Sunday, October 30, 2005

Recent Reads

I have the reading blahs. I just can't get interested or enthused about anything I've been reading lately. I think the problem is that I recently finished and loved Match Me If You Can so everything else I have started lately has been suffering in comparison. I also started two books (1 erotic historical, 1 romantic suspense) and could not finish either of them so I took them back to the library.

Instead of reading today I have been looking online for blinds for the upstairs bedroom windows. I am the queen of procrastination! The summer before last while I was unemployed I went on a major redecorating binge upstairs with the (very reluctant) help of my husband. I ripped off all the old dark baseboard and aluminum blinds, repainted the bedrooms, and replaced the light switches and electrical outlets (without electrocuting myself), and painted the new baseboards. Bob put in the new baseboards, crown molding, and new six-panel doors. Then we put in some new carpeting. Sounds nice doesn't it? Did you notice I failed to mention anything about new blinds? Well, the thing is (::blushes::) the windows still have sheets on them :) It has been over a year! Ok, ok, I know, I'm a lazy lout. But the ones I want are so expensive so I keep putting it off and Bob (bless his heart) never nags (but really, I bet he doesn't even notice :) Anyway, I'm determined to get them ordered since I have company coming for Christmas.

I checked the price again today (of course, not cheaper). I really want those sheer horizontal blinds, 'cuz they are so beautiful but one window will be $600 and the other almost $800!! Yikes, it's time to get practical and face reality. ::sigh:: So I'm ordering the aluminum blinds (way cheaper). But what color? Those color swatches online just don't help. So it's off to Home Depot to see the actual thing. As you can tell I'm procrastinating again and way off topic.

Here are some books I want to review but I'm feeling too lazy to say much:

One Night of Sin by Gaelen Foley
This regency historical begins with the heroine, Becky Ward, running away from her cousin, the evil Russian prince, and his Cossacks. She falls asleep on a doorstep when Lord Alec Knight happens upon her, takes her home, and she sacrifices her virginity to him so he'll protect her. If any of that plot sounds plausible to you, then you'll love it, but I just couldn't get my mind around it. Hero, Alec, was quite charming and there was good sexual tension for a whole two or three chapters. It was a fast, smooth read but I just didn't buy the Russian prince bit. My Grade: C+


The Lily Brand by Susan Schwab
This book was just too creepy and you know how squeamish I am. Lily is forced by her very insane evil step-mother to pick out a prisoner (an English prisoner of war) in a French jail to take him home as some kind of sexual slave. Chains and torture were involved and I had a hard time with it. This was a debut novel for Schwab and I'm not sure if I'll try her again. My Grade: C


The Marriage Bed by Laura Lee Guhrke
I can see why this is such a controversial book. Adultery is not an easy subject to tackle. I didn't particulary care for either H/H but I found myself asking "Was the story believable and did I buy the HEA?". My answer was yes to the first but maybe to the second. The whole subject made me a bit uncomfortable and was very thought provoking. But, heh I'm not Dr. Phil, so I guess I gave them the benefit of the doubt because I ended up liking it. My Grade: B


Last Girl Dancing by Holly Lisle
I enjoyed this book because of the unusual storyline and the scarred hero. The heroine is a police detective who is part of a team looking for a serial killer that is murdering strippers. She is a former dancer that lost her twin sister who is believed dead. She poses undercover as a stripper in a sleazy strip club. The hero is a former special forces agent who suffered a serious injury to one side of his face and body from an explosion. After his injury he discovers he has psychic abilities and the police are using him to help them catch the killer. I really liked both the H/H and there was great sexual tension. Plus I was very surprised by the identity of the killer. My Grade: B


Every Waking Moment by Brenda Novak
I enjoy Novak's Cold Feet and this one sounded good from AAR 's review. The heroine has been terrorized, brutalized and humiliated by her controlling abusive boyfriend for six years. And they have a five year old son together. It was hard to fathom how someone could remain in the power of some sicko for that long. Maybe I didn't want to believe it or I didn't care about the characters. Whatever. Anyway, I couldn't finish it.


The River Devil by Diana Whiteside
I couldn't finish this one either. The writing style was a little bit stilted but maybe I just wasn't in the mood (it was very erotic). So I took it back to the library but I think I'll give it another try later.





