shipperx: (GOT Dany)
It's getting to the end of the year and so there are usually some round-up posts. I'll probably do one about my year, eventually. And I would do one on the books I've read this year but I've been haphazard and don't really know what I've read or not read.

So, in lieu of a reading list, here's a flow of consciousness list of romances (which means I probably read or at least re-read them this year, but I'm not entirely sure). And it's a romance list... just 'cause.

I've been hitting the Christmas Novellas lately. Mainly because I'm pressed for time and they're short. Plus, they're a little cheesy but seasonal, and I can get into that sometimes.

Clearing out my book case the other week, I found an old copy of Mary Balogh's Under the Mistletoe. I have a soft spot for Mary Balogh even though she can be quite hit or miss. I honestly don't remember two of the novellas, but I did enjoy "The Family Christmas," about an estranged couple who had had an arranged marriage. It's fairly high up on the sweet scale, but I can do that for Christmas.

The other Christmas novella I remember from this year was Christi Caldwell's tale of a lonely bitchy rich girl whose family forgot about her at Christmas (and it just struck me how that sounds like Home Alone... Except in the Regency period). Not a lot to say about the plot but it was easy and enjoyable, especially compared to the other Christi Caldwell book that I remember from... I don't know when I read it, but it has stuck in my memory as an angst-o-rama. Annnnngggssttttt!!!

Angst-o-rama (not a Christmas story) Victorian Christi Caldwell is My Lady of Deception I don't remember the details so I could be wrong about parts of it, but from what I remember the heroine's family were Irish terrorists. Horrified by her thuggish (and abusive) father's brutal (and explosive) tactics, the heroine contacted the British Government who pretty much turned her into an informant (leaving her in the hands of said abusive father. The sense of dread and danger in this one is no doubt why it's listed as "dark" on its blurb. It's dark as compared to most Christi Caldwell novels but in terms of 'dark' it doesn't begin to compare to a book book by GRR Martin). The British also sent in an agent... who was captured by the father and tortured. The heroine tried to aid the agent in captivity and eventually arranged his escape (which got her beaten and left for dead by her father... but she was taken to an indigent hospital and eventually recovered.) Upon his release, the hero discovered that his fiancé had married someone else during his captivity and, when he discovered what had happened to the heroine, he felt obligated to aid her. And (for reasons I don't remember at all) this included marrying her. The heroine had naively idolized the hero... too much. More than he deserved, because he breaks her heart. I don't remember all of it, but the climax stuck in my memory because it did not go the way I had expected. The hero did something that was just incredibly difficult to forgive. So difficult that I'm not sure that I believe that the heroine forgave him... and that's after months of NOT forgiving him and leaving him. And, even though I could sympathize with the hero's decision, it was just such a devastating betrayal (NOT infidelity) that it was angst-city. I can't help but think this book needed another couple of chapters, because there needed to be more time to build to a happy ending because the hero needed to grovel more.

Another in the genre -- the historical spy genre -- that also happens to fall into the Christmas novella genre, is Grace Calloway's The Lady Who Came In From the Cold , set some 12 years after Waterloo. Heroine had been an orphan raised to be a spy who, when under cover as a gypsy 'camp follower' for her mission was treated well by the hero... such that he became her "ideal" (with her back story, she hadn't experienced much chivalry or compassion in her life). When the war was over, she transformed herself with a fake identity in order to pursue him... and won him. At the start of the novella, the pair has been married for 12 years. It looks like the story is part of a series and that at some point in that series of books she had been blackmailed over her secret, and that in whatever previous book this was, she had thought the secret buried. In the novella, even though the blackmailer is dead, he had taken steps to ensure that she would be exposed. So after 12 years of happy marriage her husband is faced with the discovery that his wife isn't who he thought she was. Her name and identity are fakes. She had slept with men during to her missions (and had faked virginity when she had married him), etc. He feels (understandably) betrayed. The reader privy to her back story, has great sympathy for her and know that she truly loves him. Angsty but not as angsty as the Christi Caldwell spy story. Although, the spy stuff is all backstory in this one. The plot is about her secret being exposed via blackmail, the subsequent estrangement.

And since I'm listing Regency spy stories, I read (perhaps this year?) a pair of connected Grace Burrows' stories The Captive and The Traitor. I, pretty much, only remember "The Captive" because it led to "The Traitor." The Captive is all about PTSD of a Napoleonic war hero who had been a prisoner of war and who wanted revenge on his jailor/torturer (The Traitor). Honestly, the torturer is the more sympathetic character. The Captive is okay, but pretty well-worn territory that leads to learning that vengeance isn't all that it's cracked up to be.

"The Traitor" was somewhat more original than "The Captive." The Captive wasn't the only former prisoner that was seeking vengeance on The Traitor. There's a line of them ready to challenge him to duels. Pretty much everyone in England wants him dead. Turns out that he was only half French. He was half English. He just happened to be visiting his French Grandparents in his youth when hostilities broke out and he was given the choice between joining the French Army or being killed. So he chose the military, despite his possessing a British title and with British loyalties. He had used his position as best he could. If he could ransom the British prisoner, he would (sometimes using his British estate via a relative to supply the money that would actually buy the British officer's freedom), or he would "oops" sometimes arrange an escape or a prisoner swap, etc. But for all that he tried to survive the war and protect who he could, he's now a "traitor" with a target on his back, loathed, and everyone wants him dead. He's also a pretty tortured guy who never asked for any of this. Strange that the 'traitor' was the more sympathetic and generous hero. I actually liked this the better of the two books.
shipperx: (OUAT Regina)

Holy cow, it's Wednesday?  That can't be right.

:checks calendar::

Shit.  How did it get to be Wednesday?!

::mutters::  I've been buried trying to get a few different projects out.

What Have You Just Finished Reading:
Er...  Nothing since last meme post.

What Are You Reading Now:

What Are You Reading Next:
Still haven't read 'The Serpant Prince', 'The Fate of Apate' popped up on my kindle from a long forgotten pre-order, and I downloaded some kindle freebie set in pre-Revolutionary France.  Those are all likely bets, though not necessarily a lock.

shipperx: (OUAT Regina)
What Have You Just Finished Reading?

Ridiculous! by D.L. Carter
As an analogy, it's sort of like if you had Pride and Prejudice except Elizabeth didn't meet Darcy and Mr. Bennet died, leaving the Bennet sisters in the care of Mr. Collins.  Which, while insufferable in its own right, is made far, far worse when Mr. Collins then dies, leaving the Bennet sisters and their mother soon-to-be homeless, in poverty, and potentially workhouse bound because the distant cousin who is next in line is a pitiless, compassionless asshole (those damned entailments!) until "Elizabeth" basically says "screw this!" and decides to chop off her hair, move the family to Bath, and become "Mr. Collins" herself, figuring she could do a better job managing things anyway.

