The Week: 21st – 27th March

Easter 2015 Sonya Heaney.

Happy Easter! This is not “our” Easter; Ukrainian Catholic (and Orthodox) Easter is on the first of May. I will be in my grandmother’s village in Ukraine on the day, so I doubt I’ll be getting a post up then!

We just booked another trip to Europe. It sounds like an insane thing to do when we’re leaving on the other trip in a month, but if we wanted our preferred flights and accommodation, we had to do it now.

Carnival_Venice

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We will be in Venice for the duration of Carnival 2017 (in February – winter!), and then spend the better part of a week in London on the way home. I used to know every nook and cranny of central London, having lived there for years, but I haven’t visited for a while and have been desperate to go back (must be all those historical romances I’ve read!).

We went to the Tom Roberts exhibition at the National Gallery yesterday (because it’s always a good idea to wait until the last days of a months-long exhibition to visit!). It was very warm and sunny, despite being almost halfway through autumn. Here was Parliament House on the way home:

Parliament House Canberra Australia 26th March 2016 Sonya Oksana Heaney.

Coming Soon: The Beast (Black Dagger Brotherhood #14)

The Beast (Black Dagger Brotherhood #14) by J.R. Ward

A series to look out for.

Tycoon (The Knickerbocker Club 0.5) by Joanna ShupeMagnate (The Knickerbocker Club #1) by Joanna Shupe

My review of Tycoon (The Knickerbocker Club 0.5) by Joanna Shupe

Tycoon (The Knickerbocker Club 0.5) by Joanna Shupe

My review of The Unforgettable Hero: A Playful Brides Story (Playful Brides #4.5) by Valerie Bowman

The Unforgettable Hero A Playful Brides Story (Playful Brides #4.5) by Valerie Bowman

My review of The Wild One (The de Montforte Brothers #1) by Danelle Harmon

The Wild One (The de Montforte Brothers #1) by Danelle Harmon New Cover

The Week: 23rd – 29th November

christmas-lights-canberra-australia-world-record-20th-december-2014-sonya-heaney-oksana-heaney2World Record Christmas Lights Canberra Australia 21st December 2013 Sonya Heaney Oksana Heaneychristmas-lights-canberra-australia-20th-december-2014-sonya-heaney-oksana-heaney-1

This week in Canberra – for years in a row – we broke a World Record for Christmas lights. It’s a bit scary, because now we feel like we have to break the record every year! The pictures above are ours from other record-breaking displays before this year.

I foresee a lot of decorating and present-wrapping in my coming week! I actually love the whole Christmas thing, but I doubt I’m going to get much else done, and then I’m away on holidays almost until Christmas.

Here is  a popular romance writing blog‘s take on guns, explaining that if people London and Madrid JUST HAD GUNS they would have survived their terrorist bombings…

As an Australian, I am beyond horrified.

Sunset Tuggeranong Canberra Australia Spring Sonya Heaney Sun Sky 18th November 2015

We had another hot week. This sunset is actually from last week, but here is it anyway! I haven’t played around with it in Photoshop – like so many do – but it was actually bright pink, not red. I think I need a new camera!

DSCN5138

Not even a good picture – but one I’m finding all over the internet!

On Tuesday my mother discovered that people have been using my pictures – no credit, and wrongly credited as Sydney instead of Canberra – on various (including tourism) sites. This is theft, and is especially annoying for me as I make an income from some of those pictures!

Daniela

Because White Ribbon Day (a campaign to stop violence against women) was this week, the media trotted out images of women who were murdered by their partners in 2015. As ever, the woman, Daniela, I’d known for twenty-five years, who was murdered by her boyfriend in late April, was all over the place again. Maybe because she was so gorgeous (that sounds really creepy), but whatever the reason, when they want a photo for a campaign to stop violence against women, they use her.

Magpie Tuggeranong Canberra Australia Sonya Heaney 17th November 2015 Bird Garden Spring NatureUntitled

We have picked up a fourth magpie here (This isn’t it! This is the new girl magpie who thinks she’s my pet dog!). It’s a little baby one that seems to have lost its family and is hanging around the family that lives here. Poor little thing… However, watching it trying to eat without help makes you laugh. I know I shouldn’t, but I never really thought about birds not knowing how to use their beaks! Stupid little creature…

Since the weather is so good, I’ve been working outside quite often. But the silly magpies see my laptop and think it’s a great place to perch. And then they sit on it and close my laptop, and accidentally turn it off. I laugh, but they’re really inconveniencing me! The idiots!

