Archive for the ‘Jane AAR’ Category

Readers Who Write

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

writing Reading and writing come hand in hand. I don’t know many readers who don’t like writing, or writers who don’t like reading. I am certainly a reader, but I hesitate to call myself a writer. I took several creative writing classes in college, and while sometimes my reviews are the only things I can complete, I write frequently.

Many writers have written about writing. Ernest Hemingway has a number of melodramatic lines, my favorite of which is his oft-quoted quip, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” I am not a particularly blood-sweat-and-tears writer. I have no desire to write poetry or prose ripped from my soul; I just want to write something worth reading.


Monday, February 27th, 2012

mobile Six months ago, I left my life in Washington, D.C. and moved to southern Alabama to work at a day center for the homeless. I am doing a one-year service program called the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, and I am halfway done. It’s been different than anything I’ve ever done before. I love what I do, even though it’s draining and I see awful things and hear terrible stories. I love my clients, even if they do things that I find, at best, inadvisable and at worst, appalling.

The Art of Browsing

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

library In mid-August, I joined my fourth library system after I moved to Mobile, AL. Libraries are very important to me – not just on principle, or because I have many family members that work for libraries, but because I rely on them heavily for my reading. Until very recently I was a poor college student; now, I’m a full-time volunteer. Expendable income is not in my vocabulary. I buy very few books new, because I simply can’t afford it.

I used to think that other library systems had decent romance sections. Not great, but they had the big name authors, and every once in a while they had a favorite of mine (usually in downloadable e-book format). The library in my hometown was where I was first introduced to romance, but their Romance section trends towards Women’s Fiction and drugstore aisle books (like Luanne Rice, Debbie Macomber, Danielle Steel, Fern Michaels — none of whom are my cup of tea). But at least they had a Romance section; in London and Washington, DC, my local branches didn’t even have that. In Washington, all the mass-market paperbacks were shoved together on a single bookshelf.

Here in Mobile, I feel like I’m in heaven. My local library is the main branch, and once I found the romance novel section, I have barely ventured past it. It is far more extensive than any I’ve seen outside of a Borders or Barnes and Noble. One of the greatest pleasures I’ve had there is that of browsing.

I don’t particularly enjoy browsing at bookstores, because I know I can’t buy everything I want; I limit myself to the book I’ve been eagerly awaiting that wasn’t available at my library, and that’s it. There is very little experimentation with authors outside of my job as a reviewer – and then once I find a new author I like as a reviewer, they are rarely available at my libraries.


The End of an Era

Monday, July 18th, 2011

hp7 It All Ends. An end of an era. The end of childhood. I’m pretty sure everyone in the industrialized world knows that the final Harry Potter movie came out on Friday (in the U.S.). This is it.

People of all ages have felt the loss, from children who weren’t alive when the first books came out, to retirees. I think, though, that my age group has felt the end more keenly. After all, we are the Harry Potter Generation.

The Seducer and the Seduced

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

doublestandard As a genre, romances have largely moved beyond the “bodice ripper” forced seduction-style stories (despite lingering stereotypes). They still pop up from time to time, but generally now the “she said no, but I know she really means yes” and “her body betrayed her” are ridiculous, sexist, and indicative of rape, not romance.

Gender norms have long dictated that men are insatiable and always willing, while women are more hesitant and require an emotional attachment. There was a double standard: men were allowed to sow their wild oats (whatever that means) and women who behaved similarly were sluts. It’s been this way for centuries, until the past few decades in which society has recognized that, yes, respectable women are allowed to have sex before they get married as men have been doing for centuries, and they can enjoy it, too.

Starting a New Chapter

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

american-university-campus My first review here at AAR was published May 17, 2007 — almost exactly four years ago. When I first started reviewing here, I was finishing up my senior year in high school. My first package of books coincided very closely with my AP tests — what a dilemma! Now, four years and 200 reviews later, is another landmark in my personal life: on Sunday, I graduated cum laude from American University with a degree in International Studies.

Saying that I have a degree in something makes it sound like I know a lot more than I feel that I do. (My roommate assures me that I do, in fact, know more about international studies than the average person – an endorsement of my school if there ever was one.) I’m still not entirely sure what I want to do with myself. I am lucky enough to have plans for the next year, working with the homeless through the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. But after that… who knows?

Getting Out My Red Pen: A Grammar Rant

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

redpen Everyone has pet peeves. Mine are mostly grammatical. Confusing homonyms (your/you’re, they’re/their/there, etc.), overuse of ellipses, and comma splices are all things that make my eyes twitch when I’m reading something, whether it is a Facebook status, article, billboard, or book.
Luckily, published books are generally pretty well edited. A few mistakes may slip through, but they’re minor. As the daughter of a copy editor, I have both an appreciation for correct grammar and spelling, and also an understanding of occasional human error. A typo rarely bothers me. But mistakes en masse? Poorly edited writing can shape my opinion of the work and its author.

You might have heard about Jacqueline Howett, a self-published author who would have remained under the radar, had she not lashed out at a reviewer in a bizarre, profane, and ungrammatical fashion. Authorial professionalism is a topic for another blog; what I found most interesting about this particular review was not its reaction, but the reviewer’s justification for giving The Greek Seaman two stars. The plot and characters actually sound quite interesting. Big Al, the reviewer, called it, “compelling,” “a good story,” and suspenseful. What killed it were the typos and grammatical errors.


Dealbreakers and Spoilers

Monday, February 28th, 2011

Note: This piece contains spoilers for Marrying Daisy Bellamy by Susan Wiggs. Be warned!

notromantic As a reviewer, avoiding spoilers in my assessment of a novel is important. Generally, the rule is that anything that is revealed on the back cover summary or within the first 100 pages of a novel is okay to share; anything past that, would be spoiling the novel. Of course, sometimes it’s the information that occurs after the first 100 pages that make or break a novel. I’ve gotten pretty good at making my allusions to such events vague enough that my criticism (or praise) is clear, but the plot development is not.

Based Upon the Romance Novel By…

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

bluesmoke A week or two ago, while flipping channels, I delightedly discovered that I got the Lifetime Movie Network. I don’t usually watch Lifetime movies, but the particular film playing caught my attention: Nora Roberts’ Blue Smoke.

I’ve heard of the Nora Roberts Lifetime movies, but never had the opportunity to watch them. As my roommate and I — and her confused but game boyfriend — watched the movie, I got really into it. It wasn’t any cinematic masterpiece, but it was decently composed, the male lead was cute, and there were enough fires and explosions to keep us all — roommate’s boyfriend included — interested. (We’ll disregard the ill-advised shirtless carpentry on Bo’s part.)

Pet Peeve of the Moment

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

prefaceUsually I try to make my expositions on annoyances a bit more analytical and open-minded than this, but I’ve got my rant on, and it’s directed at chapter prefaces. You know, those quotes that start every chapter. Usually they’re famous literary quotes, but I’ve also seen fictional journal excerpts, fairy tales, made-up quotes from characters in the book, fashion tips, recipes, and song lyrics.