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KMont

Lurv a la Mode 2

Romance (and scifi and fantasy) reading enthusiast, general lover of puppies and kitty kats, dark chocolate snatcher, writing playgirl, coffee luvah, chai latte chuggah, kidlet toting mama of one plus marriage credentials.

Currently reading

Three Parts Dead
Max Gladstone
Progress: 60 %
Dragon Keeper
Robin Hobb
Progress: 51 %
Into the Dark Lands
Michelle Sagara West
Progress: 13 %
The Lies of Locke Lamora (Gentleman Bastard, #1)
Scott Lynch

Sans All the Rape

Ancillary Justice - Ann Leckie Games of Command - Linnea Sinclair Shades of Dark - Linnea Sinclair Partials - Dan Wells Damocles - S.G. Redling

Posted this to my personal book blog yesterday, reposting here in hopes of getting more book recs and suggestions for kick-ass scifi and fantasy books that don't feature the lead, secondary or periphery female characters getting raped (with, preferably, other similar problematic scenarios properly addressed/absent and a gender balance achieved). Your help is appreciated!

 

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I was having a discussion on twitter with some book reading peeps, and I was intrigued by a scifi book so many were discussing at that time. It felt imminent that I’d be buying and reading it, too. The premise sounded interesting, as did the sample for Kindle on Amazon. Somewhere, though, and I think it was a review on Goodreads, I read that it was quite violent. This made my spidey senses tingle just a tad, but enough. So I asked my fellow Twitter book peeps – is there rape? I didn’t find out in regards to the book on discussion, but was assured that the author uses “all the rape” in some of her other books.

 

And down went my perky reader flag.

 

Authors can have all the rape they want in their books, but apparently I’d still prefer to avoid it after reading one too many in a row in the last couple of years that turned me so far off the device, I might never find my way back to whatever path they were on. Instead, I think I’ll just try to keep to the path marked Sans All the Rape. It can still be a perilous road, but it doesn’t auto flip the rape switch.

 

In fact, if anyone out there has some recs for good science fiction and/or science fiction romance or fantasy and/or fantasy romance reads that are Sans All the Rape, that would be great. I’m talking about books populated with female characters that count. Female characters that are more than just a vagina or a girlfriend or an obvious peripheral stand-in to prop up the dudes around her so they might appear mightier and more awesome than the sun (I like dudes that are mightier than the sun just fine, but prefer equal treatment and consideration be given to the female characters around them).

 

I’ve read books that don’t do this, and it only makes me want more. They tend not to have all the rape. Because women aren’t just characters waiting for rape. No, it’s true. They have other parts besides a vagina (which, by the way, is such a nice part, when, you know, it’s actually appreciated as the female-owned part that it is), and those parts get showcased quite awesomely sometimes. Things like her valor, her integrity, her gosh-damned mistakes that she learns from and improves from, her kick-ass skillz with that futuristic fully automatic laser/grenade-launching/torch-firing/bullet-pounding shoulder canon (it’s quite big)…I think you get the idea. Something with a little balance fuh gosh sakes. Let’s make a list!

 

So if anyone has any recs, again, that would be great. And thank you. I’ll edit the post to reflect your suggestions.

Source: http://www.lurvalamode.com/2013/10/08/sans-all-the-rape

Initial Thoughts: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown - Holly Black

Really wanted to enjoy this one overall, but too much of it fell much too short. Tana's character arc has interesting potential due to the horrific happenings with her mother, but unfortunately this development is sacrificed in favor of actions on her part that failed to make sense or deepen her development in a meaningful way. Instead we have a typical, cardboard young adult character who makes frequent dumb decisions followed by more such, develops a romance with that must-have "mysterious" YA male character (which proceeds to add nothing meaningful to the story either), frequents the typical rave-style parties seen in every vampire story from here to kingdom come, and on and on. Her choices in the last third of the book (where she begins to show a slight flare of an attempt to lead the story as opposed to letting everything else lead her) start to become interesting, but it's unfortunately too little too late. She has her gutsy moments to be sure, but the typical aspects that have come to be hallmarks of YA reads won out, making her arc more boring and disappointing than anything.

