October 23, 2013

Captivated By Her Innocence by Kim LawrenceBeyond crazysauce. Dramatic recap provided—prepare your romance novel bingo cards.

So one of the things we all know about Harlequin Presents is that the plot is relatively simple, right? In the category format, where you only have 55,000 words-ish, there just isn’t room for epic twists and turns. Nora Roberts once called category ‘Swan Lake in a phone booth’, referring to the fact that you need to squeeze a lot into that small amount. She’s right, but let’s face it – Swan Lake doesn’t have the most complicated plot of all the plots. (Princess is transformed into swan. Prince falls in love with her. Shenanigans means that they can never be together, so they drown themselves in the lake and ascend to heaven together. Done and dusted and tied up with a neat little bow.)

What I’m getting at here is that because category romances aren’t heavy on the twisty-turny-I-never-saw-that-coming-wait-who-was-that-guy-again plots, you can usually rely on the plots to make sense. I mean, sure, sometimes the plots are completely insane—Are there really that many secret babies out there? And couples forced to get married because of someone’s will?—but I don’t think anyone reads Harlequin Presents for gritty realism. Within the crazy world of Presents, the plots usually make sense, even if the protagonists make some melodramatic decisions sometimes.

This plot does not make sense.

I love how crazy Harlequin Presents books can be. For me, it’s one of the most pleasurable things about them. They’re spectacular and hedonistic and excessive and it’s all great fun. But this book, Captivated By Her Innocence? It’s just nonsensical. I spent the whole time reading it going, “…wait, WHAT?!”

I think the best way I can demonstrate this is by doing a bit of a dramatic recap of the plot. So obviously, here there be spoilers. Looooooooooooots of spoilers.

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October 9, 2013

Unfinished Business: Sex, Freedom and Misogyny by Anna Goldsworthy (Quarterly Essay #50)In her Quarterly Essay, Unfinished Business: Sex, Freedom and Misogyny, Anna Goldsworth writes, among other things, about the messages that books such as Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey convey to female readers. Book Thingo invited readers to share some of their thoughts on the essay. (You can find a list of participants here.)

Kat’s note: Of the many bloggers and academics I’ve met online through the romance reading community, I’ve found Jessica’s style to be one of the most accessible, so I was super excited when she agreed to read Anna’s essay and write down her thoughts. Please note that I have (loosely) applied Book Thingo’s house style, and I’ve included some additional links to some of the information that Jessica refers to, so any strange non-academic-y looking formatting is all my fault!

Jessica blogs about books, especially romance, at Read React Review. She lives in Maine but you can usually find her on Twitter at @rrrjessica.

Anna Goldsworthy’s essay,  Unfinished Business: Sex, Freedom, Misogyny, is one I wouldn’t have read if Kat hadn’t asked me to contribute a comment on it. I would have missed not only a very thought-provoking piece, but a glimpse into some significant cultural events of particular relevance to women in Australia. Although most of the issues Goldsworthy touches on were familiar to me as a USian (body image, the double bind, rape culture, the messages of pop culture), the specific context was not.

For example, I didn’t know much about former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s—the first woman to hold that position—scathing rebuke to opposition leader Tony Abbott. Now referred to as simply ‘the misogyny speech’, it was a takedown of Abbott and his fellow conservatives’ tacit endorsement of ‘sexism and misogyny’ to contain not only Gillard, but any woman who threatens their old boy network. I cannot imagine any of the top women in US politics giving a speech on the floor of a national political body calling out male colleagues on gender injustice. I can, of course, point to stirring and brave performances in defense of women. Texas State Senator Wendy Davis’s marathon filibuster in June to block a restrictive abortion bill comes to mind. And I can point to oblique references to sexism: Texas State Senator Leititia Van De Putte’s quiet but forceful, ‘Mr. President, parliamentary inquiry. At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognised over her male colleagues? during the same filibuster. But to raise, in such a public forum, the sordid indignities that misogyny foists on women (for example, that she has been referred to as ‘a man’s bitch’) is to draw attention to a particular kind of vulnerability that I think most women politicians feel is too dangerous to highlight.

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October 7, 2013

The King by J. R. Ward (Black Dagger Brotherhood, Book 12) - US editionBeware the spoilers! Look away now if you don’t want to know tidbits about future BDB and Fallen Angels books…

J. R. Ward’s mods have posted spoilers from her recent signing and Q&A for the release of the latest Fallen Angel book, Possession. Check out her Facebook page for the full post, because some things are too spoilery for me to mention here (mainly to do with Possession), but the highlights are:

  • s’Ex is the Shadow queen’s Enforcer and he will be in The King.
  • Murhder will reappear soon, but not in The King.
  • Beth’s pregnancy will take place in one book, but Keep Reading for the name of their young. Will they have a son and follow in the tradition of naming him Wrath, or will they choose something else? Will it be a girl? And the young might be a third option besides vampire or human!
  • Ward is working on Rhage and Mary’s novella (but remember that The King began life as Wrath and Beth’s novella).

