jmc_bks: (blue)
On the plus side, I really like Glass’s writing style.

And the minus side: the characters were either clichés or cardboard cut outs.

Heroine is a Mary Sue, from a family of Mary Sues and Marty Stus. Her complete isolation (work from home, no friends outside family), her obsession with having a child, and her mental unhealthiness really detracted from the story. The hero is very vanilla (literally as well as figuratively since he’s white to the heroine’s black Vietnamese ethnicity) except for the Stupidest Thing he did. The child? Preternaturally well behaved and knowing; she only acted her age once through out the book.

I could’ve gotten past the ~meh~ characters because I enjoyed Glass’s voice immensely. The book was very well-paced and the relationship developed smoothly. But the ending (which was predictable for Romancelandia) killed the book for me – it included Magic Sperm. The previously infertile heroine was suddenly a Baby Machine. I wish romance would address infertility in a healthy way, instead of making in “clear” that it can be cured by True Love. I also wish that authors would write heroines who addressed their potential infertility without burying their heads in the sand.
jmc_bks: (Icicle)
I have been less than thrilled with the last several books I read or attempted to read.  Either DNF or C/D grades.

I really want the time I spent reading these books back.
jmc_bks: (Default)
Tell me again why Reese's/Hershey thought that creating a banana peanut butter cup was a good idea. Was there market research that showed a huge demand for this product? Ick.

Are you interested in reading a contemporary romance set in LA? One that is on the fringes of the movie business but isn't all about actors and models? Want to read a book with a smart, real heroine and interesting but not overpowering secondary characters? Go check out Sandra Kitt's Celluloid Memories. If I get myself organized, I'll post a review. (If I don't get around to it, lemme just say that I really, really liked this book. B/B+)

The reason I'm posting a rec and blabbing about the book in a non-review-ish kind of way is that it's got me thinking about non-romance things. After reading CM, I read the article in this week's Economist about Latino-Black race relations in LA and elsewhere in the US. That dynamic isn't mentioned at all in the book, but other race/culture dynamics are, particularly the tension between black people who can (and choose to) "pass". There's a fascinating parallel in the story between actresses (secondary characters) of different generations: one chose to pass in order to have a career and the other cannot be cast in traditional black female roles and thus is forced into passing by casting agents. It was a fascinating (and disturbing) glimpse into the realities of the entertainment business.
jmc_bks: (seagull)
It seemed to take forever for me to finish In the Name of Identity, in part because I kept going back and rereading sections. Maalouf's book is fairly short (~150 pages) but has some huge ideas. His style is very accessible and the tone of the book was philosophical without being dense or reliant on a lot of jargon. Maalouf wonders about the human tendency to narrow identity to a single factor (religion, primarily) and its cause; then moves on to the tendencies to demonized the "Other" which for many people today is modernization; and on to the tension between standardization and uniformity. I thought his observations about the relationship between religion and democracy were interesting, especially since religion is so change-averse. Maalouf also touches briefly on language as identity, which is something I find very interesting.

I've got Maalouf's The Crusades Through the Eyes of the Arabs TBR, but I'm not going to start it until I finish The Assault on Reason and Blackwater, which have been languishing half-read on my coffee table.

On the fiction reading front, I finished Creepin' a paranormal anthology edited by Monica Jackson and published by Kimani. B- from me. Tara Marie loved it, as did Bam. Me, I loved one story, liked two others, and thought the remaining two were less than impressive. Blurb and opinion about each story follows. )
jmc_bks: (Book on table)
I've read a bunch of books in the past week or so, some good, some not so much.  The slump, I think she is over!

jmc_bks: (TDS)
You get a tattoo to get laid, not to get married. So says Lewis Black. Hee.

I had an automated email from Teresa Heinz Kerry about the book she and John co-wrote, This Moment on Earth. It was ranked ~3300 on Amazon on Monday but jumped to 139 on Tuesday...because Americans care about the environment. Um, that may be true, but I think JK's appearance on The Daily Show prob'ly had something to do with the jump, too.

Oh. My. God. Did Stephen Colbert really just (well, last night? Thursday?) issue another challenge, this one all about editing his interview?

I really want to see The Lookout.

Do you like Caridad Pineiro's paranormals? Her next Nocturne, Blood Calls will be released by Nocturne in May, but there is a short story being posted online weekly.