 

Speaking of hallmarks, this book has crystal clear tones of inspiration from previous famous vampire works, and while it could be said these are homages, I found the similarities to be a drawback when I was hoping for a much more original story. Coldtowns, for example, are an intriguing concept and seemed to be the book's hook for that original material, but the book constantly falls back on vampire tropes and scenes that are overused at this point in fiction and TV (unless someone manages to just do those exceptionally well; it can be done, I just didn't see that here). The vampire Gavriel, for example, and his backstory (which of course directly affects his character development), is shown mainly through a series of flashbacks (so many of those in this book, way TOO many) in which he could've been Anne Rice's movie versions of Louis and Lestat all over again (some have mentioned similarities to Drusilla, Spike and Angel from Buffy fame). I kind of found these historical look-backs interesting, but after a while, I really wished these vampires had been more original. Gavriel is fascinated with Tana and it's a lot like watching Angel awaken to the pure glory in Buffy. If I wanted that - I'd go watch the originals because, frankly, they were much better developed in a quarter of a season of that TV show than Gavriel and Tana were in this book. Why they had a romance is beyond me. I couldn't see any chemistry between them.

 

Black's writing was a bit inconsistent for me. At times she uses very evocative writing that really fuses a scene into my mind and this is of course good. It engaged me when this happens. Other times, though, I'm jarred out of that when things are too obviously pointed out or we're reverted to one of those standard scenarios YA books seem to come with (the rave-style parties being an example again). There's not enough of a flow to the writing to keep me engaged on that level either. This is my first Holly Black book, so I'm curious to see if that more unique, evocative style I'd occasionally see prevails better in other books.

 

Overall, I took away that this book just isn't for me, but the reasons were fairly obvious to me, too. That being said, I did enjoy how it ended (the type where the reader is left to contemplate for themselves how things actually turned out for the protagonists - this felt like one of the more genuine parts of the entire story), and Black's writing had enough interest for me to possibly check out some other work. Great concept with this book, just not my cup with the execution.

 

Cover thoughts: LOVE it. Really eye-catching and very appropriate to the story.

Pantomime - Laura Lam I marked this as a spoiler review even though I tried to remain vague in some ways due to the Big Secrets only the reader should experience first hand. So difficult to comment on these kinds of books as a result!

Also, I was given this ebook by the publisher (amongst a few others) in exchange for creating a blog tour banner for the book. Beautiful cover - could not say no! I wasn't asked to read the book in order to do a review. I thought the book sounded really interesting.

First of all, the book takes on an interesting subject matter in Gene/Micah's secret. There are clues as to what this secret is as the build up to the Big Reveal, er, builds up, (and I was able to guess what it was thanks to them) so what becomes the important thing is how it's revealed to those reading and to anyone important in the book. It becomes clear after a while that this is the only driving plot element. As a result, the book kind of hangs on how the reveal is done. I wasn't particularly impressed with the reveals.

First of all, the readers are officially clued in anticlimactically when the protagonist is among peers at a party, rich folk of the noble class. Given the station of the people at the party, it seemed the reveal of The Big Secret was rather lamely done. It was the more obvious reaction. Also, the fact that nothing much happened after except for the expected resulting revulsion and mortification. These just seemed the most basic ways to reveal the protagonists secrets and it was not a little boring.

Later the protagonists secret is revealed voluntarily to a couple of the circus performers they've grown particularly close to. Of course, this is done well after the time when the protag could have shared and introduced many other possibilities into the story, by building on that with people they'd grown to care about, and who cared for them. Instead, we have a very long, drawn out book filled with the fear of discovery that really fizzles out of Excitement Factor long before the end of the book when the protag decides to vocally and physically share their secret.

