Archive for May, 2013

May 19, 2013

That carrot would feed an entire village!

I admit, I read this book for the cover, and the back cover. And I don’t regret it one bit. Just look at it!

The blurb clearly reveals the genius of Julia Quinn, one of the most popular historical romance writers today. And not unfairly so. Her stories and characters are so witty and fun to read. A bit too much fun for my taste. There is no heart wrenching tragedy in her books. They’re more like a romantic sitcom, set somehow in 19th century England. The dialogue is so much fun to follow. I was reading the Goodreads quotes from this book and, oh my, she’s funny!

Marcus’s appearance the day before had been discussed, dissected, analyzed, and—by Lady Sarah Pleinsworth, Honoria’s cousin and one of her closest friends—rendered into poetry.
“He came in the rain,” Sarah intoned. “The day had been plain.”
Honoria nearly spit out her tea.
“It was muddy, this lane—”
Cecily Royle smiled slyly over her teacup. “Have you considered free verse?”
“—our heroine, in pain—”
“I was cold,” Honoria put in.
Iris Smythe-Smith, another of Honoria’s cousins, looked up with her signature dry expression. “I am in pain,” she stated. “Specifically, my ears.”
Honoria shot Iris a look that said clearly, Be polite. Iris just shrugged.
“—her distress, she did feign—”
“Not true!” Honoria protested.
“You can’t interfere with genius,” Iris said sweetly.
“—her schemes, not in vain—”
“This poem is devolving rapidly,” Honoria stated.
“I am beginning to enjoy it,” said Cecily.
“—her existence, a bane . . .”
Honoria let out a snort. “Oh, come now!”
“I think she’s doing an admirable job,” Iris said, “given the limitations of the rhyming structure.” She looked over at Sarah, who had gone quite suddenly silent. Iris cocked her head to the side; so did Honoria and Sarah. Sarah’s lips were parted, and her left hand was still outstretched with great drama, but she appeared to have run out of words.
“Cane?” Cecily suggested. “Main?”
“Insane?” offered Iris.
“Any moment now,” Honoria said tartly, “if I’m trapped here much longer with you lot.”

Finally here‘s some good advice.

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May 18, 2013

Wallflowers #4

Scandal in Spring by Lisa Kleypas

As I had guessed, this one turned out to be my favorite in the Wallflower series. It is an sweet love story with great characters and a small mystery (which wasn’t really hard to guess). Every ingredient for a good (not great) historical romance novel was equally balanced and, with the addition of Daisy Bowman, turned out to be a wonderful read to cure your blue mood.

All excerpts from the book © Lisa Kleypas All rights reserved

Daisy clearly owns the book. First of all, let me just say that I love her. She’s certainly one of my favorite historical romance heroines. I’m sorta like her in some ways: I love daisies, she also enjoys reading romances, I’m “five foot and one debatable inch” too, her story is set in my favorite season, and I got Daisy when I took the Wallflowers personality test on Lisa Kleypas’ website. But that’s not the real reason I’m so fond of her. Daisy is a peculiar child whose mind works in a completely different, but adorable manner. Her character is very difficult to explain in plain adjectives, but the author does an excellent job with metaphors:

She was the most provoking, beguiling woman he had ever met. Thunderstorms and rainbows wrapped together in a convenient pocket-sized parcel.

Did I mention that the writing of he book is excellent, by the way? It is.

One of my favorite passages depicting Daisy is by Westcliff whose role in this book is unnecessarily big, if you ask me. But my impression of him increased by ten fold after this:

“Daisy is a charming little scamp, not to mention lovely. Had she a bit more confidence, and far less sensitivity, she would have learned by now to attract the opposite sex with ease. But to her credit, she doesn’t have the temperament to treat love as a game. And few men have the wits to appreciate sincerity in a woman.” 

This statement (especially the last sentence) is so true in so many different respects that I can’t begin to recite all of them.

On a negative note on Daisy, I think she falls in love rather too unexpectedly. One minute she can’t stand Matthew’s presence, the next she is plotting to make him jealous and confess his feelings (which, by the way, was rather uncharacteristic of her). But in the meantime, the two share some very good moments, like when they play lawn bowling for hours at end and when Matthew comes to her rescue during the silly drawing room games. Those were very well-written scenes. As for Matthew’s feelings–oh, I’m bubbling with glee just thinking about it–he has always loved Daisy since the first time he laid eyes on her.

