Thursday, December 18, 2008

Bookish Kitty

One of the many distractions in my life that are keeping me from reading is the fact that my sister (and roommate) adopted two kittens a few weeks ago. They are completely lovable and adorable -- so cute and sweet, in fact, that we can't stay mad at them when they tear up our toilet paper or scratch our legs.

Last night, Max discovered that he can climb behind the books in my bookshelves -- he seems especially fond of my Julie Quinn collection.

Guthrie is our other kitty -- we've nicknamed him Gut-Gut because he loves to eat and is getting quite a little gut already. He also likes to nap.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving! And tell me what to read!

Hi everyone! So my semester is almost done and soon I will have four weeks off--and much of that time will be spent reading fun, light, delicious fiction! YAYY! No more textbooks or scholarly articles for me. My problem now is what to read first?!! Here's a list of books I'm hoping to get through--
Fortune and Fate, Sharon Shinn
Demon Bound, Meljean Brook
Living with the Dead, Kelley Armstrong
When the Duke Returns, Eloisa James

Anyone have opinions on these? Any other suggestions?

I'll hopefully blog a lot more over break. But for now I want to wish all my American friends Happy Thanksgiving!

And I was wandering the AAR boards today for the first time in months and found out that Carla Kelly's next book is out on 1/1/09! WOOT! Can't wait! (I have to say that I like her original title of Worthy better -- Marrying the Captain is just so Harlequin-ish. But who cares--the inside will be wonderful Kelly, not boring Harlequin editor.)

Monday, October 06, 2008

Beautiful reissues!

I haven't been doing much book shopping lately, but I did run across these reissues on Amazon that made me squee heartily. I love it when publishers bring back old favorites and put pretty new covers on them. Even better is when they have popular current authors write forewords to them.

Celia Garth by Gwen Bristow -- Long-time favorite of mine. Set during the British occupation of Charleston in the Revolutionary War, Celia Garth is a seamstress who starts collecting information about the British to pass on to the patriots. Look at that pretty cover! And the introduction was written by Sara Donati, who writes the Into the Wilderness series (which I love--very impatient for the next book to come out).

Thornyhold by Mary Stewart -- So most of you probably know about my obsession with Mary Stewart. Thornyhold is one of her sweeter, quieter books, so it's not as thrilling as her earlier works, but it's still one of my favorites (and it's been out of print for a while now). Gilly Ramsey inherits her cousin's house, and with the house seems to come her mysterious cousin's reputation as a white witch. The foreword was written by Meg Cabot of Princess Diaries fame.

Devil's Cub by Georgette Heyer -- This one has been out of print for a long, long time, which I do not understand because I think it's one of Heyer's best. I don't know why HQN didn't reissue this book a few years ago when they put out all those mass-market editions. But now there's this pretty trade paperback available. The original rake hero and feisty heroine try to outsmart each other from London to Paris.

Wanty! Wanty!

Friday, September 26, 2008

What's my deal, you ask?

Hi everyone! So it's been a while since I blogged, hasn't it? But I have a good reason! A very good reason. In August I started library school!

Some things I have discovered:
1. Most people don't realize you need a master's degree to be a librarian.
2. Most people don't have any idea what you'd learn in library school.
3. Being a librarian is way more complicated than it might seem.
4. Library school is a lot of work. At least my program is.

But I'm really loving it so far. I decided to do my MLS at UNC's School of Information and Library Science. It's a 2-year program, so I'm taking 4 classes each semester and working 20 hours a week. It doesn't leave a lot of time for fun reading. I'm not giving up on the blog, though. I am determined to limp along here - but I doubt I'll get posts up all that frequently.

This semester I'm taking Information Tools, which is basically technology for librarians. We're doing UNIX, XHTML & CSS, Java, and databases. It's actually my easiest class because I know a lot of it already. Though now I can say HELLO in ASCII (01001000 01000101 01001100 01001100 01001111). I'm such a dork. It's awesome.

I'm also taking Reference (helping people find the information they need), Collection Development (deciding what should go into a library collection), and Preservation (keeping a library's materials in usable shape for as long as possible). Collection Development might kill me, because the professor seems determined to fill my every waking hour with reading, writing papers, and doing group projects.

I haven't made the rounds through my blogroll in a while. Anything interesting happening in blogland? Any new books that everyone's talking about?

I did manage to read Megan Whalen Turner's The Thief and loved it. Will hopefully blog about it sometime soon. :)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Lightning Reviews

My blog is so neglected! I have been reading some--not up to my usual rate, but still chugging along here. I've decided that there's no way I'm going to ever get around to writing full reviews for these, so here are a few quickies:

Title: The Lost Duke of Wyndham
Author: Julia Quinn
Published: 2008, Avon
Category: Historical Romance
Rating: 7/10
Jack Audley, a lesser gentleman turned highwayman, finds out that he is the long lost grandson (and heir) of the Duchess of Wyndham. He has no real desire for such a position, especially after he falls in love with Grace, the Duchess's companion who's not a suitable match for the new Duke. This is the first in a two-part series--the second book will be about Mr. Cavendish, the man Jack cut out of the succession.

