A Dangerous Thing, by Josh Lanyon.

Los Angeles mystery writer Adrien English goes to a lonely cabin in the woods to relax and get over his frustrating non-relationship with hot but closeted cop Jake Riordan. (This is the second book in a series, and I didn’t read the first, but presumably that’s the one where they met.) Since this is a mystery, Adrien immediately finds a body, which proceeds to mysteriously vanish. The locals suspect him, so it’s Jake to the rescue! A playful mystery-romance, with lots of banter, sexual tension, and hurt-comfort.

A Dangerous Thing (The Adrien English Mysteries Book 2)

Knockdown, by Dick Francis.

Jonah, a bloodstock agent (horse dealer, basically) discovers unethical practices in the trade; despite increasing levels of menace and violence, he refuses to go along with it, putting himself at higher and higher risk. Meanwhile, his alcoholic brother still refuses to go to AA. But on the bright side, Jonah meets a beautiful air-traffic controller…

This typical Francis set-up goes in some unexpected directions. It’s the darkest of his books that I’ve read. They can deal with some very serious subjects, like grief and depression, but are not grim. The protagonists are put through the wringer, and good people and horses may die. But villains don’t prosper and heroes come through battered but wiser, with a better grip on their own issues and often with a budding romance with some interesting, independent woman.

This is the only Francis book I recall which does not have a happy or at least hopeful ending.

Read more... )

Knockdown
1632, by Eric Flint.

A chunk of a modern American town, including the entire local chapter of Mine Workers of America, is mysteriously transported into 1632 Germany. What those people need are red-blooded Americans with lots of guns!

This is kind of hilariously what it is. Apart from Flint being pro-union, it is exactly like every sweaty right-wing fantasy ever, complete with the lovingly described slaughter with lovingly described guns of nameless evil people whom we know are evil because we see them randomly torturing and raping the hapless, helpless villagers. The rape and torture is lovingly described, too. There are also loving descriptions of various engineering projects.

Typical excerpt:

Mike spoke through tight jaws. "I'm not actually a cop, when you get right down to it. And we haven't got time anyway to rummage around in Dan's Cherokee looking for handcuffs." He glared at the scene of rape and torture. "So to hell with reading these guys their rights. We're just going to kill them."

"Sounds good to me," snarled Darryl. "I got no problem with capital punishment. Never did."

"Me neither," growled one of the other miners. Tony Adducci, that was, a beefy man in his early forties. Like many of the miners in the area, Tony was of Italian ancestry, as his complexion and features indicated. "None whatsoever."

Gave up on this. It’s not that I never enjoy this sort of thing. But I have to really be in the mood for it. (Appropriate mood: Snark locked and loaded.)

Free on Baen. Yes. Of course this is a Baen book. There are the obvious exceptions, like Bujold, but Baen has more of a house style than Harlequin.

Stray, by Andrea Host.

An Australian teenager steps through a portal to a strange world, where she survives on her own for a while before being rescued by and taken to another world, where she becomes a lab rat for a bunch of psychic ninjas who fight alien monsters!

This sounds completely up my alley. However, this is my third try at reading it, and I have never gotten farther than 30% in, and I had to force myself to get even that far. It’s written in the form of a diary, which means there’s no dialogue and it’s entirely tell-not-show. I’ve read books like that which I’ve really enjoyed (Jo Walton is extremely good at that type of narrative), but this one never caught my interest. It’s certainly very ambitious— for instance, Cassandra does not speak the alien language, nor does she instantly learn it— but I found it dry and uninvolving.

Sorry to all who recced it so enthusiastically! I will try something else by Host, but I’m giving up on this one. That being said, everyone but me seems to love it, and it’s free on Amazon, so give it a shot.

Stray (Touchstone Book 1)
Slavery shaped Benjamin January’s life; he and his sister Olympe were born slaves, before his mother was purchased as a mistress. It’s been a prominent part of the background of previous books. But it takes center stage here, when the man Ben least wants to meet again— Fourchet, his cruel previous owner— offers to hire him to go undercover as a slave on his plantation, to investigate a murder and possible brewing slave rebellion.

It’s the last thing Ben wants to do. But he needs the money. More importantly, if he doesn’t do it, the slaves may well end up suffering even more. (A major theme of the book is that even people who are living in horrible conditions often still have a lot left to lose, and desperately cling to what little they have.) And so Ben ends up back on the plantation, thirty years after he left. Though his act of (largely) altruism is intended to make sure the status quo doesn’t get even worse rather than to literally rescue anyone, it reminded me of Harriet Tubman returning to the scene of her worst nightmares to take others to freedom.

