Site hopping

A giveaway over at Sweeping Me. Until 10th April.

http://sweepingme.com/2012/03/blog-tour-spotlight-feature-the-golden-harp-by-a-faris-giveaway/

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Me Pide Mas

Mi amor…

Me encantaría enredarme en tus sabanas

Y que me pidas mas, mas, mas, mas, mas
Me encantaría que te pongas romántica
Y que me pidas mas, mas, mas, mas, mas
Lo quieres
Lo se…
Tu quieres yo lo sé
Tu cuerpo me pertenece
Que el fuego no cese

“Tus Sabanas” by Wisin y Yandel

My love,

I would like to be tangled in your sheets

And you ask me for more, more, more

I would like you to be all romantic

And ask me for more, more, more

You like it

I know it

You want, I know it

Your body belongs to me

Such fire that does not stop.

(Translation own)

An instance of things sounding much more romantic in Spanish. It sounds so…bald in English. But I like the song anyway. I’ll just keep it in Spanish in my head, ha ha. Favourite Spanish words of the moment: enredarme and pertenecer. Even better, having Yandel sing it. Uy. *fans self*

If you’d like to listen to the song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zIuoNTHFaAg

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Review: The Departed

Basic plot: Two rats – one a cop working undercover (DiCaprio) and the other a cop working for the ‘mob’ – go head to head, trying to find the identity of the other before he is discovered.

A sign of true artistry is the indelible, distinct mark the artist imprints on a piece of work. It is the thing that separates a Monet from a Renoir, even though both are Impressionists. That indefinable quality that may be imitated, but recognized as an imitation of, or the style of said artist.

Going in blind has its merits; halfway through The Departed, Gangs of New York popped in my head for some reason. And, lo and behold, a quick Net search reveals that it is a Martin Scorsese film.

The Departed very much shows the hand of Scorsese. The piecemeal fashioning of a story, of bits strung together to form a coherent whole. The slickness that coats the grit of the story. The former, that piecemeal fashion, has the advantage of keeping up suspense. What is going to happen next? Which rat will find which first? Then, there is Leonardo DiCaprio. Oh, how I love the man. As Billy Costigan, he’s the perfect alpha male, with ‘vulnerabilities’. The one who whacks the baddies, but makes lurve to a woman. Did you detect a note of sarcasm there? You would be right. And so, we come to the second part – my gripe with the Scorsese style. There is a layer of construction in the movie that makes it so difficult to connect with the story. They had me with Billy Costigan, I wanted him to live, to win. But by the time that is resolved, I mostly wanted to care. Perhaps it is not the Scorsese style. Perhaps it is the curse of Disneyfication – or Hollywoodization, if you prefer.

Potential spoilers ahead:

Or perhaps I am just disgruntled with the ending – I want my romance novel ending with the hero riding off into the sunset with the heroine (or riding the heroine in the sunset). Okay, so that did not happen – but is it too much to ask for the package Costigan gave said love interest to have a significance? Any would be good. Apparently not. I do not like senseless deaths as endings when it serves no narrative purpose. Bang, bang. Dead, dead. The villain wins. I don’t mind villains winning, I just want them to win for good reason.  Instead, I got the feeling the villain won simply because the hero should not in a Scorsese film. Because that would be too cliched, right? In trying to escape a cliched ending, I think The Departed managed to have one.

Oh. And there is some subtext about identities, and being undercover/playing a role and losing the sense of self. Yawn.

Oh well. I should watch Once upon a time in Mumbai again instead.

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Review: Unlocked by Courtney Milan

This is proof that anthologies are great marketing tools for new authors – I had bought a Christmas anthology way back when in order to read a Mary Balogh story but ended up liking an unknown author’s story so much that I sought out her other books. Then, the only published work by Courtney Milan was This Wicked Gift in said anthology. As is often the case, it is only now that I’d gotten back to looking for her other books.

It was worth the wait.

Cherry-picking my way through 6 titles, I bought Unlocked, Unclaimed, Unraveled and Proof by Seduction (further reviews will follow suit, as and when I finish them).  The ‘Un’ books are part of the Turner series, but since I skipped the first one (Unveiled; after a while, it is rather difficult to keep which straight, but nevermind), I cannot go into the whos and whats of the series.

Not that it matters, since Unlocked stands on its own and other than the ‘Un’ in the title and some vague relationship to the Turners.

Uncharacteristic for its genre, Unlocked was more the hero’s story than the heroine’s.The second part of the blurb (from Ms. Milan’s website) is much more illuminating than the first:

“Evan has come to regret his cruel, callow past. At first, he only wants to make up for past wrongs. But when Elaine throws his initial apology in his face, he finds himself wanting more. And this time, what torments him might be love…”

It is Evan’s discovery of self, and attempts to change his past that propels the story forward and, at times, Unlocked seems less a romance as a teen coming of age flick, albeit one that is set in 1840. We have a high school (the ton), the jock/cheerleader who deep down knows that there is more to life than popularity in high school (Evan), the peer who pressures (Lady Cosgrove, Evan’s cousin) and the nerd love interest (Lady Elaine). 
 
