Monday, December 27, 2010

Julie Anne Long "I Kissed An Earl"

Hmm. I was just reading a review for The Native Star where the reviewer said quite elegantly: "It is one of the paradoxes of reviewing books that it is actually harder to do well and fairly when there is nothing conspicuously wrong with a novel you’ve just read." Now you probably know that I'm a Julie Anne Long fan-girl, but I haven't loved every one of her books. This is Violet Redmond's book. She is Miles' little sister. She actually stows away on a ship with a hunky captain who is hunting her brother, Lyon.

And so we combine both my ridiculous love for heroines stowing away on ships and hunky captains and crews who fall in love with her because she's so darn nice and plucky with an author whose hyperbole continues to enthrall me. She writes: "He was unnervingly gentlemanly about turning his back and allowing her to slip into her night rail. He was then unnervingly matter-of-fact about stripping down to nothing as per usual and climbing into bed as though that first eyeful of his nude rugged beauty didn't club the breath from her entirely and prevent her from moving for a few solid seconds."

I was very concerned that Ms. Long would not be able to reconcile Violet's love for her brother and her love for our hero. I should not have worried.

Historical Romance 2010: 5 of 5 slave trading bastards.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Zoe Archer "Rebel"

I really needed to get that ham off the top of my page. And I finished my semester finally on Tuesday! What a relief. I'll let you know when I get my self dug out from underneath the laundry I haven't done in a month.

Since it's that holiday buying time of year I was in Borders with a coupon and well, I did get one or two presents but I couldn't resist celebrating finishing my finals with a new thick book. I couldn't find the first one in the series so I picked up Rebel by Zoe Archer, book three in the Blades of the Rose series. It falls into the romance/fantasy/vaguely steampunky type genres. Although for fantasy fans, it's pretty heavy on romance. There is a quest, and there is action but the action is at a bit of a distance for the most part and the "how do we outsmart them" parts aren't particularly smart. The book really has to stand on the romance aspect.

So, I liked the characters, I liked their relationship and how they arch through their issues. The sex is a bit on the raunchy side, which is fine with me, but in the end, the quest requires this book to go about 80 pages longer than it should have. For the most part the action is good, not great, but good enough to support the character focus. The characters are fun and the tension is good. Just a bit too long.

I will definitely pick up another book in this series, I liked the world she created and the writing was good.

Romance/Fantasy/Paranormal 2010: 4 out of 5 experienced mountain women.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Happy Hanukkah

I just could not resist. Way to go large retailer who shall remain nameless except that they were owned by a guy named Sam and they love to greet people. :)

Happy Hanukkah Friends.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Tracy Anne Warren "Wicked Delights of a Bridal Bed"

Lady Mallory's fiance is killed in battle in Spain. Adam, the Earl of Gresham has loved her forever but as a penniless lord didn't feel he could court her. And when he finally made some money, she got engaged, curses. But now, he's got money, she's lost her fiance and life is good. Well, aside from the fact that Mallory is in deep morning for this nice guy she truly loved.

Actually this book started well, the description of Mallory's grief that is leading her into actual depression, and Adam's gentle attempts to bring her out of it, worked for me. But then Adam's character began to parallel classic abuser patterns in ways that made me more and more uncomfortable. He's not an alpha that struggles to temper his dominance tendencies because he loves her so much, he's a charming manipulator who reveals his dominant needs more and more as he gets more and more control over her life.

The clincher for me was, she likes it. Mostly. Yuck.

I try not to let my feminist sensibilities get in the way of my enjoyment of fantasy literature but this one saw the line and just jumped head first over it. It's not badly written and the sex is fine, but I just can't like a book where I hate the hero and have no respect for the heroine.

Historical Romance 2010: 1 out of 5 dictates from a distant duke. (Okay Earl)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Olivia Gates "To Tame A Sheikh"

I will admit I am not a habitual Harlequin Desire reader and I have a bias against the shorter romance novel formats. But really, this book was terrible. It wasn't badly written if one isn't too picky about repetitive descriptions. But the reliance on all the hackneyed romance conventions, the magical sex that conveys all the protagonists never need to say to each other, the powerful sheikh and the "I've just been waiting for you to make my life meaningful" female character. These two don't have any relationship issues or personal issues to create a character arch. The heroine just needed to get the hero into bed to make him realize what he was missing.