Eleven on Top by Janet Evanovich
I think I've reached my limit on Stephanie Plum. Ok, I don't want to hear "I told you so" :) Someone is trying to kill her AGAIN. She blows up several cars AGAIN. And it was not her fault AGAIN. She can't make up her mind between Ranger and Joe STILL. Her whacky antics with Lula gave me a few laughs but I'm ready for a little growth from Stephanie and it's just not happening. I'm not sure I will try the next one or not. Unless I hear that there is something different I'll probably just pass on it. My Grade: C

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Tools and Books

OK, true story. My husband loves tools. When he makes his Christmas list every year he gets out his Sears tools catalog and circles the items he wants, dog ears the pages, then turns it over to me. That's it, his list is complete. I'm not kidding!

So the other day he decides he needs a new chainsaw. No, he's not a lumberjack wannabe (hmm, well maybe he is since he has the suspenders and the plaid flannel shirt). He had a gas powered chainsaw that went kaput that had many years of service cutting down and trimming trees and branches. So he sees this electric chainsaw on Amazon.com. He loves ordering stuff from Amazon because they usually have pretty good prices and he doesn't actually have to go into a store. We ordered our wide-screen TV (too big and expensive, but I lost that battle) and our gas barbeque (love it) from them. But he makes me place the orders since he is computer-phobic.

I go to place the order and what do I see in my shopping cart at Amazon?? A Singular Lady by Megan Frampton :) How did that get there? Oh, I know, I put it in my shopping cart a while ago, but I needed a larger order to get free shipping. I hate paying for shipping. So I placed the order for both the chainsaw and book with free shipping. Pretty sneaky, huh?

I really should have ordered more books to take advantage of the free shipping but he was standing there annoying me (you'd think he could click a few buttons by himself). So he has his fetish and I have mine :) But really, his is more expensive.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Match Me If You Can by SEP

Warning: Gushing ahead! I know I'm going to sound like a giddy teenager but I can't help myself. I got Match Me If You Can on CD from the library, popped it into my car's CD player and fell in love with the characters, the witty dialogue, and wonderful humor. Utterly charming! The dialogue just plain sparkled from beginning to end. It looks like I've found another DIK for 2005 because I loved it!

And let me tell you it was pure torture listening to this book in the car because when I got to my destination (running back and forth to work, errands, etc.) I couldn't shut off the CD player. I don't know how many times I got home and sat in my garage for 10 minutes unable to stop listening, worried my husband would come out and find me sitting there and wonder what in hell his crazy wife was doing - ok, he's probably used to it by now. I finally gave up and brought the last 2 CD's in the house and locked myself in the den with my portable CD player ("Honey, don't disturb me, please, while I'm paying bills and balancing the checkbook." yeah right, I sure fooled him :) .

Annabelle Granger inherits her grandmother's matchmaking business ('Matches by Myrna') that she now calls 'Perfect for You.' She is determined to make her business a success and figures the best way to do that is to land wealthy, gorgeous and successful Heath Champion as a client. Heath, nicknamed 'The Python' (stupid name BTW) is a ruthless sports agent (think 'Jerry Maguire') who is looking for a wife and doesn't have the time to look for one on his own. You know the type. He works 24/7 with a cell phone glued to his ear. So he contracts with Annabelle and rival matchmaker, Portia Powers of 'Power Matches', to introduce him to likely candidates. He is looking for the perfect wife which Annabelle describes as "athletic, domestic, gorgeous, brilliant, socially connected, and pathologically submissive." It takes him a long time but he eventually figures out that none of these candidates are as perfect for him as Annabelle.

Annabelle is a wonderfully charming character; red-haired with a big heart and a snappy sarcastic wit. It took me a little while to warm up to Heath but after the 'Princess Party' I fell in love with him. No sappiness there, just pure delight. The gruff exterior hid a heart of marshmallow but it still takes him a while longer to work through his emotional baggage from his childhood to reach an epiphany about Annabelle and what makes the 'perfect match' for him.

I loved the dialogue between Heath and Annabelle and the scenes where they trade insults were sharp and witty and had me laughing out loud which I rarely do. Heath and Annabelle's final confrontation was very emotional and sizzling. The secondary love story between Portia and Heath's 'bodyguard', Bodie, was hot and intense and was excellently done. Phoebe Calebow (from It Had to Be You) plays a prominent role with appearances by other characters from the 'Chicago Stars' series. The real scene stealer is Molly's (This Heart of Mine) little 3-year old daughter, Pip, and her interactions with Heath were priceless. Normally, I'm not too fond of children in romance books but Pip is not too babyish or too precocious and was a perfect foil for Heath's arrogance and she cuts him down to size. I loved the epilogue too.

