Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Erotica vs. Romance: is it really a choice between the two?

It is very rare for me to read an insider’s guide to a series. If I’ve taken the time to invest in a particular set of books, I usually will have reread them enough to not have many questions. I don’t know what that says about me as a reader, that I don’t really care about the minutiae of an author’s world or his/her characters, but there it is. Yet in the course of reading J.R. Ward’s The Black Dagger Brotherhood: An Insider’s Guide I have been surprised by what I’ve learned or been inspired to think about: 1) J.R. Ward is probably a little crazy, because she has whole interviews and conversations with her characters in her head, and 2) the question of erotica vs. romance is still very much up for debate.

In the course of discussing her books’ place in the spectrum, Ward writes that “with romance, sex affects the emotional bonds of the characters and propels those connections forward. With strict erotica, the sexual act or sexual exploration itself is the focus” (158, Ward). This was an intriguing definition for me. Rarely do people so succinctly lay out the boundaries of what is romance and what is erotica- and yet where a novel lays between these two extremes might not be as easily determined. Books that are typically defined by publishers and book stores as romance often combine different elements from a number of genres to create their storylines (I’m not going into what is a genre and what’s not here – I’ll leave that for another discussion). Erotica, as just another genre in and of itself, is starting to be used the same way.

Even in the most ‘romantic’ of romances, at least today, I would say there exists the presence of sex just for the sake of sex. Maybe it’s indicative of the changing place of women’s empowerment in society, or an example of how generational shifts in readers can create a corresponding shift in how authors use their words to reach their readers, there’s no real way to know. What is important is that the changing paradigm of romance is starting to include more sexually explicit material. For the better I would say, because it tends to lend a type of real-ness or depth to the characters’ interactions that was not there before. Books by JR Ward or her contemporaries (Laurell K Hamilton, Sherilyn Kenyon, Emma Holly, and some non-paranormal ones: Lora Leigh, Lori Foster, Nora Roberts) are moving beyond just the purely emotional attachment – the physical is becoming just as important.

The point, if I have one, is that as much as Ward can define the individual elements of romance and erotica I don’t think it’s as easy to extrapolate those labels to entire novels. There is a marked increase of authors who are jumping from ‘erotica’ e-books to physical novels that are on every bookshelf in every bookstore across the world, right in the romance section, with new books that are barely (if at all) different from what they used to only be able to publish online. The applicability of these labels is becoming extinct. When I do a review now I use on average 5-6 terms to try and describe the elements of a book, INCLUDING romance and erotica (together or separately- one doesn’t exclude the other). There seems to exist in my head a little box that gets checked for erotica depending on the frequency of sexual encounters in a book and how explicit the description of those encounters are. It’s more the happy ending, the happily ever after, that makes me call something romance or not. Yet even books that don’t have a happy ending, but instead maybe allude to one in a future novel, or even just include a more one-on-one personal emotional attachment, will get called a romance by me.

It’s a whole new ball game out there for fiction readers, and the playground, along with the rules, are changing every day.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Demon Mistress by Yasmine Galenorn

We're the D'Artigo Sisters: Half-human, half-Faerie, we're savvy--and sexy--operatives for the Otherworld Intelligence Agency. But our mixed-blood heritage short-circuits our talents at all the wrong times. My sister Camille is a wicked-good witch whose magic is as unpredictable as the weather. My sister Delilah transforms into a tabby cat at the worst possible times. And me? I'm Menolly, acrobat-extraordinaire-turned-vampire. And if the nerds from hell don't get their act together, I'm going to turn their toga party into a bloodbath...

Life's getting stranger by the minute. First, Iris and I unearth a diary from one of the bartenders at the Wayfarer who disappeared under mysterious circumstances. And when I discover a ghoul in the woods near our home, we know there has to be a necromancer nearby--another sign that something's wrong. But the blood really hits the fang when we discover a secret society bent on winning Shadow Wing's favor. Now it's up to us to stop the chaos they've unleashed on the city, and to prevent the demon they summoned from devouring Delilah's soul...

I was actually a little surprised by how much I liked this book. I think it's almost inevitable for a series that switches between characters to inspire readers to pick a favorite. Menolly, I'm sad to say is not my favorite, but this book made me forget that. Menolly is a compelling, sympathetic character, one whose trials and tribulations keep the reader rooting for her till the end - even though we haven't reached the end yet. And there's always the interesting fact that I can't think of another bisexual half human/half Fae vampire in any other paranormal series. Being that unique definitely separates you from the pack.

Overall Feeling - Thumbs up. It's a good book in the series, one that keeps me indebted to the storyline and interested in the conclusion.

