Welcome to my blog. If you're addicted to books, like I am, then you've come to the right place. I mostly write about books and my experiences reading them. These are very personal book reviews. (If you can even call them book reviews...) I’m a true believer that none of us lives in a vacuum. When you read a book, watch a movie, listen to a song, etc., you absorb that art form into your life experience, and it changes you. But you also change it, because no two people see anything the same way. The way I interpret a novel may be totally different from the way you will. It’s still the same novel, but the meaning for each of us is unique. Once you express that meaning, it changes the art. So these posts are about how these books fit into my life. I’d love to hear how they fit into yours. Please make comment and share your experience.

Monday, August 1, 2011

The “Hotter Than Adam Factor”---HTAF rating explained…

I may quite possibly be the luckiest woman on earth.  There are many reasons I consider myself lucky, but one of the primary ones is because I happen to be married to the most attractive man I’ve ever seen in real life.  I really truly honestly think this.  I thought it the first day that I met him.  I vividly remember thinking:  “Wow.  This is the hottest guy I’ve ever seen---and he’s flirting with ME!?!”  And I still think it to this day.  I assume most people are attracted to their spouses.  But does everyone think their spouse is hotter than all others of the opposite sex?  Because seriously, anytime we’re in a crowd and I look around at the other men, I still think, “Yup, mine’s the hottest.”  Adam doesn’t believe me, of course.  He thinks I’m just trying to flatter him when I tell him.  But it’s true. 
When I’ve told this to other people, they are like, “Oh yeah, what about Brad Pitt?”  Truth is, there are only a few celebrities that come close to being Hotter Than Adam.  Close, but not quite Hotter Than Adam.   To me, the ones that come closest are all just slightly different versions of Adam.  Like Ben Affleck (HTAF 9.75).  He is the brown haired, brown eyed, Oscar-winning, Bostonian version of Adam.  Ricky Martin (HTAF 9.0) is the gay Latino pop star version of Adam.  David Beckham (HTAF 9.95) is the British soccer star version of Adam.  Daniel Craig (HTAF 9.5) is the James Bond version of Adam.  Now you know my type---handsome, clean cut “bad boys,” who are actually nice guys.  [I hope they’re nice guys, anyway—I haven’t actually met any of them…]
But even though Mother Nature has yet to come up with the man who is Hotter Than Adam, I’m afraid there are a few authors who have created characters who ARE Hotter Than Adam.  This is a very finite list, but it does exist.  Mother Nature cannot compete with the imagination of a female author who is creating a fantasy hero/heartthrob. 
Here is my list of characters that are Hotter Than Adam in the order that I met them.
The first one is Jondalar, the pre-historic Cro-Magnon caveman from the Earth’s Children’s series by Jean M. Auel.  I read the first three of these books (The Clan of the Cavebear, The Valley of Horses, The Mammoth Hunters) while I was in high school.  Jondalar is 6’6” tall, with long blond hair.  He is tough and smart, kind and wise and incredibly attractive. [Note to my Dad- You must skip the rest of this paragraph.  I mean it.  If you don’t skip it, you’re never allowed to comment about this to me.  Ever.] Plus, he lives in a matrilineal goddess-worshiping society so he knows how to please a woman.  It is probably safe to say that Jondalar was my first sexual experience.  (No snickers out there---I know most men probably had their first sexual experience within the pages of a stroke book, so hush up.)  Jondalar is a solid 11.5 on the HTAF scale for all of the above reasons.  And you never forget your first. 
As a side note, I don’t know that I would find these books interesting anymore.  I tried picking up #4, The Plains of Passage about 5-10 years ago and I couldn’t get into it.  I must have outgrown them.  The 6th book, the Land of Painted Caves is currently on the bestseller’s list.  Maybe I’ll give them one more try… I did enjoy the characters, and I hate not knowing what happened to them.
My second HTAF character is Carlos Manoso, AKA  “Ranger,” the Cuban-American, ex military special forces, (hence the streetname:  Ranger) bounty hunter, bodyguard, security expert extraordinaire from the Stephanie Plum novels (One for the Money, Two for the Dough, etc.) by Janet Evanovich.  Just under 6’ tall, mocha latte skin, silky black hair, smart, sexy, successful, BUILT and oh my oh my oh my.  Smokin’ hot.  Ranger is dark and mysterious.  He is not the guy you bring home to mother, but he is a nice distraction.  Ranger is a definite 15. 
Another side note.  I’ve outgrown these books, too.  The first few Stephanie Plum novels were fun, silly reads.  Evanovich knows how to write humor amazingly well.  You will laugh out loud at some of the absurd craziness in these books.  But as the numbers get higher, the plots get stupider and her characters never evolve.  I still pick them up for quick brainless reads, but the last 6 or 7 of them have irritated more than entertained me. 
And last but not least… and highest on the HTAF scale is James Alexander Malcolm Mackenzie Fraser, “Jamie,” from the Outlander novels by Diana Gabaldon.  Jamie is an 18th century Scottish Highlander. He is 6’4” tall, with red hair, fair skin and deep blue eyes.  He is built like a warrior and he has the battle scars to prove that it’s not just for show.  He has more than the average career changes, having been a Scottish Lord, a soldier, a military officer, a farmer, a diplomat, an outlaw, a business man, prisoner, horse groom, printer, smuggler, sailor, and much more.  He is smart and educated and tough.  Surprisingly, he was a virgin on his wedding night at the age of 23, and he remains ever faithful and devoted to his equally amazing (twentieth century) wife, Claire.  On the Hotter than Adam factor, Jamie gets a score of 187.  That number might even be a little low.  I could go as high as 287.  Honestly, he is so hot you can find fan websites for him all over the internet in dozens of languages.  There are hundreds and hundreds of You tube videos devoted to him; women all over the world lust after this man. 
So speaking of the whole world lusting after Jamie, I found this fabulous You Tube video with some reader’s image of what she thinks Jamie would look like.  My 6 year old daughter caught me watching it and asked me what it was (She LOVES You Tube).  So of course, I told her he was my boyfriend.  The next day, while she’s playing with the iPod, she pulls up the video and promptly shows it to Adam and says, “This is mommy’s boyfriend.”  Traitor. 

