Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Graphic Novel Review: THE PROFESSOR'S DAUGHTER by Joann Sfar and Emmanuel Guibert



While the cat's away, the mice will play, and while Lillian Bowell's famous archaeologist father is gone, she decides to take one of his Egyptian mummies with her on a tour through London. Little does she know how troublesome this particular mummy is (actually, it turns out all mummies are troublesome). After touring Kensington and listening to Mozart, Imhotep IV quickly becomes drunk--on tea, mind you--starts a brawl, and passes out. Having dragged the comatose mummy home, the police show up, Lillian adds sedative to their tea, and only later finds out the sedative was actually poison.

Oooooooooooooooops.

And that's all in first twenty pages! This short graphic novel is absolutely delightful, with plenty of twists and lines that made me laugh--and I don't often laugh out loud with books. It plays out like one of those mad-cap olde timey romcoms, with the authors poking fun at Victorian manners and British reserve every step of the way; yet at the same time the emotions, especially for Imhotep IV, are very authentic.

imhotep wakes up

Naturally, Imhotep and Lillian are in love, even though, as Imhotep puts it, "I'm dead and it's just not done." They both feel like kept objects--Imhotep because he literally is an object, and Lillian because she's a woman and no one takes her seriously. Even the title of this novel is indicative of her objectification. She's the professor's daughter, not her own woman. In order for both of them to assert the right to govern themselves, they have to subvert all the laws of Victorian society, both social and legal. Fortunately for Lillian, dead pharaohs are not terribly interested in following rules.

This graphic novel was a fun little romp through Victorian Britain, and I definitely recommend it if you're at all interested.

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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Book Review: MIND FUCK by Manna Francis

mind fuck cover


Some time in the future, Europe is controlled by corporations and the Administration, a dystopian-like government that has no tolerance for insubordination. Political crimes are sent to Interrogation and Investigation, a FBI-like government agency authorized to employ psychoactive drugs, torture, and even death in the pursuit of anti-authoritarian conspiracies.

One of the best I&I investigators is Val Toreth. Concepts like "rules" and "morality" are pretty flexible to Toreth, which incidentally makes him a perfect I&I investigator, and possibly the only person who can solve several murders at Sim-Tech corporation and live to tell about it.

When I first started this novel, I was under the impression it would be one of those books where the plot was merely a thinly-veiled excuse for the characters to get it on, BDSM-style. Perhaps it was the subtitle of "Original Homoerotic Fiction," displayed a the top of every page, who knows. HOWEVER, I was completely wrong. Mind Fuck is essentially a straight-forward mystery novel whose main character happens to be bi-sexual and in a BDSM relationship with one of the main suspects--Dr. Keir Warrick, the joint-director of Sim-Tech and the creator of the technology being developed there.

I like mysteries, but I have a lot of pet peeves about them, which is why I don't read that many. Two of my biggest pet peeves are when 1., the main character doesn't do shit to solve the case and 2., ignores obvious clues, and Toreth is guilty of both in this book. He gets every break in the case handed to him on a silver platter, and the investigation doesn't feel like it progresses logically. If Toreth had paid attention to clues and figured things out for himself, the book would have been a lot shorter, and I wouldn't have had to sit through boring Sim-Tech interviews that had no point. I also really didn't give a crap who the killer was, and I still figured it out about 100 pages before Toreth did.

So the middle of this book was pretty frustrating. The only thing that kept me reading was Toreth, who is an awesome character. Kris from Kris 'n' Good Books (who recommended Mind Fuck to me) called him an absolute bastard, and he kind of is, but at the same time he also has a great sense of humor--or perhaps it's simply ironic detachment--and he's a total badass. I kept picturing him as Gabriel Macht in my head because the personalities of Harvey Specter and Toreth are pretty similar (as are their secretaries), and I love both of them for pretty much the same reasons. It's impossible not to root for Toreth, and happily he redeems himself--as a sleuth, I mean--in the last quarter of the book, which had several twists I did not anticipate at all and was a very intense, gripping wrap-up the story.

