Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Great Moments from Last Night's Reading: The Black Hawk

Great Moments from Last Night's Reading
Book: The Black Hawk by Joanna Bourne
Page: 41
Spoiler level: not at all
Note: both passages from heroine youth flashback.

A couple twitter friends and I were recently discussing the problem presented by a book by Joanna Bourne: do you read it slowly, savoring every awesome passage? Or do you tear through it, devour it, and THEN re-read? Also, if you are a writer, you have to try very hard for it to not make you feel inferior.

If you haven't read Bourne, start with The Spymaster's Lady and The Forbidden Rose, the two jewels in her crown, though My Lord and Spymaster is not so shabby, and features an awesome ferret sidekick and Lazurus, one of my favorite dark characters.

I am savoring her  latest, The Black Hawk. Look how early I am in the book! I may be reading it through Christmas. So, without further ado, a short great moment from last night:
If Leblanc were compounded of farmyard dirt and rancor, Madame was spun of steel. She wore a pale lavender dress, cut so low across the bodice that her breasts were clearly visible. Her dignity was such that it did not seem indecent. It was as if she came from a pagan time when the human form was sacred and nudity was without shame. Her hair, black and smooth as ebony, was swept  up with silver combs and allowed to fall free in the back. She wore no jewelry whatsoever. Not the least ring or trinket. 
I just died over this description, especially the pagan time reference. I so get that, so have known people like that, whose personality or presence--or whatever ineffable quality--is so forceful that what might be uncool or uncouth on one person is transformed, altered, made right. Oh, but why am I trying to re-explain this lovely passage?

Now I'm remembering descriptions I was wild about last night instead of doing my own writing. Here, this one. The passage opens as, in reference to a the heroine Justine's earlier comment about not knowing what to expect, Hawker says:
"Let's go expect it somewhere else. I don't like the smell of blood unless it's a throat I cut myself." 
Hawker was in many ways like a fine gun. At rest, well made, efficient and even beautiful. Pull back the cocking piece and the gun became deadly. This boy, elegant in motion, perfect in feature, cold as carved crystal, was the cocked gun. He was, in fact, rather frightening.  
"One does not slit throats in a public square." 
She had never, in point of fact, slit a throat, but she would not admit this to Hawker. He was the entirely genuine murderous spy, and she was not. With a small pang, she envied him. 
He strolled beside her, his pace relaxed, his posture all ease and enjoyment. His eye were amused and sleepy. Lies, all of it. The energy contained within this skin hummed in the air between them like a sound. He was more alive than anyone she had met. It was as if he carried an invisible top in the center of his chest, spinning strongly, that made her own nerves buzz in sympathy. He was not a restful person.
Uh, I could keep typing out wonderful passages from last night!  I just love where she goes with both of these descriptions: instead of cataloguing features, she reaches into imagination and the life swirling around these characters, and uses the things they'd be thinking about, or maybe have read about, or little bits from deep in the psyche of a street-smart French teen.


Sullivan McPig said...

And you just made our wishlist even longer than it already is!!! Evil!

Jenn Bennett said...

I'm taking it super-slow: just passed the Hawker=gun passage over the holiday weekend. I really can't thank you enough for turning me on to Ms. Bourne!

Carolyn Crane said...

Sullivan: Oh, you must check this one out. Have you read the others?

Jenn: It's fun to have you on my Bourne wagon!

Tracy said...

Loved this book. And yes, I tore through it and then re-read. It was so good!

kara-karina@Nocturnal Book Reviews said...

I've just finished it! Joanna is the goddess of HR. I find it really hard to read romances after her books. She literally ruined me for them :) I don't know how can you read that book slowly, Carolyn... It's her absolute best so far. Breathtaking and very very powerful. I'd rather read fast ad then re-read.

Sullivan McPig said...

@Carolyn: no, this is a totally new to my author, so if she's to our liking we got lots of new books to read :-)

Joanna Chambers aka Tumperkin said...


I kind of did a mix of lingering over her lovely sentences and just rushing through it, gobbling it up shamefully. Like a pig scorfling down champagne truffles.

And I'm so envious it hurts.

Carolyn Crane said...

Tracy: You reread! Was it a good re-read?

Kara-karina: So glad you feel it's her best. She ruined you for HR!! I can believe it.

Sully: I hope you like. Let me know!

Joanna: We ache together, my friend!

Kaetrin said...

I'm still cogitating over my review of this one. While I was reading I totally savoured. Usually when it takes me over a week to finish a book it denotes a level of disinterest. But, in this case, I wanted to make sure my head was clear and I had time and space to enjoy. I didn't snatch 5 minutes here or there. I wanted to have blocks of time to truly appreciate it. Immediately on closing, I thought, personally that it was a B+ for me. The Forbidden Rose tops it as does The Spymaster's Lady, but I DID love The Black Hawk. The problem is, the more time passes, the more disconnected I feel from my initial thoughts and that's making it hard for me to share the love in a review, so I've been procrastinating. The truly bizarre thing is that just reading the passages you highlighted (and I think there are even better ones further in - the first time Hawker and Justine are intimate is SO lovely) I'm totally remembering the love again.

I'm coming to the conclusion that I tried too hard to savour and somehow sacrificed a certain level of enjoyment/connection. I see a re-read in my future because it truly is a beautiful book. And that didnt really make any sense did it? Which is why I haven't written my review yet. Clearly this book has made me incoherent!

Hilcia said...

Oh Ms. Crane, I adored this book! I so agree with you about the way Bourne describes her characters. I read The Forbidden Rose AND The Black Hawk back to back. What a great experience! I couldn't stop reading... but now, I'm going to have to go back and re-read The Black Hawk, just to savor it a bit more. :)

Carolyn Crane said...

Kaetrin: It is really interesting what you say, I wonder if savoring too much sacrifices some of the story and character flow. Because, the language and writing really is supposed to be there just to serve the story, so paying too much attention takes you out...maybe? Actually, your comment is making me think it's best to read twice--tear through, then re-read. I stopped last night before that intimacy scene...wanting to be fresh and clear for the full enjoyment of it. Maybe I should have just indulged!!

Hilcia: reading those two back to back really is ideal!! I had read ROSE when it came out and was fuzzy on the details where the two plots interconnected. Hey, have fun on your re-read!

Christine said...

I just recently re-read The Spymaster's Lady and I fell in love with Bourne's writing all over again.. with the same thrill as if I were experiencing it for the first time. I can't wait to read more--at least two others are already on my shelf, but I'm looking forward to The Black Hawk now, too!

Melissa (My World...in words and pages) said...

I've not read this series. But so glad to hear so many are enjoying it so intensely. :) And no worries on your books Carolyn, definitely have to tear through to love the characters and know what happens, as always on my toes, but I go back and reread the goodie parts a few times slowly. ;D Great post!

Nicola O. said...

Dang, I love Bourne so much. I might need to re-read this already.

I thought I recognized LeBlanc's name and went back to the opening scene of Spymaster's Lady... that passage where he's interrogating her and at the very end, pinches her lip to break the skin... man. Just give me shivers.