Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Alyssa Brooks "Hide and Seek"

Borders had a big sale recently and lured by the okay cover and cheap price tag, I picked up Hide and Seek. I was pretty sure this one was more on the erotica side than romance but a little exploration never hurt anyone. Well, that's patently untrue, but how was I to know.

This book isn't porn for women. It's just porn. The thinnest of plot lines revolves around 'smart' Elisa being followed by her college chemistry partner, Maxim Cox, to a remote cabin in the mountains. He can't understand why he's never forgotten her and she is quite certain he's a man slut who could never stick with one woman. So to teach him a lesson she decides to only have sex with him if he follows the rules of a game she makes up as she goes.

The game wasn't interesting, the characters were stupid (she's a successful lawyer until a scandal breaks and she's given some 'time off.' She decides she should join the Peace Corp to save the rain forests.) Aspen, CO, isn't even described well enough to be enjoyed. And to top it off, I think if I hadn't skimmed so much of the book I would have detected a sneakingly anti-feminist undertone. Her 'games' all revolve around sexual dominance of Maxim. But she's only truly satisfied when he takes over.

In the final scene he proposes marriage by letting it slip that he'll be disinherited if he doesn't marry in two weeks. When Elisa finds his protestations of love hard to believe, he throws her over his shoulder, fights her clothes off of her and ties her up with his belt while she's yelling "I'm not playing Maxim, get off me." She, of course, is turned on be being tied up, something Maxim knew would be true (more evidence that they are meant for each other, he's so tuned into her secret desires!). Finally he convinces her that they are perfect together by pointing out that he could have bought her a bigger ring but he bought a small diamond and donated the money to the Peace Corps in her name. And as recompense for not allowing her to save the rain forests, he gives her a foundation to help poor kids in Egypt (where his family business is). Once she understands how sweet he really is, she decides she can teach Egyptian kids ABOUT saving the rain forests.

Sorry for the spoilers, because really I've recounted pretty much the entire plot here. But if you're gonna read this book, it's not going to be for the character development and plot line. Now as far as porn goes, I've seen worse.

Porn 2007: 0 of 5 naked in the snow scenes.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Weekend Pursuits

Our friends have a bit of land in south western Wisconsin where every couple of years we join them in their annual morel mushroom hunt. Even though I am a native Wisconsinite, I was unaware of the nirvana that is fresh sauteed morel mushrooms in butter and a little garlic until adulthood. My nine year old just told me that if anyone asks her what morels taste like she's going to say, "Morelly." And I also just discovered that like fire flies, they are a basically Midwestern phenomenon. It's nice to do something out in the woods that still retains some local flavor in this global world we live in.

For more pictures check out The Great Morel Home Page where a suitably phallic fungus pops up and down at you endlessly. And challenge yourself by counting how many you can find in this picture as well. My hubby took this on Saturday. Enjoy. We are!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Head to Head "Marked" vs. "Wicked Lovely"

I just finished Marked by Kristen Cast/PC Cast and happened to pick up Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr right after. Being able to compare them really crystallized my opinions on both young adult books.

Marked is fun for its exploration of goddess mythology/ritual and vampirism, the messages are positive and empowering, and the main character's struggles will no doubt ring true for many readers. But in the end the book was predictable. The characters had very little that was ambivalent about them and while the book was enjoyable the plot read like a Hollywood movie where you know how it will end by the end of the first trailer.

Wicked Lovely also has a strong female center, the faeries held a bit less appeal for me and their world was less drawn out for the reader (I think this was a strength, but I can see some readers being slightly put off by this), and the male characters are slightly flat. But really they appear flat because they are juxtaposed against wonderfully searching/complicated women (except for the EVIL mother figure of course.) This book was anything but predictable. The main character's almost constant state of anxiety was much more evocative for me of a young person under extreme stress. The messages inherent in the book were also positive and empowering but conveyed much more subtly through the story. This was a terrific book.

Both of these books touched on drugs, sexual desire, and had some limited sexual descriptions, so I'm not passing them on to my nine year old. :) Marked portrays tattoos positively and Wicked Lovely portrays piercing positively, if that matters to you.

Marked YA Vampire Series 2007: 3 out of 5 earthly elements.
Wicked Lovely YA Paranormal Series 2007: 5 out of 5 wood sprites.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Madeline Hunter 'The Sins of Lord Easterbrook'

Lord Easterbrook is the mysteriously retiring and eccentric older brother of the Easterbrook clan. When he sees Leona in London he is stunned, as he has never forgotten their time together in Macao, seven years ago, where her father had a trading company.