Hambly doesn’t stint on the physical horror of slavery, but focuses more on the psychological aspects— families ripped apart, human beings treated as non-human, and the pervasive terror coming from the knowledge that one’s master can do absolutely anything to you or your loved ones at any time. It’s also one of the best depictions I’ve come across of how people work to keep their humanity, maintain loving relationships, and find moments of happiness and humor in the absolute worst imaginable circumstances.

While I hesitated to recommend Fever Season, I would definitely recommend this if you can cope with the setting. The overall mood is way less depressing, because the story is more action-based, Ben has more inner strength and hope, and there’s more emphasis on relationships. Not to mention a way more uplifting ending. And a fair amount of secret banter between Ben and Hannibal, who is impersonating his owner. The action climax is a bit incongruous given the relentless realism of the plantation life that makes up most of the book, but as an action climax, it’s spectacular. Abishag Shaw has a smallish but absolutely wonderful part in this; sadly, Rose is barely in it. Hopefully she’ll be more prominent in the next book.

This is a very dark book (due to inherent qualities of the subject matter, not due to cement truck plot twists), but also one where the bright spots shine very brightly by contrast. It has the most moving and happiest ending of any of the books so far. Where many novels are fantasies of empowerment, in some ways this is a fantasy of justice. It’s explicitly stated to be limited to the characters we meet (and not all of them), not to mention being fictional. But it’s satisfying nonetheless. In real life, some slaves did escape, and some masters did meet well-deserved bitter ends. That was the exception rather than the rule, of course. But sometimes it’s nice to read about the exceptions. When you’re dealing with devastating injustice, both now and then, you need hope as well as rage.

Sold Down the River (Benjamin January, Book 4)
I wrote a lesbian erotic romance novelette for an anthology to benefit international LGBTQ human rights under a pen name, Rebecca Tregaron. Please consider buying it - it's only 99 cents for now, and we're hoping to bounce it on to the bestseller list before raising the price.

Her Private Passion: More Tales of Pleasure and Domination

Five smoldering tales of women’s passion for women. Five best-selling authors bring you their hottest lesbian historical stories of desires that cannot be denied.

From elegant aristocrats, cross-dressing soldiers, and sultry sirens, to naughty nuns, seductive spies, and innocent young ladies, some women must dominate... and some women must submit.

“Bound in Silk and Steel,” by Rebecca Tregaron. The lovely courtesan-spy Perrine travels to Serenissima to seduce and ensnare the noblewoman Fiorenza. But in the sensual abandon of Carnival, power can shift in the blink of an eye, the turn of a mask, the flick of a rope…

"Convent Discipline," by Honey Dover. Alessandra isn't looking forward to becoming a nun, but in strict medieval Italy, her family has given her no other option. When her training as a novice is taken over by the lovely Julia, Alessandra learns that submission can mean much more than prayer.

"Found," by Victoria Janssen. In the midst of the American Civil War, Clodia flees slavery and certain death. Found by her escaped friend Diana, who is serving as a man in the Union army, Clodia fears she can't be forgiven for the past.

"Spanked On The Prairie," by Isla Sinclair. When Emily Welland misbehaves on the Canadian prairie, she is due for a spanking from firm but beautiful Miss Grant. But little does she know the sensual lesbian delights in store for her.

“The Ocean's Maid,” by Mona Midnight. All Sarah wanted was to find her sister, lost to the mermaids more than a year ago. But in the world of the sirens, she finds welcoming arms... and the promise of the forbidden pleasures she has denied herself for so many years. Will she return to the surface? Or will she succumb to the temptations of life under the sea?

The companion volume of gay historical stories, His Prize Possession: Tales of Pleasure and Domination, is also available.
Quentin Coldwater is an unhappy, self-absorbed, self-conscious teenager obsessed with a children’s fantasy series set in a magical world called Fillory, which is very clearly meant to evoke Narnia. Then he learns that he has a talent for magic, and is whisked away to a fancy prep school for magicians, Brakebills. At first he thinks his dream has come true. But soon enough, he realizes that he’s still an unhappy, self-absorbed, self-conscious teenager, only now he’s obsessed with real magic.

I read this in preparation for being on a panel on portal fantasy. I had avoided it until then because all I had heard about it was that it was published as a mainstream literary novel rather than as genre fantasy (you can tell because it’s subtitled “a novel,”) was about how fantasy sucks and had the most unlikable protagonist since Thomas Covenant.

All that turned out to be correct. Sort of. But I liked it way more than I expected to, primarily because the “fantasy sucks” and “protagonist is unbearable” elements don’t come in, or at least aren’t major themes, until about the last third of the book. The first two-thirds, which is set in Brakebills, is terrific – distinctly on the cynical side and weighed down by Quentin’s depression and solipsism, but written in absolutely wonderful prose and full of vivid images, funny lines, and a genuine sense of magic.

