Saturday, May 7, 2011
You can find the original review here.
Dancing with Venus
by Roscoe James
Buy it Loose-Id
Blues is Jessica Butler’s life. No performer romances the audience better. Unfortunately the audience is the only thing twenty-eight-year-old Jessie is romancing these days. Her life is an endless string of club dates with the occasional male groupie thrown in to stave off complete isolation. Careful to never surrender more than her body, matters of her heart remain a mystery, even to her.
On the outs with her family, she’s been running from gig to gig for over a year. When her little sister’s wedding invitation finds her in Chicago Jessie realizes it’s time to stop running. Unwittingly she starts a pilgrimage that turns the ever elusive matters of her heart into a train wreck.
Marcella Dionysius keeps company with the dead Europeans. Instead of bars and clubs, Marci’s venues are concert halls and recording studios. She’s a world-class cello player, a woman that loves women, and the only daughter of a very powerful man who wants just one thing before he dies. An heir.
Marci is an exotic Greek goddess next to Jessie’s pale, lanky, Midwestern form, and Jessie hates her sister’s best friend immediately. She hates her even more after their first kiss. Because this time running isn’t an option.
Dancing with Venus is one of those books that based on the first few pages, I expected to have issues with. However, this turned out to be one the better reads of this year not only in writing quality but amazing character depth portrayal that I don’t read too often. Roscoe James captured and created a character in Jessie that crawled under my skin and made a home.
At first I had a hard time with Jessie. She’s jaded to the max, going through life with a huge chip on her shoulder. She’s done whatever she could, to the point of being cruel, to piss her mother off at every turn, and she fucks guys she meets at her gigs just to add a notch to her little “pink” book. There’s something really hard about her, and yet, of course we see further on that it’s a cover up for something painful in her past and some deep vulnerability.
Now typically, I start to roll my eyes at the tortured, self destructive character who has a heart of gold really. It’s so stereotypical and kind of boring. Yet, surprisingly, the author took this to a different level and added some real depth to Jessie as a character.
As the story progresses, Jessie learns things about why she acts like she does that shock even her. Things that she completely blocked and forgotten because they were too painful. I felt this was very realistically portrayed and I thought myself that Jessie really had no idea of those things that were haunting her psyche and causing her to act in self destructive ways.
Marci was more of a catalyst character in this story. She’s not as well developed, but in a way, it doesn’t matter because this is more or less Jessie’s story and her growth. What I liked about Marci is that in contrast to Jessie, she’s very stable about what she feels and knows what she wants. She bee-lines it to Jessie and pushes her way into Jessie’s heart, which is something that obviously Jessie needed. She never wavers, even when Jessie goes in and out with her flakiness about what she wants or feels.
There were times in this story that I felt it could easily go the way of the “oh my god I’m a lesbian,” but it never did even though Jessie does freak at first. Jessie finds herself shocked that she likes being with a woman and does fight it on some level, but it goes deeper than the whole fear of what people will think. It touches a deep nerve inside of her that brings up stuff that have to do with who she really is, her core, her security, relationship with her parents, her childhood and so on. I liked this because so many times an initially non gay character that ends up in a gay situation screams that “oh my god I’m a lesbian” is used more as a cheap way to show inner conflict than as part a complex character issue. So kudos to Mr. James for that.
The next issue that almost derailed this story for me was the push-pull thing that goes on quite often as a conflict device. In this case, Jessie opens up to Marci but then freaks and pulls back. Not once, but twice. When they finally get together again half way through the story and again Marci wants some kind of commitment or declaration and acknowledgment of Jessie’s love, Jessie can quite bring herself to it and again, they go on their separate ways.
I was thinking at that point, ugh, really, I hate this back and forth indecisiveness of characters. But then Mr. James took that and didn’t keep it frustrating, but ran in a different and interesting direction. I think it’s very hard to keep a contemporary love story interesting without a side theme like suspense or some other plot device to keep the characters distracted enough to build up tension. But I will say that the story line went in a direction that did that in a way that was able to showcase Jessie’s internal growth and desperate need to get Marci back without pissing me off.
Instead of a constant back and forth, both go on with their lives, especially Jessie who has a booming personal life outside of her love of Marci. But all the while, she’s trying to find and get back with Marci. This puts the focus on the story back into creating enough tension that I was aching for these two to get together again without getting pissed off by the drama of it. By the time they do meet up again, it’s so clear that Jessie will do anything for that love even sacrificing the other most important thing in her life, her music.
