2008

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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,
unex­pect­ed­ly,
some­thing won­der­ful hap­pens:
Some­one,
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

Posted by Cyn | Posted in Family, Fun, Geekery, Relationships, RPGs | Posted on 12-01-2008

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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.

More Fun Reading from Carrie Vaughn

Posted by Cyn | Posted in Reading | Posted on 25-11-2007

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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

Posted by Cyn | Posted in Reading, Sex | Posted on 04-11-2007

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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!