Thursday, December 28, 2006

Title: My Lady Notorious
Author: Jo Beverley
Published: 1993, Signet
Category: Historical Romance
Rating: 7.5/10

This is my entry into Angie's TBR challenge for December. We had to read a book pub'd prior to 2006, which wasn't too hard for me since I seem to be discovering lots of old classics recently. I've never read Jo Beverley before and have wanted to for a while. She's a big name in the genre. This is the first book in her Malloren series set in the Georgian period.

I really liked this book, but I read it two weeks ago and I don't think I can come up with a plot summary. A lot happens. I'll hit the high points: the heroine, Chastity, dresses up as a highwayman and captures the coach of Lord Cyn Malloren. Cyn wants some adventure so he goes along with her as she pretends to be a man in order to trick her father and deliver her sister to her affianced. They must figure out all the political intrigue surrounding her father and try to fix her ruined reputation.

Good writing and way more historical detail than you usually find. Not that I can tell you if it was all actually accurate, but it had a genuine feel to it, as if the author had really done her research. Very much a classic romance, but quite well done. The masquerade scene was awesome.

Yay another new author I really like! And she has tons of books out there. I think I'll get the next Malloren book, but according to her website she also has a medieval series that I want to try.

Christmas Loot

Mee hee hee!! Look at all my new books!

Friday, December 22, 2006

A quilt for Grandma

Twin and I finished the lap quilt we made for our Grandma! Phew. That was close. Here is a little picture and if you want more, you can go to Twin's blog where she has a whole post devoted to it.

We're heading home tonight to spend Christmas with the fam. Woo hoo!! I've been packing and trying my best to keep myself from sticking a bunch of books into my bag. I know I'm getting some as presents, so why do I still feel compelled to lug some with me?

Everyone have a happy, happy holiday!

Monday, December 18, 2006

A snowy little village

I don't have any book reviews to post right now because, like most everyone else, I am busy, busy getting ready for the holiday. Not much time for reading with all the present-buying and -making. (Super-crafty Twin and I decided at the last minute to make a lap quilt for our grandma. We like to do things last minute. I didn't have high hopes, but it's turning out better than expected.)

Another reason I have nothing book-related to share is that Twin and I spent a ridiculous amount of time this weekend making gingerbread houses. Martha Stewart had a little piece on making them out of graham crackers and they were so cute that we had to give it a try. She presented it as a kiddie project, but it entertained two (mostly grown-up) adults quite well too. We might have gotten a little carried away.

We built a whole village. We weren't too concerned with making it tasty, as we had no plans to eat it. Aesthetics and construction were our foremost considerations. We got together and wrote a tour for our respective blogs:

The Little Big Red Cottage has a gummy roof and gum drop chimney. Look at its little curly shingles!

The Mayor's house is rightly the most imposing in the village. Twizzler beams and a chocolate wafer porch. It is truly a non-pareil. I decided I would live here, though Julie doubts my mayoral abilities. Like all houses in our village, it has a resident snowman.

Next to the lake is Necco Wafer House. It's made of sesame seed thingies and during construction I had serious doubts about it. Julie maintains that it is charming. I guess I can see the appeal.

Across the lil footbridge is Coffee Bean Cabin. We both agree that the coffee beans were a stroke of genius. (Julie's stroke, I will admit. She is right resourceful sometimes.) The chocolate-wafer chimney and chocolate-pretzel fence are nice touches too. Also note that snowmen in our village wear non-pareil hats.

Next we have Those Neighbors. You know, I'm sure you have some of your own. They're the ones who are slightly odd ducks. They find their gumball stylishness in great good taste, and who are we to question that? However their starlite mint door has started oozing from an unexpected and unseemly chemical reaction with the coconut snow.

Every snowy village needs a little igloo. Ours has a starlite mint divan inside.

The Starlite Manor is suffering greatly from the aforementioned chemical reaction but still looks quite fine. A fine upstanding house. The only graham cracker one on the block. Take that, Martha.

The huge mess we made with all this sticky, sugary goodness was in direct proportion to how much fun we had. :o)

Friday, December 15, 2006

Title: Nature Girl
Author: Carl Hiaasen
Published: 2006, Knopf
Category: General Fiction
Rating: 8/10

Carl Hiaasen is an author whose books are unlike anything else I read. I tend to go for my "nice" romances or mysteries. Hiaasen's books are gritty and cynical by comparison. They're sort of mysteries, but I think I'd label them more satire than anything else. He just likes to make fun of ridiculous, greedy people--and he is so funny. I have to be in just the right mood, but when I'm there I love his books.

His plots are so twisted and strange that they're hard to explain. Before I started this one, I asked a friend who had just finished it what it was about. She looked at me, disconcerted, and finally just said, "Shenanigans." And that's exactly what they are! But I'll try my best for a brief synopsis.