As I read that part, I couldn’t understand why the book had such a bad reputation among fantasy readers. Sure, it emphasizes that magic is difficult, that magicians are not the most fun people in the world, and that Quentin is using magic to run away from essentially everything else, but it’s also hugely enjoyable to read as fantasy.

I loved the Brakebills section. The prose is to die for. It’s extremely well-structured, with a great use of foreshadowing to create surprising yet beautifully set-up plot twists.

On the con side, the characterization has problems and it isn’t just a lack of likability. Other than Quentin, who is more distinct as he’s seen from the inside, many of the characters are so similar that they blend together. Virtually all of the characters are obsessive, unhappy, self-absorbed, driven, and jaded. The main characters have maybe one or two traits in addition to that set, such as “punk,” “brave,” or “pretentious.”

However, lots of teenagers are unhappy and self-absorbed, so I read the Brakebills part thinking that Quentin and his buddies weren’t that bad and the readers who loathed him probably didn’t remember being a teenager that well.

Then he graduates from Brakebills. Almost immediately, I realized why readers hated him. And soon after, I realized why fantasy readers frequently hate the book. Spoilers ahoy! Read more... )

I looked on Goodreads and saw that there are two more books. I attempted to get a sense of what they were like while avoiding spoilers, and was interested to see that the second is partly narrated by the most interesting character in the first book, and that readers seemed to think the third was actually uplifting. It’s not that I require uplift in everything. But I’m not going to read more of the series if it’s all soul-sucking joylessness like the real world and Fillory sections. However, I would definitely read more if it’s more like the Brakebills sections. Also, the moments of uplift in The Magicians were beautiful, so I know Grossman can do that well.

If you can comment without major spoilers, I’d be interested to hear what those of you who’ve read further books thought of them.

The Magicians: A Novel
Up here!

Includes an explanation of how our collaboration works, teasers for the next three books in the series, and musings on Hogwarts Houses.
Sherwood Smith and I will be Guests of Honor at ConDFW, at Dallas in February. Anyone here from Texas?
Benjamin January # 3! This one was way less grim than Fever Season. I realize that's easy to say, so I will give it an independent grimness rating.

Grimness of content: Medium. Racism and other isms, slavery, murder; child abuse is discussed but not shown.

Grimness of tone: Low. The subtitle is "a novel of suspense" and that accurately describes the tone. It's a very atmospheric mystery with some excellent action and really great characters. I loved everyone in this book, except for the villains and racists, obviously. Also, it contains a number of fun tropes, including hurt-comfort, creepy pottery, courtroom drama, spirit possession, and dodging alligators in the bayou. Plus Marie Laveau. The plot is very well-constructed and entertaining. And there's some very funny banter, plus a number of dramatic, alarming, and/or hilarious courtroom scenes.

Benjamin January is a devout Catholic and regularly prays for the soul of his sister Olympe, a voodoo practitioner. When Olympe is railroaded into jail for poisoning a man, mostly due to prejudice against voodoo, Ben gets on the case.

I really enjoyed the portrayal of voodoo. Hambly has an afterword discussing her research (she's a historian) and interviews with current practitioners where she gives a sense of how varied the practice and history is-- as is the case in any religion. From Ben's outsider/insider perspective, it's simultaneously alien and disturbing, familiar and enticing. It was a great way to convey how any religion is sustaining and ordinary for its followers, and exotic and weird to outsiders who don't understand it. Marie Laveau is one of my favorite characters in the series, and she naturally has a big part in this.

For the first time, supernatural forces appear as a (possibly) real force. The vivid scenes of spirit possession can be interpreted as simply the power of belief, but they make more sense if the Loa are objectively real. I liked the delicate balance of deniability at play through the whole book.

Since my favorite thing about this series is the characters, I'll do a check-in. Augustus Mayerling, the sword master who was one of my favorites from the first book, re-appears. Poor Hannibal is so sick with consumption that it was a relief to know while reading that he's still alive ten books later-- he spends most of the book either in bed or helping Ben with various tasks while trying not to pass out. (Someone said he's based on George Alec Effinger? Can you enlarge on that?) Rose makes some satisfying appearances, though I wish she was in the story more. Ben's awful mother Livia is still hilariously, deliciously catty. Olympe and her family have nice big roles-- I really like her, her husband, and her son Gabriel. And Ben has a really satisfying character arc.