This was my favorite contemporary of the year. Unfortunately, I had to return the CDs to the library (after replaying the last CD three times). So I want my own copy of this book but I don't usually buy hardback and I can feel a need to re-read coming on. So I can't figure out whether I should just go out and buy the HB or put it on my Christmas list. I have a feeling that I'm not going to last 'til Christmas so I'll probably be making a stop at Borders. I definitely can't wait for the PB :)

My Grade: A

Saturday, October 22, 2005

New look

I am sick of the old template so I'm trying out this free template and really like the colors.

After playing with it for a couple of hours adjusting it, I looked up at the walls of my computer room and realized it's the same color as the template's background :) No wonder I liked it so well! It's kind of a latte/coffee/mocha shade.

I used this same color when I painted the living room, family room and hallways. Very warm and comfy feeling. It blended very well with the rest of my color scheme (if you can call it that). I painted one large wall in the kitchen a periwinkle blue (love it). And our bedroom a pretty willow green with white crown moldings.

Bob says: "What's wrong with white walls? White goes with everything."

::sigh::

Getting off topic here. Anyway, I hope I don't get tired of this template for a while.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Jigsaw by Kathleen Nance

A.I. (Artificial Intelligence) is a fascinating subject to me. OK, I admit I'm a little bit of a computer geek. But I also have to admit I absolutely HATED my A.I. class at the UW. I took this class the last quarter of my senior year. It was held at 3:30 in the afternoon (can you say 'naptime') in the basement (no windows) classroom of a brand new building with tiers of cushy seats that swiveled and rocked. As you can guess, I could hardly stay awake. The professor was a brilliant woman but I had spring fever and was extremely anxious to graduate and get the HELL OUT OF THERE. I hated the textbook (must have weighed 15 lbs.), the assignments (written in LISP) and the final class program which I had to demonstrate to the professor (eek). Anyway, I digress.... sorry (just had to rant a bit).

So after that experience, it's surprising to me (and you too probably) that I like this subject. Jigsaw is an excellent title for this fast paced science fiction/romantic suspense about A.I.

Daniel Champlain is an agent for the National Security Agency (NSA) and a computer specialist in cryptography. He is working on a case involving terrorists when he intercepts a message from Lokus, a sort of evil super-hacker, when he comes across a familiar name (Isabella Q). Daniel and Isabella Quintera (Bella) were lovers four years ago. He betrayed her when he exposed her father for falsifying records thereby ruining her career and he hasn't seen her since. Daniel is a dark, intelligent character and I liked the way Nance avoided depicting him as some stereotypical nerd. He heads to Michigan to check on Bella suspecting that she may have something to do with Lokus.

Bella is driving home on extremely icy roads when she is deliberately run off the road by a dark SUV and Daniel rescues her from hypothermia. Because of his past betrayal Bella does not trust him and conceals her AI computer, named 'Fran', that she created from her father's design. She is rightly afraid that Daniel will take Fran away from her for national security reasons. Bella does not want anyone to know about Fran before the Turing Competition where she hopes to redeem her reputation in the eyes of the academic world.

The initial setup of the characters and plot was a bit slow and convoluted but after that ... fasten your seat belts, ladies. The non-stop action kept me on the edge of my seat and I read late into the night because I couldn't put it down. The story was complex, and only a little confusing at times, so you have to pay attention. There were also a couple of good sizzling sex scenes with Bella and Daniel.

I especially enjoyed reading the interactions of h/h with Fran, the A.I. computer with an attitude, and she steals the show in all her scenes. Remember Hal from 2001: A Space Odyssey? She was sort of like that only with more personality. Her naivete and humor were well done and she was a great character.

Nance's descriptions of the frigid Northern Michigan weather were so vivid and realistic that, seriously, I had to get out an extra lap blanket and turn up the heat a notch. The computer terminology was not too overwhelming and can be safely ignored if you know nothing about AI or computers. If you like techno thrillers, give this one a try. It was a fun ride and I found it thoroughly entertaining.

My Grade: B

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Do I look like a criminal?

I spent a few fun hours yesterday shopping at a couple UBS and Borders. I went into a new UBS that someone had recommended to me. It was fairly large and very messy but that didn't bother me. I started in the romance section when the clerk approached me and asked if I needed help finding anything. Of course, I assured her I was just browsing and she went away for about 2 minutes. Then she came back and noticed that I was using my PDA. I am a notorious list maker and I keep everything on my PDA. So I was looking through my book list when she 'caught' me. Well, the woman wouldn't leave me alone! She kept coming and going every two minutes asking me questions about it, 'what do I have on my list', 'why do I need a list', etc. I had picked up a book and had tucked it under my arm, then put it back when I changed my mind. She must have noticed it, because when she came back two minutes later she asked why I had put the book down!!! Can you believe this?