Honey Santana is just sitting down to dinner with her son when they are interrupted by a telemarketer call. Like most people, she is extremely annoyed by hearing a sales pitch while she'd like to be having a pleasant meal. Honey, who is not the most mentally stable, decides to get even with the telemarketer. She figures out who he is, calls him at home, and convinces him that she's a realtor giving out free trips to Florida for people who will come down to listen to a sales pitch. Boyd Shreave decides a free trip to a Bahamas-like destination will be just the thing for him and his mistress. When Boyd and the mistress arrive, Honey takes them on a kayaking trip to an island called Dismal Key. This is no caribbean getaway--it's a swampy island in the most desolate area of the Everglades. They're followed there by a private eye hired by Boyd's wife to get evidence of Boyd's infidelity; Honey's ex-boss who is infatuated with her and now a crazed stalker; and Honey's ex-husband and son, who are worried about Honey. This crazy cast of characters gets into all kinds of trouble running around the deserted island.

Last month I went to a Carl Hiaasen reading/signing that was really interesting. He was talking about how he never outlines his stories and generally doesn't know how they're going to end until at least half-way through writing. He said that if he can see exactly where the story is going, then it's too boring. He creates these completely zany characters and just lets them bounce off one another. Pretty amazing that his stories come out so polished and cohesive.

Anyway, he's a fantastic writer. Everyone always talks about an author's "voice" and sometimes I don't know what the hell they're on about. But with Hiaasen, I get it. That wry, cynical humor is unique, I think. I laughed my ass off on this one. Seeing the idiotic schmuck of a telemarketer get caught up in such a fiasco is priceless. Cathartic, too.
If the trip continued on its present downward trajectory, the dimension of this particular failure would dwarf all the others in Shreave's lackluster past. As usual he deflected both blame and responsibility; cruel chance had imbedded him here--stranded on a scraggly island with a psychotic divorcee, an increasingly unresponsive girlfriend and a half-barbecued cock. [He's accidentally shot himself in the groin with a Taser. ROFLMAO.]
Whenever you run up against some pathetic example of humanity and start to worry about the state of the human race, it's time to read some Carl Hiaasen to remember that at least you can always laugh about it.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Advent Blog Tour - December 12

Hello all! Welcome to day 3 of Marg and Kailana's Advent Blog Tour. I've got an excerpt, a recipe, and a little giftie down at the bottom for you.

A Christmas Carol
First, a little piece of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. I have to admit that I don't have much use for Dickens generally, but A Christmas Carol is a holiday tradition for me. I read it nearly every year, because it is so lovely and puts me in just the right mood for Christmas. Here is one of my favorite bits, when Scrooge is being haunted by the Ghost of Christmas Present:
But soon the steeples called good people all, to church and chapel, and away they came, flocking through the streets in their best clothes, and with their gayest faces. And at the same time there emerged from scores of bye streets, lanes, and nameless turnings, innumerable people, carrying their dinners to the bakers' shops. The sight of these poor revellers appeared to interest the Spirit very much, for he stood with Scrooge beside him in a baker's doorway, and taking off the covers as their bearers passed, sprinkled incense on their dinners from his torch. And it was a very uncommon kind of torch, for once or twice when there were angry words between some dinner-carriers who had jostled each other, he shed a few drops of water on them from it, and their good humour was restored directly. For they said, it was a shame to quarrel upon Christmas Day. And so it was! God love it, so it was!
"Is there a peculiar flavour in what you sprinkle from your torch?" asked Scrooge.
"There is. My own."
"Would it apply to any kind of dinner on this day?" asked Scrooge.
"To any kindly given. To a poor one most."
"Why to a poor one most?" asked Scrooge.
"Because it needs it most."
I love the idea of a Christmas spirit sprinkling us with happy dust. Because that's what Christmas feels like to me--general warm fuzzies that I cannot wholly explain. Family and good food and presents. Traditions and memories of past happy holidays. A chance to just be jolly to all you meet.

Viennese Snowballs

Every year my mom makes batches and batches of Christmas cookies. My favorites have always been Viennese Snowballs, walnut cookies that are rolled in powdered sugar. They are simple cookies--easy ingredients and easy directions, but so delicious.
1 cup walnuts
1 cup butter, at room temp.
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
confectioner's sugar for coating

Preheat oven to 350 F. Pulverize walnuts into a paste in an electric blender. With a wooden spoon or fingers, mix the walnuts, butter, sugar, and flour to a smooth dough. Shape the dough into small balls. Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet until lightly browned, about 15-18 minutes. Cool one minute. While still warm, roll the cookies in the confectioner's sugar.