I liked the cultural window dressing (literally mostly about clothes) but the only interesting character in the book was the brother who hates everyone because his first wife screwed him over. He was stereotypical but at least something was going on there other than unbelievable happiness, wealth and beauty. Geese.

Back to school.

Contempory Romance 2010: 1 of 5 fake jewels of state.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Spoiler Warning: Gonna Talk Politics

I generally try to avoid taboo subjects like religion and politics and just stick to threesomes and throbbing members but this just makes me so sad. Here is the Wiscpolitics blog announcement:

U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Middleton, has called Republican Ron Johnson of Oshkosh to concede the race.

"The people of Wisconsin have spoken and I respect their decision," Feingold told a boisterous crowd. "I wished him well as our senator, and I also offered my help and the help of my staff in any transition." Feingold told the supporters gathered at his Middleton party, "Being your senator has been the greatest honor of my life. I've enjoyed working with you and feel we did many good things together and I thank Wisconsin for this great privilege I have received." Feingold said.
"So to all of you in the words of, who else, Bob Dylan, 'But my heart is not weary, it's light and free, I've got nothing but affection for those who have sailed with me.'"
"I hope and I intend to continue to work with all of you in the future as much as possible, so it's on to the next life, it's on to the next battle, it's on to 2012, and it is on to our next adventure. Forward!"

-- By Greg Bump

Love you, Russ.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

More Pictures

Why did no one tell me about Witchblade? Okay, it's a little hooky but really, kick-ass heroine and tormented dark and sexy "hero" What more does one need?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

When did the ideal woman go from this pin up image by Gil Elvgren to these "Best Dressed" in Vogue??

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Suzanne Collins "Mockingjay"

I'm going to try hard not to give away anything about Mockingjay but I'm assuming you've read the first two books so be forewarned (spoiler alert).

In case you haven't read The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, what are you waiting for?! It's a dystopian story about a young girl whose sent to represent her district in the annual Hunger Games where 24 teenagers battle to the death in the arena.

When I read The Hunger Games I was struck by the skill with which the book handled so many different ambiguities. Does she "love" Peeta or Gale, what does "love" mean as it applies to each of them? Where are the moral lines between survival and retaining your humanity? While we condemn the Capitol viewers for their interest in the Hunger Games, isn't the pace and violence and uncertainty one of the things that keeps the reader reading this book? Not only is the book brilliant but it's riveting and you can't help but fall in love with the characters making it readable on many different levels.

Catching Fire was terrific but I think most noteworthy for being, really, a very decent middle book. That's not easy to do either.

Mockingjay completely lives up to this entire series. The brilliance of the first book lies in what it didn't resolve. I worried that in a third book, where you certainly expect things to be resolved, there was no way to not be disappointed. Ms. Collins, I'm impressed. The book effectively and logically ties up a lot of issues, but dives even deeper into war and how one retains one's humanity under impossible circumstances. Wow.

And no. Not gonna tell you which boy. But I will say, both live and so in the end, she does have to choose. :)

Young Adult dystopian novel 2010: 18 of 5 decapitating lizard mutts.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Sadie Callahan "Lone Star Woman"

When I admitted to my kids that I choose this book cause I liked the cover they explained that you really shouldn't judge a book by it's cover because some really good books might have lame covers. Gotta love it.

Lone Star Woman is a book about Jude, the only child of a West Texas ranching dynasty who has spent her entire life making herself ready to inherit the ranch. The only time she rebelled against her father and grandfather was when they choose a fiance for her, and even then she dated him for six months before finally breaking it off. What she somehow fails to know is that there is no way in hell that her Dad and grandfather are going to leave the running of the ranch to her because she's a woman.

Brady just had a bad divorce (shallow cheating wife whose father makes his life hell in the courts) leaving him broke and worried about his nine year old son. He inherits a spread that's all run down that borders the much larger Circle C that Jude lives on. He hires on as a ranch hand to the Circle C and eventually gets offered the general manager job that Jude has been waiting for her whole life.

The writing is a bit clunky. The characters motivations are not always understandable. And the book sort of ends abruptly with a unnecessary near death and rescue. But, if you like the Texan fantasy life and the cowboy fantasy character, it's kind of fun. Not the best book, but definitely not the worst either.

Contemporary Texan Romance 2009: 3 of 5 Stallion Teasers.

