Nicole Reads A Lot

so many books, so little time

I’m sensing a pattern here

I enjoy fiction. A lot. Some of my more outspoken colleagues openly question my love of fiction, and others just kind of give me sidelong looks, but I don’t care. I can sit down and enjoy a good non-fiction book just as much as the next nerd, but fiction is where my heart lives.

I have several stacks of “To be read” books in my room, but when I’m at work, I usually wander over to the New Book section to see what piques my interest. One of the books that I found this way was The Sleeping Beauty Proposal by Sarah Strohmeyer. This book is obviously marketed to women, and specifically those who have an interest in chick lit. I have absolutely nothing against the genre. Sometimes what you want is a book with some humor, romance, and vicarious fun that is not ONLY about romance.

I thought the book was funny, but I was bothered by how the main character tells a lie to save face, and then spends the rest of the novel telling larger and less justifiable lies to maintain her initial fiction. I definitely understand wanting to preserve your pride or trying to avoid looking foolish, but pretty early on, the deception crosses over into something else. I think that a lot of people can understand why Genie, the protagonist, would pretend that she is the person to whom her boyfriend proposed (over the phone) on live television, but then she gets more and more ridiculous as the book goes on. She buys a fake engagement ring, registers for stuff, and instead of trying to make some sort of graceful extrication, merely digs herself deeper and deeper into a mess.

I’ve been reading a lot of fantasy books lately (such as novels by Rachel Vincent, Mercedes Lackey, C. E. Murphy, and Sharon Shinn), so maybe I’m not just used to some of the conventions of other fiction anymore, but I really hate how reliant Strohmeyer’s protagonists are on dishonesty. I just started another of her novels, The Cinderella Pact. This novel also features a protagonist, Nola, who orchestrates a fiction that she then spends the rest of the rest of the book (so far) lying to maintain.

I don’t lie in order to get promotions, or to impress men, or really much at all (except to my nephew, and who doesn’t love lying to little kids??), and it disturbs me to see that dishonesty is sort of portrayed in these books as a functional way of life. I know, I know that the ends of these books have the heroines, their friends, and the fabulously wealthy romantic partners they’ve managed to snag along the way all chuckling and shaking their heads over the lies that were so recently such a large part of their lives, but this doesn’t ring true to me at all. I like my fiction to have a sort of internal consistency. And if it all ends up with everybody being understanding (after they’ve cooled off) and even admiring (However did you manage to maintain such a ruse for so long!), then why all the subterfuge to begin with?

I guess I’m probably thinking too much about these books, but I do think it’s kind of ridiculous how much effort both protagonists put into creating and maintaining an ever-growing amount of lies, all in the name of (financial, professional, romantic, personal) progress.

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Blood Noir Review

I recently finished Blood Noir, the latest book by Laurell K. Hamilton. Last week, I discussed my impressions of the series and my fears about how this book would be. Blood Noir was a lot like what I expected, but also somewhat better. There was a lot of sex. Sex sex sex. Anita has sex. With men. And weres. And vampires. Did you know? Anita has sex. Good for her! But sometimes you wonder what else she has in her life except for hot guys and lots of sex (NTTAWWT). There was also the repetition of phrases and concepts that I am convinced Hamilton has trademarked, such as:

  • “Pretty to think so”
  • “…things low and tight in my body”
  • moving in human form with muscles that are not found in the human body

This time, though, there was also some genuine character development to go along with all that sex. Most of it was reserved for the character of Jason, but even Nathaniel, who wasn’t around for a lot of the book, was shown to have grown up. Even Anita seemed more likely to think her actions through. I like that she doesn’t take anybody’s crap, but that she is also able to understand how certain situations require a level of diplomacy and compromise that do not come naturally to her. Also, I like that she still sometimes mucks up really important situations. It keeps her interesting.

I hated that so much exposition and calling people by their full names. I know that we’re about fourteen books into this series at this point, but these instances were glaring and really detracted from the story. I would prefer a brief character index or something, because these kinds of insertions are never seamless. Or maybe the newcomers should step away from this book and look at at least half of the preceding books. If you come into a series late and make no effort to catch yourself up, you deserve whatever confusion you feel. Also: congratulations on discovering the internet. You win a Google.

I have to say that I kind of hate Richard now. He seems really unable to focus on anything other than Anita and her sex life, and the fact that he hasn’t been able to accept how she’s changed over the last gazillion novels really makes me think poorly of him. He either needs to accept how Anita’s life is going to be and participate or remove himself as much as their triumvirate bond will allow. He’s tiresome. Being hot and angry will only get you so far, and then you’re going to need something to fall back on. A crushing sense of guilt and self-loathing are probably not the crutch you want to reach for. Jean-Claude, the third and most powerful member of the triumvirate (so far, Anita’s gaining power pretty rapidly), didn’t play much of a role in this novel, either, but the news that Anita’s actions had far-reaching consequences for him at least set the stage nicely for future installments of this series. I’d also like to know why Marmee Noire is all up in Anita’s (dream) grill. It would be great to find out eventually why Anita is so special, and that her accumulation of all these powers is leading somewhere interesting (other than a bedroom).

I haven’t given up on Ms. Blake & Co., even though each glimpse of their lives seems a lot like the episode before it. Is Hamilton sick of this character? Has she had trouble writing Anita lately? Something’s off, but I’m hanging on for at least one more installment. I’ll have to read the next book in the Meredith Gentry series, because I’m not actually sure whether those books are any more convincing than these.

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