We were all in the kitchen, making our Friday night pizza and Adam gives me this quizzical look, so I shrugged, nodded shamefully and said “Yup.”
Adam leans over Julia’s shoulder, takes a peek at the screen and says “So how high does this one rate on the HTAF scale?” 
HA!  In my wildest dreams I never imagined I’d be having this conversation with my husband. “187,” I replied. 
“187?!  If he’s a 187, what am I?”
“You’re the 10.”
“I’m only a 10?”
“No, no, no , you’re THE 10.  10 is the highest rating there is, with only three fictional exceptions.  I told you about this…”  [Note exasperated tone to hide defensiveness.]
He took the iPod from Julia.  “Let me see that video again.”  After another second he said, “I get it now…he’s definitely a 187.  I’ve even got the hots for this guy.  If he ever comes to life, I’m going to want him.  You’re gonna have to fight me for him.” 
And then we had this pretty ridiculous exchange as if Adam were suddenly going to change teams and leave me for a fictional 18th century Scottish highlander.  The fact that my husband can joke so well about having the hots for my own fictional obsession is one of the many reasons why I still think he’s the hottest guy I’ve ever seen in real life.   And he’s got a really great ass, too.
All of this lusting brings me back to my “Porn for Women” idea that I first mention in my post about Twilight and New Moon by Stephenie Meyer.  While none of the Earth’s Children, Stephanie Plum nor Outlander books are officially categorized as “romance” novels, I do consider them romance-adjacent.   So I feel slightly hypocritical writing about them like this.   My aversion to “romance” novels started many years ago when I realized that most of them were just plain stupid.  And as I mentioned in the previous post, their fictionalized romantic scenes distort reality too much.  Reality starts looking paltry in comparison.  When I read the Outlander books, my reality was so twisted that poor Adam (THE 10 on the HTAF scale) just couldn’t do anything right.  So I still have to pick up those books in small doses.  I’ve only read the first 4 and I’m taking a break from the next ones.  I think fictional character obsessions are like spin class—they make your heart race so fast you think you’re dying and then the book/class is over and you recover.  But the next time you crack the binding or go to class, you’re panting and sweating all over again and wondering what the heck you were thinking submitting yourself to this craziness.  Speaking of which, I have to get to bed, I have Spin class in the morning at 6am…
But before I leave you, let me clarify the HTAF rating a little bit more.  As I mention on the rating key page, Adam will not be a 10 on everyone’s scale. The key is to imagine your “ten” and fit the character to your scale accordingly.  Hotness need not be physical, although that can be part of it.  Just like my Bad Ass Babe Factor, it’s really about a great male character.  Heartthrob maybe, hero maybe, good guy-most-of- the-time are reasons to make the HTAF scale.  But I even consider Prior Phillip in Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth to be a contributor to the HTAF in that book, and he’s a monk, so not physically hot at all…but admirable and clever and pivotal to the story, definitely.  By himself Prior Phillip gets at least an 8.5 on the HTAF scale. 

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