Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Visions of Heat: Beam me up!

Great moments from last night's reading
Book: Visions of Heat
Author: Nalini Singh
Spoiler level: Low

Okay, here I am halfway through this book and I'm so into it.

Psy and Changeling: the rundown
For anybody who doesn't know the series, the world here is made up of three groups: the Psy, a race with highly developed intellectual and extra-sensory skills, and they can link via a kind of invisible web, and they're super into business and money, but have nearly stamped out their emotions. And then there are the animalistic Changelings, sensual, emotional, sometimes fierce shapeshifters who turn into various large cats and wolves and live a kind of idyllic existence apart from the Psy. Oh, and humans are around, too. BO-RING. They don't have a big part.

So why is it so fun and addictive to read about the Psys and Changelings? The Psy here is Faith NightStar, who lives in the middle of nowhere with guards and monitors, and has been groomed to use her rare psy foresight gift to make business predictions all day. She starts getting these awful dark visions, but if the Psy leaders find out, they'll likely confine/institutionalize her. So she seeks out Sascha, a woman who broke from the Psy race to be with a changeling and meets Vaughn, a jaguar changling. Rowrrr. Like, has anybody not read this besides me?

Anyway I've really been appreciating the whole Psy/Changeling contrast, and little exchanges like this one between Faith and Vaughn early on:
"I'm Psy. I don't feel fear." Pulling away, she angled her head to face him.
His focus on her was so intense, she felt stripped bare. "Then what would you call it?"

"A physiological reaction to unknown stress factors."

The slightest hint of a smile played about his lips. "So, what other physiological reactions did you experience?"
She thought he might be laughing at her but had no way of judging the veracity of that conclusion.
Another thing I love is when they're meeting and interacting on their sort of mental 'net', and they appear to each other as cold stars in a veil of blackness. It's really a kind of nightmarish world, but Faith thinks it's beautiful in its own way. I never forgot from Slave, the first book, how the Psy could mentally follow each other around on that web of theirs. It's also wonderfully creepy, because this mental web thing makes the boundary between psy minds feel dangerously thin.

One of the reasons I think these books are so satisfying is because the central romantic drama aligns with a central theme of the human experience: the intellect vs the emotion. It's an old battle, an old dance. And it just never gets boring!

The old Star Trek used to have this, according to some. Dr. McCoy (Bones) was emotion, Spock was intellect, and Kirk was the perfect joining of the two.

What's interesting is that in Star Trek, perfection was Kirk. But in Singh's world, or the way it looks 1.5 books in, the ideal is the changlings, who are way over on the emotional side of the spectrum (and not, say the humans who would probably be the mixture).

Though in another way, it makes sense that the fierce/sensual/emotional changling side would get the high value in the world of romance.

The human don't figure much, though they apparently have the better libraries. Perhaps to read about all the exciting Changeling on Psy action.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

A self-absorbed and experiential review of Fallen

The book Fallen by Erin McCarthy has been sitting by my computer forever. I've been meaning to write about my experience with it, which was oddly intense. But I've been putting it off, because I know that I don't have a lot of objectivity about it.

Oooh, it sounds like I'm going to pan it now, doesn't it? Quite the opposite.

A little context: as many of you know or guessed, I lost a family member this past summer, which was (and still is) quite devastating (but I'm not saying this to get sympathy! Please: no sympathy comments. I'm serious.) I say it only to make this discussion make sense, because Fallen was the book I was reading through the whole long process of the events unfolding. And one thing about sadness: it can make you tired, so I was reading really slowly, a few pages a night and then zonk. So it was like this book took one long sad month to read.

And I couldn't have asked for a better book!

Fallen centers almost entirely two characters: fallen angel Gabriel and forensic scientist Sara Michaels. They're both tormented, trying to recapture their lives after awful tragedies. And they care about each other, treat each other with extreme kindness and come to understand things about each other from close, thoughtful observation. Was the psychological precision with which they observed each other unrealistic? I just don't know. What I can say is that it sure felt nice to be with these two characters acting this way at that particular time, compared to say, a smartass heroine and some monstery guys.