Graveyard Dust
I am currently creating a website for “The Change,” the series of which Stranger is the first. Food features prominently in the series, and I’d like to have some recipes on the site.

Since I know a number of you cook, I invite you to create a recipe from the book. If you’re interested, pick an item (or as many as you like) from below the cut, create a recipe, ideally photograph the result, and write out the recipe. I will put it on the site and credit you under whatever name you like. I’m fine with multiple recipes for the same dish, so more than one person can pick the same dish. No payment, so only do this if it sounds fun. And please feel free to link if you have friends who might have fun with this.

Depending on how geeky you want to get, this is after the apocalypse in Los Angeles, so in the book, all ingredients are either locally grown or imported from the surrounding area. Rice is a rare delicacy, and tea is not available at all. (Coffee is grown in Santa Barbara, and is moderately expensive but widely drunk.) Local grains are wheat, corn, and barley. You can either ignore this limitation or work with it, up to you.

Note that one of the characters is an experimental chef, hence some of the weirder dishes.

All food mentioned in the book is below the cut-tag; spoilers if you think that’s spoilery. Read more... )
Benjamin January is working at a hospital during a yellow fever epidemic. (Yellow fever is transmitted by mosquitos, and due to being endemic in Africa, many people from Africa have some level of immunity. The characters in the book are aware of the latter fact but not the former, and have no useful treatment even if they did know the cause.) Meanwhile, both free people of color and slaves are mysteriously vanishing. In more cheerful news— well, cheerful for a while— Ben meets Rose, a free woman of color running a school for girls. Rose is a great character, and their slow burn romance is lovely.

That being said, the book as a whole was awesomely depressing. Not only was it set in a yellow fever epidemic, not only did it contain a brief but absolutely horrifying torture sequence, but both the epidemic and the horrifying torture were actual historic events, ie, they really happened to real people. Also, dead children. Truly grimdark, though not gratuitously given that it’s real history. Not even Ben and Rose’s charming courtship and politicly crude policeman Abishag Shaw’s delightful way with words ("But I do think I should point out to you that even if Miss Chouteau gets cleared of Borgialatin the soup herself, it ain't gonna win her freedom,") can lift the general gloom.

I have been told that this and Sold Down the River are the darkest books in the whole series. However, I already started Graveyard Dust, and it looks like Hambly is careful to get new readers up to speed on events, so Fever Season is probably skippable if you like the characters but want to miss the awesome depressingness.

Fever Season

Spoilers: Read more... )
rachelmanija: (Default)
( Aug. 26th, 2014 09:32 am)
I'm on vacation in Asheville, North Carolina. I have photos of sights in the town, pretty dresses, etc and more sights plus my new hair cut.
Yes, it’s another post-apocalyptic series opener, but it’s infused with a generous spirit—call it a utopian dystopia.

The small, walled community of Las Anclas bears little resemblance to Los Angeles, whose ancient ruins sprawl nearby. To Ross, a badly wounded prospector fleeing a powerful enemy, it’s paradise compared to what he’s used to—to its residents, not so much. Yuki misses the freedom of the wild ocean and dreams of escaping with Paco. Engineer Mia loves blowing things up, but she feels socially awkward. Felicité, the daughter of the mayor and defense chief, knows precisely what she wants: to make half of a power couple with Indra, Jennie’s boyfriend. Jennie herself is delighted to be chosen as a Ranger, the town’s elite defense corps; she’d feared that prejudice against the Changed, people like her who’ve acquired strange powers, made her a long shot. Mia and Jennie, best friends, find themselves attracted to secretive Ross. Characterization is rich and stereotype-free. For gays and lesbians, sexual orientation is neither more nor less a defining characteristic than it is for heterosexuals. Equally exceptional is the depiction of conflict. The confusing adrenaline rush of war is followed by PTSD, its lingering afterimage. The five dynamic narrators and action-packed plot deliver thrills while slyly undermining genre clichés.

A first-rate page turner that leaves its own compelling afterimage.
Barbara Hambly has written some of my very favorite fantasy novels. She’s also famous for the Benjamin January series, about a free black man who solves mysteries in 1830s New Orleans.

I never got around to reading these, despite hearing very positive things, because American historical racism— particularly in the slavery era— is something I find crushingly depressing. Just to be clear: contemporary racism is also depressing. However, there’s certain topics which I personally find really hard to handle, either from over-exposure or just because. Slavery in America is in the top five, along with the Holocaust. I am also a very hard sell on books set in concentration camps.

However, several fans pointed out to me that the Benjamin January series is not solely about racism, and that later books in the series focus more on adventuring. Also that there’s dueling, hurt-comfort, and pirates, and that really the series is about found family and community.

