Monday, October 30, 2006
Author: Tate Hallaway
Published: 2006, Berkley
Category: Paranormal Romance
This is my entry for Angie's TBR challenge for October, which was to read a paranormal romance. I picked it up because I'm always on the lookout for books with witch heroines, but this one didn't do too much for me.
Garnet Lacey is a witch on the run after the rest of her coven is killed by Vatican witch hunters. (Yeah, don't read this book if you're really Catholic.) While trying to save her coven and avenge their deaths, she called an evil magical goddess named Lilith into her body. Lilith is really powerful, but she also takes over Garnet's body and Garnet is unable to stop her sometimes. Garnet meets a really old vampire, Sebastian, who is being hunted by the Vatican because he has a magical potion that creates vampires who can be out in the daytime. But now Lilith wants control of the potion too, so Garnet has to try to figure out a way to keep Sebastian away from the Vatican and keep Lilith under control.
Do you like the cover? No. That cartoon is really bad.
Did you enjoy the book? Yeah, not really. But I think a lot of my dislike was just because of the genre. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I don't get the vampire thing. Sorry for all you ladies who are vampire-crazy. Next time I'm seduced by the popularity of a vampire book, will someone please remind me that I don't like them? Like in this book, Sebastian almost kills a girl because a Hunger comes upon him. And Garnet decides that this is a bad idea and she doesn't want to see him anymore. And then in the next scene she just completely changes her mind for NO apparent reason. Sure, he might luuuurve me, but then he might rip my throat out. Great!
Was the author new to you and would you read something by this author again? New to me, and I won't be reading anything else by her unless she moves away from vamps.
Are you keeping it or passing it on? Passing it on.
Saturday, October 28, 2006
So, I will try. Let's see--five things I know to be true:
1. As long as I have to use a laundromat, I will never be able to force myself to do my laundry until every piece of clothing in my wardrobe is dirty. Don't know why, but this of all domestic tasks is the worst for me.
2. Nearly every time I go to the dentist I will have a cavity. "Just a small one!" the dentist says all jolly-like. Umm, I don't care if it's small, its remedy will still involve novicaine, drilling, and an exorbitant fee 20% of which I will have to pay. (Thank God for insurance.) No matter that I am religious about brushing/flossing/mouth washing. Oh no. 'Tis faulty genes, methinks. *Shakes fist at parents.*
3. Thinking is best done while walking. I love walking and hiking, which is a good thing as I am only too happy to pass on all other forms of exercise. If I have a problem to figure out or something to mull over, I always come up with a better solution if I take a walk.
4. I'm a pressure crier. Sad movies don't make me cry. Not even Hallmark commercials. Ditto sad books (usually, though I can think of a couple). But put me in a situation where I have to defend myself against an antagonistic person, and I will tear up. It sucks.
5. Calvin and Hobbes was the greatest cartoon ever. I still miss it.
I'm not tagging anyone specifically, but if you haven't done it, consider yourself tagged. :)
Friday, October 27, 2006
Author: Anne Stuart
Published: 1997, Zebra
Category: Historical Romance
My first Anne Stuart! I have been wanting to read her for a while now, and got this one because it was on Cindy's (Anne Stuart's
top 20 list. OMG!! Thanks, Cindy! Because I loved this book soooo much. I have been in a little reading slump lately. I read all these romances, and so many are just so average, or fine, or meh. I get frustrated and think, why am I so hooked on this genre when it's all crap? Then I read a book like this (well-written, funny, smart, deliciously romantic) and it restores my faith. And the world makes sense again. :)
The setting is medieval England. Alys and Claire are two illegimate half-sisters of Richard the Fair, a high ranked Englishman only a few steps removed from the throne. Claire is the younger beauty, Alys is older, plainer, and smarter. Richard has brought the sisters from the convent where they have been living because he plans to marry one of them off to Simon of Navarre. Simon is believed by most people to be an evil magician. In fact, he is simply an herbalist/healer who has cultivated this fear people have of him to give himself power over them. He chooses to wed Alys, intrigued by her intelligence. Alys is afraid of Simon, but she is determined to marry him, first to save Claire from him, and then because she finds herself strangely drawn to him.
