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Book Reviews, Sarah Style

It occurs to me that I have not talked much lately of the many, many books I have been reading. So I thought I could do some Brief Summaries in my own particular way, and thus perhaps both entertain and tell you all about books I have enjoyed!

I have been reading a lot of romance novels lately, as part of my quest to find books about relationships which I really really love. And I have been successful! In fact, I have found so many romance novels I love that should my career collapse in a teeny pile of dust, I have a romance novel I want to write and I have my new author name all picked out.

I fear I would be impeded in my new career by the fact I am woefully terrible at writing the Scenes of Sexy Times, but this does not alter the fact that while I was reading my way through innumerable books with much-corseted ladies and bare-chested gentlemen on them (my friends, who are used to borrowing my new books, are horrified and displeased, but I say unto them, there is a proverb about books, yea, and the judging of them by their covers), I noticed a trend. Eloisa James and Sherry Thomas (Sherry Thomas can write like cream pouring from a jug into a glorious sunrise! By which I mean her prose is really - smooth and also very shiny and - look, I didn't say I could write like a glorious cream sunrise) were the first examples I noticed.

I call it New Wave Historical Romance. By which I mean that some of the more recent historical romances I've picked up have a tendency to feature some really lovely writing, and excellent side characters, but most importantly really awesome heroines.

I truly hate the Blank Page Heroine. She is in a lot of books - I don't mean to pick on romance, because sadly I have seen her in every genre, including my own - and sometimes she seems to be there as a match for the hero who won't bother him with things like 'hobbies' and 'opinions.' Sometimes she is carefully featureless (still missing those pesky hobbies and opinions) so that, apparently, the reader can identify with her and slot their own personalities onto a blank page. As I don't identify with blank pages, I find the whole business disturbing. But I have found that given an awesome heroine, romances can really work for me.

As for example!

Bound by your Touch by Meredith Duran

BLUESTOCKING: And now to give a speech to the archaeological society. What a fine day this is, to be sure! Finally some appreciation for the scholarly lady.
RAKE: Daddy, I have your artefact! Look, look, I came all this way to rub it in your face-
RAKE: -lots of people here, wonder what that's about, anyway, the important thing is that I HATE MY DADDY and-
BLUESTOCKING: Please sit your rake ass and your daddy issues THE HELL DOWN.
RAKE: ... Wut?
BLUESTOCKING: Also your artefact is an obvious fake.

RAKE: Dude, dude, fellow rakes in my club, has it ever occurred to you that older ladies who know a ton are really really super hot?
RAKE: Well, I gotta go read up on archaeology. No, no time for brandy today!
FELLOW RAKES: ... Is he feeling okay?

Written on your Skin by Meredith Duran

SPY: Blugh - blugh - I believe I was poisoned - Oh God, and here's this fluffy little airhead come to bother me again.
MINA: Hi! I saw you got drugged so you would die so I re-drugged you a ton! LOL! Quickly, better escape out the window, I calculate you only have about twenty minutes of lucidity left in you!

SPY TURNED NOBLEMAN: After I became a nobleman I very quickly stopped being a spy, because it is no fun at all. Also, I have PTSD. Now to fulfill my last debt and help this occasionally-surprising bimbo find her mamma.
MINA: LOL, this adventure reminds me of the time I blackmailed a monk!
MINA: LOL never mind! I am so blond and pretty! Flutter flutter eyelashes and hair-
NOBLESPY: Oh right.
MINA: Fluttery eyelashes and hair served me well when coaxing the businessmen of America to fund my extremely profitable perfume business.
NOBLESPY: Say what?
MINA: I mean, LOL!
NOBLESPY: Seriously, are you fluttering your hair and wearing scandalous dresses to hide the fact you are an evil genius?
MINA: LOL! ... Maybe.

Goddess of the Hunt by Tessa Dare

LUCY: Hello Jeremy here I am at your door!
JEREMY: What are you doing here, Lucy?
JEREMY: As a gentleman in times of yore at a respectable household inhabited only my best friend and his little sister, I was not expecting the mack.
LUCY: Okay, did the mack work? Because I'm practising for another dude, so any tips are welcome, over here.
JEREMY: Lucy please! I may swoon.
LUCY: Oooooh, so the mack worked really well?

