Thursday, January 26, 2006

The Devil To Pay by Liz Carlyle

TDTP was the second Liz Carlyle I read in December for Keishon's TBR Challenge which was a long time ago. I started this review a while ago so I thought I'd better finished before I forgot the important parts. Although Keishon has decided that Carlyle does not work for her, I like Carlyle's writing style quite a bit.

Sidonie Saint-Godard lives a double life. By day, she is a meek and respectable widow. But by night, she disguises herself as a prostitute to steal from wealthy aristocrats and gives to those women who they exploit and mistreat. She has become notorious and has been dubbed the Black Angel by her victims, kind of like a female version of Robin Hood. Sidonie carries wounds from her childhood. Her mother was impregnated by one of these a**holes while working as a governess and was eventually forced to become his mistress because no other options were open to her. Sidonie still carries a huge amount of resentment towards her aristocratic father for how he treated her mother.

But Sidonie makes a big mistake when she targets Aleric, the Marquess of Devellyn as her next victim. Disguised as Ruby Black, she seduces him, ties him up, then steals his most prized possession. Devellyn vows revenge, tells her that she'll have the devil the pay (nice tie-in to the title) and determinedly sets out to find her. At first Dev seems like your typical rake who drinks, gambles, and whores too much, but later we see that he is fighting his own demons and guilt, and seeks to punish himself and his father.

All the characters were well drawn and engaging. Sidonie's brother, George Kemble, who we know from other Carlyle books, makes another appearance and I hope he eventually gets his own story. The writing was crisp, and the mystery had just the right touch without overwhelming the romance. It was fast-paced and a quick read. Their first love scene was powerfully intense and emotional. Initially I was a bit torn as to whether he actually forced himself on her. You'll have to read it yourself to form your own opinion. Carlyle writes wonderful steamy love scenes and TDTP had many of them.

Usually I despise heroines as thieves (e.g. Honest Illusions by NR) and dissolute rakes who are on the road to ruin with their drinking, gambling, and indiscriminate sex. But Carlyle has taken these irritating character types and made them sympathetic and interesting. This book was not a keeper but still thoroughly enjoyable.

My grade: B+

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

AAR Annual Reader Poll

I'm working on my list of favorites to vote in the Annual Reader Poll over at AAR. Some categories were easy to fill in and others I'm having a hard time with so I think I'll be leaving some blanks. I really hate some of those negative categories because they seem sort of mean spirited. Plus, the results are absolutely meaningless to me and don't give me any feedback on picking out books which is the whole point of doing this exercise and reading the results.

I'm having trouble with the following categories because I don't keep track of this stuff. I noticed that Rosario (aka Queen of the Spreadsheet) has a column for h/h. I suppose I should add a column to my spreadsheet too.

Best Hero
Best Heroine
Best Couple (probably Eve & Roarke again)
Best Villain
Guiltiest Pleasure - I don't feel guilty about reading anything... well, except if there is lots and lots of sex (something Freudian about that, huh?) I feel guilty about buying but never reading :)
Author Most Glommed - I'm not glomming as much as I used to.

I think there's a gapping hole in this poll. They have Best American Historical, Best European Historical, and Best Medieval/Renaissance. What about an historical set in Egypt or India or Austrailia or lots of other places? You know there are other places in the world, right? And we are all sick of the same ol', same ol' places, right? How about a category called Best Non-European-American Historical.

I dislike the following categories. The results of previous polls in these categories seem way to negative and I really could care less.

Author You Gave Up On
Author Others Love that You Don't
Most Disappointing
Worst
Purplest Prose


I'll probably leave these blank.

Anyway, go vote everyone!

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Go Seahawks!

They're going to the Super Bowl! Woohoo! I'm not usually such a sports fan but the entire city of Seattle has gone crazy and I'm right there with them. This team franchise has been here for 30 years and over the course of those years they have sucked most of the time. They made it to the playoffs one other time 20 years ago and lost. This time they won the NFC champtionship and are going to the Super Bowl. Seattle has not had much luck with sports teams going to national championship games and winning them but the city is extremely loyal to their teams.