PS. Since so many romance covers feature strategically placed swords and such I have to give a shout out for the awesomeness of the "Turquoise circle marks the spot" on this one.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Marjorie Liu "The Fire King"

I was digging around on Alpha Hero's and came across a recommendation for The Fire King and since I had tried a book by Ms. Liu in the past and not been excited about it, I was intrigued.

Okay for you not so into fantasy readers out there, I will admit, the book is about a three thousand year old chimera (offspring of two shape shifters of different breeds) who is awakened when his tomb is discovered. Since his kind have long died off the only person in the world who can communicate with him is a telepathic who when in the presence of a native speaker, can understand and speak any language. Okay, okay, either you can read this genre or you can't. If you can, this is a well crafted story.

Our hero is very Alpha, but humbled by something bad in his past, our heroine is a terrific blend of scared but does what needs to be done in the moment who has also been scarred by life but still retains some trust in the goodness in people (beings, whatever. :)

The story is tight with good pacing of the downtime and the action. The secondary characters are a little distracting as this is clearly a book in a continuing series and furthering the series seems to drive some of the descriptions and plot. But overall, very good fantasy romance with both a terrific hero and a great heroine.

Fantasy Paranormal Romance 2009: 4 of 5 tri-breeds.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Jessica Andersen "Night Keepers"

Flylady would tell me I'm not behind, just jump in where you here goes.

Night Keepers is the first in a series of books about supernatural warriors pledged to defend the world against the coming 2012 apocalypse. Striking-Jaguar, Strike to you and me, is the next King of the Night Keepers but he's only one of ten warriors left because his father made a serious mistake and most of the Night Keepers were wiped out. He is understandably reluctant to take up the royal mantel given the 13th prophecy that only with the King's sacrifice will the Night Keepers succeed. Anna is our tough-as-nails-but-only-on-the-side-of-good cop whose brother is killed by some crazy cult who keeps talking about the end of the world in 2012 (not the Night Keepers in case you haven't read this sort of book before.)

Really, in a lot of ways this book is surprisingly good. The Mayan backdrop is fascinating, the pacing is mostly not frenetic, the hero and heroine are both decent characters, the sex is well done....BUT the internal logic to this world building is quite extensive and as such I really cared whether the resolution made sense. I can say it didn't outright contradict itself but when you build up the entire book to turn on a whether the hero needs to kill the heroine to save the world, you better have a convincing alternative option. I read the resolution passage three times. Very unsatisfactory.

That said, I'll probably read the second one. I might not finish it, if the pattern is the same, but I'll try it. So while this failure was a deal breaker for this book, there is enough promise in the book that I'll give her a second chance.

Paranormal Romance 2008: 2 of 5 blood sacrifices.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Nalini Singh "Archangel's Kiss"

I'm reviewing both Angel's Blood and Archangel's Kiss in this review, so inherent in my review is the recommendation to read Angel's Blood first. They are both terrific books, although I think they succeed more on the romance level than they excel at the paranormal/fantasy level.

Elena Deveraux is a hunter. Vampires are made by angels and governed by them, but when a vampire goes rogue the angels contract a hunter to either capture them or kill them. Elena gets recruited for a mysterious job and her contract is with the Archangel of New York, Raphael. Archangels are so powerful they are inherently feared and Elena knows she'll have all she can do to finish the job and stay alive.

The author does an excellent job of riding the fear/power issue with these two and the climax of the book is surprisingly enjoyable. I was fearful that with the relationship "resolved" the second book would fall into all plot, but again the author masterfully explores the characters struggle to find a balance in their relationship without resorting to simplistic "I won't be controlled" "I must protect you" struggles. On the scale of most awesome integration of sex into the story, these weren't amazing, but they were perfectly adequate in my opinion. The plot of the first book moved along better for me than the second but overall both books were really enjoyable. There are several disturbing evil/torture themes so be warned.

Well written, enjoyable characters, fun world building, really solid books all around.

Paranormal Romance 2010: 4 out of 5 deep deep Quiets.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Alice Munro "Runaway"

It worked. I successfully guilted myself into finally finishing Runaway by leaving it in my "next review" spot for over six months! So obviously a review of the book has to start with the fact that it took me almost a year to finish it. But given my preference for romance and fantasy books aka happy endings, you could probably put most of the blame on me and not on the quality of the book.

