Monday, January 30, 2006

Three Things that Bug Me Online

I've been in the mood to rant today, and I don't think I've had one here since I started up again, so tonight you guys get to find out a little of what bugs me in the online world and blogosphere. I'm going to be circumspect and not actually use certain romance author's names because frankly I don't want them (or their friends or fangirls) googling themselves, finding my website, and giving me the same crap that some gave Keishon a little while ago. I could handle it if it came, but why bother?

1. This one comes mostly from reading discussions about the James Frey thing. I can't stand it when people say something like "You don't remember everything you ate a month ago, do you?" as a response to people complaining about Frey's fabrications/exagerations in his book. Whether you think Frey was lying or not, saying something like this is just stupid. This person can't come up with an actual thought or argument to back up their viewpoint (and there are plenty of valid ones they could use) so rather than be logical or reasonable, they go for trying to ridicule the other person. The sole purpose of a rhetorical question like that is to try to make the other person look ridiculous, to make it look like they have irrational expectations that no one could meet, and therefore Frey's isn't so bad. Major pet peeve for me. People, learn how to debate. Go read a book about actual debate -- not just arguing or trolling or steamrolling.

2. A certain author (whose books I sometimes like and sometimes don't) made a statement a couple of weeks ago about whether it is appropriate for readers to review books. The merits of that argument have been debated back and forth, and personally I think anyone who doesn't disagree with her is just an idiot with a chip on their shoulder, but that's just me. That's not what bugs me. What bothers me is how that comment was made and her behavior afterward. I was always taught that when you are having a discussion/debate/argument with someone, you do it in a polite manner. Cursing, insulting, demeaning language or behavior is inappropriate, especially with someone you don't even know (and who really knows anyone online?). So thinly-veiled insults and insinuations disguised as humor just piss me off. A lot of what was said around the blogosphere during that discussion was brushed off as attempts at humor by people making the comments and by some reading them. I don't buy that. There are some people who want to say their mean piece but not look bad for it, and pretending to be making a joke is the way they do it. They say their mean little comment that makes them feel better sitting at their computer at home in a way that looks humorous, and then when they're called on it, they say "I was just making a little joke, why are you taking it so seriously?" Stroking their sad little egos the whole time. And who's going to call them on it without looking like they can't handle a little ribbing? This is the epitome of passive-aggressive behavior -- from Wikipedia: "Someone who is passive-aggressive will typically not confront others directly about problems, but instead will attempt to undermine their confidence or their success through comments and actions which, if challenged, can be explained away innocently so as not to place blame on the passive-aggressive person." Sounds like little mean insults passed off as jokes to me.

3. There is a huge difference between speculating/talking about an idea/impression and slander or libel. If you don't understand the difference then you need more time socializing with real people. The whole thing about The Queen of Romance at the AAR Reviews Board just drives me nuts. Nobody said they'd heard she was screwing the pool boy, they said it seemed like the photo was a little too close to the character. I think it's pretty clear that the publisher was trying to use the photo as a part of the marketing of the book and the Queen herself even said that the photo was an attempt to establish the persona of her alter-ego as opposed to her normal one. If that's not saying it's tied to the series, and therefore the character, then what else does that mean? Ultimately, however, it's not this that bugs me so much as another aspect of the whole argument: that some readers just can't handle open discussion that might be critical of authors (and especially, horror of horrors, a top romance author) and that when faced with informed, rational opinions and discussion, they can't manage to respond in kind. If someone writes a thoughtful, four-paragraph post that you don't agree with, you don't respond with "what's wrong with you that you speculate like this, you must have personal issues that you can't handle, you should see a shrink instead of posting" or some other such crap. That's not discussion, that's insult and doesn't have any place in a reasonable forum.

The sad thing is that even though I have my own opinions about all of these situations, I am completely respectful of the opinions of people on the other side in each because they all have useful points to make. And the issues that don't can always spark discussion about other interesting issues, so it drives me nuts when good discussion is hijacked by idiots.

So what do you guys think about these situations? Do the things that bother me irritate others, or is this just a part of my own idiosyncracies?

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Upcoming Contemporary Romance

I don't read nearly as much contemporary romance as I do historical or paranormal romances. I think that is mostly because I don't always enjoy the modern settings. I usually like to feel like I am reading a story about someone very different from me, either in place or time or in fundamental differences in life. It's not as easy to have that feeling of difference in a contemporary.