The Shakespeare references make me think that we aren't supposed to question whether or not Mellicent (the would be Elizabeth Bennet of this analogy) could pull off being a man in convincing way. We're to accept the conceit much as in Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night" and the like. The 'woman experiences Regency England as a man" aspect is clearly what most interests the writer because it is what composes most of the novel (the romance, such as it is, arrives late and bound up with the friendship of Melli--er... Mr. North and his new best friend Shoffer (who is clueless about the disguise for roughly 85% of the book, and who doesn't even arrive in the novel until roughly 40%). It's a bit more about the gender politics, the freedom of being 'male' at that time and the injustice of women not having property rights.

Generally light in tone with a touch of relatively chaste romance (that doesn't even come about until the last 15%, after Shoffer freaks the hell out when he discovers that he and Mr. North are being accused of "buggery", which is, of course, quite illegal at that time.  And it is rather funny that by that point Shoffer still didn't catch on that "Mr. North" is viewed by most as being rather effeminate (due to 'he' actually being SHE, so that wasn't much of a stretch.  She probably was a rather effeminate 'man.')  Alas, Shoffer is a creature of his time, so his attitudes regarding this accusation (and the subsequent innuendos re: his own sexual orientation) are neither modern nor progressive, so "Mr. North" loses his best friend (to his female alter-egos hearbreak)...for a while.

But, like a Shakespearean comedy, all is well that ends well. More or less.

Currently Reading:
Still planning to start The Serpant Prince

Reading Next:
Don't know. 
shipperx: (OUAT Regina)
What Have You Just Finished Reading?
Since I haven't finished my current one it would be the same one as last week: The Leopard Prince

What Are You Reading Now?
The "prequel" (which isn't really a prequel but takes place earlier in the timeline with the male leads of The Leopard Prince and The Serpant Prince turning up in a couple of chapters as supporting characters -- though, again, no actual princes are involved.  The "Princes" refer to fairy tales that are explained in the books.  It's metaphorical.)  Anyway, the book I'm on is The Raven Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt

While trying to find a way to summarize, I realized that there is difficulty in summarizing something that is largely comedic in tone without it sounding somewhat ridiculous.  This plot doesn't lend itself to summary because the overall impression of the book is better than the description of its plot line would sound.  However, I think you have to be in the mood for this sort of thing and capable of reading it in a very arch, wry manner, because my favorite bits are exchanges such as this:

"...Naturally, she was relieved at this turn of events.  Wouldn't any proper lady be relieved to find that she wasn't going to be ravished by a demon earl?

She was debating how a proper lady would present herself at a demon earl's bedroom for ravishment when there was a knock..."

And the author's website has some snippet 'extras' (okay, let's admit that she's writing her own fanfic) that she clearly generated to amuse herself which shows the generally wry tone of the book:

The author is the goddess of her made-up world. Everything in it—from the characters to the story to the settings—come from her imagination alone. Therefore, she should be solely in control of everything that happens in her book.

Or that’s the theory anyway.

“I don’t think so,” Edward drawled. He’s the hero of my book. Edward was leaning, legs and arms crossed, against the wall in my study. He looked very out of place in his severe black coat and waistcoat and muddy jackboots. At the moment he was frowning at me..

I’d just suggested that since his story is set in eighteenth century England he really ought to be wearing a wig.

“Have you ever worn a wig?” he inquired irritably.

I shook my head.

“They itch. Also, they get in the way when I ride and inspect crops. No wig.”

I pointed out that the wig wouldn’t get in the way if he stayed on his horse.

Edward snorted. “That’s no way to find out how the land is faring. What kind of man only rides by the crops? A silly prig, that’s what. I am not a silly prig.”

I sighed. Edward de Raaf was most definitely not a silly prig, but I thought privately that he was a stubborn ass.

“I heard that.” He glared at me.

I apologized, then tried wheedling. Your best friend, Simon Iddesleigh wears a wig.

“Ha!” Edward exclaimed. “That merely proves my point. Iddesleigh is a silly prig if I ever saw one.”

He is not! Simon is a very elegant gentleman—

“He wears red-heeled shoes, too,” Edward muttered. “I can’t think why you put him in my book in the first place.”

Well, he does help you out at a very important—

An explosive snort interrupted me. “I could have gotten out of that spot of difficulty all on my own, thank you very much.” He suddenly brightened. “Now, if you want to make your book better, you ought to look to Anna.”

Anna? What’s wrong with her?

“Nothing!” Edward glared. “Did I say there was anything wrong with Anna? Perfect in every way, and I’ll plant a fist in the face of any man who says otherwise.”

Well, then, what—?

“Anna is opinionated.”


“Too opinionated for her own good. Especially with me.” Edward leaned forward as if imparting a confidence. “Sometimes I think she enjoys arguing with me.”

So you would like me to make Anna agree with you more?

“Exactly.” Edward looked self-satisfied.

A feminine voice spoke from behind me. “I don’t think so.”

What Are You Reading Next:
Probably finish the trilogy and read The Serpant Prince.
shipperx: (OUAT Regina)
What Have You Just Finished Reading:

Elizabeth Hoyt's "The Leopard Prince" (No leopards or princes were involved in her main story.)   As per Hoyt's habit, an attached fairytale  acts as meta commentary on her non-fairytale novel  -- though this time it isn't a separate text but a story the heroine relates in pieces and parts over the course of the novel. This fairytale is of "The Leopard Prince," a heroic prisoner freed from enslavement to exploitative kings and is included as commentary on the main (non-fairytale) plot. (Side note: it continually surprises me how many people on Good Reads do not grasp that Hoyt's attached fairytales always act as commentary on her non-fairytale plots).

I tend to think that the last bit of cross-purposes in the final chapters of the novel weren't as well supported as they should've been, making them come off a bit manipulative and OTT (but relatively brief, so I shrug it off). It felt like there needed to be a bigger impetus to force such rash action. However, overall, I was charmed and liked the book.

One thing I generally like about this author is her tendency to add subplots and secondary characters.  The central mystery is simplistic and pedestrian (someone killing sheep of all things, though this escalates to a murder later in the novel.  And ultimately there are 4 {human} deaths in the novel), but I rather liked the subplot of the hero and his brother reconnecting. And the inclusion of  the subplot with the heroine's much younger sister is clearly used as comparison for contrast with the main romantic relationship with the hero and heroine.(a lantern is hung on this by both the hero and the heroine's brothers who recognize both the similarities and, more significantly, the differences in the two sisters' situations. The older sister is almost 30 and consciously chooses to embark on a relationship with her land steward. Her baby sister is 14 and seduced by a fortune hunter. In that time period, those things are considered to be much alike, but the characters recognize the there is a significant difference between a 30 year old woman choosing a relationship with a man her own age (if not her own social station) and a 14 year old girl being manipulated by a 26 year old man.

In the end, I think the biggest flaw in the novel is too little expansion on the main villain. I'm still confused by his obsession with the hero (further confusing that motivation is the hero's tortured hallucination which mixed with his memories of the heroine's fairytale, implying that... well... huh. There's love involved...? Was that what I was supposed to take from the ogre and the tin stag? Or was it just obsession coupled with the hero being insensate and near death?)At any rate, the villain may or may not be the hero's biological father (the hero's mother had been the villain's married mistress and there were no DNA tests at that time, so there's no way to know for sure).