Bob and I went over to our neighbor's house (Jim and Mary) and we had a great time. Jim loves to cook (I wish it would rub off on Bob but no) and he fixed turkey chili. It was wonderful and we snacked and laughed and cheered for the Seahawks. Lots of fun.

We went to a wedding yesterday. My son Jason was one of the wedding party. He was a head taller (he's 6' 3") than everyone while they were standing at the altar so it was kind of comical to see. I'm such a mother... I kept wishing he would find a sweet girl and settle down, but he's too busy playing the field. He's a very good looking guy but he's very picky. (Mom, most of the girls out there are high maintenance or completely nuts.)

My dad flew back to Arizona to pick up his motorhome and drive it home (they live north of Seattle). He has to be back by the middle of February to have his blood work done and draw blood for his surgery which is scheduled for March 3. Bob really wanted to fly down and drive the MH back so Dad could schedule his surgery sooner but Dad absolutely refused. He's being terribly stubborn. I really feel like he is thinking that he is going to die soon so he's in no hurry to have the surgery. I talked to him tonight and he sounded even more cheerful than the last time I talked to him. He told me where his will, power of attorney, and living will papers are all kept. He also thanked Bob for his offer and said that if he starts feeling too tired to drive or has some bleeding, he will call us and we can go pick them up. ::sigh:: I have to let go and stop worrying. My brother wrote another email that pissed me off again that I also refuse to acknowledge. I'm keeping my mouth shut! Aren't you proud of me?

Oh, yeah, GOOD BOOK ALERT.... I finished reading Blood Moon Over Britain by Morag McKendrick Pippin this weekend and loved it! Highly unusual time setting in WWII Britain with a kickass heroine and an absolutely riveting suspense. Wonderful. I'm working on a review.

I know there are lots of Steelers fans but it's OUR turn. :) The press always seems to favor East coast teams over West coast teams so I'll take a stab at who they are favoring to win. Actually I'm just thrilled that the Seattle Seahawks made it to the Super Bowl for the first time in our history. If they actually win it, that will be icing on the cake.

Go Seahawks!

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Family crisis

I have been kind of quiet lately because I've trying to deal with a family emergency. My 70-year-old father has to have his bladder removed.

He was first diagnosed with bladder cancer about 2 years ago. This form of cancer is very rare except in men who smoke. My dad smoked for about 40 years and quit about 12 years ago. When my dad was diagnosed, we learned some interesting statistics about cancer risks from smoking. When a person quits smoking their risk of heart disease and lung cancer decreases with each passing year. However, even if you quit smoking your risk of contracting bladder cancer remains high many years later. And this type of cancer is extremely rare in women or in nonsmoking men. So when he went to the doctor with his symptoms (blood in urine) the first question they asked him was "do you or did you smoke?" They also told him that this type of cancer is not hereditary so his children will not have to worry about inheriting the disease.

When they first discovered the cancer, they did a procedure (whose name I have forgotten) where they went in with a laser and zapped the tumors. The tumors were microscopic and easy to remove. Then he stayed overnight in the hospital and went home the next day. No chemo, no radiation, they don't treat this cancer with those treatments. Anyway, he has had to go in every three months and have this same procedure. It's not fun, but there are worse things. Of course, I'm not the one having to do this so I should keep my mouth shut.

My dad has always been a brooding kind of guy with a tendency toward depression. But he has a wonderful quirky sense of humor we loved as kids. My mom, when she was alive, was a very talkative and bubbly kind of person and she knew how to keep his spirits up. When my mom died in 1999 from a brain tumor, dad went into a deep depression and none of us (4 kids) knew what to do. Thank God he met a wonderful woman, Gay, who is so upbeat, funny, and we all adore her. Since his diagnosis it has been a struggle for Gay and all of us kids to keep dad from sinking into a deep depression. He won't talk to his doctor and completely denies it. Every three months when he has these procedures when they find and remove more tumors he says things like "I'm going to die so what's the use?" He eventually snaps out of it but it has been a seesaw around our family to go through this every three months.

