Five books I’m looking forward to in 2018

It’s Valentine’s Day and I love is in the air! But I’m kind of tired of romance. So let’s talk about books we love!

Specifically, what books are you looking forward to this year? In between following various authors and getting to beta read new books, this year is shaping up to be a great year for books. Here’s what I’m looking forward to this year:

1. Last Dragon Standing, by Rachel Aaron. Currently on preorder, this is the final book in the Heartstrikers series. The other books have names like Nice Dragons Finish Last and One Good Dragon Deserves Another. They’re urban fantasy books in a world where magic suddenly appeared in our modern-day world. And dragons disguised as humans rose to become CEOs, world leaders, etc. Except for one, who doesn’t want to be a mean, nasty dragon. He wants to be nice. And his morals upset the entire dragon society. I’m totally looking forward to seeing how it all shakes out.

2. Peace Talks, by Jim Butcher. This will be the 16th book in the Dresden series, I think. And I know nothing about it, except for a teaser chapter that was released about two years ago. Thanks for being so slow, publishing!

3. Janeen Ippolito’s new book in her Ironfire Legacy series. It’s about dragon shifters in a steampunk world. With airships. And weird cities. And secret societies. Book 1 ended right as the story was getting good, so I’m eager for the next installment.

4. The Scarred King by Josh and Lelia Foreman. I read the first book of this trilogy, and I’m ravenous for more. It starts out as Pacific Islander fantasy, with a hero who is sort of Maori, gets exiled from his homeland, and goes on an epic quest through fantasy lands via outrigger canoe. He’s also been so well trained at home that going to all these more European places, he’s like John Carter of Mars–he’s super strong and agile and can take on anybody. Along the way, he starts picking up magic items and making a name for himself by accident. There’s plenty of strange fantasy creatures, and fascinating political machinations. When this book launches, don’t miss it, because it’s mind-blowing.

5. Spicebringer, by H.L. Burke. A story about a sick girl who is trying to save the last tree sapling that grows the kind of spice that makes the medicine she needs. And she has a tiny fire lizard. That’s all I know about this book, but it sounds fun and I’m looking forward to it.

I think I read a lot of books with dragons in them.

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Heart of the Forest by morteraphan

So, what books are you looking forward to reading this year? I’ll do another post on my sadly neglected To-read pile. 😀

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Book review: Lord of Dreams by C.J. Brightley

The first book our book club is tackling this year is Lord of Dreams by C.J. Brightley. The theme for this month was fairies, so we got this … strange … book. Here’s the summary:


lordofdreamscoverWhen a fairy king grants a human wish, there’s more at stake than dreams.

Claire Delaney has a good life, despite her adolescent angst. But she wants more. In a moment of frustration, she wishes to be “the hero.”

What she actually wants is to be the center of attention, but what she gets is a terrifying Fae king demanding that she rescue an imprisoned fairy, facing fantastical dangers and hardships she could not have imagined.

Yet the dreams–and the rescue–are only the beginning of her journey. She is at the center of the king’s audacious gamble to end the war that has raged in Faerie for half a century.


 

It’s not a bad premise, and when I started reading, I rejoiced at how well-written the book was. But then things got … strange. Here’s my review:


What a very strange book.

The first few chapters were very hard to read because of the whiplash of switching between the real world and the fairy world. And then we leap forward years in time, going from child Claire to Teen Claire to Adult Claire, with important but disconnected incidents happening at each point.

Once Adult Claire gets to the fairy world and starts trying to rescue the fairy king, things get slightly more coherent. She’s still ducking in and out of the dream world, but it’s always the same dream world, and that helps it not be so bonkers. The book uses that extreme, literal logic that I got used to with Diana Wynne Jones. Each word the king says means literally what it says. And every word that Claire says means literally what it says. Read carefully.

The story is emotionally satisfying, and Claire does, indeed, become the hero she wanted to be. Although maybe not quite in the way she expected.

If you’re a fan of the dreamlike, non-sequitur way that Alice in Wonderland reads, you’ll enjoy this book. Four stars.


 

For what it is, this was a good book. It portrayed the fairy world as suitably weird, which I don’t find in a lot of books. (Often times, the fairyworld is just a place where people with wings hang out with talking animals. I’m looking at you, Lego.)

