Monday, May 30, 2005

Thoughts on Memorial Day

I know a lot of people have posted things about Memorial Day, and though I don't usually do things like this, I wanted to post something about it because it has been on my mind. I don't like flags and ribbons and other stuff like that on my car and I don't like wearing pins or ribbons on my shirt because things like that are so easy to do and are usually the full extent of what people do. They put a ribbon on their car and think that that makes them patriotic and supportive of soldiers. I don't like that kind of self-deception or two-faced kind of attitude. People who see me in passing may very well think I'm not patriotic or supportive, but that is far, far from the truth.

I served my country. My husband served. My father served in WWII. My father-in-law served during Vietnam (though he didn't go there). His father served in WWII and was wounded in the Battle of the Bulge. My brother-in-law who raised me is a career airman. Memorial Day and Veterans Day are important days in our family.

So if you have the opportunity today to say thank you to someone who served or is serving their country, then do so. It doesn't matter what country you live in. All nations (well, most) have armed forces, and in most nations they are voluntary. Yes, many of these people see an opportunity for travel or for a better life or for money for college, but they also have pride in and feel duty to their country. They protect everyone's homes and everyone's family. And they frequently sacrifice quite a lot. Even the soldiers/airmen/Marines/sailors who live and work stateside work long hours, have stressful jobs, and are on call 24-7/365 days a year.

And don't forget about them tomorrow or next week or a year from now. Post 9/11 everyone was talking about supporting the troops and sending things to soldiers overseas, but that has dropped off quite a bit. And did anyone do all of that before 9/11? It is sad that it takes such a tragedy for people to appreciate what is being done for them, and for everyone. I served in the Army for four years, before 9/11, and not once did anyone but my family and friends ever say thank you or send me anything. I'm not crying for myself, but if I, working stateside, in a huge city, never felt or saw thanks from the people around me, then most other soldiers didn't have that either.

And don't let politics keep you from being appreciate of their service either. There were plenty of things that the President, or Congress or the Army did while I was active duty that I didn't agree with. Service members don't have a choice about those things, and they have no control over them. Frequently they serve and sacrifice despite being opposed to politics going on at the time. And they usually hope they can be part of things changing for the better.

I'm sorry that this may sound like a lecture, but it has been on the front burner for me for a long time, and especially today.

Here's a song that I have been listening to occasionally for a few weeks, and that I wish had been out while I was in the Army. It is very moving and makes me feel proud of the things that Steve and I did in the Army.

Lyrics to:
American Soldier
by Toby Keith and Chuck Cannon
See the music video here.

I'm just trying to be a father
Raise a daughter and a son
Be a lover to their mother
Everything to everyone
Up and at 'em, bright and early
I'm all business in my suit
Yeah, I'm dressed for success
From my head down to my boots

I don't do it for money,
there's still bills that I can't pay
I don't do it for the glory,
I just do it anyway
Providing for our future's my responsibility
Yeah, I'm real good under pressure,
being all that I can be

And I can't call in sick on Mondays
When the weekend's been too strong
I just work straight through the holidays
And sometimes all night long
You can bet that I stand ready
When the wolf growls at the door
Hey, I'm solid, hey I'm steady
Hey, I'm true down to the core

And I will always do my duty,
no matter what the price
I've counted up the cost,
I know the sacrifice
Oh, and I don't want to die for you
But if dyin's asked of me
I'll bear that cross with an honor
Cause freedom don't come free

I'm an American soldier, an American
Beside my brothers and my sisters
I will proudly take a stand
When liberty's in jeopardy,
I will always do what's right
I'm out here on the frontlines,
sleep in peace tonight
American soldier,
I'm an American soldier

Yeah, an American soldier, an American
Beside my brothers and my sisters
I will proudly take a stand
When liberty's in jeopardy,
I will always do what's right
I'm out here on the frontlines,
so sleep in peace tonight
American soldier, I'm an American
An American
An American soldier

In Memory of Emmett Bernard Sanderson

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Keishon's TBR Challenge

I know I'm cutting it close for May, but I finally got to Keishon's TBR challenge, which is a Regency for the month of May. (I'll try to do this earlier next month.) I chose A Magnificent Match by Gayle Buck because it occurs partially in Russia, has a Russian hero, and because the heroine is atypical.