Warrick, meanwhile, is supposed to be the "good guy" in this scenario, but I spent the majority of the book hating him. Like Toreth, I developed a perfect picture of Warrick in my head; except in this case he resembled one of my former professors, and it really creeped me out. I also didn't find him any more ethical than Toreth (although what constitutes morality in this world is somewhat unclear), unless you consider a holier-than-thou attitude to be a sign of virtue. However, by the end of the book, like Toreth, he did redeem himself and I warmed up to him considerably. Both characters do good and bad things for maybe not the best/worst reasons; but they do have reasons behind their actions, which makes them understandable if not sympathetic.

As for the writing style itself, it has a lot of personality and subtle humor in it, which serves to lighten what could be a really heavy and depressing story. Francis also doesn't talk down to the reader--there is a lot of complex science and computer engineering here that's never dumbed-down. Fortunately, as a reader, you don't really need to comprehend the mechanics to get what's going on; it just helps to build the believability of the setting and underscore the danger the characters face.

By far the greatest strength of the novel are the characters, though, who are complex and fun to read about, even the more minor ones like Sara, Toreth's secretary, or Lee in Justice. I am definitely going to read the rest of the series, if only to revisit them.

If you're in the mood for a morally ambiguous, character-driven mystery with sci-fi and dystopian elements, I highly recommend this book. Even though I had some problems with the mystery, overall it's very well-written and entertaining. And, to make it even better, you can read it for free on the author's website.



Musical notes: "Raw Sugar," by Metric




Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Book Review: CONVINCING LEOPOLD by Ava March

convincing cover

Arthur and Leopold have returned to London, where weirdly no one remarks on the fact that they're spending an awful lot of time together. In their houses. Overnight. Aside from the fact that they can't really tell people they're in a relationship, everything is fine--except that while Arthur is at work, being all lawyerly, Thorn is... shopping? Getting a manicure? No one knows. Then Arthur comes home and is all, "I'm tired from being a contributing member of society, bitch! Now go make me a sandwich."

Okay, it's not like that. It's more like Thorn gets his personal chef to make a sandwich, then wants Arthur to make sweet sweet love to him. That's when Arthur goes, "Nah, I'd rather sleep. But you're sooo pretty. Zzzzz." Wah-wah.

So then Thorn starts spazzing out and being really clingy, and nobody likes clingy!

This novella wasn't as good as the first one, Convincing Arthur. Because the book is called Convincing Leopold, I expected, you know, something of a role reversal wherein Leopold needed to be convinced of something. But mainly he just acted really pathetic and desperate. And Arthur really was an ass to the poor kitten.

Also, one of the things I liked about Convincing Arthur was that the [numerous] sex scenes did not feel gratuitous. But that's not the case with this novella. Not only did it feel like there were way too many sex scenes, but they were really repetitive. Honestly, when you're reading a book and wondering how many more fellatio scenes you're going to have to go through, that's not a good thing.

I was also hoping we'd find out some more back story about the main characters. But though Leopold's family is mentioned briefly, we don't learn too much more about him, including what the heck he does with his day. I suspect he has some serious mommy issues, but the opportunity to explain his emotional tail-spinning was passed by. Also, I found it very difficult to believe Leopold didn't relapse once into his old habits.

So while I would still recommend Convincing Arthur, this one is completely skippable unless you're a die hard fan of either m/m romance or Ava March.


Musical Notes: "Heartbreaker" by Skatterman & Snug Brim



Saturday, August 20, 2011

Book Review: THE NINE LIVES OF CHLOE KING by Liz Braswell

nine lives cover

Chloe King is your average fifteen-year-old living in San Francisco with a single mom who also happens to be a high-powered attorney. BUT. Then she turns sixteen, and discovers she can't die, has claws, and can run super-fast. What is Chloe? Why are boys suddenly so interested in her, and why is she being attacked?



I was introduced to this series through the TV show, and was completely meh about it until this scene with Alek and Chloe a few weeks ago. Suddenly I became OBSESSED with getting my paws on the books. I drove all over town searching for it, finally found it, and then settled in to enjoy a major marathon session of teenage angst.

