Friday, October 31, 2008

Question of the day: what's your subgenre path?

 I've been thinking about how different readers come to books with different reading backgrounds, and it got me thinking about the paths we take through subgenres. 

For example, I came in with Outlander and Bitten and proceeded from there, and my subgenre path would be:

Urban Fantasy - paranormal - historical - erotica - contemporary.  

I guess I'm not counting Outlander there. What is it, even? I haven't hit steam punk - is that a subgenre?  Do people consider M/M a subgenre? You can have M/M of any subgenre, but I often see it called out separately. So M/M is in there after historical for me if it is. Also, though I read several of the Kushiel series, I didn't list fantasy in there.  I don't consider myself a fantasy reader. Yet. 

Okay, that's like nine questions!  I need more coffee.

But do tell, what is your subgenre path? And if you have answers to any of my other questions, feel free. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Monday, October 27, 2008

Where in the world is CJ NOW?

Hey! I'm over at Desert Island Keepers today, telling about the six books I'd bring to the island to add to the giant Desert Island Library.  

Tomorrow, Day #2 on the desert island, I tell what heroes I'd bring and why (even though somebody else took my #1 hero draft pick before me.) But I have good ones. 

Day #3... anything could happen. Come visit!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Conflicted on Windflower

Okay, my thinking has been so mixed on this book! I have been really busy to post, but also just so conflicted, I wasn’t sure what to say.
Almost as if I am of two minds…

Carolyn Jean: Let’s talk about the writing. The writing is technically better than most of what I read today in genres. Especially the descriptions. The imagery is just richer, and the authors are always finding fresh ways of saying things instead of resorting to clichés.

Crazy little CJ: Yeah, and toward the end, you were skipping huge chunks of that description. Admit it, you got bored! I know I did. I wanted more hot action.

Carolyn Jean: But whose fault is that? I think I said in a past post, I can’t help but think that if I’d read it as literature rather than romance, I wouldn’t have skipped description. I expected different things from it.

Crazy little CJ: It’s called the worst of both worlds.

Carolyn Jean: Maybe in how the description slowed things, but not at the level of the plot. This plot was way richer and more panoramic than the genre literature I’m used to, and that was an absolute improvement. I liked that there were more balls spinning, more moving parts in terms of cause and effect and hidden motivations, more complexity, and numerous loose ends tied up.

Crazy little CJ: Tied up implausibly.

Carolyn Jean: Maybe a few minor things were tied up implausibly, but to me, that doesn’t ruin the whole book. It was bigger and more ambitious, and I appreciated that. And the canvas was larger, taking us to numerous shores and making a minor aspect of the 1812 War (divisions in English opinion and their various plans and gambits vis a vis the Americans) a central part of the plot. I learned new things about history here, and I love learning new things in books as long as they’re well woven into the drama, which this stuff was.

Crazy little CJ: I happen to know you interrupted the reading of Caressed by Ice for this, and you were sort of eager to finish so you could get back to sexy Judd.

Carolyn Jean: But does that mean this is a worse book? Actually, I think this is the superior book. But yes, I looked forward to getting back to Caressed. Am I just a product of this generation of romance and subgenres? Just because Frank Sinatra doesn’t rock, does it mean Metallica is the better band?

Crazy Little CJ: Yes, excluding their new album, which sucks. Also, you’re forgetting how Ana brought up 19th century writers like Jane Austen and Emily Bronte. Do you think you would skip giant boring passages of description in Pride and Prejudice? No, because there aren't any.

Carolyn Jean: But she was talking more about heroine Merry’s lack of power and wherewithal, and the hero’s brutishness, and the scenes that headed toward forced seduction.

Crazy Little: Uh! I want to chop that Devon up with my little arms.

Carolyn Jean: I don’t have a specific problem with all that; these sorts of books belong to the world of fantasy and fairytales, not to the world of reality, and I’m a reader who can be fine with certain things in books (ultra-violent vigilante vampires, women shooting guys because they’re jerks, guys brutishly seducing conflicted virgins on pirate ships) that I would abhor in reality. So I enjoyed those scenes to an extent, though the power imbalance got old. I think the bottom line is, even though Merry changed and became braver, it seemed like there was little inward transformation of the relationship.

