Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Quick (and similar) Summer Reads

I had picked up two books recently at one of my local libraries "Friends of the Library" bookstore- which I'm ADDICTED to. Just yesterday I picked up some random romance novels, and Melissa Marr's "Wicked Lovely" in new condition. My last visit I got bagful of 2008 released historical romances, and "Demon Moon" is perfect shape by Meljean Brooke, all for $4! Anyway, enough mooning over my book oasis! :) I was in the mood for a quick, light read and I liked the synopsis on the back of the book so I chose Indulge Me by Isabel Sharpe. I discovered the "Blaze" titles in my junior year of high school. My friend Carly was reading one and couldn't stop telling me about the steamy sex scenes- so of course I *had* to read it after her. ;) We kept talking about it in our psychology class and my friend sitting on the other side of me, Ashley, kept listening it. She couldn't believe the sex scenes we were talking about (the direct quote being "Girl, you crazy!") As crazy as we might have been, she demanded to read the book as well. I was pretty dedicated to them for a while, Jo Leigh being my favorite author of them. I think I overdosed though, and I haven't picked one up for years. The new, super slim size was perfect for my comeback- though I do think if they were going to cut these books down the price should also be reduced. i was lucky enough to get my glossy copy for 25 cents, but for the woman who originally paid $5- I salute you!
Anyway- to the book. Darcy Wolf has spent the past few years of her life taking care of her father before he succumbed to cancer. Closely following that, she broke up with her boyfriend- and on his upset drive home he got in a car accident. Out of guilt, she took care of him for a year, but finally had to get out of there. Now she's ready to have fun, and she's inherited the money to do it. She's fixing up the house she inherited to sell it, then she's traveling America. While it's being worked on,
she's enjoying lounging by her backyard pool and watching the sexy house painter, Tyler, work. He's enjoying watching her too. In the past she's been very chaste, but she's so turned on by Tyler she decides to throw caution to the wind and be a little slutty. She has a list of three sexy things she wants to do before leaving (including touching herself in a public place and hopefully having a sexy guy catch her!), and she figures this will be a great warm-up. She puts on a strip show in the room of the window he's working on, and begins touching herself. He's aroused but tries to get her attention to let her know she's being watched- and he figures out she WANTS him to watch, and he starts touching himself. Soon he's summoned in, and they have wild (but clean) "stranger" sex. It's a small town though, and Darcy soon learns her sexy "mystery man" is actually a guy she knew a bit when they were in school together! She's embarrassed but their attraction to so hot they decide to have a fling before she leaves town. But when emotions start heating up as much as the sheets have been, how will they deal with her moving?
The H & H in this book had AMAZING chemistry, and both characters were well-drawn and a joy to spend time with. I really rooted for their relationship. Darcy's best friend is also a great character, and the side plot of her husband working out with a hot younger woman and her insecurity about that was a great addition. I also loved the contrast between Darcy's fantasies- which were basically standard "sex with strangers" porn almost-plots-
and how they actually came off in reality. The book was only 224 but fit in a lot of good character development in that time, and the ultra-short length actually served the light plot very well. A very fun read, highly recommend. 3 out of 4 stars.
Next up is Jaci Burton's Magnolia Summer, which is actually my first "romantica" (erotic romance) and Ellora's Cave novel. I didn't really notice the similarities to both books plots when I picked this one up right after "Indulge", and if I didn't want to get it listed on Paperback Swap I might have put a few books between them. Similarities?
* Small-town girl longing to get back to or get to a big city? Check.
* Loyal local guy wanting her, but angry at her for not appreciating small-town life? Check.
* Getting an inherited house ready to sell so they can get out of town? Check.
* Hunky love interest working on the house in some capacity? Check.