Well, she was starting to piss me off. I wandered over to sci/fi, then general fiction, and each time she would find me and start asking me questions and talking about what she liked to read. I was trying to ignore her and giving her vague answers. Then she says 'You must be a book scout' in a very accusatory tone. What the hell is that? I think my PDA was really bugging her too. So I asked her what a book scout was and she gave me some vague answer. Finally, I asked where the women's fiction section was and she directed me to a little corner alcove. I'm browsing there kind of hunched down looking for something on the bottom row when I spot HER again, a couple feet away pretending to look out the window!!!! ARGH!! I can't believe this crap.

She was stalking me! She was acting like I was some kind of shoplifter or something and the PDA thing I could tell was really bothering her. At this point I'm trying to figure out how to gracefully exit the store, but I'm the only customer in there. So I grab a book I spotted on a messy pile (Kenyon, I don't even read Kenyon, maybe someone wants it :), paid and sprinted out the door. Come to find out while I was paying for the book that she was the owner of the store! I guess the books were her babies and she was afraid I was going to steal them.

So someone tell me, what is a book scout??

Damn, that store had potential and I let her chase me out! Well, next time I go back (maybe next year) I'm going to put on my kickass self and stand up to that stalker! I'm such a wimp. All I had to say was "Thank you, but if I need any help I'll come find you" or something like that. Or if that doesn't work, I can be rude. Really, when I get pissed off by a clerk I have been known to embarrass the crap out of my kids.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

The Dark Queen by Susan Carroll

This was my first Susan Carroll and I really enjoyed reading a different type of historical romance. I have heard many readers complain on various boards about the lack of historical romances set anywhere but in Regency England and I agree with that assessment. While I love regency set novels, so many of them are predictable with the same old plot devices. I recently started one that featured regency spies and I couldn't finish it. Been there, done that, probably a hundred times. One of the reasons I checked this one out was the unusual time and setting.

The Dark Queen is set in Renaissance France in 1572 on the eve of 'Bloody Sunday', the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre and is the first book of a trilogy. Ariane, Gabrielle, and Mirabelle de Cheney are three sisters of Faire Isle who are 'Daughters of the Earth' with special abilities in healing and white magic. The eldest, Ariane, is known as The Lady of Faire Isle and is considered a 'wise woman' by the people of the island. This is a very dangerous time for them as an evil witch hunter is terrorizing women with their special gifts and accusing them of witchcraft.

The comte de Renard is arrogantly determined to marry Ariane, but she wants nothing to do with him. She senses that he is hiding dark secrets. He blackmails her into wearing a magic ring that she can use to summon him. Little by little we learn of his past and his character growth was well done and I grew to like him immensely. Ariane seemed a bit timid at first but her serenity and quiet strength make her a good match for Renard.

When a wounded stranger arrives on Faire Island with evidence against the evil Queen of France, Catherine de Medici, Ariane must call upon Renard to protect her family. The Dark Queen essentially rules France through her weak son. She is rumored to be a witch and practices black magic to destroy her enemies to retain her power. I found her wickedness a little overdone but fascinating. The secondary plots with Gabrielle and Remy, as well as young Mirabelle and Simon were very fully developed and compelling .

The characters are very well drawn and though not deep, the plot was entertaining. Her prose flows smoothly and I finished it quickly considering it was over 500 pages :). The Dark Queen expertly meshes together romance, history, royal intrigue, religious persecution, magic and witchcraft into a very readable book I am looking forward to the next book, The Courtesan, Gabrielle's story. Mirabelle's story is titled The Silver Rose and will be released in March, 2006.

My Grade: B+


Side note: Here I go again about covers...the cover for The Dark Queen was absolutely beautiful combining dark red with a burnished gold dress which gave it a rich and decadent look and feel. Someone should probably nominate it for best cover when the 2005 contest comes around at AAR. Speaking of covers, the other two in the trilogy also have gorgeous covers.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Snow Angel by Mary Balogh

I first read Snow Angel back in 1991 when it was first published and absolutely loved it. Mary Balogh is the queen of the traditional regency and SA went directly into my keeper box (where all my Baloghs eventually landed). A few months ago I decided to re-read some of my old Baloghs to see if they live up to my memories and give them a grade. Unfortunately, SA did not quite match my fond memories, but it still was a very good book. Something about the attitude of the hero completely slipped by me on the first read and really bugged me this time around.

