Dreams Made Flesh

When I got home there was a box outside my door — it must be my Christmas gift from my best friend/sister!

I got home exceptionally late today. Or exceptionally early, depending on your point of view. I was supposed to arrive home on the 1st, and ended getting back at 5am on the 2nd. Not having slept, it’s technically still the 1st for me.

Anyway. When I got home there was a box outside my door. A box covered in Amazon Prime stickers.

That’s funny, I thought. I’m not a Prime member. Also I don’t remember ordering anything.

Then it clicked — it must be my Christmas gift from my best friend/sister! I knew she was getting me something via Amazon, and I’d totally forgotten about it during the week+ vacation/down time during the cold from hell at the Ogre’s place.

(By the way, that cold? Still sticking around. I am more than ready to be well, thanks, Universe.)

I hustled inside and put down all my things (I had a lot of things) and excitedly grabbed the box. It was addressed to “Babby van Loon” — definitely from my sister; that’s her special nickname for me.

As I brewed some coffee in my Keurig (mainly to test out if the cups I’d been given for Christmas would work in it — they’re the “we work in most coffee systems” kind, not Keurig-specific ones — and they do) I grabbed a knife and carefully cut the tape on the box. It was difficult, because I was as excited as a…um. Kid on Christmas. (There has to be a better analogy out there somewhere.)

When I pulled away the plastic packaging, what did I find?

Christmas gift from my bff/soul-sister arrived! She knows me so well. <3Only an omnibus edition of one of my most beloved book series — The Black Jewels Trilogy.

I’ve read this trilogy several times. I adored it so much in high school and college that I would constantly lend my copies out to people, just so they could see how amazing it was — then I’d buy a new copy, and the cycle would begin again. Hence why I didn’t have a copy till now, and it was on my wishlist on Amazon.

The Black Jewels Trilogy is one of my biggest inspirations as a writer. When I read The Black Jewels Trilogy, I learned that it was possible to write a matriarchal society in fantasy that wasn’t some anti-feminist screed. (I know there are probably other writers who have done this, and likely before Anne Bishop did. That doesn’t matter, here — what matters is The Black Jewels Trilogy was the first series I read where that was a thing.)

I’ve heard people call The Black Jewels Trilogy “fluffy”, and I’m sorry, but that’s bullshit. There’s romance, and some characters do get to live happily ever after — but this series is dark. There is sacrifice. There is loss. There is some seriously messed up crap going on. There are big stakes. The Black Jewels Trilogy is anything but fluffy.

If I read it again today would I love it as much as I did in high school? I don’t honestly know. I’ve changed a lot as a reader and a writer since the last time I read the books. I’m more critical now, especially of things I love. I’m sure there are lots of problems in The Black Jewels Trilogy.

But honestly, I’m just not interested in deconstructing it and picking it apart. I may do that with other things I’m a fan of, because it’s good to pick apart the things you love — to admit that nothing is perfect, that everything has its problems. That way when you trash the stuff you hate, no one can get on your back for only picking on things you have a loathe-on for. (Or, well, they can — they just won’t have much of a solid foundation on which to base their arguments.)

The Black Jewels Trilogy, however, remains one of my first fandom obsessions, and still one of my favourite book series ever. I read the continuation books as they came out, most recently The Shadow Queen, Shalador’s Lady, and Twilight’s Dawn. I loved them all as much as I remember loving The Black Jewels Trilogy — so perhaps, if I reread the Trilogy today, I would adore it as much as I always did.

I refuse to pick it apart. It’s a solace for me; it’s a comfy blanket. It reminds me that sometimes the broken and the beat down can repair themselves, can win against the forces that try to tear them apart. It reminds me that love prevails.

I’m not pulling at those threads. I’m not pulling that blanket apart.

I’m putting the book in a place of honor on my shelf, and when I have some time to read some fiction this year — I’m pulling it down and reading it again.

Thank you, sister. You knew exactly what I wanted, but more — you knew exactly what I needed. A reminder that the stories I write — the stories inspired so much by The Black Jewelsare important to other people, just as The Black Jewels are important to me.

[Friday reads | fiction] The Girlfriend, by Abigail Barnette

The Girlfriend, by Abigail Barnette (ie, Jenny Trout, my idol), is the sequel to the much-loved The Boss. I was lucky enough to win a copy in the giveaway she held in August. I read the first five chapters before Pirates and Faeries, and now I’m trying to ration myself on the rest of them. When I finished The Boss, I ended up scrolling to the left so hard it excited the ebook-reading app. Then I screamed JENNNNYYYYYYYYYYYYY as if I were Kirk and she Khan.

