Snarkling Clean

Snarkling Clean- because you don't have to cuss to make fun of stuff. Two dedicated readers discuss romance novels- from what made us weep with joy to what made us want to poke pencils through our eyeballs.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Vacation Update: I Fell Down and Broke My Butt

So last week we packed up the kids, the tent, and two igloo coolers and went to Turner Falls. It's a pretty spot in the Wichita mountain range in Oklahoma.

Loud drunken frat boys- no charge!

The falls meander down into several small pools just right for swimming.

But no one tells you about the slimy rocks. Malevolent, evil rocks. Rocks that jump up and slam you down when you step on them.

These, in particular. They lie in wait for an innocent, unsuspecting woman to walk on them, deluding the poor female into thinking she actually has a good foothold, then- BAM! One cracked coccyx later, they cackle maniacally and give each other the stone version of high fives.

Got my daughter too. She now wants a t-shirt that reads, "My Parents Went to Turner Falls and All I Got Was A Fractured Patella."

We did the usual fun camp stuff.

The four man tent that sleeps 3 1/3.

Shoving down s'mores.

Wearing cute dorky camper hats. Yes, the cute dorky camper is me after 1 1/2 hours of sleep, a sore tushy and showering in a tiny semi-public cube. Fire away.

We were also cleaned out by larcenous racoons for whom a tight fitting igloo lid was child's play, and swarmed by Gatorade addicted bees, but overall it was a nice vacation. Even if I can't sit without grimacing. And my best friend laughed at me when I called to get sympathy. "Rocks have algae that makes them slippery? Biology 101!" That's okay. When she calls me for sympathy when she's had no sleep because Ali has gotten up four times during the night, I'll just remind her of her precious biology. "Babies don't sleep through the night? Imagine!"

Yes, everyone had a pretty good time. Except those that were left behind.

They had better bring me back some Snausages. Big ones.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Viking Raid!!

Sandra Hill writes really good stories. I've read a number of these books, and she's very funny. From what I've heard, she's also a really good sport about the covers her pub has saddled her with. I'm glad, 'cause we're gonna make fun of them anyway.

A Tale of Two Vikings

Robyn: Is this guy wearing a corset under his skin? That's the skinniest waist I've seen since Miss Scarlett went to the barbeque at Twelve Oaks.

Missie: Glad to see the dad from Silver Spoons didn't completely fade into obscurity.

Robyn: Missie, you are totally on to something there- check it out:

Blue Viking

Robyn: Guess what. You're blue because you need a SHIRT, not just a fur cape.

Missie: Robyn, he's not blue because he's cold...he's blue because he's sad because he just found out he lost the Fourth Annual Wet Fur Contest to a guy with a bigger man-chesty.

My Fair Viking

Robyn: "Darling, don't worry! I'll save you!"
"Great. Could you have thought of that a few seconds ago, when you stood next to me instead of in front of me and made me break my freaking neck YOU STOOPID BINT?"

Can't. Get. Past. The. Title. Visions...of..Audrey Hepburn singing...while wearing a fur wrap and carrying...a spear. **cough, cough, sputter*** Must. Get. Help. Soon.

The Last Viking

Robyn: Is frigid North Sea water up your hoo-hah really romantic? Just askin'.

Missie: The last viking who tried hoochy-coochin' in this water died of hypothermia. Just a little FYI, Sven.

Truly, Madly Viking

Robyn: I thought this one was pretty good until I noticed his bottom half doesn't...well, it doesn't really end, does it? And it goes off to the side...I've got it. He's actually a Viking Centaur, isn't he?

Missie: I may forget my clothes and weapons, but I always remember to wear my bracelet. LIVE STRONG!

This next cover has been snarked more times than we can count. Which of course means we had to include him. He's known universally throughout Romancelandia as...the Pull My Finger Guy.

The Bewitched Viking

(Unfortunately, Blogger has decided that I've put too many pics up, so I'll have to link to my account at photobucket. Go here.)

Robyn: Sad, really. Even if he's suffering from terminally arrested development, he's kind of cute. It's like seeing your old high school boyfriend at your college graduation, and he 'performs' at the party your parents throw you, and after the prayer for the food he tells the Dirtiest Joke Anyone Has Ever Heard right in front of your grandmother and God and tries to get the guys into a burping contest and tells all the girls "Did you know we were married in a former life?" and your friends look at you as you try to hide under the table and ask, "Is this the guy you were always talking about?" and you say "NO! It was totally someone else!" as he tells everyone that your name is tattooed on his butt...

My IQ? Whut is dat? Oh, someone tell me before iss ONE. Like dis finger, one. See, I can hold up one! Jah! (My viking talks like Arnold Schwarzenegger. Shut up.)

