Friday, September 29, 2006

Nora Roberts on the little screen

Has everyone heard about the Lifetime movies being done for four Nora Roberts books? I hadn't. They're doing:

I think all the movies are going to air in February. I'm not thrilled by the idea of Heather Locklear as Reece in Angels Fall. And I don't know who most the rest of those people are, even after looking at their credits on IMDB.

But I'm definitely going to check out Montana Sky. First because I think it's my favorite Roberts book of all time. Maybe partly due to nostalgia, since it was the first of hers I ever read. But I still think it's one of her best. And I LOVE John Corbett. And he's been in some crappy movies, but he's always good. I think he'll make a damn fine Ben McKinnon.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Title: Magic Study
Author: Maria V. Snyder
Published: 2006, Luna
Category: Fantasy
Rating: 9/10

Y'all know how much I was looking forward to this book. After reading Poison Study and loving it, I was completely impatient to start this one. But I tried to keep cool, because I'm always wary of sequels, and especially wary of middle books of trilogies. Strange in-between stories that are so often unsatisfying. And there's nothing worse than being disappointed by a book that didn't live up to your high expectations. But I'm happy to report, that I loved this one just as much as the first. YAY!

At the end of Poison Study, Yelena is exiled from Ixia due to her burgeoning magical abilities. With her magical mentor Irys, Yelena heads south to Sitia to be reunited with the family that she was kidnapped from 14 years previously. She meets her parents and brother, as well as the rest of her clan, who all live in treehouses. [Cool!] The reunion is marred however, by the reactions of her brother, Leif, who is resentful and hostile toward Yelena for reasons she doesn't really understand. Soon Yelena leaves her family and travels to the Citadel, the capital of Sitia, to start her magical training. On the way, she is attacked by a man named Cahil, who claims to be the last living member of the old royal family of Ixia. He thinks Yelena is an Ixian spy and is determined to use Yelena in his quest to retake Ixia.

The plot tears off from there at a high pace, and a lot happens. The action is really nonstop. Yelena must deal with all the strange Sitian customs, her magical training, the distrust of most everyone, and a rogue magician who is killing young girls. It takes all of Yelena's ingenuity, strength and magical abilities to make it through it all. She does has some help from a certain someone who appears with an Ixian diplomatic envoy. The yummy Valek.

Where to start with why I liked this book? Yelena, who was a tough chick in the first book, gets even ass-kickier. She is so independent, and even though she now has friends and family, she still goes her own way and takes charge of any situation. But I do love the way that she and Valek are somehow magically connected and he is able to help her from afar when she needs it. Valek knows how strong she is and lets her take what risks she needs to, but he's always there watching, ready to help.

I thought Yelena's reunion with her family was well done. The varying reactions of everyone seemed very genuine. Yelena's anxiety at meeting them, her parents' relief and wonder, and her brother's guilt and confusion all rang very true to me. I love all the secondary characters--the new ones: Cahil, Moon Man, Esau and Perl, the master magicians, and the horses. And old friends who return from the first book, especially Ari and Janco.

This is the kind of book that as I was reading I made myself read slowly, so that I could savor each page. You know you've got a good book when that happens. :) It's a world that I will enjoy returning to on future re-reads.

And now I can't wait for the third book in the trilogy, Fire Study. It's out sometime next year. *sigh*

Sunday, September 24, 2006

The postman was trying to trick me.

I love it when Amazon ships you books earlier than their on-sale date. I'd pre-ordered Magic Study, the sequel to Poison Study, and was super excited to see that it shipped earlier this week, even though it's not technically on sale until 10/1. Then I was tracking the package online at work on Friday and squeeing a little because it said it had delivered.

And then I got home and it wasn't there. Oh, the disappointment. I got quite snippy with Twin. "But the computer SAYS it's here, it must be here!" And Twin's all, "Well, it's not. Suck it up."

I went downstairs and accosted my landlord. Did you STEAL my Amazon package?? (OK, not really. I was very nice about it, seeing as she has the power evict me. Or maybe not evict me, but at least withhold maintenance and adequate heating.) She didn't have it.

So I went to bed without my new book to read. Next day, I'm waiting for the mailman. He comes and he doesn't leave any package. Now I'm worried. I'm going to have to complain to Amazon and make them resend the books. Do they believe you if you say you never got your package?

In a fit of frenzy, I head back down to the porch. Just to make sure it hadn't magically appeared. And sure enough, there was my little box, hiding behind the deck chairs. Stupid mailman, playing tricks on me! And it had rained overnight and the box was all soggy. I rip it open, thinking "My books, my precious books, they're ruined!!" But that smart Amazon shrinkwraps the books. Thank goodness.