And the Little Giftie
Thanks to the amazing creative efforts of Twin, here is an assortment of gift tags just for you. Click on the image below to download and print out on regular 8 1/2 X 11 paper.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

For my big brother

My brother is here visiting us this weekend. (YAY!) Last night he was perusing my bookshelves and making some snide comments. (BOO!) So I must direct him to this awesome post written by Smart Bitch Candy. To prove that lots of seriously intelligent women read (and love) romance.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Title: Miss Milton Speaks Her Mind
Author: Carla Kelly
Published: 1998, Signet
Category: Regency Romance
Rating: 6/10

Yes, I'm still reading Carla Kelly. I've been stressed out at work, so I've needed something sweet and nice to read. Unfortunately, this one was really sad and kind of depressing. It was still good, but not exactly the light reading I was expecting.

Miss Jane Milton is the poor relation living with some distant cousins, Lord Denby and Lady Carruthers. For the last 10 years she's been raising Lord Denby's grandson, Andrew, since his mother died in a tragic accident. Six months before the book starts, Andrew's father is killed from injuries sustained at the Battle of Waterloo. Lady Carruthers decides that Andrew must start school though Jane does not want him to, so they compromise by having Andrew tutored by their neighbor, Scipio Butterworth. Scipio invites Jane and Andrew to spend Christmas with him and his brother's family. Jane and Andrew, who are still grieving for his father, have some respite from the uncomfortableness at Denby Hall and, for a while, get to be part of a loving family.

I liked seeing Jane decide to "speak her mind," to give up just dutifully going along with the wishes of others and concentrate on what she needed and wanted. The secrets that she's been keeping are very sad and tragic--she had so much to deal with, it was lovely to see her have a happy ending. But I wasn't completely convinced by the romance between her and Scipio. It found it a little disappointing.

Carla Kelly is known for writing about "extraordinary" ordinary people. Her main characters aren't of the gentry. Scipio in this is a mill owner, and she has some interesting insights into the very earliest stages of the industrial revolution.

I read in an interview that Kelly had a death in the family around the time this was written and I think this book must have been the result. It is very much about the grieving process and how to get on with life after tragedies. All in all, I did like it, but it's way too gloomy for me to ever want to read again. I don't do sad. :)

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Santa Blah

I was going to do a proper review for this, but I've decided not to. I don't read short stories very often because I just don't like them. I need a longer story I can sink my teeth into. Romance short stories especially don't work for me--a real love story can not be told so quickly, imo. I think this is a big part of why this anthology was so disappointing to me.

I was seduced into buying it because I'm a Jennifer Crusie fangirl. I love her books. Her story, "Hot Toy," was cute--it's got her funny dialogue. But the plot was so, so far-fetched that I couldn't get past it. Was it supposed to be a joke?

I've never read Lori Foster or Carly Phillips and these stories didn't make me want to change that. Both the stories could have been titled "People Have Sex with a Christmas Tree in the Background." They felt sort of trashy. And not in a good way. I was squicked out by "Christmas Bonus," which had a 32-year-old who has been horny for a girl he's known for five years, since she was 17. ICKY! And "Naughty Under the Mistletoe" was better, but so cliche. Two strangers meet and four hours later, he's thinking, "For the first time, he wanted to connect with a woman in more places than in bed." Ugh. It had some truly cringe-worthy sentences.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Title: Miss Grimsley's Oxford Career
Author: Carla Kelly
Published: 1992, Signet
Category: Regency Romance
Rating: 7/10

I love this old cover, don't you? Classic!

Ellen Grimsley wants nothing more than to escape her ridiculous family and go away to school at Oxford. Of course, education was limited for women back then, and once she gets to Miss Dignam's Select Female Academy, she is disappointed to learn that the most strenous courses she'll be taking are embroidery and French. She would rather study geography and Shakespeare. So when her non-scholarly brother asks her to help him out by writing his paper on A Midsummer Night's Dream, she jumps at the chance. Soon James Gatewood, Lord Chesney, is taking an interest in her--both for her enthusiastic scholarship and her charming self. :)

This was lovely too! I heart Carla Kelly. My only problem with this book is that once Ellen admits to herself that she's in love with James Gatewood, I didn't really understand her reluctance to accept his proposal. It bordered on the dreaded Forced Conflict. But, still lovely. Women are so lucky these days to be able to do pretty much whatever they want. This book makes me appreciate that.

And, while this book does make a strong case for female education, it doesn't sacrifice historical accuracy to make Ellen an anachronism. She ends up settling for less than she wants at the end because she was ahead of her time. She is satisfied with her own scholarship and her husband's esteem, and acknowledges that she won't be accepted amongst the men of Oxford. I think this is very admirable.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

DNF: After the Night

I know, I know. It's a classic! I got halfway through and had to give it up. I think part of the problem was genre whiplash. From Carla Kelly to this was a little much. But I just couldn't take any more Gray--talk about a guy who's led around by his dick. Horny bastard. Blech.

But I'm keeping it because I think when I'm in the right mood, I might like it better.

