Monday, June 29, 2009

Question for Urban Fantasy Readers

What is the difference between 'magic' (which Apprentice Writer first learned about in fairy tales) and 'magick' (which seems to be the type practiced between pages these days)?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

LAUGHTER REVIEWS #26: Compromised

by Kate Noble

Historical Romance

Two sisters are caught in the trap of strict upper-class social rules forcing specific actions and reactions.

Follows the current trend showing lower half of face only. Cover lady wearing a yellow gown whose color is relevant to the story, whose style looks oddly non-historical apart from length, and whose lines impart a nice sense of movement. Raised magenta lettering does not work for this reader, but one-word title that captures the content does.

What Works
Cover quotes contain the words 'effervescent' and 'sparkling'; they are justified. This is no dramatic tale with a deep social issue woven in, there is not one 'tortured' character, there are no true villains of the across-the-book, wishing-evil-upon type. This is what used to be called a comedy of manners, and Apprentice Writer found it delightful and refreshing - especially given her recent dabbling in end-of-the-world, bodies-strewn-about urban fantasy and paranormal. Despite the way that couples are paired up at the beginning of the story, the reader has no doubt what the final pairing shall be. The entertainment lies not in who ends up with whom, but how they get there.

What Doesn't
There were a number of descriptions that mystified Apprentice Writer. Are 'crystalline candles' see-through? If someone's eyes 'turn the color of fire', shouldn't that be interpreted as a sign of Ebola outbreak or demonic possession rather than philosophical passion? Did the Regency vocabulary truly encompass the phrase 'So what?' Is AW the only one who worries about epileptic seizure at the information '...his shoulders worked furiously'?

And, a most pet of peeves: why must faithful readers suffer through horrid spellings to convey a foreign accent? Isn't it enough to mention the fact that a character speaks in a way that shows English is not their first language (or even if it is; Scottish highlands ahoy), and leave it at that? It was especially puzzling that this issue was so harped on, given that the heroine is a diplomat's daughter and has spent her life interacting with people who are trying to do her the courtesy of conversing in her native language rather than force her to stumble in theirs or simply consign her to non-understanding/boredom during the endless social affairs involved in such a life. One more dipolmat in a long line of people with an accent should have been water off a duck's back, and not worth the point of making the foreign character sound slightly foolish.

A lovely debut. AW shall certainly look out for future titles from this author, including the recently released 'Revealed'.

But does it make you laugh? YES!
AW is very pleased to report that the humor worked on several levels - the conversations, the scenarios, the actions/reactions - all very nicely done. Fast forward a century or so and it could easily be imagined as one of those classic, black-and-white screwball comedies that Cary Grant so excelled at. Here a little taste of banter:

"Leaving?" she squeaked (as he) opened her wardrobe. "You're abducting me?"
"Eloping. Eloping involves hurried packing. Abducting involves masked men and a burlap sack."

And here an example of opposite-of-expected, so dear to AW's heart:

"He had (his proposal) all planned, too. He would take (her) down to the lake where they first met, unceremoniously throw her in, and then, while she sputtered and raved, he would sink to one knee in the muck and beg for her hand."

Learn about this author here:
Read another review here:

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Reading Ecstasy Anticipation

Warning: Fangirl unleashed.

Thomas and Duran and Chase, oh my!

Readers who brush up against the historical romance sphere even a little cannot help but beware of the white-hot expectations assigned to these authors. All have developed a reputation for peerless prose - a reputation Apprentice Writer, for one, considers well deserved. And at this moment, they all have new releases out - and all are raking in the praise.

Loretta Chase has been a star in the writing game the longest, and not a single romance reader has AW met who cannot spout off their favorite Chase title on the slightest provocation. (AW's is 'Mr. Impossible', in case any Gentle Readers of this space could possibly have missed this scoop.) She has become so iconic that aspiring writers without number have been known to pitch their manuscript with the instantly understood shortcut: "This is my attempt to write like Loretta Chase." Can never happen, of course, but the turns of phrase, the buildup of relationships, the funny, and the emotional satisfaction are all so deft and delicious that hope springs eternal. And, in a characteristic especially dear to the slow-writing AW's heart, Ms. Chase seems the exception in current multiple-manuscripts-per-year norm, taking her time to polish each story to her personal satisfaction and even retiring from active group-blogging last year. Whatever gets another Chase story into the bookstores - AW is all for it.

(Should the Gentle Reader be interested, AW's review of the most recent title, 'Your Scandalous Ways', is here, and 'Mr. Impossible' here.)