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But this kind of book drives me nuts. My brain is too logical. For instance, fairy blood is blue because it has no hemoglobin (no iron, ha ha). But that means … it can’t carry oxygen! Does that mean that they don’t breathe oxygen in the fairyworld? WHAT IS THIS I DON’T EVEN.

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That kind of thing frustrates me, and I don’t care much for Alice in Wonderland, either. So I think it’s mostly just my problem. Lots of people love that dreamscape kind of world. And the book does it very well. It just wasn’t a good fit for me.

Book review: Lawless by Janeen Ippolito

I’m excited to review Lawless on my blog today–and what do you know, it’s officially releasing today! What a coinikidink!

Here’s what it’s about:

LawlessCover

The salvation of humans and dragons lies within a convicted murderer.

Dragonshifter Kesia Ironfire has one goal—to redeem her past by serving the cruel dragon Pinnacle as a soldier in the dragon-human war.

Then a rogue mission to spy on a new airship explodes into sickening green smoke. The same mysterious green smoke that was present the night of Kesia’s crime. When her dragon overlords deny any involvement, she and her tactical partner Zephryn Nightstalker try to investigate–and are sentenced to death.

Still searching for answers, Kesia and Zephryn flee to the human military capital, where Captain Shance Windkeeper has been furloughed after the destruction of his airship. Eager to discover what–and who–blew up his vessel, he agrees to help Kesia and Zephryn infiltrate High Command. In exchange, Kesia must pretend to be his betrothed so Shance can escape an arranged marriage. If only she knew what ‘betrothed’ and ‘arranged marriage’ meant.

But human social customs are the least of her worries. Dark secrets surface as Kesia delves deeper–secrets that challenge the facts of her crime and undermine the war itself.

A steampunk fantasy adventure with a side of snark and quirky romance.


I was a tad skeptical when I started reading this book. I mean, sure, I like shapeshifters, especially dragon shifters. And it’s pretty fun when they get involved with airships, specifically, crashing them (thanks, Aranya!). But a few things struck me as odd, such as the way Kesia and Zephyrn have no words for love or romance. This is taken to almost a ludicrous extreme, such as when Shance starts crushing on Kesia and she doesn’t understand when he calls her “beautiful”.

But I kept going, and I’m glad I did. The dragon history has such a terrible twist in it that all those words were expunged from their vocabulary. Very fascinating. This is also a story about what happens when you let people have too much Science in with their magical creatures. It echoed some of the themes in Patricia Briggs’s Alpha and Omega series, with the shapeshifter and their forms being tampered with. Whether magically or through science, it’s still a Bad Thing.

There are some steamy kissing scenes, but nothing more over the top than your average YA novel. The characters here are all adults and adult behavior is discussed, but nothing is shown. I would only recommend this book for mature teens and up.

Overall, I enjoyed this book very much. Not all the secrets are revealed, so I expect this to be a trilogy at least, if not a longer series. It’ll be great fun as a boxed set. Four stars!

Grab it on Amazon!

23 book reviewed in a minute

I was reviewing the last book I read, and I thought, “You know, I should put that on my blog.”

Then I thought about the 23 books I’ve read this year and how I ought to review them on my blog, too. But who has time to read 23 book reviews?

So, I present to you, with apologies to Rinkworks, 23 BOOKS REVIEWED IN A MINUTE! That means very, very, very short reviews of each.

Love, Lies, and Hocus Pocus: Beginnings by Lydia Sherrier

Lily: I’m a wizard.
Sebastian: I’m a witch.

They solve PROBLEMS with MAGIC.


The Firethorn Crown by Lea Doue

Twelve princesses are cursed to DANCE EVERY NIGHT until LILY agrees to MARRY her BLACKMAILER.


Love, Lies, and Hocus Pocus: Revelations by Lydia Sherrier

Lily: Sebastian, are you keeping secrets?
Sebastian: Yes. Lily, are you keeping secrets?
Lily: Yes.



Fire Water by Domino Finn (book 5 of Black Magic Outlaw)

Cisco goes to the ELEMENTAL PLANE and there learns an INTERESTING FACT.


Dragonfriend by Marc Secchia

A girl named HUALIAMA is TOO TOUGH TO DIE because DRAGONS. Also GRANDION has secrets TOO.


