Hi everybody! Carolyn Jean here. Okay, I'm up on the hot spot, Day 1. I'm going to run through the books I've chosen for our island library. Exciting, huh? Well, to me it is! Because I love all of these.
I'm putting them in the order they were written.
The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
To me, this is a classic of romance—a keen psychological portrait, and an example of a book where the internal and external obstacles to the h/h getting together are absolutely stunning for how they dovetail. The h/h meet within the strict norms of New York society in the late 19th century. They are both see themselves as free spirits—hero Newland is cynical about taste and rules, and Countess Olenska has a sort of wild European past, but they are also products of the culture against which they rebel, and that culture, that society tightens around their love like a boa constrictor, bringing Newland and his shallow fiancé inexorably together. The skill with which Wharton achieves this effect blows me away every time. Most readers of romance will find the ending disappointing, but in some ways, it ends as it must.
End of the Affair by Graham Greene
I love this book and I think of it all the time as just the most fabulous love story, a highly psychological character portrait, and an example of some of the best first person writing in all of literature. It doesn’t end well, but OH, what a story! Back when the Germans were bombing London, Bendrix is having an affair with Sarah, a married woman, and they are in love, though it’s not exactly an exemplary relationship. Then a bomb falls on the building and he’s buried under rubble. Sarah thinks he’s dead and prays to God that if he is healed, she’ll stop the affair and be a good wife. He turns out to be okay and Sarah keeps her promise. Bendrix doesn’t get why she’s left him—he thinks she’s found a new lover.
The book opens as he runs into the unwitting husband one rainy day after the war is over, and slowly insinuates himself into the couple’s life again…oh, it’s so good. It’s also a movie with the wonderful Ralph Fiennes as Bendrix and Julianne Moore as Sarah. OMG.
The Killing Dance by Laurell K. Hamilton
I’m choosing a few books here that were seminal texts for me as a paranormal romance reader. I was reading this when I first got into paranormals and wow, I couldn’t goddamn believe it. I remember it was winter, and my husband and I were making lots of fires in the fireplace, and when I’d finish my copywriting work I’d pull out one of these and nothing was more delicious. Oh, right, because they were too exciting to read right before bed.
This one is my favorite of all the Anita Blake series. No, you can’t start with it. You have to read the first four—the development of this tale is highly enjoyable, and here you get the watershed moment. I think my comrades who have read this series know of the scene I am picturing. There are big fireworks with other storylines, too. It’s the book in the series where the chickens come home to roost. Really, LKH gets bashed a lot, but the control she exerts over character, scenes and settings alone is downright masterful as far as I’m concerned. I think all writers should read her for sense of place alone. There are a lot of ways in which LKH makes other writers look a bit sloppy in terms of sense of place and character description.
Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey
Who would ever think of having her heroine be clever spy as well as a masochistic courtesan who gets off on pain? Carey, that’s who. Thanks to her proclivities, along with extensive scholarship (overseen by mentor Delauney) Phedre, the heroine here, becomes a keen observer of human nature, as well as the details of rooms and conversations. I think when you are victimized, even willingly, it heightens your powers of observation. In this way the book a highly psychological one. People get into power plays with her or they divulge secrets or let her see and hear things she shouldn't, and generally reveal their inner natures in a variety of interesting ways.
That said, such scenes really are a minor part of the book. It's way more sword fights and court politics and obscure learnings and romantic intrigue and barbarian hordes, and then every once in a while you have Phedre at the mercy of some nobleman or woman--everybody here has wildly colorful sexual proclivities, and they don't keep them secret--and, oh, Phedre is gasping in pain and pleasure, and things swim before her eyes and she outsmarts all these people. Tons of fun, this book and the following two. I haven’t gotten to the rest yet.
Dead to the World by Charlaine Harris
This is the fourth book in this series and my favorite, partly because lameass Bill is in Peru for most of it. And ERIC features heavily. A witch makes powerful, evil Eric lose his memory, and it creates a kind of sweet vulnerability in him, or perhaps brings it out, and he and Sookie have an enchanted time together as she hides him away from various dangers while he pulls himself together. In a way, this is the heyday of Eric and Sookie. But as with LKH above, don’t start with this one. It’s way more satisfying if you get the buildup of the first 3, and those aren’t chopped liver.
Demon Night by Meljean Brook
Okay, I think this might be my favorite Meljean Brook book and one of my best reads of 2008. I’m a sucker for psychological character portraits in novels and I think Brook is one of the best in the genre at pulling this off. Demon Night is so exciting and thrilling and intense on every level, and shit! I shore did love that Ethan McCabe and his old Wild West ways and his old Wild West talk. Ethan is a hell of a hero—sexy and delightful all at once. And Charlie the heroine is honestly so well drawn, I felt like I really knew her. This isn’t a very good job of telling the plot, is it? It’s vampires, a wonderful demon villain, and meaty internal and external obstacles to h/h happiness.
Tomorrow: My heroes. Wednesday: Little Ceejay's turn. Maybe. My normal blog: The Thrillionth page.