I tend to avoid romances with military settings or military men (despite being married to a wonderful one) because after four years in the US Army, I'm just too close to the subject matter. It doesn't seem romantic to me; it's either horrifying or boring. And too many romance authors get major things wrong that they could find out with simple facts from an average servicemember or veteran (one not too long a veteran, if it's a modern romance) quite easily. So military romances (and Navy SEALS or special forces, ugh, mostly jerks who cheat on their wives and get divorced in real life) count for a lot of contemporaries, and they're out.

So, of what's left, I usually read a few each year, either hot romances or from new authors or the few contemporary authors I've come to enjoy (Rachel Gibson, Julie Kenner, Deidre Martin).

Untamed by Kathleen Lawless
Pocket, 20 September 2005
I really like this cover, so I'll probably try to check out the book, even though her first book, Taboo, got a D- at AAR.

Take Me by Bella Andre
Pocket, 15 November 2005
Here's another great cover, also from Pocket. I brought this one home from the library on Thursday.

Cheating at Solitaire by Ally Carter
Berkley, 6 December 2005
I reall like this cover. I like the title as stitching on her jeans, I like the Ace of Hearts hinting at romance.

The Manolo Matrix by Julie Kenner
Downtown Press, 1 February 2006
Haven't had a chance to read Givenchy Code yet, so I'll have to find time to fit that one in before I hit this one.

Sex, Lies, and Online Dating by Rachel Gibson
Avon, 1 February 2006
Rachel Gibson is one of the few consistently good contemporary authors I've found.

Playing Easy to Get by Sherrilyn Kenyon, Jaid Black, and Kresley Cole
Pocket, 7 February 2006
Will probably pick this one up at the library. Black and Kenyon aren't the best writers, but they are entertaining. Haven't tried Cole yet.

The Penalty Box by Deirdre Martin
Berkley Sensation, 7 March 2006
I like Martin's hockey romances. I am a big fan of the Dallas Stars, and when the NHL was on strike, I was really mad. Reading books with even a little hockey actually helped.

Big Trouble by Marianna Jameson
Signet, 2 May 2006
This is a new author to me, but I like the sound of this one. From the author's website: " It features Joe Casey, the smart-mouthed stud-muffin brother of My Hero's hero, Chas Casey, and former computer hacker turned digital security expert, Naomi Connor, who has been waiting twenty years to be forgiven for an adolescent mistake. Joe is the one man who can absolve her—if only she could make him believe that people really can change."

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Friday, January 27, 2006

Concept Art for Moon Called

I found an amazing thing today: a tutorial on painting that shows the evolution of the cover art for Moon Called by Patricia Briggs. It is direct from the artist of the piece, Dan Dos Santos, and is intended as a tutorial on painting, but it is an amazing find for anyone interested in book covers, art, or Moon Called in particular.

Dos Santos turned the tutorial into a PDF document that you can read online. It is very extensive, with 15 steps and lots of art. Quite fascinating. Go check it out NOW.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

And Now for ... Werewolves

Vampires have reigned supreme for a while in the paranormal romance world, but we are finally beginning to see a surge in the popularity and presence of werewolf romances. This ground was tread a few years ago by Cheri Scotch with her werewolf trilogy, and Susan Krinard has been writing about them for a while, but it's now coming into it's own.

It's likely that they won't appeal to a lot of readers for the same reason that some don't like vampire romances. The vampire-haters complain that they can't imagine reading a book about a woman falling in love with someone who is technically dead.

The werewolf-haters, however, will complain that they can't imagine reading about a woman falling in love with a man who turns into a monster and eats people. Which is exactly the problem I fear with werewolves coming to romance. I think it's fair to say that many authors tone down the parts or themes in books that some readers might call "not romantic" or "too realistic" or "gross", etc. And after slogging through book after book from LKH with Richard the whiney werewolf, I don't think I can take that from these upcoming books.

Oh, and if you're looking for something to read right now, here are a few werewolf stories I've enjoyed in the past:
The Werewolf's Kiss by Cheri Scotch -- first in romance trilogy
Canyons by P. D. Cacek -- horror
Bitten by Kelley Armstrong -- horror/romance
Wild Blood by Nancy A. Collins -- horror
Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause -- teen
The Passion by Donna Boyd -- romance/horror
Naked Brunch by Sparkle Hayter -- humorous mystery
Tempting Danger by Eileen Wilks -- romance

And here are the ones I'm looking forward to that are new or due in the near future:

Kitty and the Midnight Hour by Carrie Vaughn
Warner, 1 November 2005

Moon Called by Patricia Briggs
Ace, 31 January 2006

Crescent Moon by Lori Handeland
St. Martin's, 7 February 2006

Wolf at the Door by Christine Warren
St. Martin's, 7 March 2006

Master of Wolves by Angela Knight
Berkley, 4 April 2006

Midnight Desire by Emma Holly
Berkley, 1 August 2006

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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

US/UK Book Covers

Anyone who spends any time on my blog knows that I am fascinated by book covers. One of the things that particularly interests me is the differences in book covers around the world, and especially between the United States and the United Kingdom. We're so alike but also so different and it's amazing to see the differences in how books are marketed. On all of the books below, the US edition appears on the left, and the UK edition on the right.