“Over the years I’ve collected a thousand memories of you, every glimpse, every word you’ve ever said to me. All those visits to your family’s home, those dinners and holidays—I could hardly wait to walk through the front door and see you.” The corners of his mouth quirked with reminiscent amusement. “You, in the middle of that brash, bull-headed lot…I love watching you deal with your family. You’ve always been everything I thought a woman should be. And I have wanted you every second of my life since we first met.”

Isn’t that my favorite kind of hero? Well, no. Matthew had this similar I’m-no-good-for-her-so-I-can’t-have-her thing going on like Kev in Seduce Me at Sunrise, but it wasn’t that plausible. For one thing, his resolve literally crumbled when Daisy took off her chemise (See, I like that bold quality in her) and that made it appear sort of weak. We knew that it was weak but couldn’t he have pretended otherwise and done something? It was as if he was just looking for an excuse (One can’t blame him, can he?). In other words, he didn’t reach the “miserable enough” threshold. Yes, you wouldn’t want to be a character in a romance I would write. I would probably make you go through hell.

But Matthew is a great hero. He’s a moral, self-made man who is trying to escape the clutches of the world order which has no mercy on those without means. tI goes without saying that he is the completely opposite of what Daisy is. Practical and hardened by the world. Hence, I think, his immense attraction to our little pixie.

She let a teasing tone enter her voice. “Is there any emergency for which you are not prepared, Mr. Swift?”

“Miss Bowman, if I had enough pockets I could save the world.”

Although it wouldn’t be wrong to say that Daisy’s unique qualities are not always embraced by her family, especially by her father, who doesn’t seem to know how to deal with her.

One of the servants had reported that Daisy had been sneaking around the house at night, deliberately tripping all the traps to keep the mice from being killed.

“Is this true, daughter?” Thomas Bowman had rumbled, his gaze filled with ire as he stared at Daisy.

“It could be,” she had allowed. “But there is another explanation.”

“And what is that?” Bowman had asked sourly.

Her tone turned congratulatory. “I think we are hosting the most intelligent mice in New York!”

I can’t stop grinning now…

If I’m to comment on other aspects of the book, there is one bit towards the beginning of the book that I absolutely adored. Daisy’s thoughts linger on Cam Rohan, (the hero of Mine Till Midnight, the first book of the Hathaway series) who had stolen a kiss from her in the previous book. She asks Evie in a rather shy manner about his past wondering if perhaps he might be a “long lost Irish lord or something.” Little does she know that he actually is! Well played Ms. Kleypas…

As for some other random comments, I could really kill Lilian for showing such hostility towards Matthew without any real cause, but I guess the fact that the book delved into the Bowman sisters’ relationship was a good thing. The drama at the end, too, was okay, I guess. At least it wasn’t ridiculous or irrelevant.

And finally, the love scenes were weak again. Unfortunately, this is a general quality of the Wallflower series. But this time, I was irritated all the more by the characters’ incessant chatter! I’m sorry, but they are both very verbal during the act and it takes away the magic of it. The scene was supposed to be a crucial one, overshadowed by agony, because Matthew finally gives up his defenses and decides to make Daisy his and marry her afterwards. There shouldn’t have been any words, but just feeling and utter abandon. I’m thinking too dramatically again…

On the whole the Hathaway series were much better than the Wallflowers, in my opinion. In terms of characters, drama, plot, feelings and yes, love scenes, the author has improved herself a lot. But the Wallflowers are a good distraction and easy reads, if not memorable ones. I recommend it to all romance readers who are not looking for anything too specific.

Sensuality rating: Hot (according to All About Romance)

May 17, 2013

Make me a day, make me whole

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This made my day. I found it on my desk when I came to work after taking a day off. A friend of mine had asked me for my work address for a “karma tryout,” leaving me puzzled. Good thing, I had mentioned to my boss that I might be expecting a delivery while I’m absent. And the next day… Ta-da! It made me think maybe more people than I thought are reading this blog. Turns out, he saw the other picture with all my Tori CDs on my Instagram. A geek who’s not hostile towards Instagram. A novelty for me. But a pleasant one at that. So once more, thank you so much tirtman for this amazing surprise!

