Friday, June 30, 2006

Lovely day

I took a vacation day today. For no other reason than to have a day all to myself. I love thinking about my coworkers slaving away while I'm playing. (Ha ha! Suckers!) And I'm off Monday and Tuesday. 5-day weekend, baby!

So I've been playing with my bloggy's sidebar a little. A section for upcoming books I'm looking forward to. And all the way at the bottom is "Gimme Gimme!" This is a list of books that I want to own but don't want to buy for myself. (Mama, are you reading this and getting the not-at-all-subtle hint?) I'm not greedy, I'm just making holiday shopping easier for people. :)

But whenever I mess with Blogger's template it's a crapshoot. I know almost nothing about html, so I just kind of punch some stuff in there and preview. It takes many, many tries to get it looking right. So if anything looks funky, let me know.

Now I'm off to finish the new Stephanie Plum. Yay.
Title: Ride the Fire
Author: Pamela Clare
Published: 2005, Dorchester
Category: Historical Romance
Rating: 7/10

The lovely Kristie J. has been on a mission to spread the word about this book. She said it reminded her of Last of the Mohicans, which I LOVE (the movie, not the book). So, when I saw Ride the Fire at the library, I had to pick it up. And I'm glad I did.

Because I thought the first 3/4 of this book was solid gold, classic romance.

Our hero and heroine are both slightly damaged goods. Elspeth Stewart was sexually abused as a young girl and therefore fears men and sex. Nicholas Kenleigh has a tortured soul from being captured and tortured by Indians. At the start of the novel, Nicholas is wounded and collapses near Elspeth's farm in the Ohio wilderness. Elspeth is living alone, recently widowed and very pregnant. Though she fears Nicholas, she allows him to stay as he heals. Nicholas helps deliver Elspeth's baby and they come to trust each other. When an Indian uprising begins, Nicholas knows he cannot leave Elspeth alone with a baby in the wilderness, so they start the dangerous journey to the nearest fort.

The action is really good, very exciting as they dodge Indians and evil men from Elspeth's past. The characters were lovely. I especially liked Nicholas--strong and hardened to violence, but still gentle and amazingly patient with Elspeth. And this book is HAWT!! She certainly did ride his fire. A lot. :)

My only problem with the book is that once they left Fort Pitt for Philadelphia, I thought the plotting fell apart a bit. The book's conflict had been resolved. Elspeth no longer fears men, and Nicholas has come to terms with his past and realized that he can have a normal life. It turned into a normal Cinderella story, which is fine and dandy, but it lacked the beginning's force and excitement.

There were several mentions of Nicholas's uncle Jamie and his wife Brighid, which makes me think they have a book of their own. I'll have to find out, because it's probably worth a read.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Title: Black Arrow
Author: I. J. Parker
Published: 2006, Penguin
Category: Mystery
Rating: 7/10

This is my latest freelance proofreading assignment. Some of the jobs I get are pretty boring, and it can a little painful to slog through them. But sometimes I'll get a book like this one--something I never would have picked out myself to read, but a book that I end up really enjoying.

Black Arrow is a mystery set in 11th century Japan. The hero, Sugawara Akitada, is sent to be the provincial governor in a northern area of Japan. He arrives to chaos--he's got corrupt judges, poorly trained military, and a populace that distrusts him from the get-go. And he must deal with a local warlord who has been usurping the imperial authority that Akitada must now try to reestablish. An innkeeper is murdered and Akitada must prove that the three suspects who have been arrested were framed.

The plot is so full of twists and turns that I couldn't possibly explain it all. But it's one of those good mysteries where everything ties up so cleverly at the end. And when you see the resolution you can think back to all those hints and clues that were dropped and everything just falls into place.

And it's really beautifully written. I love this passage:
"I have met your lady and saw that she is with child. When you become downcast again over what cannot be changed, remember: To have her is like having the sun and moon in your sleeve and holding the universe in your hand."
The only problem I had with this book is that there are almost no female characters. The only two are Akitada's wife, who we see only briefly, and an evil scheming seductress who we hate. I thought this was a very "boy" book and was shocked to find that the author is a woman! I'm always amazed by authors who can write believable primary characters of the opposite gender. Anyway, I think this would make a good gift for your favorite male reader.