One of my favorite themes is a cabin romance where the h/h are stranded alone together. Rosamund Hunter is a recent widow traveling with her overbearing older brother Dennis. They have an argument and Rosamund demands to be let down from the carriage and walks away in a huff just before a major snowstorm hits the area. Rosamund is a great character; independent, witty and impulsive with a wonderful ability to laugh at herself.

Justin Halliday, the Earl of Wetherby, is traveling in his carriage and comes upon her while she is struggling through the blizzard. He offers her a ride and shelter from the storm. So they are snowbound alone together and wildly attracted to each other. Hmmm, what to do... OK, you know the answer to that!

Rosamund has no intension of ever marrying again. She was married to a much older man and loved him deeply. But when she meets Justin she is curious about passion with a young man. Justin makes it clear right from the beginning that he is about to become engaged and that he intends to be faithful to his betrothed. So they agree to a brief glorious affair. When the snows melt Rosamund returns to her brother's house to help prepare for the visit of the man who is supposed to propose to her niece Annabelle as arranged by both of their families. Of course, it turns out that man is Justin.

She has not been able to forget Justin since their affair and when she sees him again she realizes she's in love with him. Justin is a rather flawed character but I did like him. He is determined to propose to Annabelle if that is her wish. He is still very attracted to Rosamund and even though he realizes he's in love with her, he doggedly continues to court Annabelle, and this really bothered me. He was just too passive in allowing his family to decide his future and never gave the least thought to fighting for Rosamond even when it became obvious that Annabelle was not happy. And yet, he can't keep away from Rosamund and they are caught snuggling together by Joshua, a longtime admirer of Annabelle's.

All the characters were three-dimensional and well-drawn. I especially loved Joshua who nearly 'steals the show' from Justin. Josh acts boldly to grab his own HEA with Annabelle giving Justin finally the opportunity to go after what he wanted all along. The love scenes where pretty warm and sensuous for a trad regency. This was a very short book (about 225 pages) but very deep and emotional and even though I disliked the hero's passive way to the HEA, I enjoyed it thoroughly.

My Grade: B+

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Origin In Death by J. D. Robb

Origin in Death is another in this amazing series (over 20 so far) with kickass New York police Lt. Eve Dallas and her fabulously wealthy husband, Roarke. I have read them all and this one is better than some in this series but not the best. I will probably always love Naked in Death more than any others and I have re-read it several times. OID features an excellent murder mystery and I really enjoyed it. I found the scientific elements of cloning and its morality kind of creepy but with the way today's advances in science are headed, highly believable. The usual cast of characters are present including Peabody, McNabb, Feeney, Commander Whitney, Sumerset, (very pregnant) Mavis, Nadine, and Dr. Mira. One particularly memorable scene involved an altercation between Eve and Dr. Mira. They are both extremely strong women, Eve especially so, and Dr. Mira does not back down when she feels she is right. This scene cemented the pseudo-mother/daughter relationship for them.

The mystery is better than usual but though satisfying, the Eve/Roarke relationship is a bit light. The secondary plot centered around Roarke planning a Thanksgiving dinner to which he has invited all his newly discovered relatives from Ireland. It was touching to see Roarke so panicky and unsure of himself and I laughed at Eve's attempts to relate to the youngest members of his family. Eve is so incredibly strong that when she displays pure cowardice (such as when someone tries to hand off a baby to her or Trina wants to give her some kind of cosmetic treatment) you just have to laugh. One of my favorite aspects of this series of books has been the developing relationship between Eve and Roarke and learning more about their pasts, but this was not really in evidence in this book. The ending was exciting and intense and kept me on the edge of my seat, but I felt a little bit gyped. I would have liked to see what happened at that dinner :)

My Grade: B

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Stargazer by Colby Hodge

Stargazer is a fun futuristic SF read with lots of non-stop action. Princess Lilly is a telepathic witch from the garden planet of Oasis which provides food for many planets. The neighboring Ravigans whose own planet has been abused for years, cannot raise their own food. They are threatening Oasis so they can plunder its wealth and natural resources. Her uncle, the king of Oasis, sends her on a diplomatic mission to the Interplanetary Senate to enlist their aid in protecting her planet. So she boards a cargo ship disguised from the Ravigans who have surrounded Oasis.

Shaun is a convicted murderer and under sentence to spend the rest of his life underground on a prison planet and being transported frozen in a cryo tube on the same cargo ship. Lilly instantly feels a psychic connection when Shaun's mind reaches out to hers. The ship comes under attack and her protector is killed, so Lilly releases Shaun from his imprisonment and they escape to a nearby planet. Shaun takes on the role of Lilly's protector to the displeasure of her family.

