Monday 27 August 2007

Pet Peeves

Do you have any pet peeves whilst reading.

Not those that make you want to throw a book against a wall. But those that just niggle. I have a couple, but there's one that's getting on my nerves at the moment.

I have a problem with the word 'literally'. Actually it was one particular author who gave me a dislike for this word because she used it so much. To the point where now I think it should be banned. LOL. Well maybe that's a bit extreme. But I think 99% of the time it's used when it doesn't need to be. It's the verbal equivalent of an exclamation mark. And it seems to crop up a lot on consecutive pages. It's got to the point where I may have to start mentioning this in reviews - just to get it off my chest.

It's used a lot for emphasis - "His head literally exploded."

Ouch that's got to hurt. But did his head actually explode? If it did, why not just say "His head exploded." If it didn't explode, why are you telling us it did?

"His blood literally burned."

Oh my God! He's on fire. Or did you mean he was losing his temper?

I think one 'literally' per book is enough. Thank you for listening. :)

Tuesday 14 August 2007

Dirty by Megan Hart

And now for something completely different. :)Dirty is not urban fantasy, it's a contemporary erotic tale. Thought I better just put that note there, as I think this will be the first non UF I've reviewed.

Dirty tells the story of Elle and Dan. It's told from Elle's point of view and she initially appears quite a cold and hard person. She doesn't want a relationship, she doesn't want to date. She has sex and then leaves. But then she meets Dan and things begin to change.

Often when I read erotic fiction I find myself comparing it to candyfloss. It's nice to have every so often, and whilst satisfying at the time, you realize afterwards it had very little substance and didn't fill you up. Sometimes you read a book subconsciously aware it feels like the author had a checklist to complete - oral sex (tick), anal sex (tick), menage a trois (tick), bondage (tick). Now there's nothing wrong with this, sometimes it's nice to have a break from emotional intensity. But it's also great to read an erotic novel that isn't just about a ticklist of sexual positions.

Dirty follows the development of a relationship, not a romance. Things don't go perfectly smoothly, mistakes are made, words are said that can't be taken back. Through the course of the story we find out why Elle is the way she is, this is a major plot point so I don't want to give it away.

Dan looks at Elle and SEES her. Her, not the person she pretends to be,not the person she wants people to think she is. And through this 'relationship' she slowly begins to open up, because of her circumstances it's slightly two steps forward one step back, but she makes progress.

I also enjoyed how Megan Hart had the tale of The Little Prince woven through the story. (Most UF/PNR readers are probably familiar with this through Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dance With the Devil). If you've never read TLP I do recommend it, even if you only read the first two pages which illustrate how easy it is for adults to stamp on the dreams of children. But it also has some lines of wisdom very applicable to Dan and Elle's tale. Notably - "You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed." and paraphrasing "The heart sees what is essential, and invisible to the eye."

In a way Elle reminded me slightly of Zoe from Wraith, another first person protagonist with a terrible incident in her past. And even though Dirty is told in first person, just like Zoe, there are things that Elle doesn't think about, things that we as readers find out about gradually, things that we piece together.

In places Dirty is not an easy tale to read, it deals with a difficult subject matter. But Megan Hart's characters come alive on the page, and the ending whilst not a traditional happy ever after, is hopeful and full of possibility.

Friday 10 August 2007

Books and Songs and Other Stuff

In my review of Bareback I commented that it really brought the song Hello by Evanescence to mind.

This isn't the only book where this has happened.

Brace yourselves 'cause I'm going to mention that book again. :) When I was reading The Time Traveler's Wife, I had Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol playing in my head.

I've seen a few authors do soundtracks for their books - Rachel Caine springs immediately to mind. Sherrilyn Kenyon has posted on her site about Acheron's favourite tunes. And J.R.Ward's BDB have a rap soundtrack.

So are there any songs that come to mind whilst you've read certain books? Not necessarily that the characters were singing along to, but maybe something happened in the storyline that brought a song to mind?