Black Arrow isn't out until November, but if this sounds interesting to you, there are three previous Sugawara Akitada novels in print: The Hell Screen, Rashomon Gate, and The Dragon Scroll.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Title: Yes, the River Knows
Author: Tracy Dunham
Published: 2005, Berkley Prime Crime
Category: Mystery
Rating: 4/10

I'm not going to say much about this one, because it was pretty blah. Not bad, but not particularly good either. It's a legal mystery. Decent plot, decent characters.

The one thing I will say though, is that while the writing I thought was overall pretty good, every once in a while she'd come out with these metaphors that were just sooooo strange. Like this:
"Grasping my hand, he pulled me out of the ditch. I felt like a feather flying in his hot currents."
Uh, wha? It sounds like she's talking about sex, right? No! He's actually just helping pull her out of a ditch. Everyone is fully clothed. I guess she's talking about his emotional "currents." But, uh, come on.

One more example:
"I stopped pacing long enough to stare into Braidwood's eyes. He averted his like a rat terrier going down a hole after a possum."

Ok, am I the only one who thinks this is strange? Yeah, I'm a city girl now, but do normal people know what a rat terrier looks like going down a hole after a possum? Metaphors should help you create a better mental image of what's happening. Not pull you completely out of the story as you try to figure out what the hell the author is talking about!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Series: Sookie Stackhouse/Southern Vampire
Author: Charlaine Harris
Published: 2002-2004, Ace
Category: Fantasy
Rating: 6

I've been on a Sookie Stackhouse binge. I read the first one in this series a few weeks ago and liked it so much that I ordered the whole set. I've inhaled three of them in the last week. They're really fun books. A telepathic barmaid who befriends all kinds of supernatural beings--what's not to love?

Drive-by synopses: (If you haven't read the series, beware of some spoilers.)

Living Dead in Dallas (#2)- Sookie is sent to Dallas to use her telepathic skills to search for a missing vampire. She encounters a rabid anti-vampire cult. We meet more shapeshifters.

Club Dead (#3)- Bill is kidnapped by Lorena, the evil vampire who sired him. Sookie goes to Jackson to try to find him. There she meets Alcide, a Werewolf. Together they investigate Club Dead, an all-supernatural bar run by the King of Vampires. (hee hee)

Dead to the World (#4)- Eric loses his memory and a group of evil vampire blood-drinking Were-witches try to take over Shreveport. Jason is kidnapped and Sookie has to rescue him. Fairies are introduced briefly.

Random thoughts on the series so far:
  • It seems like each book is getting just a little more violent.
  • Eric is a much more interesting character than Bill. Much more vampire-like. Bill's kind of blah. Plus we couldn't really forgive him for what he does to Sookie in Club Dead.
  • Why doesn't Sookie notice Sam more?? He's great. I think she should stop wasting time on these loser vampires and go for Sam. He would never betray her.
  • I think the thing that makes this series work and stay fresh after so many installments is the fact that the original premise is so good. A telepathic woman who can't really connect on any intimate level with regular humans and therefore has to look for love and companionship among supernatural beings. It's different and original.

I've got two more to read, though I might take a little break. I am anxious to see what happens next.

Numbers! Too. Many. Numbers!

I just have to complain about the new 13-digit ISBNs. I guess that many people won't even be aware of this, but starting in 2007 all ISBNs are switching from 10-digit to 13-digits. Apparently we're running out of the 10-digit ones. Who knew there were so many books out there? Our database at work just converted to the 13-digit system over the weekend and for reasons that I won't go into here (because they're confusing and very boring) this creates a pain in my ass.

And while we're talking numbers, I think you Canadians out there are getting a better deal on American books. Publishers have conversion charts that tell what Canadian price to use for each American price. So last year, a $15 book got a $21 Canadian price. They've just revised our conversion chart so that starting in September, a $15 book is now only $18.50 in Canada. Obviously there are some principles of economics at work here that my little brain can not handle, but it seems like you guys are getting more book for less dollars. Or can someone who doesn't have a math-challenged brain explain this to me?