Title: Mrs. Drew Plays Her Hand
Author: Carla Kelly
Published: 1994, Signet
Category: Regency Romance
Rating: 9/10

Back when the AAR Top 100 list was going around, JMC recommended Carla Kelly. It's taken a while for me to get around to her, first because they're pretty hard to find, and second because I'm afraid I'm a bit of a snob and don't read many trads. Well, now I've been proven wrong and have learned again the lesson not to judge a book by its cover, or its genre. This was delightful and I loved every minute of it.

Roxanna Drew is a young widow whose husband has recently died from a longlasting illness, leaving her with two little daughters and no money. Her only family is her brother-in-law, Lord Whitcomb, who makes a smarmy proposition which Roxanna cannot even stomach contemplating. She finds a small cottage on a neighboring estate and rents it, even though it is in near ruin. The owner of their new home soon comes visiting--Fletcher Rand, Lord Winn is a military man newly home from the war. The evil Lord Whitcomb is still vying for a way to get Roxanna into his bed and puts forward an official complaint to the sheriff that Roxanna is an unfit mother. He tells her that he will take her children away from her if she does not move into his house. Lord Winn, by now good friends with Roxanna, decides they must marry to save the children. Or at least that's what he tells her. But he likes her. :)

In a lot of ways the plot is standard romance--improbable circumstances which lead two relative strangers to marry, running to Gretna Green. And in some ways it's completely atypical--Roxanna truly loved her first husband and must grieve for him, then get over the guilt she feels at loving another. Lord Winn divorced his first wife because she was unfaithful, and admits that through all his anger and resentment, he did love her. His patience with Roxanna as she comes to terms with their marriage is phenomenal and so endearing.

I think this will become a comfort read for me, because everything is just so . . . nice! And so lacking in melodrama, which is my most common problem with romance books. It's really funny in parts--her dialogue is great. I feel a glom coming on.

I read in this interview from 1998 that Kelly gave up writing regencies because the pay was so paltry. Which is very sad. But I was searching on Amazon and it looks like she has a new book out in March from Harlequin Historical--Beau Crusoe. Sounds like a swashbuckling romance, no? Anyone know anything about it?

Thursday, November 30, 2006

To: Santa c/o Marmee

Dear Santa,
You asked for a little list of things I might want to see on Christmas morning. Last year you brought me such a nice little (okay not so little) stack of books, I thought we should do it again. :) And I hear that your elves are pretty good at scouring online used book sellers for deals. So here are a few options for you.

***Most of these books are out of print and I think a couple may be hard to find. If your elves cannot find them at reasonable prices you are NOT to buy them. Really, I mean it. Other good little girls and boys need presents too (but not Twin, she deserves coal).***

Bliss, Judy Cuevas
Windflower, Laura London
Mariana, Susanna Kearsley
A Rose at Midnight, Anne Stuart
To Love a Dark Lord, Anne Stuart
The Devil's Cub, Georgette Heyer
A book or two by Carla Kelly--Reforming Lord Ragsdale if possible, but really anything by her would do except for Mrs. Drew Plays Her Hand or Miss Grimsley's Oxford Career, both of which I already have.
As You Desire, Connie Brockway
All through the Night, Connie Brockway

Is 27 too old for Santa? Don't worry, I still believe.


Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Title: Dreaming of You
Author: Lisa Kleypas
Published: 1994, Avon
Category: Historical Romance
Rating: 8/10

I'm way behind on my reviews here. I'm feeling lazy and all I really want to do tonight is crawl into bed with a book, but I'm going to give it a shot. Sorry if it's a little bit lacking.

I've heard so much about this book. Mostly from Kristie, who pimps it like nobody's business. But it seems like pretty much everyone else loves it too. I've read two other Kleypas and they didn't do much for me. They were nice, fine, but I wasn't dying to read more. I enjoyed this one much more.

Sara Fielding is a novel writer whose books focus on the more unfortunate members of English society. As research for her next book, she starts visiting gambling houses, including
Craven's, which is the most successful in London and is owned by Derek Craven. One night, Sara comes across Derek being attacked by two thugs--seems he's had an affair with a rather horrible woman, who, when rejected, hired the thugs to mete out her vengeance. Sara shoots one of them and saves Derek. In return for this favor, she asks that she be allowed to visit the gambling house to finish her research. Though they seem to be complete opposites, Sara and Derek fall in love. And Sara must decide whether she wants to return home to marry her safe, reliable childhood sweetheart, or take on the troubled but sexy Derek Craven.

I was surprised by the amount of action in this book. The scene where Derek is attacked, when Sara goes off and gets caught up in the mob, etc., are all really well done. I wasn't expecting a page-turner, but it does have a bit of suspense.

And, like everyone else, I thought these were two great characters. Especially Derek. He's no fake rake. Born in the gutter and raised by prostitutes, he really has made his successful way in the world through hard work and ruthless bullying. I love diamond-in-the-rough stories, and this is a good one. He's not exactly amoral, but he does do some pretty appalling things. And Sara has a lot of qualms about loving him because of it, which is realistic.

