Friday, March 30, 2007

10 Books I Couldn't Live Without

Kailana of The Written Word was asking for people’s lists of the 10 books they couldn’t live without. I love looking at these kinds of lists, so I’ll do mine too.

1. The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery. My comfort read. I am always singing this book's praises and to be honest I've read it so many times that I've lost all objectivity. Who knows, maybe it's not that good. But it makes me so happy. Definitely couldn't live without it.
2. I wish I could cheat and put my whole Crusie library on. But if I had to pick one, I think I’d say Faking It.
3. P&P by Jane Austen. I always fluctuate on whether this or Persuasion is my favorite Austen. Some days it's one, some days the other. Today it's P&P.
4. Merriam-Webster's Dictionary 11th Edition and Chicago Manual of Style 15th ed. The bibles of book editing.
5. The Nonesuch by Georgette Heyer. I think this is my favorite Heyer.
6. Busman’s Honeymoon by Dorothy Sayers. Love between two REALLY smart people.
7. This Rough Magic by Mary Stewart. An old favorite.
8. Civil Campaign by Lois McMaster Bujold. A new favorite.
9. Christy by Catherine Marshall. Even though I’m not religious, I still love this book sooo much. It’s just a beautiful story.
10. I have to put a Nora Roberts on, but which? To be honest, I could live without any one of them (because there are like 100 others), but I couldn’t live without all of them. So I’ll say Born in Fire. Love that one.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Title: Visions of Heat
Author: Nalini Singh
Published: 2007, Berkley
Category: Paranormal Romance
Rating: 7/10

Visions of Heat is Singh's second book in her Psy/Changeling series. I read Slave to Sensation last year and really enjoyed it. Again, I had to get over the cheesy title and awful cover, but once I had, this one was great too.

I'm not going to try to explain the world, because most people who come here already know. And it's just too complicated to go into. Read my Slave to Sensation review if you need an intro to the set-up. :)

Faith NightStar is an F-Psy, meaning she has the gift of foresight. Before Silence, F-Psy saw all kinds of visions about future crimes and were able to help prevent them. Faith, however, as an initiate of Silence, has been conditioned to only receive visions about economic trends and whatnot. But lately, she's been having strange visions of murder breaking through into her consciousness. She's worried because she thinks this is the beginning of insanity. She decides to go to Sascha for help, seeing as how Sascha is the only Psy living outside the PsyNet and therefore the only one who won't turn her into the mind police or whatever for being a looney. Once she meets the changelings, Vaughn (one of Lucas's sentinels) pretty much immediately knows that Faith is his mate, so he devotes himself to helping her deal with her visions and encouraging her to leave the PsyNet.

I was a bit annoyed (as I always am) by the whole predestined lovers thing. Vaughn knows Faith is his mate from the get-go. Why? He doesn't know and neither do we. We just have to accept it. Okay, it's not that bad. But I just didn't buy that this very sensual, hot-blooded (RWAOR!) jaguar would go for this rather cold woman. (Unlike Sascha, she doesn't even want to leave the Psy. She wants the visions to go away so she can go back to her simpler, safer life.) The attraction between Sascha and Lucas was so phenomenal that this couple paled a bit in comparison.

That said, I am still fascinated by this world that's been created. Singh introduces new elements that are just as original and fresh as those in Slave to Sensation. I loved the bit with the NetMind. And we're getting some foreshadowing about a Psy revolution that could be ve-ery interesting.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Title: Beau Crusoe
Author: Carla Kelly
Published: 2007, Harlequin
Category: Regency Romance
Rating: 7/10

Carla Kelly's new book--her first in a few years. Since I discovered Kelly last year, I've been scounging around trying to locate copies of her older titles. So I was very excited to be able to buy a new one, hot off the presses.

Five years before the start of the story, James Trevenen was a naval officer (a Lieutenant, I think) whose ship sunk in the Caribbean. He was cast away on a deserted island for years before being rescued by missionaries. While on the island (having very little to do) he began studying the habits of a particular type of crab, which he dubbed the Gloriosa Jubilate. Once back in England, he writes a naturalistic treatise on the species, for which he is awarded a scholarly award. So he travels to London for the ceremony. There he stays with Sir Joseph Banks, an eccentric old scholar who decides that James is the perfect match for his goddaughter, Susannah Park. Susannah is a widow with a young son and assorted family troubles.