Crazy Little CJ: Yeah, she got braver, but her bravery would lead to her having to be rescued. It bugged me.

Carolyn Jean: Also, this book was more sophisticated in terms of human psychology and character, especially where the secondary characters are concerned. In fact, the character of Rand Morgan is one of my favorite ever characters I’ve ever encountered, secondary or primary.

Crazy Little: Whatev. He’s named after rum!

Carolyn Jean: How do you know rum isn’t named after him?

Crazy Little CJ: Because I looked it up on Wikipedia, Biyotch. Captain Morgan has been around since 1944.

Carolyn Jean: Is Biyotch even how you spell it?

Crazy Little CJ: Don't put up that photo, you look like a freak.

Carolyn Jean: It's too late to retake. I already sent off the book to Kmont, and you have to put up a photo. I was trying to express conflictedness.

Crazy Little CJ: I need some rum right now.

Carolyn Jean: Don't you dare! I have deadlines. I shouldn't even be blogging. Anyway, there were tons of great moments. I loved the pirate details. All their little rules, and drunken debauchery. And when Devon showed up in his piratey leather vest and coat with no shirt after he took part in whipping that guy for insubordination? And Merry is like, Yum, you are like a badass pirate.

Crazy Little CJ: That was actually me who said that.

Carolyn Jean: Also, being that I came to romance late, I was really enjoying this on a genre history level. This is where books we now love evolved from. Devon is really Judd’s grandfather in many ways. Plus, this is a book a lot of our buddies treasured 20 years ago. I feel like a giant hole in my reading knowledge has been filled in. I am so grateful to have read this book. It will stay with me a long time.

VERDICT: So conflicted.

Other thinking: Ana's now infamous review. MaryKate's meditations on old school. Kmont begins to mercilessly make fun of book here. (anybody else?)
Read about tour here.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Widgets + Q & A + veiled threats

What is with the new widgets in my sidebar?

Q. Has crazy little CJ, whose eyes like to follow anything that moves, taken over the blog and gone widget crazy?
A. No.

Q. Does big CJ want to win prizes? Is that the reason the widgets are there?
A. Partly, but I'm also excited for both books. And hey, if you visit Meljean's site, please vote for the ereader. Go check it out - she is also giving away lots of cool daily prizes!

Q. Will crazy little CJ come during the night and chop me up with her wee little arms if I don't vote for the ereader?
A. Nobody is specifically saying that.

Q. Is this a cheap fast post because big CJ is too busy to do a real one?
A. Maybe.

Q. Where in the heck is that Windflower post?
A. In fragments in a file somewhere.

Q. Is crazy little CJ angry at all the people who called her creepy?
A. Possibly.

Okay, seriously, these widgets are for two books I am totally excited to devour. You can read my past fawning over Meljean Brook's work here. Erin McCarthy is a sort of new-to-me-author who I am officially getting into; I loved Fallen (discussed by me here) and this new book sounds just excellent.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Is this creepy?

I think in some marriages the wife gets to make the decor decisions, but not in the Carolyn Jean household.

Exhibit A: this lovely and charming portrait of me, Carolyn Jean, at age 5, done by an elderly aunt who was a sort of amateur painter. I just love it. I think it's totally retro, and growing up, it was the source great pride for me--this was actually done from a school photo, and I never owned that gold bracelet or held that basket of flowers, but I liked to think of myself as the kind of little girl who maybe would sit with a basket of flowers and a pretty bracelet.

Also, my two younger sisters were bitterly jealous they didn't get portraits, too. One of the privileges of being the oldest. You seem more special because you're the first.

Anyway, cute, you say, right? Who in their right mind wouldn't want such a charming portrait in their living room?

My husband, that's who. He says this is CREEPY! He feels like my childlike eyes follow him around the room. That I have a creepy look on my face. And he won't let it be in the living room. So anyway, it's in my office. Is it creepy? Humorous maybe, okay, but creepy?