So, anyway, I'm enjoying Magic Study. Finally.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Title: Rapture in Death
Author: J.D. Robb
Published: 1996, Berkley
Category: Romantic Suspense
Rating: 8/10

In Death #4: The One with the Subliminal Messages

Are these books getting better or am I just more invested in the characters, and so liking them more?

What's going on: At the tail end of Eve and Roarke's You honeymoon they discover a young man who has will committed suicide. But the send victim appears to have had no reason to Jennie want to die. Soon three other, seemingly unrelated people happily all kill themselves with no apparent motive. your Eve thinks this is rather fishy and decides to money look into the matter. Could and someone or something all be affecting these people's subconscious your and making them kill books themselves?

Eve is now Mrs. Roarke (though she doesn't go by that name, she's still Dallas, Lieutenant Eve). Peabody becomes Eve's official sidekick.

What's yay: Best one yet! The mystery is less a whodunit, than a how-dunit. It's pretty obvious who the villain is, but we don't know how they're managing it. And the idea of people planting emotions and ideas into your head without you knowing it is completely scary. It would be a horrible violation. Roarke and Eve are properly furious after it's done to Roarke--such a strong emotion is planted in his head, that he actually hurts Eve a little. And I love Roarke's reaction to it: "But the man would pay, Roarke promised himself, for wedging even one instant of fear and distrust into their relationship." Hmmm, he can be scary. In a good way. :)

What's blah: Yeah, I still can't think of anything.

Final thoughts: So often with romantic suspense, I'm annoyed by over-theatrics. But I never have that problem with these books. They're exciting and suspenseful, but Robb never goes crosses the line into over-the-top.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

I don't think we're typical media consumers

According to this interesting article about media trends in PW, on average people spend $97.04 a year on books. And they spend 107 hours per year reading books.

Yeah, I'm definitely not the average person. I wonder how many hours I spent reading last year? 107 hours a year is only 2 hours a week. I might average more like 2 hours a day. Actually, probably more than that once you figure in weekends.

And $97 a year for books? Ha! Though I have instituted a monthly book budget, which I probably won't be able to stick to.

Compare to TV: people spend $306.70 and 1,673 hours per year on the boob tube. *sigh*

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Title: Immortal in Death
Author: J.D. Robb
Published: 1996, Berkley
Category: Romantic Suspense
Rating: 7/10

This is the third In Death book. I'm stealing Samantha's mini-review format for this one. Because, though I am enjoying these books, they are all basically the same.

What's going on: Eve's friend Mavis is suspected in the murder of a model who was trying to market a drug called Immortality, a highly addictive stimulant/beauty-enhancer which also turns out to be a slow-acting poison. Meanwhile, Eve and Roarke's wedding is fast approaching. And Eve finally remembers what happened to her father.

What's Yay: Good plot on this one. Better than #2, imo. Spoiler: It's the one with the dirty cop. I knew he was the bad guy when Peabody says that he told her she had a "jelly belly." Yeah, he's a baddie. We get to see lots more of Peabody, who is great. And Roarke is so understanding about Eve's tragic past.

What's Blah: Yeah, I can't think of anything.

Final thoughts: I love the TV show Bones. Anyone else watch it? It occurred to me while reading this book that I could picture the woman who plays Temperance Brennan as Eve. Very similar characters.

News to me

Today I was wandering around the web wasting time instead of working, and I discovered two things today that made me happy, happy.

Kelley Armstrong's next Otherworld book, No Humans Involved, is due out in May and it's going to be about Jaime Vegas, the necromancer. (*whisper* I see dead people.) Yay! I love Jaime! Only bummer is that she's going into hardcover this time. Boo! She has excerpts up. The prologue is creepy!

They've released a trailer for the movie Eragon, which is out Dec 15. It looks really good. Though a bit darker than I imagined the book. John Malkovich is playing Galbatorix. Whooo! He's eeeeee-vil. And the kid who plays Eragon is a total cutie.

Friday, September 15, 2006

I own Morelli. All of him. Oh, yeah.

Today is my 3-year anniversary at the company I work for. It seems simultaneously like a very long and a very short time. Can I retire yet?

I took a vacation day today to celebrate. It seemed appropriate. But the weather is truly rotten here today. It's been pouring all day. So I've been cozied up with a book. Lovely.