What follows is a rip-roaring adventure and I was thoroughly entertained. There is a bit a mystery about Shaun's birth, his psychic abilities and the scars on his neck that was obvious and I was able to figure them out immediately. The characters were well drawn but not deep, the dialog flowed smoothly, and the psychic bond between H/H was pleasantly satisfying. Shaun's friend Ruben was a fun character and I'm predicting he will get his own book. There were some gladitorial combat scenes that were violent and gory, so avoid or skim those scenes if you are a bit squeamish and you won't be missing anything. If you like space action adventure stories like Star Wars, you'll like this book too.

My Grade: B-

Side note: Don't you think the cover is goofy? His upper half looks overdeveloped compared to his lower half which looks like it's glowing and kind of shrunken. I'm very visual... I can't help these observations... ignore me :)

Friday, October 07, 2005

The Beacon at Alexandria by Gillian Bradshaw

This book review is for Keishon's TBR challenge for September (which I finished barely under the wire). I think I discovered Bradshaw from someone on the AAR message boards quite a while ago (maybe Keishon?). I get tired sometimes of reading regency set historicals so occasionally I want to read a book set in an unusual period in history. The Beacon at Alexandria is a historical fiction set in the years just prior to 378 AD, the date of the battle of Hadrianopolis which signaled the beginning of the fall of the Roman Empire.

Copyright Year: 1986

Synopsis: The story begins in 371 AD and is told in first person by Charis of Epheseus, a young noblewoman from a wealthy family. Charis is a strong, intelligent character and chafes at women's traditional roles. In order to escape marriage to a brutal Roman official, Charis (now called Chariton) disguises herself as a eunuch and flees to Alexandria where she can pursue her dream to study the Hippocratic method of medicine at the famous Museum and become a physician.

This book is a highly entertaining adventure filled with political intrigue, early Christian theology, and little bit of romance near the end. This is a gender disguise novel that was very credible. As a woman one of the questions that I always pops in my head when reading these types of stories is "What does she do about her period?" :) This issue was addressed several times and I found it very interesting and believable. The accounts of medicines, diseases, treatments, food, clothing, slavery, and Roman politics and society are told in lively detail and was fascinating. Bradshaw is a classics scholar and she crams in many historical characters but it never seemed forced. My greatest difficulty was trying to decipher all the Greek and Latin names which all started to sound alike sometimes (e.g. Adamantios, Athanaric, Athanaricus, Athanasios, Amalberga, Alaric, Thorion, Theodoros, Theogenes, Theophilia, etc.)

Chariton meets agent Athanaric and saves his life. Then Athanaric saves her life when she gets involved in dangerous church politics and is forced to flee Alexandria. Still maintaining her disguise she accepts the position of chief physician at a remote army post in Thrace. Eventually, she is captured by the Goths and her gender is revealed. But as their prisoner she continues to care for the sick and wounded until Athanaric rescues her. In the final pages even though they learn of the disastrous battle at Hadrianopolis, the book ends happily when they admit their love for each other and make future plans.

The politics in Alexandria were a bit heavy, but when Chariton is posted to Thrace the book really gets lively and I had a hard time putting it down and read late into the night. This was a great historical adventure story and I recommend it to all history buffs like me.

Your Grade: B+

New author for you? No, I read Render Unto Caesar and loved it (Grade: A).

Would you read more of this author's work? Yes, I was thinking of trying Cleopatra's Heir or The Wolf Hunt.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Happy Dance!!



This is me doing the happy dance when I got the good news about my favorite UBS.

Just got a postcard in the mail. They found a new location near their old one and they are having a grand reopening sale! There's even going to be a ribbon cutting ceremony with the mayor and refreshments and everything. See, that's how cool this store is :)

Crap, I'm behind on writing some book reviews and I'm slogging through them.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Honeymoon Suite by Lynn Michaels

I have read two other books by Lynn Michaels and really enjoyed them. She's one of the few authors who writes with humor that I actually get. The humor and wit is well done in this book, too. But, unfortunately, the hero was not hero material at all. I despised him and his actions made this book a disappointment.

Dory Lambert has had a crush since childhood on the family chauffeur's son, Chase McKay. She and her gorgeous older sister Jill are part of a wealthy banking family living in Missouri. When Dory was fifteen, she caught Chase and Jill groping each other and tattled on them. Chase was hustled away to start college early and Jill is only heartbroken for a short time. Dory (our heroine) grows up and makes her father proud with her intelligence and financial savvy and joins the family business, Lambert Bank and Trust Company. But a scandal rocks the family when a distant relation employed at the bank embezzles millions but the FBI relentlessly focuses their investigations on Dory's father who has disappeared around the same time as the money.