I like to mix up the books I read so I don't get sick of anything, and also because it's unfair to give a book a lower grade just because I may be burnt out on their genre. If i read a historical, a paranormal is usually next, then maybe a contemporary, something non-romance, etc etc.
Thankfully, Magnolia Summer was a very charming book and not hard to read at all. The plot was wisp-thin, though I did enjoy Jordan working with the local community theater- though some more humorous scenes with them would have been great. The relationship between the H & H though... I didn't really buy into. He apparently had a hidden torch for her in high school, and she had a crush on him. They did the normal "clash, then slowly warm to each other than fall in love" thing, but it felt like it happened because it was SUPPOSED to happen, I didn't actually feel the warming of the relationship and their personalities meshing.The sex scenes were HOT, wow. The book came with a warning about the "steam" level and language, but I still found it a bit misleading. They said the book "may" contain the word "pussy, when in fact the book contained multiple uses of the "c-word". Just a heads up. For what it is, I give it a 2.5 out of 4.

Also, is it just me or does the male cover model resemble Adam Corolla? Corolla is a funny guy, though I'm not sure if I consider him romance book hunk material...

Both books were short, fast reads perfect for summer- though the hot levels of both didn't make them ideal for cooling down. ;) The books in total cost me 50 cents, and I think I made out like a bandit.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Hunter Kiss & The Iron Hunt by Marjorie M. Liu

What?: Hunter Kiss, a short story in the Wild Thing paranormal anthology (is that cover gorgeous or what?) It's a prequel to the novel The Iron Kiss.
Marjorie M. Liu. Also known for her Dirk & Steele romance series- the first is "Tiger Eye".
Where? (Genre): Urban fantasy/paranormal. The Iron Kiss is the first of a brand-new series.

Romance/Sex Level?: While Hunter Kiss is in what's basically a paranormal romance anthology, the romance is much more laid back than most and secondary to the main plot. The Iron Kiss really contains no romance what-so-ever, so going into the book expecting lots of steamy love scenes will be disappointing.
The Meat: While I have Liu books in my TBR, The Iron Kiss is actually my first book by this author. I found "Wil
d Thing" at my local UBS *after* I already started "Iron", so I was in the interesting kerfuffle of reading the prequel AFTER the first "chapter"- George Lucas would have been proud! Factoring that in, I don't think it hurt the reading experience for me. While I still recommend reading the short story before the book, I was still fully able to follow everything going on in book- HOWEVER. The plot is one where events start taking place before it's fully explained- and what events they are! We have zombies- who's name is explained in the short story, as these aren't your run-of-the-mill George Romero zombies- a modern day pied piper (but for possessed "zombies") and adorably demonic tattoos, aka The Boys, (which are passed down mother to daughter in the Kiss family) that make our heroine virtually indestructible.
It's a darn good thing she has then, too. A veil separates the world we know, and one containing a blood red sea that's teeming with lost souls and demons who long escape that realm and live in ours. Sadly (for both us AND them) the only way to "cross over" here is to take possession of a humans body- usually someone weak in some capacity, physically or mentally. While us muggle humans may just think someone has turned into a jerk or picked up a drug addiction, Maxine Kiss can literally see the
demon form playing puppet master inside the human- it's up to her to un-zombiefy them.
The plot is packed to the gills, but Liu manages to keep everything very clear and the action is always moving at a satisfying clip. While it's certainly no horror novel,
The Iron Kiss does contain scenes of The Boys dispatching the zombies in a number of disturbing ways- though I gotta admit, sometimes it's pretty funny too. They're little black cuddly creatures that can eat something much larger than themselves, then burp loudly afterwards. After that, I started imaging them as...

Nibbler, from Futurama. Awww!

The tragic drawback to her protective tattoos is we are told that eventually Maxine will HAVE to have a daughter (to the point that The Boys will force her if she doesn't eventually get pregnate, yikes) and once she reaches they'll transfer to her. Literally the minute after transfer, Maxine will be vunerable and will be murdered- just like her mother and her mother before her and so on. We are shown glimpses of Maxine's mother (and even a wonderful scene with her grandmother), who is so cool she could have a successful series herself. Liu has made Maxine wonderfully flawed, so much so that when compared to her mother it seems almost unfair.
The relationship between Maxine and her boyfriend have a relationship that can best be described as "cool". They don't talk much, and while they have sex occasionally and always have each others back, they seem mainly like friends with benefits. Reading the short story sets up their relationship much better, by just reading
Iron Kiss one might see no point to their relationship at all.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book- the world building was wonderful and unique and it was refreshing to have a heroine who wasn't flawless and sure of her every action. She constantly second guesses herself (especially when comparing herself to her confident, capable mother) and she's disappointed in herself for letting her training go and depending solely on The Boys. I'm looking forward VERY much to the next book in the series, and I highly recommend this to fans of the genre and the author.
Skip To the End!: Overall rating: 4.75 out of 5 stars. The stories were original with refreshing twists included into the staples I love so dearly in paranormal and urban fantasy series.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