I could've done with a bit more exploration of the villain's head space because I find it curious that the villain loathed his legitimate son (Thomas), loathed the {paternity inconclusive} hero (Harry), yet was covetous of the hero's younger brother (Bennet) {who shares a mother with the hero and... I'm unclear why Bennet's paternity would've been any more conclusive than Harry's, other than the villain acknowleging him, as it was the exact same situation all over again}) while on the other hand the villain was utterly dismissive of the existence of his youngest illegitimate child (Will) by yet another woman.

{The villain is sexually loathesome, BTW. }
Clearly class issues were involved, but given the villain's loathing of his legitimate (blue-blooded) son, it wasn't just class.   I would've liked to parse out the whys of the villain's head space a bit more.

Anyway, flaws aside, I enjoyed the book.

What Are You Reading Now:
Between Books

What Are You Reading Next:
Am considering Hoyt's "The Serpant Prince" "The Raven Prince" .  Though I may backtrack to one of the unread Milan novels.

ETA: And suddenly I can edit posts again!  Whoopee!!!  That was a really irritating LJ glitch.
shipperx: (OUAT Regina)
What Have You Just Finished Reading?
Sherry Thomas' "Not Quite A Husband":  An estranged British couple is caught in an uprising against the British in turn of the (19th to 20th) century Pakistan (though that area was part of India at that particular time).

I felt a bit 'blind' re: the locale and the political conflict of this one.  I don't know much about it, and I didn't feel that the book told me more than the very basics.  Plus, I didn't think  the locale was described well enough to 'see it' in my minds eye.  (As a kid, I remember reading 'Merlin's Keep' and being enthralled with 19th Century Tibet. I've retained some of that fascination ever since.  This book didn't bring that sense of place).  However, I did like the developmental stages of the characters' estrangement with their long term marital problems and the emotional minefield that the story navigated.  The situation effectively prevents them from running from one another (as they would've if not prevented from doing so) and forced them to depend on one another such that they actually have to reveal, discuss, and face their issues, which they never would have done otherwise.  So, while I would've liked more background, I did like the central emotional arc.

What Are You Reading Now?
The Leopard Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt

What Are You Reading Next?
Haven't thought that far ahead. 
shipperx: (Crichton - Still Have My Dignity)
I wrote up some comments recently about one of the romances that I had read and [ profile] nutmeg3 pointed out that I never gave the title of the novel.  I had to admit that I had forgotten the title of the novel.  I forget titles all the time.

Want evidence of why it's so damn easy to forget the titles?  There are two novels (that are in no way related) currently downloaded from my Audible account.

Beguiling the Beauty

* To Beguile a Beast

Gee, who could ever confuse those?

(And how often is the term 'beguile' used in everyday conversation?)
shipperx: (OUAT Regina)
What I've just finished reading:
Sherry Thomas' "Tempting the Bride"

[ profile] shadowkat67 and I have a long, spoiler-ridden talk on the subject in this post where I explain that while enjoying 95% of the book, the ending made me so angry that I didn't properly enjoy the 'happy ending.'  I'm torn by this because I'm not sure how much of that is due to the novel (I think a fairly large amount is due to the novel) and how much is baggage from BtVS, because somewhere early in the novel I was hit by the realization THEY. ARE. SPUFFY!

I don't know whether they are literally an author's Victorian AU version of Spuffy (though David, the hero, having curly blond hair that he tames with pomade along with impressive cheek bones and square jaw doesn't preclude the possibility) or whether Sherry Thomas is Spuffy fan ([ profile] shadowkat67 thinks she heard Thomas was, and since Thomas also writes urban fantasy it does seem like it could be a possibility) but the RELATIONSHIP DYNAMICS in the story are totally Spuffy.

David and Helena drive each other nuts.  They say terrible, horrible things to each other... but on some level, they enjoy the word play and one-upmanship.  David has also been in unrequited love with Helena for forever, and he ruefully admits to himself that it was unfortunate that when he fell for her way back during their teens, he had been an obnoxious snot, the kind to pull the hair of girls that he liked. However, what's long been love for him is most decidedly not for her. She has eyes only for Angel Andrew, who she fell in love with as a teenager and who she can't and/or WON'T get over (despite now being 27 years old), and despite Andrew being distinctly unavailable. David, in the interim, has adopted a dynamic of saying outrageous, cutting, and/or erotic things to her to get a rise out of her because to him it's better that she scream at him than ignore him.

So David and Helena snipe at one another even though David is always but always there for her and her family.  However in Helena's eyes, nothing David ever does is right while nothing Andrew ever does is wrong... and if it is wrong, she assumes all the blame herself and clears Andrew of any responsibility for it.

Circumstances spoiled in the discussion with [ profile] shadowkat67 follow.  David and Helena draw close under trying circumstances, he confesses his long unrequited devotion and his screwed up way of dealing with her, apologizing and changing his behavior in the process. He's honest with her about everything.  They actually fall in love and... near the end of the novel, at the drop of a hat she's offered a chance to be with Andrew and SHE LEAVES DAVID!

As I said to shadowkat, it was like Thomas gave me BtVS's Touched followed by End of Days all over again.  It goes from David beautifully attesting to unquestioned, unshakable devotion and loyalty to Helena with unprecedented closeness between them to her doing a complete 180 the next morning, regressing into a giggling teenaged version of herself at the slightest hint that she might get her 'true love' back.  All within the space of a couple of pages!  I had flashbacks to "Does it mean something" with a chaser of crypt snoggage to (hell!) space sex.  Ugh!

(Worse, in David and Helena's situation,  Helena didn't just break David's heart by doing this, when Helena did her abrupt 180 she  emotionally devastated David's special needs daughter by walking out as well.)

After that, I was so angry with Helena that I had difficulty accepting that she got her 'happy ending' simply by realizing that she was nuts to have turned her back on David in the present to go running after Andrew in an effort to recapture a teenaged dream.  David had given her total honesty and his his heart and she (yet, yet, yet again) chose to go running to a deluded fantasy that she should have spanked her inner moppet over years earlier.  Her doing so at that very late point in the story basically made it impossible for me to say 'yay, she came back!"  Because at the relationship stage where she pulled the rug out from under David, what she did amounted to an untenable rejection of someone she claims (albeit belatedly) to love. It was a bridge too far.

At any rate, for all the good parts of the book, the ending was too rushed after having carried Helena's obsession with Andrew too damn far to simply shrug off with David being willing to accept Helena's too damn late ILU as being better than never.

What Are You Reading Now:
Nothing at the moment

What Are You Reading Next:
Don't know. I'm still considering Nalini Singh's urban fantasy series with vampire hunters, vampires and arch angels.  It looks like it might be enjoyable.
shipperx: (Farscape - I Just Want to Save me)
What I've just finished reading:

Unclaimed by Courtney Milan

It's a gender swap of 'the rake and the innocent redeeming angel' trope with a Dangerous Liasons-like premise of a courtesan playing the Valmont role of accepting a wager to seduce an undisputed paragon of honor and virtue. (And while writing that down, I suddenly understand why there needed to be a duel near the end).