Missie further states:

Now, I am not a sheep to be easily led into buying or rejecting a book based on it's cover, but I can say this. If this book had the winning lottery numbers in it, I wouldn't read it. If the pages of this book revealed surefire way to reduce cottage-cheesy thighs in one easy step, I wouldn't read it. If secrets contained in this book could guarantee that hair would never again grow on my legs or in my armpits, I wouldn't read it. Know why? Because I cannot fully enjoy a book and get into the story when I am in the throes of hysterical laughter, that's why. I would keep picturing Mr. Goobenheimer on the cover farting then going, "Did you hear that?" or "No, that wasn't me, that was him over there, duh, huh, huh" or my alltime favorite, "Oops, heard a buck snort!" And people? I just can't do it. Not even for you.

Up next: Covers we actually (gulp) liked!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Shout Out to Mah Homegirl, Yo!

About three years ago, on a hot Father's Day afternoon in my inlaws' backyard, I met someone.

It was at a surprise birthday party we were having for my husband and the guests included inlaws, grandparents, and some friends my husband has had for about 20 years. One of these friends who went to church with my husband growing up (and actually dated his sister for awhile in their teens) brought along his wife, whom my hub and I had never met before. She and I ended up sitting across the picnic table from each other and we began to talk. During our conversation, we found out that we had much in common. Both of us homeschooled our kids. Both of us had sons named Zachary. And both of us had an irreverant sense of humor and brains that didn't always engage before our mouths started moving. We laughed. We joked. We ranted. We became friends.

Fast forward two years. My friend and I are sitting in a Mexican restaurant, eating fajitas and solving the problems of the world, when I casually mention that I am late. As in laaaaayyyyytttte. My friend looks up and gives a wicked grin. "Is there something you wanna tell me?" she says. "Well," I reply, "if nothing happens in the next couple days, either I have some weird thing going on, or I am pregnant." Again with the wicked grin. "You sooo are!" She was the first person I had said those words out loud to.

Fast forward a week later. "Have you?" she says. "What?" me pleading ignorance (which ain't hard to do). "Have you taken a test yet?" she demands. Me, not wanting to lie, because I had, and I was, and ohmygoodness, what am I gonna do and why did I do this and holycow, who thought this was a great idea?! "Umm, everything's okay." She, obviously wanting to ask more and thinking I am holding back, "Okay then. Just checking."

Fast forward another week later. "You are, aren't you?" "What?!" "You are so pregnant!" "Ummm...yeah. Just don't tell anyone yet. We want to get through my first doctor's appointment before we tell everybody." Laughter, crying, shaking on my end. "Wooo-hooooo! You can't fool me!! IknewitIknewitIknewit!" "What in the world have I done?" Then she says something just so right..."You've done what you've always wanted. You're going to have another baby."

This friend, this great, sweet, funny, irreverant, ranting, raving, lunatic, smart, smart-alecky, God-fearing, goodmomming, funloving, pretty, smiley, goofy friend of mine, is having a birthday today. Her 32nd. She and I will get together sometime in the next week and do what we always do, eat, drink, and discuss how various and sundry persons annoy us. And when we do, I will be remembering that summer she came into my life, giving me a pretty dang wonderful present. Her friendship.

Happy Birthday, Jess. I love ya. Have some cake.

Monday, July 17, 2006

A Missing Partner, A Rave, and Half a Lame Photo Essay

Okay, so I had hoped to have the Viking post up, but someone who shall remain nameless cough*Missie*cough hasn't mailed me her comments yet. I wonder what has happened to her? Maybe she was intimidated by my wit.

Maybe the daunting task of snarking an actual Viking cover finally got to her.

Whatever the reason, we'll postpone the Nordic goodness and instead tell you of a wonderful book.

You heard right. I finally liked one. Really liked. As in keeper. As in DING DING WE HAVE A WINNAH!!

My regular blog buddies know I love Jayne Ann Krentz. And I love her historical alter-ego, Amanda Quick, even more. I just finished Second Sight, and I'm pleased to tell you that AQ's back, baby. Better than ever. All the charm and mystery of her classic Victorian romances, but grown up. By that I mean, her heroine isn't a booksmart idiot.

AQ's girls all seem to be the brainy type, not quite bluestockings, but educated past the norm. But for all their intelligence, they're kind of...well, naive, maybe...hmmm. The word I guess I'm looking for is stupid. When one of her classic heroines is on a ladder getting a book from the top shelf in her library, she gets felt up by an amorous neighbor. She excuses him with a wide eyed protestation of his innocence- he was obviously letting his hand creep up her leg because he was overcome by the intellectual stimulation of their discussion of sociology! Of course he was. Heavens, I'd hate to see what a treatise on philosophy or calculus would do to him!