Sherry Thomas exploded onto the scene two years ago with her spectacular debut, 'Private Arrangements'. AW loved, loved, loved the humor and sweetness of a secondary romance between an older couple and suffered, suffered, suffered(in a good way!) right along with the protagonist couple in the primary romance. It was one of the most well-rounded emotional workouts she'd had in a while! The second title, 'Delicious' did a superb job of showing how food is so much more than mere nutrition, and that the way that people prepare it and eat it can have layer upon layer of emotional meaning infused.
(AW looked for her earlier reviews to link here and was embarrassed to find she had not posted any formal comments. Apparently she was too busy dashing around cyberspace gushing incoherent praise after 'Private Arrangements', and looking for something delectable to much after 'Delicious'.)

Meredith Duran is the 'youngest' of the trio, literary-wise, with her second title appearing now. AW thought her personal writer envy would be difficult to keep in check, given that the author's debut title was published as a prize for popularity of excerpt in an online contest, and given that the author appears to jot down saleable manuscripts for relaxation in between earning her doctoral degree. But Ms. Duran has such a sincere and likable persona that AW's affronted intentions were punctured.

'Duke of Shadows' was a marvelous and intense story set in one of AW's favorite settings: South Asia. The author will 'catch up' with Ms. Thomas in mere weeks when her third title will be released. Given these two authors' career trajectory, and given that Ms. Thomas has set her latest in South Asia as well, AW was utterly delighted yet not 100% surprised to learn that they have combined efforts and now blog together at 'Plotters and Manipulators United' (which AW still thinks should win a prize for blog name). Since Ms. Chase is no slouch in the South Asian-setting department herself ('The Sandalwood Princess'), AW awaits the day that Ms. Chase will do a guest blog on the Plotters and Manipulators site.

(Here AW's impressions of 'Duke of Shadows').

AW's answer to the 'What Will Be in Your Beach Bag?' question:

"Don't Tempt Me" Loretta Chase

"Not Quite a Husband" Sherry Thomas

"Bound by Your Touch" Meredith Duran

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Lightning Crankypants Views and Reviews

Apprentice Writer is not feeling her usual sunny self. Gentle Reader, you are warned. Random crankypants thoughts on life, the universe, and everything:

The Other Boleyn Girl: It is probably not a a good thing when the most believable performances in a movie are given by the period costumes and settings. (*Sorrowfully*) - Eric Bana, what has happened to you?

Mamma Mia: Stage production (Toronto) - 100% fabulous. Movie - 100% hot mess. And that is saying something as AW is usually firmly in the Meryl Streep/Colin Firth camp.

So You Think You Can Dance: Season after season, couple after couple is felled by the sheer bad luck of being assigned a Broadway routine, more often than not coupled with stupid costumes. Vitellio and Asuka, two fantastic dancers, endured the judges criticisms in silence rather than point their fingers at the choreographer and costume department, and may well end up the first two voted off the show through very little fault of their own (those lifts! that astonishing jump!). No justice.

Where Have all the Line Editors gone?: In the last week, AW came across the following excerpts;
"'s an interesting phenomena...." No, it's not. Phenomenon, perhaps, but phenomena involve more than one instance.
"...milleniums..." Especially sigh-worthy because it wasn't spoken by a Medieval or Regency character, who could be forgiven for unfamiliarity with a term so far removed from their own time period. It was an apocalyptic character. If an urban fantasy heroine whose story takes place near the intersection of two millenia doesn't know the correct plural, who would? And how does this not get caught by spellcheck?
"....she worked with various mediums..." This female historical artist character clearly aimed for notoriety, since she paints with people who have the ability to contact the spirit world rather than the regular artistic media.

and, since no gripe session is complete without a nod to the weather -
Climate: what's up with 'summerly cool' temparatures (as the weather channel recently forecast for the day)? AW's garden furniture has seen zero occupancy so far and we're mid-June. It will be a long, long summer with the junior apprentice writers if they have to stay inside.

Gentle Reader - Share an encouraging thought. Please. We beg you.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Generation Gap

Presenting Apprentice Writer's rapidfire, 100% accurate, no-fail test to determine on which side of the generation divide you belong:

What do you think of when you hear "apps"?

If you answered with anything in the field of gastronomy (restaurants, appetizers, expensive yet unsatisfying snacks, etc.) -
Congratulations! You may now consider yourself aged.

If you answered with anything in the field of technology (cellphone, computer, applications, expensive and unneccesary little thumb-driven addictions, etc.) -
Congratulations! You may now consider yourself non-aged.

Apprentice Writer and her son take credit for discovering this miracle dividing process. We leave it the Gentle Reader's imagination as to how the results fell out.