Want to know a bit more about The Boss? Well, it’s free through Saturday on Kindle, so she’s done a post about it at her site. Here’s a pretty good assessment:

It’s an erotic romance with a kinky Dom billionaire and a twenty-something sub, written specifically to counter all the abusive, non-con stuff in 50 Shades of Grey. I’ve heard it described as The Devil Wears Prada meets The Secretary. I think that’s apt.

It’s erotica, and it’s definitely on my list of favourite sexytimes books. The Girlfriend is just as good, so far, and really really hot. UNF. Also sweet! And funny. Several times while reading it I’ve laughed out loud and the Ogre has been all “What’s so funny?” and I’ll tell him and he’ll just shake his head like he doesn’t understand me and I’m like THAT’S RIGHT YOU DON’T.

Jenny understands me though. And so does Sophie Scaife.

Here’s the official synopsis of The Girlfriend:

Unemployed, blacklisted, and pregnant, Sophie Scaife’s life is totally upside down. Her relationship with publishing magnate Neil Elwood is on the rocks. Her best friend’s career is igniting. And Sophie is afraid she’ll make one of the toughest decisions of her life alone…

When a devastating diagnosis forces Neil to return to London, Sophie throws caution to the wind to follow her heart across the Atlantic. Keeping a scorching D/s affair as red-hot in sickness as it was in health is a challenge, even for two lovers as inventive as Sophie and Neil. But Sophie is more than willing to try anything her Sir commands, and their fantasies of control become a welcome refuge from the daily stress of illness.

While Neil’s wealth and privilege make adjusting to her new situation easier, Sophie finds herself rebuilding her life around an uncertain future. And while both of them face the changes between them head-on, they’re all too aware that their happiness could be fleeting—and Sophie could lose Neil forever.

So I guess you kind of have to read The Boss now, huh?

If you’re looking to pick up some new BDSM erotica to wash the horrible taste of Fifty Shades’ popularity out of your brain, I highly recommend Abigail Barnette’s feminist response to it. (Yes, a BDSM erotic romance where the heroine is a feminist AND a sub. That right there should convince you to pick it up. I mean, if you like erotic romance.)

-Kat

Book Review: The Boss by Abigail Barnette

Full disclosure: I was given an ARC of this book on the condition I would review it.

The Boss is one of those books that I didn’t think I’d get into all that much.

Not because I don’t love Jenny Trout/Abigail Barnette. I do love her. I sort of hero worship her from afar and wish that I could be like her. I love her writing, especially on her blog. (Fun fact: every time I press “j” in the URL bar the first site that autocompletes is her blog.)

Honestly, I’m just not that big a fan of erotic romance. Generally speaking. I’ve enjoyed reading it in the past and I’m sure I’ll enjoy more in the future, but it’s not a genre I really actively seek out, and often it leaves me wanting (or rolling my eyes). Furthermore, I’m not a huge fan of BDSM/kinky erotic romance — not because I’m not kinky. Because I am, and so few BDSM erotica stories are actually hot to me (without being triggering — long story there; not worth getting into).

I was worried because I knew The Boss was a male-dom/fem-sub erotic romance, and — even though I totally trust Barnette’s ability to write an erotic romance that I find hot, as I’d already read Bride of the Wolf a while ago — I’ve been burned before. (Not literally. Few of my partners have gone in for the candle wax thing.)  So I was quite cautious.

I was pleasantly surprised. The Boss was the hottest BDSM erotic romance I’ve ever read. I could not put it down, and not just because the sex was so fucking hot. The plot was compelling and intriguing, and I found myself trying to guess what would happen next (and only being right some of the time). The characters were well-developed and dynamic and they came across very clearly. When the book ended, I scrolled on my iPad so hard that I ended up loading another app. I then screamed out “JENNNNNNNNNYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!like this. I wanted more.

I could hear Neil and Sophie’s voices clearly in my head. I could picture them easily. (Neil was basically Anthony Head, because I find him rawr.) I loved their interactions; they were real and cute and funny and heartbreaking (in a totally good way). Often their relationship reminded me of mine, which made me smile and get all tingly.

While I read The Boss I was completely wrapped up in what happened to the characters. I desperately wanted them all to succeed. (Except the antagonists. I wanted them to be set on fire.) When Neil had a headache, I felt concerned about his health. When Sophie died of mortification, I did too.

