31 July, 2010

Review: Desires of a Perfect Lady by Victoria Alexander

An unintended effect of Agency Five pricing is that I tend to think about the cost of a book while I am reading it.

Ah, Victoria Alexander. I want to say it's not me, but I don't think it's you either. The whole fiasco with the reissue of Believe being priced twice MMP retail in e-book form means we've been on a break. I missed you while we were apart. I looked forward to our reunion. (Ok, I did wait until I had some Sony gift cards at 25% off so that our time together wouldn't cost me the full eight dollars. I'm sorry. You know how I am. It's hard for me to put myself out there like that.) Look at this cover. This is a cover that says we missed each other. It's time to forget all those silly things of the past and move forward.

Just like Sterling and Olivia.

Granted, they were on a decade long break that involved a nasty dead husband, a second choice wife and a host of water under a very large bridge. We were just, like, busy. Somehow so much of Desires of a Perfect Lady felt perfunctory. (Has it been long enough that we can include some spoilers? I think it has. And if it hasn't, well let this serve as the warning. Avast! Spoilers Ahoy! I know. There weren't any pirates. I felt like saying Avast!) Everyone surrounding Olivia and Sterling is so darn well adjusted. Squeaky scrub cheeked clean even. Where are all their issues? Even when Olivia reveals she's scarred from her experiences it is barely a hitch in anyone's stride. It's the reader who is supposed to roll her eyes at yet another scarred back, not the characters. The only event that promotes any emotional heat is Sterling admitting he sometimes gets behind in opening his mail. Two murder attempts barely register. A young man infatuated enough to propose marriage gets his hopes dashed and his response is to aid his rival. A father's deep dark secret is revealed to a gasp from reader and hero alike. (I'm not sure what Sterling's issue was. Mine was irritation.)

Olivia is embraced by Sterling's mother, by his siblings, by her attorney. She is, in fact, perfect. So perfect that even she scolds a character for acting like another notch on some literary checklist. The Seductive Venetian. (Hm, I think I've read that book!) As luck would have it, Olivia herself has a checklist. Sleeping with Sterling is on it. After all she's been through offstage, Olivia deserves some generic loving, and she gets it. (I flipped ahead. Each time. Hanging out with those two in the bedroom wasn't on my list.) After following Olivia as she solved three impossible tasks before and after breakfast I was primarily interested in who had tried to kill her. One of us should be. Certainly no one in the book was. Really, if my abusive husband was murdered and then twice more (in two countries) someone came after me I might be a bit less eager to establish an independent household and forget all about it. But hey, I'm not perfect - Olivia is. Says so right in the title.

That's the problem with series. They do love their cliffhangers. I have to tune in next time, and maybe all will be revealed. Or not. The important thing is that Olivia and Sterling get their second chance, Sterling's mom gets to shake her moneymaker, and the wedding plans from the prior book roll on. I haven't RSVP'd for the event yet. At five bucks, I'd definitely attend. For six, I'd still show up. Eight bucks? I think I feel a sore throat coming on. I'm going to lie down and see if it passes.

30 July, 2010

Review: Notes From The Night by Taylor Plimpton

Amazon asked me if I wanted to review this book through their Vine program.

Well, they didn't exactly ask me. 

Ok, it was more like they lined a bunch of books up against the wall and let me take a look at them to see if anyone caught my fancy. I know, it makes us both feel cheap. (In fact, it makes them feel free since I receive an advance read copy in exchange for a review.) The blurbs were fantastic - read this one and tell me what you think!

Right? After I got over McInerney being bookended by Salinger and Kerouac, I gave Notes From The Night (A Life After Dark) a closer look. Then something shiny caught my attention and I forgot all about it. I'm like that. Amazon asked me again. Was I sure I didn't want any of these fine fellows they had for my consideration? I took another look. It had one lonely review, and that review assured me the book was a waste of time, profanity laden filth, and worse than a romance novel. 

Profanity laden romantic filth? I'll take three! 

I should sue. Not only did Taylor Plimpton fail to waste my time, at no point was I deceived into thinking I was reading a romance novel. Human relationships in all their complexity were absolutely present, but no one had a secret baby. Nor is he a Greek Shipping Magnate or a Billionaire Boss. He's not even minor English nobility! As far as the cursing goes - I have to honest with you here. I use more profanity placing my lunch order than Plimpton used in the entire book. Instead of what I was promised, there was a beautiful ode to the New York Club Scene and the people who populate it. Plimpton goes out much too late much too often with his friend Zoo, where they stand amidst the beautiful people and wait.  Check out this blurb.

