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.

Monday, February 26, 2007

EnnWhySee, Baby!

You guys...I am so excited I can hardly stand it.

Guess where I will be one week from today?

Yeah, baby. The Biiiiiig Apple. That's what I'm talkin' 'bout, right there!

My boss and I are heading to a conference that will take place at none other than the Waldorf-Astoria and we are staying not far from there. I am so jazzed, people. I never thought I would ever get to visit NYC, because my husband? Would rather have dental work with no anesthetic than go there.

I arrive on Saturday, and if all goes well with flights and weather, then my boss will be taking me to dinner in Little Italy Saturday night. He has traveled there many times and has promised to take me around to see the sights, such as the World Trade Center, Rockefeller Center, and the Empire State Building.

Here's where I need your many of you have been to NYC? Do you have any tips for me, a lowly hick from the West who ain't never been to the big city before? Is there something I should definitely see, or something I shouldn't waste my money on? I love walking around the cities I visit, and if my boss poops out on me, then I will be on my own on Sunday morning. I don't want to waste a minute of my time there, so is it safe for me to head out on my own in Manhattan on a Sunday morning to get some coffee and see what I can see or not?

Who cares about conquering the Big Apple? I just conquered my big brother!

Anybody with any info to share, please let me know. My husband just said, and I quote, "I hope you don't think you're walking around at night by yourself there!" Yeah, honey. That's exactly what I plan to do. You know me so well.

Anywaaaay, if you have any suggestions, tips, or ideas, please let me know.

Look, Daddy!
Mommy's on the news getting arrested in New York City! They said something about her walking around at night by herself?

(sidenote from Mommy: I was framed, Itell ya, framed!)

(another sidenote from Mommy: I hate hate hate this new Google Blogger marriage that has made posting to the blog even more time consuming and frustrating. Haaaaate with the heat of a thousand suns, hate.)

Thursday, February 22, 2007

What's Wrong Here?

I'm without my partner. Missie is ingesting hallucinagenic mushrooms in a hotel decorated by Liberace. But seriously folks, she's off to a business conference, and my poor baby has a slightly broken neck. Thankfully, before the flight she found a homeopathic herbal painkiller that's legal and everything. So she's at the Glitzandbling Inn wandering around behind the animals.

Me? I was at a bookstore a couple of days ago, looking at bargain books. You need to understand something about me and bargain books- I've had an obsessive love affair with them for years. There could be a book on Basket Weavers of the North Atlantic and if it was on the bargain table, I'd give it a shot.

So there I was, in a bookstore, looking at the inspirational romances on the bargain table- and get this- I had money. Actual money. I wasn't having to figure out a budget or feel guilty because I've promised the kids ice cream after school but I was spending so much on books that they had to settle for a cone instead of sundae. Me, romance, bargain bin. Marriage made in heaven, right?

I picked up book after book, and...just wasn't interested. They all sounded, well, what's the word I'm looking for? Um, sappy. Yep, that's the word. Sappy. To be fair, the stories were probably fine. The blurb writers absolutely SUCK. Almost every scenario ended with something like Can God heal Eliza's broken spirit so she can love Doug?

And there's nothing wrong with that. Most inspy books focus on the relationship between the hero/heroine and God, as much or more than each other. I have nothing whatsoever against those soul searches; at least the characters are going to grow in some way. But I still wasn't interested.

What, exactly, makes me think a book is worth picking up? I think of the Christian books I love the most: Bodie Thoene's Zion Chronicles, B.J. Hoff's An Emerald Ballad. God, and Christian themes like forgiveness and redemption, are woven through those books, but they aren't the focus. Maybe I just want to discover the God factor for myself. I mean c'mon. It's a Christian book. I'm pretty well assured faith is going to be a factor. The blurb doesn't have to smack me in the face.

What about you? Does the back blurb turn you off, sometimes?

Monday, February 19, 2007

Random President's Day Musings

Sorry for the absence. I've got 2 kids who are now in a fund-raising flurry because they've decided to go on the youth group mission trip to Mexico this summer. $1,000 a piece, not including passports and extras. So they're shaking down friends and relatives, and signing up to work at the group garage sale; every shift they work will be credited to their account. I really, really want to see them go- it's an amazing experience to serve people, to pray with them, and to travel. And Gary and I will have a week to ourselves.