Love, Lies, and Hocus Pocus: Allies, by Lydia Sherrier

Lily and Sebastian don’t TRUST EACH OTHER because they’re a WIZARD and a WITCH with TERRIBLE HOME LIVES.


A Tale of Time City by Diana Wynne Jones

VIVIAN SMITH is FAMOUS for RUINING ALL OF TIME. See: nuclear war in WWII.


Spellsmith and Carver, by H.L. Burke

Auric: I hate my crazy dad.
Jericho: I love your crazy dad.
Auric: I hate you now, too.

CRAZY DAD runs away into the FEYLANDS.

Auric: I take it back.


Love, Lies, and Hocus Pocus: Legends, by Lydia Sherrier

Lily and Sebastian go to ENGLAND because of MORGAN LAFEY.


Mars Evacuees by Sophia McDougall

A bunch of KIDS go to MARS to escape ALIENS but find aliens ANYWAY.


Cities of Gold by Douglas Preston

A couple of guys try to retrace the path CORONADO took from Mexico up through New Mexico. The desert SUCKED back then and it STILL SUCKS.


Coiled, by H.L. Burke

Brothers: One of us turns into a snake when somebody looks at him. The other turns into a snake when nobody is looking.

Sisters: One of us has healing powers but gets uglier when she uses them. The other gets more beautiful the more cruel she is.

Now they have to GET MARRIED.


Excalibur by Tim Marquitz

Captain: We can fly this alien ship even though it was designed by BUGS

BUGS start KIDNAPPING PEOPLE

Captain: Let’s rescue these people.

BUGS HATCH OUT OF THEM

THE END


Cry Wolf by Patricia Briggs

Anna is a WEREWOLF OMEGA which means she can CALM DOWN OTHER WOLVES. So when a WEREWOLF starts hearing VOICES she can CALM HIM except the voices are caused by an EVIL WITCH.


The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery

Valancy has a WEIRD NAME and a BORING LIFE. Then she finds out she has A YEAR TO LIVE. So she IS RUDE TO HER RELATIVES and GETS MARRIED.


The Tethered World by Heather L.L. FitzGerald

HOMESCHOOLERS go to a FANTASY WORLD that is really the GARDEN OF EDEN with ELVES.


Dragon Lyric by Bethany A. Jennings

Dragon: Wives are beautiful. And delicious.


Fabled, by Kara Jaynes

A girl can’t go to ARCHERY SCHOOL so she runs away and FIGHTS FAIRYTALES INSTEAD.


The Midnight Queen, by Sylvia Izzo Hunter

Sophie is studying MAGICK even though it’s IMPROPER.

Gray: I am disgraced and accused of murder. Shall I teach you magick?

Sophie’s father: I have a plot to kill the king and pin it on Gray.

Sophie and Gray GO ON THE RUN.


 

Book Lover’s Blog Hop

Book Lovers Blog Hop

Today I’m hosting a spot on the Book Lover’s Blog Hop. Each day in August, we hop around and answer questions about our favorite book. Our question today is:

Which book do you wish had a sequel?

Leslie Conzatti

Leslie Conzatti www.upstreamwriter.blogspot.com

This is going to be super-obscure, but the book I wish had a sequel is the second book in the Mediochre Q. Seth series by Callum P. Cameron, called “Black and White and Shades of Mediochre.” I discovered the first book, “The Good, The Bad, and the Mediochre”, purely by chance, and thoroughly enjoyed the hodgepodge of paranormal/supernatural creatures, the lively characters, and the compelling plot, so I went ahead and got the second book. Well, come to find out, his publisher went bankrupt before he could release the third book (or perhaps just after, I’m not sure) so, sadly, it is a series that will remain unfinished for the foreseeable future. And I wish it were not so!


BelindaBekkers

Belinda Bekkers www.belindabekkers.com

I’ve always wanted to know what happened to Nick Carraway. Wishes sometimes come true. An unpublished manuscript for the Great Gatsby was discovered and Harper Collins is going to publish it…eventually.


Laurie Lucking Author Headshot

Laurie Lucking www.landsuncharted.com

I would’ve loved a sequel to Redeemer, the last book in Katie Clark’s Enslaved series. While the ending was satisfying in many ways and tied up a lot of loose ends, it also sent the protagonist, Hana, off on a new adventure with the guy she ended up with (I won’t spoil the love triangle by saying who!). Basically, I was just so drawn into Clark’s world and characters that I wanted to spend more time with them and to get a chance to see more of what their new lives looked like after the major conflict ended.