I was wary of the premise but intrigued. After reading the previous book in the trilogy, I wanted to know 'what happened next' enough that I dove right in to the second. I ended up loving "Unclaimed".  It does a good job of showing what's so appealing about the trope (the scene where the hero chooses to lose his virginity to the heroine is moving and beautiful. She'd be soul-dead if she hadn't fallen in love with him by then) and where the trope falls apart (As wonderful as love may be, it doesn't 'fix' you.'  One person cannot 'save' another. Someone else does not redeem your weaknesses.  YOU have to do that.)

I was discombobulated by the ending during the first read because it felt like it should have ended a couple of chapters earlier. Traditionally it would have.  Why tear them apart after what would usually be the denouement?  But re-reading the last few chapters, I was so very wrong.  It had to go that way.  The second part was important.  I was missing the bigger picture (made more clear by reading the entire trilogy, because the trilogy makes this point again and again):  Love, as wonderful as it is, as redeeming as it may be, does not 'fix' things. The only person who can do that is you.

So even after the couple confessed mutual love and tried to make a go of it, things fell apart.  But... it would have, wouldn't it?  Her self-esteem issues were real, her hurts were huge, and her coping patterns well established.   There was a point where the hero's middle brother told the heroine that she displayed the decision-making skills of a lizard.  She was offended.  Who wouldn't be?  He tells her that she misunderstood him.  He wasn't saying that lizards were unintelligent. Their behavior makes perfect sense.  When presented with danger, they run. That's what he did, and what she did too.

That was why what would traditionally be the point of 'happily ever after' wasn't in the novel.  Yes, yes, the hero and heroine  loved one another. They truly did.  And yes, the hero had confronted the villain.   And, no, that wasn't the ending, because you cannot 'fix' someone else.  Love -- while wonderful -- doesn't do that.  At least not love alone.  You cannot (truly) 'rescue' another person, not from themselves.  It's actually quite patronizing to think that you can.  In the first read, I was as despairing as the exhausted hero when he realized the truth of that.  The same scenario would just keep happening again and again because he couldn't make things okay for her.

SHE has to vanquish her demonsvillains.   She has to reclaim herself.  If someone is going to fight for her honor, it is going to be her.

I don't remember the exact quote, so this is only an approximation, but I loved the moment when the hero said that he couldn't be her white knight because (paraphrase) "You have always been your own knight, riding to your own rescue.  I'm just the man lucky enough to admire how you shine (Love him!)

ETA: Passage from the book:

He took a step closer to her. "I promised you once that I would be your knight, willing to do battle for you. But I don't think that's what you need of me. You've always been your own knight," he said, "riding to your rescue. I'm just the man who came along and saw how brightly your armor shone." [/ETA]

It's the second book in the Turner Brother trilogy, and I think it may be best to read the trilogy in order because it's developing characters and themes along the way. It works alone, but much better in context (and the only way to get the full breadth of the characters is to read the various POVs of all three brothers.)

But, yeah, this novel worked for me.  It worked for me quite well.

What are you reading now?
Nothing.  I'm contemplating.  I'm a bit angsted out.

What are you reading next?
Don't know.
shipperx: (OUAT Regina)
Still on my reading binge, and was awake entirely too late last night to finish a novel.

It was another Courtney Milan, so I guess I got my wind back up for angst again after having read several novels of the bubbly variety. Read more... )

Despite a slow start and some quibbles about what were most probably publisher guidelines, as well as trope problems of secrets not told when they damn well should have been told and characters sticking to plans that should have long  been abandoned,  that heartwrenching mid-book scene made the book a keeper for me.  It made me love the leads despite their flaws (of which there were many) and their moments of willfuly blind stupidity  (Seriously, if the heroine's secret had been any more obvious, the hero would have been buried under a pile of anvils.  That said, I believe it's intended to come off as Buffy Summers-like levels of Herculean denial rather than outright stupidity.  They know the truth, they just don't want to admit it to themselves (the scene where one brother asks the other doesn't he WANT to know and the hero says "only when she tells me" is the tip off to that, I think).  So the hero willfully ignores every anvil that drops directly on his head  (hell, it's not just him.  I think every character in the book has serious issues with denial.  That was my read anyway.)   But because it read as the emtional hang-ups of the characters, I accept these problems not as  evidence of a lack of intelligence but of employment of psychological coping mechanisms... probably because the characters made me love them (while wanting to shake them.).

The novel also did the job of making me go ahead and buy the sequel with the youngest brother that I would not have read otherwise (don't care for the blurb.) I want to know more about the family.
shipperx: (OUAT Regina)
What Are You Reading Now:
Err...  I suppose  'technically' I'm still 'reading' the Pretty Pink Princess romance in that I have not finished it.  But I'm not actively reading it either.

What Have You Just Finished Reading:
Mr. Impossible by Loretta Chase
It was a fun read.

It takes place during the rise of Egyptology in England and France but prior to hieroglyphics actually being deciphered (this is a significant plot point).  The heroine is a widow who is highly skilled in linguistics and who wishes to decipher hieroglyphs.  Her late husband was both intimidated by and jealous of her skills and aptitude and he seems to have been quite the misogynist who did a heinous number on her head, making her feel that both her intellect and her skills were unfeminine and undesirable.  Luckily, he died and left her lots of money, so she headed to Egypt and began publishing her work under her brother's name.

When her brother disappears (is kidnapped) at Giza, she approaches the British consulate about finding him. No one there takes her seriously and they basically dismiss her until someone hits upon the idea that she can take the troublesome son of an English lord off their hands, giving him something to do far away from the consulate.

What follows is a romp through pyramids, tombs, temples, and sand storms as well as a trip up the Nile with villains on their tail, as the heroine and hero seek to find and rescue her brother.  In the meantime, the troublesome hero begins to find a purpose while the heroine rediscovers her confidence, because this leading man LIKES that she's smart and determined.

It's a light read, and the hero could've stood a tad more development (though he is generally adorable.  Impossible and exasperating but also quite likable.). The heroine has a strong presence and is quite developed.   Though it has all the dramatic weight of say... "The Mummy" (Brendan Fraser version)... it's a fun read.

What Are You Reading Next:
Absolutely no idea.

Though I was toying with reading The Monuments Men before the Clooney movie came out and I saw a review on Smart Bitches for an urban fantasy novel involving archangels that might be intriguing.  But truthfully, I just don't know.
shipperx: (OUAT Regina)
So I hit "Good Reads" to read some book reviews and it's a singularly strange experience sometimes to realize how much tastes differ.

I ran across one scathing review of Judith Ivory's "The Proposition."  I actually enjoyed that book... though of course, it wasn't perfect. There were legitimate criticisms that could be made of it.  For instance, the ending truly is pure deus ex machina and I can easily see how that could annoy someone (I personally just shrugged that part off.  a) Because it's a romance and a 'happily ever after' has to occur somehow and b) because the whole thing is a gender swapped "My Fair Lady"  so there's an almost fairytale-esque aspect to it. Deus ex machina away.  As long as it is enjoyable, I'm game.