I also really liked the secondary character of Lily Raiford in this one. Anyone have an opinion on her book, Then Came You?

I just voted in Kristie's poll of favorite Kleypas heroes and Derek Craven is in the lead with 56 votes. Woot! He's way better than that mamby-pamby Sebastian.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Dear Delta

Dear Delta,
I just wanted to post a little note here to tell you how much I enjoyed my flight today. After rising at 4 AM and arriving at the airport, I was so pleased when you told me that I was 5 minutes too late to check in to my 6:30 flight. I was happy to wait until the next flight at 10:30. And when that one was overbooked and you asked me to wait for your 2:30 flight, I thought, "No problem, Delta!" And the day just got better and better when the 2:30 was delayed until 4... then 5...then 6:00 PM. Your staff was so courteous and helpful that I was able to restrain myself from leaping over the counter to throttle your ticket agents. Barely! With each interaction, I got that nice little blood pressure spike, along with the pleasantly woozy, dizzy feeling. Almost as good as drugs! So thanks, Delta. I'll be sure to keep you in mind for all my upcoming air travel plans. Because in your generous care, I made a 13-hour journey 50 minutes of which were actually spent flying. Impressive! Job well done, Delta.

Much love,

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Happy Turkey day to everyone!!

Well, I guess only to the Americans really. But the rest of you should have a nice Thursday anyway. Twin and I head out tonight to spend the holiday with our family in VA. I might conceivably have time to post before next week, but most likely not.

In reading news, I finally read Dreaming of You. I've been holding off because I'm contrary. Everyone loves it! I was worried it wouldn't live up to expectations. But it did and I thought it was great. And now I can go over to Kristie's and vote for my favorite Kleypas character because Derek Craven beats Sebastian what's-his-name by a mile. Really, no contest, people. :) Review to come when I get through stuffing myself with turkey and pie.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Title: Motor Mouth
Author: Janet Evnovich
Published: 2006, HarperCollins
Category: General Fiction
Rating: 6/10

This is the second book in Evanovich's Barnaby series. I read the first, Metro Girl, and thought it was just okay. And this one was just okay too.

To be honest I don't think I can come up with an intelligible plot synopsis. It was all pretty ridiculous. Alexandra Barnaby (she goes by Barney) is a "spotter" for NASCAR driver Sam Hooker. She stays in the stands, watches the race, and sort of coaches Hooker through the race over a headset. When Hooker comes in 2nd place, Barney suspects that the winner is using illegal traction control technology. Then Hooker and Barney are called in to rescue a friend who's been locked into the other team's hauler (semi-truck where they store the cars). In order to rescue him, they end up having to steal the hauler. Then they find a dead body and a billion-dollar microchip, and soon they're wanted by the police for murder and grand-theft auto and by the bad guys for stealing their expensive technology.

So the plot is ridiculous but it was still funny. I think a big part of the reason I didn't like this book too much is that I don't know anything about NASCAR. And really have no desire to know anything about NASCAR. I'm sure the stereotype of NASCAR racers and fans all being...well, not the sharpest is not true, but really they don't show up too well in this book. Hooker and Barney generally come off as two bumbling idiots.

These books just don't have the charm of the Stephanie Plum books. I'm not sure exactly why. Barney and Hooker are both likeable characters. Maybe it's the fact that there's a logical reason that Stephanie is always getting into scrapes. She's going out and looking for criminals. So the over-the-top adventures work a little better than in the Barnaby books.

This book costs $27, which is a total rip-off. Good thing I didn't buy it--got it from the library. The type and leading are so huge it almost looks like large print edition. The prices on big-author books are getting a little out of hand, I think.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Favorite settings?

I was thinking today that authors have it easy these days with regards to setting. I can summon up a mental image of pretty much any setting from TV and movies I've seen. Historic Scotland? Yep, I've seen Braveheart. Regency England? I'm sure I've seen every Austen adaptation ever made. Contemporary Japan? Lost in Translation.

There are lots of books out there where the author does little more than tell you where the story is set, and gives almost no description. Obviously this isn't ideal, but it can work. Back 50 or 100 years ago, authors had to make a little more effort. :) And it makes me appreciate all the more when an author goes to the effort of creating a well-crafted setting.

Everyone's got favorite book settings. Some people like contemporaries, some people like historicals. I like historicals best--my favorite settings are ancient Rome, regency England, and colonial/revolutionary America. I can't really explain why. I just find them the most interesting and romantic.

Anyone else have favorite settings?

Monday, November 13, 2006

I go where the in crowd goes

I've gone Beta. Sweet.

So I don't really see too much difference yet, though the tags are fun. I went through and tagged all my reviews by rating. Here's the breakdown of how many of each I have so far:
8-10: 18
6-7: 42
3-5: 14

Seems like a pretty good mix. (I still haven't given anything lower than a 3, I don't think I have it in me.) I'm going to put links on the sidebar so people can access by rating. Cuz I'm anal retentive like that. I also noticed that I've found more 8-10 books the longer I've been blogging. I think it's because of all the good recommendations I get. YAY!

