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WiB Summer Edition, Week 13

August 13, 2010

I can’t tell if I read these books at the very end of last week or if I forgot them last week, but I bought my daughter four of the Harlequin mangas for her birthday, two Pinks and two Violets.  As far as I can tell, the difference between the Pink line and the Violet line are that one group has sex before marriage (Violet) and the other doesn’t (Pink), but I could be wrong.

If you didn’t read my discussion of it before, Harlequin once took some of their old stories, had someone draw them in pink or purple ink in a manga style, and published them under the idea that they were doing something new.  Obviously, they were doing at LEAST two things far after the curve.

The issue here isn’t the garish choice of pink ink (in that, the Violets do a much better job of portraying the story without being ridiculous) or even that they decided to adapt older stories rather than do new ones that might lend themselves more to the format, but that they at times chose TERRIBLE stories, stories that are terribly out of date with no sign of updating.  The creepy, sexist “heroes” of the ’80s are presented here apparently for a new generation of girls.  Um…?

So the specific titles were A Girl in a Million, Idol Dreams, Holding on to Alex, and Response.  They are so forgettable that I could not tell you which one was Response and which one was A Girl in a Million without looking them up.  I remember Idol Dreams because I think it was actually cute, and well-done, and I remember Holding on to Alex because it’s the worst of the lot, about a dancer whose ex is so immature and controlling that he dumps her because she wants to follow her dreams, and then he’s like “It’s okay if we make a baby even though we can’t resolve our differences” and she’s so happy about what a nice guy she thinks he is that she gives up dancing to, I dunno, raise his babies.  Because that’s what women ~*in love*~ do.

Oh okay.

I got them because my daughter is starting her romance phase and she finds the whole Harlequin manga thing appealing, and I read them because I want to know what she’s reading so I can clear up any anachronisms (AND THEY ARE) and misconceptions she may have.

Also, they were on sale, and I’m still job hunting.

I finished up My Big Fat Supernatural Wedding this week.  It’s a collection of short stories that are pretty much exactly what’s promised.  I wanted to read all the Dresden short stories that I could, in order, and this contains one of them, but I didn’t stop to think that perhaps the book would assume that I’m an avid reader of the genre and that I would be able to follow what’s going on in the series that I don’t read.  There were definitely some mythologies that needed a bit more of a window into them, although I have to say that they weren’t SO off-putting in their previously-existed world building that I didn’t enjoy them.  Charlaine Harris appears to have beefed up her writing skills (I mean “toolbox,” as I was taught in my online writing class that wasn’t worth the money someone else payed for it) since the first Sookie Stackhouse book so I might go back to that for the funsies.  I felt that the book was backloaded, or at least the first story is poorly chosen, as it was incredibly difficult to read and almost put me off the (non-Dresden parts of the) book altogether.  But Butcher does a great job of writing a short story for his Harry Dresden character (count the Buffy references!) and Elrod makes me upset that I don’t have her first Vampire Files book to reread, since I picked up the others at an antique store at the shore a while back.  It’s worth it if you’re into the various series, and it MIGHT be a decent way to see if you’re interested in the universes, but I think it’d really be easier to pick up the first books instead.

The Dresden short story having been read, I could make my way to White Night, the next in the series.  I hope this is less of a pun on the idea of being a Night in Shining Armor and more about White Knighting (warning: Link is Not Safe for Work) because Dresden hits an almost intolerable level of whining about how he can’t stand when anything happens to women or children.  Okay, children, but hey, guess what?  It’s just as sexist to have that underlying sense of “MUST SAVE THE WIMMINS” as anything else, Butcher.

Another aspect of the book is how long it’s been since Dresden’s gotten any.  Although it’s an important part of what happens, I was still uncomfortable and would rank this my least favorite of the books since the series hit its stride.