But the heroine of Second Sight is a little more street smart. Venetia's a photographer when the art was just starting, and photographs the collection of a group called the Arcane Society. It is highly exclusive, highly reclusive, and somewhat paranoid. When she travels to Arcane House with her camera to catalog their artifacts, she meets Gabriel Jones, the master's son and 'heir to the chair' of the Arcane Society. She is her family's sole support, and as such must guard her reputation. But for this outing, she is alone and doesn't have to worry about her aunt, sister and brother walking in on her, nor does she have to be concerned with propriety. Yep, you got it. She jumps Gabriel, who is very happy to be jumped.

Later, she reads that he died. Saddened but determined to carry on for her family, she reinvents herself as a widow, Mrs. Jones, whose husband died while on honeymoon in America. She soon becomes Society's darling and rakes in money as she takes portraits of the elite. But as you've probably guessed, Mr. Jones is not quite dead yet.

I won't go into the rest of it- you'll want to read it yourself. Suffice to say that Venetia has a paranormal talent for reading auras. Gabriel has a talent as well, and the secrets of the Arcane House founder puts them both in danger. Gabriel worries that his ability may not be a sign of man's evolution-ala X-men- but rather a throwback to a more primitive era. Venetia isn't totally happy with her 'husband' showing up and curbing her independence. Of course, they help each other find their way.

There's a reveal in the book that I didn't see coming, and I loved it. I stand up and cheer when authors can throw me a curve. And since the book is billed as "An Arcane Society Novel" one can assume there are more to come. I hope so. The first read like a Victorian X-Files, and I ate it up.

Missie, wherever you are, come back soon. If you don't, I'm sending the Vikings out to find you.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Flame On!

This post over at Romancing the Blog (the link may not be working- the post is entitled Authors Behaving Badly) got me wondering if I should even wander into the fray. I haven't really watched the 'flame wars' intently but I have seen a few blog posts and the 1,686 comments each one seems to produce. Mostly, I've been glad that our little blog is sufficiently unimportant to have garnered any notice-we've flown in under the radar, so to speak.

As I think about the issue of reviewing books, both contents and covers, there are two sides to this. As an aspiring author, I know that I would want a gentle, if not always positive, review of my book. Of course I would. I'm human. But realistically I know that I will have a few readers that think it's an okay read; a few who think it's a keeper; a few who will think it is AWESOME and i am just FABULOUS and e-mail me back PLEEZE and just SQUEEEEE! over it. Some will think meh, it's not great but better than nothing, and a few will throw it against the wall and go on Amazon's reviews or their own blogs and write a brilliant piece of flaming snark; others will go the 'somebody actually got paid to write this drivel? My dog could barf on the keyboard and do better' route.

And you know what? That will hurt. Again, I'm human. But the great leveler of an artistic ego is praise and criticism. The trash reviews can, in a lot of cases, be lumped with the squeeing fangirls. I'm not that bad, but chances are I'm not that great, either. And as a writer, I need to understand one thing: reviews are not written for me. If I want a critique, I should pay for one from a writer who knows what she's about. A reader's review is an emotional reaction to what he or she has just read. It can give me insight if I want to look deep enough, even if the review doesn't give me a play-by-play of what did and didn't work. Besides, readers views of stories can be very subjective; sometimes all the right elements are there but it just doesn't do it for them. You can't explain that. It just happens.

As a reader, that's what my reviews are. My emotional reactions to what I've just read. And I share them with you not as a literary pundit dispensing wisdom from on high, but as a girlfriend across the kitchen table over coffee. If there's a well written character or a hero I fell in love with, I'll tell you. If something made me tear my hair out by its graying roots, I'll tell you that, too. And even though I know some poor person spent a lot of time on cover art, if I think it's hideous I'm still going to snark about it. If he wants an artistic review of his work, he can go ask an art critic. What do I know? I don't get Picasso, either.

So, to snark or not to snark? Someone once said that to successfully lampoon a work, be it book or movie or painting, one's love of the genre had to come through as well. The affection counterbalances the sarcasm. It's why Mike Meyers could shoot down the Swingin' London Sixties in the Austin Powers series. Or Mel Brooks' parodies of Westerns and B monster movies. It's why I think Smart Bi***es and Miss Snark and Mrs. Giggles and so many others work so well. We can appreciate the ridiculous and the sublime, and laugh at our addictions. As one said in a comment on this blog, "They're all horrible. Disnae matter, I love them anyway." So do I, girlfriend. So do I.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Convenient Marriage

I read Susan Crosby's Forced to the Altar recently. I was drawn to the title because I have to admit that the Marriage of Convenience (MOC from here on because I don't want to spell convenience 40 times) is one of my favorite romance storylines. I don't really like secret babies, and I can't stand amnesia victims, but the MOC I can totally appreciate.

