Saturday, July 27, 2013

Book Review: Dragon Actually by G.A. Aiken

Dragon Actually (Dragon Kin, #1)Dragon Actually by G.A. Aiken
*I am sharing another of my Goodreads reviews here*
Why do I ever think a paranormal romance will ever be anything but awkward sex scenes tethered together by a thin line of plot? This book started out as interesting as the blurb of a summary suggested it would be but quickly degenerated once the romantic pairing was consummated.

View all my reviews

Allow me to provide a little context for my brief but vehement rant. I personally prefer a good book set in a well crafted world with quirky characters and a plot that has enough action to keep it interesting during the moments of character development and world building and spiced with a small element of romance. I usually read urban fantasy series for fun. I also love to read a good epic fiction series too but lately it seems my mind has been choosing simpler reads for its down time (I blame all the dry reading I am doing for school). I have been reading YA paranormal for a few years now too because I find that too many books with a romantic element in the adult version dips too heavily from the Laurel K. Hamilton pond (in case you don't get this reference, Hamilton's Anita Blake series started out very strong but after book 4 or 5 the sex scenes ate the plot).

I used to read full out romance novels when I was in my early teens. I was fond of the historical romance genre (I read Robert Jordan's historical romance written under the pen name of Regan O'Neal before I read the Wheel of Time series). The novelty of reading something I was not allowed to read glossed over the formulaic plots and all the cheesy "heaving breasts and throbbing manhood" lines. As with most things new and forbidden, the novelty wore off and I moved onto different genres.

Don't get me wrong, I am not a prude. I don't mind a really steamy sex scene or two in a book but only if they are written well. Most are not. Let's face it, most sexual encounters are awkward to begin with once you put them into words, so it is not surprising that few writers master describing the deed with any sort of skill. Now these statements are very obviously my own personal opinion on the romance genre. I understand that I am not the norm for which all must be measured against and my opinion does not represent what mainstream female readers like and desire. Proof of this lies in the sales for books like Dragon Actually (Laurel K. Hamilton is a very rich woman from her Anita Blake series and has many loyal and rabid fans who will drop what they are doing to defend their favorite author in a heartbeat). Take a look at the statistics on the RWA's (Romance Writers of America) website to see what I mean about mainstream opinion. Clearly romance novels are the norm.

So with this background information in place, let me tell you one more thing. Every now and again I see a summary for a romance novel (usually paranormal) that catches my attention. The plot sounds complex enough to be the main focus of the book and the characters sound down right interesting. Interest piqued, I pick up the book and think that this might be one of those few romances that are balanced and well written. I am usually proven wrong. I loathe that I was suckered in against my better judgement and end up frustrated with the book because it turns out to be everything I did not want it to be (formulaic, shallow plot, shallow characters that do mirror time as a Mary Jane, and every other page filled with awkward sex scenes with trite cliches peppering the text). This was the case with Dragon Actually.

There are some exceptions, even for the ones that lack the balance of plot and sex scenes. I have enjoyed a few romances series that had characters that were well developed enough that I cared to follow their story even through the multitude of awkward sex scenes. Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dark Hunter series is one example of this type. There are also the few books that embrace their cheesy nature and temper the tone with lots of humor. In fact, I recently read one of this type of exception and will review it here soon.

Procrastination, Thy Name is...Well, We'll Think of One Later

In case you have been wondering why the blog has gone all but silent, I am in the last weeks of summer semester. I have several large projects (which I have thought extensively about but have yet to really start doing. You know, par for the course) due this week. I also have some big news that I was waiting to share until it was confirmed and I made sure all parties who needed to know of the changes brought about by this news were informed (not that any of them read my blog, or know it exists but you  know, it is the internet. Things do get shared whether you want them to be or not). I cut back on the blog posts in an effort not to blab my big mouth. Because straight up, I would have. I have been dying to tell everyone, which also includes putting it in writing and posting it to the web (so much cheaper than hiring an airplane to drag a banner all around the world). So without further ado, I will tell you as much as I possibly can without actually divulging the actual names of my employers.