For those who are wondering, there isn’t that much sex in this book. Much of the story takes place with both Jessie and Marci being apart, with just enough scenes of them together to establish what they feel and the crisis they go through to end up together. But I liked this. For once in a long time, sex wasn’t thrown in there to show a relationship between the couple at the expense of character development and plot.
And I wasn’t going to mention this because really, it doesn’t matter the sex of the writer. A good story is a good story and this was a well written story. However, something that struck me here was that Mr. James had more insight into a woman’s character than many of the female writers of the same genre I've read. And I dare say, that Jessie as a character does have an edge and vulnerability to her that made her more real for me than many female protagonists that I read in these types of stories.
So, bottom line, I highly recommend this book. While it does have some issues, and maybe some of the story could have been cut in parts where Marci and Jesse are apart and doing their own thing, I’m still left with thoughts of this book in my head and wanting to continue on with the characters, to see how they made out with their HEA. And I was quite impressed with the writing quality
Heat level: 3- there are some, short, somewhat graphically written sex scenes, but they are few and I didn’t find them over the top but more about expressing what the characters feel for each other.
Grade: B+, A-
Posted by LVLM(Leah) at 9:43 AM
I would like to thank Leah and Loving Venus-Loving Mars for their review. As a side note, the follow-up story of how their HEA works out has been started. By the way, this book is available in both electronic format just about everywhere, and in paperback edition (order at your favorite bookstore or from Amazon).
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Back home in Mexico (which is, to the best of my knowledge, somewhere in this world) my nook was set aside while I finished up the stack of paperbacks on my nightstand. Then there were my own books to read on my nook (in pdf which isn’t a very pleasant experience on the nook) just so I could live the moment of reading Roscoe James on Roscoe James’ nook – a real hoot). So end of November rolled around and I was ready to use that b-day gift card my wife had picked up for me while in the states. Lucky me.
So I went out and jumped through all the hoops of on-line shopping, found three books, placed my orders, watched the old gift card shrink, and waited for delivery. And waited, then waited some more. Finally my gift card swelled and I discovered my orders were canceled. After an hour and 50 minutes waiting for customer service to get to me I’m told that their servers are down and it will be a week before I can find out what’s happening.
So let’s make a long story short. After three weeks of buying the same books, calling CS and getting the runaround, and not getting anything to read, we went on vacation for new years. When I got back and the book buying frenzy had ended, the servers were back up, and I didn’t have anything else to do but spend time on the phone, I finally got an answer.
Get this – this is rich. Yes, I can in fact download content to my nook from anyplace with a wifi connection. There’s just one little glitch. I can only purchase from inside the US and Canada. Yep. That’s right. Nook can only buy books when calling from a US or Canada ip. I even got in touch with a friend, gave him my account information, and asked him to go into my B&N account and purchase some titles. Houston, we have a problem. I had in fact visited him in July. Unfortunately it never occurred to me that I should sync my nook with his PC. Cause unless I do that he can’t get into my account.
So I shot a nasty letter off to B&N which they didn’t answer and ordered a Kindle from my home in Mexico. It arrived in 7 days missing the little charger doohickey thing-a-ma-jig. I got the sync cable but no transformer. And there was a little message saying that transformers are not sent to some countries. But… there was a little – tell us what you think e-mail address. So I wrote em and said I had already purchased a book (Nicholas Sparks), had been reading the manual, that I really liked the screen and light weight, but that I felt their no-transformer to some countries was a total fail. I sent it off into the ether not expecting to hear anything in this lifetime. Got a response in 15 minutes. They were sorry to hear I was unhappy. Please go buy one from our store, pay for it, send the order number to this link, and we’ll refund full including shipping.
And guess what? I did and they did.
Night and day. This is why Amazon will rule the world shortly and B&N will be wondering what hit them.
The Kindle still looks dated (to me) with its keyboard at the bottom. I don’t like it. Get rid of it, Amazon. Give me more screen space and don't charge me big bucks for the 9" one. But my Kindle is lighter, page turns much faster, has longer battery life, brighter screen, higher contrast, and sells books anyplace I can connect. All that and real people actually answer their customer feedback e-mails. I know because there was a misspell in the response I received.
Another important observation. The navigation keys on the nook are as stiff as my 80 year old mother's arthritis. The Kindle page turners click and press easily.
In all fairness I don't imagine people living in the states are having much trouble buying books for their nooks. But I bet if they have reason to call customer service they’re sick and tired of the *&&%^ &^$#@#^% music.