Series - 1) Witchling 2) Changeling 3) Darkling 4) Dragon Wytch 5) Night Huntress 6) Demon Mistress

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Kissing Midnight by Emma Holly

Edmund Fitz Clare has been keeping secrets he can’t afford to expose. Not to the orphans he’s adopted. Not to the woman he’s been yearning after for years. This seeming professor of history is a shapeshifting vampire, determined to redeem past misdeeds.

Estelle Berenger knows better than to fall for her best friend’s father, but he holds the key to a mystery: that ever since she was struck by lightning, she’s had abilities no normal woman should be able to call upon.

The question is, can these star-crossed lovers survive a vampire war?

Let me first just say that I think you have to be in the mood for Emma Holly. She does these incredible combinations of romance and the paranormal, but there's just something about how she writes that makes me feel like I couldn't read her all the time. Maybe it's just how I relate to her characters or the way she writes her sex scenes, I'm not sure. But her stories are good. Steamy, yet filled with emotion. And this one is no exception, the beginning of a new trilogy (though featuring a character from another series of hers), the book introduces us to all the main players and then also sets up the plot to go in a lot of different directions. Vampire political intrigue, family interactions, love and happy endings; all of thes things have come up now and will for sure make an appearance in future books.

Overall Feeling - Thumbs up. An interesting beginning to a new series, I look forward to reacquainting myself with Holly's vampire world!

Series - 1) Kissing Midnight 2) Breaking Midnight (July 2009) 3) Saving Midnight (August 2009)

Sunday, June 7, 2009

DSK Jewelry Contest Entry!

So Steph of DSK Jewelry is having a contest to celebrate 200 followers! Yay Steph! For the contest she posted 15 questions she wanted people to answer along with some other stipulations that have actually made me think a lot about myself and use programs on my computer that I barely knew existed. Either way it was a lot of fun so here goes!

P.S. - Oh yeah, here's the URL to the video entry I did!


1. What is your favorite food? Lasagna. It's probably the first dish that my mother taught me how to make from scratch and that, along with the DELISHNESS of Italian food, make this dish something I can eat over and over again.

2. What is your favorite beauty product that you can't live without!!? I know it sounds bad, but my favorite beauty product is Blistex Medicated Chapstick. I know that's it's not fancy or well known, but have you tried being beautiful with chapped lips? It just doesn't happen! So I say start at the most basic level, and if your lips feel soft and moist then you'll feel that much more comfortable and beautiful.

3. What is the song that defines you, what is your favorite song of all time that could be the soundtrack to your life?? Will you be willing to email me this song (mp3)? :) Through much work and effort I finally picked 'I'll Rise' by the Pitchforks an a cappella group based at Duke University. This song is based on a Maya Angelou poem that really is inspirational in its message of rising above adversity – something that everyone needs to be reminded of at some point in their lives. And I would be more than happy to email it to you – that's one of the rules of the contest! LOL! Hope you like it!

4. What is your favorite magazine of allllll time?! Allure because I'm kind of addicted to learning about makeup and fashion, and this magazine has all the best tips and tricks without being inundated with ads.

5. What is camera you use to take all your pictures for blog? ^_~ I either use the camera on my laptop or my slightly crappy Canon PowerShot A430, but since my blog is mostly devoted to book reviews, I also take a lot of random pictures of book covers from across the internet.

6. What is your favorite color??! Purple. It's always been purple for as long as I can remember, with all it's varieties across the color spectrum just reassuring me on why it's such a royal color!

7. What is your favorite piece by DSK (post a picture (on your blog) sporting DSK Bling if you have some!)?!!! ^^ While I LOVE the piece that I bought themed to my sorority, there are a couple things that have kind of jumped up in the rankings of my favorites. I am so impressed by the Pegasus heart necklace, it's just so incredibly rock and roll and chic! And the new Flower Power necklace with the Swarovski flower and leaf? I'm dying! I love the clear AB with the Green leaf. Unfortunately I'm really poor so I don't know when I'm going to be making these mine, but it's going to happen!

8. What is your favorite casino game!!? I'm really pretty bad at all casino games. I mean really bad. Shamefully bad. My family has the kind of luck that wouldn't even want to be in the same room with you, but if I had to pick I'd probably say that the slots were my favorite. Absolutely no skill is required, just the ability to pull down a handle. Now THAT I can do.

9. If you had to pick just one, would it be Gucci, LV, or Prada? LV but this might be (definitely is ;D) influenced by Kimora Lee Simmons. She loves the designer and I'm a big fan of hers because she's a woman who's made things happen for her instead of waiting for them to happen (kind of like you Steph! No waiting for things to happen to you!). Of course this is all in spite of the fact that it's totally not fair that she's so beautiful AND having a baby with Djimond Honsou (one of the hottest men on the planet).