Classic Quinn--funny and clever in parts. The first scene especially I thought was great--nice and light. Quick and fun read.

Title: Tribute
Author: Nora Roberts
Published: 2008, Putnam
Category: Romantic Suspense
Rating: 5.5/10
Cilla McGowan was a child actor who burned out by her teens. Now she's left show biz behind to renovate houses. She buys a grand old house that was owned by her very famous and glamorous grandmother, who died under suspicious circumstances. Soon Cilla is being terrorized by the past and she has to figure out what really happened to grandma.

I was disappointed by this. I felt it lacked the suspense that has made NR's other recent stand-alones good. I couldn't find it in me to care what happened to the grandmother. And the house talk went a little overboard sometimes--felt like I was stuck in a HGTV show.

Title: The Summoning
Author: Kelley Armstrong
Published: 2008, HarperCollins
Category: Young Adult / Fantasy
Rating: 7/10
First in a young adult trilogy set in the same world as Armstrong's Women of the Otherworld series. Chloe Saunders begins to see dead people and is sent to a psychiatric home by misguided doctors. She soon finds out that she's not crazy--she's just a necromancer. The other kids in the home also shows signs of paranormal ability.

I enjoyed this--the premise was not exactly new, but it was well executed anyway. Slightly annoyed by the cliff-hanger at the end, but it will definitely get me to buy the next in the series. Which I guess was the point.

Title: The Wedding Officer
Author: Anthony Capella
Published: 2006, Bantam
Category: General Fiction
Rating: 8.5/10
This one has gotten some great reviews around the web, and I agree. During WWII, English captain James Gould is sent to Naples to be the "wedding officer." His job is basically to discourage Englishmen from taking Italian wives. He's doing a great job until he meets Livia Pertini, who introduces the stuffy Englishman to Italy's seductive food and relaxed lifestyle.

I loved this one. I loved the discussion of Italian culture, the WWII history was interesting, and the descriptions of food were sooo fantastic. This book will definitely make you hungry for good Italian food. Highly recommended! :)

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Certain Girls, Jennifer Weiner

Title: Certain Girls
Author: Jennifer Weiner
Published: 2008, Atria
Category: General Fiction
Rating: 7/10

Look! I'm blogging! Yay! How is everyone? I've missed you all. :)

This book is the sequel to Weiner's first book, Good in Bed. It's been a while since I read that book, but as I recall we saw our heroine, Cannie, a smart, funny, plus-size woman, deal with being dumped by her pothead boyfriend and finding out she's pregnant by him (as he runs away to Amsterdam). After much anguish, she finds happiness in her new daughter, Joy, and husband, Peter.

Certain Girls takes place when Joy is 13, a very precocious 13. Half the book is told from her perspective and half from Cannie's. Joy is dealing with normal teenage things: wanting to be a "cool" kid, getting away from the smothering attentions of a very involved mother. Her situation is complicated by the fact that Cannie wrote a semi-autobiographical novel about herself, in which she explains that Joy was an accident--this makes insecure Joy feel even worse about herself and very angry with her mother.

Cannie, while dealing with her out-of-control daughter, is also dealing with the fact that her husband wants them to have another child. Since Joy's birth was difficult, she cannot bear more children herself, so they are left looking for a surrogate mother.

I did enjoy this book--even though it's a sort of combination of ChickLit and MomLit, both of which I generally dislike. The self-absorption of ChickLit usually turns me off, and I'm just not able to relate that well to MomLit, not being a mother myself. But Weiner does have a great sense of humor and as always there were some very funny moments. Once when Cannie and Joy are shopping for dresses, Joy tells her mother that one dress "looks like God ate Mexican food, then threw up on you."

She also comes up with some real truisms, which while maybe a little cynical are probably quite realistic. My two favorites are: "It isn't politically correct to say so, but in the real world, good looks function as a get-out-of-everything-free card." and "This is motherhood for you ... going through life with your heart outside your body."

The way Joy treats her mom definitely took me back to my teen years, though I don't think I was ever as cruel to my mom as Joy is to hers. At least I hope not. It made me want to call and apologize for all my bratty years. :) Any moms out there with teenage girls will definitely relate to this book. And probably thank heavens their lives aren't as complicated.

Friday, June 20, 2008

A conversation between Jennie and her blog...

Blog: Hello? Hellooo? Anybody there?
Jennie: Oh, hi blog. What's up?
Blog: Where have you been?!
Jennie: Whoa. It hasn't been that long since I was here.
Blog: Over two weeks!
Jennie: Oh. Hmmm. Sorry.
Blog: I mean, here I am, saving all your thoughts, sending them to people all around the world, and you just ... abandon me!
Jennie: Relax, bloggy.
Blog: Just talk to me. You've been reading, right? What about the new Loretta Chase--what did you think of it?
Jennie: Oh, I liked it.
Blog: That's it? You liked it?
Blog: Great characters, sparkling dialogue, cool setting?
Jennie: Yeah, all that.
Blog: *sigh*
Jennie: Blog, I'm just busy right now. I'll be back soon.
Blog: It's something I did, isn't it? You're mad at me. You don't like me anymore.
Jennie: No, no. But see, here in the real world we have this thing called summer. It's awesome. You are unfortunately stuck in cyberspace.
Blog: There's no reason to be ugly.
Jennie: Listen, bloggy--just relax. Take a little vacay. Go visit Second Life Bermuda. I hear it's great.
Blog: Second Life is lame.
Jennie: *smirk* Says the blog. Hee hee.
Blog: Hey, you created me, Miss Smartypants!
Jennie: I promise I'll be back soon. See ya.
Blog: No! Don't go!
Blog: Jennie? ... Jennie?! ... *sniff*