Monday, June 19, 2006

Austen fans, look at this

Publisher's Lunch reported this deal last week:

Actress Emma Campbell Webster's LOST IN AUSTEN: A Make Your Own Jane Austen Adventure, to Sarah McGrath at Riverhead, by Zoe Pagnamenta at PFD New York, in a pre-empt, for publication in early 2008.

PW says, "Webster's adventure novel is a literary game that will give readers the opportunity to play at being Elizabeth Bennet, navigating their way through important and difficult decisions about love and marriage upon which the plot hinges; the book will incorporate characters and landscapes from all Austen's novels."

Will this be like one of those old choose your own adventure books?? Seems odd. I would be really excited about this, except that Riverhead books are usually super snooty and literary. It'll definitely be worth a look, though.

And I have no idea who this actress/author is.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Title: Sammy's Hill
Author: Kristin Gore
Published: 2004, Hyperion
Category: General Fiction
Rating: 7

Hello jennie's bookloggers. This is Julie (AKA Twin). Jennie is trapped under one of her bookcases, with only her little feet sticking out, like the Wicked Witch of the East (or was it the West?). I could list other ways in which she bears a resemblance to a witch, but that is not the subject at hand. The subject that is at hand, of course, is a book. I do read occasionally, though I am definitely an amateur compared to Jennie. So I'm going to leave Jennie under the bookcase (she's rarely so quiet), and share some thoughts about one of the books I read on vacation.

Sammy's Hill was one of the books we got from our BPL book loot. When I picked it up, I wasn't sure whether the author, Kristin Gore, was in fact Al Gore's daughter. There was no mention of her famous parentage on the book jacket, and my memories of the 2000 election debacle have fortunately faded sufficiently to render Al's family a bit hazy. I had to look it up on the internet. And yup, she's his daughter. Hard to believe because she's funny. Really funny. And down-to-earth. And suddenly Al Gore seems a little less fact-spewing robot and a little more human to have produced such a daughter.

Sammy Joyce is the 27-year-old domestic policy advisor to a junior senator from Ohio. She is idealistic and maybe a little naive, and has complete faith in her boss, a hard-working, honest, and morally pure politician (and now you know this is a work of fiction). Sammy falls for a smooth-talking hottie speechwriter who works for an ambitious and morally corrupt presidential candidate. But there is also a mild-mannered Clark Kent of a reporter who is either Sammy's arch-enemy or soulmate.

This is a pretty light read. And quite funny. Sammy is a very likable character, with hysterical idiosyncrasies. Kristin Gore also obviously shares her character's belief in the political system and its ability to produce honest, idealistic leaders. That she still believes this after growing up in a political family is fairly incredible. But also reassuring. Here's hoping her Dad is one of those honest, idealistic leaders—and he can make it into the White House.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Title: Miss Wonderful
Author: Loretta Chase
Published: 2004, Berkley
Category: Historical Romance
Rating: 5/10

I was really prepared to love this book. I'd already read Lord Perfect and Mr. Impossible and thought they were great. But I have to say, I was a little bored by this one. Maybe this is partly due to the fact that I was on vacation while reading it, so I was just too distracted to get into it?

The hero is Alistair Carsington, who was injured while doing heroic deeds in the Battle of Waterloo. He's a younger son, so his father says he must go out and find some way of supporting himself. So he latches onto a friend's scheme of building a canal in Derbyshire. He travels to the site of the future canal, and there he meets Mirabel Oldridge, who is the daughter of the biggest landowner through whose property the canal will run. Mirabel is very against having the canal built, as it will spoil her pretty landscaping. Alistair and Mirabel fall in love, but their opinions on the canal are in direct opposition. Mirabel hates it, but Alistair needs it to make his fortune and show the world that he can do something profitable.

The canal thing really got on my nerves after a bit. I was like, come on people, it's just a little canal. Build it or not, it's not the end of the world. You can have true love if you just get over this one little thing.