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V.L. Jennings www.virginialorijennings.com

The Harry Potter series should have had a sequel, because seriously! We all want to know what these kids grew up to actually be after such an amazing childhood! Did they continue to have adventures? How did their kids deal with having “famous” parents? The “peak” at the end of the series wasn’t enough in my opinion. As for the “play” that was published here recently, I just can’t bring myself to read it as I’m just too afraid. Has anyone else read it? What did you think?


Jebraun Clifford

Jebraun Clifford www.jebraunclifford.com

I always wanted to have a sequel to ‘Walking Up a Rainbow’ by Theodore Taylor. My original book is dog-eared and torn; I’ve read it so much! But it ends. Just ends. Sure, the heroine meets one of her goals. But. What about the rest? Come on, Theodore! Don’t leave us hanging!


SkyeHegyes

Skye Hegyes www.skyehegyes.com

Last year, one of my favorite books that I read was Uprooted by Naomi Novik, and I loved the book. Loved. Adored. Dreamed about. It was pure amazement among pages. I can’t say enough good things without spoiling them, so I’ll keep quiet. Let’s just say, though, that part of me really hopes for a sequel that is just as amazing as the first. Although, I’ll also be the first to say I’ll burn it if it’s not as amazing at the original.


Jo Linsdell

Jo Linsdell www.JoLinsdell.com

So many books I could list here. Geekerella by Ashley Poston needs a sequel to tell the story of Sage. It also needs a spin off series for Starfield (I fell in love with this and it truly needs it’s own book). I can also never get enough of the Shepherd series by Ethan Cross. There is still so much more that can be done with both brothers, but also the other characters from the Shepherd organisation.


Karina Fabian headshot Aug 2013

Karina Fabian http://fabianspace.com

“A Wind in the Door” by Madeleine L’Engle. Charles Wallace was my favorite character and she left him at tiny, awkward 15! I actually started writing because of the stories I dreamed up about him growing up. My dream would be to get permission from her estate to write the sequel. I have the whole plot figured out: in involves tesseracts, withinning and Patagonia. Plus, a tragic first love and a beautiful lifelong love.


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Kessie Carroll (you are here)

There’s this little book called Rainbird by Rabia Gale that I wish had a sequel. She’s busy writing other books now, but I felt like that book ended on kind of a cliffhanger. I wanted to see what happened when the star dragon showed up and started wrecking the world, man.

Above, Skye mentioned Uprooted by Naomi Novik. That was such a good book, but the ending was so very unsatisfying. If she could write a sequel that had an ACTUAL ROMANCE *shakes the author*, I would totally be down with that. The characters are more mature now and it might work better.


 

Thanks so much for visiting the blog hop!

Eleven things I learned from fairy tales

I decided to go on a fairy tale binge recently, so I picked up the Red Fairy Book. Such a delightful bunch of stories! And some of them have an oddly deep look at human psychology. So, here’s what I learned:

  • Towers. Useful for locking up cursed/doomed/otherwise troublesome princesses. Very rarely do princes get locked in towers.
  • Evil is ugly. An ugly person is nearly always evil. Sometimes good can appear ugly, but never for very long.
  • Good is beautiful. A beautiful person is always good. Sometimes evil can appear beautiful, but never for very long. There’s an interesting dichotomy about clothes here, too. A suffering princess dressed in rags can be given beautiful clothes when her goodness wins the day. But it was always her inner moral goodness that made her beautiful in the first place.
  • Princesses. These girls have all the problems. They get cursed, they make bad choices, they get curious about that one locked door in the castle that Dad told them never to open … yeah. They always land in the moral problems.
  • fairytale-art-fairytale-painting
    Painted by Amanda Clark
  • Princes. These guys have a different set of problems. Their challenges are almost always physical. They have to slay trolls, overcome puzzles, outwit evil enchanters, and find how to sneak into the towers where the princesses are locked up. There was one very interesting story about a very good prince who was a hunchback who was locked in a tower. Over a series of adventures, he is healed and made to look as beautiful as he was on the inside. This was the one exception to the Evil is Ugly example I’ve found so far.
  • Trolls. These guys always have multiple heads. They also carry a flask of some kind that instantly heals you. So if you have to fight a troll and you’re grievously injured, just find his flask and rub some of his oil on you. Corollary: sometimes the flask grants super strength instead, when you need to lift a truly enormous sword in order to fight the troll.
  • Horses. Whenever they appear, they’re almost always magical. Often they talk or have amazing super powers of travel. If a horse says something to you, he’s always right. Do what he says.
  • Other animals. If an animal begs for you to spare its life and it’ll repay you later, DO IT. If they give weird advice, like pick an acorn from yonder tree and whack the trunk three times with a willow twig, DO IT. If they say not to share your food with the prince, DO IT.
  • Fairies. Fairies are basically angels. They come to test mortals and see how good they are. If the mortal passes the test, they’re rewarded with all kinds of gifts, curses lifted, ugliness removed, etc. If they fail, they have toads come out of their mouth for the rest of their life.
  • Witches. They can turn into things. Inanimate objects. Animals. They’re always evil and scheming, kind of the antithesis of a fairy. Bad fairies and witches are about the same.
  • Wicked stepmothers. The main antagonist of fairytales. These are women who marry a dude who had kids from his previous marriage. The stepmother proceeds to abuse her step-children to the point of actively trying to murder them. See: Graciosa and Percinet. (I think, in the metaphorical sense, Graciosa IS murdered at the end.)

So that’s what I learned from my fairy tale binge. I kind of want to write some fairy tale adapts now. 😀

Stories that stand the test of time

In Story Engineering, Mr. Brooks talks about the importance of human psychology. He states that a book that gets psychology right will stand out from the crowd.

I started looking around for examples of this. Being a mom, we read oceans of children’s books. I’ve noticed for a while that my favorite books are really old ones, from the 60s and earlier. With the new angle of human psychology in mind, I started looking at them.

And you know, he’s right.

Look at Little Bear, by Elsa Holmelund Minarik.

LittleBear

Little Bear asks for more and more clothes to wear outside because he’s cold in the snow. At the end, his mother takes away all his clothes and shows him his fur coat. “And he was not cold. What do you think of that?”

Or how about Three to Get Ready, by Betty Boegehold and Mary Chalmers.

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“George was very sorry. George was very sorry for George. He said, “Gigi’s fish looks better than my fish. Ginger’s fish looks better than my fish. They have a better supper than I have.” So George bit Gigi. He scratched Ginger.”

Each little story in Three to Get Ready is a different exploration of a vice–bad temper, greed, or disobedience. Each vice comes with interesting consequences as some adventure befalls each kitten.

The same with Arnold Lobel’s little books, his most famous being Frog and Toad.

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In one book, for example, Toad has a dream that he’s on stage, being famous. Meanwhile his friend, Frog, is in the crowd. Every time Toad does something amazing, Frog shrinks a little more. After a while, Frog is too small to be seen or heard. Toad wakes up in a panic. I’ve posted before about the wonderful story about when Frog and Toad fly a kite.

But there are plenty of others. For instance, Mike Mulligan’s Steam Shovel, a heartwarming tale about earth works. Or the same author’s book The Little House, (one of my favorites as a kid), a heartwarming story about urban development. The early Berenstein Bears (The Bike Lesson, the Honey Hunt, the Bear’s Picnic) inadvertently says more about marriage than it does about the story. (Seriously. Watch Mama Bear’s face.)

So, I think Larry Brooks is right. We love seeing the outcome of human psychology. It makes for the best stories.

Top Five Fandoms I’m No Longer In

I borrowed this topic from Thrice Read, who did it as part of their Top Five Wednesday theme. I loved the idea of talking about fandoms we’ve loved and abandoned, so here we go:

5. Harry Potter

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I started reading Harry Potter when book 4 came out. The controversy over them was raging, and I’d heard both sides of the argument pretty thoroughly. So I picked up the first Harry Potter and the first Redwall (both of which were very popular at the time). Harry was so much more fun than Redwall. My whole family really got into the Harry books, trying to guess what might happen next, trying to guess who the Half-Blood Prince might be, and so on. But after book 7 … I don’t know. I’m done. I still admire the books for being a great story, but that ship has sailed.