Monday, June 09, 2008

The Charm School, Susan Wiggs

Title: The Charm School
Author: Susan Wiggs
Published: 1999, Mira
Category: Historical Romance
Rating: 6.5/10

Okay, this might be my shortest review ever. The inclination to blog is patchy lately, that's for sure. I think it has to do with it being summer. (And sooo freaking hot! Yuck.) Anyway, I bought this one because I've been meaning to try Wiggs and Wendy mentioned that Mira was reissuing this older historical of hers.

From the publisher:
An awkward misfit in an accomplished Boston family, Isadora Peabody yearns to escape her social isolation and sneaks aboard the Silver Swan, bound for Rio, leaving it all behind.
Ryan Calhoun, too, had a good family name. But he'd purposely walked away from everything it afforded him. Driven by his quest to right an old wrong, the fiery, temperamental sea captain barely registers the meek young woman who comes aboard his ship.
To the Swan's motley crew, the tides of attraction clearly flow between the two. Teaching her the charms of a lady, they hope to build the confidence she needs to attract not only their lonely captain's attention, but his heart, as well. For everyone knows that the greatest charms are not those of the formal lady, but rather the possibilities of a new world build on love.
Liked it, but didn't love it. I usually like shy heroines, and this one was a good, well-developed one. It's an ugly duckling story--Isadora starts out extremely awkward and plain, and loosens up once she's away from her family and the confines of society. I didn't really buy the way the crew helped train her as a lady though; what sort of sailors know how to do hair and speak like an aristocrat?

Anyone have an opinion on the rest of this series? The next one appears to be The Horsemaster's Daughter, about Ryan's brother, Hunter.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

The Alleluia Files, Sharon Shinn

Title: The Alleluia Files
Author: Sharon Shinn
Published: 1998, Ace
Category: Science Fiction
Rating: 7.5/10

After reading Jovah's Angel and loving it, I had to move right on to this one, the next in the series. There are BIG SPOILERS here for the previous two books in the series (including a huge, really cool plot twist that shouldn't be missed), so don't read this review if you haven't read Archangel and Jovah's Angel yet. Trust me.

It's been a hundred years since Alleluia was Archangel and discovered that the god of Samaria is not actually a god at all but a spaceship housing a complex AI machine that answers the Samarians' prayers. Alleluia decided that the people of Samaria simply weren't ready to deal with this knowledge and kept the secret until her death, but rumors have leaked out. A band of people, calling themselves Jacobites, believe these rumors and have spent decades searching for documents that Alleluia might have left behind proving them. The angels in power have become more and more harsh in their efforts to subdue them, to the point that they are now being out and out persecuted for their beliefs. The story follows one Jacobite named Tamar, as she searches for the Alleluia Files. She is joined in her quest by an unlikely ally, the angel Jared.

This is a great end to the trilogy. I didn't love it quite as much as Jovah's Angel, just because I didn't feel like it packed quite the same punch (though it would be hard to top the proclamation that the god is a machine). The structure of the trilogy works really well--the world of Samaria is set up in Archangel, the basis of that world is questioned and overturned in Jovah's Angel, and the people of Samaria finally come to terms with it all in The Alleluia Files. The world just keeps getting more complex and interesting with each book.

One thing that struck me (and very much appreciated) about The Alleluia Files was that the religious fanatics on both sides of the issue are presented as less than praiseworthy. Obviously the evil, power-hungry Archangel Bael, who has been ordering the murder of Jacobites, is made the main villain. So it would have been easy to let the Jacobites be all saintly martyrs, who righteously go to their deaths for the betterment of mankind. But they are generally shown to be not particularly intelligent or cunning in their planning, and not particularly kind-hearted. Shinn really pokes fun at them--they are depicted as a cult, lemmings whose aimless plans are basically ineffectual and whose beliefs are just as fanatical and irrational as Bael. Their quest obsesses them completely, and though we know that what they believe is actually correct, they do not. Their beliefs are not based on scientific evidence any more than the angels' are. Both sides, Bael and the Jacobites, are blinded by their obsessive beliefs. Tamar and Jared are able to solve the puzzle (and engage this cynical reader) because they are able to take a step back from the problem and think rationally.

Shinn's written two more books set on Samaria--Angel-Seeker and Angelica, both of which are in the TBR. :)

Monday, June 02, 2008

New glasses

What do you think? They're a bit bolder than my last pair.

I think my blogging mojo has returned. I've read some really good books the last few days. I started the new Julia Quinn last night and the first scene reminded me why I enjoy her books. So funny.