The worldbuilding was disappointing because Pantomime only hints at it. It's one of those "long ago" worlds that nobody currently knows anything about. It's all myths and legends and nothing concrete except possibly artifacts called Vestige that everyone assumes are some form of magic from this long dead culture of mythical chimeras and other such creatures (The book borrows a little from steampunk, some of the Vestige being "clockwork" made; other mentions of gas lights are thrown in, too.). The protagonist is somehow connected to it all, though we never find out why in this book. This becomes a third driving plot element, but it's hung over for the next book. Another Big Reveal to wait for, because the protag is trying to discover who/what they are. I don't have a problem with that concept, I'm just disappointed that the world was not more solidly established in this first book in a new series. It's wispy and ethereal and just out of reach and that annoys me because what little we are clued into seems very fascinating. All it makes me wonder is will it in any way be worth waiting for. For now it felt randomly done more than anything, and piecemeal worlds in a fantasy novel are about as useful as a toothbrush with no toothpaste.

The writing style is, thankfully, very engaging. I definitely became invested in the protagonists struggle with their own inner fears and the very real outer ones. There's a bit of a love triangle thing going on, and due to the nature of the protag's secret, there's at least a little justification for one this time. The protag is very much confused and disoriented by this secret, and the finding of their true self is an understandable issue when mixed in with societal pressures and norms.

The only problem is I can't tell if any of this book was worth it. It reads like one big prologue to a bigger story. I don't really get why so much time is spent on some things that seemed superfluous, most of that being the circus, it's many characters, their torment of the protag, all that TIME spent on it. It seemed like getting on with the plot would've been more exciting. In conclusion, I'm not sure if I'll continue with the series or not when the next book comes out, which is a shame. The protagonist's secret is definitely an interesting one for a YA novel in an age where readers are calling for more diversity.
Unforgivable - Joanna Chambers I just bought this yesterday and read it in a few hours, but hours that lasted till quite late since I was having trouble sleeping. Since it turned out to be one of my favorite tropes in romance - The Grovel - it was soon hard to put the book down anyway.

Gil Truman wasn't a very likable hero, despite his situation being understandable at times. It didn't take long for me to slap the label of Irredeemable Asshole on his chest and he didn't do much of anything to improve on it from there on out. The Grovel can be a very satisfying trope but like all tropes, it's just got to be balanced right. On one hand I felt like it was because this book sucked me in and made me an emotionally reader mess. And I like that, as odd as that seems. Yes, I'm happy the book made me cry, that it engaged me on a deep emotional level. The author certainly has some skills on that level. But at times I did wonder if it was a little overboard. Gil is extremely selfish and shallow, to the point that when a reconciliation comes, will he be redeemed? I can say I was a little disappointed in his redemption - he got off a little too easy.

Rose is an innocent bystander in her marriage, and it was really easy to sympathize with her. Her emotional journey as she tries to adjust to her married life - and even have an inkling of one for that matter - is really touching. Given what Gil doles out to her, I felt her reactions to him and handling of the whole mess was very believable and justified. She gives him many an opening and a chance. Maybe more than he deserved. In the end I had a hard time seeing how she could move past anything.

Overall this is a pretty good read, albeit with a hero I could find almost nothing to like. Rose's father figures in heavily with her personal issues, and at the end he felt a little too conveniently inserted again, but it was nice to see something finally going in Rose's favor. I enjoyed Rose a lot and found her very admirable when she decides to take charge of her life. This was my first by the author and I think her style and voice has potential for more romance reading with me.
The Other Side of Us - Sarah Mayberry Didn't connect to this story or the characters like I usually do with a Mayberry romance. Didn't care for all the internalization from both when a simple conversation could clear it all up. Felt as if their issues were so strongly separate and as a result those were the focus of the book and not a developing, passionate romance.