Now, because you all probably know by now that I pay close attention to covers, I have to say that I hate this cover. The painting is terrible! The horses are nice, because they are important to the story, but the hero and heroine look old. Maybe the clothes are true to the Regency (I wouldn't know), but they don't look appealing to me at all. If I hadn't had someone recommend this book to me, I wouldn't have picked it up at the bookstore. The problem with a lot of these traditional Regencies is that they all look the same. There is nothing to distinguish them from the hundreds of others out there.

Anyway, to the story. A Magnificent Match is the story of Megan O'Connell. She is an 19-year-old Irish girl who is the youngest of four children. Her father is one of the few Irish families to hold on to his lands, and they supplement their income by breeding horses. The people in her family are all selfish and live separate lives. Her father is wrapped up in his horses, her mother in society, spending most of the year in London. Her oldest brother is married and following in her father's footsteps. Her sister fell in love and eloped with a man no one else can stand. Megan's brother Colin is now a captain in the Lifeguards. Everyone else, and especially her mother, is so wrapped up in their own lives that Megan is virtually ignored. She's 19 and she hasn't had a Season, and the possibility does seem that probable.

So when the opportunity arises to visit a friend of her mother's, a princess who once visited London, in St. Petersburg, she decides to make the most of it. This is where I decided I really liked Megan. Here is a heroine, who rather than martyr herself to her family, decides that she has to be like them or she will end up miserable and un-cared-for. She manipulates her mother very adeptly into paying for a new wardrobe for herself and her companion, gets an expert maid to accompany them, and convinces her father to extend her a letter of credit. She proves herself to be resourceful, clever, and realistic, yet still behaves within the mores of the day. All of this means that I can forgive her for acting like a teenager a couple of times later on, especially since she still is one.

Megan visits St. Petersburg, is a great success, gets 11 proposals, none of which she accepts. The princess gets mad at her for not marrying one of them, and sends her back home. It's only when Megan is being sent away that her son Mikhail realizes that he has feelings for Megan that are more substantial than he has felt before. Here's another thing I liked about the book. Mikhail is a prince and we are told that he has had many lady friends over the years, but we aren't bashed over the head with it. In fact, I don't think he is once described as a "rake".

So Mikhail follows Megan back to London. The romance between them is very well-done by the author. It is clear they both have feelings for each other. Megan doubts that Mikhail really loves her, but she's not one of those "I'm not good enough for you" heroines. Their courtship plays out across the London Season.

There is also an interesting secondary story between Megan's oldest brother and his wife Sophronia, who have been estranged. I liked Sophronia, who learns to stand up for herself. It was also refreshing to see an author describe a troubled marriage where things weren't solved overnight.

Usually I prefer a little sex in my romances. I lean toward steamy stories most of the time. I have a few Regencies and other "sweet" romances on my keepers shelves, but I don't search them out. This book is definitely "kisses only", but I still felt the romance and the connection between them. With their positions in society and with the time period, but mostly because of their own characters and how they were presented, I didn't mind at all.

I don't usually grade books that I read. If I want to read them again, I keep them (if I bought it) or I purchase a copy (if I got it from the library). If it was really good, I'll add the author to my watch and buy lists. If I don't keep a book, its probably a C grade or so. I guess my absolute favorites are A's. This is probably a B+/A- book. I really enjoyed it, but it doesn't quite measure up to my absolute favorites. I will definitely read it again.

More US/UK cover differences

I talked before about the differences between covers of books published in the US and the UK. The subject is interesting to me, so I have been collecting a few more covers that are different. Some are substantial, some understandable, and some differences so subtle that I can't really figure them out. In all cases, the US cover is first, and the UK cover second. I'd love to hear everyone else's thoughts on these.

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters: The picture on the UK cover is on the BBC production of the movie, which as far as I know is not available in the US as of yet. Why not? Because it's about lesbians in Victorian times. I've come across a lot of people who think such things just "didn't happen back then." I think it's sad that Americans can't handle subjects like this. Noticeably, glancing at the US cover, you wouldn't even know it's about lesbians at all.

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova: Here's a book that's gotten a lot of notice and a lot of buzz for its debut in July. Reportedly, the author got 2 million for it, and it's already on the way to being made into a movie. The rich tones of the US cover imply the combination of vampire and historical, and the hint of a face is interesting, even if it is sideways. I like the font and the script on the UK cover though, and the drops of blood, which draw notice to the vampire theme.

In the Company of Cheerful Ladies by Alexander McCall Smith: I have a few friends who love Smith's books. The UK cover looks more like it would be true to African folk art (though I have no idea whether it is or not). The US cover just seems so clean, it looks more like a beach resort.