This 770-page book is actually an anthology of three books: The Fallen, The Stolen, and The Chosen (has anyone ever wondered why so many YA novels have those exact same titles?). The beginning is pretty similar to the TV series, with Chloe dying, gaining mysterious superpowers, and putting a guy in a coma just by making out with him, all before she has any clue as to what she is. However, the books differ from the TV show in significant ways. For one, Brian and Alyec's characters are quite different. Brian is even more lovably geeky, but he's also much smarter and keyed into what's going on with his dad and Chloe. Alyec is still the cool kid at school, but he's a flirt and not hung up on Chloe at all.

Funny Pictures - Are You Dating a Cat?
see more Lolcats and funny pictures, and check out our Socially Awkward Penguin lolz!

Both the books and the TV show draw parallels between Chloe gaining her cat powers and becoming sexually active, but in the books she is much more aggressive about it. Unlike TV Chloe, Book Chloe is upfront about how she probably shouldn't be dating two guys at once--but she's going to do it anyway because it's fun. Book Chloe is also much more independent and quick-witted than TV Chloe: she figures out she's a cat person on her own and gives herself training on how to use her superpowers. She takes control of the Mai, saves her friends and family, and takes down the Order. I wouldn't exactly call her a badass, but she's definitely more self-determined than TV Chloe.

As for the writing, Braswell does a great job of showing rather than telling. There is a ton of foreshadowing in the first book about Chloe's future "cat person" abilities, but it's subtle and probably not something you would notice if you weren't looking for it. Chloe gets very stressed out about whether or not she's killed Xavier, what's happening to her, and why people are attacking her; but instead of boring us all by spelling that out, Braswell lets the reader intuit it through Chloe's actions.

It probably won't come as any surprise, but I think the books are definitely better than show. Even though the TV series is actually pretty faithful to the books--especially in the casting of the main characters--the novels are edgier and, as a coming-of-age tale, more successful.


Musical Notes: Since this was three books in one, I think I deserve to pick out more than one song.

"Short Skirt/Long Jacket" by Cake



"Creep" by Radiohead



"Sparks Fly" by Taylor Swift




Thursday, August 18, 2011

Book Review: DANGEROUS DESIGNS by Dale Mayer

dangerous designs cover

Story Dalton is a 17-year-old high school student trapped in a small town with no friends. All the people who lived there and shared her interests in art moved away except for her, and she and her mom are treated as outcasts thanks to her mom's hippie candle shop and Wiccan religion. So to put it bluntly, Story's not happy.

Then she finds a pencil on the ground and weird things start happening. She loses stretches of time. She can't concentrate in school at all, she can't stop drawing, and sometimes she finds herself trapped in an abandoned mine shaft on the edge of town with no idea how she got there. Luckily, the handsome new guy at school, Eric, is around to keep rescuing her. In fact, it's downright odd how he keeps showing up, almost as if he knows where she is.

Colette from A Buckeye Girl Reads recommended this book to me, and I'm really glad she did--it's totally up my alley. It combines sci-fi elements with YA romance and an artistically inclined heroine. The beginning was a little slow, but once I got about 20% into it, the story just flew by. It was really fun.

That being said, this is one of those books that Jane from Dear Author might say proves readers don't care about quality. I don't know if Dale Mayer has an editor look over her work or not, but if she doesn't, she needs one; and if she does, she needs to find another one. And possibly ask for a refund. This book is riddled with so many errors I had to stop highlighting all but the most annoying. Things like using too instead of to, it's instead of its, question marks where there should be exclamation marks, mixed metaphors, continuity issues, leaps in logic, using words incorrectly, and repetition. The mixed metaphors were probably the funniest of the mistakes--would you like to "come out smelling like a queen bee"? No? Okay then (I think Mayer meant "smelling like a rose" there).

Because of all the mistakes, I can't really call this book good. It's definitely not up to the standards I'd expect from a hold-in-hand book; and if it had been a paper book, I probably would have started snarling in annoyance and never finished it. I did honestly enjoy reading it, though, mainly because of Eric and his romance with Story, but also because it was just plain entertaining. It's a sweet story with some quirky geekiness thrown in, and I really identified with Story. I kind of want to give this book a hug (and I would, if it was a paperback).