4. World of Warcraft

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I played WoW with my siblings from the first version onward through the first two expansions. I had a top-level character with epic gear, did Heroic Dungeons and raids … and then I burned out. I had babies and less and less free time. Then the fourth expansion came out, which changed the original game … and I don’t know. I never got into it after that. I still buy a month now and then, but it’s such a time sink, I just can’t get back into it.

3. Doctor Who

DOCTOR WHO *embargoed 19th March*

I watched a smattering of Doctors 9 and 10, but I started really watching it with 11. And, let’s face it, the story arc for 11 had some real high points. Trying to guess what River Song would do next, and if she would really kill the Doctor? And the whole arc with the Doctor trying to escape his own death at the hands of the Impossible Astronaut? Silence will fall? The crack in the wall? The Weeping Angels? Oh man, it was amazing.

Then the head writer started writing Sherlock instead, and the brilliance faded. The Eleventh Doctor kind of fell by the wayside, his series ending with a whimper. Then the Twelfth Doctor started up, and instead of the dignity I felt the Doctor should have, he was overly silly. I fell off the Doctor Who wagon and never got back on.

2. His Dark Materials

The-Golden-Compass

A friend gave me the first book when it was still called Northern Lights (it was changed to the Golden Compass later, which annoyed me, because the alethiometer wasn’t a compass). That first book was AWESOME. Then the second book came out, and it was … well, still good, but where was this all going? Then the third book came out. My friend and I read it … and we never spoke of it again. You don’t split up the main characters and take away their powers at the end, man. Growing up isn’t as horrible as all that. But this book makes adulthood into this horrible, horrible thing. Not to mention all the other … uh … issues this author seemed to have. We’ll leave it at that. Talk about disappointing.

Number 1: The Raven Boys.
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I picked up the first book when it came out because I had liked Shiver so much and I wanted to read more of the author’s work. Raven Boys took me on a wild romp with preppy school boys, psychics, a treasure hunt, leylines, ghosts, and all kinds of fantastic magical realism stuff that flirted with real magic. The second book, Dream Thieves, was even better. Then the author started talking on Twitter about the directions she was taking the characters … directions I honestly didn’t think worked for the characters … and then book 4 came out .. and all I had to do was read the reviews. Very disappointed reviews. The big reveal was a bust. The big reversal was flubbed. It was like getting to the ending of LOST and going, “What, did the author run out of ideas or something?”

So there’s my top five no-longer-fandoms. How about you? Do you have any fandoms that you jumped into and then left later on?

When a reader loves a dragon

I recently joined an online book club that one of my friends started. I’ve tried a few book clubs before, but they tended to read books I didn’t care for.

This club carefully vets books and has a panel of judges who decide what book we shall lavish our adoration upon that month. Then we readers get to vote on what cover art we like best. (Tongue firmly in cheek, here.)

Anyway, this month, we picked Dragonfriend by Marc Secchia.

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Dragonfriend on Amazon!

See what I mean about voting pretty much because of the cover art? Hee hee. Anyway, it’s upwards of 500 pages and I read it in about two days. It’s amaaaaaaazing. It’s the sort of thing I expected Pern to be. (I went into Pern as a wide-eyed teen who didn’t really like sex or politics all that much, BUT THAT’S WHAT I GOT BOY HOWDY).

In Dragonfriend, Lia is an adopted princess who gets diced up and tossed off an airship by the bad guy who just took over her kingdom. She’s saved from landing in a volcano by a tiny dragonet who sort of parachutes her into a tree. The dragonet, Flicker, falls in love with Lia, and they become close friends, even though humans aren’t allowed on the sacred Dragon Isle.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that all the islands stick up out of the Cloud Sea, which is made of poison clouds. Nobody goes into them and lives to tell the tale.

There are magic-wielding martial-arts monks. There is a big, bad, blue dragon named Grandion. There are hints of a coming apocalypse. There are deep conversations about love and belonging. There is self-sacrifice. It’s beautiful.

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Mt. Roraima, inspiration for an island in the Cloudlands

Marc came around to show us pictures of Ethiopia where he lives, tell fun backstory bits, and drop cool pictures.

So that’s where I’ve been lately. Got walloped with tonsillitis and then laryngitis, which means that basically all I can do is lay around and read. I certainly don’t have any voice to do anything with.