Oh, and I have a fairly unused nook with $60 dollars in gift certificates that I'll be throwing off my balcony soon.
Thanks for dropping by.
Friday, May 28, 2010
Jessie stretched and stared at the ceiling. No cracks. No cobwebs. No stained wallpaper. To her right she saw a drooling Marci, mouth open on the pillow in an unflattering gape, still sound asleep. No Jethro. She slid out of bed, got dressed, grabbed one of her sister's big fluffy pink towels from the bathroom, and sneaked out of the bedroom.
In the hallway she heard her mother making noise in the kitchen and ducked into the living room instead. She went out the front door and turned left on the gravel lane in front of the house.
The sun was about where it had been when she'd arrived the day before. She walked past the barn and waved at Larry as the kid drove past to leave.
Her dad came out the door at the side of the barn and waved. Jessie waved back and smiled.
“Don't stay up there long, Jessie. Your mom's making breakfast.”
“I won't, Dad.”
“And be careful.” He wore that exasperated dad look he used to wear when she and Kimmie would go up to the old quarry to swim. She decided no matter how old she got her father would still have that look in reserve somewhere.
Jessie dug in her jeans pocket and waved her cell phone in the air. “I'll call you if I drown.”
Her father didn't see the humor and went back inside the barn shaking his head.
She didn't know what it was about the farm. The country air? The smells? The colors? She'd hardly slept, but she felt great. Refreshed.
Or maybe it was the crowd at Red's?
And she'd had the most erotic dream. Something to do with warm skin and gentle hands. She recalled a supple mouth that kissed like a lover, not some faceless name in her little pink book. Wet lips and a tongue that teased her nipples. She still tingled all over.
The gravel lane turned to a rutted dirt road before it disappeared into a stand of oaks and mulberry trees. The sweet smell reminded her of summers tormenting Kimmie with tales of the one-eyed monster that lived in the woods.
She felt bad about her sister. She even felt bad about her mother. At times. She felt like the black sheep in an otherwise normal family. Sometimes she wanted to run the show back and fix the glitch. Jessie decided there was no point in feeling bad. If she made a list of everything she felt bad about, she'd have a book. And she didn't believe it would be a best seller.
The trees gave way to a sunny open spot, and Jessie stripped. She stepped to the rocky ledge and took a deep breath. Her youth rushed back, and she could hear Kimmie yelling from the water ten feet below.
“Betcha can't catch me,” followed by a giggle. There had always been giggles in Kimmie's life. Sometimes Jessie wanted in on the secret.
She toed the ledge and dived. The water in the old Butler quarry was ice cold and felt great. She came up in the middle of the watering hole and cleared her face. She hadn't felt this good in a long time. Years. She laughed and watched a raccoon wash something at the edge of the water. She rubbed the water out of her face, and when her hand came away red, she rubbed her nose and mouth a second time. She didn't find any blood. She smelled her palm and realized the red smear on her hand was lipstick. She treaded water and stared wide-eyed at her palm.
There was a loud splash at her back, and Jessie, still staring at her palm, swallowed some water. Marci came up laughing a few feet away.
“You sneaked out.” A smiling Marci gulped air and disappeared beneath the water's surface.
Jessie stared openmouthed at the top of the water where Marci disappeared. She rubbed her mouth again and pulled another red smudge from one corner.
“This is great! Beautiful!” Marci was bobbing on the surface smiling at Jessie.
Jessie rolled onto her stomach and swam for the edge. She crawled out of the water and toed her way frantically up the bank to her towel. She ran it across her face and rubbed her mouth hard for good measure. She looked at the smudge on the towel, then looked at Marci still swimming around like some dolphin. She looked down at the towel in her hand and caught sight of her nipple. She rubbed the towel across her nipple, and it came away with another red smudge. Then a vivid snippet came back. Marci's smile in the moonlight that crept around the curtains just before their lips met.
I was drunk. On two beers I got shitfaced…
She knew better.
Marci was drunk. She did…
Another vivid moment lit up in Jessie's mind. Her own hand sliding down the front of Marci's body… A breast was caressed and another kiss stolen. She stared daggers at Marci as the woman came out of the water at the edge of the quarry. Miss World-Class arrived, huffing from the climb.
“I stopped and asked your dad where you'd…” Marci's words trailed off. She studied Jessie's face, then quickly covered herself with her hands as best she could. “You regret it. I knew you would. I should have known better than to let some straight girl—”
Marci stepped around Jessie without answering and started picking up her clothes.