The sex scenes were…steamy. And there were a lot of them, but not so much that they superseded the plot — in other words, just the perfect amount for an erotic romance. The amount of BDSM was perfect for me, too — obviously, your mileage will vary, but I personally don’t like the really hardcore ones. I prefer my sex (and scenes thereof) to be more Neapolitan than…um…Rocky Road? Whatever the ice cream equivalent of hardcore BDSM is. Anyway, people often forget that vanilla is a flavour. It is not the absence of flavour.

But that’s a rant for another time.

Basically, if you’re not terribly BDSM inclined, you’ll probably find The Boss very hot, and if you are BDSM inclined and don’t mind less hardcore erotica, then you’ll probably find The Boss very hot.

And if you like romance, you’ll definitely love it.

Bonus? The book passes the Bechdel test. That’s pretty fucking rare for heterosexual erotica or romance. Oh, and Sophie IDs as a feminist. Win.

The Boss is the first in a trilogy. Books 2 and 3 aren’t out yet, but as soon as they are I’ll be grabbing them. I need to see what happens to these characters with whom I’ve fallen so in love.

If it sounds like this book is right up your alley, it’s being released a chapter per week at its own blog. Chapter 18 got released today! (Don’t worry — if you have trouble with a dark background, there are also PDFs of each chapter available.)

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars/would bang.

-Kat

Friday Five, August 26th: Books I Think You Should Pick Up (And Read, Obviously).

Cover of
Cover of Through Wolf’s Eyes (Wolf, Book 1)
  1. Bitten, by Kelley Armstrong. Book #1 of the Women of the Otherworld series. It may get classified as “fluff” or “paranormal romance” but I disagree. I classify it as “Urban Fantasy”. Yes, there’s romance, but jesus h. christ just because the main character is female and she gets some tail (literally, she’s a werewolf) does not make it chick lit or fluff or a romance book. For fuck’s sake.
    Right. Canadian werewolf Elena (so alternatively polite and ragey) has to make the choice between Pack life or pretending to be something she’s not. The rest of the series is worth a read too (though I’m not quite finished; I’ve read up to No Humans Involved and there’s a whole bunch after that, but I plan on catching up at some point).
  2. Glenraven, by Marion Zimmer Bradley and Holly Lisle. I’ve blogged about this book before and how much I love it, and apparently I have read something by Holly Lisle — I just keep forgetting because my brain has classified Glenraven as an MZB book. My bad. (Apologies to Holly Lisle.) Anyway, really good book. Adventure, strange new worlds, romance, magic, best friends…you can’t go wrong, really.
  3. Rhapsody: Child of Blood, by Elizabeth Haydon.  The first in what is supposed to be an 8-book series, though only 6 books are out at this point (no word on the 7th, either, which is depressing). Regardless, it’s worth it to read at least the first trilogy (Rhapsody, Prophecy, and Destiny), if not the bridge (Requiem for the Sun and Elegy for a Lost Star) and the first of the final trilogy (The Assassin King). It’s not that the bridge and sixth book aren’t good — they are, and that’s the problem. There are two more books coming out and they leave you hanging. But you can read the first trilogy by itself and be satisfied; I was until the other books came out.
  4. Stormqueen! by Marion Zimmer Bradley. A standalone novel in the Darkover series, set during the Ages of Chaos. Dorilys Aldaran is the stormqueen, able to call forth devastating lightning and storms from a small age. MZB was a very talented writer though I think her Darkover works get overlooked in favor of The Mists of Avalon. Both are excellent, but one gets more press. So here I am giving Darkover some press.
  5. Through Wolf’s Eyes, by Jane Lindskold. This entire series is very good. Firekeeper is a different sort of heroine and Lindskold’s knowledge of wolves is exemplary. The series is done and I recommend checking it out: 1) Through Wolf’s Eyes, 2) Wolf’s Head, Wolf’s Heart, 3) The Dragon of Despair, 4) Wolf Captured, 5) Wolf Hunting, 6) Wolf’s Blood.

