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.