It would have been very jarring but for Ms. Milan’s writing. Somehow, she manages to pull all the elements together such that I could suspend that niggling voice in my head that went ‘This is so high school!’ (i.e. modern, not historical) until review-time. For me, the best part of reading Ms. Milan’s work (This Wicked Gift and, more pertinently, Unlocked) is the feeling she imbues her characters. One can thus empathise with her characters – even the more unsavory ones. I say unsavory rather than villains, because she does not have real villains – just very flawed humans acting in understandable ways. To me, this is the real winner. Her heroes and heroines are not perfect unrealistic people (or worse, with unwinning personalities that readers are somehow expected to like). 

I can count the number of times I have actually teared up reading a book (to note: Once and Always by Judith McNaught* and A Precious Jewel by Mary Balogh). This is another.
 
*Okay, so there was that ick-factor with the marital rape scene and psycho Jason. In my defense, I was fifteen. (Am I dating myself or what?)

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Review: Kismat Konnection

(and yes that is how they spelled it! In other words, sic.)

Greatness can be rather tiresome to live with. I admire greatness, but let’s face it, I don’t want to live with, say, Einstein. Likewise with movies – sometimes you just don’t want thought-provoking. I say, bring on ’em masala movies!

Kismat Konnection is as masala as they come. You can predict the ending at the start of the film – and that is a good thing. It is no Aamir Khan movie, but not every movie can be a 3 Idiots, marrying humour with social conscience. Not every movie should be. What is required from a masala film, is generally 1. a good romantic pairing 2. some snappy dialogue 3. good songs 4. eye candy 5. a decent plot with no glaring holes (although the last can be forgiven if either four above surpasses ‘average’). KK has 1 a fairly good relationship between Raj and Priya 2. not so snappy dialogue 3. good songs (Kahin Na Lage Mann and Soniye, especially) 4. Shahid Kapoor and 5. a decent plot – ambitious guy turns superstitious and thinks girl lucky charm.
Say what? Okay, so it does not sound like a decent plot but trust me, it works.

Although, I should also disclose that I am a great Shahid Kapoor fan and…there is this. The way camera pans over Shahid’s buff and bare torso… brain cells fried, I tell ya! Hmm…maybe that was why they put it in the movie in the first five minutes of the movie.

Everyone finished drooling? Okay.

You see, much of this improbable plot hinges on the way that kismat (fate/luck) is perceived by Raj, as opposed to it being an actual determiner of his life. It was that he thought Priya was his lucky charm which drove him to seek her out. Their relationship progresses quite nicely with Raj having his assumptions challenged (isn’t that the way relationships work?). When they finally get together, it is with a sense of satisfaction and a believe that they can make it work – something I find quite lacking is some rom-coms. Also, the character of Raj was wonderfully drawn (Priya’s was less fleshed out – but hey, this is more of Raj’s story than Priya’s), with his angst both realistic and relatable. From being the big man on campus to the realization that he is a nobody in the world of business, his struggle to come to terms with his lack of success is the driving force of the movie, such that he is willing to grasp at the straws of kismet. I totally get that – I think anyone who has ever felt inadequate (who hasn’t?) in life would understand Raj’s impetuses, if not his actions.

So, good fun, nothing great, but who wants greatness all the time?

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Jumping sites

Win a free copy of the print anthology Yule Be Mine Vol. 2!

Am at British Romance Fiction today. Simply leave a comment to enter the draw.

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Review: Archangel’s Blade

I have been rather rubbish at maintaining a blog; to be honest, even in real-life, when I do not have something to say, I tend to remain quiet. With a review/semi-self-interest-promo blog, I suppose I should get over that ‘I’d rather not say anything hang-up’. I haven’t – hence the sporadic reviews.

Moving on. I do have something to review today.

Singh, Nalini. Archangel’s Blade. London: Gollancz, 2011.

Archangel’s Blade marks a departure from the Raphael-Elena romance of the Guild Hunter series. Count me amongst the fans of Ms Singh’s Changeling series (although that charm had worn thin lately) and not of the Guild Hunters. I rather liked Angel’s Pawn but that was pretty much it.

Archangel’s Blade also departs in many ways from the rest of the Guild Hunter series. And, in my opinion, that is a good thing. Most importantly (to my enjoyment of the book) it moves away from the world-building and plot of the earlier books. No more politicking between angels-vampires-demons (phew!). The romance between Dmitri and Honor is at the forefront and centre, and it is hot. It is the mix of steamy and heart-string-pulling that had me picking up book after book of Ms. Singh’s. I am not talking about only sex (although there is quite a bit of it) but of the connection between two people before they jump into bed that is the bedrock of a good romance.

If there is only one quibble….it has to be the ‘bondage’ bits. Lest that turns anyone off, let me assure you, it is vanilla bondage. Sadly. Vanilla bondage also led to some head-scratching; I did not understand its place in the book. I won’t really go into the whole issue of bondage (see here for an excellent discussion; warning: 18+ only), just that it felt a tad contrived and pointless.

All in all, a good, solid romance with a twist (not particularly innovative but well-done) at the end.

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