Runaway is a collection of short stories. The one that stays with me most completely is the title story about a neighbor who helps a young girl run away. Then there is one near the end that includes some of the more bizarre/tragic plot twists that you typically find in today's novels by Anita Shreve etc. But the brilliance of Munro is that even when she uses a plot framework that would move the story along by itself, she still brilliantly crafts the characters.

Munro hardly ever writes happy stories. She excels at exploring the darker side of humanity. For me, there were a couple stories in the middle of this book that didn't speak to me which exacerbated my difficulty in finishing the book. But she's the kind of writer that makes it easy to blame yourself for not fully engaging with a story.

Short Story Collection 2005: Don't Believe Me?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Kimberly Killion "Highland Dragon"

When your favorite reading genres are romance and fantasy how can you possibly resist a book called Highland Dragon. Can't. I had to try it, even if I was opening it with a physical wince ready to be cracked over the head by the silliness of it.

It started so well; Evil neighboring clan leader is holding off abusing his much abused wife only because she's about to give birth and he's waiting to see if its a boy. Nice neighboring clan leader comes to save her but is killed in the process, his son survives him and steals the baby girl (making sure to confirm that she's not his sister). Nice.

Flash forward eighteen years, stolen baby was left with a smaller neighboring clan to be raised, she's quite a hoyden but before our hero can come collect her to marry her she gets kidnapped and almost sold off at a slave market. Okay.

Hero-son saves her but she's pissed because if he had come a bit sooner to marry her she wouldn't have been kidnapped. Hmm.

It just goes downhill from there. Central problem: silly plot? No, unlikable characters. I really didn't like our heroine and therefore had a hard time believing the hero would either, and the plot/secondary characters just seem to writhe all around like a earthworm trying to find it's way back to my garden dirt.

Historical Romance 2009: 1 of 5 so not any dragons in this book.

Photo Note: Now that's a Highland Dragon! Go Draco!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Courtney Milan "Proof By Seduction"

Why do I enjoy the repressed powerful English lord character so much? Well, let's not make this post all about me. :) I picked up this book at the grocery store not having heard anything about it, so I had low expectations, and they were all exceeded. First Ms. Milan captures that shivery first attraction feeling perfectly, then she dives into relationship exploration for these two that if not entirely realistic, it's terribly engaging and enjoyable.

Jenny is a not very typical well educated but unconnected woman who has found an independent path for herself by telling people's fortunes. Gareth is the Marquis of Blakely who takes his responsibilities very seriously but who uses his cold demeanor to keep from caring about anyone too much.

Really the book is so good. On the scale of things, it spends more time on relationship exploration than some people might like, and it has some plot, but that's definitely not the focus. If you are looking for action, this ain't your book.

Historical Romance 2010: 4.5 of 5 dung beetles.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Megan Hart "Broken"

Megan Hart writes dirty books. True statement. Even my very free thinking girlfriend gets a we're-being-bad smile on her face when I hand her a new one. But Megan Hart does so much more. There's always an exploration of some subject that is just downright interesting, funeral directors in Dirty and in Broken it's the life of a paraplegic. But there's also exploration of the human psyche, often the human sexual psyche, granted, but that's inherently fascinating so count me in.

Our heroine is married to a paraplegic, she works, and on her lunch hour she shares a bench with a guy who, over the last year, has started sharing the stories of his one night stands with her. She fantasizes about being the one he's with. She loves her husband but over the years his depression and guilt over her care of him have done significant damage to their relationship.

Her bench partner is extremely promiscuous. He loves women, enjoys sex, and is giving about his sexual encounters but he feels they only see a possible mate, not a person, so he refuses to engage in a relationship with any of these women.

Which leads me to my tangent of the hour. Promiscuity. Is it possible to have a healthy self image and be promiscuous? Is this an entirely different question for men than for women. Since having children this question has become more than academic to me. Are men promiscuous simply because of evolutionary biology or (as Ms. Hart explores) can there be more to it. Can women be promiscuous simply because they enjoy the pleasures of sex and be otherwise healthy psychologically. Obviously some small percentage of women can be promiscuous and be perfectly well adjusted and certainly men are more prone to promiscuity because of their role in human evolution, but beyond that where do we go.