I did really like the two characters' opinions on clothes, because it was the opposite of the norm. Although Mirabel is beautiful, she dresses really frumpy and this drives Alistair, who is a dandy, nuts. It was very funny. I can relate to Mirabel, because I am a bit fashion-challenged myself. It's not that bad, but I do stick to the basics on clothes. If I could wear jeans and a T-shirt every day, I would. I'm always amazed by women who have all these complicated outfits, with all the coordinating jewelry and bag and whatever else. If my top and bottom and shoes match, then I think job well done. Maybe I need an Alistair to do my shopping and then pick out my clothes every morning.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Title: The Comeback Kiss
Author: Lani Diane Rich
Published: 2006, Warner
Category: Contemporary Romance
Rating: 5.5

This was a much better beach read. A few months ago, I read Rich's Ex and the Single Girl and liked it a lot, so I picked this one up for my trip.

Tessa has been raising her younger sister, Izzy, since the night ten years ago when their mother was killed in a fire. That same night Tessa's high school boyfriend, Finn, stole both her virginity and her VW Thing, before taking off for parts unknown. Now Finn's back in town giving Tessa stellar comeback kisses and trying to help the two sisters figure out the mystery of their mother's death.

The plot was more than a little ridiculous--the lies Tessa thinks she has to tell to keep custody of Izzy, and the evil, corrupt social worker. And the resolution of the mother's death was kind of a letdown. She built it up like it was going to be really interesting, and then it just wasn't.

But, I really liked Izzy and Finn. Very funny and cute. And even if the mystery didn't really work, what did work was the relationships between the characters--they seemed very genuine and real.

Title: Lady of Quality
Author: Georgette Heyer
Published: 1972, Dutton
Category: Historical Romance
Rating: 3

If you've never read Georgette Heyer, don't start with this one. Harlequin has been re-releasing a lot of Heyers with new forewords by romance authors. They haven't done this one, for good reason. It was bo-ring.

Miss Annis Wychwood is beautiful and rich. However, she's never met a man she wanted to give up her independence for, so at 30, she is an old maid. She meets a young girl who is running away from home, feels sorry for her and takes her in. The girl's guardian, Oliver Carleton, arrives in Bath. He is rude and straight-forward, and he and Annis argue with one another constantly. But arguing in a flirting kind of way.

I've really loved some other Heyers, but this one was just too slow-moving. Annis was a good character--older and wiser than a lot of Heyer's girl-heroines--but she didn't make up for the boring plot.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Home again, home again

Home from vacation. We had the best time. The Little Shack was surprisingly un-shitty. Basic, but comfortable and pretty charming. Look at the awesome sand castle we made!

Soundtracks of the trip:
Pajama Game (with Harry Connick, Jr. Hmmm yummy.) I love musicals. I don't care if that makes me a dork.
Surprise, the new Paul Simon, which I hadn't heard before but is very good.

We saw three movies:
X-Men 3 (Liked it a lot--pretty ballsy with that ending, I think)
The Break-up (Ugh. Usually I love Vince Vaughn because he is a funny, funny man, but this was just 2+ hours of annoying fighting which got old really, really fast)
Prairie Home Companion (very good, if you're a fan of the radio show. Garrison Keillor is the cutest old man alive. I just want to give him a hug. And that voice, that voice!)

I finished three books--Comeback Kiss by Lani Diane Rich, Lady of Quality by Georgette Heyer, and Miss Wonderful by Loretta Chase. All of them were okay, but a little disappointing. Which is upsetting, because I thought they'd be for sure keepers. I'll post mini-reviews soon.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Vacation!!! Finally.

Twin and I are leaving tonight for a week on the Outer Banks, NC. Thank God. I have been looking forward to this for months. Work has been killing me lately.

We may have rented the smallest cottage on the Outer Banks. When we were choosing, we kept looking at all these beautiful houses. Look, this one's got a jacuzzi! A pool! Hot tub! Home theater! Sadly though, Julie and I both have jobs that we like, but don't make us a whole lot of money. (Damn my hippie parents! Why couldn't I have been raised all materialist and consumerist?!!) So listed as the amenities for our house: cable tv, private well. WTF? Private well? We have therefore been calling it alternately the Shit Hole or the Little Shack. It will definitely be an adventure.

But it's really close to the beach and in a beautiful area, so I'm not complaining. Since the Little Shack is so amenity-free, I will be without internet. I'll definitely be having some withdrawal symptoms.

I, of course, plan to do plenty of reading.