LUCY: Okay, so I am super dolled up in order to defeat my blonde, beautiful, probably dumb shallow and mean rival!
EVERYONE: Lucy, evening attire is not appropriate for the breakfast table. We can see your bosom. Also you are eating like a horse.
LUCY: Gotta have fuel for the smackdown with my hated rival! Pass the kippers.
BEAUTIFUL BLONDE RIVAL: Shall we get drunk and gossip about boys?
LUCY: Oh crap.

JEREMY: You know Lucy many people consider me a dark, dangerous and mysterious rake... I'm just saying is all.
LUCY: Ahahahaha, I have known you since I was ten! You are so soft-hearted you miss shooting partridges on purpose! Ahahahaha, A RAKE.
LUCY: Ahahaha. You're going to have to give me a minute here.

Of course I have not just been reading romance novels. I've also been reading things like Black British Culture & Society, an excellent book but hard to summarise amusingly, and my true love YA fantasy. Which also has several examples of awesome heroines!

Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon

AI LING: My father seems to have disappeared. Well, time to go questing for him through the Asian-inspired fantasy landscape.
CHEN YONG: Are you sure that's wise?
AI LING: You are right! I should also bring a packed lunch.
CHEN YONG: My attractive brother and I will accompany you on your quest. Please, do feel free to avert your eyes from the unseemly spectacle of us practising our combat skills. Shirtless.
AI LING: Oh, that's fine. You didn't happen to bring any sort of snacks to nibble on while I watch?
CHEN YONG: While you watch what?
AI LING: Uh - nature? I'm very keen on... sketching. Yeah, that's it. Sketching.
CHEN YONG: You must be overcome with maidenly horror at the monster made from a mass of decomposing corpses we just faced!
AI LING: Aren't Chinese monsters the absolute best? Take that, European mythology!
AI LING: Yes, I think I am in shock. I hear noodles are good for that? Mmm. Noodles.

Give Up the Ghost by Megan Crewe

CASS: Since my sister died and my best friend betrayed me, I've decided to embrace cynicism as a way of life. And never talk to anyone alive ever again.
SCHOOL: What, nobody?
CASS: Since I can talk to ghosts, this actually puts less of a crimp in my social life than you might think.
GHOSTS: By the way, we know lots of scandalous secrets about the people in your school!
CASS: Ah excellent. My reign of terror begins. Man, I hate people. Especially my best friend, and her idiot boyfriend, and their idiot friend Tim who puts on all those dramatic airs about the tragic loss of his mother. We all have tragic losses, buddy.
TIM: I really am sad though...
CASS: That's no excuse to be so emo.
TIM: Will you talk to my mom for me?
CASS: You have to promise to man up if I do.
TIM: Okay!
CASS: Huh. Contact with living people is actually warming my cold heart. Just a little bit. Well, Tim will hate me once I tear down his friends anyway.
TIM: You're awesome. Your powers are awesome and your attitude inspires me and um your hair is also very shiny.
CASS: I could wish Tim liked me for more than my paranormal abilities.
TIM: ... Would you go to prom with me?
CASS: No chance of that, though!
GHOSTS: Um, Cass. You may be taking that cynicism thing a bit far.

So those are some books I have enjoyed in the last six months - are there any books you guys would like to nominate to get the Sarah Treatment, or is that a fate too terrible to comtemplate? And what are your thoughts on heroines, Blank Page Heroines or otherwise?


( 122 comments — Leave a comment )
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Nov. 16th, 2009 01:23 pm (UTC)
Ah, you've found Meredith Duran - my current favorite author. Love her books! All of them. I know exactly what you mean about the blank page heroine. Some of them, I just can't stand.

You might try Joanna Bourne's Spymaster books, especially Spymaster's Lady (though I equally love My Lord and Spymaster, despite the title). Bourne writes great heroines who are strong, but still seem authentic to the times.
Nov. 16th, 2009 01:25 pm (UTC)
I have read Spymaster's Lady, I think - I was saddened by the heroine's miraculous cure, but I loved her a lot at the start!

And Meredith Duran is brilliant. I am first in line for her next book!
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Nov. 16th, 2009 01:30 pm (UTC)
I was going to write my own comment, but I'm just going to ditto this one, because it says exactly what I wanted to say.
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Nov. 16th, 2009 01:27 pm (UTC)
Along the lines of heroines, I've always enjoyed reading The Witching Hour because of the complexity of Rowan Mayfair. I rarely get to see such a sultrily flawed female as a main character to the point that by the middle of chapter two, I'm already in love and forced to ignore the shiny-ness of her love interest and equally complex Michael Curry.