A few days ago dad went in for this procedure again and the doctor found many more tumors (and larger ones as well) than she has seen in the past and has called it quits. She says that there are no more treatments she can try (they have tried everything). So she recommended to dad that he have his bladder removed.

Dad and Gay are devastated. All four of us have talked to dad and are trying to cheer him up. We are trying to tell him that this is for the best really. He won't have to have this awful procedure every 3 months and have to worry about the possibility that the tumors will grow through the bladder lining into the abdomen which would spread the cancer. Of course, it's easy for me to say this, it's not my body, but I hope if he thinks about it he'll come to see that wearing a bag is better than constant worries about cancer. I talked to him tonight and he sounds a bit more cheerful, or maybe faking cheerful. But that works for me.

Since he got the news Dad has been acting up which is understandable but very frustrating. And my brother is pissing me off too. Maybe I'll blog about that later since I have droned on long enough. Sorry.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Her Bodyguard by Michelle Jerott

I read this book (which has been sitting in my TBR since 2002) for AngieW's January TBR Challenge to read a Contemporary Romance.

Title: Her Bodyguard

Author: Michelle Jerott

Year published: 2001

Why did you get this book? After reading my first Jerott, Absolute Trouble, and loving it, I glommed her entire backlist. There were only four total written under the Jerott pseudonym at that time. This was the last unread Jerott in my TBR.

Do you like the cover? Yes, very sexy. It's a photograph type and I love the man kissing neck of woman theme.

Did you enjoy the book? Yes, it was enjoyable but not my favorite Jerott. I graded it a B-.

Was the author new to you and would you read something by this author again? Besides the other three Jerott's, I have also read three written under her new pseudonym, Michele Albert. I will definitely be reading her next book out in May 2006 (Hide in Plain Sight).

Are you keeping it or passing it on? Passing it on, good but not a keeper.

Anything else? HB seemed a bit like a romantic suspense but it is marketed as a contemporary romance. Lili Kavanaugh is a bridal shoe designer from NY who is visiting Chicago when she becomes the victim of a kidnapping attempt. Her very rich parents hire a team of bodyguards led by Matt Hawkins. Lili is a bit of a spoiled brat at first and I didn't like her much but as the story progressed I warmed up to her a lot. Matt is gorgeous, sexy and totally yummy. They make a hot couple and the sexual tension was well done. The mystery storyline that revolves around a gangster shooting and pair of shoes from 1933 was very interesting and unusual. Like most women, I love shoes (Bob thinks I have too many, I think I don't have enough). So it was very fun to read a mystery that centered around a shoe designer and a beautiful pair of shoes.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Leaving Normal by Stef Ann Holm

I have read one other book by Stef Ann Holm, Girls Night, and really enjoyed it. So when I saw the DIK review at AAR, I decided to try it. However, I was disappointed that Leaving Night was not nearly as good as GN. And not nearly a DIK. Warning: there may be spoilers here but I couldn't justify my grade without them.

LN is a second chance at love story set in Boise, Idaho. Natalie Goodwin is 43 years old and divorced whose daughter has just started her freshman year of college out of state. After her divorce Natalie decided to follow her dreams and opened a florist shop. Life is going just how she wants it now and she is not interested in dating or a relationship. But she can't help but notice the gorgeous hunk who lives across the street (who is married BTW). That hunk is firefighter Tony Cruz and is 9 years her junior. Oh, yes, and he notices Natalie too, but he is committed to his relationship with his wife so he 'stifles himself'.

Ok, at this point I'm only a few pages into the book and I'm thinking "this is a ROMANCE?" Yep, sure 'nuf, that's what it says on the spine. I can't remember the last time I read a romance where one of the characters was already married to someone else when the book starts. Hmmm, thinking, thinking, thinking. Nope, can't think of one other book. I don't know why, but I continue reading.

Tony's relationship with his wife is not good (of course) and eventually he discovers her cheating on him. So they separate and divorce. Now I'm at the halfway point of the book and this is where the book should have started because nothing much interesting happens (except Tony's breakup and I could have done without that).