Going out of town!

I'm heading out of town this weekend, so Thrillionth will be quiet until Tuesday.

The WINDFLOWER also headed out of town yesterday, to KMONT.

When I get back I will be doing my final post on it! Not that I haven't already posted the hell out of it, but there is a lot to say about it. And I can't wait to see what everybody else says.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Kittens: a horny hero's best friends? NOT.

My husband and I got a good laugh out of this Windflower seduction scene: handsome Duke/Pirate Devon brings Merry to a lovely, out-of-the-way and hay-filled barn to see some kittens.

They play and cuddle with the kittens upon the soft hay, and then the kittens and the mother cat run off, and a hot and steamy scene ensues.

Obviously, implausibilities help to make books fun to read - otherwise, they'd be like life. But the idea of people successfully having sex in a barn full of kittens is one of the most farfetched things ever. I should know, as two kittens live here in this apartment.

To kittens, people having sex is an irresistible feast of play opportunities. Excitement in the air! Moving body parts to pounce on! Clothed is okay, naked is better, but if the people are under the covers? Go, kitty, go kitty, kill kill kill!

I know Devon spent years with fierce pirate Rand Morgan, but he doesn't know what ruthless is until he tries to have sex with Merry in front of kitties. The kitties will take him DOWN.

I've never really minded animals watching, if you know what I mean, if they don't try to get involved. We've had older cats that just sleep and lounge nearby. I'm fine with that. Hmmm. Maybe this is a poll. Update: see poll at left.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The fascinating minor planets in the Windflower system

Great moments from last night's reading
Book: The Windflower
Author: Laura London (a.k.a. Tom and Sharon Curtis)
Page left off at: 412/spoiler level: HIGH HIGH HIGH. DANGER DANGER
The last part especially WILL ruin the book for you.
Part of the Windflower World TOUR!
Sorry, I know I am now hitting the wall of my allotted two weeks on this book, but it is very dense and rich!

I continue to not know what to think about it. I've become way more fascinated with the secondary characters than the main characters, which I suppose could be a bad sign, but these are some of the best secondary characters I have ever read in any romance/fantasy sub-genres.

I think that's because part of the deal with this book is that the center of gravity isn't the romantic pair. To me, The Windflower is more a sweeping, almost epic portrait that simply includes the pair. In more recent genre offerings, nearly everything orbits around the romance, and you may get quirky secondaries or whatever, but nothing at the richness and depth of these. I think there's a sort of 'deliver the goods' mentality out there today that I'm not immune to, but it doesn't exactly increase quality.


My great moment from last night was between Cat and his estranged father, Cathcart. I loved this. They are both so tentative with each other in their own ways. Cathcart "had learned to keep his phrases simple. In the past, anything more had sounded surprisingly insincere, even when it was meant from the heart."

Some ways into the conversation, Cat starts crying, and you really get how upset he's been about Merry, and that generally he's this young boy who's led a pirate life where you can't cry.
"Of all times, of all places for this to happen - he thrust his face into one callused palm with a sound somewhere between a gasp and a groan. In a moment he felt himself being drawn into the warm oval of his father's arms. He would have cast off the hug because he usually hated being touched, but this clasp was startling in its strength and tenderness, and the darkness around him began to recede though the sobs came harder, painfully racking contractions in his esophagus. He murmured, "This is so bloody embarrassing."
Later in the hug...
"He [Cathcart] felt the slight gather of tension in his son's well-muscled shoulders, and he stepped back, gently releasing the boy, not with regret but with grateful wonder that he had had this brief first chance to hold his unchildlike child."
And later...
"As he [Cat] took the comfortable chair Cathcart offered and settled into its velvet upholstery, it occurred to him that there was one thing Cathcart offered the people around him that Morgan never gave to anyone. Peace."

Seriously, it will RUIN the book for you.

Which brings us to Morgan, who is such a complicated and delicious character. There's one point where somebody mentions that all along, Morgan has just been performing a pirate's version of matchmaking, and that was so interesting, to sort of think of him as the pirate's parallel to some old dowager trying to get a couple to cross paths at teatime, only he does it all in a sort of brutal piratey way.