May 5, 2013

An outpouring of Tori

I can’t remember how old I was when I discovered Tori Amos, but it must be around the time I was attending middle school. It feels as if my whole existence, everything I am today, was shaped during those three years. Anyway, I stumbled upon her Strange Little Girl music video on VH1 and I liked her instantly. I can see now why I liked her. The song was good, the song title appealed to me, it was a woman singing, she had an oddly pretty name and I had never heard of her.

So I looked her up on the internet and started buying her albums. I liked her music but unlike now, I didn’t fall in love with it at that time. I was (and am still not) never a fan of the piano. Strings > Piano. Always. Period. But something about her music, her fiery red hair, her not-so-pretty face, that ever-mocking expression on her face told me that I would like this woman. Very much.

But it was really hard for me to achieve that at that time. Me, a teenage girl from Turkey who spoke intermediate English, had very little in common with Tori. And I am a person who finds comfort in familiarity. She was singing from the bottom of her heart, I could feel that, but I understood nothing from her lyrics (I still don’t most of the time).

Around that time, I had tried to read Tori Amos: All These Years: The Authorized Biography by Kalen Rogers. I finally read it last year and realized why Tori had seemed so distant to me even when she was put into words by others. Here’s one example:

…Dr. Amos recalls, “the first time I told Tori the Christmas story, she asked me what would have happened if Joseph had emerged from the manger shouting ‘Wow! It’s a girl!'”

There is no way, I could have understood this reference at that time.

On top of all this, I was shocked when I found out that she was a rape survivor. Another huge gap. The idea made me very uncomfortable, scared and curious at the same time. I remember being kind of like a nun at that time. I had a very strict no-swearing policy. And I had resented a lot when I had heard her swear in some of her songs. For some some weird reason, I had thought that she should certainly not swear using sexual slurs because she had gone through something so horrible. Silly me…

But I think I must have liked her enough to go to her concert in Istanbul in 2005. It was just around the time The Beekeeper was released. My mom had accompanied me. She was no fan but neither were any of my friends and it was obvious that I wasn’t going alone. I remember being very excited because, for the first time in my life, I was going to a concert because I wanted to. I wasn’t accompanying anyone and it was my music that was going to be played.

So naturally, I cried when she appeared on stage. It was a rather short concert because towards the end, something happened to Tori and she rushed backstage. I think she got an electric shock from one of the devices there. She came back a few minutes later and played Silent All These Years as the final song. No encore. Later I queued behind the people trying to get backstage. I remember two girls holding her CDs and begging the bodyguards to let them in because they had come all the way from Greece. Of course they didn’t allow any of us backstage and I was too shy to try to sneak inside unnoticed. I know I could do it and my mom was urging me on from afar. After seeing at least three Turkish celebrities pass by me to the backstage, I started shouting “Tori! Tori! Tori!” and was astonished when the crowd of fans surrounding me joined in. But we could not go in.

After that I stopped listening to Tori. I’m not sure why. I guess I was embarrassed by the way I acted during the concert. I remember thinking to myself that I should have known my place and not tried to go backstage. I thought it was only right that a fan would want to see her idol and I was touched that all the other fans started started cheering along with me but I felt guilty over the whole thing. This incident is a perfect example of how awkward I was as during my teens. I was overflowing with feeling over the things I loved and, at the same time, constantly trying to contain myself. And when I couldn’t I felt ashamed. So I must have felt rejected by this whole experience and given that I could in no way relate to Tori let alone understand any of the things she was singing about, I gave up.

Wow… I think this is the first time I put these feelings into words. Weird how liberating a blog can be.

So yeah, Tori was a fascination, an enigma that everybody except me could understand. Yet no matter how unapproachable she seemed she was very… female. I think I sensed and was struck by the feminine in her at that time.

And today? I think it is safe to say that she is one of my favorite musicians. I still don’t understand her lyrics (I don’t even understand her interviews sometimes), we are still worlds apart but she’s somehow closer to me than she was before. Close enough that I can say that she is part of my world, she is one of the things that I would use to identify myself like The Rose of Versailles or the Harry Potter books. Having started listening to her again last year after such a long time, I also discovered how she has shaped my taste in music. For example, I like it when the music starts calmly and gradually builds up and climaxes as the whole orchestra starts playing. Sound familiar in let’s say Yes, Anastasia, Pretty Good Year and Precious Things?