I guess Jane is right and readers don't care about grammar, even picky readers like myself. What can I say, I guess my standards are lower for eBooks, especially self-published eBooks. The bare bones of a good story are there, but it doesn't have the focus to develop any larger themes, and it certainly doesn't have the polish of a novel published by one of the major NYC publishers. If you don't think that will bother you, then you should give Dangerous Designs a try. It's a damn site better than My Blood Approves, that's for sure.



Musical Notes: "Two Against One," by Danger Mouse and Jack White





Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Totally Incomplete Recall

confused

A conversation last night:

My mom: "You should ask Jennifer Lee Carrell if that thing with Don Quixote in Interred with Their Bones actually happened."

Me: <--No idea what she's talking about. "Don Quixote? You mean where that guy who was a playwright or distantly related to Shakespeare traveled to America to hide his manuscript?"

Mom: "The manuscript was in England. That one lady brought it and then it was stolen."

Me: "No, Rosalind brought the clue to England and that was stolen; but they still had to find the manuscript, which was in a cave in Arizona or something."

Between the two of us we should be able to piece together the plot of this book. Or so one would think.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Book Review: LIBERTINE'S KISS by Judith James

libertine's cover

The Restoration court is definitely not a typical setting for a romance novel, even though--from what I've read in this novel--it has all the elements that make Tudor and Regency novels so popular. Great historical characters, dangerous exploits perpetrated by aristocratic young men, court politics, a charismatic and complex monarch, and a belief that pleasure should be found in the pursuit of earthly delights, all combine to make this a fascinating time period and perfect for an escapist romantic novel. However, Libertine's Kiss failed to satisfy my yearning for either romance or escape.

William de Veres is a Court poet, rake, former highwayman, and one of Charles II's closest advisers. When poor Puritan widow Elizabeth Walters shows up at Court, William immediately(ish) recognizes her as the woman who saved his life during Charles' exile, and resolves to help her get her lands back.

That part of the book was actually pretty good. I loved reading about the Restoration court and all the drama going on with Charles II's mistresses. The problem was the 100-page prologue before that part. You all know how I feel about about prologues. And if you don't, to wit: I hate them. I refuse to read them. And the longer they are, the more annoyed I get. This one was over a quarter of the book and the author didn't even have the courtesy to label it a prologue! HULK SMASH.

After I calmed down about that--which admittedly took a while--I started to enjoy the novel a lot. William is a great character and James does an excellent job of bringing this unfamiliar setting to life. I loved the proposal scene because it was such a guy thing to do. I also really liked the secondary characters, such as William's valet, Tom, and Elizabeth's cook, Marjorie. And of course HRH Charlie! Lizzie was a bore, but whatevs.

That was the middle. Then the ending came along, which was really abrupt and cheesy. So basically James excels at middles, but beginnings and endings? Not so much.

I don't want to slam this book too much, because it does have merits and a few great lines in it, and I do think it's great that James is writing about a time period other than Regency or Victorian England; but I can't help thinking this novel could have been so. much. better. if only James had edited the story down and told it in a more artful and interesting way. Instead, it's insanely linear and straight-forward. She put a lot of thought into William's character, and it paid off, but Lizzie is basically a walking a vagina for him to glom onto. So do I honestly need to know their entire backstory from childhood? NO.

Overall this novel was just okay. I can understand why some people absolutely adore it, but it hit a lot of my buttons and I personally didn't find it that romantic. I probably won't be reading the sequel to this.



Musical notes: "I'll Work for Your Love," by Bruce Springsteen



Monday, August 15, 2011

Book Review: A YALE ALBUM: THE THIRD CENTURY by Richard Benson

yale album cover

As indicated by the title, this is a photographic history of Yale University from the nineteenth century through the 1990s.

To be honest, I wasn't expecting much from this book. I ordered it for a research project I was thinking of doing, but then lost interest in. I figured I might as well flip through it before I returned it to the library, and was surprised by the amount of great information and great photography that was contained in its pages!

For someone from Colorado, Yale seems pretty highfalutin. So you can imagine my surprise at seeing the nineteenth-century photographs of the university, which show practical, blocky buildings; tiny classrooms packed with cheap, very worn seats; and descriptions from undergrads stating they came to Yale expecting "an assemblage of Parthenons and cathedrals" and instead getting "rather dingy halls, [and] boxes...." Why, that sounds like the university I went to!

sterling law library under construction
Pictures of Sterling Law Buildings, Yale University, 1930-1960. Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library.