The plot was rather convoluted, but I really liked Dory. She is a very strong character and I enjoyed how she wrestles with her family's financial problems with initiative and creativity to keep them together and retain their beautiful home. Chase (the alleged hero) finally returns home to convince his father, Charles, to retire and ends up insulting Dory badly. He's rich now and offers her money to force Charles to retire. Chase is a real ass and never redeems himself. Dory is still in love with him, but he still has the hots for Jill and constantly pants after her through most of the story. Jill is no picnic either. Although Jill has a secret love interest, she comes up with this plan to marry Chase for his money. She has no intension of consumating the marriage and plans to divorce him quickly. Nice piece of work, huh? So they marry and lo and behold shortly after the ceremony, Chase realizes he's really in love with Dory. Jill gets drunk from the wedding champagne and Chase confronts Dory. She reveals Jill's plot, but he doesn't care. He wants Dory and they have sex (mind you, he's still married, it's the SAME night as the wedding). OK, that sound you're hearing is me screaming and tearing my hair out! Stupid, stupid, stupid!

What follows is not even worth writing about. But I did finish the book because I wanted to see if anything could be redeemed from all this. The writing style is light and fluffy with snappy dialogue and was a very fast read. There are lots of funny, quirky characters I liked too. Michaels makes a stab at redeeming Chase but I just didn't want to buy it. Note to author: adultery in this situation is NOT romantic. I'm not overly moralistic, really. Sometimes an author can make adultery work for me :) Like when the heroine or hero truly believe that their spouse is dead and they proceed to mess around until they find out otherwise. Some readers hate this situation too, but heh it works for me.

It was hard for me to grade this book. The writing style and most of the characters were a plus, but the horrid hero and stupid plot device were a negative.

My Grade: C-

If you want to try a Lynn Michaels book, I recommend Return Engagement and Mother of the Bride. She writes with the same kind of snappy, humorous dialogue and quirkly characters and these books are much more enjoyable.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Books Read - September

I read 18 books in September. My vacation really helped my reading statistics :) Here's my list:

9/5/05 - Crimson City - Maverick - (C)

9/5/05 - Into the Night - Brockmann - (C-)

9/7/05 - Scent of a Woman - Leigh - (B-)

9/9/05 - The Sound of Snow - Kingsley - (C)

9/12/05 - Black Ice - Stuart - (A)

9/14/05 - Killing Time - Howard - (B+)

9/17/05 - A Taste of Crimson - Liu - (B+)

9/18/05 - The Doctor's Wife - St. John - (B)

9/19/05 - Unmasked - Barry - (B-)

9/20/05 - Beast - Ivory - (A-)

9/20/05 - Marry McCabe - Brand - (C-)

9/21/05 - Crazy for You - Crusie - (B+)

9/22/05 - The Trouble With Joe - Richards - (A-)

9/22/05 - Cool Shade - Weir - (A-)

9/23/05 - Libby's London Merchant - (A)

9/24/05 - Miss Chartley's Guided Tour - (B+)

9/27/05 - Dance - Cuevas - (A)

9/30/05 - The Beacon at Alexandria - Bradshaw - (B+)


Total read for 2005 = 127.

Odds and Ends

TAGGED!
Alyssa & Kristie tagged me for this little exercise:
1. Delve into your blog archive.
2. Find your 23rd post (or closest to).
3. Find the fifth sentence (or closest to).
4. Post the text of the sentence in your blog along with these instructions. Ponder it for meaning, subtext or hidden agendas.
5. Tag five people to do the same.

"See for yourself it's amazing !!!"

Well, that's enlightening, isn't it? A run on sentence :) I never claimed to be Hemingway (oh, wasn't he famous for his run on sentences? Maybe not... loved "The Old Man and the Sea").

Anyway, what I was talking about was this artist, Julian Beever, that draws 3D chalk pictures on sidewalks. I'm a very visual person and I thought it was very cool!

http://users.skynet.be/J.Beever/pave.htm

I tag, hmmm....., nobody :)

BONUS!!
(I'm in the mood for exclamation points today :)
We had our fiscal end of the year at work and a big company meeting with accolades and acknowledgements. Everyone got a CASH bonus. I just started working here in April but I got $260 in hard cash. While not a huge amount, I was not expecting anything, so this came as a nice surprise. What to spend it on?? You know the answer to that, right? Books, of course, with maybe a pair of shoes (I need shoes more than books).