And I have to do this thingie that's going around--

grab that book

1. Grab the nearest book.

2. Open to page 123.

3. Find the fifth sentence.

4. Post the text of the next four sentences on your blog along with these instructions.

5. Don't you dare dig around for that "cool" or "intellectual" book on your shelves. (I know you were thinking about it.) Just pick up whatever is closest.

Can you guess my book? (LOTS of you should know this one.)

Blindly she lifted her face, and he kissed her. His lips seemed to wring her very soul from her body.
Sara clung to him, wrapping herself closer until her aching breasts were wedged against his chest. He took hold of her waist, pressing her to his groin.

Hee hee! I luuuurrvve romance. His lips wring her soul from her body? Makes me think of the Dementor's Kiss. That's gotta hurt.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Title: Queen of Swords
Author: Sara Donati
Published: 2006, Bantam
Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 8/10

Queen of Swords is the fifth book in Donati's Bonner family series. For those who aren't familiar with these books, they are a sort of sequel/retelling of James Fenimore Cooper's Leatherstocking Tales about Natty Bumppo. I've never read those books, as I always heard they are unendurably long, but everyone knows the movie Last of the Mohicans. (Daniel Day Lewis!! Mee hee yummy) As I understand it, the movie pretty much massacred the original plot, but to give you some idea: Donati's books tell the story of DDL's son, Nathaniel, and his family. If you haven't read the first book, Into the Wilderness, I highly, highly recommend it. It is often compared to Diana Gabaldon's books, but it's better, imho. I do think they should be read in order: Into the Wilderness, Dawn on a Distant Shore, Lake in the Clouds, Fire along the Sky, Queen of Swords.

Obviously this review has spoilers for earlier books. So be warned. :)

Nathaniel's two oldest children, Luke and Hannah, sail south to the Carribean to rescue Jennet, Luke's fiance, who was kidnapped by a pirate-sort of villain at the end of Fire along the Sky. They manage to rescue her, only to find out that Jennet has borne Luke's son during her captivity and has been forced to give him to a man named Honore Poiterin for safekeeping. Honore is a seriously bad guy, but Jennet had no choice. She agreed to marry Honore in exchange for him spiriting the child away to safety in New Orleans. Of course, she has no intention of actually marrying him. She and Luke are married and then they all head to New Orleans to rescue the baby. Complicating matters is the fact that New Orleans is currently the focal point of the War of 1812. So they have to find the baby, dodge the British soldiers, outwit Honore and find a way out of the city to head home to New York.

So lots of plot here. High adventure. I am horribly ignorant of the War of 1812. This book showed me that much. But as always with these books, it's obvious that a good deal of research went into it. There's lots of historical detail, and the story is nestled among the historical facts very comfortably. But to be honest, the plots of these books are never what make them favorites with me. I think this is a personal preference rather than a fault with the books. I just mean that I'm always slightly annoyed by all the complicated running around getting into horrible situations. And QoS is probably the most plot-filled one yet.

What I love about this and all the books of this series are the characters and the setting. I always have a mental picture in my head when I read books, but it's often pretty vague. Donati does such a wonderful job of description that I have this crystal-clear image of the characters and what they're doing and where they're doing it. Certain scenes are so vivid that they stick in my mind for a long time.

And I just love the characters. Each book has a huge number of them. Hannah might be my favorite of the whole series. Hannah is Nathaniel's half-Mohawk daughter from his first marriage. So intelligent, caring, idealistic but sensible, weathered by life experiences that would break most people (poor Hannah!!), she is the Queen of Swords: "A woman possessed of keen logic and intuition. Forthright is she in manner, and well armed." And Jean-Benoit Savard, who is introduced in this book, is such a good match for her. He is so capable and wise.

I'm really excited about the 6th book, which I believe Donati is just starting to write. It's to be set in Paradise (the small village in upstate New York where the Bonners live) and focus on Nathaniel and Elizabeth's youngest children--Daniel, Gabriel and Carrie. This is a good thing, as I always like the stories set in Paradise best. Reading QoS put me in the mood for Into the Wilderness, so I've been rereading that all weekend. Hmmmm. Lovely.

Friday, November 10, 2006

I love Bloglines! I hate Bloglines!

So, lots of you use Bloglines, right? I do too and I'm having trouble here. I was scrolling through today and realized that Marg and Cindy hadn't posted in forever, and they're usually really regular about posting. So I went to their sites, and they had a bunch of posts that I hadn't seen! Who knows what else I'm missing! :) What's the deal?