Eventually Tony and Natalie start dating and fall in love but Tony wants children and Natalie feels she is past that point in her life. By the end of the book things have worked out to everyone's satisfaction (except mine). Now normally I love older woman/younger man stories and the 9 year age gap didn't bother me. If the author had cut out the first half until Tony was divorced, I would have liked it much better.

I thought the characters were well drawn and deep. I enjoyed the secondary characters including Natalie's daughter and father. The best part of the book was the look inside the Boise Fire Department that shows how they care for the people they serve. Unfortunately, this book was too much like chick lit (I'm not a big fan) and much of the book was just filler. And the ending was way to conveniently perfect ::gag:: and not realistic.

My grade: C-

Thursday, January 12, 2006

To all you Linda Howard fangirls

...for your viewing pleasure (in case you haven't seen it).


I just came across this cover for her next book to be published in June 2006 and had to share. It's a hardcover priced at $25.95 (yikes). I guess I'll be getting it from the library.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Out of Control by Shannon McKenna

Davy McCloud is a martial arts instructor and private investigator. Margot Vetter is on the run from a sadistic stalker who she believes killed her boyfriend and framed her for his murder. Margot is working as an aerobics instructor next door to the martial arts studio where Davy works. She approaches Davy to ask his advice and help. Davy has had the hots for her ever since he spotted her working in the women's gym next door. I rolled my eyes at the copious amounts of mental lusting by Davy but his language and internal talk was very male and realistic. Well, I think so anyway, since I sometimes think I have no clue how men think. I know it is usually rude and crude which Davy's definitely was.

The sensuality in OOC was very steamy and sizzling. The sex scenes were plentiful and hot hot hot. They were also very well done so you won't be tempted to skip them (I read every word :). The story was fast paced and interesting but I had a couple of small quibbles. First of all I'm rather sick of perverted killers in RS with descriptions of violence against women and animals. I read one recently that I could not finish because it was just too horrible. In OOC fortunately that theme was a very small aspect (maybe 10%) of the story so I was able to get through it without chucking the book at the wall. The violence was rather mild compared to some other RS I have read recently but one scene in OOC turned me off. (Spoiler: There is one scene where Margot finds a dead dog on her porch. I hate reading about dead animals and blood splashed all over. I skimmed over this part).

The second problem was the thoroughly TSTL moment by the heroine. Throughout the book she is running away from the bad guys, one especially who is an insane sadistic pervert. When Margot makes a false (and stupid) assumption near the end of the book that Davy was the creep that was stalking her then runs away straight into the arms of the sicko stalker, I wanted to strangle her. She redeems herself later when she uses her guts and brains to attempt to save Davy.

I'm getting immune to the improbable RS plots that involve danger interspersed with sex. This one was more enjoyable than a lot of them.

My grade: B-

Monday, January 09, 2006

Rain Rain Go Away!!

The rain has been absolutely horrible in the Seattle area. I just finished watching the weather report and we have had 22 straight days of rain. And not the usual misty drizzly kind of days. I mean heavy rains almost constantly. The sun came out on Saturday for about an hour. But it gradually got darker and darker and the rain started pouring again. The record number of straight days of rain for our area is 33 days so we are two-thirds the way there. Also another weather statistic...we have had 1/4 of our yearly total of rain for the year! And January is not yet half over. I'm beginning to turn pruny. Western Washington has been hit with flooding, landslides and high winds. Overnight they had about two feet of snow in the mountains. Nice, huh? I need to get out of this place. I need sun!!

So Bob and I are talking about getting on a plane for a two or three day trip south to Arizona to visit my dad. He'll play golf and I will dry out and vegetate. I better start checking around tomorrow for flights out.