So, when I saw a scathing 1-star review, I figure that it's going to be about the deus ex machina conclusion that, admittedly, is both unlikely and too easy (and I didn't care that it was.  I prefer the fairytale-esque happy ending).  However, I don't even know whether the reviewer got as far as complaining about the ending because the reviewer hated everything about the entire novel. She hated the BLURB SUMMARY of the novel, saying that it wasn't something she wanted to read (at which point I wondered why she had read it) and that she hated everything about the story and its leads, who spend entirely too much time in their heads. I could only go, wow, do we have different tastes (and I thought the 'time in their heads' was 'character development').

Also, over the last decade I've seen a bazillion recs for Loretta Chase's "Lord of Scoundrels" claiming it's the best thing ever.  And, honestly, it may well be.  I don't know.  I've never read it.   I enjoyed Loretta Chase's "Mr. Impossible" quite a bit, so I can see how it could be a highly enjoyable book.  Still, every time I try to convince myself to read "Lord of Scoundrels", I read the summary and the whole 'dissolute rake' thing puts me off.  Plus, the summary seems to imply that it may go down the well-worn path of 'bitter alpha hero has all the power and treats the heroine like crap.'  The reviews on Amazon and Good Reads, no matter how glowing, never assure me that this isn't the story and so I always hesitate to commit to purchase  (that said "Mr. Impossible"'s blurb reads like its hero fits the  'dissolute rake' template and the actual character in the novel doesn't.  He's just an impulsive, funny, 19th century slacker.  He's neither dissolute nor particularly rakish, just constantly getting himself into scrapes due to a good heart and irrepressible sense of humor.  That's the sort of hero that I can often enjoy.  And, here's the thing -- both Ivory's "The Proposition" and Chase's "Mr. Impossible" share heroes who DO NOT BROOD and ARE NOT ANGST RIDDEN.  I often gravitate towards those.)

I'm not judging the quality of Chase's "Lord of Scoundrels" (again, I have not read it).  It's just that I never quite get around to reading it because it sounds like it may live in an area of tropes that are not my usual preference.  (And please tell me if the reviews are misleading and it isn't a dissolute brooding rake who behaves like a dick and treats the heroine like crap.  It's always been praised, so if it's not that, I might want to read it. I'm not constitutionally resistant to angst or to damaged heroes, it's just that it will then heavily depend on execution.).

It's somewhat surprising to realize that people really, truly WANT different things from a story.   And I do think that's what it tends to boil down to in the end. [ profile] shadowkat67 even mentioned some people on Good Reads hating Sherry Thomas' "His at Night," which I thought quite fun  (again, not perfect. Plenty of valid criticisms, but mostly fun), so I do know that sometimes it's just that people react and interpret differently.

It's funny sometimes to realize that though we may read the same book, rarely do we read the same books in the exact same way.  One person's "ooooh, I likey!"  is another's "WTF is this?!"
shipperx: (Farscape - Aeryn D'Argo Bored)
Does it seem like winter has been going on forever?

While the South can definitely get cold, usually you can depend on it being very temporary and quickly turning back to moderate temperatures. This winters's cold seems ongoing. Between the gray and the cold, I'm beginning to feel very cooped up. The dog doesn't even like to walk when it's gray and cold. She starts dragging me back towards the house once we reach the end of the block.
*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Briefly went shopping on Saturday. Despite the cold, I thought it might be a good time to coat shop, as this time of year is when they go on sale. I was looking at a fitted insulated North Face jacket and seriously considered buying, but looking at the website, the complaint about it was that it wasn't as warm as you would think. I have enough light jackets and was looking for a warm one, so I'm not sure I'm willing to pay for one that looks good but isn't considered to be particularly warm.

I also bought yet another pair of Sketcher 'Go Walks'. I already own two pair, but I wear those walking shoes to death. The blue ones are practically mesh, open air, and summer weight, so I'm not wearing those these days (and I had already done a LOT of wear on them). I have black ones that I'm wearing these days. I've also worn those to death over the winter. They are beginning to suffer from the wear, so when I saw that 'Go Walks' were on sale the other day I bought some gray ones. They're just walking shoes, but they are truly the most comfortable shoes I've ever owned... which is why I now have three pairs (though of different summer/winter weights).

* * * * * * *

Most constructive thing I did this weekend was make chili. With the cold and the gray, it seemed apropos for the weather. Turned out pretty good.

* * * * * * *
Nothing has been on TV.

Well, Downton was on TV. Okay episode but nothing earth shattering. Don't care how Anna's story has turned into her husband's story. Did enjoy Branson mentioning his discomfort in how he's gone from 'uppity chauffeur' and socialist to something not too far removed from the Grantham's pet (he didn't phrase it like that. I did. But... yeah) And I liked Lord Grantham's petulant announcement that he didn't want Branson to go and his dreams of Branson's daughter growing up as the almost-sister of Lady Mary's son. Lord Grantham may be a twat and an idiot with finances, but he isn't all bad. :)

Other than Downton, TV is pretty thin right now (Once Upon a Time, I want you back from hiatus. And GOT, start airing already!)

Finally got around to seeing Iron Man 3. Liked it better than Iron Man 2, which I found to be boring and a complete waste of time. Iron Man 3 was enjoyable. RDJ looked good and was quite funny. And I liked the switcheroo with Pepper Potts (which was totally obvious, but I liked it anyway), so all in all not bad... for a superhero movie (of which I'm not the worlds biggest fan).

* * * * * * *

Other than that, I'm still in the fluff book territory. I seem to have swum to the edge of the angst pool, as the last two weren't particularly angsty(and I'm A-okay with that.)

[ profile] shadowkat67 mentioned having Zoe Archer's Sweet Revenge on her to-read list and the kindle blurb for it interested me. I've read about 70%+/- of it now.

It's a Victorian era story about an escaped convict seeking revenge on the titled Lord who murdered his sister. The convict runs into a group of covert 'agents' for Nemesis, a Robin Hood-esque organization seeking justice for those who can't get justice in a rigged class system that favors the titled and the wealthy. Like Jack (the hero), Nemesis is also after the titled Lord. And there is a particular female Nemesis agent that Jack finds incredibly attractive.

While packaged as a romance novel, it really isn't all that romance novel-y. It's more of an action adventure caper with a romantic subplot. Sort of "Leverage" meets "Ripper Street" (with perhaps a tiny pinch of "Inglorious Basterds"), and should probably be approached with that attitude because it's rather implausbile that in the Dickens era a Whitechapel street thug/convict such as Jack would turn out to be as...well... as nice as Jack turns out to be. Probably not as literate either. They don't play him as educated or anything, but an orphaned guttersnipe son of a prostitute from Whitechapel during the age of Ripper would most likely be unable to read. Jack can. And he's canny too. His 'roughness' seems primarily to be his boxing and his vulgar language. Everything else about him is surprisingly civilized. At any rate, the hero (who is the primary POV character) is quite likable. Though they go overboard mentioning how HUGE he is. It's like he's The Hulk or something.