And I've converted Li. MWAHAHA! She now understands the greatness that is Mary Stewart. What are you waiting for?? :)

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Jovah's Angel, Sharon Shinn

Title: Jovah's Angel
Author: Sharon Shinn
Published: 1997, Ace
Category: Science Fiction
Rating: 8.5/10

Jovah's Angel is the second in Shinn's Samaria series. I read the first, Archangel, a while ago and enjoyed the writing but was completely annoyed by the heroine. But I've like Shinn's other books much better, so I had to give this series another try. And I'm so glad I did, because I loved this one.

The world of Samaria is ruled by a small group of angels, which are led by an Archangel. These angels sing to their god, praying for rain during drought, medicine for the sick, and seed when crops fail. The god has always provided what they pray for. But now the angel's prayers seem to be in vain. It's been storming for months and nothing the angels do makes any difference. During one of these storms, the Archangel, Delilah, is thrown to the ground and breaks her wing. The god surprises everyone by naming Alleluia as the next Archangel. Quiet and unassuming, she is considered by many as a bad choice who will be unable to deal with the politics of ruling.

Alleluia does not particularly want to be Archangel, but she'll do what she has to to help Samaria. In an effort to figure out why the angels' prayers are not being answered, she travels to the oracles and has them ask the god what to do. The god's answer is extremely cryptic. Trying to make sense of this, she studies the ancient texts and her discoveries make her question the very nature of the god itself. She is helped by a moral, Caleb Augustus, a scientist who has lost faith in the god.

I love Shinn's writing style--it's so solid, meaty but still fluid. The language is lovely; the way she describes the angels' singing is beautiful and just amazingly effective. And the romance is so well done. It never overpowers the rest of the plotline, but still manages to be integral to the story. And I was happy that I found it soooo much easier to relate to Alleluia than to Rachel (the heroine of Archangel). I loved her and Caleb both.

And the world-building is so interesting! The world of Samaria is very original, and there are some pretty shocking developments in this book. Before reading Jovah's Angel, I was sort of sad that each book in this series is each set a century apart, so we don't get to see any of the same characters in the sequels. But I changed my mind when I realized that this set-up allows us to see how the world of Samaria is evolving. Archangel is set in a completely pre-Industrial era. In Jovah's Angel, the Samarians are starting to make scientific discoveries, and we see how that is changing the way people think about religion.

The devoutly religious might find the book disturbing, but I thought the discussions of science vs. faith were fascinating. Highlight for BIG spoiler [read the book first!!]: I had already read somewhere that the god was actually a spaceship (I wish I hadn't known!), but I liked the way Shinn dropped clues throughout. And when Alleya's at the oracle and the god says to SEND HELP--well, I was enthralled. ;) I also thought that Alleya's reactions to finding out that her god was a machine were great. She's upset but not crushed--she deals with the fall-out rationally and with great intelligence. :)

I moved right on to the next in the series, The Alleluia Files. And I talked Twin into reading Shinn's Twelve Houses series, and she's loving it just like I said she would. (A few minutes ago she made a little squeal and said, "Tayse was captured!!" Oh no!) :p

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Simply Perfect, Mary Balogh

Title: Simply Perfect
Author: Mary Balogh
Published: 2008, Delacort
Category: Historical Romance
Rating: 6/10

This is fourth and last in Balogh's Simply series. Balogh is comfort reading for me--I know I'm going to get a very nice story filled with very nice characters and everything will turn out very nicely in the end. ;) So even though I haven't loved this series, I still enjoyed Simply Perfect.

Claudia Martin has run a school for girls in Bath for over a decade. She has been content there, ruling over the roost with a firm, yet kind, hand. So when Joseph, Marquess of Attingsborough, offers her a ride to London and makes himself charming and attentive, she tries very hard not to fall for him. At 33 she considers herself firmly on the shelf, and she appreciates the independence of her current life. But as the two become closer friends, they both realize that they're falling in love. But Joseph must do as society expects and marry within his own class, even as he discovers that his fiance, Miss Hunt, is one cold fish.

This story is definitely not new--really this is almost the exact same plot as at least two of the other Simply books. But it's told well. It may be too sugary sweet for some readers, but I liked it anyway. Balogh somehow manages to satisfy my need for sweet romance without making me want to puke--it's a fine line and she's always on the right side. :p

That said, Claudia definitely isn't my favorite Balogh heroine--she's supposed to be very no-nonsense and stern, but she seemed to act a bit out of character at times. I guess the point is that underneath her hard shell there beats a soft, soft heart, but I would have appreciated a bit more teeth to her. And I didn't think Joseph was a very good match for her--he's easygoing and jolly, and I was just never convinced that he would appreciate Claudia's good qualities enough to fall in love with her.

My favorite part by far was how Claudia helped Joseph with his big problem (I am being intentionally vague here because I don't want to give it away). Claudia's desire to help did seem very in character--she saw it as a challenge, and her kindness made it impossible for her not to do everything she could. It was just ... nice. ;)

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Sharing Knife: Passage, Lois McMaster Bujold

Title: The Sharing Knife: Passage
Author: Lois McMaster Bujold
Published: 2008, Eos
Category: Fantasy
Rating: 8.5/10

This book is the third in Bujold's Sharing Knife series. I loved the first, Beguilement, and liked the second, Legacy, for the most part. So no question I had to read this one.