So yes, I can say that I love everything about Tori. Needless to say, this blog is named after one of her songs. But okay, maybe I’m no fan of her earlier music videos that much, but I love her looks, her image, her dreamy and distant expression, what she represents, the way she gives lengthy explanations during her interviews with long pauses in-between, the way she rolls out the word “girl” and the way Code Red starts so dramatically after Programmable Soda.

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May 4, 2013

Thoughts on my baby

Yesterday I saw the book I translated on the shelves of D&R for the first time… It was an amazing moment. It only had 4-5 copies standing at the bottom shelf of the New Releases section, but I was jumping up and down already, asking people to take a picture of me holding it…

So since I translated the damn thing, I might as well review it, right?

The Hawk by Monica McCarty

This is the first time I’m reading a romance novel not set in the 19th century England. I had thought of reading Madeline Hunter’s medieval romances but couldn’t quite imagine myself enjoying them. I mean everything would be too… primitive, right? Well, no. Regardless of the fact the The Hawk is a mediocre book, I realized that I would enjoy medieval romances just as much if not more *gasp* Turns out dashing knights and sexy Highlanders are my thing! No, not really but they’re great to read about too.

Take Erik MacSorley… He’s not my type of hero but he was very fun to translate! He’s your typical arrogant but extremely likable guy. You know, this forever-happy person who lightens the mood wherever he goes, who has never been serious about anything (except loyalty to his liege lord Robert Bruce) and who has this constant devil-may-care attitude (Monica uses this word way too much). And he’s a seafarer! I like him much more than Tor MacLeod, who’s the hero of The Chief, the first book in the Highland Guard series.

Here’s my favorite passage from the book when Ellie is getting to know Erik’s er, body for the first time.

“You’re so soft.”
Hardly. But he didn’t have the strength to quibble about semantics.

Did I mention that I love puns? *winks*

But Erik took a long (too long) time to admit to himself that he has feelings for Ellie and an even longer time to convince himself that they can actually be together. And along the way, he sometimes acted too much like a sexist ass for my liking. So when he and Ellie were finally reunited, the excitement was already gone for me. And I don’t think that scene played out very well. Ellie was almost reluctant to say yes to him. It was as if she were really saying, “Well, if finally that’s what you wish, fine.”

Don’t get me wrong, Ellie is fine (as a character *grins*). She’s not very pretty and she knows it. She’s also not one of these heroines who are all about how free-spirited and tomboyish they are. I seriously have issues with this disdain of the traditional feminine. I love tomboyish heroines (Hell, my all-time favorite fictional character is a woman who was raised as a boy by her father!) but I cannot tolerate them when they flaunt it as if being likened to men somehow makes them superior. Ellie is not like that. She’s free-spirited as she should be. She’s also dutiful, serious and a bit too bossy. In short, she’s the perfect nursemaid!

Unlike Erik, Ellie (by the way her real name, Elyne, is very pretty I think) is much more honest to herself about what she’s feeling. She doesn’t panic when she realizes she’s in love with Erik, but tries to make the most out of their precious time together. And you know I can’t resist a heroine who tries to seize the moment rather than run away. So Ellie is a winner!

But… both the hero and the heroine and also the plot basically ended up not satisfying me with its depth. Everything was just too superficial. It was a wonderful experience to translate this book. I strived to make it perfect and put an enormous amount of effort in it. In fact, I don’t think I ever worked harder on something in my life. But I don’t think I would pick up this book to read.  It lacked the maturity of the works of Madeline Hunter, Lorraine Heath, Anne Mallory and Sherry Thomas.

Actually, I think Monica is a great storyteller. It’s just that she’s not such a great author. I can only imagine how much research she has done for this story (the battles, historic figures, etc.) by how difficult it has been for me to try to keep up with her to convey an accurate translation. The way she turns all her findings into a story is astonishing. But when it comes to romance… everything seemed a bit too cliché to me. I know that romance novels are all about cliché, but the trick is to make the reader think it’s actually not. And Monica couldn’t really do that for me.

But I recommend The Hawk nonetheless. It’s a great book if you’re looking for a fun, irresistible hero and a heroine that you want to relate to. But most of all, if you’re looking for a story which offers more than just witty drawing room chatter, this book (in fact the whole Highland Guard series) is for you. Even if it’s not a great romance, The Hawk is a somewhat historically accurate story and it does a brilliant job at reflecting the all the aspects of an epic war.