The primary weakness in the novel (to me at any rate) has been a failure to explain (at least to the point that I've read) some unelaborated aspects of the heroine. Like I said, the primary POV is Jack, and Jack finds Nemesis agent Eva to be mysterious (and with her cultured speech and clothing, exotic for the likes of him), meaning that he and the reader aren't always privy to everything that makes Eva tick. (Although it strikes me on thought as a bit of a gender reversal in that Eva is written in a way that heroes are sometimes written.  In traditional formats, heroes are often elusive in the heroine's POV.  This sort of flips that equation). For instance, what turned Eva, the daughter of missionaries, into such a sexually liberated Victorian? I got the explanation for how she went from frustrated missionary into the Robin Hood-esque aspects of Nemesis, but she is anachronistically liberated where sex is concerned (which, there are worse flaws for a story to have, so it's not much of a complaint. More of a curiosity.) At any rate, Eva is likable, smart, and kicks ass (and is anachronistically modern.)

Because of the missing bits of Eva's psychology (at least to the point where I've read, it hasn't yet been explained) I don't quite grasp her romantic obstacle with Jack. They seem perfect as Nemesis spy-partners with benefits. Plus, Jack seems a made to order Nemesis recruit. AND (though it's still unsaid) it's pretty clear that they both fell ass over teakettle for one another... so why can't they just stay together once the 'mission' is done? (It's a romance novel, so I assume that in the end they will, but Eva in particular behaves as though there's no possibility for that to happen, and I'm still unclear as to WHY she continues to think so.)

At any rate, it's action-filled and caperesque. Likable leads. Fun, not too angsty, and explicit.

* * * * * * *

I also read Sherry Thomas' "His at Night". Like the reviewer at Smart Bitches I had a thing for the Scarlet Pimpernel when I was growing up.  (They seek him here.  They seek him there.  Those Frenchies seek him everywhere.  Is he in heaven or is he in hell, that demmed elusive Pimpernel...)  So, yeah, I'm a prime audience for a rif on this sort of story motif.   In this case it's the very late Victorian era (in fact it seemed like the late 1890s.  I never look at the dates, but it felt like it was pushing 1900), so no French Revolution.  Just an 'agent for the crown' who seemed to be covertly Sherlock Holmes while pretending to be... well, they talk about him as having suffered a brain injury in a fall from a horse (which was his cover story for having become 'less' than when he was a teen) but honestly, his covert identity seemed rather Big Bang Theory Sheldon Cooper-like.  He's on a case and in his Sheldon-like identity when he runs into the heroine.

The heroine is trapped in an abusive household.  Her uncle, the villain the hero is investigating, is coldly menacing.  And, while the heroine wants to escape, and even ran away once, she's unwilling to leave her Aunt, a laudenum addict, behind in her uncle's clutches, so she's trying to formulate a plan when the hero falls into her lap.  She decides that if she can somehow trap/force him  into marrying her, that not only can she escape from her uncle but she can get her aunt out as well.  Of course the 'addled' hero she wants to manipulate isn't really addled, so it becomes a duel of scheming...such that the heroine  catches onto the fact that the hero is not what he pretends to be.

Less angsty than some of Thomas' work (not totally without angst, but not overly burdened).  Fun hero and heroine.  (Though the hero is mystifyingly self-destructive a couple of times) but overall enjoyable.
shipperx: (OUAT Regina)
I'm reduced to hate-listening to the audible romance novel I mentioned yesterday.

I swear to god, the pretty pink princess heroine...

 Reads Greek, Latin, French, Italian, Shakespeare, Decartes, the Aenid, Austen,... and loves art, architecture, history and mathematics... and is versed flower arranging, sewing, cookery, and gardening... and is brilliant, humble, demur... and is generous,  kind and selfless... and  is beloved by all servants and in-laws alike (though not her family.  Of course.). .. and is almost preternaturally gifted with animals... AND LITERALLY RESCUES PUPPIES AND DROWNED KITTENS, and is generally -- and in almost every way -- perfect.

And also the unappreciated ugly duckling to her beautiful, diamond of the first water IDENTICAL TWIN SISTER. I'm not entirely sure how one becomes the ugly duckling to one's very own IDENTICAL twin, but she's managed to do it.

Dear lord, I think I hate her. The 'hero' is still nothing but a distant amalgam of cliches (though he REEKS of sexist bullshit) but on the whole isn't involving enough to drive me to dreams of unicorn goring (though I would not object to it).  The pretty pink princess on the other hand...  Dear lord.
shipperx: (Farscape - happy Aeryn/Crichton)
- I wish Tom Branson had a better storyline on Downton Abbey. I really didn't care for this one. Also, I feel for poor Edith. Matthew is barely in the ground and already Mary's parents are trying to match her up. Edith got left at the altar last year and it was "poor Edith. No one will ever want her." Poor Edith, indeed. Poor Edith for a family that doesn't value her worth squat.

- Watched Oblivion with Tom Cruise. The guy is certainly batty, but he is quite photogenic. That said, the movie struck me as the epitome of how female characters are there to not be people in their own right but generic love interests. His 'wife' in the movie never even had a personality. Barely said anything. And yet was supposed to be this stupefyingly important true love. Erm... guys, how about actually giving her something to DO rather than be a goal and object?

Further causing me to tilt my head and wonder was the final act/twist/revelation. It made me miss Farscape. Farscape did it FAR BETTER. No one anytime ever would accuse Aeryn Sun of only being a movable object. She was a person in her own right and her being so is what carried what is in fact a very similar story point.

So, in total, Oblivion is a relatively enjoyable (if totally formulaic) movie but, no bones about it, Season 3 Farscape is infinitely better.

- Read Sherry Thomas' "Luckiest Lady in London." Eh. No real complaints about the book, really. (Well, yeah, I could make a few but why bother?) Sometimes it's not a matter of how 'well' someone writes or doesn't. It's a matter of whether they emotionally connect with the reader (or at least THIS reader). I can tolerate typos and poor punctuation in service of an involving story. That may not make me the most discerning reader, but it's the way that I roll. I remained rather detached from this one. The only particularly strong emotion it ever stirred in me was one small 'hell yeah' to the heroine when the hero confessed that he loved her and she stepped back and told him that his 'love' was stunningly selfish, always about what he wanted or needed. If she'd turned around and thrown herself into his arms after that love confession, I probably would've had a strong reaction to the novel (throwing it across the room). But, luckily, she didn't. Another act followed. So in the end, I was "eh. Okay, by the end." Other than that I remained emotionally detached.

I guess it again goes back to story kinks. There was definitely some heat in this one, and nothing was 'wrong' with it per se. But... eh. I didn't really connect. (I liked Thomas's brief novella "Dance in Moonlight" better. Far more brief and rushed, and yet it reached me far more than this full length book.)

May be burning out on romances now. I've had a few questionable quality that I loved, one or two I thought were quite good, and a couple of "eh, not really what I would've prefered." I tend to be an eclectic reader, so I may be back on history or science or comedy or science fiction again next week.
shipperx: (BtVS: S8)
Strange what we ship and the characters that we like. I think it's far more than the characters themselves but the hot button issues they hit within us.

And strange that when reading one thing, it makes me think of unrelated issues.

Anyway, I've been continuing the romance novel binge. Several Courtney Milan's are now under my belt (that writer likes her angst. Oh my. I'm going to have to find something decidedly more fluffy soon). Anyway when finishing up one of them last night, I had the stray thought about how post-BtVS comics/Season 8 Angel is intolerable to me, now. I don't think I can root for him any more. I don't think I LIKE him any longer.