Wild Wolf Claiming (Bloodrunners, #8) by Rhyannon Byrd

This was definitely not my best reading week! I’m still going through my crazy paranormal phase, but was disappointed by a favourite author’s newest book, and horrified by all the skinny shaming and misogyny in one by another author.

I’m not sure how the romance genre reached a point where it’s considered acceptable to refer to slim women as “bitches” for no reason whatsoever (while going on ad nauseam about the man’s perfect body), and using “skinny” as a gleeful insult… It’s hardly the Girl Power!, feminist thing they think they have going on!

Russian airstrikes target Turkish aid convoy in #Syria. 7 killed, 10 wounded.

This week Russia decided to punish Turkey by bombing their humanitarian aid conveys in Syria. Nice  of them…

Cindy Gerard’s Upcoming Book

Taking Fire (One-Eyed Jacks #4) by Cindy Gerard

My review of Lover Revealed (Black Dagger Brotherhood #4) by J.R. Ward

 Lover Revealed (Black Dagger Brotherhood #4) by J.R. Ward

My review of How to Bewitch an Earl (How To #2) by Ally Broadfield

How to Bewitch an Earl (How To #2) by Ally Broadfield

My review of Turbulent Sea (Drake Sisters #6) by Christine Feehan

Turbulent Sea (Drake Sisters #6) by Christine Feehan American Cover

My review of The Holiday Courtship (Texas Grooms) by Winnie Griggs

The Holiday Courtship (Texas Grooms) by Winnie Griggs

Lover Revealed (Black Dagger Brotherhood #4) by J.R. Ward

Lover Revealed (Black Dagger Brotherhood #4) by J.R. Ward

Butch O’Neal is a fighter by nature. A hard-living ex-homicide cop, he’s the only human ever to be allowed in the inner circle of the Black Dagger Brotherhood. And he wants to go even deeper into the vampire world—to engage in the turf war with the lessers. He’s got nothing to lose. His heart belongs to a female vampire, an aristocratic beauty who’s way out of his league. If he can’t have Marissa, then at least he can fight side by side with the Brothers…

Fate curses him with the very thing he wants. When Butch sacrifices himself to save a civilian vampire from the slayers, he falls prey to the darkest force in the war. Left for dead, he’s found by a miracle, and the Brotherhood calls on Marissa to bring him back. But even her love may not be enough to save him…

Lover Revealed (Black Dagger Brotherhood #4) by J.R. Ward

You know, after rereading Lover Revealed for the first time in years, I think I’m going to revise my statement that book two is my favourite in the series. I think this one is.

As always, I’m in the minority. There’s something about beautiful, feminine and sometimes sheltered heroines that has most readers immediately hating them. I’m the opposite.

What I like about this book is that there’s So Much to the plot. So much happens, so many dramatic and unbelievable things unfold. Whereas other books in the series make use of some utterly ridiculous deus ex machina or another to make it possible for hero and heroine to be together forever, Lover Revealed actually has a brilliant twist to it.

As for that heroine?

In the book before this one, the heroine, Bella, spends the entire book flopping around being a useless damsel in distress, and leading two brothers on. I dislike her immensely, (just like every other Bella in vampire fiction from a few years ago – they all look pretty much the same, too!).

And yet, she is the fan favourite.

While Marissa in this book does some silly things, and is incredibly naïve in many ways (she has no choice in that, coming from the sexist vampire aristocracy and being banned from doing pretty much everything), she grows so much throughout the book.

She works at the clinic and then starts her own shelter for abused women and children of her kind. She is literally thrown out of her old life with not even a place to stay during the dangerous daytime, but finds her way and grows stronger because of it.

However, she is beautiful and traditionally feminine, and apparently this is a real deal-breaker for readers!

Another reason Marissa is disliked is because the author set up an almost homosexual love plot between hero, Butch, and his closest vampire friend. We spend a great deal of time watching Vishous pining, and the story is swayed for the reader to have sympathy for him over Marissa. While I don’t necessarily dislike this subplot, I do dislike that it set readers up to hate the poor heroine!