Finished a few books. And here's what I have to say about them. )
jmc_bks: (title)
When ever I read the name, I hear the jingle. What jingle, you're wondering? Prob'ly only people who grew up in the Mid-Atlantic, or maybe just in Maryland (I'd say Balmer, but I didn't grow up in the city) know it, the little jingle that played during the seasonal commercial for their delicious terrible-for-you chocolate easter eggs. You know you're dying of curiosity to learn about Mary Sue Easter Eggs, so you might as well click here to read the rest of my ramble. I'll get to romance eventually. Promise. )
jmc_bks: (star fort kinsale)
I bought several books this month from eHarlequin, including Beau Crusoe. So I am now on their email list. Just what I need -- another automated email clogging my inbox. The email for the week of the 26th? All about Black History Month...which is now coming to a close. Perhaps it would've been better to spotlight BHM earlier in the month? Maybe they did and I missed it because I deleted those emails without reading them.

The email included a list of their ten best sellers, but I'm not sure if that was for the month or over an extended period of time. If you are interested, go here.

The book that looks most interesting: the nonfiction account of the romance of Angela Bassett and Courtney B. Vance, Friends: A Love Story. Available as a Kimani Press Special release.

Via Galley Cat: Bassett & Vance did a reading at the Yale Club on Monday and the Borders at Columbus Circle on Tuesday. Wonder if they'll be taking the show on the road. I'd wait in line to hear them reading.
jmc_bks: (h's iris)
I'd say like a hummingbird, but I'm not that graceful.  More like a bumblebee, buzzing around clumsily.  

I haven't been able to settle on anything all weekend. Sit down, read a few pages, get bored. Turn on the TV, channel surf, get bored. Wander round the book store, nothing interesting, bored, leave with nothing new.

Caught a couple of minutes of the BBC show/miniseries The State Within. Jason Isaacs, mrowr! Armitage = Halliburton, SecDef Warner = Cheney/Rumsfeld combo?   Note to producers and dialogue coaches:  the proper (American) pronunciation of certiorari is not cer-tee-oh-rahr-ee, but cer-sher-or-ee, with the second "r" almost silent, or so I was taught in school.  A check of the dictionary pronunciation key would've caught this -- both the ones I checked have the "ti" making a "sh" sound.   :shrug:  The British pronunciation may be different....but the word was spoken by an American character.

Skimmed MJD's Sleeping with the Fishes. In the intro, she mentions that she scrapped the first version because it was Betsy with fins. And this second version isn't? One note wonder, IMO.

Two DNFs: J.M. Jeffries' A Dangerous Love and Darrien Lee's Talk to the Hand. The heroine in the Lee book was a skanky, cheating, stupid hypocrite (pissed that she caught her bf cheating; but when she cheated, she made sure he didn't find out and she didn't get caught because she loved him so much. WTF?! They why are you cheating?) and the hero was a spineless wuss. I lasted a bit longer in the Jeffries book, but ultimately put it down because the hero and heroine's relationship was utterly inappropriate and unprofessional. Plus I kept noticing serious copy edit errors.
jmc_bks: (title)
I got to the end of this book thinking it was a B or B+ read...but the ending dropped to at B- at best for me. Why, oh why? )
jmc_bks: (title)
Let me first explain that I periodically check Ms. Jackson's blog, because I'm interested in what she has to say about black romance and its segregation from white mainstream romance. Mr. Right Now was reviewed at Dear Author last month, and I commented that the backblurb seemed interesting but I was put off by the heroine's name. It made me think of an unwashed automechanic a la Cooter on The Dukes of Hazzard; my second thought when I see that name is the cafeteria chain in Texas -- my stepmom loves their liver and onions, prompting yet another gross image in my mind every time I saw the name. Ms. Jackson was gracious enough to do a global search and replace in the e-copy she sent me, renaming her heroine Ruby for my benefit.

 Click here for a semi-coherent opinion. I'd call it a review, but according to Romancing the Blog, as a reader-blogger, I'm not credentialled enough to use that word. )
jmc_bks: (Default)
I picked up Geri Guillaume's Her Brother's Keeper on my last library trip becaues the cover caught my eye: a black contemporary western. I didn't really have significant expectations, since I had never read Guillaume before. I like contemporary westerns, and I've enjoyed black romance, although I've only read a small sample of them.

She was a force of nature he couldn't resist...
Proud, penniless Darion Haddock worked hard and kept to himself, earning both respect and responsibility at Jon Holling's Montana ranch -- and the honor of driving through a snowstorm to get his boss's baby sister from the airport. But like nature's magnificent fury, Aidan Holling was a sight to behold: beautiful, temperamental and fascinating.

Aidan could almost see the chip on Darion's shoulder, but that didn't stop her from admiring his lean strength and bottomless black eyes, or from knowing instinctively that he wasn't a quitter, not even when an accident finds them fighting for their lives. But destiny, danger and desire can do strange things to a body, especially after the storm passes....

The set up of the book is that Darion is out of work and homeless, gets a job on a ranch in Montana, and earns a place there with the Holling family. He's more or less shrouded in mystery. No one really knows anything about him, and he seems to like it that way, not letting anyone get close. Aidan Holling, daughter of the ranch owner, hasn't been home in 10 years, but is coming home for Christmas.