The world of the book was fabulous, too--a richly drawn New Orleans past and present, and a lot of the action takes place in Gabriel's apartment, which is a safe haven for them both. They even bring a little homeless kitten into the apartment. It was just such a comforting and pleasing read.

Not to make it sound boring. I mean, there are a couple pretty grisly murders--both happen offstage, but there are plenty of details, and a sense of danger. And a whole smoldery, sexy subplot where Gabriel and Sara totally want each other but can't be together for various reasons.

Overall, I would describe this as a thoughtful, somewhat psychological paranormal that I would highly recommend, especially if you're in a melancholy mood. This is part of McCarthy's "seven deadly sins" series of "dark paranormals." I can't say I found it so dark but labels can be so weird.

Covers, too. I can assure you, Gabriel is never a statue like it shows on the cover--he looks like a normal guy through the whole thing. And I always saw Sara's character as normal looking, too--not like the gorgeous creature on the cover. Who is that woman with the shiny beautiful hair and satiny back-baring dress and why is she hugging a statue?

I won this book from Wendy over at Kicks and Giggles (Thanks, Wendy!) I'm definitely going to read more of McCarthy's stuff.  Other Erin McCarthy recommendations welcome! This book is also reviewed at Scooper Speaks and Romance Reviews Today.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Book Smugglers made me do it!

Every month, Ana and Thea over at The Book Smugglers challenge somebody to a dare, and have them do something quite outside their comfort zone.

I'm over there today, and what do they have me doing? Reviewing my first ever contemporary romance. Gasp! It's Sugar Daddy by Lisa Kleypas - a book that both Thea and Ana loved.

It's all part of their action-packed Lisa Kleypas week, which will be full of reviews of already published and soon-to-be-released Kleypas books, an interview with Lisa Kleypas herself, and, of course, a giveaway! Go join the fun.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Winner & it's my birthday

Okay, LadyTink has won the suggest-a-blog contest!

Some really fun ones were suggested here. Thanks everybody. I love finding new blogs.  The prize: a book from my collection, recommended by me specifically for Ladytink. Luckily she has Shelfari, so if it's reasonably up to date, hopefully there will be one or two she hasn't read on the list I just emailed to her.

Also, it is my birthday today! I was woken up by fluffy cute kitties and my husband, and now I have all sorts of free time to do revisions on my new action packed and somewhat smutty and questionable novel. And later I will take a lovely fall run, and then have yummy food and wine with good company.  AND I have a new box of books.  I have so much to be thankful for today!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Barnes & Noble: Speedy Delivery kraziness!!

Okay, I just have to report in on this: I ordered this batch of books (see below) on Wednesday the 17th and they just arrived today!  From NJ to MN!

This was my first time using Barnes & Noble (I used to go with Amazon).  Like Amazon, you get free delivery with orders over $25 from B &N, but whereas Amazon's free delivery takes like a week to 10 days, B & N's free delivery got these books to me in TWO days!  

When the UPS truck pulled up and delivered a Barnes & Noble box, I almost fell over.  New books.  Mood much improved.  

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Feeling blue. Maybe new books will cheer me up!

Actually, I know they'll cheer me up. Especially these beauties that I ordered this week.

Visions of Heat. Okay, I had started Caressed by Ice without having read Visions, and was persuaded to not read this series out of order.  You can't imagine how hard it was to put Caressed down. Maybe you can. I am so into the Nalini Singh world.  

The Bride of Casa Dracula. Oh, shit, I just realized I'm reading this series out of order, too! This is another #3 where I haven't read the #2.  Marta! If you happen on this post, please, avert your eyes! 

I really loved Happy Hour at Casa Dracula, the #1 of these series. (Discussed by me here.) It was so delightful and fun, with a great narrator. Win all three of Marta's books here. Win Bride here. Both contests end Friday.  

UPDATE: Check out the trailer at QB's! I usually don't think trailers are that funny, but this one is hilarious. OMG.