What's In A Name: Veil of Roses by Laura FItzgerald

Laura Fitzgerald's Veil of Roses was my "Plant Title" choice in the What's In A Name? Challenge. The story follows 27-year-old teacher Tamila Soroush (Tami) from the home she shares with her parents in Iran, to staying with her sister- whom she hasn't seen since she was a child- and her husband. She has a three month stay, during which she must wed to stay in the country. While she is set up with a string of "worthy" Persian men, Tami finds herself attracted to Ian, a very American Starbuck's employee, and her photography of the different sorts of freedom she observes around her. She also meets an instant support group of friends in her conversational English class at the university, including the wild German Eva and an abused Russian mail order bride. While enjoying her life in America, the dark cloud of having to find a husband in only three months to avoid being sent back to Iran hangs over her head.

From reading the back of the book, I wasn't expecting this book to be as, well... fluffy, as it was. Now, as bad as that may sound I don't mean it as an insult at all. Fitzgerald manages to portray a wealth of multi-dimensional characters in this slender volume, and Tami is a wonderfully flawed character. Her relationship with her older sister is loving but strained, and the sheer panic of having a man who's possibly very mentally damaged by pushed on you as an "eligible husband" feels very real.

While reading this book, I thought to myself more than once that this story could almost be one of Azar Nafisi student's in "Reading Lolita in Tehren"'s once she got to America- well, sans literary influence, I suppose. All in all "Veil of Roses" was a quick, light read that still packed an emotional and cultural punch. I laughed out loud more than once and smiled a lot, and I would definitely recommend this book if you've been looking into it.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England by Brock Clarke

An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England by Brock Clarke was my choice for the "place" selection in the What's In A Name? Challenge

I read a review who noted thsi book was “interesting and frustrating”, which sums this book up perfectly. This is a classic case of "don't judge a book by its cover"- from the title, description and even cover I thought this would be a darkly funny novel, which in fact in contains very, very little humor at all. We basically spend our entire time in the head of a character who doesn't learn most of the time, and the few times he does he doesn't apply the knowledge to anything. Paraphrasing many of his thoughts/actions through the books basically comes up with "Somewhere inside me I knew I should do this or anyone else in my shoes would do this, but I just couldn't." He's not only passive to an unbelievable degree- the way he constantly and knowingly puts himself in the wrong place at the wrong time is almost fetish-like.

There's a scene in the book where our "hero" stands up and recounts his story to a roomful of writers as a fictional story idea. When he's done, the writer on the platform tells him it doesn't work, that the character's dumb decisions that propel his narrative is simply "easy" and therefore not valid for good literature. I'm sure the author thought this was clever and ironic, but to me it just made the the author as much of a glutton for bad choices as much as the creation on the page. I will say it is an original idea and wanting to know how it would all turn out kept me turning the pages, but for me this is not a keeper.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Converting Loved Ones Into "The Dark Side"

I'm lucky to have a really, really great boyfriend. We really are best friends, just ones that happen to make out with each other a whole lot. He's an extremely talented musician/songwriter (he's in a progressive metal band that's starting to become popular here in Las Vegas, and also writes and performs songs on acoustic guitar that are sort of in the John Prine vein.) He's incredibly smart, though not very academic. He never finished high school and didn't come from a big "reading family." Since we've been together, one of my favorite things to do is to recommend him books that I think he would enjoy. When we hit a right one- it's heaven. Seeing his face light up when we talk about a book he enjoyed and found interesting is a great joy in my life. Here's a list of (most) of the books I kinda forced him to read :)

The Time-Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger- This is my personal favorite book, and it resonated with me so strongly I really wanted him to read it. He absolutely loved it as well, and he even bought one of his closest friends a copy for Christmas. Now we have many conversations about whether the film version will be worthy and have heated discussion about the casting. To sum it up: Rachel McAdams: good, Ang Lee's The Hulk: bad. We both basically saw Henry as a young Johnny Depp type, or a beefier James Franco.

