Showing posts with label Kelley Armstrong. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Kelley Armstrong. Show all posts

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Great moments: Men of the Otherworld

Great Moments from Last Night's Reading
Men of the Otherworld by Kelley Armstrong
Page: 52
Spoiler level: low

Bitten by Kelley Armstrong was my first urban fantasy read, and it remains one of my faves. It came to me in a roundabout way some six or seven years ago; I was at a writer friend's home, about to take an 8-hour train ride later that day, and had nothing to read, so she pulled a hardcover off her shelf--a novel she'd been sent to review.

It had completely different cover art than it has now (pictured right). It looked and felt like a literary novel. At the time, urban fantasy wasn't really a category, I think, so maybe that's how it was being sold.

I'll never forget how she described it: "It's about yuppies who turn into werewolves at night." I thought that sounded weird and interesting--I imagined something like Fight Club, and I took the book. Looking back, I think she didn't really read it. But I did, and I was hooked! It had super hot sexy scenes, paranormal creatures, exciting struggles. Way more fun than the stuff I was used to!

Last night I was feeling a little slumpy in my reading; I probably picked up three different books, but no, no and no. And then I spied Kelley Armstrong's Men of the Otherworld anthology by my bed, which was one of my fave reads of last year, and a total must-read for fans of Bitten, Stolen and the rest. It's two novellas centering on Jeremy and Clay, and two shorts that relate to Jeremy's parentage. Anyway, I just had to revisit some of the Clay and Jeremy stuff from the novella entitled Savage.

Armstrong usually does female narrators, but she gives Clay such a great voice here. In the early sections we learn about how he ended up a feral werewolf, alone in the bayou, and how Jeremy found him and worked tirelessly to bring him back into the world of humans.

This is a tale of small victories, and I just so love it. The interactions between these two are engaging and realistic, and they add wonderful dimension to these characters. A favorite moment: after days and weeks of patiently feeding Clay in the wilderness and finally getting him to put on clothes, Jeremy gets Clay to follow him to a motel, but of course Clay gets spooked at the motel room door and runs away to sleep under some nearby bushes, then:
Later that night, I woke up shivering. Louisiana was suffering through a cold snap that winter and even the clothing the man had provided didn't help much, I remembered that burst of heat from the motel room.

For a long time, I lay there, shivering, fear warring with discomfort. Finally I leapt up and dashed for the motel. The door was still open. Inside,the man was asleep on the bed. I curled up in the doorway and went to sleep.

And so I let myself be domesticated. In the end, like any stray, I was conquered by the promise of continued food and shelter. Trust would take longer.

For at least a week I slept in the doorway, not letting him close the door no matter who cold the night got. One day, another man came by. While I hid in the bushes outside,the other man yelled at my man, motioning at the door. Money changed hands and the other man left. That was the first of many such exchanged I'd see in my life--cash buying tolerance for my idiosyncrasies.

After a few days, with the right amount of food for coaxing, the man convinced me to come inside the room. He left the door open, so this seemed safe.
Armstrong's sensibility about the animal side of werewolves is one of the things that has always stood out for me in her werewolf tales; I always say, this is somebody who must spend a lot of time watching dogs, thinking about dogs.

I also love the voice here: smart but spare. I don't get into novellas much, and I don't do a whole lot of rereading, but as usual, I break the rules when it comes to Kelley Armstrong: the Clay and Jeremy stuff is so satisfying!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Nadia Stafford, the ultimate anti-Gilligan

Great Moments from last night's reading
Book: Made to be Broken by Kelley Armstrong
Page: halfway through
Spoiler level: low

You wouldn't think a book about a hitwoman could be a comfort read, but I am finding Made to be Broken, book #2 in the Nadia Stafford series, to be deeply satisfying and comforting for two reasons:

1. The absolute expertise of the heroine Nadia.
2. The deep sense of understanding between Nadia and Jack, her hit man mentor

It is such an enjoyable world to be in for these two reasons. Of course it's also great fun to see these two use their hit man knowhow solve the crime.

Basic setup: Nadia (who strives to be an ethical hit woman, as far as one can) owns a lodge in the wilds of Canada. Nadia employs and generally helps out this sullen teen mother, Sammi, but then Sammi disappears with her baby. Everybody in town, even the cops, think Sammi's this stupid slutty girl who ran off, but Nadia is sure something is wrong.

There's this one stretch I really enjoyed--first, Nadia is searching the forest for the bodies of Sammi and the baby in an area where she fears they could be. She makes this grid system with string, and uses different sizes of sticks to examine the forest floor. It's this whole expert thing only a hit woman/ex-cop would be good at. I just love details like this though this series.

She has to leave and resume her search the next night, but mysterious mentor Jack is at the lodge recuperating from a broken ankle. She doesn't want to involve him, so she's keeping the search super secret. She makes this excuse about doing work on the other side of the property. And Jack's like, You're looking for her body. Because he's figured out her exact train of thought about the clues, because they are both wily expert hit people.

Hit man/hit woman shopping trip
At one point they go out disguise shopping together, and she has this whole schoolteacher persona she buys stuff for, and Jack makes a chin scar and whitens his hair. It's all quite delightful!