The Borgia Bride by Jeanne Kalogridis
I really like both of these covers. I prefer the script from the US edition and I like that the title and blurbs are set off from the picture. But I think I prefer the photo from the UK cover. The US one definitely has the historical feel, but the UK cover feels more informal and intimate.

1776 by David McCullough
The typeface for both the author's name and the title are the same on both editions, but the color is slightly different and they used a totally different picture. The picture on the US cover is a pretty iconic American scene, so that is probably why it doesn't appear on the UK cover, which is a little more general.

Red Lily by Nora Roberts
Both of these covers are boring, with the plain lilies on the front. The US cover, with the dominance of yellow is more striking and would attract my notice more in the bookstore. I also think it's interesting that the publisher is not using the NR seal in the UK apparently.

Predator by Patricia Cornwell
The images on both of these covers are really creepy. The old guy on the US cover is weird and anonymous looking. The wire and the polaroid on the UK cover are disturbing. Which is fitting for a mystery/thriller. The green cover of the US edition is very striking, and since so many covers are blue, it will stand out on the shelf or on a table.

Mary, Mary by James Pattterson
I don't think there is really anything special about either of these covers. You can tell that the US cover is one designed solely for the bookstore market. The million-dollar patterson name is large and in white print on a dark background, and the title is very large so that the devoted bestseller readers will notice that it is a new title. The UK cover is one that I can imagine somebody asking for, saying "it's a blue cover with a car on the front" which could describe any number of books.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
This one has been a huge book club book here, so I was curious about the UK book cover. I wonder if it has been such a fad read there? Anyway, very different feel to the covers here. I think the US cover emphasizes that this story takes place in a third-world nation with the city pictured on the front, where the UK cover focuses more on the boy who is one of the main characters.

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Saturday, January 21, 2006

Movies Coming Soon

Okay, it's been a while since I did a movie update, and I have a bunch of posters waiting in the wings to show you all. So here are a few:

Tristan and Isolde
January 13th
View the trailer
This movie is already playing, but I hadn't talked about it before, so I wanted to highlight it anyway. I always loved the Wagner opera and the legend. And I love medieval stories/movies.

February 10th
View the trailer
I think that Harrison Ford is starting to show his age a little -- he looked a little frail the last time I saw him -- but I'm sure with makeup we'll never know. And I've like Paul Bettany ever since I saw him in A Knight's Tale as Chaucer. He nearly stole the show.

February 24th
View the trailer
When I first heard about this one, I thought it would be an adaptation of the UK tv show I heard good things about, but it isn't. I know a lot of people didn't like the two Resident Evil movies, but I love zombies, and I thought Milla Jovovich was a great action heroine, so I look forward to seeing her again in this. And the costumes look awesome.

Ice Age 2: The Meltdown
March 31st
View the trailer
Steve and I love animated movies, and the first Ice Age was great, so we'll definitely see this one. And that squirrel is just hilarious.

Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man's Chest
July 7th
View the trailer
Pirates was one of the best movies of the year in 2003 (can you believe it's been that long?) and Pirates 2 looks just as good. Love the costumes, love the revival of pirates in a fun way. And Johnny Depp made that movie -- I was glad he finally got a big blockbuster and some attention from critics.

Lady in the Water
July 21st
View the trailer
The Village didn't get very good reviews, but I liked it. Joaquin Phoenix and Bryce Dallas Howard were both great, and she's in this one as well. Some people say the fact that there is a twist in Shyamalan's movies is too predictable, but it's not like we know going in what that twist will be, so I just enjoy myself.

December 15th
The book Eragon was written by a 19-year-old, and lots of those who liked Harry Potter enjoyed it. I didn't get around to reading it, but I am looking forward to the movie -- have to see anything with dragons. I just hope they do a good job with the dragons.

Charlotte's Web
December 20th
The original was one of my favorite movies, and one of my favorite books when I was a kid, and I think I could still sing Templeton's "the fair is a veritable smorgasboard, orgasboard" song, so I am looking forward to this new treatment. It was moved from June to December to capture the holiday family market, and probably to corner the Oscar for animated film.

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