I'll get to what brought about the thought in a bit, but before I do, I want to stress that I did not always feel this way about the character of Angel. I really loved the character of Angel once. Even on those times when I didn't, I liked him as a complicated, conflicted character. I'm not saying that for 'cred', I just honestly did like the goofy, Mandy-singing, doomed, burdened Angel who wanted to be a hero. That character from the show had flaws but I LIKED him. Despite the occasional irritations, I rooted for him.

So, what brought on the thought.Read more... )
shipperx: (OUAT Regina)
What Are You Reading Wednesday Meme

What I just finished reading:
As I mentioned the other day in this post, I've been on a mid-gray too-damn-cold winter I-need-fluff romance novel kick, polishing off not one but two Sue London romances last weekend (some joyous bicker/banter, a little trope subversion, and a happy ending were what I was craving.)

Following recs made in the comments of  that post, last night  I downloaded a Courtney Milan short novella, The Governess Affair, polishing it off in a couple of hours. It was more sad than the Sue London books I read over the weekend. It had a more sad premise than those.

Here, the heroine was a governess who was raped by a titled houseguest during a house party (shades of Downton Abbey. Digression: why do does Downton HAVE house party's when someone is always being raped during one? They've had two and... well... Arguments persist on what exactly happened to Lady Mary way back when, and then more recently... ugh) Anyway, the poor violated governess lost her job and got slut shamed and it's all back story but incredibly sad. Haunted by it, she decided to win back some part of herself by forcing the S.O.B. to admit what he had done to her. (This is no 'bodice-ripper.' The rape is taken seriously. It was a violation, and she is written as a rape survivor.) The titled rapist in question appoints his 'man of business' to get rid of her no matter what it took (without telling the man of business what the bastard had done to her). And, the man of business falls in love with her instead.

It seems to have been a prequel to a novel series which I've now picked up.

What I'm reading now:
The novels that follow the Courtney Milan novella prequel mentioned above. "The Duchess War" and "The Heiress Effect"..

What I'm reading next:
 Have not thought that far ahead.
shipperx: (Elizabeth and Dudley)
Once upon a time, I used to read romance novels fairly regularly. I'm not sure exactly what happened (probably life), but somehow I read fewer and fewer and then for the past decade or more, virtually none. Over the holidays I got the urge, but it wasn't as easy as it should have been. I'm not sure whether the industry has strayed from the ones I like or whether in my years of reading them I became overly familiar with the tropes... or whether it's that I recognize the authors and pretty much know the books they each write, or I DON'T recognize the authors and have no idea what they write so I'm back to reading the blurbs.

While Kindle browsing, I noticed there's now a whole division of "billionaire" romances which... no thanks. I know I'm judging books by their covers (which we're not supposed to do) but the combo of cover and blurb made it unappealing. I mean, the truth is, most billionaires are entitled assholes (truthfully, how many people make a billion dollars without exploiting the hell out of something or someone? I'm betting it's significantly less than 10%) And it feels like it may be a '50 Shades of Gray' trend which -- HELL NO.

My problem with urban fantasy romance is...why bother? I read BtVS fanfic if I'm in that mood. It's free and scratches the exact same itch (plus, Spike) And in the non-romance Urban fantasy I read Dresden Files, so I'm covered.

I don't want to read about Afghanistan or Iraq, so I shy from soldier-mances. Cowboys are not my kink (I can read it, but... not my kink.) Neither are bodyguards and various and sundry 'agents'. (I'm always persuadable by a good book, but they don't really jump out as 'my thing.')

PWP erotica are only worth bothering with for short stories. They run thin on plot, so when stretched to novel length tend to become repetitive and dull (or become 50 Shades of Grey and... lets just stick to short stories, okay.)

Gee, with all of these 'don't likes' I'm beginning to understand how I wandered from the genre. I seem to have a very specific 'type' and even in that 'type' I've worn out my rut and my romance author lists.

So poking around, I ended up doing Kindle's 'download a sample' option to see whether any samples would pull me in. I did the same last month and got one that, while it subverted some tropes (something I remain fond of), I remained both bored and detached. Since the purpose of a romance is to play the emotions, remaining overly detached is pretty much a fail, even if there's some interesting trope subversion going on. This weekend I lucked out, finding a sample/new author that hit my "likes" (which as you can see from the stuff written above is trick in itself. Hey, we like what we like! Might not suit everyone, but WTH). I liked it so much I immediately read its spin-off/sequel which, while not quite as good was still pretty darn enjoyable.

What I like? Likeable leads, UST/sexual tension being well-paced (bodice ripping quasi-rape non-con does not apply), humor/wit, and potential for a functional pairing once all the obstacles to true love are overcome.

Got it. I think the part where I decided I really liked this one was after the "Oh no, we're going to have to marry to avoid a scandal" bit (it was a Regency romance, BTW), I had the idle thought of "Bejeebus, please, please, please no bodice ripping 'have to consummate the marriage that night or else' non-sense!", only for the hero to think (in less modern terms) "this marriage is for the rest of my life, there's no rush, and we have chemistry. We'll get there. Give her time to figure out what she wants" and-- bingo! I'm in. It worked quite well for the UST/sexual tension of the story too. It even got funny/fun when it reached the point that what was holding the 'event' up was that there was a certain degree of awkwardness in formalizing the whole thing that way.

Anyway, it was nicely done such that there was a nice build-up, some UST, and when they did get around to it, it was hot and consensual.

I also liked what became an obstacle in the last part of the book.Read more... )

And if the first book ended with a bit of gender-reversal, the spin-off/sequel book with best friend of the first book's hero falling for the best friend of the first book's heroine became gender reversal of the Katniss Everdeen/Peeta Melark proportions. Seriously, Book II hero was very beta. Sort of William the Bloody (non-vampire version) and poet John Keats in the movie "Bright Star" (which is a nice if sad movie BTW).

And serious trope subversion.It's not every day that you run across a thirty-year-old male virgin hero (it rather makes sense, though when you get the whole picture) or when the 'deed' does not go as well the first time and the hero/heroine have to experiment to get it right. (The scene where the hero seeks advice from the hero of the first book is pretty damn funny.)

I also liked that the author clearly put thought into back story and motivation. Even though it is never spelled out per-se, after reading the first two novels, it's pretty easy to figure out what the past falling out between Book 1 hero and Book 2 hero was about. Ostensibly it had been about Book 1 hero quashing the bill for women's rights in Parliament a few years earlier. Book 2 hero is... quite the apocryphal liberal feminist BTW. But, as all things are, it's not really about that. It's about why each hero felt the way that they did about the subjectwith Book 1's hero having women issues based on his flighty, difficult mother and Book 2's hero has... far more issues based his father being a Bolton sadistic bastard who had put the hero's mother 'aside' with the mother having had no rights to her own child, and the hero having grown up motherless until his father's death, when he discovered that his mother wasn't dead after all. His father being a Bolton sick pervert, is why the hero is the way that he is as well.