Stuart is known and loved for her dark, dark, brooding heroes. I, myself, do not usually get the dark hero thing. I like my men nice. But Simon is a f*ing fantastic character! He is jaded and thinks that humanity is a pathetic lot. He may not think he has a conscience anymore, but we, and Alys, see that there is still good in him. Alys is great too. She's so smart, but never pushy or annoying. She's such a curious mixture of brave and scared, which is very endearing. And Richard is such a disgustingly awful, wonderful villain!
Definitely going on the keeper shelf! I finished it and immediately started flipping back to reread parts I especially liked. My favorite scenes: the one on the battlements, in the rain. Uh, yeah! And when Alys is in the prison/carriage thingie and Simon creeps up in the night. *SWOON!!*
So I need more Stuart recs!! Give 'em to me, peepz. I was at the bookstore today and wanted to buy one, but they only had Cold as Ice and I want another historical. Are any of her historicals even in print still? Mailyn, which is the one you like best? Rose... something?
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
Author: Maureen McKade
Published: 2006, Berkley
Category: Historical Fiction - Western
Going camping last week put me in the mood for a rustic story. Lol. So I picked up this western. People seemed excited that a new western was actually being published, and it was getting pretty good reviews. I thought it was nice, but, well, pretty meh.
The setting is the south right after the Civil War. Laurel Covey is a war widow who was a nurse through the war. Whenever a soldier died on her watch, she wrote down his last words. Now that the war is over, she's vowed to visit all those soldiers' families to deliver their final messages. On the way, she meets Creede Forrester, who is the father of one of her patients who died. Laurel is mentally scarred from all the horrific things she saw nursing, and has a great deal of guilt over not being able to save everyone. Creede is dealing with his grief over his dead son. Together they travel through the south delivering messages.
This was just...fine. Nice enough. I thought Laurel's fears about her mental stability were interesting and realistic. I can only imagine what nursing on a battlefield would do to one's psyche. The love story was sweet.
But it just didn't really grab me. I found myself not caring all that much about the characters. And the writing did not seem very inspired to me. Too often falling back on tired and overused phrases. Maybe I'm being too harsh. I did think it a nice story. And the cover is so pretty! ;p
Sunday, October 22, 2006
For those of you who don't know I work in the production department of a book publisher. This means I deal with all the many (many, many!) details in the manufacture of books (their physical selves). Printers and paper and scheduling. We also keep track of the profitability of books once the manufacturing costs have been taken into account. For example, an editor may come to us and say, look I have this great book I want to publish and the author wants it to be full-color throughout, but we only want to charge $12. And the sales department says, well we could maybe sell 10,000 copies of a book like that. So I figure out how much that book would cost to print and run a profit & loss statement. This estimates how much profit the book would probably make. Then I tell the editor the bad news that the beautiful color book he wants to create would end up losing the company money. And we try creative suggestions, like how about a regular one-color book with an 8-page color insert? That would make money. Or how about using this cheaper paper? Or a lower page count, or smaller trim size. Or raise the price.
I like to think my job is important (haha!). Obviously the quality of the writing is what ultimately makes a book successful. But the aesthetics of what the book looks like has a pretty large part in bringing it to people's attention. I love gorgeous books (like Eragon above). Quality paper that you want to pet. Nice interior design that's readable and attractive. And maybe most importantly, pretty covers with foil and nice illustrations. Romance readers are forever lamenting the fugly covers so many books get, with good reason. What a book looks like matters a lot--booklovers like to be surrounded by pretty books.
One of the things I enjoyed learning when I first starting working was all the vocabulary of books. (Yes, I am a dork, shut up.) So I decided to share a bit of this with you all. Plus Twin has been trying to teach me to use Photoshop, and this was good practice. If anyone is interested...
A hardcover or casebound book:
Hardcovers have jackets (paperbacks have covers). The case is the hard covering of the book. Cases used to be covered in cloth, and were sometimes called cloth-bound, but cases are almost always just covered in paper nowadays. The papers that are pasted to the inside of the case and run onto the first sheet of the book are the endpapers. Endpapers are usually a solid color. You can see above that Eragon has printed endpapers (special illustrations that go with the book, in this case a map of Alagaesia). Printed endpapers are pretty expensive, so they're only done for books with big print runs. The headband is the little thing that looks like a tiny rope that is glued to the top of the spine. It's completely ornamental, has no function whatsoever.