Two weeks ago I had an interview for a part-time position with an institution of higher education that has a stellar reputation and has been around since the late 1700s. I not only had an interview (which went very well, thank you) but I was offered the job for which I applied. Officially starting the end of August, I will be a part-time weekend circulation assistant in an academic library. I know for many of you this news does not sound like much but for me it is huge. My goal upon completing my MLIS is to be employed in an academic library. This is nearly an impossible feat without having experience working in an academic library.

Most people gain this type of experience in their college or university's library performing some type of work study. I did not have the financial freedom to work for the lower wages often offered for work study and the hours offered for these types of positions made it difficult for me to hold another job in addition to the work study and my course work.  I live in an area where there are several reputable institutions of higher learning but even with the number of colleges and universities in the area than in most areas in Pensylvania there still is a remarkable lack of postings for library jobs at these places. I have religiously followed blogs like inalj and checked ALA job list, PaLA's job postings, and a few other places where job postings are either hosted or aggregated. In addition to checking these type of pages, I have been stalking checking frequently the websites of two major institutions in the area. One posting that I was almost tailored made for was posted on the number one spot of my A list of choice employers and I jumped on it with my full girth.

This new position will mean several things for me.
  1.  I will be spending every Friday and Saturday evening working hard in the school's library.
  2. I have to give up one of my two current part-time jobs (this choice has been made already, for financial reasons, I have to give up the public library postion in the northern part of the county. I am sad but still overwhelmingly excited about the new position that the emotions are cancelling each other out...mostly).
  3. I no longer have to commute from one end of the county to the other. Both jobs I am retaining will be within a ten minute drive. True I now have to figure in a small amount of city driving (which means I must master the urges to wing j-walking pedestrians that stroll slowly across the street while they talk on their cell phones after suddenly pushing their baby stroller out from between two park cars in the middle of the street and to drive my car tank style over double parked cars...partially because getting arrested will ruin my day and my dream job but mostly because it is a small sedan and won't crush them Bigfoot style, and if you can't do it in Bigfoot style, why do it at all?

...and finally, most important of all,  it will mean I have my foot firmly planted in the door where I desire to work full-time one day. I have been bumbling around all week to a soundtrack of Katrina and the Waves "I'm Walking on Sunshine..."

That should be enough eighties references for one evening. Book reviews will resume shortly...after I finish those last few big (but as of yet, not started) final projects, which are due throughout the course of the weekend and next week.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Book Review: Charming by Elliot James

Due to a lack of customers and an odd plethora of employees (nearly unheard of where I work), I was able to come home early from the bank today. I plan on actually being productive at home and finishing up some coursework and what not but you know me, plans are made to be put off until midnight.

Instead of listening to my three hour lecture on the wonders of metadata, I find myself taking care of other unfinished business, such as a book review of Charming by Elliot James.

Meet the protagonist: John Charming. He is but one Charming from the family line of Charmings whose fantastical feats were long translated into fairytale. The Charmings have fought dragons, witches, vampires, werewolves, and other things that go bump in the night since before the fall of Rome. Like many of the descendants of his fabled line, John was a Knight Templar, only he fought with kevlar and shotguns rather than chain mail and crossbows.  He swore a sacred oath to the brotherhood to protect and uphold the Pax Arcana, a spell cast by the Elves before they journeyed to the West for good. John was very good at his job too until the brotherhood turned on him because of something that happened while he was but a babe in his mother's womb.

As the time went by, John learned to survive in the mundane world while still upholding his duty as a Knight in a manner that almost never draws the attention of the Templars' themselves. All that changed the night a blonde and a vampire walked into his bar...

Meet my opinion: I liked the story and its main character right from the beginning. My affection waned a little towards the end and there are a few glitches that need to be worked out in stories that will follow but overall, I still really liked the book.