I have a really mixed opinion about this book. On one hand, its blurb seemed promising. On the other, the execution wasn't great. It seemed like the book trying to be a big huge epic or saga, instead of just focusing on the simple story between Aidan and Darion. A jack-knifed tractor trailer, an angel who keeps appearing to Darion, family history for both of them that is used an excuse for behavior but which is never really fully described or explained.

I really liked the start of the book. And I liked the feel of the community in which the book is set. Darion is a bit of a cipher, which I liked. All of the hints about his history made me want to know more. And I think Guillaume went a little overboard with the hints of backstory, because she did the same thing with Aidan. But I was a little let down in the end. Guillaume dropped all of these hints, then the follow through was less than impressive.

The set up was interesting enough that I'm willing to try Guillaume again, but ultimately the book was a disappointment. C-.
jmc_bks: (Default)
Made a library run Friday afternoon. A couple of books that I had on hold arrived, including Sujata Massey's Girl in a Box and Julie Leto's Dirty Little Lies. Also picked up what I thought was a Black/AA contemporary/urban romance in trade paperback: Slick by Brenda Hampton. Hadn't heard of the author before, or the publisher (Black Pearl Books), but the reviews were positive and the cover proclaimed it as an Essence Magazine best seller.

Dana & Sylvia have been girlfriends for what seems like forever. They've never been afraid to share everything about their lives and definietly keep each other's secrets...including hiding Dana's On-The-DL affair from her husband, Jonathan.

Though Sylvia is uncomfortable with her participation in the cover-up and despises the man Dana's creepin' with she remains a loyal friend. That is, until she finds herself attracted to thevery man her friend is deceiving.

As the lines of friendship and matrimonial territory erodes, all hell is about to break loose! Choices have to be made with serious repercussions at stake.

The backblurb sounded a little over the top, but interesting. I like the friends to lovers theme. Sadly, Slick was a disappointment: DNF. The 100 or so pages I read were pretty bad, D/D+ bad, IMO. I kept reading beyond the usually 50 pages because I wanted it to get better. Nah. It's in the return pile.

It was shelved with the romance, but it really wasn't. Straight fiction, maybe? Urban fiction? I'm not sure. The problem for me though, was that I thought the heroine-protagonist was sleazy. Not because she has sex with someone other than the hero (though she does) but because of the dynamics of her relationship with Dana and with the hero. It didn't feel like they were friends or even liked each other. I couldn't figure out why they were "friends" at all. And Sylvia, in addition to being friends with Jonathan through Dana, is his secretary. The interaction between the two of them was utterly unprofessional; beyond that, it seemed inappropriate and over the line among married friends. [I know, the range of professional and friendly behavior is huge, but some of the interaction was just way over the line, IMO.] In fact, I couldn't believe that Sylvia hadn't been fired for some of her behavior in the office.

Part of the problem is the adultery -- on both sides. Hot button issue for me. Dana just seemed pathetic and stupid: cheating and thinking she'd never get caught; cheating with an employee of her husband; with a guy who had multiple other women and at least four illegitimate children. Ick. Then there is the whole poaching problem. If Jonathan and Sylvia had gotten together after his divorce, and the tension or conflict was post-divorce (just because a couple is divorced doesn't mean it is open season on the newly-single ex-spouse of a friend), the relationship wouldn't have bothered me. But Sylvia and Jonathan were doing inappropriate stuff while he was still married. I know, his wife cheated first, but that is a cop out.

Additionally, the language bothered me. I can understand intellectually that BEV is a recognized dialect of American English with its own linguistic value, but seeing "ain't" and using be instead of is/are make me cringe. I can deal with that in spoken English, but have to resist the urge to break out the red pen when I see it in writing. Too much swearing (even more than in Brockmann's SEAL books, which is saying something) and too much urban slang.

I'm sure there are lots of readers who will love this book, but I wasn't one of them. Poor choice on my part. Next time maybe I'll look for an AA historical or other sub-genre instead.
jmc_bks: (seagull)
As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I picked up Solid Soul after reading Monica Jackson’s blog – I felt bad for being lazy and unwilling make an effort to cull black romance from the larger section of black literature at my local bookstore. So I went to the library an dpicked up a book published by Kimani Press. I haven’t done much research, although I know that Kimani is an imprint of Harlequin. Kimani Press publishes several lines, and the book I picked up is a Kimani Romance, which looks (to me, based on reading 3 back blurbs only) to be a cross between a Silhouette Special Edition and a single title.