Dark Desires after Dusk. I can't get enough of this crazy Kresley Cole series. I understand this one is about Cade, the rage demon. I have it on good authority that Cade has lickable horns. When you look at Kresley's photo in the back cover, she doesn't look like the kind of girl who would write these sorts of stories. 

Here is a book I wanted to order and was foiled: Death of a Pirate King.  But only the ebook is available now.  Do you have an ereader? I am SO jealous.  It doesn't come out in PRINT until September 29th! I will order it then. I am foaming at the mouth in anticipation for it. Adrien! Jake!  A pirate!!

My two part review of Lanyon's incredible Hell You Say is here.  Bottom post goes first. 


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

New blogs and my own damn contest!

Okay, I'm officially getting into the spirit of Book Blogger Appreciation Week at My Friend Amy's by:

1. Exploring new blogs
I've really been appreciating the community building aspects of blogger appreciation.  Here two new-to-me blogs I'm pleased to have discovered:

Literary Escapism  This is a really well put together blog with thoughtful interviews and lots of cool features. I especially like Jaxon's amazingly robust list of author websites.  Wow!  And check out her upcoming releases. I see a lot of my blogging friends already know this one. 

Damn Heart I have really been enjoying the attitude of the blog (like this entry on Pirate King) as well as other engaging posts. And I like her taste in books! It's written by a Scottish woman named Sayuri. 

2. Holding a contest
Okay, this is a contest with a customized-to-you book prize. 

TO QUALIFY: You find a new-to-me book blog you think I'd like, from My Friend Amy's list or anyplace else and provide the link in the comments.

1. It can't be random; the reading tastes have to relate somewhat to mine to qualify. I will randomly choose from the qualified entrants! 

2. If it's on my list (at left) already, it's not new to me. I've temporarily alphabetized the list just for this contest.

PRIZE: You tell me your tastes or blog url and I'll provide you with a list of books from my gigantic personal collection that I think you should try next, and you will pick one and I'll send you that book. If I'm in a certain mood, I may send you more than one!  

DEADLINE: Saturday September 20th!

UPDATE: All entries qualified. Randomly generated winner: Lady Tink!  

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Marky Mark - Judd connection

I just started Caressed by Ice by Nalini Singh.

I'm really enjoying it so far! I read the first book in this series, Slave to Sensation, but not #2, Visions of Heat. I usually don't read out of order and it's a weird experience. You feel a bit like you're not in the club. But it's nothing compared to if I hadn't read Slave. Then I'd be like, WTF? Because you need that Psy world set up.

I'm amazed at how well Singh imagines the Psy world. It's so intricate, complex, and strangely logical; the way she talks about it and its effects and projects and factions, you'd swear it already exists and she's just reporting on it. It just has that much heft.

Anyway, does anybody else think Judd on the cover looks like Mark Wahlberg? Even down to the hairstyle. I think it every time I look at it.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

My personal baggage moment with The Duke and I

Look how much I’m posting about The Duke and I!! I want to say right off that even though I’m kicking its tires a bit, I really liked it, engaged with it, and richly looked forward to reading it every night at bedtime, which is my sole measure of a book’s worth these days.

Here’s the thing with it - the book started out feeling like total confection—in a good way. Light, fun, bright, slightly weightless. Like cotton candy. Nom nom nom.

But then it tossed up an issue that totally shocked me.

One background thing about me: I don’t want kids and never have. Even as a young girl, I found baby dolls to be a crashing bore. As far as I was concerned, Barbies—and frankly, even troll dolls—were a whole lot more fun. Don’t get me wrong, I love being an aunt, and actually, I have the cutest, smartest, funnest nieces and nephew ever. But you know, here at home, I’m good with just cats.

So I'll get to the point--here’s a conflict that arises between the newlyweds:
You told me you couldn’t have children,” she interrupted, her eyes flashing with anger. “There’s a very big difference.”

“Not,” Simon said coldly, “to me. I can’t have children. My soul won’t allow it.”
And later:
Daphne had aroused him in his sleep, taken advantage of him while he was still slightly intoxicated, and held him to her while he poured his seed into her.

His eyes widened and fixed on hers. “How could you?” he whispered.