Actually I think it might be because they switched to Beta blogger? But then Ames switched and her posts still show up. I don't get it. Anyone have any suggestions? Maybe if I delete them and then add them again. I'm clueless about this stuff. Still don't really get what an RSS feed is.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Title: Venetia
Author: Georgette Heyer
Published: 1958 originally, reissued 2006, Harlequin
Category: Historical Romance
Rating: 9/10

How much do I love Harlequin for rereleasing all these Georgette Heyers? I saw this one in the bookstore last week and pounced on it. MWAHAHA! More Heyer! I discovered her last year and went on a major binge. I've only found one dud, and the rest have all been delightful. And Venetia is one of the best yet!

Venetia Lanyon is 25 and still unmarried. She has lived a very isolated life in the country until the recent death of her reclusive father. Since that time she's been taking care of her younger brother and handling the management of their estate while her older brother is off enjoying himself in the military. One day when taking a walk, she meets Lord Damerel, a rake of infamous repute who owns a property nearby. He is taken with her beauty and does a little ravishing (just some kisses, this is Heyer after all). Venetia, of course, objects to the handling, but the two proceed to talk and tease each other and hit it off very well. Soon they become fast friends. But there are plenty of problems that must arise in the relationship of a green girl and a notorious rake.

How I loved these two characters. Venetia is very innocent, but she's never naive or silly. She isn't shocked by Damerel's past. And Damerel is just the right sort of rake--world-weary with plenty of mistakes in his past, but with a good heart. At one point Venetia is telling Damerel that she doesn't think he's so bad as people suspect:
"With what improbable virtues are you trying to endow me? An exquisite sensibility? Delicacy of principle?"
"Oh no, nothing of that nature," she replied, getting up. "I allow you all the vices you choose to claim--indeed, I know you for a gamester, and a shocking rake, and a man of sadly unsteady character!--but I'm not so green that I don't recognize in you one virtue at least, and one quality."
"What, is that all? How disappointing! What are they?"
"A well-informed mind and a great deal of kindness," she said...
The interaction between the two of them is brilliant. They are both so intelligent, and their conversations are a riot. I love that they become such good friends first. They have a real meeting of minds, and just "get" each other. They laugh together. Yes, they are passionate about each other too (actually this is probably the spiciest Heyer I've yet read) but what made this most romantic for me was the fact that they were so comfortable together. So ready to share their burdens and take care of one another.

I do have to say that the action slows down a bit at the end and the conflict seemed just a little contrived. But I'm not complaining. Tiny problem compared with how much I enjoyed the book.

If you've never tried a Heyer, this would be a great one to start with. Don't be scared off by the slightly dense writing. (I noticed one paragraph that went for two full pages. No one writes that way anymore.) It goes down like butter! And her dialogue--ah, so fine.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

I'm never pre-ordering anything from Amazon ever again.

Because I'm too damn impatient. I had trouble the last time I pre-ordered a book from them too--I had it shipped to my apartment, but no one was home to sign for it, so I had to wait longer. This time I thought I was being clever by having it shipped to my office, thinking those lovely mailroom men would sign for it and sweep it up the elevator to my desk. But I'm a moron and forgot to put my company's name in the address. So when I tracked the package on Friday, it said "Returned to sender because of incomplete address." My head almost exploded. I was stomping my little foot just like Tinkerbell there. It's not that big a building. They couldn't look up my name? Bah!

And it's Sara Donati's Queen of Swords. The latest in the Bonner family saga. I LOVE THESE BOOKS! And it went on sale on Tuesday! I NEED TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS TO HANNAH! I had mistakenly believed that when you preorder a book on Amazon, they ship it before or at least on the day it goes on sale. Um, no. I NEED TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS TO JENNET! So I'm never pre-ordering a book I'm really anxious for ever again. If I lived in some podunk town in the middle of nowhere, it would be different. But I live in the biggest city in America where there's like 50 bookstores within a 5 mile radius. (I completely made that number up, but there are a lot.) It's not often that I NEED a book on the actual release date, so I'll just pay full price in the bookstore from now on.

Which is what I did yesterday. I was so fed up, I just took myself down to B&N and bought a copy of Queen of Swords. And, yes, it cost $27 (ouch!), but it's really long--over 500 pages, so I can deal. And hopefully Amazon will let me cancel my order.

And while I was there I had to buy Santa Baby, the Christmas anthology with a Crusie novella in it. It's JMC's fault, she reminded me about it.

But I am making a vow. A public vow and if I break it you can all yell at me.

I solemnly swear I will buy no more books until 2007.

It's going to be tough. When I told Twin she did a snort-laugh. She obviously doesn't think I can do it. BUT I THINK I CAN. I THINK I CAN. I THINK I CAN. I have so many good books already that I need to read. So, inspired by Dance Chica, I am making a list of books I'd like to finish before the year is up. There are 8 weeks left, and I think I average about 2-3 books a week, so I'm listing 25 books. That will probably be too many what with holidays and so on.