Solid Soul is the story of Kylie Hagan & Chance Steele. Kylie and her daughter, Tiffany, have recently relocated to Charlotte, North Carolina, after Kylie’s job was downsized. She moved to Charlotte to be close to her best friend – her “real” family, because her blood family more or less abandoned her when she became pregnant as a teenager. Kylie has spent the last 15 years struggling as a single parent, and is now financially stable and utterly focused on her daughter. Much to her daughter’s frustration, because she (Tiffany) is tired of being warned about boys and sex. She decides that her mother needs to get a life, and with the help of her friend Marcus Steele, she’s going to fix that. The fix? Marcus’s father, Chance, a widower running the family business, Steele Corporation. The plan? Pretend to be madly in love, ready to do crazy things to be together. Thus, the parents have to communicate and come up with ways to calm them down and keep them from doing something drastic that might ruin their lives.

As much as Chance and Kylie are worried about their children, they are immediately attracted to each other in a combustible kind of way. Jackson did a fantastic job of building up the tension between the two of them. (I especially liked the late night phone conversations.) They have to balance setting a good example for their children with their attraction.

What did I like about the book? Well, I really liked that Chance and Kylie act like parents. Their children aren’t just set pieces, making obligatory appearances for the sake of giving them the title “parent”. Kylie and Tiffany have a great relationship, and love each other, despite having very clear-eyed views of each other’s faults and weaknesses. Same with Chance and Marcus. As characters, Chance and Kylie are both well drawn, although I found the matching family histories – both children the result of teenaged pregnancies, although obviously different outcomes -- a little coincidental, although I guess that happens. One qualm – Kylie has only ever had sex with the teenaged boyfriend who got her pregnant. Apparently, she never felt the urge. I know single parenthood is hard on the love life, but it really bothers me when authors make parents asexual beings. Huh, hello? That’s how they got to be parents in the first place.

What didn’t I like? Well, despite being very involved parents, Kylie & Chance never pay much attention to the fact that Marcus and Tiffany spend very little time together outside of school, despite being madly in love and ready to run away together. They don’t talk on the phone much, don’t see each other during the week, don’t act affectionate toward each other while the four of them are together. They act more like brother and sister, which is even mentioned once. Other niggle: the dialogue is a little stilted, and it is most noticeable when it comes to the teenagers.

Overall, I liked the story. B-.

AA Romance

Nov. 9th, 2005 10:34 am
jmc_bks: (Default)
I've read some AA romance and mysteries before, based on recommendations and reviews that I've found online. Picked up a few authors from the library stacks randomly: Adrienne Byrd, Sandra Kitt, Beverly Jenkins, Chassie West. Some were very good and others were poor, with pretty much the same degrees of goodness and awfulness as I find across the board in RomanceLand. I hadn't spent a great deal of time thinking about AA romance as a sub-genre of romance until last month's AAR At the Back Fence. If I had thought about it, I suppose I would have thought of the separate shelving of AA romance simply as a categorization, in much the same way that the library groups different types of category romances, regencies, romantic suspense and european historicals. It hadn't occurred to me that anyone would think of the segregation of AA romance as an implicit statement about the worth or writing quality of AA romance until I read Monica Jackson's comments. Like I wrote above, I've encountered good and bad writing, and I don't think the quality of any writing is related to the color of the author's skin or their ethnicity.

Since reading the ATBF segment, I've become very conscious of the separation, especially after examining how the AA books are grouped at my local library. Monica Jackson's paranormals are next to Beverly Jenkins' historicals, which are all on the same shelf as Candice Poarch's military-life romances. Which does present a problem for me: if "white" romances are separated by sub-genre, why aren't AA romances also additionally split into sub-genres? The books I mentioned above have nothing in common, sub-genre-wise, other than the fact that they have AA characters and were written by black women. Now that I have thought about the separation, I believe that it is unconsciously racist. The intent may have been helpful -- group AA romance together for shelving and audience convenience -- but the underlying assumption is that only black people like AA romance. I think that underestimates the average romance reader in a major way. We are always looking for new, different stories, and I don't think that the color of a character's skin is a deal breaker for most of us. Give us a good story and we're happy; ethnicity can be a piquant part of the story, as in Kim Welter Wong's Buddha Baby and The Dim Sum of All Things, and Sujata Massey's Rei Shimura mysteries. To misquote Shakespeare, the story is the thing.

As an aside, that racism re: audience for AA romance is not a white-only thing. You cannot (or maybe you can) imagine the looks I get when I ask about AA books at the bookstore. White salespeople look at me oddly, but black salespeople scowl or roll their eyes. Their expressions seem to say, "What do you want with that? It's none of your business, don't you have enough of your own white books to read?" Which leads me to wonder: although AA romance authors may have a problem with the separate shelving, due to limitations of audience, etc., does the larger AA community have a problem with it? Or do they appreciate it?


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