And I know I made him seem sort of harmless in my 'memos' post, like he's all image, but it really isn't true. I think it's a testament to the authors' skill here that he is so compelling - you're drawn to him, but you know to be wary of him. Like one of those weird creatures at the bottom of the sea, so colorful and unique and amazing, but with a painful sting.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Windflower Memos

Book: The Windflower
Author: Laura London (a.k.a. Tom and Sharon Curtis)
In this 1984 classic, young, naive Merry Wilding is kidnapped in error by handsome semi-rogue-ish pirates.

Memo to Merry
RE: beating on a man's chest

I hope you don't take this the wrong way, because I know you are very naive about the ways of pirates, but please stop beating on Devon's chest with your little fists. You've done it several times now, and where has it gotten you?

That's right. Nowhere. I know that Devon told you he'd teach you the best place to kick a man and hasn't yet come through with the information. Maybe you are waiting for that, but in the meantime, you could explore other options. I am sure that Ana over at Book Smugglers would be more than happy to give you a few ideas on what to do to Devon. The boy pirate clothes, however, are definitely working for you.

Memo to Rand Morgan
RE: your "campaign"

You hav
e such a fearsome worldwide reputation as a bloodthirsty bandit, a murderous barbarian, the stuff of nightmares! Recently, however, it has come to my attention that your ship is in fact an idyllic place where men play and sing all day and are loving to women and animals, a haven where boys can be like Peter Pans and escape the evils of slavery and whalers, where things are even voted on. Furthermore, I understand from Ana's review that in fact there are not one but two peers of the realm aboard, (I haven't gotten to that part, but I suspect you may even be one of them. At any rate, you are quite an upstanding fellow.)

Of course I know why you did it - chicks dig pirates! Don't worry, your secret is safe with me, but I'm curious: who is your PR agency? I totally want to hire them to pimp my novel when it comes out.

Memo to Devon
RE: last night
Oh, Devon, Devon, Devon. Last night you really wanted to have sex with Merry, and she you, yet while she was covering you with trembling kisses, she emoted about how bewildered she was by her own desires and begged you to stop making her feel the way you make her feel. You got fed up and kicked her out.

I totally understand. You were tired of holding all the power. You wanted your heroine to have more backbone, to show more agency. Ana over at the Book Smugglers wants that too! Think about it for a second: you and Ana both want the same thing. This could be a love match!

Memo to Cat
RE: Save yourself!

r, dear beautiful sexually ambiguous Cat. Just to let you know, there is an island somewhere; I don't know its location or I swear I'd tell it to you. All I can do is give you this photo.

Cat, this island is full of girls who are fixated on you and your mysterious ways, and the number of fixated girls is only going to grow as this book gets passed around. One Samantha Kane has provisionally claimed you, but don't be lured by the dirty photos on her website; those are not people who live on the island; REPEAT: they do not live on the island, they are characters in the dirty books she writes and she will not be able to protect you from the inhabitants of the island.

For the love of all that is holy, Cat, protect your remaining shred of innocence and memorize the image I have supplied here. If you see this hut on this beach, you must beg Morgan to turn the ship the other way, and if he will not, you must jump into the waves and swim, swim, swim! Save yourself, Cat!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Windflower: early commentary & a WTF moment

Great moments from last night's reading
Book: The Windflower
Author: Laura London (a.k.a. Tom and Sharon Curtis)
Page left off at: 137/spoiler level: Low
Part of the Windflower World TOUR!

Okay, I'm not very far in this book, so I sort of don't have an opinion yet. But I do have observations! One is that this is an unexpectedly rich book with some stunning writing here. I haven't been tracking standout passages, but there are many. Here, from where I left off last night:
Far above the Black Joke the sun was a lonely stranger, a flat circle with sharp edges that were blue and phosphorescent. A breeze rich in sea spice ruffled foam from the slate-covered ocean waves and made the ship deck lively with furling shirts and pant legs, swinging lines, fresh cheeks. Under the uproar of the great wheaten staysails Merry watched bright, busy light skitter on the sailmaker as he mended. His knuckles were swollen and red, like candied cherries. His palm was so tough that he used it as a thimble...
I really really love the sun was a lonely stranger and bright, busy light and knuckles that look like candied cherries, and the artistic way the sailors are described via furling clothing and fresh cheeks.