I prefer my paranormal and fantasy reads to have a tie to the real world. I’m not a big fantasy reader, so I like that connection to the familiar. I think the Black Dagger Brotherhood has that tie for the most part, but there are some aspects (the mystical Scribe Virgin, for example) that I find a little over-the-top for me.

I also REALLY wish these vampires couldn’t dematerialise and magically travel from place to place. If it’s that easy to travel somewhere, then every single dangerous situation the characters face could be easily fixed! Plus, it’s just silly.

As I have been doing with these rereads, I’ve been skipping some of the bad guy parts. Villains called things like Mr O and Mr X are… well, there’re not my idea of cool names!

Rereading this onde reminded me why J.R. Ward got so many people addicted to her books. Even when I’m not a hundred percent in love with something, I can’t put the book down.

J.R. Ward: The Beast

J.R. Ward The Beast Black Dagger Brotherhood Cover

I don’t read the Black Dagger Brotherhood series anymore (in fact, I don’t read much paranormal romance or urban fantasy anymore), but I have to admit to being a little bit excited about J.R. Ward’s upcoming book.

I do think it’s odd that instead of letting the series go and starting something new, she is writing second books for all her original characters. However, Rhage (for all his faults and the weird way he turns into a giant dragon-dinosaur thingy!) is my favourite. He is also the author’s least favourite. I have this way of loving the least-liked characters the best, in pretty much every series!

I just hope it isn’t all about Rhage and Mary having a baby, but I bet it is!

Whatever the plot, I do like the cover. I have a much higher tolerance for the topless guy thing in paranormal genres than in, say, Regency romance.

rhageheaderJ.R. Ward The Beast Black Dagger Brotherhood artwork

Fan Longevity

Bared to You by Sylvia DayA Kiss of Midnight by Lara Adrian

Now, clearly there are books that stand the test of time. There have to be, because otherwise my literature degree was a waste of time!

However, with genre fiction things seem to move fast and date fast and then you look back and wonder what you were thinking a few years ago when you loved a book.

I find this a bit sad, and I was thinking back on books that have lasted for me. I’m talking about books about a decade old here, not from many decades ago. Perhaps the mid-2000s was a stellar era for genre fiction, but whatever it is I still have plenty of books from that time that I can still call favourites.

The reason I started thinking about this was because I was checking out Sylvia Day’s Pinterest account, and she has a board dedicated to pictures of fan tattoos. It reminded me of other Big Name series where readers went and got permanent markings because they enjoyed a book so much.

For example, Lara Adrian’s heroines in her Midnight Breed series all have a crescent moon and teardrop birthmark, and fans now have that tattooed all over themselves.

And surely nothing beats the infamous Twilight tattoos, the most infamous of all perhaps being this one:

 twilight-tattoo-edward-cullen

However, fads are fads for a reason. Beards can be shaved off, but all those stretched ears young men are sporting these days are probably not going to be considered great few years down the track. Permanent changes probably aren’t always the best idea!

Secrets of a Summer Night by Lisa KleypasTo the Brink by Cindy Gerard

Secrets of a Summer Night (2004) is still a precious historical romance for me. To the Brink (2005) still remains my idea of the perfect romantic suspense. I didn’t catch any sleep flying from India to Sri Lanka to Australia in 2005 because I was so engrossed in The Tea Rose, a book I still love. I’m lucky I passed my final university exams because I was so caught up in Into the Wilderness, and I still love that book so much.

However, series I can still look back on fondly – the Black Dagger Brotherhood, for example – are no longer on my OMG Squee! list of books, and I’m certain I’d have regretted getting a tattoo about them.

Remember that infamous Twilight Moms group with their super-active site? I visited there a couple of times out of sheer curiosity, and there were women my age and older saying there will never be a day in their life where they won’t pick up and read part of a Twilight book, and how depressed they feel knowing there will be no more of Bella and Edward. Now the message board doesn’t even exist, and I’m quite sure those women have got on with their lives just fine.

I have no idea what I’m trying to say here. Maybe wait a decade before you get a tattoo declaring your love for a fictional man?

I suppose most people have that select group of long-standing favourites. I suppose they also have a long list of books they were crazy about once, and now can’t remember why that was.

The Shadows, drama and the BDB.

The Shadows (Black Dagger Brotherhood, #13) by J.R. Ward

SPOILERS AHEAD!!