1. Venetia, Georgette Heyer
2. Queen of Swords, Sara Donati
3. Home to Big Stone Gap, Adriana Trigiani
4. Motor Mouth, Janet Evanovich
5. Nature Girl, Carl Hiaasen
6. Beyond Paradise, Elizabeth Doyle
7. Cold as Ice, Anne Stuart
8. Santa Baby, Jennifer Crusie et al.
9. Trust Me, Jayne Anne Krentz
10. Shining Through, Susan Isaacs
11. My Lady Notorious, Jo Beverley
12. After the Night, Linda Howard
13. Twilight, Stephanie Meyer
14. Kushiel's Dart, Jacqueline Carey
15. Season of Storms, Susanna Kearsley
16. The Smoke Theif, Shana Abe
17. Ceremony in Death, J.D. Robb
18. Dreaming of You, Lisa Kleypas
19. Thunder and Roses, Mary Jo Putney
20. Jackdaws, Ken Follett
21. Morning Glory, LaVyrle Spencer
22-24. Donovan Legacy trilogy, Nora Roberts
25. A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens (because I read this every Christmas)

See, I am excited about reading everything on that list, so there's no need to buy any more books. Plus my parents always get me a bunch of books for Xmas, so anything I want I'll put on my Xmas list. :)

Friday, November 03, 2006

Green Gables prequel?

Penguin Canada has announced that they're going to publish a prequel to Anne of Green Gables next year in honor of the book's 100th anniversary:

The prequel, Before Green Gables, which tells the story of Anne's early life in foster homes and an orphanage in Nova Scotia, will be written by Governor General's Literary Award finalist Budge Wilson, the award-winning author who has published twenty-nine books in more than 10 countries and whose stories have been included in over 90 anthologies, including the first Journey Prize Anthology.

I've never heard of this Budge Wilson, though she has a pretty cool name. Budge. Trying to imitate the style and feel of such a beloved classic sounds dodgy to me. And Anne's life before her adoption is supposed to be quite depressing. I think one of the reasons so many people love the Green Gables books is the homey, idyllic quality of them. Anne as an unloved orphan might not be quite the same!

But apparently Penguin is also going to put out a collectible 100th Annniversary edition of Anne of Green Gables. Ooohh! Might have to replace my poor little mass market copy that's falling apart.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Title: The Dancing Floor
Author: Barbara Michaels
Published: 1997, HarperCollins
Category: Mystery/ Romantic Suspense
Rating: 7/10

I'm having trouble deciding on the category for this. What are the Barbara Michaels books? Sort of gothic suspense. Romantic suspense. Mystery. They don't fit neatly into any genre I can come up with. Anyway, I've read a few of this author's Amelia Peabody mysteries, written under the pseudonym Elizabeth Peters, and liked them, so I decided to give this a try.

Heather Tradescant is traveling through England touring gardens. She had planned to go on the trip with her father, but on his death, she decided to make the trip alone. The action begins when Heather arrives at Troyton House, whose garden she particularly wanted to see because an ancestor of hers was the gardener who designed it. But the new owners, eccentric millionaire Frank Karim and his son Jordan, don't permit visitors. She goes looking for a back way in and finds a spooky maze. As she rushes out of the maze frightened, she comes upon Frank and Jordan. Frank takes a liking to her and has the odd idea that a descendent of the original landscape architect is just the person to help him restore the gardens, so he persuades her to stay on for a while to help.

I do like Michaels/Peters style of writing. It's very neat and clean and straightforward, if that makes sense. And her sarcastic sense of humor is funny to me. Her characters are like normal people. With lots of flaws. Sometimes irritable and not very nice. Once when Jordan is trying to discuss something with Heather he says, "You see, you're the only one I can talk to. You do seem to have the rudiments of a logical mind."

But I have to say I didn't love this. The mystery seemed a bit tepid. Not quite as gripping as I would have liked. I was horrible and read the last page first (I hardly ever do this, but I was trying to figure out whether there was any romance involved). And as I was getting near to the end, I kept asking myself, how is she going to get there from here?! The romance was a little abrupt. Again, if I hadn't known who Heather was going to end up with, I wouldn't have guessed at all. I would have liked to see a little more development there.

But I'm not giving up on Michaels. I'm going to try another, because though this particular story didn't do much for me, I think that others of hers will work better for me.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Happy Halloween everyone! Eat lots of candy.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Title: Tall, Dark & Dead
Author: Tate Hallaway
Published: 2006, Berkley
Category: Paranormal Romance
Rating: 5/10

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

Um, can I have a dare instead?

This 5 Truths meme has been spreading around like wildfire. Megan and Mailyn tagged me.

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

Title: Lord of Danger
Author: Anne Stuart
Published: 1997, Zebra
Category: Historical Romance
Rating: 9/10

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 stalker biggest fan)
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

Title: A Reason to Live
Author: Maureen McKade
Published: 2006, Berkley
Category: Historical Fiction - Western
Rating: 5/10

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