Elmore Leonard said: I have a character in one of my books tell how she used to write historical romances ''full of rape and adverbs.''

Sunday, 28 September 2008

CATCHING UP

I’ve been underground these last couple of days, watching season three of Supernatural, emerging periodically for fresh air, then going back to ground. After the atrocity of season 2 (with a season ender that was worse, even, than the infamous racist monster truck episode), I vowed never to watch the show again, no matter how cute the boys - see left - and stuck to my guns for all of three months... until I saw the season 3 box set on sale. Who can resist a bargain? A bargain with cute boys? (see left) Not I.

So where season one was spooky and scary (I have a low fear threshold), and season two was lame and emo, season three was GORE-TASTIC. For real. We are talking forks in eyes, decapitation by garrote, evil, demonically possessed children, evisceration, torture and a really bloody death by electric saw. Eek. And cool.

Better yet, it seemed as though the writing improved, the storylines got tighter, with a more comfortable tie-in to the overall season arc (Dean selling his soul to save his brother’s, leaving him a year to live). Jared Paladecki, who plays the younger brother Sam, is the weaker actor, and I think he’s improved tremendously. No more strange facial twitches to signify emotional upheaval/ hard thought. Which is good.

Overall, the show seems to have a better idea of where it’s going, with a mythology that puts me in mind of Meljean Brook’s Demons and Angels series (The Guardians, rather).

Anyhoot, amongst the better writers of the show is one Sera Gamble. From past interviews, I know she writes stories, and I remembered that the last time I visited her site, I found a link to a short story I liked, called Off, by Aimee Bender.

The story is about a woman, an heiress, attending a party held by an old high school friend. The woman has a goal for the evening; to kiss three different men: ‘one with black hair, one with red hair, and the third blond.’ As she goes about fulfilling her mission, a confrontation with an ex leaves her momentarily shaken, confronting for a moment her life and her actions.

This character is hard to like (though I do like her); she is disdainful of the other guests, of people in general. She is lonely and cold, contrary and perhaps a little damaged. Upon discovering the other guests' coats and purses, she thinks - I am rich but I consider stealing some of the stuff because they are so trusting, these people, and I feel like wrecking their trust.

There are so many things I like about this story, the landscapes the protagonist used to paint, with ‘something bad in it’ and the teacher who never noticed. The dog she called called Off, and her anger towards other women.

Read it!

And while I’m talking about difficult women, I might as well mention the book I finished recently, The Awakening by Kate Chopin, which I enjoyed tremendously.

So if you're hankering after some early American feminist writing...

In romance related news

The last couple of romances I've read have left me feeling mildly dissatisfied. I can't remember the last time I really enjoyed one, but I'm going to mention a couple that rose above the average mark.

Never Romance a Rake, Liz Carlyle. I've enjoyed this series, and I think Carlyle is a great writer, but she's also hugely frustrating. As with NRaR, she sets up brilliantly tortured, complex characters, with really gripping conflicts, and then... she pulls her punches. And I end up feeling a little cheated. I can't really explain it better than that. This is a solid B for me, but it should have been more.

Miss Match by Jo Leigh (Harlequin Blaze). Jane reviewed this in one of her lightening reviews, and I find myself in agreement with her assessment. A pretty decent beauty and the beast romance (the heroine is no beast, just no where near in the same league as the hero), with a strong female lead and very sympathetic characters. The hero's character arc was not entirely plausible, and the heroine's family was completely cartoonish, but it still proved to be an absorbing read. I don't read categories as a rule, but I think I'd read another Leigh. Another B.

Courting Midnight by Emma Holly. Having read the other two in this series I decided to give this a go. The only thing holding me back had been the horrible cover; my Sony reader took care of that. For a Holly (and I'm a fan) this was rather tepid fare. The romance was nice, the writing was nice (channeling the regency vibe I thought. Holly has a very good ear for dialogue and always captures the right tone for her various series). However, I was utterly underwhelmed. C+

To end on a positive note, I found in my possession an old-ish Lisa Klepas I don't remember buying - Scandal in Spring, the last in her Wallflower quartet. I'm no Kleypas fangirl (for the most part, I don't get the fuss), but I enjoyed it tremendously. It even made me laugh out loud in one scene, when the hero is playing a very silly parlour game against his inclination. When did romance novels lose their sense of humour? I can't remember the last time I chuckled my way through a good historical - any suggestions? (And Scandal in Spring gets a very glowing B+)

I'm embarking on the Joanna Bourne express and won't be back until I've got an opinion on The Spymaster's Lady. About bloody time, don't you think? I might be the last person in the blogsphere. I can't wait to weigh in with my opinion. From what I can tell, opinion is mostly favourable, with one or two voices of dissent. Bourne is kind enough to link to these reviews, both positive and negative, on her blog, which I think is very cool of her.

4 comments:

Jace said...

You're not the only one who hasn't read The Spymaster's Lady yet. :-D I bought the book when it first came out and still don't have the urge to read it yet.

Jessica said...

Just curious -- why do you think Carlyle pulled her punches in NRAR?

Tumperkin said...

I laughed quite a lot at My Lord and Spymaster (no 2 in the series).

I've really liked Bourne's books. If I'm brutally honest, her heroes don't quite cut it with me but her heroines are wonderful and the writing is just superb.

I did laugh a lot at The Palace of Varieties - but I really couldn't call that romance.

Brie said...

Hope you're liking The Spymasters Lady.

I just gave your blog an award. :)