I give you this preface in case you’ve also been avoiding the series for fear of crushing depressingness. This book is not crushingly depressing! I really enjoyed it. Also, for those of you who like worldbuilding, it creates an engrossing, vivid, complex, and, as far as I’m aware, extremely historically accurate milieu. Lots of suspense! Great female characters. Also great male characters. Even very minor characters, who appear only for a scene or two, often suggest an entire novel’s worth of backstory.

I am horrible at following the plots of mysteries and basically read them for the characters and the setting. So I will avoid a close description of the plot. I will just say that Benjamin January was born a slave and freed as a child, became a surgeon in Paris but couldn’t make a living because he was black, and recently moved back to New Orleans after his wife died because everything in Paris reminded him of her.

New Orleans is both familiar and foreign to him after his long absence, which makes him a perfect narrator: he knows everything the reader needs to know, and notices everything because it’s all slightly alien to him. He’s a believably honorable and decent person who tries his best to do the right thing, even in circumstances that make that seem like the worst possible option.

A woman is murdered at a ball, and he’s sucked deeper and deeper into the investigation. The mystery is cleverly constructed, but it’s also an excuse to introduce the society, the characters, and their complex relationships. January is intensely conscious of everyone’s place in society, including his own; the scenes which I did find hard to read were the ones where he’s forced to abase himself to white people in order to survive. Like noir, the murder investigation inevitably uncovers the rot and injustice in society; unlike noir, people who take care of each other and try to do the right thing may well triumph.

I found the novel interesting but slow going for about the first two thirds. There are a lot of characters, some of whom have several names, and I kept losing track of the minor ones. But at that two-thirds mark, January leaves New Orleans to investigate, and the book becomes incredibly suspenseful from that point on. Also, a certain favorite thing of mine makes a delightful surprise appearance that I won't spoil.

I will definitely read more of this. Especially now that I’ve figured out who everyone is and how they’re related. I spent an embarrassingly long time thinking that Minou and Dominique were two different people rather than one person with a nickname.

(I also did this in the Lymond chronicles, which had a character named something like Edmund, Earl of Sandwich, who was alternately called Edmund and Sandwich. It took me two books to figure out that they were the same guy. You’d think I’d have less trouble with movies, but I once was startled when the black-haired, blue-eyed protagonist of a war movie reappeared after his tragic death. I then realized that there were two black-haired, blue-eyed soldiers.)

In short: if you want to read a meticulously researched historical novel in which intersectionality is essential to the story, this book is it. But if that’s all you’ve previously heard about it, I wanted to point out that it’s also surprisingly fun. Daring escapes and dramatic battles figure prominently in the last third.

A Free Man of Color
Mea culpa: "To yard sale" is real slang meaning "to fall down." However, it comes from skiing/snowboarding, when a violent fall scatters your equipment like junk spread out on a lawn for a yard sale. Very witty and intuitively clear in that context! The context in Ward's book was a guy who was stumbling around his apartment either naked or in pajamas, I forget which. Nothing would have scattered had he keeled over.

Lover Revealed (Black Dagger Brotherhood, Book 4) is the one with the human cop hero and the sad virgin vampire heroine. I actually liked the heroine, Marissa. The hero, Butch, was a total jackass. You could not have come up with a better example of how "alpha male" traits taken to extremes are actually asshole traits.

Butch had one of the stupidest conflicts I've ever come across in a romance novel. He's human and if his vampire girlfriend drinks his blood, he'll DIE. So she drinks from a vampire friend instead, which is how vampires normally feed. Butch is jealous because feeding has sexual overtones, and demands that she drink from him instead, even though it will KILL HIM. He gets so demanding about it and furious at her drinking from someone other than him that his poor girlfriend, who doesn't want to KILL HIM, starts starving herself!

So he would rather DIE by forcing the woman he supposedly loves to KILL HIM, thus leaving her alone, heartbroken, and horribly guilty, than have her perform a mildly sexual act with a friend that she needs to do TO LIVE.

Admittedly, this is called out as stupid in the book. But it's also portrayed that it's totally natural for Butch, a MANLY MANLY MAN, to prefer death to having his girlfriend have a relationship with another man which she has no choice over and does not regard as sexual (though Butch does.)

There was a nicely effective bit of body horror when Butch is infected with eevil and his come turns black. YIKES.

Bad medicine: Do not cram stuff into people's mouths if they're having a seizure!

Quote chosen by randomly opening book: "I threatened the king's life to ahvenge your honor!"