Thanks Ms. Hart for making me think. Always a bonus when I'm reading a dirty book.

Contemporary Erotica 2007: 4.5 of 5 one night stands.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Jennifer Crusie "Tell Me Lies"

You mom's of school age kids out there will know of what I speak when I say, May Has Hit. I used to think of May as a wonderful spring month of gardening and walking. Maybe hunting for morels and eating a lot of asparagus. But slowly over the last few years the end-of-school-year nature of May has come more and more front and center. Ah, enough excuses.

Tell Me Lies is about Maddie and C.L. and the small town of Frog Point Well, really it's about Maddie. We find Maddie cleaning out her husband's car and finding black lace panties under the seat. Since he cheated on her five years ago, she naturally jumps to certain conclusions and decides she really is going to leave him this time, she's tired of being the good girl in town, and she and her husband haven't loved or liked each other in a while anyway.

C.L. is the only other guy she "dated" in high school. He comes back into town to look into her husband's books as a favor to an old friend and gets thrown into a very strange kerfuffle with Maddie and her husband. Were there funny moments in the book, definitely BUT...there were a few too many moments where Maddie had to be Too Stupid To Live in order to further the plot. The plot really takes over the book and that might have been okay except it just didn't hang together well. And my other big complaint was C.L. He was a card board cut out character par excellence. His interactions with the daughter were the most interesting parts of his character and they were so damn perfect they made me snort. A puppy? Really?

If you aren't expecting much or reading to carefully this one is amusing.

Contemporary Romance 1998: 3 of 5 bags of money.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Sherrilyn Kenyon "Born of Ice"

Um, well the world building in this sci fi is decent. Captain Kell is a smuggler, running medical supplies and food stuffs to planets that need them. He's surrounded by testosterone laden important friends and testosterone laden evil enemies. Alix is the slave daughter of a small time smuggler and abusive father who gets himself executed by some of Kell's evil enemies. When the enemy notices that she looks almost exactly like Kell's former fiancee, she is put into service to spy on Kell as his new ship's engineer, or her sister and mother will be brutally killed.

So, these two fall into bed with each other and Alix feels really bad about having to betray him, and he defends her to his friends because he can tell she's a good person, until he finally finds out she's a spy. After confronting her, and hearing about her mom and sister, she calls herself worthless property and , well, I'll give you the quote:

He saw the humiliation in her eyes as she said that, and while he might be mad at her for what she had done, he didn't want her to hear those haunting voices. "You're not worthless, Alix. But right now, I have to say that I don't like you as much as I did before I found all of this out. I don't appreciate being toyed with or betrayed."

Wow. What a bad-ass.

I actually enjoyed the repartee between the male characters, call me shallow if you want. But when the secondary characters are more enjoyable and interesting than the protagonists, something ain't right. If most of the main character's soul searching were completely removed from the book, it might actually be fun.

Science Fiction Futuristic Romance 2009: 1 out of 5 "balls to the wall."

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Ilona Andrews "Magic Bites"

The first book in the Kate Daniels series, this book is a nice ride. The pacing of the plot is pretty much perfect, just enough action balanced with sleuthing and clues and a little emotional exploration thrown in for good measure. I fall in love with most of Patricia Briggs strong heroines, but Kate I didn't love, I more liked her a lot. Mostly because she's a bit more, well, standoffish. But with a series of books ahead of us, I'm okay with figuring her out over the longer haul.

Just a note: true to Urban Fiction/Fantasy the hero/heroine arch isn't all tied up in a frilly bow at the end. As a matter of fact there isn't much sex in the book at all.

Fantasy Paranormal Magic novel 2007: 4 out of 5 bottles of Boone's Farm Sangria.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Meredith Duran "Written On Your Skin"

This book is overdue at the library and I'm a rule follower so I'm going to stay up late and write the review so I can send it on to the next lucky person on the hold list.

Phineas Granville is an English spy pretending to be an American businessman to bring down a gun smuggling ring in Hong Kong. Mina is the collateral damage, the step daughter of the ring leader. Her step father is abusive and is about to marry her off to someone that makes her skin crawl so she is looking for a way out. She throws herself at Phin and he's astounded by her idiocy but the tables turn when he's poisoned and she's in a position to save his life.