I have a copy of Demon Angel by Meljean Brook to give away. LOL - hopefully you haven't all read it. I was going to save it for when I reviewed Demon Moon but at the rate I'm reading at the moment, book 3 will be out before that happens. So next Friday (17th August) I'll pick one random commenter to this post and they'll get the book. If you can't think of a song just put your name in the hat, or comment on the other stuff below :).

Some book news - the title of Elizabeth Vaughan's next book will be Dagger-Star with a proposed release date of April 2008. I loved the Warprize trilogy so I'm looking forward to reading this.

And I have a confession to make. Despite swearing that I wouldn't buy another Sherrilyn Kenyon hardcover after Dark Side of the Moon. I've been swayed by the opinion that Devil May Cry is back up to the standard of Night Play and Dance with the Devil and I've ordered it from Amazon.

Tuesday 7 August 2007

Bareback by Kit Whitfield


NOTE - this was released as Benighted in the US.

Lola Galley lives in a world where over 99% of the population are lycanthropes. As a 'bareback' for the one night a month of the full moon she patrols the town searching for transformed citizens breaking curfew, taking them into custody and prosecuting them. We follow her life over the course of one investigation.

This book is going to be pretty difficult to review, hence the vague summary above. And I apologize if I go stream of conciousness here.

First off, I wouldn't class this as urban fantasy. For me, urban fantasy transports you to another world, this is more like being smacked in the face with a reality shaped brick. I'd classify it as alternative history, set in a world where there are no simple answers, only difficult choices. I wouldn't recommend reading this book if you are feeling depressed.

Lola works for DORLA (Department for the Ongoing Regulation of Lycanthropic Activity). Everyone who works for DORLA is anmorphic - barebacks. They are the minority of the population put in charge of the majority when that majority cannot be responsible for their own behaviour - on the night of the full moon. DORLA have a separate legal system, they arrest without trial, interrogate, disappear people. But they do it within the framework the majority have given them. From the moment they are born a bareback's life course is already set, they will go to work for DORLA, there is no other choice for them.

Lola is not an easy character to like. It's written in very tight first person. So we experience the moments where she thinks one thing about a person but manages to say the right thing. Also where she argues with someone to inflict hurt - it doesn't make you feel better just temporarily superior and then leaves you empty. I jotted down whilst reading that she wasn't sympathetic but I feel this is wrong. It's only by reading the whole book that you understand her. Particularly her confrontation with SPOILER at the end, as she is trying to explain to a lyco what being a bareback is actually like. Her story is heartbreaking because she is caught in a hard and brutal life that she cannot escape from.

I don't want to make it sound like a complete downer.

'Evening,' he says.
'Yes, it is.'
'What are you drinking?'
'Alcohol. It makes me drunk. You can get it almost anywhere.'

One of the review quotes on the cover of my copy said it echoes 1984, and I can see that. I'd also compare it to the film Equilibrium. In the film John lives in a world where emotion is suppressed, he is opened up to there being something more through Mary. In a similar way through Paul and Leo, Lola's life is opened to something new but it's such a fragile delicate thing. At the end of the book I was hopeful but I prefer happy endings. Some people may find the ending unsatisfying, but I think it fits with the tone of the rest of the book and is realistic to the world in which Lola lives.

There is a passage on page 251 which I think is the heart of the book.

"He didn't know this was the end of his life. If nobody warned him, he couldn't have known that he should have loved those last hundred yards, that they weren't just an obstacle to getting to where he planned, that the sounds of his feet on the pavement and the wind in the branches were all he was ever going to have."

You could take those words and apply them to most of the characters we meet - Lola, Paul, Johnny, Marty, Nate. I think on a re-read, I'd be mentally saying to the characters these are the moments you need to hold onto.

The story is beautifully crafted and I was tempted to give this an A. I don't think my review has done it justice. The reason I've dropped a grade, is that I'm not sure it's a book I would read again. It's made me think, still a couple of days after I've finished it I'm thinking about it. But I don't want to revisit Lola's world any time soon.

Every so often I'll come to associate a book with a song. In future if that happens I'll include the song at the end of the review. So for Bareback:-

Hello by Evanescence