10. Tell me an interesting fact about yourself. =P I am half black and half white, but no one actually can tell this when they're looking at me. Throughout my life I have been asked pretty much every brownish toned ethnicity under the sun! Sometimes in different languages! I've noticed that it is actually influenced quite a bit by how I wear my hair on any particular day so I find this fact both interesting and funny! LOL!

11. Workout tips!! Your favorite work out tips, I gotta get fit!! While on a normal basis I am a big fan of incorporating some time on the bike and elliptical in my workout routine, I LOVE yoga and see a lot of results with it (when I have the money to take classes). It works on lengthening and strengthening the muscles without making me feel like I'm dying or a failure. So if you could do that 2 to 3 times a week I think you'd be set!

12. Tell me your workout routine if it exists! LOL Ideally, (meaning sometimes, not that often) I break out this complete yoga kit that I have (with mat, stabilizing brick and other stuff) and do an hour/hour and a half of yoga. Though at the moment I've been focusing more on the inner acceptance of my outer form, because no matter how much yoga I do I've been born with the body I've got and I want to be happy with it!

13. If you had to pic between an LV Damier Azur Speedy in 25, 30, and 35, which would you pick and why? I'd have to go with the LV Damier Azur Speedy in 30 because I have to have room for everything up to and including the kitchen sink, but if I go with too big of a bag I'd probably strain a wrist carrying all my stuff! There's got to be a limit, so I usually set it by making sure my purse is not too big. (Of course this is completely offset by the fact that I've been in love with the bigger bag lately.....it's a problem)

14. What would you name your future baby boy? James (Probably? Maybe?) I would go with the one for a boy because it's a great name for someone to grow in to. You can be this cute little man named James and then when you're an adult you're not gonna be stuck with any dorky nicknames from when you were in diapers.

15. What would you name your future baby girl? Jessenia (at least at the moment). This is the name of a friend of mine and I think it flows beautifully and Jessy is a great nick name. It's also this great combination of distinctive and yet not that hard to say (I'm sure you know how annoying it is to have one of those name your teacher can NEVER say. SO AGGRAVATING, thus I hope that I can have my child avoid this)

LOL, I am so weird >.<

I WANT 5 KIDS ONE DAY, so that's why I ask for baby names!!

- I know this isn't a question but props to you Steph for wanting 5 kids. I'm not even sure if I want to have one, though you have the advantage because Asian kids are like the cutest children known to man.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Skin Trade by Laurell K Hamilton

When a vampire serial killer sends Anita Blake a grisly souvenir from Las Vegas, she has to warn Sin City's local authorities what they're dealing with. Only it's worse than she thought. Ten officers and one executioner have been slain - paranormal style. Anita heads to Vegas, where's she's joined by three other federal marshals, including the ruthless Edward. It's a good thing he always has her back, because when she gets close to the bodies, Anita senses 'tiger' too strongly to ignore it. The weretigers are very powerful in Las Vegas, which means the odds of her rubbing someone important the wrong way just got a lot higher.

Oh thank you writing gods- Anita Blake is back! I was really afraid after that last book, I mean, I was terrified. The story was just off and with Jason and his family at the center of it, it seemed less like a stand alone story and more (as a friend of mine put it) like a place holding novella like Micah. I almost wanted Hamilton to take a sabbatical or something, whatever she needed to get her mojo back with her Anita Blake books. This one hit it's stride though, helped along by Hamilton going back to her roots, with the story centering around murders committed by the vampire Vittorio. That, along with having Edward back (and the whole crew from Obsidian Butterfly), just made for a fantastic book and the new characters that Hamilton brings in just add to the whole picture created here. My personal preference has me wishing for a bit more of Jean Claude and a bit more of the relationship aspect that she's done in some of her other books, but I'm not complaining. Hamilton has brought Anita back into her own and given her a whole new set of problems and insecurities that we're be able to explore later in new books.

Overall Feeling - Thumbs up! I'm so happy I can say that!
Series - 1) Guilty Pleasure 2) The Laughing Corpse 3) The Circus of the Damned 4) The Lunatic Cafe 5) Bloody Bones 6) The Killing Dance 7) Burnt Offerings 8) Blue Moon 9) Obsidian Butterfly 10) Narcissus in Chains 11) Cerulean Sins 12) Incubus Dreams 13) Micah 14) Danse Macabre 15) The Harlequin 16) Blood Noir 17) Skin Trade