Jessie grabbed Marci's elbow and pulled her up short. “Let some straight girl what? I have absolutely no idea what you're talking about.”
“You don't?” Marci added with a smirk, “Right. You sure did last night.”
Jessie was furious. Furious at her mother. Furious at Short Stuff for asking someone else to be her bridesmaid. Furious at Marci for being world-class and having some edgy challenge in her voice that Jessie couldn't answer. “That's what you say—”
Marci hooked her arm over Jessie's shoulder, trapping Jessie's head with her hand, and she pulled them together. She ground her mouth into Jessie's in some vaudevillian stage kiss of exaggerated bawdiness before shoving them apart.
“I bet you know what I'm talking about now, don't you, Psycho Woman?”
Jessie rubbed her forearm across her mouth and stared, flabbergasted. “What the hell was—”
“You liked it. Come on. Admit it, Jessie. You want another one just like it, don't you?”
Jessie stepped back, her towel slipped, and they stood facing each other almost as naked as the day they were born. “Are you crazy?”
“Like a psycho woman? What do you think, Jessie? Am I?”
She couldn't recall being faced with a situation she didn't know how to handle. How to control. How to manipulate to her advantage. The fact she didn't know how to handle this situation was even more confusing. Her mouth gaped, and she couldn't find a thing to say.
“Forget it, Jessie. Don't worry about it. No big deal.” Marci turned away and pulled her short white shorts on. “Yeah, I'm psycho. Psycho for thinking straight-girl love was more than just some scriptwriter's catchy turn of a phrase.”
Jessie was determined to win this pissing match.
“What? That's the best ya got? You don't even live on the same street as psycho. You don't—”
Marci was on her before she finished saying the words. She pulled Jessie into an impassioned embrace and kissed her unapologetically, full on the mouth. The vaudevillian act was gone. Marci's lips were warm and slippery, her tongue teasing and inviting. Her hands wandered Jessie's naked back until the towel fell away completely. Jessie was so shocked, so absolutely out of sorts, that she didn't react. At least that was how she would recall things later. It didn't matter that she pulled Marci against her body and trapped her with her own arms. It didn't matter that Jessie's tongue danced the same lubricious dance as Marci's. It didn't matter that all of Jessie's senses were focused on how different the experience was from the faceless names. Or how absolutely marvelous kissing Marci was.
With an unbidden sigh the kiss ended. Marci shoved away and sorted out her top to pull it on. Jessie blushed and looked away.
What the hell just happened? And who the hell is this woman that she thinks she can just…
Marci pulled her top down and stuffed her feet into her sandals. When she spoke Jessie didn't detect any challenge. The tough girl was gone. There was something more than a change of pace. There was a distinct change in tone.
“Is that psycho enough for you, Jessie?”
Jessie didn't let up. She couldn't. She pursued Marci the three steps she'd taken away and quipped, “Must not be. Didn't do a thing for me. Was it good for you, sweetie?”
Marci leaned closer, her voice an intimate whisper laced with renewed challenge. “Hell. You loved every second of it. I can smell it on you.”
Jessie was so mad she felt dizzy. “How the fuck—”
Marci didn't let her speak. “You can fool yourself, Jessie. But not me. Not someone who…” Marci leaned even closer, and their lips brushed. “That's right. You can't fool another lesbian. And right now there's nothing you want more than for me to kiss you again.”
Eyes defiant, Jessie stood her ground even as it crumbled beneath her feet.
“Yeah. I thought so.” Marci pulled away and sashayed off. Just as she disappeared into the stand of mulberry trees, she yelled over her shoulder, “You didn't flinch, did you, Psycho Woman? Not an inch. Just now. All I had to do was kiss you again.”
“You could have had me. You could have known what real love is all about. Too bad. Your loss.”
Marci was gone.
Fuck! What the hell just happened?
The only thing Jessie knew for sure was that she'd done it again. Maybe not a boyfriend, but she had done…something she shouldn't have with her sister's friend.
What kind of a freak am I?
Shit! Shit! Shit!
Thanks for dropping by.
Thursday, May 13, 2010
We have a huge amount of black crude spilling into the gulf daily. All day and night long. An ecological disaster of epic proportions. This crude will be washing up on shores all around the gulf. That’s the visible damage. The part we can’t see, the slow creep of death in the gulf waters will take years to play itself out. But I have a question for greater minds than my own.