I find when I want to slow down and dip in this book is a great experience. Sometimes, however, there is more description than I am used to, and I'll get impatient and want to get to the good stuff. Like, from pages 53-55 it's all description of the year passing. "As the days of September began to lessen..." etc. I mean, it went on and on. October, Christmas. Spring. Like THREE pages! It was the authors trying to put time between one event and another, but today, that would be one sentence: A year went by. And that's what I'm used to.

Reading it, I was reminded of when I watch an old Clint Eastwood movie or something, and there's a long scene-establishing shot and then a long shot of a bad guy pulling up in a panel-sided station wagon for a couple minutes. It's great movie making, but you're aware it's not today's pace.

My impatience with this long scene setting isn't just the pace, it also has to do with expectations. Say if I was reading somebody like Anita Brookner or George Eliot I would accept it. But I think because I know I'm reading romance here, I expect bawdy excitement. I read an MMF erotica recently and after a while, I couldn't be bothered to read the story parts at all. Did I just type that out loud? Do I have a point? Yes.

I realized that when I stop trying to compare this book to current genre and subgenre stuff, (which is like comparing apples to crack), and when I stop trying to decide if I like it, or figure out what it is and just let it take me, I have a fabulously enjoyable time with it.

(Frankly that goes for romance part too, but that's another post, which could be titled something like, healthy relationship politics vs a deeply embedded fantasy trope that secretly titillates me.)

WTF moment
Okay, the first night I was reading it, I had this total WTF moment. Is this sly humor, or are they seriously setting the stage in a psychological way? Imagine my surprise, if you would, when, on pp 1-2, I encountered this passage describing the virginal girl alone in the garden:
She would have been so much more comfortable, she thought, if she dared sit as the housemaids did on the back stoop in the evening, with the hems of their skirts pulled up past their knees, laps open, bare heels dug into the cool dirt. A slight smile touched her lips as she imagined her aunt's reaction should that lady discover her niece, Merry Patricia, in such a posture.

Setting down her pencil, Merry spread and flexed her fingers and watched as a tiny yellow butterfly skimmed her shoulder to light on the ground, its thin wing fluttering against the flushing bulge of a carrot. The beans were heavy with plump rods, and there would be good eating from the sturdy ruby stalks of the rhubarb. Merry looked back to her drawing and lifted her pencil.

The rutabagas weren't coming out right. The front one had a hairy, trailing root that jutted upward at an awkwardly foreshortened angle...
OMG. The garden is full of penises, and I think the butterfly wing is her hymen! Were the authors laughing in their sleeves as they wrote this? A paragraph later we learn about a dream that had invaded her mind: the unicorn had come again! What??? Does this unicorn appear elsewhere? It seems this unicorn is way different than the unicorn that invaded the dreams of her childhood. This one was:
...pawing and snorting, looking bigger than it had been before, its muscles white and glistening beneath its creamy texture, its chest broad and heaving, its horn poised and thick.
She hides under the covers, but then wants to look. He wants me to ride him, she thinks. Tell me, Windflower lovers, are these authors being funny? I have to think this passage was meant to be funny. At any rate, I found it highly entertaining. Opinions welcome.

Please don't think I'm making fun of this book. It is 9:26 pm right now, and you can't imagine how greatly I'm looking forward to taking it up again.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Drats! Help!

I shake my fist at Christine, who gave me a Z for the names  meme. Help!!

I might do five posts about Zsadist - and will! - unless somebody can remind me of other Z's.  I don't even know Zorro!  Help!!

Who are heroes in books that you have read whose names begin with a Z?  Maybe I have read them, too.   

But look at this cool image I found in the wikipedia commons. 