It's so good I forgave the use of wife material as a descriptive phrase. I like it. You should too. 

29 July, 2010

Why Enid Went Electric....

I went digital.

I never thought I'd do it. It wasn't something I thought could happen to me. But there I was, just me and a Sony PRS-505. I looked at it's shiny red case and we ran off together. I would have left a note for MMP (that's what I called him - Mass Market Paperback just seemed so formal) but what would I write it on? How could I be sure that I wasn't writing on paper from the same tree as MMP? That would be like tattooing your goodbye note on your boyfriend's sister. Maybe it was cowardly, but I just slipped him into the local library's book return and went on my way. Surely he'd find someone else. Maybe they'd even put him into circulation.

Like any new relationship, I had ignored the warning signs. 505 had tried to explain his limitations. He had baggage. There was this thing he had going with Adobe, and due to DRM we couldn't just leave her behind. It was going to have to be a Modern Relationship. I sobbed that MMP had never done me like that. MMP let me run the relationship. I told him where to go and he just did it. Sometimes (and I hate to admit this) he'd let my whole family have a turn.

505 reminded me that he could do things MMP never dreamed of doing. His content went much deeper than MMP's and a little bit of Adobe in my life wasn't too high a price, was it? I decided he was right. No relationship is perfect. If I'd understood then that I was starting the long road toward stripping, would I still have done it? I'm not sure. It's too late now. Agency Five came along and 505 told me to do what I had to do if I wanted to stay with him. It's the compromises you make along the way that change you. I'm not sure I can ever trust 505 the way I did when he wooed me away from MMP. But I can't go back.

I've seen too much.

iPad says he can satisfy me he way 505 does. He's too flashy for my taste. Let's be honest - size does matter. I don't think iPad will fit in my purse. Kindle, now there's a guy who knows how to woo me. I tell him I like a slender companion? He takes off some weight. I tell him I won't go below a  6 inch screen? That's his smallest size. I don't know if 505 realizes that when we're together sometimes I'm thinking about Kindle. I try to hide it. After all, I've filled 505 to the brim and forced him to wear an SD card just to keep up with me. He's doing all he can.

505 and I made this little video in the giddy stages. He said he'd never show anyone, or use it against me - but how can I trust that? He'd probably claim Adobe did it. I'm not sure I can trust either one of them since Agency came into our lives. Kindle's all tied up with Agency too, but he doesn't seem happy about it. I'm going to think about it tomorrow. I just wish MMP would stop calling me. I know he's cheaper. I know he hangs out with Hardcover all the time. But we're so over. Why can't he accept that?

28 July, 2010

In Which Meoskop Comes To A Realization!

Once upon a time, while I was staring in shock at my internet bill, AOL offered me a position reviewing books. Free books and free internet?  Sold. Until one day the perfect storm of flat rate access and a heroine named Blueberry Hill sent me running. (My review was polite, but all these decades later I can still quote my private emotions. This book is an argument against English as a written language.)  Time passed. I was in a bookstore and saw Diane Farr's second or third regency on the shelf. The cover blurb seemed naggingly familiar, as if I'd ... written it. Go me. I waited for my reaction but I felt nothing. Well, nothing but an urge to read another Diane Farr novel. Life went on. I was still a Writer.

Instead of actually sitting down and writing a book, working out a plot, imagining characters, I thought there was some answer that would instill in me a desire to be an author. A desire I still didn't have. Could I do better than Blueberry Hill? Absolutely. Did I want to? It was time to figure this stuff out. Who better to ask about how to avoid Writing than authors?  I'm pretty sure I drove Edith Layton crazy. She explained a lot about the business while gently indicating that maybe I didn't really want to be a Writer? Nora Roberts told me to suck it up and do it, then promptly killed my brother off in a J.D. Robb book. I think she was annoyed. Kay Hooper suggested finding what I wanted to write about then letting the stories unfold. This was pre-Seinfeld, so I had no idea writing about nothing was an option.

Julia Quinn admired my shoe displays, envied my pretzel bites, and explained (on more than one occasion) that the desire to tell a story generally (but not always) comes before the desire to sell it. I told her I like to sell things, actually. She thought I should look into becoming an agent. I can't. I said, I'm a Writer. Everyone says so. We agreed that was a shame. I thought she was absolutely brilliant at selling things, and very fine indeed at telling stories. So I was almost there! Julia moved out of New England. Joe Wallace thought I should keep honing my craft, or something equally gentle. It began to dawn on me that annoying authors wasn't going to make either of us any happier. I kept reviewing. I'd go to this website, I'd go to that website. I told myself I was reviewing books to learn more about how they were constructed, which would lead to a better understanding of what sold. Once I understood what sold, I could work in that direction and not waste my time as a Writer.  (True fact, once you're an author you get letters from prison inmates. I already knew prison inmates. One more way I was building my portfolio!)