Before I get back to my book, I have to brag because my mom just sent me the entire Stephanie Plum series. See here's a picture of them on my shelves:

Thanks, Marmee!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Title: Breathing Room
Author: Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Published: 2002, Avon
Category: Contemporary Romance
Rating: 5/10

I'm a pretty big fan of Susan Elizabeth Phillips and have read quite a few of her books. I've picked Breathing Room off library and bookstore shelves many times and put it right back after reading the first line of the blurb:
She's Dr. Isabel Favor, America's diva of self-help.
She's a self-help guru. God help me. I don't do psychobabble. I can't watch Oprah or Dr. Phil or any of those people because they annoy the crap out of me. But I was in the mood for SEP and this one was right there on the library shelf, so I decided to give it a shot. I tried to keep an open mind, really I did. But I just couldn't really like it.

Isabel Favor is a famous self-help, what, psychologist I guess. She's got bestselling books and lecture tours and whatnot, but she also has a crooked accountant who has been embezzling and scamming both her and the IRS. So her company is destroyed and she's a laughing stock because she's been preaching on the ways to keep your life organized and hers has just fallen apart. And she's been dumped by her fiance. So she goes to Tuscany for a few months to regroup and decide what exactly she's going to do now. (I bet other people who lose their jobs wish they could just jaunt over to Italy for a couple months. Sheesh.)

In Italy she meets Lorenzo Gage who is an actor, famous for always playing bad guys. The two meet and are attracted to each other, and decide to have a fling. And they think they can keep it cool and just have a fun, physical relationship. Someone should have told them they were in a romance novel. That never works.

There were some things I liked about this book. Phillips always does great dialogue--snappy and funny. I loved the Italian setting. And the characters were interesting and more complex than you sometimes have. But I just found Isabel irritating. One of those people who think they know better than everyone else. About everything.

And the psychobabble was too much for me. Troubled childhood=need to control everything. Troubled childhood=low self-esteem=only able to see himself as a villain. You want your characters to grow and change and discover things about themselves, but this just felt too heavy-handed. Like I was being beaten over the head with the message. And they talked, talked, talked, and I was bored, bored, bored.

I think this is one of those books that people either love or hate. I didn't hate it, but I wasn't sorry to see the end of it.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

For Temeraire fans

From Publisher's Lunch today:

Director Peter Jackson has taken an interest in computer programmer-turned-novelist Naomi Novik's TEMERAIRE series and hopes to develop it for both the screen and computer games. Jackson says, "As I was reading these books, I could see them coming to life in my mind's eye. These are beautifully written novels, not only fresh, original and fast-paced, but full of wonderful characters with real heart.... Téméraire is a terrific meld of two genres that I particularly love - fantasy and historical epic."

Novik says, "Jackson has not yet decided whether he will make one movie or three or if the books can be introduced by other media first. He is using his own funds to option material before approaching any studios with his plans."

I haven't read these books yet, but have heard very good things about them. Here is a story in the Guardian.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Title: Poison Study
Author: Maria V. Snyder
Published: 2005, Luna
Category: Fantasy
Rating: 9/10

I'm having such good luck with books right now! This one was a recommendation from Samantha. Here is a link to her very good review.

This is a really good book. I loved it. *sigh* And it's the first in a trilogy! Oh, how I love a good trilogy.

Yelena is a young woman who's been convicted of murder and sentenced with death. As an alternative to the noose, she is offered the job of food taster to the Commander. He is the leader of the military government which is currently in power in this world, and is very wary of being poisoned to death. Even though she knows that the life expectancy of the food taster is very short, Yelena agrees. She is trained in the various types of poisons and how to identify them by a man named Valek, who is the cheif advisor to the Commander.

I was excitedly telling Twin about the plot of this book. I got to this point and looked at her like, isn't that cool? And she says, "So what, that's it? This girl just tastes the guy's food for poison? Here's dinner. Oh, phew, she's still alive. No poison this time." And I realized that it does sound sort of lame if you put it like that. But it's not at all! Yelena's got many enemies to avoid (including the father of the man she killed, who obviously wants to revenge), burgeoning magical abilities that she doesn't understand and can't control, and an escape plan to put into action.

It's very exciting. I couldn't put it down, and when I finished it I went right onto Amazon and pre-ordered the next book in the series, Magic Study, which is out Oct 1. Squeee!

Yelena is a wonderful character--such a survivor. A kick-ass kind of heroine. She has not had an easy life, but she just keeps going, salvaging whatever she can to keep alive. But she's never annoyingly martyr-ish. She is not infallible, but honestly flawed which is very endearing. Lots of very interesting secondary characters too.

