Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Pre-ordering books

I'm considering pre-ordering some books from Amazon. I usually don't do this because I figured with all the book stores around here I could just run out and get what I want immediately after it's released. But as most of you know, I usually can't find any new books around here until they've been out a while so lots of complaining, whining, and crying ensues on this blog.

The problem with pre-ordering is that I want to take advantage of the free shipping (on orders of $25 or more) and Amazon will wait to ship the order until all the books are in-stock. Of the 5 books I want 2 will be released in March, 2 in April and 1 in May. So that means waiting for all 5 until May. OR I could just place 3 separate orders and pay the shipping. Considering that the total cost of these orders will be less than one round of golf for Bob, I don't know why I'm being such a tightwad. Force of habit, I guess.



Anyone else do any pre-ordering? Have you found that you get them before they are out in the stores in your area?

Thursday, February 22, 2007

True Confessions by Rachel Gibson

When I go on vacation I like to bring along something light, funny, and sexy to read. TC fit the bill fairly well but it's silliness was a bit overdone in places.

Have you ever wondered who writes those insanely stupid stories in tabloids about alien abductions or the latest Elvis sightings? In TC, Hope Spencer is just such a writer (I refuse to call her a reporter) for a tabloid in LA. She has decided to come to Gospel, Idaho, because she has run out of ideas and hopes that the small town atmosphere and quirky residents will provide some inspiration. And boy, was she right. Gospel is full of quirky characters just like all stereotypical small towns. But of course they have their hunky sheriff, Dylan Taber. I don't know how many books I have read that feature small towns with quirky characters and a hunky sheriff. Probably dozens. What's up with this, people?

Hope has decided to keep her profession a secret from everyone in town because she didn't want anyone to figure out that all those weird aliens stories were inspired by the town's wacky residents (okay, really, who could see themselves in nutty stories in a tabloid about aliens masquerading as people?). Also, she was being stalked in LA and didn't want the stalker figuring out where she was hiding out. Oh, did I mention that the stalker is a dwarf wrestler? I'm NOT making this stuff up. At this point I'm smacking myself on the forehead wondering if Gibson was on drugs when she wrote this or very clever tongue-in-cheek funny. I went with the latter and the humor actually worked for me. Each chapter begins with a very funny tabloid heading like "Demonic Car Alarm Hypnotizes Community" or "Squirrel is Proven Aphrodisiac".

Dylan, the hunky sheriff, also has a secret. More about that later. At one time he had served as a police officer in LA, but has returned to Gospel to raise his young son alone. Dylan is quite the eligible bachelor in the area with his good looks and aw-shucks country boy charm. When Hope and Dylan meet there is an instant attraction and their sex scenes were pretty steamy. All the characters were well done and funny/likeable. Generally, I don't like kids in books but Dylan's son Adam is great and only plays a small role.

Dylan's big secret involves Adam and was really no big deal. Spoiler: When Dylan lived in LA, he had an affair with an actress. She got pregnant and let him take the baby to raise alone. She is now a very famous star of a hot TV show where she plays an angel (kind of like Touched by an Angel). She doesn't want anyone to know she had a son out of wedlock. *gasp* (how shocking!) So Dylan and Adam are forced to keep the identity of Adam's mother a secret. An actress who had a child out of wedlock?!? Never heard of such a thing. :) The actress is concerned that if the secret comes out it will ruin her career. Oh, please. The only way this is believable is if that TV show was some kind of religious holier-than-thou inspirational crap and even then I don't buy it. (see, it can't be worse than Ted Haggard)

Anyway, predictably, Hope's secret is revealed and then someone finds out Dylan's secret and blabs it to the tabloids. Of course, Dylan blames Hope for spilling the beans and wants nothing to do with her. But Hope had nothing to do with it. This created some conflict but it doesn't last long and we get a quick ending.

Basically, TC is a light and fluffy book with nothing deep about it and was a very fast read. Perfect for a vacation while you lay around on the beach after leaving your brain at home.