The Sharing Knife series is set in a world where there are two almost entirely separate races of people living side by side: Lakewalkers and Farmers. Lakewalkers have groundsense, which is basically a magical ability to sense ground, or life force. Their whole purpose in life is to use their groundsense to search out malices, which are sort of life-sucking monsters that crop up without warning. Farmers have no groundsense, and over the centuries great distrust and fear have grown up between the two races.

The series focuses on Dag, a Lakewalker patroller, and Fawn, a Farmer girl, who have fallen in love. This is extremely unusual, and they've found that neither of their societies are willing to accept their relationship. Since they can't live as Lakewalkers and they can't live as Farmers, they are left seeking a new kind of life. Dag has also come to the realization that the division between the two races has become a great danger to both--since Farmers are spreading out over more and more land, they are in increasing danger of malices, but since Lakewalkers are very secretive about what they do, Farmers do not have the knowledge to recognize malices or protect themselves.

Dag has decided that it's time to de-mystify the Lakewalker culture, so he sets about teaching Farmers what Lakewalkers do. He and Fawn secure passage on a boat with a vague plan of putting this into action. They are joined by a ragtag group: the boat boss, Berry, is searching for her lost father and fiance; Berry's little brother and drunkard uncle travel with her; two young Lakewalker boys are running from disgrace; and Dag saves a wretched little orphan who quickly becomes his biggest fan. This unusual group makes the long journey down the Grace River to the sea, encountering many trials along the way.

I loved this book almost as much as I loved Beguilement (i.e. a whole lot). Both Dag and Fawn are so completely lovable--Dag because he is so honorable and trying so hard to do what he knows to be right, and Fawn because she is so sweet and lively, and trying so hard to keep Dag from being crushed under the weight of his obligations. Legacy was a tad too gloomy for me because it seemed like the problems the couple faced were just insurmountable. Their problems in this book are still great, but they are facing them and making some progress. There are also several really funny scenes that make for great comic relief: Dag's fishing and the sheep un-stealing were great.

The first two books in the series are really romantic fantasy and focused primarily on Dag and Fawn's relationship. Passage has a more traditional fantasy plotline: it is more concerned with the political situation between Farmers and Lakewalkers, and Dag's quest to find out more about his Lakewalker abilities and how to share those with Farmers. I loved the romance in the first two, though I think this book is maybe the strongest of the three. It can stand alone, which the first two can not.

Passage is also much more of an ensemble piece--Dag and Fawn are still the center of the story, but the secondary characters are much more important. They are all interesting characters, each with their own little story arcs that neatly tie into the overarching one. The group starts out as a bunch of people trapped on a boat together with nothing in common and plenty reason to dislike each other, and they become a sort of family. It's lovely. ;)

So, yay! Super read. There is to be a fourth book in the series, which I can't wait for. Does anyone know the title or when it is due out? I thought I'd read somewhere that Bujold had already finished writing it.

Oh, and I have to say that I love the illustration on the book jacket. That is SO Dag and Fawn. Do you know how rare it is that those illustrations actually look the way I imagine the characters to be? But this one is just right, and so pretty.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

False Colours, Georgette Heyer

Title: False Colours
Author: Georgette Heyer
Published: Orig. 1963, Reissued 2008, Sourcebooks
Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 8/10

Sourcebooks has been reissuing Heyers in very pretty trade paperback editions. I bought this one because I hadn't read it yet and it's about identical twins! (Like me.)

Kit Fancot has been working as a diplomat in Vienna but returns home to London because he has a feeling that his twin brother, Evelyn, is in trouble. He finds out that Evelyn is missing. Kit's not too worried about him because it's not that unusual for Evelyn to disappear on larks for a while, but the problem is that Evelyn has become engaged to a society lady and is due at her father's house for a formal dinner to meet the whole family. Kit's mother explains that Evelyn is making the match to alleviate some financial woes and tells Kit that he must go to the dinner and pretend to be Evelyn. Kit doesn't want to, but he has to help out his brother, so he goes and the ruse goes off without a hitch. The problem comes when the fiance decides that she needs to get to know Evelyn better (because all of a sudden she likes him (as Kit) a whole lot more) and comes with her grandmother to stay at Kit's country house with them. Kit was able to fool everyone for one night, but now he's faced with a week in the girl's company. And he has to figure out where Evelyn has got himself to.

Typical Heyer--I loved it. I find Heyer's books so funny--the situations are ridiculous and some of the characters are too, which makes for hilarious scenes. I laughed out loud when Kit's mother tells Evelyn (when he finally comes home) that now that everyone is used to Kit playing him he must pretend to be Kit pretending to be Evelyn.

Kit's mother is actually an unusual character for Heyer. She is silly and frivolous and her inability to keep her debts under control is giving her sons all sorts of trouble, and yet she's still a sympathetic character. Usually those sorts of characters are held up for ridicule. But the while the mother here may be silly, she has a warm heart and loves her sons more than anything else.