Come join our book club and read amazing books with us! The authors come schmooze and post cool backstory bits and giveaways.

The secret ingredient to true love

I once stood at the window of our apartment, watching this guy and girl have a terrible fight in the rain. She was trying to leave, but the car was locked and he wouldn’t give her the keys. He was raging about how she had disrespected him. She refused to admit any wrongdoing, blaming him for his lack of love. To his credit, he never punched her, although she hit him a couple of times. Eventually, he stormed off and she called someone to pick her up.

It was fascinating. If the woman refuses to respect her man, he withholds the love that she craves. The relationship goes into a death spiral.

In our culture, women have been elevated to goddesses. But they are also not held accountable for their lack of respect. Very rarely is that addressed in fiction: women are always princesses and men are always Prince Charming. Except relationships don’t work that way. There has to be respect on both sides.

A while back, I got on a young adult fantasy kick. I read stacks of the things, mostly pulled at random off the library shelves. I’d pick up titles I’d seen on blogs, I’d read them for their pretty covers, I’d read them if they featured any monster but vampires.

I despise vampires. Blame it on some really, really awful fanfiction I read as a teen.

One thing I noticed over and over was that these authors seemed to have no idea what a healthy relationship looks like. The characters have random sex, love triangles, and abuse each other mercilessly. Respect is hard to find. And don’t get me started on the relationships these characters had with their parents.

Ugh.

Paranormal romance always follows the Beauty and the Beast formula. Girl is forced by circumstances into monster’s miserable world. She can free him from his prison, but it’s going to take a lot of effort on both their parts.

Corollary: the girl can join him in his miserable world instead of redeeming him (aka becoming a vampire), but it’s not as satisfying to the reader.

As a culture, we’ve lost the true meaning of love, which is self-sacrifice. Instead, we try to glorify this selfish, grasping, possessive, unhealthy thing and call it love.

This thing that we’ve become
Might look like love to some
All the lies you’ve fed to me
Leave me standing empty
With nothing to say

–The Huntress, The Echoing Green

I mean, nothing’s more romantic than Edward sneaking into Bella’s room at night to watch her sleep, right? Right? Or how about the werewolf growling, “MINE!”

twilight-vs-tangled

Yeah, right. Girls, this behavior is a warning sign, not something to seek out.

So I decided to try my hand at writing the whole teen paranormal romance thing. I had a few questions in mind that I wanted to explore in a story.

1. Can you love someone if you have no emotions?

2. What does a respectful, self-sacrificing relationship look like?

3. Can love redeem a monster?

The answers I eventually came up with:

1: Yes, because love is an act of will

2. Smoking hot

3. It helps the monster take responsibility for seeking his own redemption. No human being can really save another.

After reading so much fiction where love is basically elaborate lust, I needed to see what true romance looks like. So I cracked open the Song of Solomon.

Hoo boy. Song is HOT. I needed a cold shower after I finished.

What I learned, though, is that real romance happens not only when two people are attracted to each other, but when they highly respect each other. They’re willing to do anything for the other. And the longing. So much longing. In the Song, he leaves flowers on her door, so she runs out into the streets looking for him, and wanders until the city guards send her home. It’s a long time until she finds him. When she does, their joy (and intimate times) are so great that only metaphor can describe it.

As I wrote the Malevolent trilogy, I kept this in mind, ramping up the respect and self-sacrifice in each book. In book 1, we deal with the awkwardness of Mal and Libby meeting and figuring out Mal’s secrets. In book 2, they have an established relationship and their shared secrets are slowly killing them. Monsterhood comes at a high price.

The result is a super-hot romance, heavy on the feels, that has almost no physical contact. I think they kiss once in each book. Even the telepathy stuff is shown to be a bad thing after a while.

I kept coming back to respect. Respect respect respect. This is harder for women than for men. Women naturally give love and affection, while men naturally give respect.

If you can get this right–as well as the occasional failings, when they forget to respect each other and cause trouble instead–you can have a romance that is far more satisfying than just characters jumping into the sack together. I hope Malcontent is a decent picture of what this looks like. You know, if you were telepathically chained to a soulless monster. 😉

Malcontent has officially launched! Now you can continue Mal and Libby’s story, as well as their deeper dive into danger.