***Slightly spoilerish****

And the love story, while subtle, is so sweet. I love romances where the H/H start out as enemies, or in this case maybe not enemies, but they are at least wary of each other. As they get to know each other, they slowly come to respect and trust the other. And it creeps up on them so slowly that they barely recognize it at first. And I have to say that it was refreshing to read a completely PG book. In these days of racier and racier books, it was a nice change of pace. Now that I think about it, aside from a few violent scenes and the talk of rape, it could have been a YA book.

I've been having such good luck with books, I'm afraid to start anything else. This run of excellent books can't go on. The next one's bound to be a rotter.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Top 20! Err, I mean Top 15!

A while ago, Kristie and Cindy came up with this idea of everyone posting their top 20 romances (top 20 by 20 different authors). I didn't think I could do this at first because I haven't been a hard-core romance reader all that long, but I decided to try. And as of now I've only got 15. And it took me a month to finally getting around to posting them. But finally, here they are.

Now some purists may argue that a few of these are not romances. But in my opinion they are--they all have HEAs and I would say that the love story is the most essential part of the plot.

Top 15
  1. The Blue Castle, L.M. Montgomery
  2. Persuasion, Jane Austen
  3. This Rough Magic, Mary Stewart
  4. Faking It, Jennifer Crusie
  5. Born in Fire, Nora Roberts
  6. Lord of Scoundrels, Loretta Chase
  7. The Nonesuch, Georgette Heyer
  8. The Far Pavilions, M.M. Kaye
  9. Outlander, Diana Gabaldon
  10. Into the Wilderness, Sara Donati
  11. Kathryn in the Court of Six Queens, Anne Merton Abbey
  12. Ain't She Sweet, Susan Elizabeth Philips
  13. A Summer to Remember, Mary Balogh
  14. A Civil Campaign, Lois McMaster Bujold
  15. To Sir Philip, With Love, Julia Quinn

I'm sure this list will change lots in the future. Some will stay (those top three ain't goin' nowhere, that's for sure), and others will fall off. But for now, I'm pretty happy with it.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

You know how some people stay away from books with children? Well, I kind of feel that way about dogs. This occurred to me last night as I was reading a book in which the heroine's dog is poisoned and she actually considers committing suicide. Because she can't live without her dog.

That's just sad.

Shocking confession: I'm not a dog person.

Now admit it, you're all thinking, "Man, she's a heartless bitch." It takes a brave person to admit it. Poor, innocent, kind creatures that they are. I don't care. I like playing with other people's dogs. I think they're cute as long as they're not slobbering on me. I mean look at this picture of the puppy!! (Courtesy of CuteOverload) He's adorable. But I feel an enormous sense of schadenfraude when I see people picking up dog shit in the park, and shouting "COME HERE NOW, ROVER!!" as their dog runs in the opposite direction. Hee hee.

So books in which dogs play a big role don't do much for me. And I really hate it when authors use a character's love of animals as code for this is a really good person. Just because a hero takes care of a dog doesn't mean he's a prince. I'm going to need some other reasons to care about a character.

Now, don't all you dog-lovers hate me. I'm sure your dog is special and wonderful.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Title: Slave to Sensation
Author: Nalini Singh
Published: 2006, Berkley
Paranormal Romance
Rating: 8.5/10

The Ja(y)nes at Dear Author can be happy to know that their viral blogging experiment worked. At least on me. After seeing this everywhere in blogland, I had to pick it up and give it a try. And OMG it was really good!

I was totally surprised because let me count the reasons I shouldn't have liked it:
1)Cheesy title and cover. Twin has been making fun of me all weekend. "Are you a slave to sensation??!!" And I said, "No, but I'm a slave to this book!" Because I could not put it down. Even after the weather turned all beautiful, all I wanted to do was finish it.
2)It's very paranormal-y. Not my favorite category.
3)It has A LOT of sex. And gratuitous sex generally bugs the hell out of me. I mean, if I want erotica, I'll read erotica, thank you very much. Explicit sex scenes in regular novels are just distracting to me. But it worked here because it actually helped move the story along.
4)Hero is a total alpha. Literally, he's the alpha of a pack of panther/humans. Not my favorite kind of hero.

But despite all these things, this book sucked me in and didn't let me go till the very end. The reason is because it is simply a very compelling story.