And I can say with experience that the twins did act like twins. Except for the part about them just "knowing" that the other is in trouble even when they are in different countries. Sorry to disappoint, but there is no mystical connection between twins. A couple weeks ago Twin went on a blind date and all of a sudden I just knew that he was an ax murderer, so I kept calling her on her cell phone. Of course she was fine (and really annoyed with me for bugging her). But I can see that it does make for very convenient plot lines, so I guess Heyer can be excused that. She did get it right otherwise. They can be apart for months and when they meet again it's like no time has passed. Better than best friends, with so much shared history that they know each other better than anyone else ever will. And they just know that the other will be there for them no matter what.

Not that they'd ever say so to each other. Heyer really hit it right with that last scene. I never tell Twin "thank you" or "I love you." I'm more likely to call her a fat cow, but she knows what I really mean. :) And now you all need some twin cuteness:

(I have no idea which is me. I can't tell when we're this little.)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

In case anyone is wondering...

I am not the Jennie who has started posting at Dear Author. I don't actually comment that much over there anymore (since they've gotten so big), but when I do I'll have to remember to comment as Jennie S.

I hope her last name doesn't begin with an S. Ahhh, it's so nice to have the most common name of my generation. ;P

Friday, May 09, 2008

Madam, Will You Talk, Mary Stewart

Title: Madam, Will You Talk?
Author: Mary Stewart
Published: 1955, William Morrow
Category: Romantic Suspense
Rating: 9/10

Since I've been working so much lately on the Mary Stewart site, I've of course been put in the mood to re-read some of my favorites of hers. Madam, Will You Talk? was her first book, published in 1955, but in my opinion it's one of her best.

Charity Selborne is vacationing in the South of France with her friend Louise. Shortly after they arrive at their hotel in Avignon, Charity meets a fellow guest, a young boy named David. Charity is rather charmed by him, so she is sad to hear the gossip that's circulating about him: David's father, Richard Byron, was recently charged with murder. He was let off on grounds of insufficient evidence, but Charity soon finds out that David seems to believe that his father was guilty and fears seeing him again. David is traveling with his beautiful stepmother, and both she and David are hiding from Richard.

So when Charity meets Richard and he demands she tell him where David is, Charity is faced with a horrible dilemma: she can't give David up, but what will Richard do to her if she doesn't?

The book is one big fabulous chase scene--and such an exciting one! Charity and Richard run all over, from Nimes and Arles down to Marseilles. Stewart is known for her vivid descriptions of setting, and what better place to be immersed in than Provence? I put together this photo gallery on my other blog, which has photos of some of the settings and quotes from the book. As you can see, Charity visits some gorgeous places and Stewart's descriptions are lovely.

One of the things I like best about all Stewart's suspense novels is that her heroines are everyday women. They're all smart and sensible, and very likable. But unlike many suspense protagonists, they are ordinary people who get caught in extraordinary circumstances--and though they are frightened, they manage to do brave things. Charity is terrified of Richard, but she goes to amazing efforts to elude him because she can't stand the thought of putting David in danger.

Twin isn't really a fan of this book because she says the love story happens too abruptly. And I can see her point. I won't say who Charity's love interest is, because I don't want to give it away, but suffice it to say that she just wakes up one moment to the fact that he is perfect and they're professing their love for each other a second later. Maybe unbelievable, but the pace of the whole book is so fast (it takes place over only four days) that I think it works.

I've just posted a brief excerpt of this book on the Stewart site. It's only the first few paragraphs of the book, but it's so good. It shows the beautiful writing, the romantic feeling of the book, and the gripping suspense. ;)

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Grimspace, Ann Aguirre

Title: Grimspace
Author: Ann Aguire
Published: 2008, Ace
Category: Science Fiction
Rating: 5.5/10

This book has gotten a lot of buzz online since it came out. It seemed like everyone loved it (for example, an A review at DA), and then I read the AAR review, which gave it a D and tells readers to not read it, it's that bad. Of course that immediately made me dig it out of the TBR, to see how people could have such opposite reactions to the same book.

Sirantha Jax has a special gene that allows her to navigate grimspace, which is (I am science-challenged) some sort of other dimension that allows for faster-than-light travel. So she plugs in while on a ship, and the pilot is then able to jump to far reaches of the galaxy. It's a rare trait and gives her a sort of rock-star status among the corporation that has come to dominate interstellar travel. However, at the start of the novel, things aren't going well at all for Sirantha because on her last journey her ship crashed, killing everyone on board except her. She can't remember what happened, and the people she worked for are telling her it was all her fault. She thinks she's about to be sentenced for the crime when she is rescued by a team of rebels who we soon find out are working against the corporation, which they say is completely corrupt. They want to find a way to train a new independent corp of jumpers.

Okay, that's maybe the first 20 pages of plot. This book starts fast and you have to jump on quick because it doesn't slow down. I think this is the book's best trait--the action is nonstop and exciting. It's told in the first person present tense, which is unusual but works really well to make the story seem fast and immediate. The plot is intricate and the world-building, imo, really interesting.