In previous books he is the quintessential powerfully inscrutable character. A wealthy and socially influential marquis who is almost completely dismissive of English society's expectations. He does not go into society except when he feels it's necessary to support his family members, which given his emotional reserve from them, is an insight into a soft heartedness that his brothers are quite surprised by.

In this book we learn Christian suffers from a prescient ability to discern people's emotions, and for some reason he can not read Leona. When he finds she is in London he is determined to have her. What is so interesting about this character is that his pursuit of her combines both sexual temptation AND support of her other interests. In other words, he courts her by being her friend and support, not just trying to fufill her sexually.

This is what I love about Hunter, when she's at her best, her characters and relationships have an extra realism to them that makes them less forgettable than other romance couples, without bursting my 'romance bubble' if you will. It goes without saying that her historical detail and feel for period enhances the books as well.

Historical Romance 2009: 5 out of 5 loose dressing gowns.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Lara Adrian "Midnight Awakening"

Do you think the hardest part of writing a series is coming up with the titles? Well, maybe not. The third book in the Midnight Breed Series is my favorite so far. I've decided I like my alpha hero's more inscrutably powerful and less woman hating (due to some terrible betrayal of course). Tegan fits the bill. He's cut off emotionally after the love of his young life was brutally abused and returned to him as a minion of a rival vampire.

Elise is similarly tortured after her son was lured into turning rogue by a drug propagated by a bad vampire. Her brother-in-law had to kill her son in front of her when he attempted to attack his own mom. Not fun. She has decided to leave the safety of the enclave she lives in and start killing the human minions of this bad vampire. Unbeknown to the Warriors, Elise has joined their little war against the rogues. Tegan is not amused that this unskilled breed-mate human woman has put herself in so much danger. And then, he's strangely attracted to her too, go figure!

I expected not to like Elise even if I was already caught up in Tegan story, so the surprise for me was how much Elise developed as a character. I liked the references to her attempt to train her body in prep for this undertaking, and her poise in Berlin. It all won me over. When Tegan finally gives in to his love for her, I believed she deserved it.

I've bought into the series, and enjoyed these characters more than the average duck.

Vampire Romance Series 2007: 4.5 of 5 crescent moon marks.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Cheryl Brooks "Warrior:The Cat Star Chronicles Book II"

I started this book a while ago. Got through the descriptions of Tisana, 'ye good witch who heals' but isn't really accepted by her village. Leo gets dumped on her doorstep as an alien slave of the local lord who is in bad shape. Leo recovers quickly and Tisana discovers his unusual penis which not only has a corona that drips snard, orgasm inducing semen, but is controllable with muscles that allow it to move independent of Leo's body. One little lick of snard and Tisana sees stars and passes out.

I put the book down. Really not intending to re-visit it after their second sexual encounter was so unbelievably mind blowing that the third was down right boring. This for me, is the definition of the difference between romance and porn (complete lack o' sexual tension if I had to nutshell it for you.)

A couple of weeks later, I picked up the book again and got caught up in Tisana's journey to save the local lord's children from being kidnapped. And that sums this book up neatly. It's from Tisana's point of view, which exacerbates the problem but even without this filter, Leo is a complete non-entity. He is a walking sword wielding cock machine.

Unfortunately, even if you like your romance novels with no hero, except as a stud service for your heroine, this book becomes annoying in other ways. Tisana has A LOT of internal dialog working through the 'kidnapped sons' plot over and over.

Page 137, opened at random, and Tisana says, "Of course I knew that was what I was doing...... but it made me wonder about Rafe and Leo .....On the other hand....Or Rafe may have been...."

If you can deal with this, the end of the book just sent my snort meter off the charts. Tisana was raised as 'ye good witch who heals' on a decendant planet of earth with a kinder and gentler medieval setting. She misses her home while they are ten miles away saving the kidnapped boys. Then when the plot is resolved they randomly run into a starship captain, her also Cat Star husband, and three kids and decide to join them and roam the galaxy.

I have some tolerance for modern language in 'historical/fantasy' settings, but really: Page 310. "Bending down she herded three pint-sized versions of her husband toward me. "And these guys are Larry, Moe, and Curly. They've got Zetithian names, of course, but they're as unwieldy as Carkdacund; I had to call them something for short! I wanted to name them Larry, Darryl and Darryl, but Cat wouldn't let me - thought it would be too confusing."

They're watchin Bob Newhart re-runs in space?!

Fantasy Paranormal 2008: 1 of 5 points of the corona!