Lover Awakened (Black Dagger Brotherhood, Book 3) was my favorite. The hero of this one, Zsadist-- just pause to admire that-- is not an asshole. He's a physically and emotionally scarred survivor of kidnapping and repeated rape, who thinks he's too damaged to be anything but a killer and has some serious hang-ups about sex. Within the completely over the top context of the book, I have to say that this was handled pretty realistically and sensitively. And also milked for maximum angst. The heroine, Bella, is sexually assertive and mostly rescues herself. Very nice!

Zsadist's twin brother, Phury-- just pause to admire that-- has possibly the all-time best "how I lost my leg" story. Incidentally, a number of the male vampires are disabled, sometimes with magical compensation but often not. I liked this aspect of the series.

Bad medicine: If you've been injected with a drug, vomiting won't "get it out of your system." It's in your bloodstream, not your stomach.

Quote chosen by randomly opening book: Before Zsadist left, he took one last look at the fish tank. The food was almost gone now, snipped off the surface by little gaping mouths, mouths that came at it from the underside. (I like this, actually. Zsadist is feeling triggered and unsettled and not consciously noticing it, but everything around him has taken on a slightly sinister tinge.)

In Lover Unbound (Black Dagger Brotherhood, Book 5), we learn that Vishous-- just pause to admire that-- is canonically bisexual and has a crush on Butch. Sadly, this is the book about his romance with a woman, Jane, a doctor who gets kidnapped to tend Vishous' wounds. The romance made no sense in this one. Vishous is traumatized by early noncon same-sex encounters so now he can only have sex by dominating women in completely consensual BDSM settings, and he and Jane have sweet banter and then he repeatedly dubcons her but it's OK because she consented, sort of, and then he subs for her in penance for... something. What? It also turns out that he knows how to resurrect the dead, which may have been set up in previous books but seemed out of the blue in this one. Bonus WTF "happy ending."

Bad medicine: You STILL don't stuff things in people's mouths if they have a seizure!

Quote chosen by randomly opening book: Butch's jaw dropped and he pulled a bobble.
rachelmanija: (Princess Bride: Let me sum up)
( Aug. 15th, 2014 01:58 pm)
I will do an actual write up shortly, but first I had to quote this. The context is that the character is having trouble walking.

It seemed like at any moment his knees were going to take a vacation and he was going to yard sale like an idiot. - J. R. Ward, Lover Unbound.

I can tell from context that "yard sale" means "fall down."

...How in the world does "yard sale" get to mean "fall down?"

This made me think of how difficult it is to invent slang. Actual slang tends to have properties which makes it more-or-less comprehensible:

People use words and phrases in a natural context, so you can usually figure them out from that context.

Slang is usually not isolated, but part of a whole slang culture, from Valley-speak to doge. If you know some of the slang from that culture, you know its rules and can use them to figure out new-to-you slang. For instance, all the "bad = good" slang. If you know that law, you can figure out that someone being enthusiastic about something while calling it "trash" probably means that "trash = good."

Slang usually has some sort of internal logic - words that don't make sense to people don't get repeated, while the ones that make sense to lots of people get used and thus become common coin. It's not totally random. If you've been exposed to the "bad = good" slang culture, you might be able to get "puketastic = good" to catch on. But fetch will never happen.

One author can't replicate the wisdom of crowds. So they need to have a good ear and make good use of context. Ward is generally pretty good at context - it was obvious what "yard sale" meant - but not so much on the ear.

Anyway, reading her books reminded me of one of the worst failures of context for invented slang I've ever encountered, the only movie I've ever walked out on, Things To Do In Denver When You're Dead. I saw it with a friend in an advance screening. It's a gangster movie full of totally incomprehensible invented slang. The point at which we walked out went something like this:

Gangster 1 bursts into a solemn meeting of gangsters.

Gangster 1: Guys, guys! Capelli bought a boat drink!!!

This is obviously deeply meaningful to the gangsters.

Gangsters: Mmm, ahhh. That changes everything.

Me, Friend: [WTF looks.]

Gangster 2: And we all know what this means, right?

Gangsters: [Nod.]

Friend (whispers): I don't know what this means!

Me (whispers): He got whacked?

Friend (whispers): He ratted them out to the feds?

Me (whispers): He came out of the closet?

Friend (whispers): He moved to Miami?

Gangster 3: Yeah. We gotta tarantula.

Friend (whispers): Let's go get boat drinks.

We left.

(Actual reviews to come!)

ETA: I looked up "boat drinks" in that movie. When you go to Heaven, you lounge on a boat drinking, so boat drinks = dead. However, I may have misremembered the actual slang in that context, because "buckwheat" = "killed horribly." So the dialogue I remember might have actually been "Capelli's buckwheat."