We’ve seen over the last year or so the scientist’s explanation of how melting ice at our poles, the exposure of dark dirt and rock, will feed on itself and speed up the process. That the melting process will accelerate as more dark color is added to the pristine and constant white color of the poles (and Greenland and Iceland). If we consider the gulf is a rather large closed habitat (slip in and out between Florida, Cuba, and Mexico), that what you dump in there will take a long time to escape (which from an ecological POV is good… a better chance at containment), then what does adding that much black do to the heat absorption qualities of the seawater in the gulf? I have to assume it will raise the gulf water temperature by a degree or three. And if we do that what happens to hurricane season this year? How many class 5’ers do we get?
Am I the only one that sees what mixing that much black with clear ocean green will do in the long run? My thinking is that the heat absorption qualities of the gulf sea water will go up dramatically. Forget about the marine life ingesting the oil. Some marine life is very sensitive to temperature deviation. A few degrees more or less and they die. Simple as that. And you add a billion gallons (which will be surpassed before this is even plugged) of black pigment to the paint bucket the gulf is and the temperature is going to change dramatically. Or so I think. What aren’t the experts considering… or what aren’t they telling us?
But here’s the real question. I saw an article the other day that says we are at the threshold of the tipping point for dramatic climatic change. …threshold of the tipping point. Standing on the edge looking into the abyss. What happens to that conveyer belt of cold and warm water that runs in the Atlantic moving water up to the pole then back down past the gulf that is responsible for maintaining global weather patterns if we drastically change the balance of water temperature in the gulf?
Did BP and Halliburton just push us over the edge into the next global ice age?
Saturday, February 27, 2010
Apple has thrown their hat into the ring. Exactly what ring that is has yet to be seen but they did it in true Apple style. They haven’t really reinvented the wheel with the i-Pad but they have put a new spin on the whole idea of personal computing/media center/light work station/e-reader. Just watching their promo video can be inspiring. And let’s not forget the nook, Sony, or the grand shoulders that Apple wants to climb on top of, the true pioneer in the world of e-readers - the Kindle. There are hosts of other equally worthy entrants in the niche market of electronic reading that I could mention but that’s not really what’s on my mind.
Now that we’ve seen almost (not quite - Microsoft is lurking out there) everyone else’s big ideas do we have anything we want to tell them? What would your idea of the perfect e-reader/anything else be?
Apple definitely hit the mark with look, style, and GUI (graphic user interface). Slick. Nice. Makes you want to tickle it just to hear it laugh. So that would be a good jumping off point along with size. Not too big and not too small. Apple got that right as well. Now give it some serious storage. Maybe a hundred gig’s worth (flash - no hard drives allowed), leave the wifi, dump the 3G. And something they could all do is get rid of the edges. You know, the frame around the screen. I want edge-to-edge workspace. Then make it an i-Pod, give it a built-in cam, a user replaceable battery, and give me twenty-four hours of continuous use.
On-screen navigation for page turning. Rub your thumb or finger just like a book and the page turns. Use an open format for e-books, allow color covers, photographs, and even short films (that ever important author interview) inside the e-books and, most important of all, sell it for three hundred dollars or less.
Yep. Now we’re talking. I’ll take two.
And speaking of two. Have you seen the concept videos for the Microsoft slate that has two screens and actually opens like a book? That is my favorite. That’s something I could really get into.
Thanks for dropping by.
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
As an author I always want to know what my readers think. Recently I ran across an interesting idea and thought I’d give it a try. I’m placing Bastina’s Necklace up for grabs. That’s right. You can get your very own copy of the second in my Galactic League of Planets series absolutely free.
The Galactic League of Planets series is a future fantasy series that involves a little world building, characters from around the galaxy, and some pseudo science fiction. Rocket ships and other world beings.
Okay. Not free. I expect something in return. Well, besides your first born.
I’m giving away four copies to four readers that have blogs and will give the book a serious review. True honest reactions to the book. Like it, hate it, love it, don’t understand it… whatever. All you have to do is write it up and post it on your blog.
So if your interested in a little space romance then be one of the first four to post a comment including the address for your blog space. We can figure out how to get in touch later.
Thanks for dropping in.
Monday, October 5, 2009
I don’t believe this video got enough play time when Orion was released. The book took off and I didn’t drag my home movie out and show it off. What I really like about this vid is the sound. I mixed this track from about forty sound bites, loops, and tracks. The same thing with Bastina’s Necklace and Forever’s Not enough. Anyway, give it a listen. And turn your sound up.
Thanks. And if you’re looking for Year One AP – scroll down.