You know how some heroines are partly Gilligans? Like, they screw up a lot to create tension (sassy backtalk, bumblingness, temper, whatever. Can be annoying.) Nadia is the ultimate anti-Gilligan. I am so into that!

On the relationship front
This is different from a lot of books I read that build relationships off mixes of sexual attraction, humor, respect and abiding friendship. Armstrong is building one off deep understanding, and a strange sort of commonality. They are both solitary beings with secret lives, doing the wrong thing for their own reasons. They get each other on a gut level. It's oddly satisfying.

The one place they don't get each other thinks is around the romance, which is strange terrain for both of them. OMG, when these two finally get together, this book or the next, it is going to blow my mind a little bit. In a good way.

Renee's take on the book here.
Darque Reviews take here.

NOTE: Book #1 is Exit Strategy. It won't confuse you to start with this one, but you'd lose a lot of the Jack mystique. So I'd somewhat recommend reading Exit Strategy first. 

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Is the morality bar set higher for heroines? How about human heroines?

Discussing Sabine from Kiss of a Demon King made me think of other questionable-ethics heroines.

The one that most immediately comes to mind? Hitwoman Nadia Stafford from Kelley Armstrong’s wonderful Exit Strategy. Book two, Made to be Broken, came out this month (discussed by Renee here). I'm so there: this is a series I am definitely into.

Exit Strategy: overlooked?
Kelley Armstrong wrote one of my all-time three favorite books, Bitten. She’s fantastic writer. While Exit Strategy was a definite deviation for her, had all the Armstrong hallmarks--tight plotting, great details and well-drawn characters, right down to their speech patterns.

I really loved Exit Strategy, but I know some people didn't, and the reasons for this vary. First, it’s slightly psychological (which I actually really love in a book) but because of this it could feel slow to some. Second, it doesn’t have a romance at its core (though there is the potential for one). And third, the heroine kills for money.

I was totally fine with this, in fact, I loved this heroine – Nadia has a code of honor about the (very few) jobs she takes, and here, she's trying to find a killer. I thought this hitwoman bit made Nadia really interesting--and the world was hugely interesting, full of all kinds of cool hitwoman details, but I know her profession bugged potential readers, and I think about that a lot.

It didn’t bug me in the very same way Dexter being a killer doesn’t bug me in the show Dexter. I think Dexter would be a scary person in real life, but I’m sure interested in stories about him. I'm interested in Nadia, too!

Do heroines have to meet a higher standard of morality?
I think a lot of readers of romance and related genres, (including me) often forgive things that would be awful in real life, from questionable varieties of seduction to vigilante justice.

Do heroines in romance and its subgenres have to be more moral than the heroes?

Is this a human thing? If the heroine is paranormal, can she get away with more?

Is it possible that this is a romance genre thing, and people who came to romance (like me) via urban fantasy, thrillers or literary fiction have a higher tolerance for amorality in a heroine?

Remember how LKH made Anita Blake go to church all the time and have all these moral qualms about things (at first). Not that I have a problem with characters going to church, but I remember feeling it was out of character for Anita Blake, like an overlay to make her behavior more palatable.

Do you ever feel like that with heroines, where they seem like they’re made to be more upstanding or feel more qualms about their badass ways than a hero might?

Do you think authors ever push up the moral goodness of heroines to conform to an unwritten genre rule?

If you’re an author, do you feel like you have to do that?

What, in your mind, is the genre rule?

Wondering in Minneapolis

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Wolf sex vs human sex

One of the things I loved about Bitten (which I consider to be one of the best - possibly THE best - paranormal romances out there) was how vividly and convincingly author Kelley Armstrong wrote about the pleasures of being in a wolf body—running around in the forest, nuzzling other wolves, playing, hunting, having a coat of fur. Reading it, I always said to myself, Armstrong loves dogs and she’s observed them with incredible attention and imagination.

This was all a few years back and I remember reading the Amazon reviews of Bitten, or possibly Stolen, the sequel, and I came across some guy griping about the fact that werewolf sex always takes place in human form, never wolf form.

This comment sort of surprised me, and to be honest, I never ever craved a wolf-body sex scene. I never even thought of it! Maybe I'm being species-centric here, but animal body sex scenes don't strike me as having very many fun possibilities. I suppose if anybody could pull it off and make it enjoyable to read about, Kelley Armstrong could, but I don’t believe she’s ever tried it. (I could be wrong - it’s been a while, though I’m pretty sure I’d remember it!)

I’ve read quite a few werewolf books since then and I’ve never seen a sex scene in wolf bodies. Alluded to, maybe, but never played as a scene. I’m reading all the Riley Jensen books now (excellent!) and her werewolves consider sex in wolf bodies to be like rape.

Maybe there’s a reason for this lack of sex-in-wolf-body scenes. Zero foreplay goes without saying, but I don’t know, animals never seem to enjoy animal sex in general. Granted, I’ve only seen pigeons having sex, but the female always just wants to get away. Is any werewolf author out there doing sex in wolf bodies? I’m sure this guy on Amazon would be pleased, but would anybody else?