Four or five years later, she has extracted herself and her mother from her stepfather's ruin, and built an amazingly successful cosmetics business in New York. She travels to London with her mother, where her mother is kidnapped by her stepfather who had escaped from prison some time in between.

She turns to Phin for help but he wasn't much of a willing spy, and he has no intention of being dragged back through the mud again.

Nitpick #1: Nice gratitude! Until he decides that she is not an idiot, and she's telling the truth and she's actually really quite frickin' amazing, he doesn't feel very guilty about not wanting to get involved even if she did save his life.

I really, really, liked this book, but I do think overall I liked the heroine better than I liked the hero. And it's nice that the book is good enough in other respects that I get to think about the characters as if they were real people and nitpick their decisions, not because they don't make any sense whatsoever, but because they reveal selfish character flaws that I'm not excited about. In other words, this is a terrific book and if you want to know my other nit-picky issues you have to read it and then we can talk. :)

Historical Romance 2009: 5 of 5 intemperate misses.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Robin McKinley "Sunshine"

Did I say to myself while reading this book, "It's just a classic fantasy quest tale: and really, the angst sections go on a bit too long and her worries about demon blood seem silly." Yes, my logical mind registered these judgments.

And did I think, the vampire thing is sooooo overdone at this point, I'm surprised Robin McKinley would go there (not knowing that this was written in 2003 but still...). Yes, I thought that. So why did this book seem to squirm back toward my hand every time I put it down, like one of Rae's charms in her glove compartment. Why did I carry it with me everywhere just in case I had an extra second? Why did I finish it and sit staring at the cover for ten minutes just luxuriating. Then when I felt the cover was inadequate to the beauty of the book (and this cover is awesome) why did I have to go back over all of their conversations, just to see what I had missed, forgotten, not entirely understood?

Because that's how Robin McKinley gets me every time. Were there problems, yes. But in this book she takes the simple fantasy quest framework and adds something very very important. First she walks us through what it might cost someone to accept their 'special' status as the world saver. Then she lingers after the successful destruction of evil to recognize what it might have cost the warriors. What does it cost someone to even face and recognize that kind of evil, what does it cost someone to learn that they are capable of destroying that evil, not because they are so above it, but because they have some affinity for it. I can leap from this fantasy to Darfur much too easily. That is the mark of an exceptional author.

Fantasy Vampire Novel 2003: 5 out of 5 black silk shirts.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Tessa Dare "The Goddess of the Hunt"

It's hard to be a good book that's read after an amazing book. Hmmm. Lucy is the perpetual little sister to a group of her older brother's friends. She's been madly in love with one of them forever and decides that to finally change her status with the group and gain Toby's attention she must dally with one of them. She picks Jeremy.

This is a cute plot device but to work it has to be a sweet, honest and funny book, like a Julia Quinn.

Then we have Jeremy whose brother died when he was eight, his father was distant even before the tragedy and afterwords his mother falls apart who was the only source of love he had. This is another good basis for character development, emotionally stunted hero, but to work it has to be gut wrenching, which is hard when you've started out on the lighter Julia Quinn path.

Not that the book doesn't work at all, the first half focuses on the lighter sillier self delusions, the second half the more angsty problems of the hero. A lot of the book is very good, well written, likable characters, plot moves along at a good pace. There are just moments when it feels like the dough is stretched too thin. Why does Lucy not explain to Jeremy her tears? What in the hell is up with the Sophia character?

And to be fair, if you've read Meredith Duran, you'll understand my nitpicking when I say, I just finished Duke of Shadows before I read The Goddess of the Hunt. That is a very hard act to follow.

Historical Romance 2009: 4 out of 5 small filthy tenant boys.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Cover Fun

Great link sent to me by a friend on Facebook. Enjoy!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Victoria Alexander "The Princess and the Pea"

Okay, so how do you deconstruct a decent author when they write a not so decent book. The Princess and the Pea is about a Chicago heiress who goes to England to pretend to be looking for a titled husband; get a particular Earl on her hook and then humiliate him by dumping him. (His family turned down a friend of hers.) The two meet each other without being properly introduced so he thinks she is the daughter of a butcher and she thinks he is a penniless inventor of automobiles. They fall in love and he breaks it off because he can't offer her any real commitment since he has to marry to save the family estates and such.