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October 2, 2013

Unfinished Business: Sex, Freedom and Misogyny by Anna Goldsworthy (Quarterly Essay #50)In her Quarterly Essay, Unfinished Business: Sex, Freedom and Misogyny, Anna Goldsworth writes, among other things, about the messages that books such as Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey convey to female readers. Book Thingo invited readers to share some of their thoughts on the essay. (You can find a list of participants here.)

Kat’s note: Our first post in the series is by Jodi McAlister (also known as Book Thingo’s Virgin Hornypants Specialist), which I think is particularly fitting given that she has presented a paper on Fifty Shades, romance and porn (a shorter version of which you might have already read at The Popular Romance Project). Please note that I have (loosely) applied Book Thingo’s house style, so any strange non-academic-y looking formatting is all my fault! You can find Jodi’s contact details at the end of this post.

The key issue that threads its way through the 70 pages of Anna Goldsworthy’s quarterly essay Unfinished Business: Sex, Freedom and Misogyny is female subjectivity. ‘[Feminism] has much to offer our daughters, even beyond equal pay, the vote, bodily autonomy, the right to own property, the right to have an education,’ Goldsworthy states in the essay’s final paragraph. ‘It can offer them subjectivity—but it is up to them to claim it. A liberation from the she of third person—that she who is to be looked at, or tagged in Facebook, or poked with things, like a thing—into that magnificent gender-neutral first person. I. Me.’ (Goldsworthy, 2013, 68-69).

Goldsworthy explores this idea using a number of examples. Most prevalent and important to her argument is Julia Gillard’s famous misogyny speech, but she covers a lot of ground, from social media to cosmetics to pornography to politics. If I tried to engage with everything she said, this would probably become the longest blog post in the history of the universe, so what I’m going to focus on are the areas I know stuff about: namely, pornography and Fifty Shades of Grey. This also probably isn’t going to be a review in the traditional sense of the word—instead, it’s going to be more of an elaboration, an explication, a further engagement. (Not just because I like alliteration. Although I do like alliteration. It sounds nice.)

It’s also going to be SUPER nerdy, because I am, after all, an academic type, and that is what I do. So, you know, be prepared for that.

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September 30, 2013

Warning: fairies are dying everywhere today.

If you’re a Bridget Jones fan and you’re looking forward to reading the next book, Mad About the Boy, completely spoiler-free, it might be best to turn off the internet until October 10. Don’t even think of googling it because most headlines reveal a super-major-unbelievably-shocking plot point.

I note that this series is chick-lit and not, strictly speaking, romance. Do you see where I’m going with this? Romance readers, you might want to stop at book 2.

What interests me about the third book is how well author Helen Fielding can convince Bridget Jones fans that the story deserves to go where it does. I personally think it’s going to be a struggle for her. Bridget is also now 51 years old, and that’s quite old for a romance or chick-lit protagonist. Given that the film adaptations were released around 5 years after the books, I’d be curious to know if an older Bridget will continue to appeal to Fielding’s younger fans.

Have you read the spoilers? What was your reaction?

Note: I don’t expect the comment thread to be spoiler-free, so if you don’t want to know why fans are in an uproar, you might want to avoid the comments until after the book is out.

September 28, 2013

Unfinished Business: Sex, Freedom and Misogyny by Anna Goldsworthy (Quarterly Essay #50)Book Thingo will be hosting a series of guest posts from readers sharing their thoughts on Anna Goldsworthy’s Quarterly Essay.

In her Quarterly Essay, Unfinished Business: Sex, Freedom and Misogyny, Anna Goldsworth writes, among other things, about the messages that books such as Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey convey to female readers. It’s always of interest to me when romance(ish) books are included in conversations around gender politics, and a quick glance through the essay showed that Goldsworthy talks quite a bit about Fifty Shades of Grey and pornography.

I’m interested to know what romance readers might take away from the essay, so I offered copies of the essay to several readers in exchange for their reactions. In the coming weeks Book Thingo will be running a series of posts featuring reactions from various readers. Not all of them read romance fiction extensively, but all are genre fiction readers and have at least a passing knowledge of the romance genre.

So watch this space, and I look forward to the ensuing conversations. And if you’ve read the essay, I’d also love to know what you thought of Goldsworthy’s arguments!

Reactions to Anna Goldsworthy’s Quarterly Essay (to be updated as posts go up):

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Posted by Kat in *Opinions (3 comments)
September 27, 2013

The King by J. R. Ward (Black Dagger Brotherhood, Book 12) - US editionLet’s talk about s’Ex, baby…

Part of me is expecting this to be a massive BAZINGA, but J. R. Ward announced via Facebook that a character in the BDB world will be named s’Ex. 