I leave it to you, my imaginative readers, to figure out why buckwheat means killed horribly. A derivation of "pushing up daisies," minus the "pushing up" part that makes it make sense?
Sometimes I worry that I am a jaded reader who has lost the capacity to be boggled by a book. Then something like Lover Revealed comes along, and I realize that no, I can TOTALLY still be boggled. I am sincerely amazed that this series was published by a traditional publisher. Not because it’s terrible. (It is, sort of, but it definitely has its virtues as well.) But because it’s so utterly cracktastic and bizarre.

How do I even describe the whacked-out id-fest that is this book…?

It’s about a brotherhood of ginormously muscular vampires. Like these guys: http://www.kinseyinstitutegallery.com/data/photos/189_1r2002_29_32.jpg. (NOT WORKSAFE.) A lot of scenes in the book would look basically like that if drawn, in fact.

They are manly, manly, manly vampires. Who do man things. They are possessive and alpha. Manly! Muscular! Into brand names! When they bond, their sweat smells like Old Spice. And they wear very, very expensive brand-name clothes. And use manly slang.

Best of all, they have manly, manly names. ACTUAL NAMES: Vishous. Phury. Rhage. Rehvenge. Xhex (the lone manly female vampire. I presume this is pronounced Sex.) Tehrror. Hhurt. Tohrture. Ahgony. Zsadist.

ZSADIST.

They spend their time male-bonding, fucking, angsting, ogling each other’s beautiful yet manly bodies (and faces, and clothes, and hair), and hunting vampire-killers who are wusses who smell like baby powder. You’d think their manly, manly, manliness would be shown to better effect if they had opponents who weren’t ludicrously overmatched.

The worldbuilding consists of the letter h. A truly cool vampire does not avenge a loved one's death - he ahvenges it. They don't have contests like mere mortals - they have cohntehsts. And only a plebe would go into seclusion when she could experience the far more special sehclusion. And so forth. An especially manly man is phearsom.

This book has more homoeroticism than many novels I’ve read in which men were fucking each other on-page. The Brotherhood vampires are constantly touching each other, sprawled naked on a bed with each other, discussing each other's sex loves, popping giant boners around each other, and admiring each other’s swelling muscles.

Except for two of them (who get a canon romance later, good for you, J. R. Ward), they are canonically straight. Straight, I tell you! These are heterosexual romances. In theory. Here is an actual excerpt from Butch’s totally heterosexual POV.

"My flesh," he whispered.

He seemed to hesitate before turning to Butch. Then he pivoted and their eyes met. As candlelight flickered over V’s hard face and got caught in his diamond irises, Butch felt his breath get tight: At that moment, his roommate looked as powerful as a god… and maybe even as beautiful.

Vishous stepped in close and slid his hand from Butch’s shoulder to the back of his neck. “Your flesh,” V breathed. Then he paused, as if asking for something.

Without thinking, Butch tilted his chin up, aware that he was offering himself, aware that he… oh, fuck. He stopped his thoughts, completely weirded out by the vibe that had sprung up from God only knew where.

In slow motion Vishous’s dark head dropped down and there was a silken brush as his goatee moved against Butch’s throat.

With delicious precision, V’s fangs pressed against the vein that ran up from Butch’s heart, then slowly, inexorably, punched through skin. Their chests merged.

Butch closed his eyes and absorbed the feel of it all, the warmth of their bodies so close, the way V’s hair felt soft on his jaw, the slide of a powerful male arm as it slipped around his waist. On their own accord, Butch’s hands left the pegs and came to rest on V’s hips, squeezing that hard flesh, bringing them together from head to foot. A tremor went through one of them. Or maybe… shit, it was more like they both shuddered.


This is part of a climactic initiation scene in which all of the Black Dagger Brotherhood fondle and then punch Butch, then tell him to turn around and face the wall. Honest to God, I had to go back and re-read several paragraphs to figure out what Ward meant to have going on next if it wasn’t a gangbang. It sounded exactly like a slightly euphemistic description of an orgy.

My best guess on how the Black Dagger Brotherhood came to be is that the author took as her inspirations Tom of Finland, gangsta rap videos circa MTV, and the Gucci men’s wear catalogue, then smoked a giant doobie and wrote a vampire novel.

The result is completely rhidiculous, yet strangely rheadable. I read the whole thing in a day and am now halfway through Lover Awakened, the bhook about Zsadist. Send help. And an h-remover.

Lover Revealed (Black Dagger Brotherhood, Book 4)
rachelmanija: (Default)
( Aug. 2nd, 2014 09:59 am)
Pick up the book nearest to you and turn to page 45. The first sentence explains your love life.