Along the way I lost interest in reviewing. Authors liked me, Publishers didn't mind me, but the fans hated me. Why wasn't I supportive? Why did I have to say such snarky things? Didn't I understand how hard it was to be a Writer? Of course I did! That's why I wasn't doing it! I stopped taking or asking for arcs. I didn't maintain a website. I'd put a thing here or there in my blog until Amazon asked if I wanted to join Vine. I dunno, I said - I've sort of done this thing before and I don't really get on well with RWA, and I think authors are just people and omg Blueberry Hill. Amazon told me it was ok, I could choose the books I wanted to read. Suddenly, I was reviewing again. I started reading review sites like Smart Bitches and Dear Author. It wasn't all daisy chains in the meadows and girl scout songs. Reviewing had changed. After a pleading letter where I promised to make a stop motion film and revealed an embarrassing incident from my past involving a toilet, 80's hair and an heirloom bottle opener the Smart Bitches gave me a chance to review an E-Reader . 

( I didn't actually know how to make a stop motion film.) 

Suddenly, I was talking about books again. For my blog, for Amazon, for random strangers about to purchase a copy of Twilight. My brother asked me if I had ever really wanted to be a writer. I realized I had not. Not even a little bit. I didn't want to hold a book in my hands that I had written or share a saga with someone or do a book signing or attend a convention. I just liked authors as people, I liked reading, and I like talking about books. So I am very sorry Mom, friends, customers, baggage handlers, that girl in fourth grade, teachers, and all the other people who want so very, very much to read my first book. I'm not actually a Writer. And I am sorry to all the authors I begged for the secret, who told me the same thing. Being an author is not something a person would choose to be. It's something they are.

PS - Mom, I'm also sorry I wasn't gay. I know that was important to you too.
PPS - If your heroine was the aforementioned Blueberry Hill, um, I'm sorry for bringing it up again and all, um, I'm sure that there were, um, really good parts about the book that I, um, don't remember anymore.

27 July, 2010

Meoskop, And How She Got Here

Once, a very long time ago (before they invented dirt) there were any number of people who felt I should become a Writer. I can't say I particularly wanted to be a Writer but it was the focus of so many people for so long that I supposed I believed I should want to be a Writer. I liked reading. I liked winning contests at school (the easiest way to do that was writing something bleak and referencing age inappropriate influences). My mother wanted to be a Writer. So I began writing. I wrote short fiction that cribbed heavily from Andre Norton. I embarked on a stunning amount of really bad poems. Then I ran away from home and put it all in my checked luggage. The airline promptly lost it. (It wasn't even proper luggage, more of a large plastic bag with a zipper).

I was so relieved. Sure, everyone else was upset for me. I made sad faces, I bemoaned fate - but now it was gone! All of it! I didn't have to try and edit it or worry about why I didn't love working on it. It was gone. Hands brushed, end of story, all done! A few months later they found it. The airline person that phoned me was very excited. Obviously, I must be heartbroken because he'd taken a look at my binders. I was a Writer, and my work was important. I made all the appropriate expressions of glee. It seemed wrong to take his big moment away by saying what I was really thinking. "Well, hell." Suddenly, I was a Writer again. Even the baggage handlers thought I should be one. Let's count - parents, teachers, friends, baggage handlers. (That's the whole world, right?) Every year from about age nine my mother gave me a copy of whatever that book was writers used to send out packages in exchange for rejection notices. I duly collected my notices while she reminded me that time was running out on My Goal of being a Young Author.

Having run away from home I was no longer under any obligation to collect the notices, so I stopped submitting work. I started working in retail. I liked it. Almost everything about retail was satisfying with the exception of the customers who said I was much too good for retail. So when they asked what my Real Job was I would tell them I was a Writer. It always made sense to them. They could tell I was a Writer! I found that a bit insulting, as I don't particularly care for Writers. I liked authors. Authors were people who grumbled under their breath, walked about in their pajamas and never talked about their work. Writers didn't have anything published and rarely talked about anything but their work. After my mother told me I had missed my chance to the be Youngest Writer it was important to her that I not lose my chance to be an Average Writer, although if I didn't get it in gear I'd have to settle for being a Late Life Writer. Maybe I could write a book for her, since she had much better ideas. Then she could edit it and change what I did wrong, and we could go on a book tour together. (Did I mention I'd already run away from home?)

Obviously, I was going to have to look into this Writing thing a bit more.