Friday, August 31, 2007

Day off

Just a quick post...

You all know how damn busy I have been at work the last couple months. Our manager gave us today off (with pay) because we all have been working so hard, so we have a four day weekend! Woohoo! I am also taking my two floating holidays on September 7 & 10 so Bob and I can go camping. Two four day weekends in a row! How cool is that.

You know what that means... more time for reading (I hope)! August was a bad month for me reading-wise. Only 7 books which is my lowest in a very long time. Just finished Demon Angel by Meljean Brook and it took me 6 days... 2 or 3 is my usual. It was a very difficult book to read meaning it was very complicated and I felt like I was lost or confused much of the time so I had to go slow and concentrate. Not an easy read. But worth it. Jane reviewed it and Meljean was kind enough to answer questions in the comments. Some were spoilers but I really needed those otherwise I would not have known what the HELL was going on. This was probably not a good book to read given how busy at work I have been. When I finally had time to read my brain was too exhausted to figure anything out.

Anyway I'm glad I finished it and will definitely read Demon Moon soon.

Better run... lots of stuff to do.

Happy Labor (Labour) Day everyone!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Wedding Update: The Wedding Gown

Daughter (OK... I'll tell you... it's Angie) and I (and one of her bridesmaids) went bridal gown shopping last Saturday. Did you know you need an Appointment to shop for a wedding gown? And I can see why. It takes one or two people to get you into and out of the gown.

1) Unzip the gown bag
2) Unhook from the hanger
3) Lift out the gown (weighs at least 20 pounds - it seems anyway)
4) Unhook or unzip the dress
5) Find the opening in the bottom to slip over her head (through all the layers of tulle and netting - we had some funny moments with this when she got stuck a few times)
6) Slide over her head
7) Fasten the back
8) Clip together the excess fabric to make it look fit in the front (dresses are usually a couple sizes large so anyone can try them on)
9) Pickup the train so she can walk to the wall of mirrors to get a good look all the way around.
10) When she's done admiring it (oh, she looked so beautiful each time I wanted to cry)
11) Get the dress off of her
12) Get the dress back on the hanger and into the bag.

Whew! I was exhausted physically and emotionally after 3 hours of this.

She brought her scrapbook of pictures of dresses that she had been cutting out of magazines to give the shops an idea of what she was looking for. On Saturday she tried on a couple dozen dresses and came very close to finding what she wanted. She also went shopping on Sunday with her future MIL and SIL. And she found The Dress. She called me immediately because she didn't want me to be mad that she found the dress without me. I was happy as long as she was happy. We are going back tonight after work so she can show me the dress. I can hardly wait. She showed me a picture online but I forgot to get the link so I will post it as soon as I have it. Stayed tuned.

UPDATE: Here it is! Shhhh, I'm sworn to secrecy and I'm not supposed to share these pictures with anyone but I figure you all won't tell on me.




Description: Deep V-neckline gown with spaghetti straps. Swarovski crystal beading and Robison-Anton platinum embroidery accented at empire waistline and hemline. Back waist gathers to create the look of a full train.

Fabric: Taffeta

Color: Ivory

Monday, August 27, 2007

To Catch a Mate by Gena Showalter

COPYRIGHT: 2007
PAGES: 370
SETTING: Contemporary
TYPE: Straight Romance
SERIES: No
SENSUALITY: Hot

REASON FOR READING: AAR gave it a DIK review.

SUMMARY/BLURB:
Jillian Greene is always getting caught in the act—it's her job! Working at Catch A Mate, Jillian gets paid by suspicious wives to smile, flirt and prove that no man can be trusted around the opposite sex. Her only ground rule? She never gets physical. Until a heart-stoppingly gorgeous male walks in…

Marcus Brody has just been hired as bait to test female fidelity. But the last thing Jillian needs is a partner…especially an infuriating, irresistible man who's got her fantasizing about tearing off his clothes.

Can a savvy modern woman find happiness with the most tempting man she's ever known? Is there such a thing as a totally monogamous male?

THOUGHTS / OPINION:

It's hard to believe that AAR gave this book DIK status because I was not that impressed with it. It wasn't horrible but it just wasn't to my taste. CaM had a good plot and I loved the idea of a service that helps women discover if their boyfriend or husband is cheating on them and thought it had great comic potential. But I found some of the dialogue kind of silly and childish rather than funny as the author probably intended.

Heroine Jillian works for the agency and acts as bait to entice husbands or boyfriends who've been accused of cheating and captures their actions on film to show their female clients. Marcus takes over the agency and wants to include catching cheating wives and girlfriends into their offered services. But the way he handles his newly acquired female employees was chauvinistic and bullying. I couldn't stand the guy. Plus all his mental lusting for Jillian was ridiculous. Both the H/H had good reasons to hate members of the opposite sex and they work out their problems fairly realistically. And the sexual tension and steamy love scenes were great. But I couldn't warm up to the hero at all.

Jillian spent a lot of time thinking "I hate him, I hate him" "Wow, is he hot!" "Wow, does he have a great butt", then of course they have hot steamy sex. I don't get that. If I hate some guy (male chauvinist pig), I don't think they're attractive and want to jump them. MCP's are a total turnoff. But then that's just me. If you skip all the mental lusting and chauvinistic attitude, it would have been a pretty good read.

GRADE: C+

Friday, August 24, 2007

The Prada Paradox by Julie Kenner

COPYRIGHT: 2007
SETTING: Contemporary
TYPE: Chick Lit
PAGES: 334
SERIES: 3rd book in Play.Survive.Win Series

REASON FOR READING: Loved the first book in the series, The Givenchy Code.

SUMMARY/BLURB: [from the publisher]
Devi Taylor was one of Hollywood's fastest-rising starlets -- until a crazed fan held her at knifepoint and she retreated to a life of privacy and Valium. Now recovered and ready for a comeback, Devi dreams of endorsing all things Prada, whose Rodeo Drive store she can't resist. Instead, she lands the starring role in The Givenchy Code, a high-budget action-adventure flick. But with the tabloids all over Givenchy and her recent split with her drop-dead handsome costar, Blake, Devi can't shake the feeling that another crazed fan is going to strike.

Then a frightening message -- "Play or Die" -- is delivered to Devi's house, and she finds herself sucked into a deadly and cryptic game not unlike the one in the movie she's starring in. Hollywood has always been her life, but does Devi know its secrets well enough to follow the cinematic clues that might save her and her favorite Prada bag?
THOUGHTS/OPINION:

As I said above, I loved The Givenchy Code, the first book in the PSW series about an internet game that turned into a life or death treasure hunt. In fact I voted it my favorite Chick Lit for 2005. So naturally I was looking forward to the rest of the series. I never got around to reading book #2, The Monolo Matrix. But AAR gave book #3, The Prada Paradox a B+ with a Hot sensuality rating, so had to have it. Unfortunately, I didn't agree with the grade OR the sensuality rating.

The H/H are both actors and heroine, Devi, is trying to bounce back after a stalker attack 5 years ago which ended her career. The book follows the same pattern as The Givenchy Code with Devi and hero Blake gathering and solving clues. The beginning setup of the story was good and I liked the main characters but eventually I got bored with the story and just wanted it to end.

Another factor affecting my opinion was the lack of sex scenes. AAR gave it a Hot sensuality rating and that's what I expected. But there must have been some kind of typo or administrative error because this book could in no way be considered Hot. Kisses only, with one sex scene with the door firmly closed. You know what happens to me when I'm expecting Hot and it doesn't deliver, don't you? I get very cranky and it affects my grading. See this review for evidence of my crankiness.

GRADE:My Grade: C

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Broken by Megan Hart

COPYRIGHT: 2007
PAGES: 378
SETTING: Contemporary
TYPE: Erotica
SERIES: No (some characters from Dirty make an appearance)
SENSUALITY: Burning hot.

REASON FOR READING: Lots of intriguing reviews on blogs that gave this book excellent grades

SUMMARY:
My name is different every month—Brandy, Honey, Amy…sometimes Joe doesn't even bother to ask—but he never fails to arouse me with his body, his mouth, his touch, no matter what I'm called or where he picks me up. The sex is always amazing, always leaves me itching for more in those long weeks until I see him again.

My real name is Sadie, and once a month over lunch Joe tells me about his latest conquest. But what Joe doesn't know is that, in my mind, I'm the star of every X-rated one-night stand he has revealed to me, or that I'm practically obsessed with our imaginary sex life. I know it's wrong. I know my husband wouldn't understand. But I can't stop. Not yet.

THOUGHTS / OPINION:
You may be able to tell from the blurb above that this book is written in first person. This is Sadie Danning's story. On the first Friday of every month she has lunch on a park bench with a man she only knows as Joe. Each month Joe tells her an erotic story about a sexual encounter while Sadie imagines herself as the woman in the story. But Sadie is married.

In a strictly definitive sense she is cheating on her husband but I can't condemn her for it. This is not a story about infidelity. Sadie deeply loves her husband Adam. But a serious accident has left him a quadriplegic. Adam is bitter and angry and has emotionally withdrawn from their marriage. Sadie is a therapist so during the day she is helping her patients and in the evenings and on weekends she is taking care of her husband's physical needs. But no one is taking care of Sadie. She doesn't want to cheat on Adam (and doesn't in the physical sense) but these once a month lunches with Joe are an emotional release where she can feel like a woman. I'm convinced that all people need love and they need to be touched. Without it something detrimental happens to their emotional and mental well-being. There is a powerfully emotional scene when during a massage Sadie realizes it has been a very long time since she has been touched and she has an emotional breakdown. It was heart wrenching and I cried along with her. The amazing thing was that the masseuse just continued on and said it happens all the time. I can believe this. Touch is a powerful thing.

At first I wanted to hate Joe for his easy sexual conquests and one night stands, but gradually I became convinced that Joe was actually falling for Sadie and was in a way seducing her. In fact at one point I started to think he was making these stories up for her sake. That's my opinion, others may see something else.

Broken is not a romance but there is love here and hope and I read the last page with a sense of optimism for Sadie's future happiness. I couldn't stop thinking about it long after I had closed the book. Sadie's inner dialogue is compelling and her loneliness especially painful to read. The book is dark and pushes the boundaries of morality and I found it moving. Broken might make some readers uncomfortable but I loved it. It's about real imperfect people with real faults and problems.

GRADE: A-

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Wrong Hostage by Elizabeth Lowell

COPYRIGHT: 2006
PAGES: 416
SETTING: Contemporary Mexico
TYPE: Romantic Suspense
SERIES: 1st book in St. Kilda Consulting series
SENSUALITY: Maybe kisses only, maybe subtle. Nothing memorable.
REASON FOR READING: I have loved so many of her past books and was hoping for the best.

SUMMARY:
Orphaned at thirteen, Grace Silva clawed her way out of poverty and violence to become one of the most respected judges on the federal bench. Grace believes in the rule of law -- lives it, breathes it. She has always been buttoned up and buttoned down.

Except once.

Joe Faroe has learned that laws are made by politicians and politicians are all too human. He believes in the innocents, the ones getting ground up by governments that are too polarized or too corrupt to protect their own citizens.

Now Faroe is out of the business. Retired. He's through trying to save a world that doesn't want to be saved.

Then Grace comes to him, past and present collide, and Faroe finds himself sucked back into the shadows, tracking a violent killer who holds the life of Grace's son in his bloody hands.

THOUGHTS / OPINION:

"Wrong" is a good word here because there was so much about this book that just struck me as wrong. First the heroine, Grace Silva, is a supposedly strong intelligent woman who is a federal district court judge and I liked her at first. But then we learn about all the incredibly stupid things she has done. Grace was dating her future husband, Ted, when she has a brief weekend affair with the hero, Joe Faroe. They part ways and she marries her boyfriend anyway not telling him that she is not sure if he is the father of the child she is carrying (not a spoiler).

I'm making excuses for her at this point thinking, well she was young. But her stupidity continues. Eventually they learn that Ted is not the father and he is pretty pissed when he finds out. He has affair after affair and treats her and her son like dirt and still she stays with him for years. She never tells her son or Joe, the biological father, the truth. Ted is a real slimeball and does some pretty bad things and she finally divorces him. This is all back story. When the book begins her son, Lane, now 15, had been caught hacking into his school's computer to change his grades and Grace sends him away to a strict private school in Mexico at the insistence of her ex. Now, I ask you, what kind of idiot mother would do this? Ted is not the boy's father and treats him like dirt. Yet she agrees to send him away to another country to a secluded private school on his recommendation.
Let's make a list of how highly intelligent this woman is, shall we.

Grace:
1) Has an affair and cheats on her future husband
2) Gets pregnant (where is the birth control)
3) Lies by omission to husband about pregnancy
4) Doesn't tell biological father or her son when she finally figures it out
5) Stays with rat bastard cheating husband who treats son like dirt
6) Sends son away out of the country to private school because rat bastard ex-husband insists

One or two of these things would not bother me at all. I've seen them all before in lots of other books and it doesn't make me fly off the handle. But that last item really threw me. I just don't buy it.

Grace receives a call from the principal demanding she come to the school in Ensenada, telling her he needs to discuss something about Lane, and she drops everything and drives from San Diego into Mexico. When she gets there she discovers that Lane is a prisoner and will be killed unless millions of dollars stolen by her ex-husband from one of the most powerful drug lords in Mexico are returned.

Grace can't go to the law if she wants to keep her son alive so she contacts her former lover (and Lane's father) Joe Faroe. And what a coincidence, he happens to be a kidnapping specialist for a private firm called St. Kilda Consulting. He agrees to help because of their past history, but when she finally reveals that Lane is his son, he is understandably pissed. And she deserves his disgust.

The plot was full of fast paced action and suspense but it was very confusing and sometimes boring. But the worst part - there was very little romance. The spark between Grace and Joe was almost non-existent.

What has happened with Elizabeth Lowell? I used to love her writing. I loved the steamy sex and alpha heroes. Loved the Only series. Loved the Donovan family series (except for some minor irritations). Loved Running Scared (OK, just the sex in the elevator scene). Loved To the Ends of the Earth, Too Hot to Handle (sex on horseback scene) and Love Song for a Raven. Lowell was famous for her sizzling sex scenes. But there was no sex in this book. Zilch. Nada. Did I miss it somehow? Were there two pages stuck together? Or was my copy missing some pages? Did I accidentally skim over it because I was so pissed off or bored with it all? Did they print a G-rated abridged edition for Sunday School teachers and little old ladies? Someone help me out here.

Maybe it's her age. How old is Lowell, anyway? Since she has been writing for 30 years, she must be in her 50s or 60s. Why has she left out the sex? I can't think of any other authors who have stopped including sex scenes the older they got. I know NR must be in her 50s and she's still going strong (with the sex scenes, people).

EL was one of the BIG romance authors, almost right up there with NR. EL has 30 books that have been on the NYT list. She just puts her name on a book and it sells millions of copies. But Nora is still consistently good. EL ... not so much any more. Is she just sitting back and resting on her laurels? I don't know but I think she has officially jumped the shark for me.

GRADE: D+

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Becoming a grownup

No, I have not fallen off the face of the planet. I think I lost my writing mojo. Not that I had much of a writing mojo in the first place, but what I had has shriveled up lately.

But I have been reading lots of books. Maybe it would be best if I just do a giant post with all the books I've read and leave it at that.

Let me update you on my daughter first. I may have mentioned that my daughter's wedding plans have been on hold while she looks for a new job. Good news, she found a real full time regular job (Human Resources Assistant) for a local bank with benefits and everything. She gets health & dental insurance, paid vacation and paid holidays. I told her she is officially a grownup now. From my point of view this is very good news because:
  • We can take her off of our health insurance plan and save a little money. We were a bit worried about her health insurance since our plan will drop her next January. Her fiance owns a marshal arts studio and they really can't afford to buy health insurance so she would still have no coverage after they are married. Now she can put him on her new company's so they will both be covered
  • We can take her off of our cell phone plan. We put her on our plan after she went away to college because she couldn't afford to buy cell phone service on the wages she earned working part time. In our old plan Bob and I barely used 200 minutes/month. When we added her we had to increase it to 2000 minutes/month. Yeah, it's ridiculous but it turned out to be a good thing for my peace of mind.
  • We can take her off of our car insurance. The best news of all. She is a good driver and has only had one ticket, but just last month she confessed to getting another ticket. I was not pleased. Maybe she'll be a little more careful knowing she has to pay any increase in insurance due to traffic tickets.
I don't think she'll be quite as pleased about all this as we are but it's all part of becoming a grownup. When I was living at home before I married Bob, my parents charged me rent! But we decided not to do that since she will be gone soon anyway.

Ok, running out of steam. Will talk about books tomorrow.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Wedding Update: The Engagement Party

I'm pooped. We had the engagement party today for my daughter and her fiance. My family (two sisters, brother and all their spouses, my dad and his girlfriend, my son and his girlfriend, and assorted nephews) and her future husband's family (mom and sister). Yesterday was a madhouse for me. Went to the Saturday Market to get fresh flower (large bouquet for $7), Costco (bought baby back ribs and boneless chicken thighs, beer, paper plates and a bunch of other crap), grocery store, and party store for balloons and more party crap. Then did laundry and cleaned up all the clutter. Thank God I have a housekeeper (she was here last Tuesday).

Our neighbor Jim who's a wonderful cook offered to smoke the ribs. I marinated the chicken overnight then cooked them for an hour in the oven before Bob popped them on the barbecue to get that grilled flavor. Laurel (mother of the groom) brought a cake from Costco (white cake with chocolate mousse filling and chocolate frosting).

Bob got all my plants watered, cleaned out the little fountain and got it running and put out all the lawn chairs and tables, and filled the coolers with ice, beer, pop, water, snapple, and other assorted drinks.

Everything went well. The weather was fabulous but it got a little hot out on the deck so lots of people moved out under the pergola and in the lawn where it was nice and shaddy. The food was wonderful and most of my family behaved themselves. I had one glass of wine and now I'm about ready to collapse. Wine always makes me want to take a nap. Bob has gone to bed and I should hit the sack soon.

Amazingly I managed to finish a book which is hard to believe since I feel like I haven't sat still all weekend. Broken by Megan Hart. And it was WONDERFUL. Very HOT with an emotionally draining story. Written in first person, Broken deals with some moral issues and I found the heroine's inner dialogue compelling. But some of her emotions cut right to the heart and I had to admit I found my self crying a few times. I liked how she never tried to make excuses for her actions. I highly recommmed.