In this alternate reality, there are three species of humans--regular humans, changelings (people who can change forms into animals), and the Psy. The Psy are like regular humans except that they have special mental abilities, like telepathy or telekinesis. A couple hundred years before the start of the book, the Psy were having trouble with a rampant murder rate among their population. Their solution is to condition children from birth to have no emotions. They don't love, or hate, or feel jealousy, they don't have any feelings at all, even simple things like food preferences. They're just super-efficient robots.

Sascha Duncan is a Psy who believes that she is terribly flawed--though she has been through the normal conditioning, she does feel emotion. Emotions that keep getting more and more overwhelming. She has to hide this from the rest of the Psy because if they find out, they'll send her to this institution where her mind will be cleared and she'll be turned into a vegetable.

She meets Lucas Hunter, the alpha of one of the most powerful changeling packs. He's a panther and rrrowr. Yeah, he's sexy. He is investigating the death of several Changeling women, and suspects that a Psy is the culprit. Sascha agrees to help them. And she's introduced to the world of sensation and feeling. Not only does she fall in love with Lucas, she also begins to understand the support and affection given by a family--something that is alien to most Psy.

I just thought the premise of this was so interesting. The battle between hot-blooded emotion and cold reason. We all feel overwhelmed by emotions sometimes, but what would we be like without them? And what makes us human? Our emotions or our ability to overcome our emotions with intelligent logic? Maybe I'm overthinking this, as it is just a romance novel, but I was rather fascinated by the world that Singh creates.

One minor complaint which is also a spoiler: The identity of the bad guy was obvious. We knew it was a male Psy and we'd only been introduced to one character that fit that description. So duh, maybe it's him! But it did little to spoil the enjoyment.

So I loved this book. I loved seeing Sascha emerge from her cold little shell. The romance was very romantic--star-crossed lovers who don't end up dead at the end. ;) I thought it was really original and very different from anything I'd ever read before. There's a sequel due out in the spring. YAYY!

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Title: Bridal Favors
Author: Connie Brockway
Published: 2002, Dell
Category: Historical Romance
Rating: 8/10

I picked this book up because Rosario has it listed on her sidebar as one of her Best of the Best. And as she seems to have generally very similar book preferences to my own, I thought I'd try it out. And I'm so glad I did.

I didn't give it a perfect score like Rosario did, but I did think it a lovely, delightful book and I might well consider bumping that up on future rereading. It's a book that will become a friend worthy of revisiting. It kept me up very late on Friday night, which is really saying something as I usually act like an 80-year-old woman on Fridays. I don't get enough sleep during the week, so by Friday I'm worn out and I usually fall asleep on the couch around 9:00. It's sad, but true. Takes massive amounts of caffeine or alcohol to keep me alive.

So, Bridal Favors. Set in Victorian England, it tells the story of Evelyn Cummings Whyte and Justin Powell. The two first meet when Evie is 15. She catches Justin emerging from a married woman's room at dawn, and draws the natural conclusions. Justin asks her not to tell anyone and gives her an IOU for future services if she keeps mum. Ten years later, Evie decides to cash in on the IOU. She has taken over her aunt's wedding planning company and needs to use Justin's ancestral home for a fancy society wedding. Justin agrees to let Evie use the house, as it will serve as an excellent cover for one of his espionage missions. Did I mention Justin is a spy? So Justin and Evie end up staying together for a month in the country while she manages the wedding and Justin does his spying thing.

This book is the opposite of the dark, brooding, dramatic romance. I think it's really a comedy more than anything else. From the very beginning I was laughing. When Evie catches Justin emerging at dawn from the married lady's room:
He stood staring down at her a second before raking his hand through his hair. "What the devil am I--Damnation!"
"Probably," Evelyn agreed.
He glanced down, clearly startled.
"Oh," she said caustically, "your comment was rhetorical rather than prophetic."
The characters are delightful. Justin is actually an important spy, but he disguises this fact behind the facade of an idle, useless gentleman. He endures the ridicule and disappointment of his family to be successful in espionage, which is very admirable. Evie is the plain, resourceful type, very confident in her abilities, but also self-conscious about her looks. But there's very little "Oh, poor me" about her, thank goodness. I love this:
But she didn't want to catch a husband. Because, as much as she was realistic about her looks, she was equally realistic about the good qualities that she did own. She was proud of her accomplishments, and she would not marry a man who didn't appreciate them, too.
At the beginning I thought that the spy subplot was really confusing and kind of lame, but it got much better toward the end.

This is my first Brockway, but I'll definitely have to get some more. Apparently she has her first contemporary coming out this winter.