I stopped reading the Black Dagger Brotherhood vampire series many years and many books ago. It was one ground-breaking series when it began, with many obsessive fans, but like too many series the author dragged it out for too long.

However, it recently came to my attention again because yet another book was released (the thirteenth full-length entry to the series). And the author did the one thing romance publishers dictate you NEVER do: she killed one of the main characters, in this case the heroine.

I remember the shock and outrage a crime author caused when finishing a serial killer book with the killer murdering the detective. You certainly never end a mystery or crime novel without revealing who did it.

People expect certain things from genre fiction – that’s why it’s called genre fiction. The author’s excuse that the characters made her do it is crazy talk, not a valid excuse. Your characters cannot talk to you – your imagination made them; they’re not actually living in your head!

Up until this point, the books all featured a main couple who had their happy ending. Sometimes those happy endings made use of a deus ex machina: Mary being magically cured of terminal cancer; Jane being killed but returning as a ghost who could take a solid form whenever she needed to.

However, there was always that guarantee! No matter what arguments people make about crossing genres or limiting an author’s creativity, this series became what it was because romance readers were obsessively in love with it, and it was sold to them as a romance series.

On top of that, J.R. Ward wrote a long and fairly offensive blog post on the release day of the book. In it she mocks romance fiction for being boring (she’s sold as a romance writer!), admits she can’t write female characters (the misogyny in her series is right there in front of you as you read), and claims she had no control over what her characters wanted to do.

To tell readers you’ve switched genres after they’ve already bought the book they were told was a romance doesn’t seem like the correct way to go about it.

If an author wants to branch out, then fine, but I think the series should have been ended in that case, and a new one begun. How can a genre reader have trust in an author who commits the worst “crime” they could in order to create a shock?

However, I’ve heard that my favourite BDB character has a scene in this one where he masturbates to the sight of potatoes and peaches, and… I’m glad I didn’t stick with the series to see that!

Where are the Women?

Simply Irresistible by Jill Shalvis

Recently I was catching up with RT Magazine (having missed a few issues while travelling in Europe) and I came across an interview with an author whose work I happen to have a lot of respect for: Jill Shalvis. She was discussing her Lucky Harbor series, and after saying some things I agree with (like making sure all the books work as standalones), she said something that annoyed me:

 

“So yes, you do occasionally see Maddie, Tara and Chloe, but just cameos. The focus isn’t on them or their story. And, actually, you’re far more likely to see the guys: Jax, Ford and Sawyer. I just love them more, as unfair as that might seem.”

 

Now, why did it annoy me so much?

Firstly, because what I took away from the original trilogy (the only books in the series I’ve read so far) was that this was a series about women. About strong female friendships. About women with different interests and totally different personalities still loving and respecting each other. It was by far the strongest element of the books.

Secondly, because in a genre that’s supposed to celebrate women and their achievements, all too often female characters are overlooked in favour of constant scenes involving “hot guys”. And I thought Shalvis was above that.

Perhaps it’s an overreaction, but the comment disappointed me so much.

A common complaint about J.R. Ward’s oh-so popular Black Dagger Brotherhood series is that the women more or less cease to exist once they’ve had their happy ending. You see the male characters everywhere, but the women apparently just sit in their rooms and act like sex dolls when their guy is feeling horny.

In almost all Young Adult and New Adult fiction, the heroine is either a loner in a sea of “hot boys” or she has that one best friend and all the other girls are skanks and sluts and bitches (Beautiful Disaster and Walking Disaster, I’m looking at you!) .

Women are treated as the enemy in romantic fiction, which is such a bizarre approach to a genre that is supposed to be catering to women. I thought we were smart enough to be able to appreciate the male characters without doing away with the women.

I’m just so disappointed. Because a series I enjoyed so much now feels tainted. Books I thought were – at their heart – about female relationships…

Turns out they’re about the “hot guys”.

Black Dagger Brotherhood Craft on Etsy

I am so far behind with reading this series (four books – at least), but JR Ward’s vampires definitely have one of the biggest fandoms of any book series. So of course, there’re Etsy shops making BDB-related jewellery, bookmarks and other stuff.

Here are some examples:

Rehvenge 2-in-1 Book Thong & Charm Bracelet

Rhage Book Thong (My favourite character!)

Rehvenge Earrings

Tohrment Bookmark

Wine Bottle Charm

Butch Book Thong