I HATE spelling errors in books. I can take clunky grammar, but bad spelling drives me nuts. So why do I like this paragraph?

fI yuo cna raed tihs, yuo hvae a sgtrane mnid too. Cna yuo raed tihs? Olny 55 plepoe out of 100 can. i cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno't mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a wrod are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rghi t pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whotuit a pboerlm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

Y'know, it must be difficult to have been trained for stardom since you were a zygote. To have your childhood, cute moments and gawky ones, paraded on the Mickey Mouse club and Star Search. To go from a cute girl in a slightly naughty Catholic School uniform to stripping and swabbing tonsils with aging icons on international television. Two marriages; and you should have stuck with the first one. In the second, you showed your complete lack of class on a reality show- or perhaps you were just going back to your banjo picking roots, who knows? After the inevitable divorce, you had to know the slimy photographers would be on your tail. You respond by showing them your front. ALL of your front. And on top of that, you nearly drop your baby when you weren't endangering him in the car. But at this point-

wouldn't you have thought getting tattooed and shaving your head would have been a Letterman/Leno punchline?

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Valentine's Day, Old School

I've had a lot of photo essays since beginning the blog. Most popular have been the "cute guy" posts, so I thought for Cupid's Day Out I'd put a new spin on it.

Have you ever thought about how much leading men have changed over the years?

From the smooth and suave yet manly men of the 30's and 40's...

to the powerful anti-heroes of the 50's...

the complex charmers of the 60's...

the ultra macho men of the 70's...

and the nice guy heroes of the 80's.

I love them all. And since I've never really grown up, I'll be the one to embarass myself and wish everyone a Happy VD!

Monday, February 12, 2007

Just a Question

Hypothetical situation:

You have a 20 year old daughter who is living with her boyfriend and finds herself pregnant. Daughter marries boyfriend, and their combined total income is slightly above the poverty level. You have a neighbor who had a baby the previous year. Said neighbor gives your daughter at least $300 in baby clothes, toys, bath seats, etc, to date. At no point does your daughter write the neighbor a thank you card, or stop by the neighbor's house to say how much she appreciates the items. Do you:

1. Call your neighbor every time a new box of clothes appears on your doorstep, thanking her for her thoughtfulness?
2. Buy a card yourself for the neighbor?
3. Pull your daughter aside and say, "Listen, you ungrateful little snot! Put the baby in one of the outfits Neighbor gave you and trot your little butt on over there and thank her yourself!"
4. None of the above, ever.

Dude! I would totally make her a present in my diaper.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Goodbye, Anna Nicole

As I am sure many of you have already heard, Anna Nicole Smith passed away today. She was 39 years old.

Even though she was far from my favorite celebrity, this news makes me sad. Not so much for her, or her lawyer/boyfriend/baby daddy, but for her five month old daughter, Danilynn. This baby girl will grow up without her mother to love her, which is heartbreaking, even if her mother was a train wreck. The only way she will ever know Anna is by the plethora of video, pictures, and gossip rags that made millions off of her.

I started thinking of when we all first heard of Anna Nicole, back in the late 80's, when she was a model for Guess. She was so pretty, and curvy, and conveyed just the right amount of innocence and Marilyn Monroe sex appeal. She looked like a real woman, instead of a wafer thin shell of humanity like so many models out there. She had so much potential and promise.

Please understand I am not trying to kick a dead person. But I can't help but feel her life was a waste. I am not going to judge whether or not she loved her 147 year old kajillionaire husband when she married him at age 26. Maybe she did. Or maybe she just wanted his money. But as a mom, I can't help thinking about the young son she had at that time. After her husband died, why didn't she just settle with his estate, take a few million, and call it good? Retire somewhere to raise her boy in peace and safety, away from the limelight, and try to give him a normal life? Instead, she chose to fight for a decade or more for half the estate that was listed in her husband's will.