A trade paperback book:
So, like I said, paperbacks have covers. Jackets and covers can have lots of fancy special effects: lamination, embossing, and foil. Lamination is the coating put on the cover/jacket. The lamination can be matte or glossy, and a lot of books are spot gloss, where most of the cover is matte, with some bits glossy. Embossing is when the cover is stamped, so that little bits of the cover bulge out. Debossing is when the cover is stamped so that little bits bulge in (in concave depressions). Foil is, well, obviously it's foil. It's shiny, see. Special effects make covers quite a bit more expensive, so again, the big books get them, and they're sometimes dropped for reprints.
This copy of Montana Sky is what we would call a premium trade paperback. When publishers put out fancy editions of previously published, popular books, and charge more for them. ;) Premium trade paperbacks are bigger and have nicer paper. They often have french flaps on the cover. And the front edge of the text paper isn't trimmed smooth, leaving a rough front. For some reason, rough front looks more classy.
A mass-market book:
Lots of mass-market books (and occasionally a trade paperback) have a glossy first page with an illustration. (In romance, usually with the mullet man and half-naked chick embracing passionately.) This is called a stepback or tip-in. Covers are sometimes die-cut--have bits cut out of them, through which you can see parts of the stepback.
There's lots of vocabulary for parts of the printed page of a book. Right-facing pages are rectos (and are always odd-numbered). Left-facing pages are versos (and are always even-numbered). Running heads are the lines that repeat at the top of each page, usually the author's name on versos and the book title on rectos. Running heads can occasionally appear at the bottom of the page, in which case they're called running feet. The page numbers are called folios. Often on chapter openers, the folio is placed at the bottom of the page and is called a drop folio. If the folio occurs at the bottom of each page throughout the book, it's called a foot folio. The gutter is where the page drops down into the binding. The fore edge is the outer edge of the printed text block, usually trimmed smooth.
So that's most of the basic vocabulary I can think of. This has turned into the Very Long Post. If anyone is still reading, bravo. ;p
Saturday, October 21, 2006
Author: Sharon Shinn
Published: 1997, Ace
I was inspired by Dear Author's Sharon Shinn week to give this new-to-me author a try. The Ja(y)nes and Janine described Shinn as fantasy with a strong romantic element, which is the kind of fantasy I like best. Janine gave Archangel an A. Rosario just gave it an A+. I didn't love it quite as much as them, but it was good.
The world of Samaria is made up of humans and angels. The angels are not really the celestial beings we think of. They are more like regular humans who are able to pray to the god, Jovah, to grant favors (and they have wings and can fly). The angels are led by the Archangel, an angel who rules for twenty years and who is chosen by Jovah. (Jovah's decisions are communicated to the angels through his oracles.) The archangel must also have his angelica, a wife who helps him. At the start of this book, Gabriel is about to ascend to archangel. But first he needs to find his angelica. He goes to the oracle who tells him that his mate is named Rachel. Gabriel goes to find her, and discovers that she is not the noble-born woman he was expecting, but rather a slave. Gabriel takes Rachel back to his home of the Eyrie, a mountain-top retreat of angels. But Rachel sees this as just another sort of prison, and has no wish to love Gabriel or help the angels.
So poor Gabriel has a stubborn wife who won't go along with anything he says and he discovers that the current archangel, Raphael, has decided he doesn't want to give up the power of his position. He will do anything, including killing Rachel, to secure his power. But he has also been corrupted to the point that he does not even believe in the god anymore, and abuses his power by giving favors to the rich, while ignoring the poor downtrodden.
This is a very original, very interesting story. The world Shinn creates is fascinating. The book is just a great big fat rich thing, full to the brim with detailed characters and settings. The writing I thought was just beautiful. I liked this line near the end, when Rachel is finally free to make her own decisions, but seems unable to do so: "It was as if every strand of her life lay scattered before her like so many threads awaiting the weaver's skill, but she could not lift her hands and work them into a design." The characters all have personalities and motivations that are complex but never inconsistent.
