Friday, March 28, 2008

March Madness

March Madness is upon us and my team (well, actually my daughter's since that's her alma mater) was Washington State (Cougs) just got knocked out so my interest is the whole thing is nil.

I am participating in the Romance Madness at DearAuthor (DABWAHA) 2nd Chance Pool because I totally missed the first one due to the fact that I couldn't figure out what the HELL was going on. Wow, I really suck at it too. I only have two picks left in the Elite Eight.

One of my favorite sites is GoFugYourself.com. They are doing Fug Madness and it's a riot. Go check it out. They have the Madonna Bracket, Charo Bracket, Bjork Bracket, and Cher Bracket. Go laugh yourself silly.

Wedding Update: MOB dress

Woohoo, just got back from my Weight Watcher meeting and I lost 2 lbs. this week (which included Easter). I was pretty amazed because I was expecting that I had gained weight because of Easter breakfast and dinner. Although I didn't eat any candy, I did have the lasagne, garlic bread, salad, and dessert. In small portions... that must have done the trick.

I had my checkbook out to write a check for the $12 meeting fee and they told me I had made my goal!!!! So no checkee for mee :)

So now I can go buy my MOB dress. I have done a little shopping online at nordstrom.com and I saw a few I liked. I really liked the grecian style with a high waist. Now I find out the MOG bought that exact type of dress. GRRR.

I'm very picky about what I want and don't want:

No spaghetti straps
No satin (if possible)
Length: Short (outdoor wedding - don't want dress to drag in the grass)
Color: some shade of blue or turquoise (complementary color for red) - not too dark
Fabric preference: chiffon
Style: Grecian or A-line (compliments pear shape - yeah, I've got the hips to spare)

All but one of these dresses from Nordstrom, the other one from J. Crew. Okay, so let's go shopping ladies....

Dress #1
Not sure about the halter. My bare back might gross people out :)

Dress #2
I love this color on me. But I'm not sure about the bow on the side. This is a fake wrap dress style.












Dress #3
I like the color and hemline is unusual.



Dress #4
I love the style of this one but the color is too dark I think. I am really trying to find some color more like the others shown here.









Dress #5
Love the color (periwinkle blue) but satin shows every bulge.


Dress #6
I love everything about this dress except the color. If it came in some shade of blue, I would be done shopping. GRRRRRRR!




Dress #7
Love the style and color but again, don't like satin. Can you see her little belly bulge? Well, I have an even bigger one.







Dress #8

This one is from J. Crew and has definite possibilities. Color (aquamarine), style (grecian a-line), and fabric (chiffon) are perfect. But it's only available online so I can't try it on. I may be ordering this one. I can always return it if I have to.





OK, that's what I have so far. I haven't actually tried anything on. I really need to take a day off of work and go shopping at Bellevue Square Mall.

I'll let you know what I come up with.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

New Mary Stewart website

Jennie over at Jennie's B(ook)log and her twin, Julie, created a website at MaryStewartNovels.com. It's a great site for all you Mary Stewart fans out there. It has some great features: synopses of her books, cover galley, and (my favorite) a map of settings.

I started reading Mary Stewart in high school. I may have told this story before but bear with me. I was sitting in the school library talking with a bunch of friends. I had a copy of Gone with the Wind and we were discussing what we liked about the book. I said I liked the romantic aspect (although it's not a romance at all). My friend Katie grabbed my arm and dragged me out of my chair over to the Fiction books section and there she pointed at a whole row of Mary Stewart books and said "You have GOT to read these books!"

I said "Which one do I start with?"

She said "Any of them!"

So I looked at all the titles and grabbed Nine Coaches Waiting thinking that this one must have romance. I vaguely recall my thought process:

Coaches = Cinderella = Romance

OK, give me a break, I was 14.

Well, the rest is history. I finished off every book on that shelf over the next few months and then I headed over to the public library to find anything else written by her that our school library didn't have.

I loved the exotic locations (England, Greece, France, Austria), the suspense, and the romance. They were "kisses only" but boy, did my young heart pitter patter over those kisses. They were pretty tame by today's standards but pretty spicy to me as a naive young girl.

Here is my list of Mary Stewart books read with my 3 favorites at the top:

The Moon Spinners (takes place in Crete with a very spunky heroine who was played by Hayley Mills in the Disney movie - I had a major girl crush on her for years after that)

This Rough Magic (takes place in Greece and has my favorite scene on the beach when the heroine meets the hero for the first time who she thinks is shooting at a dolphin she is trying to protect)

Touch Not the Cat (heroine is telepathic and has a psychic connection to the hero, but she doesn't know who he is until nearly the end of the book)

Madam, Will You Talk
Wildfire at Midnight
Thunder on the Right
Nine Coaches Waiting
My Brother Michael
The Ivy Tree
Airs Above the Ground
The Gabriel Hounds
Rose Cottage

I see from the list of MS books that there are a few of her later books that I have never heard of:

Wind Off the Small Isles
Thornyhold
The Stormy Petrel

I need to look for these. She also wrote some historical novels based on the Arthurian legend that never interested me but I had heard good things about them. I think I tried reading The Crystal Cave but it was so unlike her romantic suspense that I gave up. I also haven't read the YA novels she wrote.

Some day I will dig up some of my old favorites and do some re-reading.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Odds and ends

OK, I suck at blogging. I admit it. I have proof. I finally got with the program and set up Google Reader with all my favorite blogs. Turns out all yous guys post way more than me. I can hardly keep up with y'all (that trip to Galveston influenced my accent recently - I love me a Texas accent). Anyway, I will attempt to reform, if possible. I have lots of things to blog about, just a few of which are book related. Maybe I'll hold back on a couple items so I can post two days in a row. Wooeee, wouldn't that be amazing.

First up, Easter. I took the "Lazy Renee" route this year. Instead of doing my usual roast turkey or ham, I decided to bake one of those frozen lasagnas from Costco which are incredibly good. I bought garlic bread, tossed a salad, and cooked up some glazed carrots. There you go... a complete meal with very little work involved. Oh, and I baked a frozen raspberry-peach pie from Remlinger Farms which are fabulous. Top it with Breyer's vanilla ice cream and you are set. There were the six of us (me, Bob, Jason + girlfriend, Angie + boyfriend). I only bought TWO bags of Easter candy (pastel M&Ms, and caramel filled chocolate eggs). Can you believe it?.... I did not have ANY candy. And I took the leftover candy to work. My willpower is truly amazing when I'm motivated to lose weight. I am 1-1/2 pounds from my goal... yup, amazing. I wanted that candy too, really, really, really wanted it. But I resisted. Not one measly little M&M, zilch, zip, nada. It's amazing how you can resist stuff when you know you have to fit into a dress. That's another story I'll post about tomorrow night.

Reading now: Call Me by Alison Kent
This book is a short (only 216 pages) Harlequin Temptation that has been languishing in my TBR for over 4 years. Wow, this rather innocuous little book is blowing my socks off. Why has it been sitting in my TBR for so long? It's funny, cute, and the sexual tension is ... wow. Love the hero (a Texas rancher - yeah, I'm into Texas lately) and his teenager brother is a hoot too. The heroine is rather uptight at first and is still hurting from the divorce from her cheating husband. But she warms up rather quickly. The sexy banter and spicy love scenes are worth the price of the book alone. I haven't found that many categories that are this well done and I'm hoping the last half of the book is as good as the first. If it is, it may end up as an A. We'll see.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

TBR Day: Review: Reap the Wind by Iris Johansen

COPYRIGHT: 1991
SETTING: Contemporary
TYPE: Romantic Suspense
PAGES: 532
SERIES: 3rd book in the Wind Dancer Trilogy
REASON FOR READING:
Keishon recommended this book a while back and since the premise sounded very original and intriguing, I tracked down a copy on PBS. Keishon mentioned that Johansen revised this book in 2002 to appeal more to her suspense fans and I'm betting she took out the hot sex scenes and the romance. That's just so wrong. So if you're interested in tracking down this book DO NOT GET THE REVISED VERSION. Get this one (cover shown here).

SUMMARY:[back blurb]
A DESPERATE RACE AGAINST DEATH
Alex. Brilliant Alex Karazov always regarded his wild talent as merely a tool in the high-tech chessboard of wold events...until murder galvanized him into a global cat-and-mouse game that could cost him not only his life but the woman he loves.

A FIRESTORM OF PASSION
Caitlin. Exquisite Caitlin Vasaro created a perfume whose scent enchants and whose fame may endure through the centuries...but her desire for Alex Karazov may rob her of both her dream and her life.

THE SIZZLING PRICE OF FAME
Chelsea Benedict had fought her way from the depths of poverty and scandal to the heights of international film stardom. Now she must fight the biggest battle of her life, to save the man she loves - from herself.

A LOVE FOR ALL TIME
Jonathan Andreas possesses power, fame, and one of the most valuable treasures on the face of the earth. He is willing to risk everything on the greatest gamble a man can dare...or to lose his life in the balance.

For centuries it was spoken of in whispers, a legendary masterpiece of unspeakable power...and immeasurable beauty. But once the winds had swept the stars from the night sky; who would own the Wind Dancer?