I don't need anymore books but while shopping yesterday I found some books I thought I had to have:

Summer Breeze by Catherine Anderson





Dead Reckoning by Linda Castillo





The Mysterious Miss M by Diane Gaston






I got two in the mail from Alyssa:

Carnal Gift by Pamela Clare





Promises Keep by Sarah McCarty






I got one in the mail from PBS:


In the Cold by Jeanie London






I picked up two from the library:

Games of Pleasure by Julia Ross





Hot Spell by Emma Holly, Lora Leigh, Shiloh Walker, and Meljean Brook






Well, at least I'll have something to do while I hibernate in my dry cave. I have all these books piled on the coffee table in front of me and I think it's making me feel better about the rain just looking at them. Books are therapy don't you know.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

I don't usually read YA books but Keishon recommended Twilight and I found the premise intriguing, so I decided to check it out from the library. The book is set in the rainy town of Forks, Washington, in the Olympic Peninsula. I'm familiar with Forks having visited the small town on our way through on a vacation trip to the Olympic National Park. I remember Forks very well because it was pouring rain that day. Pouring, as in just like standing under a waterfall!

Twilight is told in first person by 17-year-old Isabella Swan (Bella to her friends). Bella's parents divorced when she was very little and she lived with her mother in Arizona. Bella loves the sun and never really enjoyed her visits to her father in dreary, perpetually cloudy Forks where he is the police chief. However, when her mom wants to move to Florida with her boyfriend, Bella reluctantly decides to move to the boring town of Forks to live with her dad.

So the story begins with Bella as the new kid in town. Her first day of school is filled with the usual teenage fears and insecurities. In other words, your typical teenage story done hundreds of times. Bella meets a gorgeous boy, Edward Cullen, in one of her classes who seems to be furious with her and initially tries to drive her away. However, Bella is attracted to the pale, aloof Edward although his attitude toward her alternates between interest and rage. Bella discovers that Edward has a good reason to avoid her; he's a vampire and is torn by his attraction to her and his desire to devour her. Edward is the youngest adopted son of the wealthy mysterious Cullen family. They are a family of vampires, very unusual vampires, who chose to hunt wild animals rather than humans, although it's very difficult for them to fight their natural appetite for human blood.

So Bella feels safe with them but the story takes a very dangerous turn during a seemingly playful game of baseball when a group of vampires from out of town spot Bella in their midst and one of them decides he must have her.... for his next meal. This group of vampires are the real thing; they have no qualms about hunting humans and are fundamentally evil, taking pleasure in torturing their prey. The remaining 1/4 of the book provides some extremely scary, spine-tingling moments that kept me on edge.

Bella is very bright and seemed a bit too mature for her age but realistic nonetheless. I don't know many teenagers who love to cook so well at that age, but I'm sure they're out there somewhere (just not ever at my house, unfortunately). I enjoyed Bella's voice and her self-deprecation about her clutziness provided some light-hearted moments.

The book was long (512 pages) but the plot was very tight with no gaps or holes, fast-paced, and utterly gripping. I found it a wonderful blend of dark romance and vampire horror. There was no sex but lots of sexual tension as Edwin fights his desires to be with Bella and have her for supper, literally. Even though this book is considered young adult I suggest giving this one a try especially for those who love vampire romance.

My grade: A

Friday, January 06, 2006

Goddess of Spring by P. C. Cast

My first P. C. Cast book and, sorry to say, I didn't enjoy this modern day version on the mythological story of Hades and Persephone. I bought this book solely because I loved the beautiful glittery cover so I really wanted to like it. ::sigh:: That'll teach me.

The heroine Lina owns an Italian bakery called Pani Del Goddess in Tulsa, Oklahoma. As the book opens she has just been informed by her accountant that due to his mistake she now owes the IRS a big chunk of change. After firing him she walks away with thoughts of how she is going to increase her sales so she does not lose her business. Lina decides she needs a fantastic new recipe to expand her menu to make more money. So she visits a UBS (my kind of gal) and takes home a stack of Italian cookbooks. In one very old cookbook entitled The Italian Goddess Cookbook she finds a wonderful recipe for pizza that also involves a chant to summon the Goddess of the Harvest, Demeter. When she finds herself face-to-face with the goddess, Lina is understandably stunned (who wouldn't be).