But for all that, I struggled to get through the book. And the reason is maybe not a very good one, but it's just the way I felt: I couldn't really like any of the characters. I just didn't connect with them--I didn't care if they came to good ends or bad. Sirantha and March (the other main character and Sirantha's love interest) both are so damaged, mentally, emotionally and physically, that I couldn't really see how they'd ever get to a better place and I got really tired of hearing about their sad stories. They are both flawed, which can be a very good thing in a character, but I never felt like they properly redeemed themselves.

And some of the choices they made bothered me. They spend most of the book running around the galaxy in a disjointed effort to bring down the evil corporation, sacrificing the lives of several people in the process, and what do they accomplish? Almost nothing.


My favorite character in the whole book was the bounty hunter who comes on the scene in the last 30 pages and fixes everything. He destroys the corporation simply by using his brain and the power of information--it made Sirantha and March's efforts seem idiotic and ruthlessly and needlessly violent. My other huge problem with the ending is the way March reacts when he thinks Sirantha has been killed. He turns into a terrorist? That's just great. He again shows how unstable he is--it's nice that he's learned to love someone, but I just can't admire a character who is, well, sort of insane.

I am glad I read Grimspace. I tend to stay away from grittier science fiction, just a personal preference that surely is a large part of the reason I didn't really enjoy this book. But I can see why the book appeals to some readers. Everyone is free to disagree with me. ;)

Saturday, May 03, 2008

TBR update

My TBR was sort of taking over my (very small) bedroom, so I did some pruning. I managed to weed out about 60 books that I decided I was never going to read. Then I was actually able to get everything that was left into the little bookshelf I have--instead of in piles on the floor all around. See the result:
The mass markets are double-stacked and those piles on top are getting a little precarious, but hey, they're in there.

I felt so good about it that what did I do? I went out and bought some books. (It's a sickness, I tell you.)

I bought:
Certain Girls, Jennifer Weiner (she cracks me up)
A Great and Terrible Beauty, Libba Bray (I've heard great things about this)
Moon Called, Patricia Briggs (it's urban fantasy, which I'm not so keen on, but I've heard it's good)
Passages, Lois McMaster Bujold (autobuy--and it's on sale at Amazon for $17!)
False Colours, Georgette Heyer (the new pretty Sourcebooks edition--and it's about twins!)

I needed all those books. I really did.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Crystal Cave, Mary Stewart

Title: The Crystal Cave
Author: Mary Stewart
Published: 1970, William Morrow
Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 8/10

I've just posted a review of this one on the Mary Stewart blog.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

With This Ring, Carla Kelly

Title: With This Ring
Author: Carla Kelly
Published: 1997, Signet
Category: Regency Romance
Rating: 6/10

I am still working my way through Carla Kelly's backlist. :)

Lydia Perkins comes to London with her (horrible!) family so that her younger sister can have a Season and hopefully snag herself a rich husband. Her sister is the spoiled beauty, while Lydia is the sensible spinster who is a bit martyred as she deals with her overbearing mother, demanding sister, and weak father. One day she goes to help nurse wounded soldiers and meets Major Sam Reed. She earns everyone's gratitude and goodwill by being such a steady and caring nurse--Sam is especially smitten. Soon after, Lydia manages to disgrace herself in the eyes of polite society (by offending an amoral young lord), and her family practically kicks her out. Sam has the perfect solution: marry him, as he has great need of a wife anyway.

I have to say this one didn't work for me quite as well of most of Kelly's books. I liked the characters--the H/H are a standard Kelly couple: Sam is very honorable and a bit world-weary; Lydia is pragmatic and sensitive. My problem with the book is some of the incredibility (is that a word?) of the plot.

What I generally love about most Kelly books is that they are so real (by romance novel standards). The characters are normal, everyday people--not your lords and ladies of most Regencies. The problems that befall them are problems that normal people have, and they deal with those problems in realistic ways. But Sam and Lydia did the most incredible things! Sam has been lying to his mother for two years, making up stories about how he's been married and had a baby. He actually expects Lydia to play along with this story once they've returned to his home--lying to his mother forever about who she is. And she agrees to it! Then they just drop by an orphanage one day and pick up a child, like it's not one of the biggest decisions you could possibly make. Are these the actions of rational people?

So, yes, the plot annoyed me. In anyone else's hands the book would have been a total loss. But it was saved by the interesting historical detail and nice characters. I did enjoy it, just not as much as the other Kelly books I've read.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Finally! Hawaii pix.

Julie (Twin) and I finally got our Hawaii pix on flickr. It took us long enough, didn't it? Julie is the photographer, so I can't take credit for them. I'll post some here, but if you want you can view the full set here.

One of our favorite places we went was The Garden of Eden, which is on the western coast of Maui. Amazing plants and beautiful views. Here's the whole fam (except Julie, who's taking the picture). From left to right is Mirth (my brother's girlfriend), Justin (my brother), Mom, Dad, and me.

Twins! (I think we look pretty different here. Julie's started wearing her contacts again, which helps.)

The town of Lahaina was near where we stayed and a really cool place. Mostly tourist shops and restaurants, but still neat. And there is a completely fabulous used bookstore called the Old Lahaina Book Emporium.