There were times the trademark Mayberry tone and voice came through- the sex for one; other were the moments they had witty, charming conversations. I know their individual issues were the main conflict and barrier to the romance, but still, they seemed to take up too much.
Within Reach (Harlequin Super Romance) - Sarah Mayberry Warning: this book made me sob like an out-of-control hormonal mess of a reader. And the weird thing was I couldn't put it down. I started it in the late afternoon and read it almost straight through till midnight the same day. It was heart-wrenching (not to mention a little alarmingly close to home - not the romance, another part) and I cried, then I laughed, then I felt woozy and romantic and then I cried some more, then I pretty much sobbed, and I think my dogs were concerned (I know the cat was...the hubby was asleep and snoring), and then I cried HARDER. WHEW. Deep breath.

I think at times the emotional winging of my heart like a limp, saturated-beyond-belief heart was a little much to deal with, but there's no denying that Mayberry writes some the best, most awesome, truthful romances today. The situations in which her characters find love are sometimes brutal, but they are realistic and along the way there is so much tenderness and strength and discovery. It's amazing. Every. Darn. Time. Within Reach is no exception, and I think it's actually her most frank, honest and best romances to date.

I did wish at times it didn't hit my quite so hard in the heart - there's fewer breaks in between all the downs to lift the heart, and I did wish that the ending had ended on a bit more of a high. It IS a HEA, it's just that it's a brief HEa after a very heart-wrenching twist in the story. Maybe an epilogue could have helped soften it more.

Other than that, long live the Mayberry romance!
Lumberjack In Love - Penny Watson A cute, funny read that morphs into a sweet romance. Enjoyed it a lot!
The Shattered Dark - Sandy Williams Really enjoyed this one, largely due to the - strange as it seems - love triangle. At the same time, said triangle has RIPPED OUT MY READING HEART.

*ahem*

Book two is no slump in this series, I was happy to see. It's fast-paced and full of action, romance and a heroine who grows more and more admirable with each page. Though I AM ready to see her take charge of her life more firmly. It feels as though she's trying, but a little harder would be nice, too.

At the same time...I do hope we move beyond some of the same scenarios we've seen now in this and the previous book. It did begin to feel slightly repetitive with the political conflicts, fissuring constantly back and forth between the Realm and Earth, and this is why, I think, the love triangle is holding the series together. It IS an interesting world and the other characters are really interesting as well, but the love triangle is creating most of the believable and *more* interesting conflict for me personally.

And I can't believe it's another year now at the least till book three (author's Amazon profile mentions Fall 2013 for the third book - harrummphh). This one went so quickly for me that I suppose I'll need to read it again to satisfy my ridonkulous craving for the series.

Oh - and Aren. Le SIGH. Great conflict love-interest-wise! Both with Aren and Kyol. The cliffhanger was really craptacular though, so if you're not a fan of those, might want to wait for book three. Other than that, pretty happy with this one.
Suddenly You - Sarah Mayberry As per usual - the Mayberry romance is alive and well. Really well. Really sexy well, really emotionally well, really Makes-Me-Want-More Well.

Slight peeve - a little too much internalization on both Pippa's and Harry's parts. They tended to be repetitive when doing so. Other than that - what a wonderful romance!
The Crown of Embers - Rae Carson Slightly spoilerific, but only slightly.

Didn't like this one as much as the first one, so much so to the point that I kind of rush-read some of it. I admit it, not the best thing to do, but the plot this time bored me to tears (I think too much time was spent in the castle with Elisa dodging one assassination attempt after another to the point of redundancy). How she's trying to learn to adjust to being a queen was interesting, but after the assassination attempts it's not as prevalent and therefore not strong enough to have kept me interested plot-wise.

The love story, which at first was wooooonderful got to be nothing but a tease, and I felt as if suddenly, Hector most especially, began to act uncharacteristically and inconsistently. The ending was a really craptastic cliffhanger, so if you're a hater of those, best wait till the next comes out.