The architecture we now associate with Yale only came about in the twentieth century thanks to generous financial gifts and support from New Haven. This is the "New Yale," and includes iconic buildings like Sterling Memorial Library and Harkness Tower. The stone facades were artificially aged to look like they'd been standing since Yale's establishment in 1701 and hid the real architectural foundations, which consisted of twentieth-century-style steel construction.

The book isn't all about Yale's architecture, though; it's also about the "college experience" and how the university developed key aspects of its institutional character. There's an entire chapter on the arts, which is very interesting, and Paul Mellon looks super-nice and I want to give him a hug. There's also an entire chapter on the development of the library, which the book mentions frequently and definitely treats as the centerpiece of the school.

To be sure, this is a very pro-Yale narrative. Even the secret societies are painted as traditional and supportive rather than ├╝ber-creepy (they still seem creepy, though--sorry, Benson); and unless you're specifically looking for it, you'll probably miss the fact that female undergraduates weren't accepted into the university until the '70s. The freaking nineteen-seventies!!!! Behind the times much, Yale? Although there is one picture of a black arts student and one or two of Asian students, I don't think anyone will be surprised that the portraits in this album are mostly of white males, despite the book's claim that, "the earlier conservative nature of the [university's] population had been transformed" in the 1960s. Yeahhh, still don't see Yale as a center of non-conformity, sorry. But going to Yale still looks like a total blast!

In spite of its one-sided nature, I think this book is great. It really does give one a sense of what going to Yale has been like through the last 100-ish years. The pictures are evocative of a privileged collegiate experience, and the descriptions are interesting and to the point. Overall this is a fascinating snapshot of one the US's greatest universities--minus most of the weirdness and snobbery that many might associate with it.

I definitely recommend this book if you have any interest in the subject.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Movie Review: COWBOYS & ALIENS



First released: 2011
Starring: Harrison Ford, Daniel Craig, Olivia Wilde
Directed by: Jon Favreau
Based on: The graphic novel by Scott Mitchell Rosenberg

Jake Lonergan wakes up in the middle of the desert. He has no idea who he is, where he is, how he got there, or why he has a metal thing strapped to his wrist. After finding some tight-fitting clothes, he makes his way to the nearest town, where he quickly deduces some very pertinent information: one, he has an absolute gift for punching people in the face. Two, he's an outlaw who stole from the cattle baron, Mr. Dolarhyde, who also happens to run the town Jake is in. And three, the thingy on his wrist blows up alien spaceships.

daniel craig is confused
'What the...?!'

This movie is pretty dumb, which is fine. Believe it or not, I have a pretty high tolerance for dumb movies (or so I like to think). But what really bothered me was that it was surprisingly one-note. As I overheard a little kid telling his dad as they left the theater, "That was kinda boring."

No movie with as many explosions and special effects as this one should be boring. That's, like, a rule.

Part of the problem is that it's super-derivative. As the preacher, who for some reason acts as the doctor even though there's another character named Doc (?), said, "I've seen bad men do good things and good men do bad things." Uh, isn't that line straight out of No Country for Old Men? Like literally a direct quote? And isn't that scene where the alien breathes in the little kid's face and drool drips from its pointy teeth an almost EXACT COPY of that scene in Alien where the alien breathes in Sigourney Weaver's face and drool drips from its pointy teeth? Come on, guys.

Daniel Craig was also a huge disappointment. Item the first: he only took his shirt off once. Item the second, he did nothing in this movie except scowl and point his wrist thingy at aliens. Honestly, the monoexpression of scowl was enough to make me suspect he has really bad teeth and not lifting his upper lip is part of his standard contract. And item the third, his American accent was suuhuhuper sketchy. Why didn't he just speak normally if he had that much trouble with it? It's the American West, for god's sake, there are people with different accents.

harrison ford

Anywho. The film wasn't completely bad. The biggest plus was Harrison Ford, who played Colonel Dolarhyde. I gotta say, the guy's still got it. Heck yeah. While Craig was phoning it in, Ford was bringing it to the table. Almost as if he believed he was in a good movie! To be fair, Ford's character had most of the good lines and the only discernible story arc in the entire narrative, but still.