So why didn't I love it? Well, Rachel is really not an easy character to like. She is contrary and stubborn and difficult. The kind of character you want to shake and scream at. She has been rescued from slavery by an angel. She is the chosen mate of the leader of the world. Does she see this as an opportunity to help people? No, at least not at first. She's whiney. And irritating.
Also the whole predestined lovers thing never really works for me. What can I say? I like my characters to have a bit more free will in choosing who they love.
And the religion, which pervades every line of this book, made me a little uncomfortable. Rosario mentioned that she tried to ignore any parallels that could be drawn between this religion and the organized religions of our world. And I did the same thing. For one thing, as a pretty much areligious person myself, I am shamefully ignorant of biblical stories. I wish that Shinn had not given all her characters biblical names.
That said, the Samarian religion was interesting. I like the idea of a religion based not on good and evil, but rather on harmony and equality. The god is portrayed as a pretty much unfeeling being, who won't go out of his way to help people unless he's asked to by the angels.
I bet the Pope wishes he could make a display of God's power the way Raphael called down Jovah's power. I bet that would help church attendance. Yeah, just smite all the unbelievers with a lightning bolt. But this episode in the book bothered me. It takes all the mysticism out of religious faith. And can belief in a god after incontrovertible proof of his existence even be called faith? Isn't faith by its very definition belief in something that can not be proved? Okay I've gone off on a tangent. And this book did inspire a lot of thought on my part, so maybe that means it was a really good book!
Anyway, I do want to try more Shinn, but I'm not sure I can take more Samaria. I think she has books set outside this world, so I might try one of those next.
OH and I forgot. Can someone explain to me why this was published as a science fiction novel? And the blurb on the front page: "Generations later, the armed starship Jehovah still looms over the planet of Samaria, programmed to unleash its arsenal if peace is not sustained..."
Umm. What? DUDE, there are NO spaceships in this book. It's straight fantasy. Old-world type setting. WTF?
Hope everyone else is enjoying their weekend!
Friday, October 20, 2006
I was going to blog about Archangel tonight. But I really can't summon up the energy to do it justice. This weekend I will actually write a review or two.
In the meantime, check out this beautiful book--it's all photographs of fantastic libraries! Dance Chica was just talking about the library in Beauty and the Beast (the Disney movie). But these are almost as good!
Oooh, I'm mesmerized...
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
The weather was gorgeous during the day--bright and sunshiney. But it was frigid at night! Oh, I went to sleep with many, many layers on. We went hiking and saw the lighthouse at Montauk Point. And we wandered through a couple little towns in the Hamptons to see how the better half live. (I'd live there if I had a couple million $).
Twin took some very pretty pictures and made a Flicker set here.
Friday, October 13, 2006
To beautiful Montauk! I've never been on Long Island before, but I've heard it's gorgeous. And look at that picture! My dad is coming up to take Twin and me camping for the weekend. YAY!
Of course, the weather has suddenly decided to get serious about fall, so we might freeze our little tooshies off. But I've packed lots of fleece so I should survive. Julie is sure to take pics so I'll post some when I get home.
Have a good weekend everyone!!!
Author: Susanna Kearsley
Published: 1999, Jove
Category: Romantic Suspense
This author caught my eye on Rosario's blog because she compares her books to Barbara Michaels (who I've never read, but I've read her Elizabeth Peters books and liked them) and Mary Stewart, who is the GODDESS of the classic, old-fashioned romantic suspense novel and one of my favorite authors of all time. And it's set on an archaeological dig and I love archaeology, so I was completely sold on getting this book.
Verity Grey is a curator and archaeological artifacts supervisor. She is hired to work on a site in Scotland which the head archaeologist, Peter Quinnell, believes to be where the mysterious 9th Roman legion met their demise. This would be a find of some importance, so Verity is of course very interested. But when she arrives there, she finds out that Peter is basing his hypothesis on the fact that a psychic 10-year-old sees the ghost of a Roman legion pacing the fields there. At first Verity doesn't believe it--but soon she starts seeing things she can't explain.