Where did it go wrong for me? He writes her a note and instead of actually reading it, or insisting on finding him to make him explain (she is supposed to be headstrong and impetuous) she is heartbroken and angry at him. She's an intelligent woman, who takes her sense of honor seriously, and she acts like he rudely broke her heart with no rhyme or reason. It's downhill from there, he vacillates between not understanding why she wouldn't be relieved that she's rich and that solves all his responsibility problems to deciding that he will give up the title and go with her to America and screw all the tenants he was so worried about before, then he changes his mind, he really likes his estates after all.

Too long, not enough sex, although I didn't care since I didn't really like these characters and what a strange side story about the parents. Bummer.
Historical Romance 2009: 2 out of 5 missed assignations at the Tour Eiffel.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Sandra Schwab "Castle of the Wolf"

This is my first 'Gothic' romance novel per se. I found it at the library and true to my usual well researched reading habits, liked the cover and title so I took it home. I wanted to like it, and in many ways I did, but it felt like a first novel that needed some editing to tighten it up. I will add the caveat again, that I've not read other Gothic books so there were moments where the 'atmosphere' seemed a bit forced but beyond that....

I really liked the addition of the fairytale tidbits, but there were too many of them. It felt like they were there because the author had the knowledge, not because it furthered the story. Judicious use of them would have worked better. Same basic complaint about how often the heroine notices his large hands. Overall, the story is good, the characters are decently drawn, the castle and black forest setting, how can you not like that, the book just needed about 50 pages less of repetitive observations.

This is an author I would keep my eye on. There is some definite promise here.

Historical Romance 2008: 3.5 of 5 gargoyles watching.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sherry Thomas "Delicious' and "Not Quite A Husband'

I really enjoyed Private Arrangements for it's non traditional twists on the historical romance and it's clever yet tortured characters; so I was eager to read her other books. I wasn't disappointed. Delicious is the story of a master cook who inspires lust with her cooking. I liked the fact that the hero was more developed in this story. Both the hero and heroine are people you wished you knew, who have lost true love and struggle to find a way to bring it back into their lives. Wonderfully written.

When I picked up Not Quite A Husband two days later I was worried I was overindulging but well, that's never stopped me before. Bryony is a woman doctor, Leo is a mathematical genius and an intrepid explorer. But Bryony is brittle and when something goes wrong in their marriage it shatters her. This is the story of their recovery. Again, two wonderful characters who are smart, fully developed and tortured. But what actually improves this book is the addition of some suspenseful plot. Normally I'm complaining about too much plot and not enough character, this book pointed out to me again that it's a balance. A bunch of character and relationship exploration (done well) is great but breaking it up with a little plot made this book rise above the first two.

Overall, Sherry Thomas is terrific. Auto buy for sure.

Historical Romance 2008 Delicious: 4.5 of 5 madeleines. Historical Romance 2009 Not Quite: 5 of 5 emergency cesareans.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Carlos Zafon "The Shadow of the Wind"

I took The Shadow of the Wind out of the library about a month ago, before Nook. In an effort to contain costs associated with effortless instantaneous wireless book buying, I have imposed all sorts of artificial restrictions on myself. If I finish off that romance novel I never finished, I can buy a new nook romance. If I finish this library book I can pop for a $9.99 best seller on nook, etc. The games we play.

Anyway, this book was highly recommended by The Book Smugglers, as well as others so I was excited to be able to read it. It is, as everyone says, beautiful lyric prose that sweeps you into a world of betrayal and love. That said, I had a hard time with the lack of fleshed out characters. Fermin, the young protagonist's side kick is by far the most developed character, his extemporaneous discourses on the female form and on religious practices and institutions are wonderful and kept the book moving. But Daniel was such an observer of the story, you never felt him as a strong character. Even Julian, the mysterious author never inhabits the story in a meaningful way. This book was for me, the ultimate in telling, not showing. Arguably its some of the most beautifully elaborate telling you'll come across but in the end the whole thing dragged.