 

Friday Five, August 19th: Books I Think You Should Pick Up (And Read, Obviously).

cover for La Chiripa

  1. Mother Ocean, Daughter Sea (Book #1 of a Witch of Two Suns), by Diana Marcellas. Easily one of my favourite fantasy novels. Brierley is a compelling character and the world is rich and vast. Highly recommended.
  2. La Chiripa, by Kaimana Wolff. This rich novel, set in Todos Santos, Guatemala, gives young people a voice in situations where they are usually ignored. You will sympathize with young Pira as she fights for everything she holds dear.
  3. A Wizard of Earthsea, by Ursula K. LeGuin. An undisputed classic from the First Lady of Fantasy.
  4. Happiness, by Will Ferguson. Winner of the 2002 Leacock Medal for Humour, this book will have you giggling so hard you won’t be able to help but be happy.
  5. Orfe, by Cynthia Voigt. A short read. Poignant retelling of the myth of Orpheus. Heart-wrenching and real.

Friday Five, August 12th: Books I Think You Should Pick Up (And Read, Obviously).

Cover of "Good Omens"
Cover of Good Omens
  1. Bitters, by Kaimana Wolff. “Weeks after Victoria and Elan disappear on a romantic elopement, officers find a small plane at the bottom of Bitterroot Lake—with Victoria in it and no sign of Elan except remnants of the plane’s avionics in a burned-out campfire. Ray Walker, the youngest deputy sheriff in his town’s history, cannot let this case become his only failure–especially after Victoria’s sister pays a call. Meanwhile, the Green Fairy is escorting a new man-about-town to all the best places—and keeping him alive.”
  2. Kushiel’s Dart, by Jacquline Carey. I’ve blogged about the amazing Kushiel’s Legacy series on multiple occasions, but if you want to get into it I recommend starting with this book. It is the first, after all.
  3. Good Omens, by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. This book is a hilarious send-up of all those ridiculous apocalypse books that hit the markets from time to time. Involving an angel and demon who are millennias-old drinking buddies, a misplaced antichrist, and the completely accurate prophecies of a witch named Nutter, this is one novel you do not want to pass by.
  4. Wicked, by Gregory Maguire. A bit depressing, but worth it.
  5. The Mists of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley. A book with a heady sense of myth if there ever was one. Quite good, highly recommended.

Books I Think You Should Pick Up (And Read, Obviously).

Cover for the poetry book "glasstown" by Katje van Loon
Yep, I designed that by myself.

So, I heard about something called The Friday Five, and apparently it’s something you do on your blog each week. There seem to be sites that generate questions for it, but I’ve been told you can also just list five things you want to share.

I’ve decided to do it. As this is the blog of a writer and an avid reader, my topic will be Books I Think You Should Pick Up (And Read, Obviously). This will probably remain the topic for a while, but I will always post the topic as the title for the entry.

  1. The City of Ember, by Jeanne DuPrau. YA literature is not just for young people and The City of Ember is highly enjoyable. (Though, if you plan on seeing the film as well I recommend watching the movie first, so it doesn’t spoil your enjoyment of the book.)
  2. Green Grass, Running Water, by Thomas King. I’ve blogged about this great book before, but I think it bears reiterating that it’s well worth your time to pick up this novel and give it a read. It starts out a bit wonky, as King doesn’t adhere to traditional rules in novel writing, but persevere — it’s worth it.
  3. glasstown, by yours truly. This is my poetry book, and I think a lot of people should pick it up (by which I mean buy it) and read it. Just saying.
  4. The Undomestic Goddess, by Sophie Kinsella. This is a good story about a high-powered lawyer who finds out who she really is in the unlikeliest of places — the kitchen of a rich family. It’s not “chick lit”* because it’s not about how important it is to have a boyfriend — it’s about how important it is to be true to yourself. (The fact that there’s a hot guy involved? Bonus!)
  5. The Fifth Sacred Thing, by Starhawk. Another great book I’ve blogged about. Seriously, pick this up and read it. The film has reached its funding goal on Kickstarter, which means that soon pre-production will begin. I’m sending an email to Starhawk to ask for the chance to audition. So, who knows — you might see me on the silver screen in a few years. 😉 Regardless what happens, read this book. You won’t regret it.

*Coming soon: a rant about the sexism inherent in the very existence of the genre of “chick lit” and how it makes my blood boil.

30 in 30: Day 02 (in which I’m actually pretty serious about The Fifth Sacred Thing)

Day 02 – A book or series you wish more people were reading and talking about

I’ve been putting off writing this post, because I was playing World of Warcraft. (You thought I was going to say something thoughtful or poignant, didn’t you? Silly. You should know by now.)

Truth is, there are a lot of books that I wish more people were reading and talking about — they range from actual literature to my own to feminist theory. The one I settled on is a piece of fiction.

Continue reading “30 in 30: Day 02 (in which I’m actually pretty serious about The Fifth Sacred Thing)”