[later in that scene]
…But she had just curled up into a little ball, her knees tucked against her chest, obviously determined not to lose a single drop of him.
And later:
She wasn’t ashamed of her actions. She supposed she should be, but she wasn’t. She hadn’t planned it. She hadn’t looked at him while he was sleeping and thought—he’s probably still drunk. I can make love to him and capture his seed and he’ll never know.

It hadn’t happened that way.

Daphne wasn’t quite sure how it had happened, but one moment she was above him and the next she’d realized that he wasn’t going to withdraw in time, and she’d made certain he couldn’t…

Or maybe—She closed her eyes. Tight. Maybe it had happened the other way. Maybe she had taken advantage of more than the moment, maybe she had taken advantage of him.

She just didn’t know. It had all melted together.
So, Simon moves out to another estate and shuns her for months, she turns out not to be pregnant, but then they get back together and the issue is sort of transmuted into something different and resolved in that way.

But I was really hung up on Daphne's attempting to force parenthood on Simon - when she went into the marriage accepting there would be no children. I mean, in Regency England obviously women were forced into parenthood all the time. And I’m not saying this is on par with forced seduction or anything.

I think the point is, I had this sort of outrage on behalf of the hero, and I wanted the heroine punished way more than she was, and I wanted her to feel regret and repentance for the act way more than she did.

I am dimly aware that in the world of the book and the time, and all the sort of rules of this genre, Daphne probably paid sufficiently for these actions. But you know, it was my personal baggage moment.

Have you ever brought personal baggage to a book?

Monday, September 8, 2008

My "The Duke & I" X-Files moment

Am I still on  The Duke & I  by Julia Quinn? Yes I am. It got pre-empted by a couple other books, but now it's back on my radar.

Actually, I finished it. And overall I rather enjoyed it! But I have two things I want to discuss. The first is the cover. This copy was lent to me by Sarai, so it's not the cover you see now when you go to B & N. But I sometimes stare at in in bed thinking, what IS that thing in the background? That roundish, metal-looking thing. Is it a water tower? It's not like I take a magnifying glass to it. The thing is really clear. It doesn't look Regency to me.

Even with my rudimentary skills with Photoshop, it would take me about five minutes to erase it and replace it with sky.

I have consulted with Dear Husband on it. He agreed it appears to be a modern water tower of some sort, though his agreement may have had more to do with his wanting to get back to his own book and not stare at the cover of mine.

So what is it? Can anybody tell me? Because it looks like a late 20th century water tower.

Theory 1: Maybe Regency-era construction was such that this sort of thing could have been produced, and I just don't know what I'm talking about.

Theory 2: It has something to do with the World's Fair, or one of those exhibitions they put on. Like they had one in North and South.

Theory 3: The cover is supposed to be like that, and it is saying, here is your suburban home in the background, but this book will transport you to the Regency era.

Theory 4: The work of a disgruntled book cover designer.

I'll discuss the second thing tomorrow, or Wednesday. The second thing is about sex! And it is a spoiler. 

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Saturday things to do

MaryKate of Adventures in Katidom is co-chairing RBTB's Unleash Your Story fundraising team for Cystic Fibrosis, where authors and readers help raise funds for a great cause! Go see what it's all about, and the crazy thing she has pledged!  And Liza at Blogging by Liza has pledged something even crazier! Excellent!
Writtenwyrdd, a blog full of cool fantasy & speculative fiction talk and tidbits, (today is a thing on pre-industrial world building!) is having an anniversary contest where you can win art and mugs, including an Evil Editor mug. (Do you know who Evil Editor is? Check out his query facelifts. Very fun.)

Vote here for your fave blogs in the BBAW contest. Cough*bookbingeforbestromanceblog*cough.

I am sort of glum. AND I have to work all weekend. But I just wrote the most brilliant radio ad. Now I have to think of some slogans and campaigns for a different company. Then I will go running and then I plan to corrupt my handsome and normally healthy-eating dear husband into consuming some big greasy burritos while watching an old Monk on DVD. Ole! It's Saturday! And then work some more.