Demeter proposes to Lina that if she will swap bodies with her daughter Persephone for six months, Demeter will fix all Lina's business problems. Demeter feels that Persephone is not mature enough to take her place with Hades, God of the Underworld. So Lina agrees and finally finally the reader meets Hades when Lina (in Persephone's body) descends to the Underworld. I really dislike when a major character takes too long to make an appearance. So when the hero Hades doesn't show up until chapter 6, I found myself getting extremely twitchy (i.e. irritated).

The biggest problem I had with this book was the sagging middle. Nothing very much happens (at least nothing I cared about) between the first 1/4 and the last 1/4 of the book. There were lots of descriptions of the beautiful lakes, flowers, streams, and forests, but I prefer much more dialogue. There was a scene where Hades and Lina hold court with his underworld subjects, but it was a big yawn to me.

I liked both Lina and Hades. Lina had a wonderful way with animals and I enjoyed how she could tame any fierce or scary beast, like the three-headed dog and Hades' magnificent horses. Hades was a yummy hero and a thoroughly romantic figure. But unfortunately good characters didn't save this book for me. To top it off, I really disliked the ending. No spoilers here, you'll have to find out for yourself. Those of you who love fantasy will probably like this one better than I did.

My grade: C+

Update
: I misread my reading log. This was a C+ not a C-.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Crazy Cool by Tara Janzen

This is the second book in the men of 'Steele Street' series and this one was as fast paced with non-stop action as the first one, Crazy Hot. The series is based on a top secret government task force called SDF (Special Defense Force) that is based in Denver where they operate out of a converted garage (and former chop shop). The sex and testosterone fairly oozes out of the pages and while not terribly realistic, I really enjoyed it!

The team was formed by General Buck Grant and is comprised of a tough group of ex-military and non-military men who were all busted together as teenagers for auto theft during the take down of the chop shop. And they all have a passion for hot cars along with their passion for women, of course. Secondary characters were Betty and Jeanette (from Crazy Hot) and Roxanne (from Crazy Cool). No, these aren't women, they're souped up muscle cars! They play major 'roles' in these two books (or should I say settings since there was sex in the back seat, sex in the front seat, sex on the hood with the engine running! etc., etc.). Whew!

In this installment Christian Hawkins is called back from a mission in South America where two of his teammates are in deep trouble in order to attend an auction gala (sounds sooooooo realistic, right?). His goal is to protect Katya Dekker, daughter of a US Senator. Christian and Katya have a past history. They were lovers as teenagers when Christian was arrested and jailed on false murder charges. Katya knew he was innocent but said nothing. Christian was released after two years but the murderer was never caught. Although Christian still feels her betrayal, he finds he is still attracted to Katya.

Although there was lots of sexual tension, the plot was improbable and filled with holes, but that didn't stop me from enjoying it. I love alpha males and they're done very well here. Even with the holes in the plot, it was an wild exhilarating ride.

My grade: B

Can you freeze chocolate truffles?

I'm going to resolve to stop apologizing for failing to post some reviews. I have lots of excuses, all valid but I won't enumerate them here. I'm sure you're sick of my whining.

I went to see the new Harry Potter movie yesterday, all by myself. My husband hated the first one (I loved it) and had no interest, plus he had to work yesterday. My daughter also had no interest. It was very good, but I don't remember the book being this dark. Not a children's movie at all. The story was a bit uneven in spots and not as good as the previous three, but I still enjoyed it.

I want to start cutting back on the snacking so I can get back to Weight Watchers, but I have this box of chocolate truffles that my neighbors gave us. It has two foil bags inside the box and we have eaten (OK mainly me) about 1/2 of one bag. I was going to bring it work and leave it in the kitchen where I know it would disappear but truffles are just too decadently good to give away to this crowd (they'll scarf up anything :) These truffles are to die for. Seriously wonderful. I wish I could share them with all of you! So I'll try freezing them and I hope that doesn't ruin the fabulously smooth texture.

BTW, I'm trying to read Goddess of Spring (on chapter 2). I don't know if I like the fantasy bit. Oh, wait, Harry Potter is fantasy. I'll have to re-think this.