Monday, September 15, 2014

Review--Alias Hook

Alias HookAlias Hook by Lisa Jensen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Let me start by saying I never liked the Peter Pan story. It started when I saw Mary Martin flying on wires on TV, and thought to my 6 yr. old self, "That's a lady, not a boy!" It was downhill from there.

The blatant sexism of the book, the cruelty practiced by little boys who don't grow up with a moral compass, luring children away from those who love them...frankly, no one in that tale interested me (well, maybe the crocodile), except for the one truly adult figure.

Captain Hook.

Sure, he was a total villain, but he was interesting. He was flamboyant, he was a leader, he was devious and cunning, he was a pirate captain! What's not to like?

Lisa Jensen brings James Hook to life in a way that's marvelous for me as a reader, and as a feminist. When a drunk woman washes ashore in Neverland, it's Captain Hook who takes responsibility for her, because adult women are too threatening to Peter's boys.

Stella Parrish isn't a "wendy", a sexless little girl brought to Neverland to be a pretend mommy to the lost boys, to do the scut work and adore Peter. Stella's survived WWII, lost her husband and child, had a career, drinks too much on occasion and doesn't have a sylphlike-figure. She's a woman, not a little girl, and she wants to escape Neverland.

Stella and James' journey of self-discovery and redemption and adulthood is beautifully handled by Jensen, who takes a familiar tale and makes the reader see it, and analyze it, in a whole new way. This is a bedtime story for grown-ups, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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Saturday, September 13, 2014

"What so proudly we hailed..."

“You underestimate the will of the American people, Doctor.”
He poked his finger in the air for emphasis. “When you push us,
we push back. Hard. John Bull cannot bully America into
surrendering now any more than you could forty years ago. Have
you already forgotten the lesson of Fort McHenry?”
He rummaged in his desk and pulled out a tattered newspaper,
much folded and creased.
“My mother sent this to me with the letters, a newspaper from
home. A Mr. Key wrote a poem about the battle, Doctor, titled
‘The Defence of Fort McHenry.’ Look here—‘the land of the free
and the home of the brave.’ That’s America, Charley! I won’t ask
you to drink to an American victory, but you won’t mind if I have
a tot?”
David poured himself some rum while humming a tune.
Charley listened, her head cocked to the side.
“I know that tune—I heard it in the inn where I waited to board
the Lady Jane. It is ‘To Anacreon in Heaven,’ is it not? I recall the
people who attempted to navigate its melody often failed
“Maybe it’s a song best attempted while drinking for the full
effect. But I’m told it is now popular in Baltimore with lyrics
based on Mr. Key’s poem—‘And the rockets’ red glare…’”
Charley snickered as his voice strained through the notes.
"That tune will never catch on, Captain. Certainly not the way you sing!
Best you stick to sailing your ship.”
--Sea Change 

This weekend marks the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Ft. McHenry where an attorney named Francis Scott Key was negotiating the release of American prisoners from the British. He wasn't allowed to leave the British ship in Baltimore Harbor while the battle raged, and he watched through the night, inspired to write a poem about the events he'd witnessed during the bombardment.

The rest, as they say, is history. We sometimes joke about "The Star-Spangled Banner" and the difficulty of hitting the high notes, but there's no song in America that evokes the same mixture of patriotism and memory.  It is fitting that we salute our national anthem on its bicentennial, and raise a glass in salute to Mr. Key, the defenders of Ft. McHenry, and the Star Spangled Banner.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Review--The Professional

The Professional (The Game Maker, #1)The Professional by Kresley Cole
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I was conflicted about this one. On one hand, I like a good BDSM erotic romance as much as the next gal, and this one was very well written. Lightyears better than That Book.

On the other hand, the hero's controlling behavior outside of the bedroom made my nerves twitch. The whole "I'm preventing you from leaving because I can't live without you" dynamic made me want to tell her to run far and fast, and not look behind her.

I'm also _so_ over virgin college students being taken under the wing of billionaires for sex training and amazing baubles. To me it would be much more interesting if the heroine was a neurosurgeon or tax collector or forest ranger--_anyone_ with more life experience!

Bottom line is K. Cole is an extremely talented writer, which was my primary reason for getting this book and reading it until the end. Having said that, I'm mulling over whether I would buy others in this series. I'll wait and see what's published.

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Monday, September 08, 2014

Review--Dark Skye

Dark Skye (Immortals After Dark #14)Dark Skye by Kresley Cole
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've enjoyed the entire series, but I especially enjoyed how Cole addressed the issue of "slut shaming" in Dark Skye. The heroine has had an active and enjoyable sex life, the hero wants her to be ashamed or regretful and she refuses to accept this.

Obviously, he has to come around to accepting, and valuing her for who she is. This is an issue too seldom dealt with by romance authors, and Cole handles it with aplomb. I'm looking forward, as always, to the next book in the series.

The only reason I didn't give it five stars is I felt the "what danger do we face now?" scenes carried on a bit too much. I would have preferred to see more of Lanthe adjusting to her new and difficult life once they're out of the fiery pits.

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Sunday, September 07, 2014

Vote for Pompom!