The other thing I liked was the Indians. When the movie started, I naturally thought--because of the title--that the aliens were a metaphor for Indians. And about twenty minutes in, I quite frankly was really missing the Indians. But! I was wrong. The aliens are actually a metaphor for European colonialism and the western settlers band together with the Apaches to defeat them. I was so happy to see Indians in the picture my brain didn't explode with annoyance when they used peyote and there was a lame vision sequence straight out of a 1960s B-movie. Yes, let's just ignore that.

Overall, this movie is worth a Saturday afternoon viewing at home, but paying to see it in the theater? Meh. I expected everyone on this project to have a lot more fun with it, considering it's about cowboys and freaking aliens, but it felt like a chore and the ending was anti-climatic. All I have to say is, thank god for Harrison Ford.


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Looking for the Hero in Melissa Marr's FRAGILE ETERNITY

fragile eternity cover

In Fragile Eternity, Aislinn continues to be torn between Seth, her human boyfriend, and Keenan, the fairy king of the Summer Court. Who owns her heart was definitively laid to rest in Wicked Lovely, so what machinations are at work to tear her and Seth apart in this book?

Although this series is pretty clearly marketed to girls and the synopsis centers around Aislinn, I don't think she's the protagonist of the novel--in fact, I'm beginning to have my doubts she was ever the protagonist. Wicked Lovely was a fight between Keenan and Seth over masculinity; Ink Exchange was a battle between Niall (the sassy gay friend) and Irial (the king of the Dark Court) for Niall's soul; and now there's Fragile Eternity, in which Seth and Keenan continue to struggle for possession of Aislinn and power in faerie.

Despite the fact that Keenan is the one with the super fairy powers, Seth is obviously the more masculine of the two. Instead of manning up and following Seth's example, Keenan has responded to his emasculation--exacerbated by Aislinn refusing his sexual advances and the lack power he has within his own court--by being a conniving little bitch. Instead of Fragile Eternity, this could just as easily be titled Everybody Hates Keenan:
  • Donia (another fae and Keenan's long-time girlfriend) is snarly because he wants to have his cake and eat it, too--in other words, he wants to bang both her and Aislinn and have them be okay with that. YEAH RIGHT.
  • Seth's annoyed because Keenan's trying to keep Aislinn all to himself. Not cool.
  • Niall's still enraged over the whole Leslie thing and keeps threatening to kill Keenan if he gets the chance.
The only main character who doesn't hate Keenan is Aislinn--but she should hate him, because he's totally manipulating her for his own ends.

It's not that there aren't strong female characters in this novel, but the main action is driven by the activities of the two male characters, Keenan and Seth. While Keenan's playing mind games, Seth goes on a quest to prove his intentions to Aislinn and join faerie so they can be together as equals. Unlike Keenan, who responds to his stronger queen by guilting her into yielding to him, Seth works to make himself her equal. The women in the book--Donia, Aislinn, and Sorcha--are powerful, but their actions are a response to what the male characters do. The only exception to this is Bananach, who is one crazy bird lady.

In addition, Seth's quest leads him to make a deal that is very Persephone-esque. His story is framed in terms of myth and adventure, and this leads me to believe Seth is the true protagonist of these books, not Aislinn. Even Bananach recognizes that it's upon him the coming action will hinge; and he's the common denominator between all the fae courts and their leaders. In the first book he proved his masculinity, and in this book he demonstrates his mettle by going on an odyssey.

Like all heroes, though, Seth has a weakness: when he is in Faerie, his will is subverted to that of a woman's, which creeps everyone out. Will this prove important in the coming books? I'll have to read them to find out!


Musical notes: "Waiting for the End," by Linkin Park









Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Book Review: CONVINCING ARTHUR by Ava March

convincing arthur cover

Leopold Thornton, "Handsome as sin and wicked as all hell," is a total slut. But! There's a good reason (well, a reason). Ten years ago he was going to profess his love for Arthur Barrington, attorney at law, but someone else beat him to it by, like, minutes. Now Arthur has finally broken up with the cheating bastard, and Leopold has one weekend at his country estate to convince him they belong together.