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson- I think I hyped this story up to him too much, because he moderately enjoyed it while I loved it. We're both big zombie/survival movie fans and of the comic book series "The Walking Dead", so I thought he would enjoy it a lot. The drawback is he cannot STAND an open-ended ending, so I think that took a lot of points off. We both really enjoyed the film, however. While it changed pretty much everything, there's no way the story as is would work as a perfect translation. It was modernized well and just a fun ride. I have old issues of "Fangoria", and in an article about the movie "The Cell" the man who ended up writing the screenplay (for both The Cell & I Am Legend) has actually been working on it for many years, it was a real passion in his life.

The Talisman & Black House by Stephen King & Peter Straub- One day I was telling him about how much I loved "The Talisman", and he mentioned that it sounded vaguely familiar. I brought him the book and it turned out he read it around the age of 13, and he was eager to re-read it. He still loved it and afterwards I gave him my copy of the sequel, Black House. Like most, he didn't enjoy that nearly as much but still found it an enjoyable read. I gave him the first Gunslinger book, which he hasn't been able to get into too much (though that's mainly because he's so busy.) I think I'll give him King's "Eyes of a Dragon", which is one of my favorites and I think he'll enjoy this dark adventure.

The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde- I ADORE the hell out of this book, and it's sequel "The Fourth Bear". My favorite comic book series is "Fables", which is about characters from classic fairy tales living in modern times. My honey is a big fan of it as well, so I really wanted him to read it. He started it and put it back down since he's in the middle of moving, but when I asked him about what he thought about it so far he stated that it "kick ass." I don't think I'll give him the Thursday Next series, though, since he's not familiar with literature as a whole and has never even heard of Kurt Vonnegut :/

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill- I very much enjoyed this horror story about a faded rock star who "buys" a ghost, and he dug it too. He wants his brother to read it now (he's a big horror fan) and thinks it would make a great movie. Those blacked out scribbled eyes... *shudder*

Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain by Oliver Sacks- Well, him being a musician this was kind of a no-brainer (ha!) Besides music, he's also deeply interested in how the brain works and psychology. After reading reviews and hearing Sacks on NPR and other interviews I had to get it. I'm stocked that he loves the book, and can't stop discussing it :) Also, we both like the movie Awakenings and once we found out Robin Williams character was based on Sacks that just added a whole new level of awesome. :)

Next Book I Think I'll Thrust Upon Him: Life of Pi by Yann Martel (he loves animals and survival tales)

If anyone reads this- have you ever made it a mission, for lack of a better word, to get a loved one into reading? What did you find to be the most effective methods for doing so?

Monday, December 17, 2007

Hunchbacks, 30-year-old virgins and a supermodel

On LibraryThing I entered all of the drawings for free ARC copies of books. I actually got one! In the mail from Random House I recieved "The Art of Forgetting", the debut novel from one Stefan Merrill Block. So far I'm torn on it... don't get me wrong it is a really well-written novel. The set-up sort of reminds me of one of my all-time favorites, Nicole Krauss's "The History of Love" where we follow two different people and they somehow intersect. One half of the book deals with a young, isolated boy whose mother is diagnosed with a type of Alzehemiers that occurs early in life. The other half deals with an old man with a hump, currently and flashbacks to when he was younger. He is in love with his brothers wife and when the brother goes off to war he impregantes the wife. Again, it's beautifully written and delves into these characters DEEP. So deep, actually, it's painful. The book is a complete downer and I'm ashamed I've been forcing myself to return to it so I can get my review in ASAP.