This is every archaeologist's dream! To be able to communicate with an inhabitant of the site you're excavating? To know the name of the person who wore the artifact you uncover, to know exactly what happened to that person and how they felt? AWESOME! Figuring out the stories of the real, everyday people who lived in the past is what always interested me most about archaeology and this book really captures that. And all the archaeological details were handled well and were so interesting (to me, anyway!).
It did feel a lot like a Mary Stewart book (not quite as good, but close which is saying a lot as I love ALL Stewart books). Mary Stewart never did any ghost stories, but the tone of the writing I thought very similar. There's a slightly old-fashioned feeling to it, and I mean that in a good way. The ghost story was just a little creepy without being too scary. The love story is subtle but so sweet. Kearsley is of the implied sex scene school of writers. You know, they go into the bedroom together and they look into each other's eyes and smile and the chapter ends. Then the next day they feel just fabulous. *wink, wink*
There were a couple of tiny rough bits in this (like the part with Fabia at the end I thought was way abrupt and odd), but I can easily overlook them because I so liked the story and characters. It makes me sad that this book has gone out of print because it's really lovely.
My library has one Kearsley book still in circulation, Season of Storms, so I've requested that. I'm going to have to try to find used copies of her other books.
I also picked up a Barbara Michaels book to try. Does anyone know if her books have any romance in them? Or are they straight ghost stories/mysteries?
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
I'm sorry, but that's about the most ass-backwards way to arrange books that there can be. Am I right? No true booklover would do it.
But Julie is a designer. She has an eye for shapes and color which I completely lack. She stole all my artsy genes in the womb. So here's a picture of the TBR now. It is pretty, isn't it?
To retaliate I may have to move things around in her crafting corner. Should I rearrange all her fabric? They shouldn't be by color! Surely there's a "better" way. Hmmm, I will have to consider how to best disrupt her organization. Mee hee.
Author: Susan Wittig Albert
Published: 2005, Berkley
Category: Cozy Mystery
Y'all are going to laugh at me when I tell you that I read and liked this book. See all those teacups? Yeah, this is about the coziest cozy mystery I've ever encountered. I don't read cozy mysteries very often, seeing as they usually bore me to tears. But my usual type of book was not at all appealing to me this week, so I thought something totally different might be good. And I'm always on the lookout of grandma-appropriate books. (My grandma turns 91 in a couple weeks, but she's sharp as a tack and is always asking for new books. Problem is, she would be COMPLETELY appalled by 99% of what I read.)
This is the third book in Albert's series, The Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter. The author has taken the basic facts of Beatrix Potter's life (you know, the author/illustrator of the Peter Rabbit books) and made her into a character. Set in 1907, the book is all about Beatrix's little farm in the country, and her little friends, and her little farm animals, and her little village. And it's just so ADORABLE!!! The cats and dogs talk to each other, and the attic mice dress in little clothes, and Beatrix goes fairy hunting with the local children.
Okay, maybe it would make some people (maybe a lot of people) completely gak, but I was charmed by it.
I think what I liked most were all the descriptions of setting. They were just lovely. I would look up an example for you, but I'm too lazy. Suffice it to say, I wanted to move to this little village and get me some sheep to raise. She really does capture a lot of the charming whimsy of Beatrix Potter's books. And everyone has to love Peter Rabbit.
Sunday, October 08, 2006
Now look at it! Lots of good stuff here though.
I've been having trouble getting into a book this week. You'd think with this huge pile, I'd be able to find one that fit my mood. I was trying to read The Gladiator's Honor and it just wasn't happening. I hate that, because I really wanted to like that book. The writing just seemed so unremarkable, so blah. I might go back to it. I mean, it's a romance set in ancient Rome! It should be interesting, right?
I also just picked up a new pair of glasses. They're a slightly different prescription, so now everything looks really funny and my depth perception is off. People who wear glasses know what I'm talking about. Tricky. I know my eyes will adjust soon, but it feels so weird. I really like the frames I got--they're regular brown tortoiseshell on the outside, but inside they have this crazy leopard print. Hee hee!