This novella is really delightful and well-crafted. The two protagonists--brooding Leopold and conservative Arthur--are character tropes, but they feel unique and authentic. Arthur is a workaholic who has never felt like he's been fully accepted by anyone--indeed, he's never expected to be. His only ambition in a relationship is to "find an amiable man with similar interests and goals in life." Aim high, dude. Leopold, meanwhile, is an extremely high-strung individual. One could say that he has the same acceptance issues as Arthur, but being the youngest son of a wealthy and titled family precludes him from working, so he anesthetizes himself with alcohol and sex instead of work.

Like the other m/m novellas by March that I've read, Convincing Arthur has a lot of sex in it. And the sex scenes are super-hot. But they don't feel gratuitous because the sex really does advance the plot and the development of the characters. Honestly, I think March is one of the best writers of sex scenes in fiction right now.

I also loved the way this story was told. The narrative flowed perfectly and had me really nervous at the end, when I honestly didn't know whether Arthur would agree to stay with Leopold or not. I really wanted these two to be together!

After reading a few books by Ava March, I don't think you can go wrong with her. She writes novellas that are absolutely perfect for a fun, quick, escapist read. I'd recommend her whether you're a fan of m/m romance or not.


Monday, August 8, 2011

YA Scale of Hero Stalkerdom

alex stares
Chloe, I will stare at you creepily until you admit we belong together.

Once upon a time, if a guy liked you, giving you long brooding stares and following you around were considered not only socially acceptable, but romantic. Times have changed, though! Expressing any interest in another person is not only a sign of weakness, but liable to creep the object of your teenage affection out. To avoid this fate worse than death, one need to turn to YA novels in order to learn how stalkery one can get before a girl will call the cops.1

Level One: Unauthorized Looks
Staring is the number one sign that you are a stalker. Don't do it. Especially don't do it while your imaginary girlfriend is talking to another guy; this is liable to get you punched in the face. If you have to stare, use sunglasses or mirrors to disguise the fact.
Level Two: Gathering Information
Questions like, "What's your name?" "What are you doing tonight?" or "Where do you live/work?" may seem innocuous, but are fraught with stalkerish possibilities. What do you care where she's going? Are you her mother? Of course, to avoid an uncomfortable confrontation about why you're asking all these questions, you could always just look at her FaceBook page or follow her twitter account, but unfortunately this is just as bad. If not worse.
Level Three: Sharing Space
You've noticed your prey crush's physical existence and gained some basic info about her, so now it's time to make sure you two are in the same places at the same times. You might try driving by her house, sitting next to her at lunch, showing up at the same parties, or watching her sleep like a vampire bat. The latter is only recommended for actual vampires.
Level Four: Thinking
Despite your best efforts, you can't spend all your time with the girl (she does have to go to the bathroom on occasion), so to fill up the mind vacuum when you're not "sharing space," you're thinking about her. Perhaps even writing a song about her, or practicing a song someone's already written that uses her name in the chorus. PS-this level is also called "obsessing."
Level Five: Presumption of Intimacy
You've gained a more-than-acquaintances level of info, with or without her consent. You've shared several hours worth of space, even if said space was the cafeteria and you were on the opposite side of it. You've obsessed thought about her a lot and imagined the house you both will eventually buy and your future children. Now you're tired of thinking; it's time to make your move!

This is when the stalker boys are separated from the men. Planning and not going with the heat of the moment is the key. Under no circumstances is blurting out something along the lines of "We belong together," advisable. Unless you man up and take a chance you'll always be a stalker; but the trick is to make the YA protagonist believe it's all her idea. Aha, now you're thinking.

As you can see, YA romance is fraught with a minefield of possible mistakes. But if you use your noodle--and I mean that in every metaphorical sense--and progress intelligently through the five levels of YA Hero Stalkerdom, you too can get the girl, though it may seem beyond the scope of all possible outcomes. Just remember: true love may conquer all, but first you have to convince her you're not a stalker.



FOOTNOTES
  1. Note that this post addresses fictional romantic relationships and not RL stalking, which is of course very serious and scary. Obvs.