Let's talk about the women characters for a moment. First, Daniel's mother dies when he is young, leaving his father shrouded in sadness and distance. Then young Daniel falls in love with an older beautiful blind girl. This can't help but end badly but the author decides to have Daniel come upon her in bed with her lover, leaving her as acted upon, not an actor (by addressing his crush with him, etc.) Julian falls in love with Penelope at first sight, they are inexorably drawn to each other, she's no character at all except as an object of love for her governess, her father and then for Julian. Nuria Monfort gets involved in the story when she falls in love with Julian through his books. When she meets Daniel she is physically mesmerizing to him, lies to him, and while she is the most real women character, she gets stabbed brutally for her trouble supporting all these men throughout the story. Finally Daniel ends up with another woman, the love of his life and while I give the author credit for putting her in college, the only independent action she takes is to run away from her father, then she waits for Daniel to find her and rescue her (I really would not have depended on this guy; let's just say his spy skills are not impressive.)

The language of this book, translated from the Spanish, is intricate and amazing, but it didn't make up for the lack of true characters and the plodding length of the book. I'm glad I read it because I think it makes for an interesting discussion and the trope of stories within stories was enjoyable but I will probably be buying two books on my nook as reward because my effort on this one was great. :)

Historical Gothic Novel 2004: 2.5 of 5 eyelid-less eyes. (How would you sleep?)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

More Nookie

Who is that beautiful girl? It must be Nyx, all grown up and ready for college.

Hmm. Today I went to Barnes & Noble to see what the 'extras' are that you get if you go in with your Nook. Confetti did not descend from the ceiling when I walked in, that's for sure. I decided I didn't have enough chutzpa to walk up to the counter and demand coupons, so I read The New York Times, searched for Kristin Cashore's Graceling (no luck, only Fire) and left. Well, I did decide I'm going to force my ten year old to do a book report on Frederick Douglas but other than that, not much excitement.

Don't get me wrong, I love having an e-reader. That part I'm totally sold on, I just think the Nook was a little over hyped. But you're not going to catch me sending it back. :)

Monday, January 4, 2010

Further Nooking Review

Since I don't have a Kindle I can't confirm this, but I would believe that the 'rhythm" of a Nook (i.e. the refresh rate of pages and the timing of hitting buttons so as not to send yourself overshooting the page) is probably slower than the Kindle. I also have it on good authority that said rhythm is incredibly slow if you are used to an iphone or Pre for instance. I find it slow but not annoyingly so. This seems to be the major complaint of most reviewers of the device and I think its a valid one. There is continuing hope that operating system updates will fix this issue, hasn't happened yet.

On the other hand, as a non-touch device user, I'm good with it. I am surprised how much I really do like being able to see the covers of the books on the color screen part of the Nook. I would not have guessed how much that can influence what books I want to purchase. Those evil marketing folks really do control our minds! And one of my major concerns, the cost of mass market paperbacks in the Nook has been a pleasant surprise. I was afraid that all books would be $9.99 which would increase my costs overall (thus requiring the school related justification for this purchase) but I'm finding that romance novels are typically $6.39, sometimes are $6.99 and can be as little as $2.39 etc. (unless they would have come out as trade paperbacks, like Diana Galbaldon's latest is $9.99 and Nora Roberts' new releases can be more).

Personally, being able to instantly buy books feels a lot like when I got my first credit card, very scary. Until I trust myself not to spend my entire 401K on ebooks by May, I'm buying things very slowly and concentrating on downloading samples as a way of slowing myself down, and searching for classics that are free, both for me and for the kids.

Speaking of kids. I have two major quandaries. Normally I would not let them touch a new electronic toy of mine, both for practical reasons ("For God's Sake, don't touch my nook after you have a peanut butter sandwich!!") and because once the 'seal is broken' it's very hard to enforce any limiting rules. But....we took a trip to Chicago over the holiday break and it's pretty nice to just hand them a book in the car that they are especially interested in reading regardless of cool cover or lack thereof, and to not have to turn on a video to keep them from driving me insane. My younger is now reading The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and the older is reading Edgar Allen Poe, both free content, which I'm not sure I could have pulled off without finding it with a modern cover, etc.

Then there is this other major problem of keeping them from switching over to Dirty by Megan Hart while they are in possession of the Nook. Hmm. If any owners out there have hit upon a way to divide up libraries by users, please let me know. I'm pretty sure I have to solve this problem soon or outlaw my Nook from minor use altogether. Perhaps I could send out a plea to developers to solve this problem? :)

Overall, if you haven't taken the plunge, wait. I think Nook and Kindle both have some improvements to make that will make your money go further soon (not to mention the rumors about apple and islate). My experience so far, yeah, it's a bit kludgy but I love it like only a new electronic gadget can be loved. :)