My grade: B-

Monday, February 19, 2007

Whispers of Heaven by Candice Proctor

WOH is set in Australia on the island of Tasmania in 1840. One of my favorite books of all time is Proctor's Night in Eden which was also set in Australia. So after reading NIE and hearing all the glowing praise on various message boards and review sites about WOH, I had to have it. But after purchasing it I stowed it away in my humongous TBR where it has been collecting dust for the past 3 or 4 years. I dug this one out of the pile to take on my vacation and I'm so glad I did.

Jesmond Corbett has just returned home to Tasmania after two years abroad studying geology. While she was away her beloved father died and now her disapproving, controlling mother is pressuring her to set a date to wed her long time fiancé, Harrison Tate, a neighboring wealthy landowner. Their engagement was arranged by her father before she left and Jessie is resigned to the marriage. They have been friends since childhood but Harrison does not stir her emotions and Jessie can't help feeling restless and reluctant to marry. Harrison loves her but his prim and proper demeanor and demands of obedience makes her question the arrangment.

Australia was established as a penal colony and English families, such as Jessie's, came and settled there to take advantage of the cheap convict labor and amass vast fortunes. Lucas Gallagher is a convict laborer on the Corbett homestead and has been transported for life with no hope of parole. Lucas works in the quarries but when Jessie's brother Warwick discovers his talent with horses, he assigns him to the stables where Lucas meets Jessie and immediately becomes her groom. Lucas spends his time taming the magnificent horse Jessie brought back from England and accompanying Jessie on her ramblings over the estate.

Jessie is fascinated with Lucas and their growing attraction quickly becomes dangerous. In Australian society it is strictly taboo for anyone to wed an emancipated convict, let alone one who has no hope of a pardon. Add to this conflict the fact that Lucas is desperate to escape and you have an overwhelming sense of doom and hopelessness in their relationship.

This is one of the most unique historicals I have read in a long time and I found it a powerful, emotional, and truly unforgettable story. The setting was beautifully described and the characters were authentic and well-developed. The historical detail seemed accurate with an intriguing plot filled with conflict and sexual tension. Throughout the book I could not see how these two would ever get a happy ending, but they did and it was perfect. The secondary characters were also realistic without descending into stereotyping. Proctor is such a talented author it's a real shame she no longer writes romance.

When I first graded this book I gave it a B+, but I have not been able to get these characters and this love story out of my head so that says keeper to me.

My grade: A

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Pictures!

Here are a few pictures. This is our boat, Carnival Pride. If you look real close you can see our room :). We are on deck 7, which is about two decks above that row of 6 lifeboats that you see. We looked down from our balcony onto those lifeboats.






Picture of one of the pools (midship - deck 9). There were 3 pools that all looked like this one. One forward, one aft, and one midship. I liked the hot tub best. Pools were too cold for me (and they were salt water).










Picture on board (deck 10), a great place to lounge in the sun:









Here's me on deck 10 getting ready to lounge in the sun:












Here's me on the beach at Cabo San Lucas. The water was a little cooler than I thought it would be. Not as warm as Hawaii where it was like bathwater. I'm glad I didn't go snorkling because it would have been too cold for me.





One of the pictures from our Land's End boat tour. I think this was called Lover's Beach. Gorgeous.












This is the famous Land's End arch at Cabo San Lucas (Los Arcos). So beautiful. I want to go back to Cabo someday. I tried taking pictures of the whales and dolphis we saw on our trip but they didn't turn out. I wasn't fast enough.







Picture of sunset taken from our dining room window in the stern of the ship. Not bad, huh?