Lifeguard by James Patterson: Okay, here's one I don't know why they changed. Both show a lifeguard's shed (what do you call it?). Do they have lifeguards in the UK? I really don't know. I've never lived near the beach. Are they significantly different from place to place. Also, one cover emphasizes the sand, and the other the sky. I like the US cover, it looks warmer.

Lost City by Clive Cussler: Okay, both have a submarine, and I prefer the one on the UK cover, but that design behind Cussler's name is distracting. Though I don't really like the plain black and white either. I don't really like either cover here.

Olympos by Dan Simmons: If I were to judge solely on the covers, I would think the US book was a fantasy, and the UK book a science fiction. Interestingly, Ilium and this sequel are a combination of fantasy and science fiction. Does sci-fi sell better in the UK? Is that why the emphasis on it more? I think fantasy is on an upswing more than sci-fi in the US.

Something Rotten by Jasper Fforde: Man, there is a huge difference between these two covers. If I were to go just on impressions, the UK cover has more of a humorous appearance that the US cover doesn't have. They both have books, and they are definitely both odd covers. I think I do prefer the US cover here.

Ten Men by Alexandra Gray: Okay, the first cover is of the US hardcover edition, the second of the US paperback edition, and the third of the UK edition. Obviously the publisher rethought the emphasis from the hardcover to the paperback edition, moving from showing multiple men to focusing on the heroine. But why the background difference between the US and the UK. I've heard that the most popular color for book covers published in the US is blue. Maybe blue doesn't sell as well in the UK.

The Traveler by John Twelve Hawks: These covers are probably the most different of the covers I've shown today. Traveler is also a book with a lot of buzz. Though at heart a sci-fi novel, it is being published by Random House's regular fiction imprint rather than by their Sci-fic imprint. They are obviously trying to find a mainstream audience for it. The UK cover has more of a sci-fi feel to it. Looking at the US cover, I wouldn't even guess that it was sci-fi, but I've heard it is supposed to be sort of like The Matrix. Oh, and why the different spelling on "traveler/traveller"?Is that the normal spelling in the UK. I guess I never noticed it before.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2005


I thought I would post the covers of a few romance books that I am looking forward to. Some of these covers aren't on yet, so I don't know if everyone has seen them.

Awaken Me Darkly: I enjoyed Showalter's The Pleasure Slave. I was excited about this one when she first mentioned it on her site. The first Mia Snow: Alien Huntress book. I've seen blurbs that say that it has a kick-ass heroine and is similar to Alias, Buffy, and Anita Blake. I know that the "kick-ass heroine" is "in" right now and doesn't always apply where it is used, and I have my reservations about the comparisons used, but I have high hopes for this one.
June 1st

Beyond the Pale: This is a new author and I don't know much about the book, but I think it looks really interesting. I know I've mentioned it her before, but it's going to be out pretty soon, and I really, really like the cover.
June 7th

Love Underground: Don't care for the cover, but I love books based on or about myths, particulary Greek. And the Persephone/Hades story is one of my favorites. Fields will be a new author for me, but since it's a MMPB, I can't pass it up.
July 5th

Heart of the Dragon: Another Gena Showalter book. I know putting a couple of her books on her makes me look a little like a fangirl, but she comes up with some interesting and unique ideas. When I read a blurb for one of her books, I can see that she is actively interesting in bringing freshness to romance and in telling a story that is different from the hundred other books coming out each month. And hey, a heroine with a tattoo -- that's cool.
Sept. 1st

Kick Ass: Another anthology, clearly trying to capitalize on the knew affection for kick-ass heroines. Two authors who I enjoy are included here -- Davidson and Knight (like Showalter, trying new things for romance). Ford will be new to me, and Shayne is hit-and-miss.
Sept. 6th

The Master: I have really enjoyed Jackson's Wildside romances. I voted for The Traveler as my favorite romance of 2003 at AAR's annual survey.
Sept. 30th

Hot Spell: An anthology with a great linup of writers. Emma Holly is always great. I am pretty sure this is the first book from a new York publisher for Ellora's Cave regulars Leigh and Walker. And it has a novella by Meljean Brook. I really enjoy her blog and am looking forward to this one.
Nov. 1st

The Royal Pain: I thought The Royal Treatment was cute. Some people have said online that Davidson's voice wears a little after a while. I am not a huge fan of humorous books, so I knew going in that I couldn't read her books back to back or I would get tired of them. I give myself a few weeks and a few other books in between and I have really enjoyed them.
Oct/Nov 2005

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Monday, May 23, 2005

Funny Flash

My husband discovered flash animation on the internet a couple of years ago. I have no idea how people make them, nor do I know where they find the time, but there are some really clever people out there (along with some really stupid people, of course).