No idea yet if this character will be male or female. For all I know, it could be the unnamed Bastard, or a new Shadow, since the name has a similar structure to iAm, or maybe even Layla and Qhuinn’s young (although I have trouble seeing Qhuinn agreeing to the name) since Ward does seem to see several books ahead.

To give you an idea, Ward never says how far ahead she is, but she revealed that Payne would be the first female Brother years before the character ever made it onto the page.

I’m also assuming that the name will be pronounced ‘sex’ since she hasn’t specified, and just to avoid confusion, Xhex is pronounced ‘hex’, so they are completely different names.

What’s next? Phuck???

Let the speculation fly!

You can preorder the US hardcover of The King from Amazon and Book Depository. It comes out March 25, 2014.

Click here for more BDB cheat sheets and spoilers.

September 27, 2013

Don't Tempt Me by Sylvia day (The Georgian Series, Book 4)A huge fuck-around of mistaken identity, sexy times, confused characterisation, and impressive cockstands.

When a story has multiple characters with names begin with the same letter, I have trouble telling them apart. Whether it’s an Adam and an Anthony or a Margaret and a Mandy, I’m screwed and will be flicking back pages to check which is which.

THIS BOOK HAD A LYNETTE AND A LYSETTE. ONE LETTER! That was the ONLY difference!! I swear, I had no idea who was who even when I had put the book down. I was flicking back and forth and it didn’t even help. So that didn’t put me on a good footing with this one.

Lynette Baillon (yes, I had to check it was the right one) has lived a privileged life with her family in Poland. She’s wealthy, well-bred, and beautiful. However, tragedy befell her when her sister died in a horrible carriage wreck two years ago. Since then, she’s curbed her wild and untamed nature to be more like her beloved, calmer twin. Lynette’s mother, Marguerite, has been mourning her lost daughter ever since. Her daughters were all she had. She’s trapped in a loveless marriage, and the birth of her twins permanently scarred her womb so she was unable to bear any other children.

Lynette is now of marriageable age and she should be looking for a husband, but she’s enchanted with thoughts of Paris, a place that she’s never been since her mother escaped to Poland before her birth. So when her mother decides to make a trip to Spain, she begs to make a detour to Paris. And her mother relents. Just to see that spark again in her surviving daughter’s eye…

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September 25, 2013

Bella's Wishlist by Emily Forbes (Sydney Harbour Hospital, Book 6)A poignant reminder that it is never too late to carpe diem.

This review is part of our series of reviews featuring this year’s finalists for the Romantic Book of the Year awards.

Bella’s Wishlist is book six in the Sydney Harbour Hospital series, and probably because I read the novels out of order, I wasn’t particularly excited for it. But I was definitely intrigued, because this is a romance that has a heroine with cystic fibrosis, which a) I know very little about, and b) I have never read about in romance. Because really, how not-sexy is being constantly sick?

Yeah, well, it may not be sexy, but shit happens to even the best of us—which is why Bella’s Wishlist humbled me. It’s a sweet, heart-warming story of a young woman struggling to get fire in her belly, in a figurative and emotional sense. In some ways, we’ve been there, too.

Bella Lockheart is the middle child in the Lockheart royalty. (Her great-grandfather founded Sydney Harbour Hospital, which means nepotism for the Lockheart girls. Of course.) She has the classic case of middle child syndrome—often overshadowed by Lexi, her gorgeous and vivacious little sister who works in Events, and by Evie, her headstrong and responsible older sister who is a Doctor in A&E. Bella (short for Arabella) is seriously ill with a genetic disorder, and is waiting for a lung transplant. She’s shy, a self-proclaimed plain Jane, and is resigned to being the ‘spinster sister’. Add to that two parents who neglect their duty of care for all their daughters, but especially to their most vulnerable child.

In short, Bella’s feeling far from bella.

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September 23, 2013
4th grade uber reader sign by smashy - http://www.sxc.hu/photo/394886

Source: stockxchng

The not-so-secret seven…

Despite the fact that I haven’t been able to keep up with our regular posting schedule these past few weeks—blame the day job, lurgies, and book events—several exciting things have been happening behind the scenes at Book Thingo!

First, I want to welcome Gabby and Jodi (@JodiMcA) to the Book Thingo team! I’m so chuffed that they’ve agreed to review for Book Thingo.

Gabby co-hosted the recent Throbbing Hearts Trivia Night in Sydney and she also blogs at Orchid and Peach Cocktails. You can read her first review for Book Thingo here, and you can bet I’ll be sending many more smuttylicious books her way!

Jodi wanders the world presenting papers on virgins. I’m not even making that up. She is our official Virgin Hornypants Specialist, and she’ll be reviewing category romances. You can read her first review for Book Thingo here. I also recorded a podcast with Jodi and author Ainslie Paton and it’ll be up as soon as I work out the technological thingos. Jodi also loves theatre, and you can find her theatre reviews at Australian Stage and at Theatre From The Back Seat.

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