The storyline was interesting. The character was a good mixture of tragic hero meets smart ass. And the lore! Oh gosh golly, the lore! This world James crafted is filled to the gills with mythology, legend, and lore. Furthermore, James gives the mythology a good spin and fits pieces of legend together with such skill it seems only logical they always fit together in that fashion. If the book slows a bit in the middle it is due only to the weight of the mythology laden world being so craftily explained to the reader. There are a lot of info dumps but this is a very lore rich world so there is a lot of information to impart in order to give the reader a fair view of the landscape. I think Elliot James does a grand job of world building in this debut novel.

The other characters were very interesting also and will easily win their spots in the reader's heart. I like the ensemble cast of quirky monster hunters James introduces to us in this book. My only real caveat with the story lies with the romantic aspect of the plot (I am not a fan of the cover either but this has no bearing on the story's quality so I will just mention it here, in passing...just this once). Quite simply it was too soon, almost so fast as to appear superficial and forced. The sexual tension in the storyline was not tangible for me as a reader. I only knew it existed because of the words written to indicate that the two people involved and all those around them felt it. I did not bond with the intended main couple as a romantic pair but rather as individuals (who are well developed characters in their own right) and visualizing them together as a full fledged couple still seems awkward and ill timed. Luckily this is an action packed urban fantasy and not a paranormal romance.

Charming is Elliot James's debut novel and if I remember correctly, there will be some short stories that lead up to the release of the main novel. I look forward to reading them all and any future novels Mr. James writes. I think it is entirely possible the Pax Arcana will become one of my favorite series soon.

*I normally include a cover of the book but I really am not fond of it so I won't share it here. I know I said I would only mention this dislike of mine once but I find the cover to be really cheesy, and in this genre that is saying much. Worse than its Kraft worthy status, it does not match my own visual image of what John Charming looks like and that throws me whenever I look at it. Silly and superficial. yes, I agree. Thankfully I know to not judge a book by its cover or I would have missed out on a good story.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Yep, It's July All Right

I broke a sweat cleaning my kitchen floor. You know what the means, right? Well, yes, it means I need to clean my kitchen floor more often but the sweat is not from scrubbing hard but from just having the audacity to move in this hot, humid July air. It is only 87° F here in Millersville, PA. The humidity is only 59% (it gets higher than that here). The two things coupled together with a blazing midday sun makes it feel like it is a 110° F (Accue Weather says the real feel temp is only 96°, but what do they know, silly weather channel). 

The man is outside, up high in a tree. His father came over to watch him while he cuts more of the dying Pin Oak tree down. I was out with them briefly and I think I got a little sunburn on my forearms. Unfortunately I am serious. I failed to put sunscreen on before I went out because a. I was not going to be out more than five minutes (I was out a wee bit longer but still not more than thirty minutes), b. I was standing in the shade as much as I could (we have a lot of trees so there is plenty of shade...or so I thought), and finally c. I was wearing clothes that only left a little bit of skin showing.  Apparently one little spot on the upper part of my left forearm must have failed to get the memo to stay in the shade. I scurried back inside as soon as I felt the sizzle trying to root itself deeper into my skin. 

I am supposed to be inside finishing up another can see, I am making much progress. :)

I am going to go do something productive now, like my assignment or maybe learn a new language

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Time Flies When You Are...Well, Busy

So the first week of July has flown by with nairy a blog post. I am sorry for that dear reader, I really am. I have just been very busy with course work. Last week I played around with oXygen XML editor, creating metadata records in OAI DC and MODS. I also learned my way around Omeka, which is an open source web-publishing platform for library and archive display. This week I will be mucking about Koha, which is an open source Integrated Library System.

I have finished reading a urban fantasy novel titled Charming, written by Elliot James, I will be reviewing this soon. I really liked James' debut novel. The Pax Arcana series holds a lot of promise, as does the author. I also finished reading Charmed, which was a light, fluffy and very endearing adult romance novel. But I have no time to review them right now, I will get to them soon though. I also read the first two books of a fun, fluffy and a little zany mystery series called Mad for Mod by Diane Vallere.

That is all I have time for this morning, I hope everyone has an excellent Wednesday (you all know how I like my Wednesdays, though this one will be more action packed than most but more on that subject later). I leave you with this image from I Can Has Cheezeburger