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Back from Mexico

We had a wonderful time once we got past a few glitches. First, our flight to Long Beach had a problem. After the pilot pulled away from the gate he discovered (before takeoff thank God) that the flaps weren't working. Not a good thing. We went back to the terminal and after waiting around for them to figure out the problem the airline decided to put everyone on another plane. Got into Long Beach only an hour late. Then, in Long Beach we found out that the cruise ship had a mechanical problem so we would be setting sail a day late! The cruise line gave everyone a $50 on board credit ($100 per couple) which meant we could use it to spend on drinks or duty free shops or gambling in the casino. Plus we got a 15 per cent refund, plus $400 toward a hotel for Sunday night. We ended up staying at the Doubletree Inn (did you know they give away fresh warm chocolate chip cookies?) at San Pedro marina before boarding the ship on Monday. WONDERFUL, very classy hotel.

Finally got on the ship and it was FABULOUS. The food was wonderful and too plentiful. Can you imagine...they have 24-hour pizza and soft-serve ice cream. We ate buffets for breakfast and lunch and then had a sit-down dinner in the dining room with a very attentive wait staff. Our tables were at the windows at the stern of the ship where we watched the sunsets every night. They had a Broadway type show every night too. We went shopping in Mazatlan and went on a boat tour to the famous Land's End arch in Cabo San Lucas. The ship had three pools with hot tubs. My new favorite drink .... Miami Vice (half pina colada, half strawberry daquari, which makes it half red and half white)... yummy!

I managed to read 4 books while sitting by the pool and in the late evenings after the show.

Whispers of Night by Candace Proctor (B+)

Exposure by Susan Andersen (B)

True Confessions by Rachel Gibson (B)

By Possession by Madeline Hunter (B)

I have pictures! Will post those next time.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Books to cruise with

We leave Saturday morning to fly to Long Beach, CA where we will hop on our Carnival cruise ship. It departs Sunday afternoon when we sail to Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, and Cabo San Lucas and returns the following Sunday to Long Beach. I'm traveling with our neighbors and their friends, plus my family (two sisters, brother and their spouses). We will have 14 adults all together plus my 7 y-o nephew. We have never been on a cruise before so I'm a bit anxious but I am excited.

I've been told that there are two formal dinner nights so I had to scrounge up something to wear. I have a long black sleeveless sheath with pineapples on it that I bought in Hawaii 3 years ago. It sounds tacky but it's very elegantly tropical looking and comfortable. I also found a long black stretchy velveteen sleeveless dress with sparkles on it in the back of my closet. I usually pull it out during the Christmas holidays and haven't worn it for years but I guess it will do. I couldn't find any shorts in the stores but they had tank tops so I bought those. I have a couple pairs of capris and I found a cute pair of sandals. I tried on my two bathing suits and they fit (lost 8 lbs. since day after Christmas - Weight Watchers). Throw in a sweater for the cool evenings and I'm good to go.

Now that my first concern is out of the way, I have been pondering what books to bring. I have some library books but thought I better leave them behind in case I lose them. I haven't been book shopping in a while so I have only a few new titles. Of course, I have a huge TBR so this is a chance to whittle it down some.

I decided to bring 7 or 8 books. I know I won't be able to read all those but I thought I should have extras just in case. You all know what I'm talking about here :)

Some I pulled out of the TBR pile that I'm considering bringing:

Whispers of Heaven (Proctor)- been saving this for awhile since she no longer writes romance
Flowers from the Storm (Kinsale) - I keep getting this one out on vacations but never actually reading it
The Pirate Prince (Foley) - what's a cruise without a pirate book, right Kristie?
By Possession (Hunter) - I have a bunch of medieval romances in my TBR I just realized
Darkling I Listen (Sutcliffe)
Exposure (Andersen)
I Do, I Do, I Do (Osborne)

I wish I had a jungle or tropical setting books to get me in the mood but I don't have any. But I have a few in my keepers so maybe I'll bring one of those along.

Next we need to decide on which excusions (if any) we want to take in each port. I would like to do the dolphin/snorkling one at Pueroto Vallarta. I love snorkling. Bob wants to take some boat tour at Cabo on a catamaran which has food, an open bar and dancing.

Decisions, decisions.... :)