I did like how Elisa continues to grow as a strong, young female character, and grows more into making her own decisions, though it was frustrating at times how much she is still forced to be led by others due to her young age as a queen. And female. And not beautiful enough. And...yeah.
Tangle of Need (Psy-Changeling, #11) - Nalini Singh Very sad that I couldn't finish this one. I was asked for a review, so shall do one on why I couldn't finish ASAP, but I'm not looking forward to it since this has been a favorite series for so long. I did also purchase my own ebook copy, so I definitely feel like I can say something despite not finishing.
Lord of the Changing Winds - Rachel Neumeier Tried to get started on this one several days ago and have resigned myself to DNF-ing it after feeling no enthusiasm to continue. I didn't get far in, just to the part where the heroine meets the griffin and *SEMI-SPOILERISH SORRY* discovers her magical mage powers due to the griffins. This is where the book went downhill for me. The heroine is unaware she possessed said powers and therefore doesn't understand at all what is happening, how it's happening, etc. While I know things might be better explained later in the book in regards to the world's magic, at that moment it is so wishy washy and the heroine not knowing what's going on and therefore leaving the reader in the dark feels like a cop out. As if it's just easier not to explain anything. The magic feels as if it's just too mystical and too high of an entity...or something...for a mere human to understand. Half the fun of fantasy for me personally is the worldbuilding, and if magic is to be such a strong part of the world yet not strongly developed, I just feel let down by it all.

It's possible too griffin-based fantasy books aren't for me. I tried K.J. Taylor's first re-released griffin book and couldn't get into that one either. The griffin's themselves in that one turned me off for their cold callousness. While it was very well done (I was thoroughly disgusted by one in the first several pages), something at the time the griffin said or did just wasn't working for me. That was the end of that one. In Lord of the Changing Winds, the author has tried way too hard to make readers aware that griffins aren't human in any way, especially emotionally and in their thought processes, culture, etc. In fact it's very blatantly told to the reader, really, as opposed to being worked into the development of the griffins as it was so well in only the first few pages of Taylor's book. I dunno, in LotCW, it just felt like too much telling and not enough showing. Another turn off for me.

The idea that non-human characters are different in fantasy is certainly not a new concept. At all. I have no desire to ascribe human emotions or ideas to non-human fantasy characters and I expect the writing itself to show me the differences in the non-humans. It's enthralling when their cultures and ideas are a developed part of the story. Again, maybe that improves in this book, but being told as opposed to shown so early in didn't make me feel any confidence it would be.

I loved the idea/premise and I really felt drawn to the heroine at first and the author's voice. Overall it wasn't working for me.
Her Best Worst Mistake - Sarah Mayberry Loved this. A perfect length, too, for anyone needing a quicker read yet still with a very satisfying character-driven and emotional story.


Violet's hangups got a little repetitive and old, but her and Martin's smoking chemistry and the emotional engagement make up for it a lot. Despite Violet's tendency to make a little too much about her issue, she is a wonderful character, not some perfect Barbie wannabe. She has true grit and fire and spirit and loads of other romance heroine adjectives we feel get overused, but are no less true. Now I need to see if I've read Hot Island Nights yet, which was written before this short story and is about Violet's best friend, Elizabeth.

Another wonderful Mayberry winner. Two red-polished thumbs way up.

Fave quote: "She tasted so good. Like sin. Like every dirty thought he'd ever had."
Of Swine and Roses - Ilona Andrews I honestly don't get why this one is so popular. Took me about twenty minutes to read and if seems nothing like the usual exciting Ilona Andrews worlds and characters. Surface thoughts and interactions for the most part. Was frustrating that most of this very short short short story is the heroine(who at least had good potential) upset over one boy, Dennis, who never sees her as a girl, and then Chad, who she doesn't connect with either. It's only at the very end that she meets an interesting man, but then the story is over.