And it was pretty transparent that the hero of the forthcoming third novel was most likely set up in this book. The Book 2 heroine's brother had issues with the Book 2 hero that, it's pretty obvious had to do with both of their fathers being bastards of the first sick order (it being a Regency, yes, a "Hellfire Club" is involved.) Book 2 hero having be deemed by his father as 'too soft' to have been drafted as next generation member whereas forthcoming Book 3's hero seems to have at least gone to an initiation only to learn that it was Bastard Bolton level yick and revolted. Forthcoming Book 3 hero seemingly had issues with Book 2 hero being so clearly above reproach, bitterly referring to Book 2 hero as an 'angel' and...well... there was more. I wouldn't blame Book 2 hero for being long-time pissed at one upcoming book 3 hero. But I'm willing to bet that the underlying resentment from Book 3 hero is that he wonders why he was drafted. He's going to have some angst about some inherent inner flaw that made him darker otherwise wouldn't he have been deemed 'too soft' for this as well. That seems the most likely cause for his resentment of the "angel."

And all this discussion makes it sound very hero oriented, but the female heroines are both smart and self-motivated. They were both likable and perhaps a bit too versed with weapons. :)

Anyway, I read not one but two romances this weekend. It's been quite a while since I've done that, but I did enjoy it (though I preferred the book 1 pairing. It was a bit more quippy-bicker-banter and hotter. Book 2 had more trope subverting, but, while the hero was lovable, it was rather less "hot."

ETA: And Nutmeg pointed out I never gave name or title. The books were by Sue London. The first had Artemis in the title, the second Athena. I'd be more specific, but it was generic enough not to stick in my mind, though the books themselves are quite enjoyable. She only has three books listed on Amazon. Downloaded the third last night, which is apparently a "downstairs" romance involving the butler (I vaguely remember the first book's hero mentioning that Dibbs the elder is the butler on the family estate and Dibbs the younger the butler 'in town,' so I'm assuming the romance is Dibbs the younger.) Hey, its the season for "Downton Abbey" so I'm game.
shipperx: (Chrstimas - Balls!)
Reading List from 2013

The 20 Books I Read This Year )
shipperx: (GOT: Dany)
What Are You Reading Wednesday Meme (except it's Thursday. But, whatever.)

What Have I Just Finished I Am Still Reading:

The Plantagenets by Dan Jones

What Am I Currently Reading:

The Genius of Dogs by Brian Hare

(Partial) Good Reads Summary:

Brian Hare, evolutionary anthropologist and founder of the Duke Canine Cognition Center, offers revolutionary new insights into dog intelligence and the interior lives of our smartest pets.

In the past decade, we have learned more about how dogs think than in the last century. Breakthroughs in cognitive science, pioneered by Brian Hare have proven dogs have a kind of genius for getting along with people that is unique in the animal kingdom.

Brian Hare's stunning discovery is that when dogs domesticated themselves somewhere around 40,000 years ago, they became far more like human infants than their wolf ancestors...

My inner geek is really enjoying this book. So much fun and interesting science!

Er... it is much more of a science book than a warm and fuzzy pet book (though clearly this scientist loves animals).

Though I never knew his name, I had heard of the author's initial study that took him down this pathway. The study was an unexpected detour from an initial study of chimpanzees and their cognition. The researchers were running a study as to whether chimpanzees would pick up cues from humans, did they interpret gestures as a way to help them solve a problem (in this case, pointing to hidden food). After many repeated tries the chimps simply did. not. pick up on the human cues. During this study a grad student (Hare, it seems) piped up, "My dog can do that." Head researcher was skeptical (after all chimps are smarter than dogs). Look, everyone loves their dog, but...

No, Hare insisted, his dog could do that. And he went home and taped an experiment that proved that he could.

And Hare's dog is not unique. Dogs can do that. Dogs can do that all day. Dogs can do that as tiny puppies, and they can do that whether they have been human-raised or not. It's an innate skill. An innate skill that is not shared by wolves, coyettes, wild foxes, etc. In fact, this is an extradordinarily rare skill. So rare, in fact, that it's mostly confined to humans, dogs, bonobos, and some very specific, special foxes.

What follows is an explanation of the following years of research Hare has put into these questions (researching infants, dogs, wolves, bonobos, foxes, etc.). By some tests dogs are not as smart as chimps, bonobos, dolphins, etc. (and in some specific areas wolves or even rats), but in other areas... dogs are extraordinary.

He begins with the "My dog can do that" story and of where that research has led. Dogs are incredibly skilled in their interaction with humans. Not only can they understand the pointing gesture, they also understand a whole host of social interaction cues, and they are quite good at understanding language. They can learn hundreds of words, and can make leaps of understanding based on inference (which came as a surprise), and of categorization (an even larger one). They can take a symbol and translate what that means in the real world (show them the picture of a toy and they can go get the actual toy for you).

When studying wolves (dog's closest genetic relative), wolves do not have this skillset. And hand-raising/taming them does not aid them in acquiring it. These traits, along with others, seem to be a result of domestication.

The special and specific foxes in question are ones that have been part of a 50 year research project in Russia (taken, at times, at some degree of danger to the scientist. That was an interesting part of the story in itself). The Russian researcher wanted to study the process of domestication, taking a control group of foxes, half of which were mated at random the other half specifically chosen from the 10% of the most docile, least fearful animals. Over the subsequent 50 generations of animals, significant changes have occured in the non-control group. Not just one change, but a whole host of them occurring together. Not only did the foxes become less aggressive, they became increasingly more dog-like (growing smaller and more 'adolescent'-like as well), and there were cognitive changes too.

There's also a section on chimpanzees and their behavior (which in the wild, biologically favors the aggressive) versus Bonobos (used to be called pygmee chimpanzees) which are a far less aggressive animal, far more social... and smaller and more adolescent-like. Hare refers to bonobos as being 'self-domesticated'. In that in wild chimpazee cultures, it is the aggressiveness of the males which is the overriding evolutionary pressure. Only the most aggressive chimpanzees can mate as they will murder male competition and the murdered males' offspring ('taking' the females in the process. Punishing females who do not comply.) By contrast evolutionary pressure in the bonobo population is towards less aggression as it is a female-dominant culture. Female bonobos protect one another. This group social construct has resulted in their choosing their own mates rather than simply being overpowered...and they choose less agressive males, with a non-aggressiveness becoming a strong evolutionary pressure within their numbers. Within their species, many of the differences between bonobos and chimpanzees are somewhat equivalent to the differences between dogs and wolves.

Hare goes on with his theory of the domestication of dogs (theorizing that they were to some degree self-domesticated, which subsequently allowed enough interaction with humans to become fully so). More, he theorizes that it wasn't just a one way street, that interaction/tolerance of dogs also aided in domesticating us (though we're partially self-domesticated as well) isasmuch as having dogs around for hunting and protection was an evolutionary boon -- in the form of aiding survival -- to the dog-tolerating/socializing homo sapiens.

Haven't finished the book yet, but it's been interesting so far, both in the studies of various forms of cognition in a variety of animals, as well as the evolutionary anthropology involved. I've liked it. If you're science-nerdy or animal loving science nerdy it's a pretty good book.

January 2017

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