THOUGHTS/OPINION:
Caitlin Vasaro owns and manages a flower farm that has been in her family for generations. Due to many problems they are on the verge of bankruptcy and they can't pay their mortgage or make payroll. One day Alex Karazov a wealthy businessman (and ex-KGB/CIA) visits and offers to invest a huge chuck of cash so they can pay off their mortgage and allow Caitlin to market the perfume she has created and calls "Vasaro". Of course there are strings attached but Caitlin accepts the deal.

The reader is aware from the prologue that there is something not quite right about Alex. He is manipulating Caitlin so he can get his hands on "The Wind Dancer" an antique statue of Pegasus that is supposed to have magical properties. I really didn't like him at first because I thought he was a manipulating people user. And I thought Caitlin was way too stupid for falling for the "too good to be true" offer. But eventually Caitlin reveals that she is fully aware that Alex was using her, she just didn't care because she was so desperate to get her perfume to market. As part of the marketing campaign Alex wants to use the Wind Dancer which is in the possession of Caitlin's cousin, Jonathan Andreas.

What follows is a roller coaster ride of an non-stop action packed adventure across Europe. Oh, and Alex and Caitlin fall in love. Wow, and the sex scenes were pretty spicy. I especially loved the first sex scene which followed several chapters of some scorching sexual tension culminating in a fantastic scene in a lavender field. I could almost smell the lavender while I was reading that part. Another scene I liked is when Caitlin is anticipating that Alex is going to dump her so she dumps him first. I don't think that was really his plan but he was acting kind of like a jerk and really needed a smackdown. And Caitlin doesn't take him back right away...she makes him suffer for a while. She eventually takes him back after some good groveling. I liked that *evil grin*.

The only part I didn't care for was the secondary romance between Caitlin's cousin, Jonathan (a presidential candidate) and Chelsea (an famous actress). It wasn't bad really, just unnecessary to the plot and a tad bit unrealistic given we are in presidential campaign season. I wanted more of Alex and Caitlin. But I will say that Jonathan and Chelsea were well written characters along with Alex and Caitlin. And for a book with over 500 pages, this one flew by fast.

GRADE: B+



OTHER BOOKS READ FROM MY TBR:

The Medusa Project (Silhouette Bombshell) by Cindy Dees (B+)
Surprisingly excellent read about a team of women who go through Special Forces training. Non-stop action and seemed very realistic with a romance subplot. My only complaint... I was expecting at least one sex scene... but no, no sex here.

The Warlord by Elizabeth Elliott (C)
After hearing all the glowing praise about EE I was a bit disappointed because hero was a complete ALPHA-JERK! I liked the heroine though.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Movie Review: North & South


I finished the last episode of North & South last night. Now I get it. What all the fuss was about. When I first heard about it from KristieJ I knew I would love it but I went the lazy route and reserved it on my Blockbuster online account. Which took forever. And it has 2 discs so I had to wait a week after watching the first disc.

After watching N&S, I see the similarities to P&P: a dark brooding seemingly cold hero, a headstrong outspoken heroine who takes an immediate dislike to him. A marriage proposal by the hero flung back in his face. The eventual reversal of her feelings for him. But N&S had a much darker tone. This is much more than a love story, although that was the highlight of the movie. It's also a story of class struggle, the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and the union movement. The struggle of factory workers to survive and raise their families while they worked in horrendous conditions was brought to life dramatically.

The period costumes and cinematography was superb. The music was hauntingly beautiful and the setting in the historic 19th century mill captured the mood perfectly. The scenes inside the mill which showed the "snow" flurries of cotton had a dreamlike quality and were brilliant. Best of all the casting was perfect with some excellent actors giving some wonderful performances. And the acting... just wow. Daniela Denby-Ashe as Margaret Hale and Sinead Cusack as Hannah Thornton and Brendan Coyle as Nicholas Higgins were outstanding along with several others. But the performance of Richard Armitage as John Thornton was awesome and captivating.

There were many memorable scenes. The scene where Margaret rides off in a carriage in the snow and John stands there watching her leave hoping she will turn back and look at him. The scene where Margaret gets injured trying to protect John from an mob of angry mill workers. And of course, the final train scene. Again, just... wow.

A&E's interpretation of P&P has been my favorite romantic movie of all time. But the ending to N&S was probably the most romantic ending to any movie ever. Completely "sigh-worthy" and even better than P&P's ending. I will always love P&P for a more light hearted version of the ultimate romantic movie, but N&S will hold a special place on my shelf of DVD's right along side it. And it will be a toss up as to which I love most. One light, one dark, two great hunky actors (Richard Armitage and Colin Firth) to drool over.

When I finally get my own copy, I will be watching it again and again.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

REVIEW: On the Loose by Tara Janzen

COPYRIGHT: 2007
PAGES: 403
SETTING: Contemporary
TYPE: Romantic Suspense
SERIES: Book 7 in the Steele Street series
SENSUALITY: Hot
REASON FOR READING: I enjoyed most of the other books in the "Crazy" series. Here is the order:
Crazy Hot (B)
Crazy Cool (B)
Crazy Wild (C+)
Crazy Kisses (B)
Crazy Love (A-)
Crazy Sweet (B)
On the Loose
Cutting Loose

SUMMARY:
He's a special agent who never loses his cool.

She's the heat-seeking missile headed straight for his heart.

Keeping cool under pressure is the credo C. Smith Rydell lives by. That’s why he was handpicked by the Special Defense Forces for a mission few men survive. So why has the ex-DEA superstar been reassigned to Panama City, playing bodyguard to a blond in a black string bikini? Except Honey York isn’t your average pampered socialite. She’s the woman Rydell caught smuggling cash into El Salvador four months ago. And now she wants him to take her back.

All Honey has to do is find the guerrilla camp, deliver the goods, and get the hell out of the jungle—all in forty-eight hours. Only one man is up for the job. But sharing an unforgettable one-night stand was nothing next to being stranded with Rydell on some third world mountaintop. And with bullets flying and all hell breaking loose, now is not the time for passion. As if these two could possibly resist it….
THOUGHTS / OPINION:
I have to admit to a great fondness for all the books in the series. The books are not terribly deep but they all been quick reads with non-stop action, yummy heroes, and hot sex - a lot of it in cars ... the front seat, the back seat, the hood, etc. And I believe all the books, if I'm not mistaken, feature heroes who are secretly in love with the heroines. OTL follows this convention as well. C. Smith Rydell is an agent for the SDF (Special Defense Force), and has been assigned as bodyguard to Honey York. But he and Honey have a past history. Four months earlier they shared a steamy one night stand after he rescued her from a dangerous situation in San Luis. The next morning he put her on a plane back to the States determined to forget her, but he carries a little momento (her silk underwear) from the experience in his pocket.

Now Smith must escort and protect Honey on a mission to El Salvador to deliver a pile of money to a guerrilla leader in exchange for kidnapped nuns one of whom is her sister. While there Smith must locate a plane that crashed in the jungle and recover some highly secret information. There is also a backstory of Smith's former lover who he thought was dead, but is stalking him and wants to kill him. The sexual tension sizzles and the action is non-stop and compressed into a couple of days just as all the other Steele Street series have been. Reading this book was like eating a chocolate covered caramel (my favorite candy).... short, sweet, and done way too quickly but leaves a lingering memory of sweetness and a craving for more. Well, maybe not exactly, but you know what I mean.

GRADE: B+

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Heat or Ice?

I'm in pain. I work out 3 days a week and yesterday I got to aerobics class late. I normally use 4 pound weights but they were all gone so I grabbed the 5 pounders. I realized this morning that I had pulled a muscle and I ache from my lower neck, across my right shoulder and down my arm to my elbow.

I've been in pain all day.... it just aches like a bad toothache. I have taken 6 ibuprofen, two extra strength Tylenol, and an Aleve over the last 12 hours and nothing works. Not even a twinge of relief. It's just throbbing.

I never know when to use ice versus a heating pad. I hate the idea of ice since I'm already cold. A heating pad sounds good. Must go find it.

It was torturous at work today because I had a test plan to write. If I'm in this much pain tomorrow, I'm staying home. *sigh* God, I feel old.

AAR Reader Poll Results

I'm feeling very smug. AAR Reader Poll results are in and I think I did pretty good at matching the final results in the major book categories. But I sucked at picking the character awards (only 1). Here are the winners and honorable mentions I picked:

Best Romance: The Serpent Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt (it tied with If His Kiss Is Wicked by Jo Goodman which I haven't read yet)

Favorite Funny: Natural Born Charmer by SEP

Most Luscious: The Serpent Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt

Best Cabin/Road Romance: Up Close and Dangerous by Linda Howard (tied with Driven by Eve Kenin which I have read and loved)

Best New Author: Anna Campbell

Guiltiest Pleasure (honorable mention - tie): Claiming the Courtesan by Anna Campbell

Best European Historical (honorable mention): The Serpent Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt


Best Contemporary: Natural Born Charmer by SEP


Best S/F & Futuristic: Games of Command by Linnea Sinclair

Best Paranormal: Caressed by Ice by Nalini Singh

Best Chick Lit: Sugar Daddy by Lisa Kleypas

Most Tortured Hero (honorable mention): James from Beau Crusoe by Carla Kelly


That's 9 winners and 3 honorable mentions I picked. I did better last year because I picked 4 of the character awards.

Go here to check out the final results.