There's not enough word count to establish a very good plot, characterizations, world, any of it, really. What little there is reminds me way too much of this author gram's other much better efforts. The heroine's powers feel a lot like the powerful ones coveted bu the families in their Edge series. The world, with it's segmented family factions style way of life is a lot like their Kinsmen short stories, which are much, much better. Just not a fan of this one.
Angelfall (Penryn & the End of Days, #1) - Susan Ee When you're tired of the YA books that seem to promise a good post-apocalyptic or dystopian story, but are another excuse for a YA romance in thinly veiled disguise - this one is clearly different.

I have a few quibbles, but for the most part this is a very solid read. I was very hooked, managed to read it in one day. While it's not a very long book that's still saying a lot for me, especially given that there's a good plot. Good plots tend to make me want to take my time, but this was one of those rare ones that was good ANd made me frantic to keep going.

I really enjoyed the heroine, Penryn (love that name). She's just kick-butt enough without coming across as some conveniently perfect young woman. Her 1st person POV does feel a bit limiting, though. There's a bit too much internalization and I found myself wishing for some more development of the other characters. Her crazy mother probably gets the second best development after Penryn, but I'm betting readers will wish Raffe had that honor instead. Still, we come to know Penryn well because of her crazed mother, too. And this is book one on a series, so Raffe probably still has plenty of time to grow on us. And I DO want him to.

The plot and worldbuilding are pretty good, almost exceptional. I think too much of this kind of YA gets wrapped up in when the romance will spring up, and then everything else feels as if it suffers a little for it. In this one, there's a lot of attention given to the details. Sometimes this made it feel as if the pace was a little slow, but in thinking on it as a whole, the author actually did a great job at building my curiosity through dread, apprehension, and soon, terror. All of this was done because of the worldbuilding and it was very easy to buy into the author's vision of an angel-avenging future.

This is a pretty tough sell for me, the whole angel angle. Not only was I sort of dreading a quickly budding and superficial romance, but the angel side isn't much better in YA these days. People, this author's angels are terrifying. They are malicious and I loved every word of it. I'd hazard a guess that most of the ideas in this book have been done before, but this is one of those cases where an author has successfully, for me, illustrated them in a way that work incredibly well.

When we've finished the book and are a little peeved - no, a LOT - that we can't read the next book yet, congratulations, authors, you've done good.

Thank goodness summer of 2012 isn't too far away now.
The Real Deal (Harlequin Blaze, #573) - Debbi Rawlins I've been looking for a style and feel similar to Sarah Mayberry's Blaze books, and this one fills that want in a lot of ways. The characters act in ways at times that might seem very familiar for a category romance, but the author pulls these off in very believable - and satisfying - ways. Emily and Nick make a fantastic pair from the very start. They are funny together not to mention the wowzer chemistry that ignites with them.

I loved Emily. She has a certain spirit and confidence that defies what people would otherwise peg her with. Given what she does for a living, and how she lives day-to-day, you might not expect her to be so assertive and empowered from within. Still, due to Nick's star baseball status, she does have a few issues to overcome, but she goes through it all with humor, grace and not a little endearment.

Nick is one of my favorite kinds of characters - the sports star. There's an inescapable set of stigmas associated with them, so some of the problems he and Emily encounter are believable as a result, as are his self doubts. I love that the two actually TALK to one another despite this! There may be misunderstandings or assumptions sometimes, but that tired plot device doesn't get much page time in this book - no, this couple gets to know one another and works through things, albeit from the perspective of anticipating a short time together.

This is how I like my romance reads to be - honestly emotional, frank, funny and hot. Did I mention this book is hot? There's such a terrific build-up of the sexual tension. Speaking of that, it's so nice that it's so very easy to page back in books on a Kindle. *g*

The only thing is I'd like to have seen an epilogue more central to just Nick and Emily. Can't say much because I don't want to ruin the ending, but it seems to wrap up the plot better than it does their HEA. It's still sweet, and I didn't have doubts, I'd just rather have seen them in each others arms or something.

Still - enjoyed this one VERY much. Definitely a keeper.