I got the tragically apt Bruce gave up trying to eat.

- Ransom, by Lois Duncan.

Amuse me by doing this in comments, minions.
rachelmanija: (Default)
( Aug. 1st, 2014 02:11 pm)
I am attempting a meme.

[profile] wordsofastory gave me...

rachelmanija and food.

Food is my passion. My first meeting with [personal profile] oyceter consisted of an hour-long discussion of tropical fruit. (Best tropical fruit: fresh lychees and Alphonso mangos. I have still, sadly, never had a mangosteen. Worst tropical fruit: custard apples. They taste fine. I just can't deal with the grainy AND slimy texture.)

One of the very best things about Los Angeles is the food. Even LA-haters cannot deny that this is a great city for food. We have great high-end fancy dining. We have excellent medium-priced restaurants. We have AMAZING low-end cheap food - taco kitchens at the back of corner stores, food trucks, guys with rainbow umbrellas selling fresh fruit - mangoes, soft young coconut, pineapple, oranges, cucumbers- that they slice up while you watch and douse in chili, seasoned salt, and lime.

People in LA love food. They are passionate about food. They photograph their meals and post them on the internet. They follow food trucks on twitter. They make earrings of teeny cupcakes and wear them to pastry shops. If you read the Chowhound board for Los Angeles, every single restaurant thread will have at least three posters claiming that it used to be good, but now it's gone downhill. This includes restaurants that opened last week. The sushi is always fresher on the other side of the freeway.

My grandmother used to say, "Food is love." I would say, "food is feeling." Food is memory. Food is culture. Food is passion. A bad relationship with food, or an illness that affects eating, or only bad food available will make you miserable in a way that goes way beyond the actual moments where you confront the problem food. Being able to enjoy food again is a shocking joy.

As I type, I am drinking a cup of coffee with powdered creamer because my milk ran out, and eating wafer cookies with black sesame cream.

rachelmanija and werewolves.

The biggest influence on how I think of shapeshifters is Ursula Le Guin's A Wizard of Earthsea. If you transform yourself into an animal, you think as an animal thinks. Will you remember how to become a human again? Will you still want to, when you can soar as a hawk?

To me, the most interesting thing about being a person who can become an animal is what it would feel like to be an animal. I can't know what that would be like, but when I think of the moments when I've thought the least and felt the most, when I've reacted most purely on instinct... they're all moments that felt, if not good exactly, very pure. Very clear. Stripped down to the basics. Usually, in fact, that does feel good. If it doesn't, it's because of context - like, you're fighting for your life. But that can feel good, too.

When I imagine being an animal, I think of a combination of being enraptured in the present moment, caught by the beauty of a sunrise or the taste of a peach, and of an adrenaline rush. Halfway between combat and meditation.

I'd like being a wolf, I think. It would be very tempting to stay one.

rachelmanija and fashion.

I had no interest in fashion until [personal profile] oyceter convinced me to watch Project Runway, and in between designers squabbling and having meltdowns, I started getting a sense of how different silhouettes and colors create different feelings, and the history of fashion, and why people get very passionate about matchy-matchy. Watching the designers dissect the designs and listening to them explain why they liked one dress and disliked another, I started seeing what they saw. And then I started having opinions.

I now own quite a few dresses. And shoes. And blouses. And skirts. I periodically poke through ebay and etsy, and I wear shoes to work that I bought in Paris. I have Betsey Johnson dresses and Prabal Gurung for Target shirts and a dress. I wear my matchy-matchy belt and shoes and smile to myself.

For myself, I like very girly dresses with fitted tops and skirts that swing. I like bright colors and jewel tones and patterns, and also slinky black and corsets. I like black leather jackets and Battenberg lace, and slashed tops and high boots and trench coats. I don't wear stiletto heels.

The main thing I learned from Project Runway is that fashion is supposed to be fun, and it's about wearing things that you like and that make you look good.

I used to think of it as this horrible game of one-upmanship and that it was all about desperately keeping up with the correct thing, or else everyone laughs at you. But now that I'm out of high school, I think of it as a buffet you pick and choose from, and a set of elements that, if you understand them, you can use to create a look that will say what you want to convey. It's like writing, if you think of it. You select the tropes, or you select the silhouettes and colors and shoes. If you do it right, you have said, and you feel, "Playful!" or "Sexy!" or "Badass!" or "Classic Elegance!"

You are embodying a feeling, not just a look. Sometimes you're embodying a story. See how these dressesconvey the sense of an atmosphere and a story? And these convey a different story.
.

Profile

rachelmanija: (Default)
rachelmanija

Syndicate

RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Powered by Dreamwidth Studios

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags