Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Some good books from 2007 - Part 2

More books from 2007 that I have enjoyed.

Claiming The Courtesan by Anna Campbell
This book was one of the most controversial books of the year. It seemed that people either loved it or hated it. Justin, Duke of Kylemore, is a spoiled selfish powerful man with a heap of emotional baggage. He is absolutely obsessed with his mistress Soraya and wants to make her his duchess. But Soraya is really Verity Ashton and wants to leave the life of a courtesan for a more respectable life in the country. When she disappears from London, Justin is furious and tracks her down and kidnaps her. He treats her cruelly and the forced seduction scenes were painful to read and normally I would have cringed thrown the book at the wall. But I was absolutely enthralled and couldn't put it down. These were two damaged souls and I love a good redemption story. The forced seduction was really more emotionally violent rather than physically violent. This was Campbell's debut book and she took quite a risk with this storyline but I will definitely be reading her next one, Untouched, due out in December.

My grade: B+



The Leopard Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt
I picked this one up because I loved The Raven Prince and I'm glad I did. Lady Georgina Maitland is a wealthy woman. She inherited a fortune and a large amount of land from an aunt and now she needs someone to manage her property. She hires Harry Pye as her land steward. As Harry and Georgina work together their attraction develops and results in some very steamy love scenes. I love stories where there is a big difference in social standing and this one was handled realistically. When Harry is accused of poisoning a neighbor's sheep, Georgina immediately believes in Harry's innocence. Both characters were very likable and were realistically portrayed.

My grade: B+



Ice Blue by Anne Stuart
Here is another excellent example of the cold dark anti-hero who spends a great deal of time wavering between the desire to assassinate or make love to the heroine. Summer Hawthorne is the daughter of a wealthy woman involved in a Japanese religious cult run by a disturbed fanatic, Shirosama, who is planning a catastrophic killing of millions of people with biological weapons. Summer was given a priceless Japanese bowl by her nanny and her mother has promised the bowl to the Shirosama (for some ritualistic reasons I didn't quite understand) but Summer refuses to let him have it. Takashi O'Brien is a member of the Committee, a top secret anti-terrorist organization. Taka is assigned the task of acquiring the bowl and assassinating Summer to assure her silence. But he ends up saving her from Shirosama's followers and a complex thrilling roller coaster adventure begins. Taka belongs to the Yakuza (Japanese mafia) and is half Japanese, half American and walked that fine line between hero and villain. Summer was one of Stuart's stronger heroines.

My grade: B

Reading now: Just finished Simply Irresistible by Rachel Gibson and loved it. This is Gibson's debut novel and I don't think her later books have this kind of depth. I just started Hard Lovin' Man by Lorraine Heath on KristieJ's rec. Very good so far.

Happy Halloween

Dev gave me this cute little Halloween treat:



We had a Halloween party at work with a potluck and costumes, office decorating contest and bingo. Some people brought spooky food. Someone brought these black duck eggs which are some kind of Chinese delicacy and were the grossest thing I have ever seen. Someone took pictures of costumes and the weird food. The employees' kids are coming later for trick or treating at all of our offices. I love seeing all the kids costumes.

I bought a huge bag of candy for the trick or treaters from the neighborhood. We usually only get 5 kids. Guess who has to eat all that leftover candy :)

Friday, October 26, 2007

Top 100 Romances

Here is my list of top 100 romances for the AAR poll, such as it is. It was a lot of work and slightly painful when I had to slash it down to a "mere" 100. And the ordering is pure crap. My top 20 are bunched together and only kinda in order and the rest are ordered as best I could. It's an impossible task and depended on my mood of the day.

I'm not going to turn it in for a few days so I have time to make adjustments. I have already been tweaking it but it's starting to drive me crazy so I just have to let it go.





























































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































1A Rose at MidnightAnne Stuart
2Flowers from the StormLaura Kinsale
3Pride and PrejudiceJane Austen
4The Notorious RakeMary Balogh
5Red Adam's Lady Grace Ingram
6
Fallen From Grace
Laura Leone
7 Night in EdenCandice Proctor
8 After the Night Linda Howard
9 To Have and To HoldPatricia Gaffney
10 Naked in Death J. D. Robb
11 All Through the Night Connie Brockway
12 Black Ice Anne Stuart
13 Duncan's BrideLinda Howard
14Mrs. Drew Plays Her Hand Carla Kelly
15 Truly Madly YoursRachel Gibson
16 Reforming Lord Ragsdale Carla Kelly
17 Sunshine and Shadows Tom and Sharon Curtis
18 Last Summer Theresa Weir
19 Morning Glory LaVyrle Spencer
20 Sea Swept Nora Roberts
21 With This Ring Carla Kelly
22 Angels Fall Nora Roberts
23 Dream Man Linda Howard
24 Heart of Deception Taylor Chase
25 See Jane Score Rachel Gibson
26 Heart of Fire Linda Howard
27 Dreaming of You Lisa Kleypas
28 Thunder and Roses Mary Jo Putney
29 It Had To Be You Susan Elizabeth Phillips
30 The Wives of Bowie Stone Maggie Osborne
31 One Summer Karen Robards
32 The Emerald Necklace Diana Brown
33 Dance Judy Cuevas
34 Lady Gallant Suzanne Robinson
35 Nightfall Anne Stuart
36 Joe's Wife Cheryl St. John
37 Faro's Daughter Georgette Heyer
38 Wolf in Waiting Rebecca Flanders
39 A Fine Work of Art Shelby Reed
40 Untie My Heart Judith Ivory
41 Streets of Fire Judith Duncan
42 Ride the Fire Pamela Clare
43 Cry No More Linda Howard
44 Out of Control Suzanne Brockmann
45 The Phoenix Code Catherine Asaro
46 The Windflower Tom and Sharon Curtis
47 MacKenzie's Pleasure Linda Howard
48 The Lady's Tutor Robin Schone
49 Match Me If You Can Susan Elizabeth Phillips
50 Passion Lisa Valdez
51 One Good Turn Carla Kelly
52 Dream Fever Katherine Sutcliffe
53 Paradise Judith McNaught
54 The Serpent Prince Elizabeth Hoyt
55 Lady of Quality Georgette Heyer
56 Anyone But You Jennifer Crusie
57 A Debt of Honor Diana Brown
58 Prairie Wife Cheryl St. John
59 To Love a Dark Lord Anne Stuart
60 The Monk Downstairs Tim Farrington
61 Harvard's Education Suzanne Brockmann
62 Devil in Winter Lisa Kleypas
63 Heaven, Texas Susan Elizabeth Phillips
64 Simple Jess Pamela Morsi
65 Devilish Jo Beverley
66 Skypirate Justine Davis
67 Perfect Judith McNaught
68 Bliss Judy Cuevas
69 Winter Garden Adele Ashworth
70 My Dearest Enemy Connie Brockway
71 Welcome To Temptation Jennifer Crusie
72 Sleeping Beauty Judith Ivory
73 Libby's London Merchant Carla Kelly
74 All the Queen's Men Linda Howard
75 A Kingdom of Dreams Judith McNaught
76 Born in Fire Nora Roberts
77 Caressed by Ice Nalini Singh
78 A Much Younger Man Dianne Highbridge
79 Slow Heat in Heaven Sandra Brown
80 In the Midnight Rain Ruth Wind
81 Driven to Distraction Judith Duncan
82 Julie & Romeo Francis Ray
83 Birthright Nora Roberts
84 Games of Command Linnea Sinclair
85 Slave to Sensation Nalini Singh
86 Keeper of the Dream Penelope Williamson
87 The Nightingale's Song Kathleen Eschenberg
88 All Night Long Michelle Jerott
89 Kinsman's Oath Susan Krinard
90 Upon a Wicked Time Karen Ranney
91 Render Unto Caesar Gillian Bradshaw
92 Manhunting Jennifer Crusie
93 A Reason to Live Maureen McKade
94 Castaway Hearts Nancy Butler
95 The Lone Rider Lauren Bach
96 Texas! Chase Sandra Brown
97 The Trouble With Joe Emilie Richards
98 Heart Throb Suzanne Brockmann
99 Heat Lightning Anne Stuart
100 Married by Mistake Melinda McRae

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Working on "The List"

Time is running out and I'm feeling stressed about finishing my Top 100 Romances for the AAR poll. I finally narrowed down my list to 100 last night. Then I started the monumental task of sorting them in order of preference. I was rather overwhelmed until I came up with the idea of taking 20 of my all time favorites (I tried 10 at first but that was too hard) set them aside in a new list and then put them in a semi-order. Then I grabbed 20 more from the remaining 80 and sorted those. And so on it goes. I still have 40 left to go.