She knew from his expression that she'd fallen even further in his esteem, if such a thing were possible.
“It was more in the nature of a suggestion, Miss Farnham. I knew better than to ask,” he sighed. “Return to your cabin. I will see to it.”
Daphne turned and walked blindly back to her cabin. Pompom greeted her and jumped into her lap when she sat on her bunk, staring at the empty covers of the bunk across from hers. Pompom licked her hand and Daphne put her head down next to the warm body snuggled into the crook of her arm.
“At least you love me just the way I am, Pompom,” she whispered to the bichon.

--Castaway Dreams

Who else gives us such unconditional love? Our dogs are always there for us, greeting us on a bad day as if we're the most wonderful thing that's ever happened to them (other than a red ball flying through the air to catch, or maybe some extra treats in the food dish).

Show your love for our fictional friends by voting for Pompom in the "Best Dogs in Historical Romance" list at Goodreads. Everyone who's read Castaway Dreams knows he's the true hero of the 2013 Aspen Gold winner!

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Ireland, or "How I Spent My Summer Vacation, part 1"

I'm back from travels to the UK and Ireland, pleased with myself once again for keeping a travel journal (Moleskine with Rhodia paper, written with a fountain pen, of course.) This journal entry will be about the first part of the trip before Loncon3, the World Science Fiction Convention. I'll write about Worldcon as a separate entry.

Two things I've learned from travel over the years is to stay awake until normal bedtime hours, as much as possible, and the more I walk, the more I can eat without worrying about fitting into my clothes at the end. When we arrived in Dublin I went for a long walk around our hotel, orienting myself to the area. I was immediately struck by one of the hallmarks of Dublin, the colorful doors on the Georgian-era flats. One tour leader later said there were two theories about this: One was that when King George died in the 18th c., all the English painted their doors black in mourning and the Irish were told to to the same. Not surprisingly, the Irish didn't take this order well and responded by picking every color imaginable.

The other theory is that everyone made sure her/his door did not match the neighbor's door, so that someone rolling home under the influence wouldn't try to enter the wrong flat.

Whichever theory is correct, the doors are a delightful touch. The neighborhood where we stayed near St. Stephen's Green is full of Georgian architecture, most of it well maintained, some of it obviously at the high end of the real estate market.  I treated myself to my first (but not my last) tea and scones with clotted cream afternoon, then headed back to the hotel.

Next day was on/off bus touring, my favorite way to get the highlights of a city I'm visiting. I've never done it in the States, but I may consider it on my next trip to one of our large locales just for a change of pace. I made note of places to return to, like the Writers Museum, and we stopped for lunch in Temple Bar, the entertainment district. The previous evening's pub dinner had 60s rock, which was fun, but not what I came to Ireland to hear. This time the musician was playing more traditional Irish melodies, probably because Temple Bar caters so heavily to tourists.


We promised each other no driving in Ireland--I still have nightmares of the Scottish attempt--so we took a coach tour out to the country the next day. Collins Day Tours was recommended by our concierge and TripAdvisor, and it lived up the billing. Great tour guide with a snappy patter, and the sights were magnificent. We went to Wicklow, Glendalough and Kilkenny. My only regret was we didn't have enough time in Kilkenny to tour the castle grounds and the city. Also, there was some kind of festival going on and the streets were packed with tourists local and international. I especially enjoyed the nature walk through Glendalough (above), the Valley of the Two Lakes and the stop at Wicklow Gap, site of many movie scenes. I regretted we wouldn't get to see more of the country, but if you only have one day out of Dublin to tour, this was a good choice. 

The next day was sunny(!) so we went to some area parks to admire the lovely flowers in all their glory, then went to the National Gallery to view their fine collection of art. My husband was feeling tired and left after lunch, but I decided to explore more of Dublin. I ended up walking back a few miles to our hotel, but my route took me past the National Library of Ireland. I could easily have spent another afternoon there, but had to pass. I did manage to get a selfie in to add to my "Darlene Marshall in front of Libraries" collection.

I also got to do some sightseeing on my own, since my hubby arranged a golf date with some Irish buddies from the insurance industry. He'd really looked forward to this, and the weather more or less cooperated. I visited the Irish Writers Museum, mailed some postcards, and shopped for woolens at a wonderful store called Avoca. Since this was our last evening in Dublin, we wanted to finish with some traditional Irish music in a pub. On a Tuesday night, the pickings were pretty slim, but we had a great time at Oliver St. John Gogarty's Pub in Temple Bar. I even knew who he was since I'd been to the Writers Museum.

Our trip to Ireland was highlighted by friendly people, good food and good times. I'd love to go back some day and spend more time seeing the countryside and getting to know the land better. I will say this for Ireland--it lives up to its billing as offering you every shade of green you can imagine out in the countryside. It's truly a beautiful spot.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Happy Labor Day!

“The women in my family have manufactured soap and toiletries for generations, and a Brooke woman knows how to stand on her own two feet! And I’m going to show him!
I will build my business up again. I had plenty of time aboard ship to work on my plans, and I have the skills.”
…Amanda grinned, feeling more lighthearted than she had in days. She lifted her own cup.
“To free trade, prosperity, and the United States of America!”

--Captain Sinister's Lady

Here's to all the hard working American women and men celebrating their achievements, and the end of summer. Happy Labor Day to you all!