So I'm reading two other books that are effectively getting my mind off that one. One if "Suddenly You" by Lisa Kleypas. I've just recently got into historical novels after picking on them my whole life, by Amanda Quick's "Slighty Shady" and the wonderful Julia Quinn has brought me over. So far I'm loving this book, the heroine is a really cool, independent author with really interesting characters surrounding her.

The other book is one I wasn't planning on reading right away, but when it showed up from my favorite site Paperback Swap I picked it up and haven't been able to put it back down. It's a memoir by model/actress Karen Duffy called "Model Patient: My Life As an Incurable Wise-Ass". She was on top of the world with her career (including her work on Michael Moore's TV shows, which I loved her in. Also her ads for that old Cover Girl perfume "Navy", which I wore religiously and wanted to look like her badly) and dating Dwight Yokem and casually seeing Chris Farley and George Clooney on the side, when she started feeling major pain. She was diagnosed with sarcoidosis, a rare disease that attacks the central nervous system- it basically hardens on your soft organs, disturbing their function. The book is incredibly funny and reads as fast as my eyeballs can go, so I highly recommend it. Ever since I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia at 18 and systemic lupus at 21 I've had an obsession with memoirs of people that suddenly get sick, especially at a young age. One of these days I'll put together a list of the best I've read.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

I'm Not Dead

Listening to: Neko Case- Blacklisted

I've loved writing for as lon g as I can remember. When I was around 8 years old I invented a character named Izzy the Dog. My parents liked the first story enough to send it to my relatives, and they seemed to get a kick out of it so it became a series. The last story was the opus, Izzy Goes to Hollywood. Izzy was discovered and put in a dog food commercial, which I apparently thought was pretty big time as a kid since Izzy started going around Hollywoodland in a convertible and flashy sunglasses.

In my senior year of high school my class for my english credit was Creative Writing. I couldn't tell you how excited I was for this class as I had mainly been doing writing for the school newspaper, which made it that much more heartbreaking when I met Mrs. Sepulveda. Everyday we had a journal topic, which was great except she had a system of the date being in say, green, the topic in blue, and your entry in black. If you didn't do every color you got a ) grade. When we had our story assignments we were given hyper specifics on how far from the margins the type could be, if it was off by even .01 you would recieve 50% off your grade. Great enviroment for creativity, eh? That year I also started getting sick, and missing a lot of school. I ALWAYS had a note, never caused any problems and always made up my work, but Sepulveda seemed to be personally afronted by my absences. I think the main thing was that I could miss her classes and still turn in a paper that would get an A. She started altering grades (most infamously to 96% to 69%. When I went to talk to her about it she "mysteriously" could not find the original paper.) I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia (which was later re-diagnosed as systemic lupus) and was put under so much pressure I was making myself sicker. Writing was my one big escape, and Sepulveda ruined that for me. I had a bhreakdown the last day of the first semester, and did not return to school. I finished by doing at home courses and did not have a graduation.

So for years I haven't written a thing besides emails and reviews and that sort of thing. Just recently I've started writing fiction again, and it's been so wonderful. It reminds me that I do have at least a little talent in something, and I can escape for a little while when I write. A big part of that goes to my wonderful boyfriend, who is a musician and songwriter. His writing and encouragment got me going again, and his continued support means the world to me. I've also re-discovered reading "heavily" and regularly, and that's also helped my writing so much. I'm in pain pretty much every moment of my life, but if it's a good book I can leave my flawed body for a little while and "become" someone else. I don't just enjoy reading/books, they are literally my lifeline. Whenever I become very depressed or lonely I usually like to go to a bookstore (used or a B&N or Borders) or the library. Just being around books calms me- running my fingers over the spines, taking in the scent of old pages... it's just magic to me.

I love anything and everything that's sincere. I tend to be most interested in mysteries and general fiction, though recently I've discovered a guilty pleasure in historical romance. My all-time favorite books (not counting childhood ones, which would need its own entry) are The Princess Bride by William Goldman and The Time-Traveler's Wife by Aundrey Niffenegger. My next entry will detail my favorite reads of 2007. Thank you for reading!