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Carrie Lofty

What Jayne has been reading and watching in early October

What Jayne has been reading and watching in early October

A lot of my time the past week or so has been taken up with washing machine repairs and acclimating my new kittens to their new home. Guess which has been more fun. But I have gotten a little reading and movie watching squeezed in now and then.

Flawless by Carrie Lofty – A book about a bastard heroine involved in the diamond trade in south Africa in the late 19th century. How more interesting can a premise be? Not much in my opinion which makes the fact that I gave up 150 pages into the story that much more disappointing. Lust, lust, lusting and more lust filled most of those first 150 pages and really nothing was shown of Viv’s diamond business until page 125. By that point, I found I didn’t care. Oh, and the chummy relationship the heroine and her Viscount husband appear to have with the servants aided things not at all. DNF.

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Heart Strings and Diamond Rings by Jane Graves – Funny, filled with realistic dialog and featuring four cats. I went into it with no expectations but had a lot of fun reading this one. Enough fun that I plan to go back and read the preceding books at some point. Full review to come.

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Lawman by Laurie Grant – This is another Harlequin Treasury reissue. It’s 1869 Texas and Cal Devlin is finally returning to the hometown he left to fight for the Union. Livy Gillespie is the girl who not only didn’t wait for him but who ordered him off when she learned whom he would fight for. Now they’re both older, wiser and scarred from what happened in the years between. This is a slower paced book from 1997 and one which, after I got used to that, I found myself enjoying. Full review to come.

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Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey – Darlynne mentioned this novel in our last Open Thread for Readers and the excerpt she provided got me to try it. Stark (called Sandman Slim while he was “Downtown”) is back from 11 years in hell, literally, and he’s out for revenge against his former friends who sent him there and specifically the ones who killed the only woman he’s ever loved. Fast and filled with biting humor and fantastic one liners, this one started great then wound down a little as it went on. Kadrey avoids big info dumps, allowing us to discover Stark’s world and his past as we go along which I liked. Rules for this world are laid down then broken plus all sorts of new paranormal creatures are introduced as the story goes along which I didn’t like. Also, Stark is revealed as not quite what he and we thought he was. I plan to read the next book in the series since I already have it but it will determine how much farther I go with the series – providing the series goes past two books. B

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I’m now reading the new Kathy Love paranormal Devilishly Hot, the Nora Roberts contemporary The Next Always and Addison Fox contemporary Baby It’s Cold Outside arcs. So far, I’m liking but not loving the first two and have just started the Fox but so far, so good.

*****

Paul – In my review of “Hot Fuzz,” Maili mentioned that she views that film – as compare to “Shaun of the Dead” – as an embarrassment for Pegg and Frost. It wasn’t for me but after viewing this movie, I understand what she’s saying. In “Paul,” Pegg and Frost play two Englishmen on holiday to the US. They’re SF fans and after attending Comic-Con and various SF pilgrimage sites in the US Southwest, they come across a real space alien who is running for his life from MiB. As they try and help him to reach a place where a space ship can pick him up, they run across various other characters including a Fundamentalist young woman with whom Pegg falls in love. Parts are funny but the film is overloaded with puerile humor and is obviously Out. To. Make. A. Point. about Fundamentalist Christians – who are mocked – and beer guzzling rednecks – who are humiliated. I’m far from Fundamentalist but this part went beyond any amusement. Beer guzzling rednecks, on the other hand, can be humiliated until the cows come home.

Amazon Instant Rental

Ondine – Darlynne recommended this film to me and I wish I could say I enjoyed it but sadly I couldn’t even finish it. Syracuse, an Irish fisherman, brings up a mysterious lovely woman in his net while out working. She can’t remember anything about her past and nice man that he is – where are these men in my life? – he takes her to his deceased mother’s country cottage to stay. His young daughter Annie is one of these preternaturally wise young characters who quickly starts to imagine the woman is a selkie – even though those are Scottish and they’re in Ireland. This is basically as far as I got – 40 minutes into the film – when I just couldn’t take not understanding one word in three of the dialog. Irish accents are lovely to listen to, so they are, but only if you can figure out what the hell is being said. Since it only comes with Spanish subtitles, I was out of luck. One part I did really like was Syracuse’s time spent in at confession with his parish priest played by Stephen Rea.

Amazon

Stray Dog – This is a fairly early Akira Kurosawa film done shortly after the end of WWII. A Tokyo detective has his service Colt stolen while on a crowded bus. Humiliated, he works to track down the criminal who has rented the gun from an underworld gangster and suffers shame and guilt as that man’s crimes escalate. Part police procedural, part film noir, part view of life in post war Japan, I found myself riveted to it and to Toshiro Mifune as the young policeman who took one path in life while the criminal, who suffered many of the same setbacks in life, took another.

Amazon

The Lives of a Bengal Lancer – “Gary Cooper, Franchot Tone and Richard Cromwell head the cast as a trio of British soldiers in this sweeping saga set in colonial India. While stamping out an insurrection in the country’s northwest frontier, the men wrestle with one another. They also struggle with their internal dissonance. The adventure film racked up eight Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director (Henry Hathaway) and Best Screenplay.” I rented this because it’s such a famous film but at the 30 minute mark I hit the pause button then sat there thinking “I’m not enjoying this. It’s boring. I’m tired of Cooper’s character harshing on one soldier while exchanging snarking comments with Tone’s character. Meanwhile the rest of the cast is either doing the ‘stiff upper lip, old boy network’ thing or barking commands at the natives.” That’s when I decided that this is an older film which, to me, just hasn’t stood the test of time.

Amazon [VHS]

REVIEW: Nightfall by Ellen Connor

REVIEW: Nightfall by Ellen Connor

Note: January is a new reviewer at DA. She will be providing reviews at least once a month if not more often.

Dear Ellen Connor (aka Ann Aguirre and Carrie Lofty):

I wanted to love this book. I really did. You are both well known names in the industry, and both of you have high praise for your novels. I thought this might be a dynamite pairing. And it has potential. The concept is not an overdone one: a romance in a post-apocalyptic setting. I can get behind that. But I felt like the treatment of it was ham-handed at best. I’m having a hard time mentally articulating what I found so irksome about this book, so I thought I would make you a top five list instead of recapping the plot.

There are spoilers everywhere, so please do not read further if you are not interested.

Nightfall by Ellen Connor1) There is no apocalypse you don’t like: famine, plague, werewolves, technology, etc. My problem was that you didn’t stick with just one. Apparently cars stopped working and so did electricity. However, not all electricity stopped working. Radios and SOME cars still work. Guns still work. Generators work? I guess it is a discretionary apocalypse. I don’t know. And then if that wasn’t enough of an apocalypse, everyone is turning into nightmare wolf-dog-things. Which is brought on by an infectious disease that has wiped out cities. And the heroine is also developing psychic powers. I guess this would have worked for me better if you’d stuck with just one aspect and developed it. Instead, we have a constantly mutating – pun intended – apocalypse that I had a hard time following.

2) Tru – Why is he a POV character? I found him smirky and annoying and a massive cliché (he’s the token Goth teenager in the apocalypse, of course). Then I read the descriptions of the next two books and realized that you were setting him up to be a hero for the third book. Eh. Are goths even edgy anymore? I think Hot Topic is about as edgy as American Eagle nowadays.

3) The hero. I did not have problems with his personality. I did have problems with his portrayal. The little description we are given of him is that his hair and his skin are dark due to the fact that he is clearly mixed race. At this point, I turned my book over.

mixed feelings cover

One of these things is not like the other. And that sucks, but I know it is not the author’s fault. So I keep reading…and then felt a twinge of concern. When his race does come up, it’s in a negative context. Let me show you a few quotes.

“When the dark man comes for you, don’t be afraid.”