Saturday, October 07, 2006
My second class is "Grammar for Publishing Professionals" and I will admit that I'm a total dork and super excited about this class. For one thing, the instructor has been teaching the class for 10 years and is fantastic. We're going to learn about the subjunctive and restrictive clauses and dangling participles and other fun things. Who wouldn't be excited about that?? I've just been to B&N to pick up the books I'll need:
And of course I couldn't leave the bookstore without buying something fun, so I picked up The Smoke Theif by Shana Abe. I'm a sucker for romantic fantasy and the pretty gold-foiled cover caught my eye.
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
Author: Suzanne Brockman
Published: 1999, Ballantine
Category: Contemporary Romance
I somehow had the impression that all of Suzanne Brockmann's books were romantic suspense. Not sure how that happened. I ordered this one on recommendation without reading any blurbs or anything. I cracked it open because I was in the mood for a little thriller. Uh, oopsie. Maybe I should read the blurb first next time. But look at that cover! That screams romantic suspense. And the tagline: "Falling in love is risky business..." But this is just a romance. No suspense.
Jericho Beaumont is a has-been actor who is also a recovering alcoholic/substance abuser. He's been clean for 5 years and is trying to get his career back on track. He signs on to play the lead in a movie being produced by Kate O'Laughlin. This is Kate's first attempt at producing a movie and she's not about to have her project screwed up by Jericho having a relapse. So she makes him sign a contract saying that he'll submit to drug tests and constant supervision. But then Kate ends up being his babysitter during the movie shoot. Of course, how can she resist the sexiest man on the planet?
So even if it wasn't what I was expecting, I did enjoy it. I thought it an interesting story--a man whose childhood was so difficult that he took to hiding behind the characters he played. And how he comes to actually trust himself and someone else enough to really be himself. And Kate has to decide when Jericho is actually being genuine and when he's acting.
The little side romance between Jamaal and Susie was sweet, though I'm always a little skeeved out by a 15-year-old falling in love like that. I'm not saying it doesn't happen, I just find it a little hard to believe.
My one complaint was that it was a little overwrought in places for me. Just oh-so-emotional. Feel the pain, Jericho, feel it, become one with it and then let it out! It wasn't so bad that it really annoyed me, and I guess actors are generally expressive, emotional people, so it is appropriate. Don't mind me, I'm repressed.
I'm definitely willing to try some more Brockmann. A lot of her books are actually suspenses, right? Can someone recommend a good one? The only other of hers I've read is The BodyGuard.
Monday, October 02, 2006
Author: Connie Brockway
Published: 2001, Dell
Category: Historical Romance
Okay, I think I'm jumping the gun here a little bit, but Connie Brockway might be a new favorite author for me. Yippee! This is only the second book I've read by her, so I'm not going to say for certain, because two books really aren't enough to make that kind of important decision. But if I keep liking them as much as I have, I think she'll make the list. [How many "favorite" authors am I allowed? Does the term become meaningless if you have 20 favorite authors?]
Letty Potts is in a bit of a jam. She's a musical comedy actress, who does a little small-time confidence tricking on the side. She's can't get any work in London and is running from Nick Sparkle, her sometime associate who has been trying to get her involved in more serious illegal activity. So when Lady Agatha Whyte, who owns a wedding planning company and is on her way to the country to arrange someone's wedding, drops her train ticket at Letty's feet and decides to elope to Paris, Letty takes the ticket and blesses her good luck in having an easy way out of the city.
But when she arrives in Little Bidewell, she is mistaken for Lady Agatha herself. She decides to play along for a couple days. But things escalate and soon she's planning a wedding and getting to know the bride and her family. She has everyone fooled, except for maybe Sir Elliot March, the local magistrate.
I really enjoyed this book. I might have liked it even better than Bridal Favors. The story is so light and sweet and funny. Something about Brockway's humor just works for me. I liked the Victorian setting, and I liked that Letty, as someone who is slightly outside of "polite society," is a little more free of boring restrictions than your average historical heroine.
I've got two more of her books in the TBR: The Passionate One, the first of her McClairen's Isle trilogy, and her new contemporary, Hot Dish. Maybe after those two I can decide for certain whether she's going on the favorite authors list.