James is such a fascinating character. Kelly's heroes are always sensitive and intelligent, but James is especially so. It is heartbreaking how scarred he is mentally by what he went through after the shipwreck. (And those events are very skillfully revealed piece by piece throughout the novel.) The way he became so dependent on and attached to his drawing of his beloved crabs killed me. It's like that scene in Castaway when Tom Hanks loses Wilson--Ahhh! Saddest part of the movie. When he leaves Helen Hunt, I shed not a tear, but I wanted to weep when he lost Wilson.

Anyhoo, back to James. He appears to all the world as Beau Crusoe--the mysteriously dashing man who seems capable of anything. And his survival on the island has instilled in him a resourcefulness and independence that is admirable. But his ghosts haunt him fiercely and this makes him vulnerable at the same time.

Someone (Megan, I think) once commented here that she thought Kelly was a very powerful writer. I agree with her--and this book I felt was especially powerful. As the story slowly unfolds as to exactly how horrific James's efforts at survival was, Kelly uses no particularly graphic or gratuitous language, and yet the images and events were seared in my brain. A few well-chosen words and James's hauntings began haunting me a bit. :) So much so that the book is not a comfortable read. I was affected by the story in a way that I very often am not by romance novels. But for all the darkness, there are some delightfully funny parts too.

Kelly wrote an epilogue that her editors at HQN deleted. She has offered to email it to anyone who wants it.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Latest acquisitions

I will actually do another book review at some point... But until then, look what I bought.

I'm reading Memory right now and loving it. Really loving it. I've been going completely out of order on Miles Vorkosigan (which I never do), so I'm heading back to the beginning. JMC, I'm sending you virtual hugs for introducing me to Bujold. ;)

Kristie was raving about Erinsong
. And it got a DIK at AAR, so this must be good.

This one is Jane's fault. I've never read Guhrke and have heard that her prose can run to purple, but I'm going to try it.

And this one because I just read my first Hunter and really liked it. And I got that one from PBS, and I always feel like if I discover an author I really enjoy through PBS I should buy their new one. Kind of silly, I know. But I have heard good things about this one too.

So there you go. I definitely didn't need them, but I sure wanted them. ;)
If the spacing on this post is not completely wonky, I will be much surprised.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Lookie what Twin made me!!

I am generally very proud to show off my book covers in public. But sometimes . . . ugh, they're just so bad. I was reading Nalini Singh's Visions of Heat this week and I'm sorry but that man on the cover gives me the heejie beejies. Is he supposed to be attractive? The spotty skin and the black filled-in eyes. (And the hero's not even supposed to have dark eyes, the heroine is.) I felt a little sheepish pulling it out on the subway, even though it's a very good book. So I bugged my resident crafter extraordinaire Twin into making me a book cover that wasn't ugly (as so many of them are).

Isn't it great?! I told her to embroider "very important literature" on the front. ;) It is important. She says this is a prototype--she might tweak the design a bit and then make some to sell on her etsy shop. The outside is a really soft blue linen and the inside is this cheerful pink-and-white cotton.

It feels very cozy in my hands. Thanks Julie!!!!!!!

Friday, March 16, 2007


Some people seem to be able to read several books at one time. (I mean, not at the exact same time, obviously. Can you imagine?--double-fisting it with books. LOL.) But they can read three chapters of one book, then read some of a different one, and then go back to the first. I really don't do this. Once I start a book, I always finish it or delegate it to the DNF pile before moving on to something else. I think it has to do with not wanting to let myself be distracted from the world that's been created in a book. If I start another one, I get involved with that story and those characters and I don't want to leave them.

But then, I am single-minded about pretty much everything in my life. I'm not so much with the multi-tasking. I can't do anything else while watching TV. And even listening to music while reading is distracting. And while I may be the most indecisive person ever, once I finally make a decision I barrel forward without looking back. So I'm single-minded that way too.