While I enjoyed Forced to the Altar to a certain extent, it didn't quite work for me. The main reason, I think, is because the story's contemporary. I have never been able to buy a modern woman being forced into marriage. There are just too many options open to a contemporary heroine. The heroine of this particular story is a mobster's sister who has grown up sheltered under her father's, then brother's, dictatorial eye. She is hiding on this island owned by a mysterious millionaire because she turned evidence on her brother and the P.I. who helped her do it has to stash her somewhere until the trial is over. The island's owner is involved in something that may or may not be shady, of course, and our girl sticks her nose in and learns just enough to be dangerous. He won't tell her everything about his business, except that it's illegal but not necessarily criminal. He concludes that she knows enough that she could be compelled to testify against him; he forces her into marriage so she can't.

The only reason she truly accepts is because she's attracted, but he's fed her a line about divorcing in a reasonable amount of time, it will be platonic, etc., etc. My question was, why would he have to marry her? He owns this island. Everyone on it bows to his wishes. The only person who knows she's there is the P.I., and he's his best friend. So all he'd have to do is keep her there for a few months. And why would she go through with it? She's attracted, but is that enough for marriage? She's hiding anyway, so just hide a little longer. She has a cell phone and access to a computer. She could just wait until the trial's over and then call police out to the island, right? Illegalities aside, she's not at all worried that he'll hurt her, so there's no sense of menace to scare her into it. She may have been sheltered but she's not easily led. She makes a couple of attempts at escape but they're kind of half-hearted.

I think the MOC works best in historicals because, as recently as fifty years ago, there were genuine consequences for women who were caught in certain situations. A woman's reputation was literally all she had; she had to protect it. Especially if a stain on her would spread to her family. Many people were also subject to arranged marriages, and few were the daughters who resisted. Whether an angry parent or a scandal-hungry society forces heroines to the altar in historicals, I buy it. I get the concept. Women were, by and large, powerless. Employment was an iffy prospect at best, especially if the girl was from a noble class and knew nothing except how to run a house. With no money, no skills, no influence, and no one willing to help her, I can see why our heroine makes the choices she does.

I've rarely been able to buy it in contemps, though. Jayne Ann Krentz managed well in Wildest Hearts- it was a business decision that the heroine herself came up with. (It also helped that I totally fell for the hero! Ferns rule!) Business and perhaps family pressures could certainly make an MOC necessary, but I don't think I could respect a contemporary heroine who would go along with it.

Have you read any contemporary MOC's that you enjoyed?

Monday, July 03, 2006

Random July 4th Musings

I'm sitting here nursing my foot, which has inflicted itself with something called plantar fasciitis. The connective tissue from the ball of the foot to the heel becomes inflamed, or something like that, due to bad shoes and bad posture and foot abuse. Just imagine that every time you step down on your heel, a railroad spike goes through it.

My husband helped me hobble through WalMart last night to get shoes with proper arch support, and insoles that are specially designed to support and baby your heel and make you pretend that it still doesn't hurt a railroad spike is going through it. But I am armed with the right footwear, exercises to limber my calf muscles, packages of frozen peas to ice the foot three times a day, and a remote control that goes all the way to 11 so my family can still hear the t.v. while I scream when applying said frosty veggies. Did I get this advice from my doctor? Of course not. From As Missie says, "I'm not a doctor, but I play one on the internet." C'mon. Like I'm gonna pay that much money for my doc to tell me the same thing? But the best part- I get to lounge in the recliner with the remote in my hand. HEE HEE!

Television time has been interesting. I've been able to indulge in my guilty pleasure show, Dog the Bounty Hunter. Who can resist a former biker with big hair, a big chest and a bad attitude taking down bad guys? And that's just his wife, y'all. I made my kids sit through the original Jaws, which they agreed was waaaaay better than Jaws 4, The Revenge. They made me sit through a Disney sitcom called The Suite Life of Zach and Cody. Mindless, inane, and badly acted cannot begin to describe it, but there are no commercials I have to explain with a biology textbook. "Mom? What's a four-hour erection?"

Speaking of commercials, I've felt very superior when the fitness club gyraters come on. I can't get out of the recliner, honey. Bad foot! HA! Of course, then the dieters who finally feel sexy taunt me. Bad feet need a pint of Blue Bell Lemon Ice Box Pie Ice Cream, hmmm? YES. THEY DO. SHUT UP AND GO KISS YOUR MIRROR SOME MORE.

But the best commercial by far, and if I could find a picture or a link I'd show it, is the Dairy Queen Moolatte ad. A normal nebbish guy walks in his house to find his wife in a romance clinch cover pose with a John de Salvo wannabe. He doesn't like it, she tells him not to be a baby. "But there's a half-naked man in my living room holding my wife and his hair's blowing in the wind!"

"Would it make you feel better if his hair wasn't blowing in the wind?"

I do have to work tomorrow in my new shoes and insoles, but we should be able to see fireworks from our front yard. For those celebrating, stay safe, have a good time, and put your feet up.