But by far the funniest flash animation I have ever seen is

If you haven't yet have the pleasure of watching it, you have got to click on that link. Once it finishes loading, just click on Start. Warning: A little crude and not PC, but nothing horrible. If you dont' have the Macromedia Flash Player installed, it should prompt you. And make sure your volume is turned up (I turn mine off all the time).

For those who have or like cats:
I'm a Kitty Cat
The Laughing Cat

My favorite series of videos:
Neurotically Yours -- a series starring a goth girl and her crazy squirrel Foamy

And in honor of Star Wars Episode III:
The Star Wars Gangsta Rap. It's been around for a while, but it's great.

If you're interested in more ways to waste your time (not always PC, not always clean):
Stupid Videos
Funny Junk
Albino Black Sheep
Atom Films

Tagged by HelenKay

Total Number of Books I Own:

Probably somewhere around 1500 -- mostly romance and fantasy. Fledgling science fiction and mystery collections. A nice selection of books on mountaineering/Mount Everest/arctic settings/dogsledding. A complete collection of Louis L'Amour books. Lots of vampire books of all genres. A lot of books on the Lord of the Rings novels. About 100 classic literature novels and plays. Lots of books on mythology -- mostly Greek, Roman, Norse, and Slavic. A bunch of D&D books. A few thrillers, historicals, erotica. A collection of religious/spiritual novels and titles that are probably better classified as my husbands, along with the Stephen King novels. Oh, and some military history.

Last Book I Bought:

Well, I order some things online and pick some up at the bookstore.
Awaken Me Darkly by Gena Showalter is on the way

I recently pre-ordered:
Private Demon by Lynn Viehl
The Master by Melanie Jackson
Hot Spell by Emma Holly, Lora Leigh, Shiloh Walker and Meljean Brook

And at the bookstore I picked up:
Wild at Heart by Patricia Gaffney
Finders Keepers by Linnea Sinclair
The Romanov Prophecy by Steve Berry
Her Way: Young Women Remake the Sexual Revolution by Paula Kamen

Last Book I Read:

It's never just one, is it?
In My Dreams by Monica Jackson
Dragon Precinct by Keith R. A. DeCandido
Ice Hunt by James Rollins

Five Books That Mean A Lot To Me:

Mythology by Edith Hamilton -- One of my favorite books of all, I like to reread parts of it all of the time. All of my characters in online games, paper RPG games, my handles, and my login names are taken from mythological characters in this book. Mythology provides the basis and inspiration for so much of writing and storytelling, I love going back to this book. It was also the catalyst for my interest in mythology in general.

The Last Hellion by Loretta Chase -- My favorite romance. I know lots of others who liked Lord of Scoundrels better, but The Last Hellion, closely followed by Ravished by Amanda Quick and Black Silk by Judy Cuevas/Judith Ivory, will always be my favorite.

The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien -- An amazing series, one of the books I've had the longest. Reading The Hobbit in junior high sparked my interest in fantasy and helped bring me back to reading.

The Gunslinger by Stephen King -- One of the first books my husband told me I just HAD to read. I'd tried a few Stephen King books before, and though I thought they were okay, I didn't really look for more. But The Gunslinger just drew me in. Steve and I have listed to all of the Dark Tower books together while driving on vacations. A great thing to share.

Seven Summits by Dick Bass, Frank Wells, and Rick Ridgeway -- I find this narrative of Bass and Wells' quest to become the first to ascend the highest mountains on each of the seven continents to be inspiring. Yeah, they had the money and the time, but the quest took years and took multiple attempts for them to be able to do it. They were amateurs and they were in their 50s. They set out to do it, and they kept with it until they were able to make it possible. And when they failed on Everest, they didn't just quit. They went back again and again until they made it.

Tag Five People To Do This:

Who hasn't done it or been tagged already? It seems like everyone already has. But I haven't seen anything from any of these gals:

So consider yourselves tagged if you haven't already been.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

None of my business ...

But I noticed today that there are three new columnists at RTB. I don't know how long they've been there. I visited on Friday to read Laurie's column, and I didn't notice them then, but I wasn't really looking.