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Weekend of fire and luv!

It's been FREEZING here in Minneapolis. Well, not really, it's been in the 60's during the day and the 40's at night, but our landlord hasn't turned on the heat, so our apartment has been cold!  And we started thinking about how great it would be to have a nice FIRE in the fireplace.

Sitting in front of fires is one of our main winter activities. So we just had two cords of wood delivered from the fella who delivered it last year.

All that wood is sort of a splurge at this point being that my freelance business as an advertising writer has ground to a halt. Gulp. But I'm making splendid progress on my new novel. (And maybe I should add that I'm just fooling around - that really isn't our apartment pictured above.)

Well, isn't this just love orgy time in blogland. Last weekend, as many of you may recall, was the weekend of anger. But now, oh, love love love. Yesterday I loved my pals LB and Tump.

And now I got an "I love your blog"  award and will give it! I got this award from three different places: Naida at The Bookworm, Marg at Reading Adventures, and Ana and Thea of The Book Smugglers, three great blogs where you can always find good company and smart reviews of an eclectic range of books.

The rules for this award are that you need to:

1) Add the logo of the award to your blog
2) Add a link to the person who awarded it to you
3) Nominate at least 7 other blogs
4) Add links to those blogs on your blog
5) Leave a message for your nominees on their blogs!

So I'm officially awarding this award to:

Aymless of Aimless Ramblings
Brie at Musings of Bibliophile
Wendy at Kicks & Giggles
Christine at Happily Ever After
Rachael at What I am Reading
KB at Babbling about books

And I am going to be SO MAD if you don't play. Just kidding. I still have to do Christine's Z. I can't keep up!!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Now you are ONE!

Imagine, just a year ago there was no place for a girl to read about things like tree sex (secret: beeswax!) or get a NOT AT ALL OBJECTIVE opinion on whether photos of nekkid menz look like Nate from My Fair Captain, or get brilliant, thoughtful, insightful and sometimes smart alec takes on the hottest M/M novels from such a fabulous and great girl. Happy blog birthday, Nose in a Book.

But wait, there's more! Because, just to think, one year ago there was ALSO no place where slap v. tash arguments could rage, and where coy silliness could live in harmony with startling intelligence, and where a birthday would merely be celebrated with an INSANE placeholder like this. Happy blog birthday to you, too, Isn't it Romance.

I so heart you both, Lisabea and Tumperkin!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

A golden rogue’s caress…

The Windflower has landed!
Ah, the legendary 1984 romance, favorite book of superfabulous author Joanna Bourne and superfabulous blogger MaryKate and all kinds of other exciting people is now in my hot little hands!

Like so many of my readerly pals, I've always wanted to read this seminal book, but it's been out of print for years.

Recently, clever Ciara happened upon it at a UBS and snapped it up. Then she and Ana at Book Smugglers hatched a plan to share the love and send the book on a worldwide 24-blogger reading tour! I can't wait to read it and see what all the fuss is about!

The Windflower was written by a husband wife team, Tom and Sharon Curtis (AKA Laura London.)

Coincidentally, my husband also got a book written by a husband and wife team on the very same day Windflower came in the mail for me - The Age of Voltaire by Will and Ariel Durant. And his book deals with the same general period in history, too.

I got no end of teasing, but I don't care.

Okay, here is the blurb:

She longed for a pirate’s kisses, for a golden rogue’s caress… Every lady of breeding knows: no one has a good time on a pirate ship. No one, that is, but the pirates.

Yet there she was, Marry Wilding- kidnapped in error, taken from a ship bound from New York to England, spirited away in a barrel and swept aboard the infamous Black Joke…. There she was, trembling with pleasure in the arms of her achingly handsome, sensationally sensual, golden-haired captor - Devon.

From the storm-tossed Atlantic to the languid waters of the Gulf Stream, from a smuggler’s den to a guilded mansion, Merry struggled to escape… to escape the prison of her own reckless passions, the bondage of sweet, bold desire….

Read all about the tour here.
Read Ana's thumbs-down review here.
MAP will be updated soon!