The whole task of sorting them is really like comparing apples to oranges. I may like one book more for the characters and another more for the plot, etc. etc. I like different books for different reasons. In the end I'm sorting them for my gut feeling about them. Or rather my heart. It's all subjective.

Anyway, AAR Rachel and Rosario finished their lists. And AAR published Interim results at the bottom of the poll. I found a couple books on these lists that I want to add but that means deleting some from my current list. Impossible! I better quit looking at other lists. I'd like to publish my list in a nice table like they did but I don't think I'm that smart.

What else? Oh, yeah, did you read about Nora Roberts winning book of the year at the 3rd annual Quill Awards? Totally awesome. I'm so proud :)

The rumble continues with KristieJ and Cindy posting some cool sparklies. It's so nice to be part of a community where people can disagree without getting their panties in a twist. I came up on the side of Derek and Cindy is feeling betrayed but I know she still loves me. Right, Cindy? Hmm, maybe I'll have to do something to get back into her good graces and groveling is probably involved.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Some good books from 2007

I have read 39 books published in 2007 so far this year but I have only done reviews on about a third of them. So in an effort to catch up, here are some quickie reviews of the best of the rest.

The Abducted Heiress by Claire Thornton
This book takes place in the Restoration Era in 1666 during the Great Fire of London. The setting, characters, and attitudes felt realistic for the place and time. Although the book had it's faults I enjoyed reading about the fire and how it affected people. Jayne at DearAuthor wrote a more thorough review so click here if you want to know more. My grade: B-


Innocent in Death by J. D. Robb
Another solid and fascinating addition to this series. I love this series and I think my main motivation for reading them is to see how the relationship between Eve and Roarke develops. And every book seems to have some event or events that move their relationship forward and makes it stronger. IID is no different. When an old girlfriend of Roarke's comes into town and starts asking for 'favors', Eve doesn't know quite how to handle it. She is extremely jealous but wants to appear unconcerned. Deep down though her insecurities are twisting her in knots. Magdelina is stunningly beautiful and super smooth but Eve is suspicious and despises her on sight. Roarke seems oblivious at first and insulted at Eve's jealousy, but he is no dummy and my respect for him was raised another notch because he sees through Magdelina fairly quickly. Oh, and the homicide investigation in IID is another good one. A much-beloved young teacher at an exclusive private school is murdered and I was rather shocked when his murderer is finally revealed because I didn't see it (or refused to believe it). My grade: B+


Castle of the Wolf by Sandra Schwab
This book also had an unusual setting - a dark mysterious castle in the Black Forest of Germany. I'm not sure of the time period but it seemed like maybe 1820's or so. I cut my eyeteeth on dark gothics like Jane Eyre when I was a teenager and this book reminded me so much of them. The hero is dark and tortured and is hiding some secrets. The heroine is convinced someone is trying to kill her. Some spooky weird things happen and the hero is so enigmatic that I almost believed he was behind them. Anyway it was great fun.
My grade: B


Well, I'm running out of steam tonight so I'll make another post this weekend with some more quickie reviews.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Free View

Cindy tagged me a few days ago and I'm just getting around to it. This is my desktop at work. Yeah, you're not seeing double. I have two monitors so when I did a Print Screen it took an image of both monitors. I'm too lazy to crop it.


I subscribe to Webshots and my favorite wallpapers all show beach scenes. I especially love tropical beach scenes that show palm trees, sand and turquoise blue water. They make me wish I was there inside the picture. Especially when we have those gray dreary days (like today) and I feel like escaping.

I'll try to do a print screen of my home computer later. I don't think there is anyone left to tag but I'll look at that too when I get home.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Dirty by Megan Hart

COPYRIGHT: 2007
PAGES: 425
SETTING: Contemporary
TYPE: Erotica
SERIES: No (loosely related to Broken)
SENSUALITY: Burning

REASON FOR READING: Janine's review at DearAuthor piqued my interest. Also I greatly enjoyed Broken.

SUMMARY/BLURB:
This is what happened . . .

I met him at the candy store. He turned around and smiled at me and I was surprised enough to smile back. This was not a children's candy store, mind you—this was the kind of place you went to buy expensive imported chocolate truffles for your boss's wife because you felt guilty for having sex with him when you were both at a conference in Milwaukee. Hypothetically speaking, of course.

I've been hit on plenty of times, mostly by men with little finesse who thought what was between their legs made up for what they lacked between their ears. Sometimes I went home with them anyway, just because it felt good to want and be wanted, even if it was mostly fake.

The problem with wanting is that it's like pouring water into a vase full of stones. It fills you up before you know it, leaving no room for anything else. I don't apologize for who I am or what I've done in—or out—of bed. I have my job, my house and my life, and for a long time I haven't wanted anything else.

Until Dan. Until now.

THOUGHTS / OPINION:

This was a much harder review to write than the one I did for Broken. Elle Kavanaugh is a very troubled young woman and even though this book is written in first person we don't really know what's going on. Somewhere around a third of the way into the book I started to decipher all the signals and hints which had raised my suspicions. By the halfway point I had figured out the main issue and although the subject is a difficult one for most women, I couldn't put the book down.

Elle is not a likable person or admirable in any way. She doesn't act wisely and seems self destructive. Well, actually she is self-destructive and that right there is a big hint and should set off the alarm bells in your brain. When we first meet Elle we find out that she has been celibate for 3 years but before that had been having frequent anonymous sex. It was strange how the way Ms. Hart wrote this made me feel like I was inside Elle's head but she wasn't telling me what I really wanted to know ..... mainly my question was "Why?" Eventually I had to figure it out for myself.

Elle meets Dan Stewart in a candy store. They start dating but their relationship takes weeks to become sexual. Elle can't do emotional intimacy so she treats their relationship like those anonymous sexual encounters from years ago. Some reviews I've read on this book thought Elle's voice read rather flat but I had the opposite reaction. I thought it was very emotional and very thought provoking especially after I figured out her issues. It was difficult and sometimes painful to read but I have to agree with Janine from DearAuthor when she describes the tone of the book this way:
...this delivery showed Elle’s numbness, her emotional armor, in a way that a different tone would not have.
That about sums it up.

Dan wants more intimacy and Elle wants less. Eventually they figure out why she pushes him away and they have a happy ending but it was not an easy journey. The resolution of their problems was dealt with very realistically and some readers might feel it's a bit too real. The cover calls it "An Erotic Novel" and the sex scenes are burning but some of them were not really "sexy", if you know what I mean. Well, maybe you don't. Anyway, this book isn't for everyone but I found it satisfying and was convinced of Dan and Elle's future happiness. If you want to read something a little deeper or if you enjoyed Hart's Broken, you might consider giving this book a try.

GRADE: B+

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Strange sight and other stuff

Saw something strange today. I was driving to work this morning when I came to a stop light. Crossing the road in front of me in the crosswalk was a young woman (probably mid-20's) who was reading a hardback book while crossing the street. It looked like she was on the last few pages but sheesh!, does she have a death wish or something. Now I have been known to read while walking back in my college days but never while crossing the street. I live in an area where pedestrians have more rights than drivers but still people have been known to be killed in a crosswalk even around here. You can't trust drivers to actually see you. And to top it off, it was raining! So the pages had to have been getting wet. Must have been a really good book. Wonder what it was :)

I'm a software tester and I use a computer constantly everyday. Using my mouse has been causing me pain and severe coldness in my right hand for the last year or so. I've been trying to use my left hand for my mouse and trying to learn keyboard shortcuts which has helped a little. I decided to buy a new wireless mouse which is ambidextrous so I can use it with either hand. I came across a review at cnet.com for wireless mouses (or mice) and the top rated one seemed to fill the bill. It's made for smaller hands (yeah, I have small hands and small feet - completely out of proportion to my butt) and can be used with either hand. It has a scroll wheel that is the fastest one on the market - it really screams. And the mouse is wireless so I can move it anywhere on my desk or even to my lap. I like to keep it on the left side of my keyboard and I use it with either hand. I'm getting pretty good at using it with my left hand, but when I'm in a hurry I can use my right hand. Yeah, it was pricey but worth it. Almost no pain or coldness in my hand/arm now.

I went through my spreadsheet and came up with a list of more than 125 books of my favorite books for AAR's Top 100 Romances poll. You have until October 31st to submit it but I'd like to get it done before that. I still need to trim it down but putting it in order of preference is going to be a very difficult task.

I came across this link about the cheapest days to buy certain items to get the best deals. Check it out. Under Books is says that the cheapest day to buy is Thursday.

Reading now: The Serpent Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt and it has a fascinating hero whose wit just leaps off the pages. The heroine is well done too. I just came across a very funny dinner scene that had me laughing out loud. KristieJ just reviewed it and gave it a top score and put it on her Top 100 Romances list. I have a feeling I'm going to be doing the same thing when I finish it. What's everyone reading now?

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Tangled Up in You by Rachel Gibson

COPYRIGHT: 2007
SETTING: Contemporary
TYPE: Straight Romance
PAGES: 364
SERIES: Third in the 'author friends' series
SENSUALITY: Hot

SUMMARY: [from Amazon]
Maddie is determined to uncover the untold story about the town's sordid past—her past. As a child, Maddie lost everything, and now she's back at the scene of the scandal—a local establishment that's always belonged to the Hennessys—determined to uncover the truth, and nothing is going to stand in her way. Especially not a black-haired, blue-eyed Hennessy.

Everyone in Truly knows that the Hennessy men are irresistible, and the current owner, Mick, is no exception. His late father was a skirt-chasing heartbreaker who ended up causing disaster for two families. So far, Mick's managed to keep the ladies in line, but when he claps eyes on Maddie, with her luscious curves and tempting lips, he can't resist getting tangled up with her.

But Maddie is keeping secrets, not the least of which is her true reason for being in town. And when Mick discovers what‘s really going on, there is going to be a whole lot of trouble in Truly.

THOUGHTS/OPINION:

I was rather lukewarm over Gibson's last couple of books but I was pleasantly surprised with this latest one. Not quite as good as my two favorites, Truly Madly Yours and See Jane Score, but very good nonetheless. As in the last two books in the series, the heroine of TUIY was again a writer.

Maddie Dupree travels back to her hometown, Truly, Idaho, to research the story of a double murder-suicide which happens to be a very personal story. Maddie is a true crime writer and the story she is researching involves her mother. Thirty years ago when Maddie was a little girl her mother began an affair with the local bar owner. When his wife discovers the affair she shoots them both, then herself. Maddie is left all alone in the care of her eccentric aunt. The cheating husband's son, Mick Hennessey, now owns the bar. He and his sister were totally devastated by this event as children and he now wants to just forget the past. Mick is furious that this author is in town stirring up old memories better left forgotten. Mick and the rest of the town don't know that Maddie is the daughter of 'that waitress'.

The pages fairly sizzle from the moment Maddie and Mick meet and they had wonderful chemistry and sexual tension together. But Maddie keeps her true identity secret much too long and I was could just see the writing on the wall. And as expected when Mick finally finds out he is royally pissed.

The topic was probably more serious than Gibson's previous works but I thought she weaved the serious subject with some witty dialog rather well. In the end I really sympathized with both of them. They both had been damaged by this tragedy and each came to see that they couldn't hate the other for the actions of their parents because it was out of their control. They were both victims and they realized they could comfort each other. There is also a very nice secondary romance between Mick's old army buddy and his sister. Overall, I thought Mick and Maddie were perfect together and I enjoyed their snappy dialog.

GRADE:
B