Did everyone hear that they're going to print 12 million of the new Harry Potter? That blows me away. 126 days!! Look at my sidebar--I put Mugglenet's countdown there. Woot! If you want one, you can get the code here.

And snow storms in March hurt my soul a little.

Happy weekend everyone!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Title: By Arrangement
Author: Madeline Hunter
Published: 2000, Dell
Category: Historical Romance
Rating: 6.5/10

I've never read Madeline Hunter before, but she's been talked about a lot lately because her newest book, The Rules of Seduction, is getting very good reviews. I heard several people mention that they thought Rules is her best work since her early medieval series. And I thought, ooh a good medieval! Haven't read one of those in a long time. So here we are.

Lady Christiana Fitzwaryn is in luuurve with a noble knight, so she is devastated when King Edward (she is a ward of the crown) tells her she is to marry David de Abyndon, a merchant who is plenty wealthy but (oh horror!) a commoner. Christiana goes to David, tells him that she is in love with another, and asks him to release her from the engagement. David suspects that her paramour is a little more interested in getting her into the sack than in actually following through with a wedding, so he tells her that he won't give up the betrothal, but that if the man returns, then he will release her. Meanwhile, he sets out to show Christiana that the puppy love she felt for Sir Knight is nothing compared to the Real Thing.

Oh, I'm feeling lazy tonight. A bunch of other stuff happens--there's a little political subplot and a mistaken identity subplot. Rather typical romance novel stuff, but I enjoyed it very much. It didn't light my life on fire, but it was good. The setting was sadly a little nondescript, but it worked and the characters were lovely.

Like I say, I'm feeling lazy. Suffice it to say that I will be reading more Madeline Hunter. The edition I got is actually a two-in-one--it has By Possession in it too, so I'll be reading that soon. I do like the value of two-in-ones, definitely more bang for your buck, but they're pretty unwieldy. Kind of hard to read (and hard to carry around). And as I was reading the first novel, I was continually annoyed that I couldn't see how much of the book I still had left to go. Silly, I know, but I kept flipping forward to see how much longer before the resolution. I ended up putting a Post-it note in between the two books. :P

Friday, March 09, 2007

Dear Borders,

I would like to rant about my unsatisfactory visit to one of your stores tonight. Your Borders Rewards email included a note about your 4-for-3 Mysteries and Romance promotion. I saw the small print--"Least expensive item is free. Selected titles only." But I didn't think that by "selected titles" you would mean such a very limited selection: 18 books at the store I was in. And I was in a big store--the one at Madison Square Garden.

How likely is it that I'm going to actually want 4 books out of the 18 available in this offer? Um, very small. Which I guess is the point, eh? It got me into your store and I didn't get ANYTHING for free. I wish I could say I left without buying anything, but I can't. I'm a sucker apparently.

But your plan has backfired, Borders. Because I really went out of my way to go to your store. I broke my "never-go-above-14th-St" rule. I battled the crowds around Penn Station. Do you think that I am going to do that again after feeling so completely ripped off? Not any time soon, that's for sure.

So you just lost one customer. Pfft!

I bought two books: Games of Command by Linnea Sinclair. (I've never read anything by her. Can someone tell me if they are a series or can I read this one first? I wanted Gabriel's Ghost, but they didn't have it.) And Visions of Heat by Nalini Singh, and that's a huge compliment to Singh because if I was willing to wait a few weeks, I could get this book free at work. But I wanted it now and paid full price for it.

And can I just say TGIF?! It's been one of those weeks where I felt like this:

I will surely be more cheerful tomorrow. :)

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Title: Jackdaws
Author: Ken Follett
Published: 2001, NAL
Category: General Fiction
Rating: 7/10
I'm trying to branch out and read more books by men, so I picked up this book, my first by Ken Follett. (NOT that I think books by men are more intelligent- Argh! Go Jane, go!--I'm just trying to broaden my horizons a bit.) I was thinking I could claim extra points because Jackdaws set in a war, but then I realized that the main characters are women, so maybe not. :)