Her life seemed to take a downward spiral, until it finally was there for all of us to see in her horrible reality show. If she had maintained any modicum of respectability or decency up to that point, then she certainly obliterated it on tv in front of millions. (I only saw about 5 minutes of it the entire time it was on.) Her antics, drug abuse, and general stupidity kept her name and face in the spotlight, while she cried for privacy and understanding.

She was a poor, misguided soul who thought that fame and money would bring her happiness. Now she's gone and has left behind a baby girl who will grow up in her shadow. And that, my friends, is so very very sad.

I can only hope that in her final minutes, she made peace with her Maker and has finally found whatever it was she was looking for here on Earth.

Goodbye, Anna. We will pray for your baby.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Grrr, the Sequel

I read the sequel to Adams and Clamp's book Hunter's Moon. (See post below.) The book is called Moon's Web, and it ticked me off.

Not the book itself; for an urban fantasy it's really good. I won't go into the plot points, but basically Tony has a meteoric rise through the ranks of the Sazi (werepeople) and kills bad guys while maintaining his own badness. I did like the world building, and the Sazi could provide books from now until the end of recorded time. Which is apparently the plan, as I understand there are several more books on the Sazi published.

Tony is in danger of being Mary Sue'd, and I'd prefer that he were maybe a tad less competent and speshul (he has powers no one else does,) but I still enjoyed his POV. I absolutely liked this character. It is told in first person again, something I normally don't go for, and it didn't quite work as well as in the first. One nitpick- I hope the authors don't continue with his identifying every single emotion people feel with a scent. I swear, even if a person has four different emotions in one paragraph, they are all described in that paragraph. And practically no emotion ever felt by anyone is just told, it must be associated with the proper smell. That got annoying. Fear smells like this, jealousy smells like this, anger smells like this, I GOT IT. I GOT THE CONCEPT. It was cool in the first book, but once we get the idea perhaps a smattering of scents would serve. Just sayin.

Here's what burned my biscuits. The first book is published by Tor Romance. Says so, right on the spine. And in the pages? Romance. I've been reading them since I was a teenager and I know romance when I see it. The first book centered, primarily, on the relationship between Tony and Sue. It was about them. Beyond a Happily Ever After, or even a Hopefully Ever After, a romance is about the relationship.

This book, the sequel, is also published by Tor Romance, and identified on the spine as a romance. Sue is barely in the book. Tony thinks about her a lot, deals with the pain of needing her on a psychic level (a function of the Sazi mating thing) and she is way important in his mind, but we don't have very many scenes featuring them both. Maybe this is where the first person falls down; since he doesn't have a lot of contact with her, we can't see her understanding of things at all. Most of the book is about Tony and the Sazi hierarchy. There are something like fifteen new characters he deals with, and Sue is relegated to sitting in the apartment until the last battle. It does end well, but Moon's Web is Not. A. Romance. Not by my definition, and not by the standards set in the first book.

Not that it's bad; as I said, it is a good urban fantasy. But I felt cheated, ripped off. I was looking forward to seeing how Sue was going to grow, how she and Tony were going to deal together with his enormous life changes. They don't. He deals with everything by himself. This book isn't about them, it's about him. And that is not a romance.

I know I am not the first reader to bring up this particular point- one of the Ja(y)nes at Dear did a righteous rant on books that are marketed as romance being rather a story with romantic overtones. As I understand the debate over What Constitutes Romance, the SF/Fantasy romances in particular are under fire for just this sort of thing. My opinion, for what it's worth: I have read some wonderful fantasy books that had a good, satisfying romance in them. Even if the story was primarily about the couple and the relationship, if it was not marketed as a romance a less than happy ending wouldn't throw me. But if I pick up a book that is already pigeon-holed as a romance, I'm going to have certain expectations. Chief among them- an ending that is at least hopeful if not happy, and no matter what other things are going on in the story the primary focus is going to be on the relationship of the hero and heroine. And I trust that theme is going to be carried out in sequels, whether the protags become secondary characters and the sidekicks come to the fore or not.

I was very disappointed. I will probably read the other Sazi books, Tony's stories or others, but I'll be forewarned this time.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Cool, Kinda

I took up December's challenge to find new authors and show them some support. These may not be new authors in the sense that it's their first book, but they were new to me.