And here's me at my future place of employment (in my dreams).

We had this really nice condo that was right on the ocean, with a great deck that was literally a few yards from the beach. Here's me and my big brother doing a crossword there.

And chatting with my dad.

Beautiful sunsets!

And everyone who goes to Maui has to drive up Mt. Haleakala, the 10,000-foot, active volcano on the island. You're supposed to go at sunrise for the best views, but that just wasn't happening. :) Still amazing views, though.

Me pretending to fall into the crater erosional valley (the park rangers corrected us).

Hawaii really is an amazing place. It's also a reeeeaaaallly long way from the East Coast, but totally worth it.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Tea Rose, Jennifer Donnelly

Title: The Tea Rose
Author: Jennifer Donnelly
Published: 2002, St. Martin's Press
Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 7.5/10

I almost always read series in order (I think most avid readers are careful about this), but this is an exception. I read The Winter Rose a couple months ago and loved it, so it was obvious I needed to read this book, which is the first in the trilogy.

Fiona Finnegan is a very young girl living in Whitechapel, one of the poorer areas of London, around the turn of the 20th century. Her life isn't easy, but her fortunes seem to be on the rise: she's in love with Joe Bristow, a bright and irresistible young man, they're saving up to get married and open a store, and they just know that happiness is right around the corner. Then a series of horrible events leaves her orphaned and penniless, abandoned by her lover and with no one to turn to. She jumps on a ship for New York and starts again there, determined to make her dreams come true.

This is one of those beefy historical novels that I love. It is epic at 557 pages, and it is a big story that spans over a decade. I found it intensely readable--jam-packed with lovable characters, as well as some truly hate-worthy villains.

At one point Fiona is likened to the tea rose, a rare kind of rose that smells of tea. I can't find the exact quote now (I flagged it, but my post-it fell off!) but it was something about how tea roses can seem delicate, but in fact are extremely tenacious and hard to kill. In the middle there when Fiona's life is falling apart, I was a little annoyed by the seemingly never-ending tragedies that happen to her. But they are not dwelled on too much, and Fiona's ability to pick herself up and move on with her life does make her a very admirable character. I think if all that happened to me I'd just whimper and expire. ;)

I did like The Winter Rose a bit better because I found India and Sid to be more interesting main characters than Fiona and Joe. Their motivations in life are more admirable (helping the poor vs. revenge and making a lot of money), and the impediment to their relationship is more exciting (Sid's gangsta past vs. Joe's big mistake).

I do wish that I had read this one before The Winter Rose -- one of the final scenes that should have been really surprising was not because I knew an important fact from the 2nd book. So I'd recommend reading these in order, though they do stand alone very well. I will definitely be reading the third in the trilogy when it comes out. Does anyone know the title, or when it will be published?

Friday, April 18, 2008

Personal Demon, Kelley Armstrong

Title: Personal Demon
Author: Kelley Armstrong
Published: 2008, Bantam Spectra
Category: Paranormal Suspense
Rating: 7.5/10

New Kelley Armstrong! Yay. She's still an autobuy for me, even though she made the jump to hardcover.

This is the 8th in her Otherworld series, which is a set of books narrated alternately by characters with different paranormal powers. This one is told from the POV of Hope Adams, a half-demon who can sense chaos, and Lucas Cortez, a sorcerer. We start off with Hope getting a request from Benicio Cortez, the head of the Cortez cabal (think supernatural mob, sort of), to go undercover and join a gang of supernaturals who appear to be gearing up for some sort of attack on the cabal. Hope owes Benicio a favor, so she doesn't have much choice. Plus, she knows that it will help satisfy her secret need for chaos, which is sort of like a drug to her--she knows it's not really good for her, but she can't help herself. At first, the gang appears pretty harmless, until they start getting murdered one by one. Lucas arrives on the scene to help figure out exactly what's going on.

This book seems to be getting less enthusiastic reviews than some of Armstrong's others, and I agree that she hit a real high on her last one (No Humans Involved) that's hard to match, but I really enjoyed this book. I think Hope's fascinating -- she's a very conflicted person, from her struggle to keep her powers under control to her tumultuous relationship with werewolf jewel-thief Karl Marsten. It made her a refreshingly complex heroine. She's also my complete opposite -- I am risk-averse in the extreme, so it was great to find a character who was so different from myself who I still was able to relate to. Really, that must be a sign of a good author.

I'm thinking romance readers might be a bit less enthusiastic about this one, though I thought Hope and Karl's story was great. That scene were Karl explains why he dumped Hope? Adorable. Even if he was kind of an ass. But see? Interesting and realistic characters. :)

This is the first book in the series where the story has alternated between two narrators. And I didn't feel like it worked all that well. I love Lucas to death (he's one of my favorite characters of the whole series), but the sections narrated by him seemed to chop up the story a bit unnaturally. To me, it felt very much like Hope's book--she's the new character we're learning about, and I found it jarring to be jumping into Lucas's head, especially since Hope and Lucas didn't even know each other very well. But then, as I say, I love Lucas, so it didn't bother me overmuch.

The next installment of the series, Living with the Dead, is due out in November. Yippee.