Anyway, the new columnists are:
Deidre Knight -- an agent for the Knight Agency
Sandy Oakes -- reader whose blog I read regularly
Sarah Wendell -- reader and along with Candy, one of the Smart Bitches, one of the hippest and most interesting blogs out there right now

I think they are all great additions and I'm glad to see this new wave of readers and non-authors at RTB. It is great and really helps diversify the site. The guest columns that have appeared in the last few weeks have been excellent, interesting, and provocative (as have some of the regular columnists' essays).

Star Wars ... with some small spoilers

Steve and I went to see Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith at the opening night midnight showing. We've seen all of the new Star Wars movies at midnight, along with the Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and X-Men movies. If you've never gone to a midnight showing of a big fan-based movie like one of these, you are missing out. People dress up in costume. The theatre is full of people who have probably been waiting for the movie for years. Cell phones never ring. No screaming babies. People cheer when the picture flips on and when the opening title is shown. It's a lot of fun.

But anyway -- about the movie.

I was disappointed.

Anybody who has seen all five other Star Wars movies knows going in what this one will be about, so it wasn't that. I loved Titanic and The Perfect Storm knowing exactly what was going to happen. I knew that Anakin would betray everyone, that he would go to the Dark Side. In fact, I was looking forward to the making of Darth Vader.

But man, it was so cheesy and melodramatic. All of the Star Wars movies have been cheesy in small ways, but this one was all the way through. And it's weird to see this cheesiness and melodrama juxtaposed against such serious, adult subject matter. On one hand, everyone is dying, children are being murdered, the issue of a peaceful government being turned into a dictatorship is being played out on screen, yet everyone is being completely flip about the whole thing.

Anakin waffles back and forth so much that I felt like he was a bouncing ball Obi-Wan and Palpatine were throwing back and forth. If he was talking to Obi-Wan, then he was with him. But the minute Palpatine talks to him, then he's with him and Obi-Wan and Mace Windu are just "the man" trying to keep him down. And yeah, he's lustful for power, but any sane person could see that the things he wanted were unreasonable under the circumstances. Palpatine puts him on the Jedi Council, demanding that they break the tradition of voting for their own members, and then when they won't make him a master Jedi, he gets mad a them for changing tradition. Hello -- they didn't start it, why should they bend to it?

And why, when Anakin is so lustful for power that he turns on his lifelong friend and the woman he loves, would he so completely, knowingly subjugate himself to Palpatine. He's just hired muscle in the end. I wish it had been explained better.

Continuity errors bug me too. General Grievous is a cyborg general for the droid army. I know he has a human heart, but he doesn't have human lungs, so why is he coughing through the whole movie? And why, when a Jedi is hanging from a wall over a cliff, does he suddenly forget that he has telekinetic powers? And why, when Jedi can sense danger, don't ANY of them sense the attack, a galactic plan, coming and protect themselves?

And worse, everything is a path to the Dark Side according to this movie. "Fear of loss is a path to the Dark Side." "Attachment is a path to the Dark Side." Anakin goes down because he falls in love and he's afraid to lose her. Love leads to murder and dictatorship, how encouraging.

And it's painful to see these actors deliver such awful lines. Padme actually says to Anakin, "You're breaking my heart." Who says stuff like that? I know they're young, but they're not in junior high anymore. And Obi-Wan, when they get caught in a droid ship, "How does this keep happening? We're smarter than this." And Anakin later on, "What have I done?!" Which lasts about five seconds before he's killing again.

I love the ships they create for the movies. I loved Mace Windu's parts. I love the costumes and the settings they create. I still love Star Wars because it's such a huge epic story, because it's nostalgia, because it's one of the more interesting things that's come out of Hollywood in the last few years. But why oh why couldn't Lucas have somebody help him write the damn thing? I know he wants to maintain control, but he royally sucks as a writer. He's great with ideas, and really, really bad with words. It just ruined the whole thing for me.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Another cover trend ... couples

I talked before about the trend of having shirtless men on romance covers, but another that I've noticed recently is the half-naked couple on the cover. I'm not talking about the bodice ripper historical covers -- those have been around forever and are still around. They have the wind-blown hair (going in more than one direction), the buttonless and open shirts, the gowns falling off of the heroines.

The new covers I'm talking about are much more modern looking. They look more like the covers I sometimes see on Black Lace or Blue Moon erotica. Some are historicals, but these new covers seem to be equally as common with contemporaries. These have a lot more class than the bodice rippers (though I still don't know that I would read them on the bus). The couple is often shadowed enough (like the Fetzer, the Clare, and the Moning" that the book doesn't scream "Hey, there's sex in this book!" It just says it politely.

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