I have read Tor books before, but only sci-fi/fantasy. I read that they had branched into romance some time past, but I hadn't read any until now. C.T. Adams and Cathy Clamp have come up with a doozy in Hunter's Moon.

It's told in first person, through our "hero" Tony Giadone. The story starts with a Sam Spade vibe, one of those It was a rainy night in the city by the bay, with a fog so thick you couldn't see your own thoughts kind of thing, which I totally dig. Tony is meeting a woman in a bar, a potential client. He takes all kinds of precautions, because Tony is a paid assassin. The woman nervously explains that the person she wants whacked is...herself.

This is where I was really glad it was told in first person. The woman, Sue, makes Cinderella look like Lara Croft, Tomb Raider. Seriously. Her drunk, needy mother and abusive sisters have treated her like a servant all her life, and now think they own her since she won the lottery. Yes, the lottery. She knows they will never leave her alone, and she will be guilted into taking care of Mom (who purposely fell down a flight of stairs to make sure Sue would take her in) and paying for everyone the rest of her life. She can't stand the thought, and is so emotionally abused she thinks her only way of escape is death.

I'm so glad I wasn't allowed in her head. I wanted to whack her myself and get back to the good stuff with the hunky hit man. If you can get past this plot point, she does get better. It's all so over-the-top, I was morbidly fascinated. Tony is attracted to her, but that's not why he refuses. She's too recognizable, and that's bad business. I have to say if you can get over the he-kills-people-for-a-living thing Tony is great. Sue pays him to listen to her, just so she can talk it all out. He takes her to his hotel, where he rents a suite on the top floor for three days every so often. Can you guess why? I'll give you a hint: one these three days, there's a full moon.

Yes. As if a lottery winning suicidal wimp who is too scared to do it herself and hires a hit man isn't enough for you, he's also a werewolf. At this point, there's really no reason I should have kept reading. There are so many things wrong with this. But it's kind of like Springtime for Hitler- it shouldn't have worked, but it did.

Tony politely offers to hit Mom and the sisters, but no. They're family, after all. Sue puts the hit on hold, and she and Tony start dating. Oh- she's not weirded out by the werewolf thing at all. Seems she saw one when she was just a tyke, who protected her when she was lost in the woods. I couldn't help thinking: She can't tell her mother to take a hike but she's brave enough to sleep with a werewolf assassin? Whatever.

It was cool to read about Tony dealing with his new senses. Smell takes on a whole new meaning to him, and he associates scents with emotions. Fear smells like hot and sour soup, etc. He can even take delight in discovering new ones, and he uses the new sharper senses in his work. He does occasionally do jobs for the local mafia. While exploring his relationship with Sue, who is going to therapy and growing a spine, Tony fights a rival mob boss who, we find, is also a shapeshifter.

We're then told about the Sazi, werepeople who will go to any lengths not to be discovered. Tony's part of that society now, but he isn't happy about it. Suffice to say, Sue is Tony's mate, only she's human and that's not supposed to happen, Tony and mob people fight, but are sighted by local media and so are taken into the Sazi Protection Program, and Tony and Sue are given new lives with papers to prove it.

Tony and Sue become so close that they have a sort of telepathy; a function of mates. And here's the one passage in the book that made it all worth it. Tony goes out on a job. Sue, who is in his head, "sees" what he's doing and is appalled. Contradictory, she knows, but being faced with the reality of what he does throws her. Tony whacks the guy, then lays it down for Sue: I was raised this way, and I don't have a problem with it. You knew who I was when you got involved. Deal. I imagine this is why Sue is such a pushover- most women would back away at this point, but I can see Sue caving in.

I liked it, probably because it's one of the few times I have seen the Alpha hero of a romance stay Alpha. They always get wussified! Twu wove changes them into softened mama's boys that can't stand the sight of blood. Tony has to change occupations in the strict social world of the Sazi, but that's to keep Sue and himself alive, not because he's discovered his feminine side.

The true GRRRRR factor in this book? The sequel. Tell you about it later.