This is part of the prophecy that Jenna’s father left for her. I cringed. The dark man??? What does his race have to do with the prophecy? Why can’t it just be ‘When the stranger comes for you, don’t be afraid?’

But it gets better/worse.

“I never knew my folks and grew up in foster care,” he said, his throat tight. “A lot of being smacked around, but not a lot of supervision. I knocked off my first convenience store when I was fourteen.”

I just don’t know what to think. Now not only is he the ‘dark man’, he is a criminal brought up in foster homes. You want a clichéd mixed-race hero? Here you go.

Mind you, this book is not chock-full of racefail. Those are really the only mentions of Mason’s past, and I suppose that’s why I don’t know what to make of it. It happens early in the book and I read the rest of the story warily as a result.

But don’t worry – Mason’s the most likable one in the story! Especially compared to…

2) The heroine, Jenna. God. I wanted to slap her. Repeatedly. She is blonde, and privileged, and naturally can do anything and everything tossed in her direction. Mason thinks she is perfect and beautiful and he is not worthy of someone as perfect as her. She becomes the leader of the group when Mason wants to leave everyone behind. She is the nurturer and den mother and defender all in one. She’s perfect. Literally. Even when she’s described, she’s described as perfect.

“…her eyes closing and her priceless-work-of-art chest expelling a long exhale.”

Not only is she perfect, but she develops special powers. She can hear Mason’s thoughts and can communicate with him. And later on, Jenna has a plot development that makes me totally roll my eyes so hard I feared they would fall out of my head.

SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER

[spoiler]Jenna gets bitten by one of the wolf creatures. Everyone else that has been bitten has turned into a monster or died horribly. Perfect Jenna acquires the ability to shapechange into a wolf. A perfect white wolf. Who can communicate with the hero thanks to her telepathy. The apocalypse just handed her another special power. Lucky Jenna. 

But then it gets even better. Here’s a second spoiler for you. Mason gets bitten by the things repeatedly. He is sick and dying for days, and so Jenna decides to perform blood magic on him and uses her blood to seal his wounds with magic. How does she do this? She doesn’t know. It just works because it is magic and Perfect Jenna must have her mate. It is not explained at any point, it just is. When Mason recovers, he cannot turn into a wolf like Jenna. She is the only one. She is special.

[/spoiler]

1) The similes and metaphors drove me crazy. Every time I ran into a very obvious one, it threw me out of the story and I wanted to call a friend and tell them how awful they were. Can they be that bad? You tell me. Here’s some of my favorites.

  • Mason frowned. So did Jenna and Angela, trading their confusion like bread recipes.
  • And his cock got hard as an iron pipe.
  • His cock blazed against her belly, hard enough to hammer nails.
  • Strung tight as fishing line with a whopper on the end, Mason raked blunt nails along the backs of his forearms.
  • Her fear tugged him like a parachute deploying.
  • His chest was a volcano with its top blown open—burning lungs, thrashing heart, and the sick knowledge that he’d let this happen.
  • But Mason turned blasted eyes on him, pulling him into one of those post-modernist paintings where every road led to hell.
  • He felt her absence like the end of a rainstorm. One minute his mind was clouded ovee with the interference she always brought. The next…nothing.
  • Incredulity melted into a feeling brighter and stronger, like Sarah Connor must’ve felt when she found out Kyle went back in time for her.

Should you name check your namesake in your book? My gut tells me no. Someone please come and trade me your thoughts on the matter. We can share them…like bread recipes.

Reading this might make you think I loathed the book. Not true. While I did roll my eyes quite a bit, I kept picking it up to see what would happen next. I feel I should give the authors credit for showing people struggling to fight in an apocalypse, rather than taking the easy way out and showing it a few years later. The story itself was fairly fast paced and full of action. If you are looking for apocalypse romance, this is a very good place to start. I just wish I had connected with the characters, the writing, or the world more than I did. Instead, I did not connect with any of it. Am I on board for the next one in the series? Despite my mocking…probably. So that is a point in its favor, right? Right.

D

All best,

January

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