Sunday, August 7, 2011

Book Review: FAIRY CASANOVA by Gracen Miller



Sadie is lawyer who decides to treat herself with an anonymous hook-up in a Las Vegas brothel after she loses her job and her fiance in one day. Jace is the future king o'the fairies who wants to fulfill his dream of sexxxoring a human before being married to a fairy queen. Put these two in a hotel room and let convenient plot devices do their work.

This isn't the type of book I normally read at all. Did I buy it because the name Casanova was in the title? Because it was on sale for $2? Because I'd just drunk way too much and was really bored? MAYBE. However my purchase came about, this novella proved to be an edumacational experience.

Things I learned from this book:
  • Real women are curvaceous.
  • Fairy (read: fake) women are skinny. Like the bean poles, as they say.
  • Real women also give head. Which is something no self-respecting not-real woman would do. I mean, fairies! Fairy women!
  • Watch out for wing globules.
  • Also thigh humidity.
  • Osculate: verb. Def 1. Mathematics (of a curve or surface) touch (another curve or surface) so as to have a common tangent at the point of contact : [as adj. ] ( osculating) the plots have been drawn using osculating orbital elements. 2. Formal or humorous kiss.
  • "... thick, uncut and nestled in a bed of..." lettuce? Is this a penis or a piece of meat? You decide.
I wouldn't call this book "good," necessarily. It was completely silly and ridiculous and there some INSANELY cheesy lines. It was fun, but was it worth $2? The jury's still out on that one.


Friday, August 5, 2011

Book Review: HAUNT ME STILL by Jennifer Lee Carrell

haunt me still cover

MacBeth: to this day, Shakespeare's most notorious tragedy. Legends of its malevolence haunt every production; scenes and lines from it are a familiar part of our culture--even to those who have never seen or read it. "Double double toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble," is one of the most recognizable lines in English wordsmithing, be it in a play, novel, or film. But most people don't know about the mystery and mythology surrounding the work. Is "the Scottish Play" considered cursed for a very good reason? Former Ph.D. student and current director of Shakespearean plays, Kate Stanley, is about to find out in an ill-fated getaway to Dunsinnan Hill, the place where MacBeth met his fate.

This novel is the second in a series of Shakespearean mysteries, the first being Interred with Their Bones. I really enjoyed that book, and overall I liked this one even more. It has the same Da-Vinci-Code-for-Literature-Buffs sensibility, and feels like a faster read. You don't have to have read Interred to get what's going on Haunt Me Still, but it will probably help.

Kate is invited to Dunsinnan Hill by Lady Nairn, formerly an actress famous for playing the role of Lady MacBeth, to direct the so-called Scottish Play. This being a mystery and all, things quickly start to go downhill, people die, an annoying teenager is kidnapped, and Kate has to travel hither and thither to find Shakespeare's original version of MacBeth before the kidnappers do.

This novel is full of magic, history, and cool discoveries. The part with John Dee's obsidian mirror being Aztec blew my mind. I learned so much about MacBeth from this book, and it really made look at the play in a new light. It's not just about the history of the play; it's about the incredible power art can have over life. MacBeth is scary not because of the witches or spells or evil plots, but because it doesn't stay put on the stage and then quietly folds back into storage once the production is over--it bites back. Or so theater legend would have one believe. Even outside of legend, it appears that the play was edited down significantly due to its commentary on contemporary politics, something Haunt Me Still also discusses, mainly through historical flashbacks.

As much as I enjoyed the history in this novel, the book isn't perfect. It does drag significantly in the middle, mainly because it feels like it's being set up as a country manor mystery (I'm a total sucker for those, by the way); but then Kate leaves the manor to go chasing after the manuscript and the story loses a lot of momentum as it switches gears. Also, the whole thing with Kate's former luhvahr Ben was just ridiculous, especially the ending. I'm so over him.

ANYway. Even when the pages weren't turning quite so quickly, I was thoroughly enjoying this escapist mystery. I'm not as completely in love with Shakespeare as I was at the end of Interred with Their Bones, but I am utterly fascinated by Scotland and John Dee! If you're the type who enjoys academic mysteries, then I would most definitely recommend this.

Fun video of the day: Blackadder encounters the curse of the Scottish Play:

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