Felicity (Flick) Clairet is an intelligence agent for the SOE during WWII. She's managed to stay alive longer than any other agent, mainly because she's really smart, ruthless, and relies heavily on her good instincts. Right before D-Day she's sent to France with a team of French resistance organizers to blow up a German telephone exchange. They are not successful--most of their group is killed, and Flick barely escapes back to England. Flick is determined to return to finish the job, as destroying the exchange would seriously cripple the enemy's ability to communicate during the coming invasion. She decides to put together a team of women to pose as the cleaning staff. The trouble is there are very few female agents, and those few are all assigned elsewhere. So she's forced to make do with the "rejects," women who were considered at one point for secret work, but passed over for some reason. She ends up with a very motley crew: an aristocratic snob, a pathological liar, an elderly engineer, a convicted murderer, and a male transvestite. They undergo a whirlwind 2-day training session and head to France for the dangerous mission.

The reason I picked this book up was the intriguing plot, and it surely delivers. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time I was reading--very exciting and suspenseful. The violence was upsetting to me, but then this is a book about war, so that's to be expected. "This is war, Peacock! You can't make an omelette without breaking eggs, every cook will tell you." (Does anyone else love the movie Clue?) There are some truly unsettling torture scenes that I had to skim--they're not horribly graphic, but they were tough on me.

The characters are more interesting and complex than you often find in an adventure-type story. There's a German officer named Dieter Franck who is trying to stop the French resistance and who is determined to catch Flick. He is fascinating--you want to really hate him, because he's the bad guy and he tortures people. But he's not a sadist, he doesn't get off on it--he's disgusted by it and does feel remorse afterward. He just sees it as a necessary tool to get what he needs, and he is able to shut off his emotions and be completely cold to get it done. Flick is just as ruthless at times, though her motivations come off as more virtuous. She is a great heroine though--very brave and clever.

There's a little side love story that's very nice. Wartime romances are so dramatic!

So, I was entertained. And it was a nice break from my usual fare. :)

Saturday, March 03, 2007

I have nothing much to say, but I'm going say it anyway.

I haven't had much time for reading lately! This makes me slightly tetchy, but what can you do? Life gets hectic sometimes. Usually I'm a few books ahead reading-wise that I haven't blogged about, but I'm all caught up. And I'm trying to be more frequent with posts, because two posts a week is just sad. Surely I can do better. Soooo, what should I talk about?

Ummm, how about when to give up on an author? I don't mean an old favorite that falls off the auto-buy list. I'm talking about new authors that you're trying out. I'm generally willing to give new-to-me authors two shots. Because every author is bound to have a dud or two. Even some of my favorites--Chase's Miss Wonderful (yawn!), L.M. Montgomery's Kilmeny of the Orchard (the mute girl just annoyed me), Georgette Heyer's Lady of Quality (zzzzzzz), even my beloved Mary Stewart had a miss with Rose Cottage (hello, can we have a plot, please?). So I don't feel like I can dismiss an author completely if they fail to impress me on the first book. But after two, I'm moving on. Too many other authors to try.

A couple I've pretty much decided aren't for me: Linda Howard. I know, she's solid gold to a lot of people, but I did Duncan's Bride (meh) and After the Night (DNF--too much testosterone). And Laura Kinsale--I respect her as a good writer, but her books seem to just annoy me. I read Flowers from the Storm (the heroine's sanctimoniousness grated) and Midsummer Moon (the heroine's naivete grated).

Both of those authors are ones some people go orgasmic over, but I guess we all have our quirks. ;)

And now I'm off to actually try to finish a book! Miracle of miracles.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

I'm in syndication!

Heh, heh. Actually not really. But my first column is up over at Romancing the Blog. I'm one of a few "reader" columnists they've added in an effort to make the site a little less writer-centric. Go read and comment if so moved. :)

In other linkage, Twin has opened her own Etsy shop! (Etsy is an online marketplace for handmade crafts.) She is selling her truly beautiful handprinted stationery sets. (And I'm not just saying that because she's my sister.) She's sold out of some of the designs already, but she's just posted a couple new ones. I especially love the magnolia cards. I'm so proud of her it makes up for having masses of printed cards constantly littering our (very small) apartment.