I also had some library books that needed to be returned this week, so I caught up on what was in the bag. The Sword Volume 2: Water and The Sword Volume 3: Earth pick up where the first trade left off.  In a nutshell, there were these four gods thousands of years ago and Dara’s dad kept them from abusing their powers with his magical sword by killing one and threatening the others.  Now the gods live in the present day, completely frustrated.  When they find Dara’s dad (his lifetime extended by the sword), they threaten and kill him, his wife, and his older daughter, leaving his youngest daughter, Dara, a paraplegic,  to burn in the family home.  The floor gives underneath her, she discovers the sword and its healing properties.  She decides to avenge her family with the help of a friend and one of her father’s former students, who knows the history of the gods through her father’s storytelling in his classes.

Got that?  Good.

What follows is more violence than necessary, enough story to care but not quite enough to feel fully fleshed-out, and some nice art that alternately feels bland and exciting.  Everyone’s face is getting slashed in half, and it’s really so far over-the-top that it’s almost beyond nauseating, but not quite.  Water is the high point of the series so far: issues of morality and godhood play out better with this god than the others.  However, I have high hopes for Air–or rather, I would if my library owned all four books and not just the first three.

I also read Millennium Snow Volumes 1 and 2. This is the story of a girl with a terminal heart disease who meets a vampire who can bestow eternal life on her, but isn’t sure he wants to.  This already common take on the usual vampire trope of “WAHHH, I get to live longer than other people!” is weakened even more by–you guessed it–a werewolf suitor.  Don’t look for this series to make a lot of sense–any promise in the first volume is negated by the second, which is a hodge-podge of cliches like a ghost story in an isolated home in the middle of nowhere, and the sudden arrival of someone who’s been in the main character’s life “forever,” even though, you know, we’d never heard of him before.

Apparently, another story in the series was published somewhere, but unless it wraps everything up nicely and is readily available to me, I don’t feel a strong desire to seek it out.

Moving on, I also read S.E. Hinton’s That Was Then, This Is Now this week.  In this book set about a year after The Outsiders, the main character Bryon and his adopted brother Mark live in a hippie-filled, Soc-light world where violence is still the name of the game, if you want to play.  This book doesn’t have the punch of The Outsiders, but it’s interesting to see another perspective of Ponyboy.  Also, the back mentions a “discovery” about Mark that isn’t made until almost the very end.  I gotta stop reading the backs of books.

Finally, I read two old Harlequins off my to-read shelf.  (The Hinton was one too.)  Home Fires is the story of a homebody and a guy who hasn’t settled–yet.  Apparently, setting is easy to do with the right person.  This book is cute but has its moments of era-related happily-ever-after cluelessness.  Endless Summer, however, was a trainwreck of Patricia Wilson proportions.  Angela Wells, who also penned the painful Rash Contract, runs her way through some basic romance tropes–the dominating male, the speedy wedding, the misunderstanding–with an awkwardness in writing that seems almost non-native.  Once her story gets going, only the heroine’s virginity can save the day, and in the aftermath the hero is infantilized and condones violence to children (admittedly not overtly).

So yeah, that was my Week in Books.  Next week will continue the hodge-podgery, with library books trading off with the 250-plus on my bedroom bookcase.

I gotta stop buying books.  And accepting them from friends.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Kareila permalink
    August 14, 2010 11:15 am

    The “must save the wimmins” is a Dresden thing, not a Butcher thing, and he gets over it as the series progresses.

    IIRC there’s not so much chivalry in “White Night” as it’s just all about White Court vampire politics.

    There is a short story anthology, “Side Jobs”, coming out in October if you get tired of hunting down the anthologies.

    • August 14, 2010 1:19 pm

      I’m trying to read them in order and my library has all the collections–it’s just that some of them are on hold right now. It won’t be a long wait to read them in order.

      I haven’t read anything else he’s written so I don’t know how Butcher deals with them in his other series. But if he’s unaware of internet White Knighting, I’ll eat my hat. Dresden sure has a lot of pop culture references for someone who doesn’t own a TV…

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