Hell, I really don't need to buy any new books, since my TBR mountain is embarrassing. But since when has embarrassment ever stopped me? Off the top of my head, I know I want the L. Valdez's Patience, Roberts' Red Lily, and the next in the Crimson City series. Are there any upcoming books I should consider?


UPDATE ON FAVORITE UBS
I whined a while ago about my favorite UBS being evicted with no place to go. I found out recently that they have found a new location near their current one. Whew, dodged a bullet on that one.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Vacation Book Report - part three (final)

Libby's London Merchant and Miss Chartley's Guided Tour by Carla Kelly (two books in one)
Carla Kelly is a goddess when it comes to writing traditional regency romance. I read One Good Turn (grade: A) first which actually follows Libby's London Merchant but it didn't make any difference. LLM was a wonderful treat as well. Benedict Nesbitt (Nez), Duke of Knaresborough, poses as a London merchant in order to check out the fiancé of his friend. He has an accident in front of her house hoping that she will take him in, which Libby Ames does. Her Uncle Ames has taken his own daughter, Lydia (who is the friend's fiancé) to Brighton. Unfortunately, Nez is severely injured. He is also an alcoholic and Dr. Anthony Cook recognizes the symptoms. Through treatment of his injuries, Nez is forced to dry out and goes through the horrible agonies of withdrawal but Nez comes out of it a changed man. He falls deeply in love with Libby. But Libby is the daughter of a tobacconist and not suitable wife material for him. Dr. Cook is also desperately in love with Libby. I won't give away the ending but the plot has a number of surprise twists. Kelly is a talented author and intertwines the light comedy and dark tragedy so smoothly. Nez, Libby, and Anthony all have deep scars and Anthony's father reveals some ugly secrets. This is an emotional book with many layered characters. I highly recommend it. My Grade: A

Miss Charley's Guided Tour is more comedy than tragedy, but it also has it's dark side. Omega Chartley was abandoned at the altar eight years ago when her fiancé, Matthew Bering, disappears and she is forced to seek a teaching position. She is touring the Cotswolds before starting a new position when she helps a runaway boy, Jamie, escape a Bow Street Runner. Jamie has been abused by his guardian and is looking for his uncle (spoiler: her former fiance, Matthew Bering) to seek refuge with. Both Jamie and Omega are now hiding from the law and they meet some wonderful characters along the way. All the characters here are three-dimensional and memorable including Jamie, Hugh, his foster daughter, Angela, and Timothy, the Bow Street Runner. There are surprises along the way and a mystery to solve before our h/h get their HEA. Kelly's characters are such 'real' people and that's what is so outstanding about her books. My Grade: B+


Dance by Judy Cuevas
I was absolutely blown away by this book! Seriously. Unfortunately, I don't think I have enough words in my vocabulary to properly describe it, but here goes. This book is set in turn of the century Paris. In the previous book, Bliss, Marie du Gard disobeys her autocratic father and leaves Nardi, Sebastien de Saint Villier's brother, at the altar and runs away to America. I LOVED the heroine, Marie, a very independent woman who now produces and directs her own films. Sebastien is a wealthy, stiff-rumped pompous ass and her father's close friend and business partner. Her father's approval and love hinged completely on Marie's obedience and when he doesn't get it, writes her out of his will. Marie deeply feels the rejection of her father. She wants his love and approval desperately, which he has transferred to Sebastien after her failed wedding. Marie is a 'modern' woman and a true non-apologetic feminist. She refuses to sacrifice her principles and independence for her father's love. I liked how Sebastien tried and failed to bully her into his bed and into marriage. She comes to him on her own terms. She's the perfect example of a strong female character that I admire and I want my daughter to read this book. Cuevas keeps her strong throughout and doesn't compromise her independence and strength to get the HEA. Cuevas' writing is superb; evocative and lush. Her words are beautiful and flow with rich sensuality. Yum. I read Bliss years ago and don't remember liking it all that well probably because I couldn't get past Nardi's ether addiction. But I really believe that I have matured as a reader in the last 5 years or so. I can better appreciate Cuevas' deeper, fuller writing. So I'm kicking myself that I returned Bliss to the UBS. I really want to read it again (wow, have you seen the prices for it, apparently it's very hard to find - drat). This one gets my highest accolades. My Grade: A

Well, that's the last of my vacation books. Back to normal (whatever that is :)