And here I had been under the impression that I'd chased after Anne Rice for the blond vampires.

I'm definitely looking up Goddess of the Hunt after this. Thanks!

Nov. 18th, 2009 01:14 am (UTC)
YES!!! I always feel like Rowan Mayfair and Michael Curry are tragically overlooked. I kind of wanted to be Rowan for a while and Michael is still in my top three fictional boyfriends.
Nov. 16th, 2009 01:29 pm (UTC)
Really, you should just write a book of short book reviews.
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Nov. 16th, 2009 01:36 pm (UTC)
Julia Quinn sometimes works for me and sometimes not, but all is forgiven for the Reading Aloud scene in What Happens In London, with the rake declaiming on the table, the parlourmaids weeping and the Russian prince held entranced!
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Nov. 16th, 2009 01:38 pm (UTC)
As far as kickass YA heroines, my recent favorite is Katniss from the Hunger Games books by Suzanne Collins. She has so many issues, not the least of which involves killing people recreationally, but she is still awesome. And she is involved in a love triangle that I can sympathize with, and I normally detest love triangles.

And I have missed your book reviews! You should write a book of book/movie parodies, and then write an autobiography about your life with lots and lots of dialogue bits!
Nov. 16th, 2009 01:44 pm (UTC)
I am very fond of Katniss, and am totally on Team Peeta. Roll on book three.
Nov. 16th, 2009 01:48 pm (UTC)
I just finished Jo Goodman's NEVER LOVE A LAWMAN and I really, really loved it. Also it is long, so one can love it for a while.
Nov. 16th, 2009 01:57 pm (UTC)
Nov. 16th, 2009 02:00 pm (UTC)
Love her! I have read Lord of Scoundrels um, maybe four zillion times. I also very much like The Last Hellion.
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Nov. 16th, 2009 02:02 pm (UTC)
Your book reviews make me giggle. Thanks for that!
Nov. 16th, 2009 02:02 pm (UTC)
Your analysis of the treatment of female characters in fiction has made me think about my own attitudes probably more than I would have liked to! : ) Every time you mention it, I flee to my bookshelves trying to detect a side to me that I won't like. I still can't decide who my favourite character is, I go back and forth a lot. But I have happily found a heroine that I adore more than most characters. Mia from The Princess Diaries series. I think she's funny, witty, often stupid and flawed and I love her very much. I think we should be friends, if only I could find her. I am thinking a lot more as I read about how i'm seeing the characters... it gets a bit confusing at times. : ) So thanks for making me use my brain occasionally!
Nov. 16th, 2009 02:09 pm (UTC)
Very pleased I made you think about the girl characters! I have to say, I thought that I thought about them a lot before, but being from the writer side and hearing people say they just don't like female characters, wow, it has been an eye-opener. I am happy my eyes were opened, though, and happy people are finding book-friends!
Nov. 16th, 2009 02:12 pm (UTC)
LOL on your reviews of Silver Phoenix and Give Up The Ghost! I especially loved Ai Ling and her noodles. I must say SP made me want to eat Chinese food -- real, proper, authentic Chinese food -- like crazy. And I enjoyed seeing a heroine who is unabashedly enthusiastic about eating, without the book being a Very Special Episode About Gluttony.
Nov. 16th, 2009 02:24 pm (UTC)
Bound by your Touch sounds great, but I wish they did it in a plain brown cover - that rippling torso quite put me off my tea! I've decided to buy it for myself rather than wishlist it where anyone could see it!
Nov. 16th, 2009 02:31 pm (UTC)
<3 This must be the best way to review books.
Nov. 16th, 2009 02:57 pm (UTC)
Dude, The Reformed Vampire Support Group by Catherine Jinks! It is very much awesome. All of her stuff is, though.
Nov. 17th, 2009 12:26 am (UTC)
You know, I tried reading that a few weeks ago and couldn't get into it. I'm not sure why not, because I don't like vampires to begin with, so I don't know if THAT was my problem, but I thought I might like this more because it would be a funny take to them instead and all... but I'm very busy so I give up on books easily lately. Can you give me some specific incentives to give it another try? What makes it very much awesome?
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Nov. 16th, 2009 03:07 pm (UTC)
Ahahaha . . . I gave up romance novels some time ago, but your humorous summary's definitely make me want to check out Meredith Duran.
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