LOVE my kitty
Look what Oblio did to our recycling corner. But look how cute he is! It is so hard to be mad at him.

In addition to helping out with the recycling, Oblio enjoys investigating the mysteries of the toilet because, hello, things disappear down it--what is up with that?? One of his most favorite activities is to perch on the rim of the toilet while DH pees, and sometimes Oblio walks back and forth under the pee stream, like it is a magical bridge. I find this oh, about ninety billion times more amusing than DH does.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The other thing that happened that sounds made up and isn't

Okay, the second thing that sounds made up but isn't (first one here) happened last week on my train ride back up from Chicago to Minneapolis. I vastly prefer the train over the car for a number of reasons:

A) It's 6 or 7 hours of uninterrupted reading time.
B) It's cheaper and more earth friendly than driving.
C) I'm a crap driver.
D) The last time we took our 14-year-old car in for weird sound investigation, the mechanic refused to take it on the highway due to concerns for his personal safety. (NOTE: this does not stop DH from driving it on the hwy whenever he gets it in his head to.)

Train car of hell

Usually my Amtrak experience is totally pleasant, but this ride was shockingly awful. My car was full of people eating smelly food, kids fighting and babies crying, and, while I can roll with those things, as they do not specifically prevent reading, I was getting SUPER annoyed at the people behind me playing DVDs really loud, some sort of movie with lots of talking.

I tolerated several hours of this by a kind of fierce concentration. I was finishing Anne Aguirre's sci-fi novel GRIMSPACE, and absorbed in it, so that helped, though I sure wished those DVD people had brought earphones. And so did the people around me.

Anyway, around Tomah, WI, I was relieved when the movie sounded like it was over, and I figured they'd shut the thing off. By that time, I was finished with GRIMSPACE and was going on to Kesley Cole's DARK NEEDS AT NIGHT'S EDGE.

And they put in another movie--a kid's movie with bells and horns and screechy mouse voices. So I'm like, fuck this, I'm outta here. I grab my purse and my backpack and my water and M&Ms and go in search of a new seat in a totally new car. Which you're NOT supposed to do on a train. So I walked through the sleeper car, the lounge car, another crowded car, and then I come to this one really nice, quiet, non-food smelly car that had one whole double open seat.

Train car of heaven

I sit down, and open my book. Just then the train stops and my new car empties out even more, and becomes even more quiet. So I'm reading in perfect peace for an hour, and this fresh faced young college boy across the aisle asks me where I'm going and I tell him and I ask him, etc. He's going to some college named St. John's in St. Paul, he tells me.

We proceed to have this pleasant little train passenger conversation, and while we're talking, all these wholesome, fresh-faced college boys pop their heads up around me. They all seemed to know each other, and they were all smiling and SO sympathetic to me being in this other car. Now, I'm past the age of getting that kind of attention from college boys, so I was like, this is weird.

Then they're really keenly interested in what I'm reading. Which was slightly embarrassing, considering the cover. I give them a kind of G-rated version of the plot, explaining that it's a very exciting story about a ghost and a vampire. They all seem to find crazy-fascinating.

Finally I'm like, St. Johns? And they're like, Seminary School. They're studying to be priests. I almost spit out my M&M's. And I'm like, whoa. Cool. And I'm thinking, gee, I'm really glad I didn't go into any kind of detail on the whole vampire chained to a bed and amorous ghost plotline.

We talk a bit more, and then we all just go back to our reading. The thing was, they weren't trying to talk to me about religion or anything. I think they were just really heavy into human kindness. Maybe that is the first level of priest study. I can't say how pleasant it was. Car of heaven.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Where in the world is Carolyn Jean?

I'm over at Book Binge doing a special review of WIRED by Liz Maverick for their Shomi Spotlight month.

Wow, WIRED was such a damn fine read—fun, exciting, sexy, plotty, mysterious—the perfect balance of a book. Okay, first, a bit about the plot, because you know what’s funny? The back blurb, like many events within the book itself, makes a whole lot more sense in hindsight. Translation: not a lot of help from the flap. So here’s the deal: