Tuesday, April 22, 2008

I need a change

I feel the urge to change my blogger template again. Anyone have any suggestion where to find some good free blogger templates?

Friday, April 18, 2008

Mary Balogh rocks!

I have been a fan of Mary Balogh's since the early 1980's when I stumbled upon her traditional regency romances accidentally. I started hanging onto her books when I realized I couldn't part with them.... my first author glommed. Her books were probably the most sensual regencies out there but still mostly subtle compared to today's historical romances. I was happy when she eventually started writing regency historicals with much warmer sex scenes which include her usual writing style that I love.

Recently I joined her Yahoo!Group for her fans MaryBaloghFans. They discuss lots of topics related to historical romances not just MB's books. Mary visits there often and is happy to answer questions from her fans. Last week she posted that she had visited a local UBS where she found a shelf full of her old traditional regencies... about 20 of them. All were on sale for low prices. Amazing. These books are very collectible and you sometimes see prices for them from $20 - $30, maybe more. So she offered them for sale at $5 each and did a drawing to pick a winner for each book.

And guess what?? I won one! The Ungrateful Governess. I just got it in the mail along with a leather Mary Balogh bookmark. And both were autographed to me! What a classy lady. Did I mention that she's Canadian (I have a great fondness for Canadians) which explains her coolness :)

For those MB fans, I learned from her Yahoo Group that The Ideal Wife is being reissued this year and A Precious Jewel next year. She says "There should be a new contract for more backlist books in the near future. I'll pass on details then." I hope some of those really rare traditional regency books (The Notorious Rake, etc.) get reprinted so others can enjoy them.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

TBR Day: Lots of old categories

I made a concerted effort this month to pare down my TBR. While standing in front of the shelves that contain my TBR, I noticed that there were way too many old categories that I had picked up over the years and just never got around to reading so I decided to start with those. My intent was to read at least 2 chapters of each book and if it didn't keep my interest, toss it away into the "post on PBS" pile. If I liked it (or it wasn't too horrible), then I figured I could finish it in no more than 2 days. Great plan, huh? Anyway, I read 11 categories and not one DNF in the bunch.

So here are mini-reviews of the best of them:

Call Me by Alison Kent (1996)
This book was a real surprise. It's a short (only 216 pages) Harlequin Temptation that had been languishing in my TBR for over 4 years. It was funny, had great sexual tension and the plot was tight and characters are well written. I loved the hero (a Texas rancher - yeah, I'm into cowboys lately) and his teenager brother is a hoot too. The heroine is quite uptight at first and is still hurting from the divorce from her cheating husband. But she warms up rather quickly and things got cooking. The sexy banter and spicy love scenes were worth the price of the book alone.
My grade: A


A Wedding to Remember
by Emma Darcy (1994)
This was a troubled marriage story which is one of my guilty pleasures if done right. The H/H are divorced and the heroine, Joanna, is considering remarrying but she is unsure. She decides to visit her ex, Rory, at his office to see if it's well and truly over and get on with her life. Rory is stunned to see her and after talking her into a goodbye kiss, is blown away and impulsively he scoops her up in his arms and 'kidnaps' her for a weekend of pleasure. OK, I know, not realistic. at. all. But I went with it and I'm glad I did. They have some misunderstandings to work out and Joanna learns to believe in Rory rather than vindictive gossip (although I was a bit irritated with her for not believing in him in the first place).
My grade: B+


The Return of Eden McCall by Judith Duncan (1995)
JD is one of my favorite category writers and I have several of her books in my keepers. This book is #3 in the series (Wide Open Spaces) and all of them have been wonderful. TRoEM is no exception. Eden returns to her hometown to take care of her dad who has had a heart attack. She runs into her former boyfriend (and lover), Brodie, who is angry and hurt that she left town. I love how the POV switches to Brodie in several chapters and we really get inside his head. This is a highly emotional and well written book and Brodie is a wonderful hero. Duncan is a talented author who should be writing full length romances but unfortunately she hasn't published anything since 2002. What a shame she dropped out of sight.
My grade: B+


Cattleman's Promise by Marilyn Pappano (1999)
This is book #1 in the Heartbreak Canyon series. I read book #3 a few years ago and liked it so much that I bought the rest of the series, but I'm just finally getting around to reading them. Olivia's husband has just died saving her the trouble of divorcing the rotten scoundrel. She now has the care of her twin 5-year-old daughters and not a penny to her name since the ex gambled it all away. Except she finds the deed to a ranch in Heartbreak, Oklahoma. When she travels to Heartbreak on her last dime she finds out her husband had been swindled since Guthrie owns the ranch. Guthrie is a good, decent, and kind man so he offers to let her stay in a cabin on his property. In exchange she will cook and clean his house. I loved Guthrie. I loved Olivia. And I loved the twins, Elly and Emma. Wonderful plot and characters are so real. I hate cutesy or bratty kids, but Emma (good twin) and Elly ('bad' twin) were absolutely perfect. I found myself laughing at their antics and fell in love with them.
My grade: B+


Reading now: Horseman's Bride by Marilyn Pappano (1999)
This book follows Cattleman's Promise. Very dark, slightly depressing book that I almost gave up on. Features a tortured hero (Easy) with horrendous physical disabilities caused by a serious car accident. Top that with his feelings of loneliness and tremendous guilt caused when he ran off 12 years ago with his best friend's (Guthrie from Cattleman's Promise) fiance (Shay) a few days before their wedding. To make matters worse he abandoned Shay 6 years ago because of his feelings of guilt and worthlessness over his treatment of Guthrie, expecting she would go back to him. Shay went back to Heartbreak, Oklahoma where all three of them grew up together but she never got over Easy. Now Easy is back in Heartbreak, angry and depressed and a tad full of self pity. But Shay won't let him give into it and with Shay's help comes out of it little by little. I'm a few pages from the end and can hardly put it down (late for work this morning trying to squeeze in a few more pages). Update: Just finished it and it had a great last chapter and epilogue.
My grade: B

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

REVIEW: Mine to Possess by Nalini Singh

COPYRIGHT: 2008
SETTING: Alternate Reality
TYPE: Paranormal Romance
PAGES: 328
SERIES: 4th book in Psy-Changling series

REASON FOR READING: This is my favorite paranormal series so picking this one up was a no-brainer.

SUMMARY: [from Publishers Weekly]
Earth of 2080 continues a cold war with the chilling aliens the Psy in Singh's fourth fierce installment of the Psy-Changeling series (after Caressed by Ice). Half-human, half-leopard changeling Clay Bennett is shocked when lovely Talin McKade, wracked with illness and similarly half-changeling, returns to his life, having disappeared from his childhood 20 years before. Talin works at San Francisco's Shine Foundation, dedicated to helping gifted but needy children, and a growing number of her missing charges have been turning up sans brains. There's plenty of purring passion to keeps things hot as the Leopard shape-shifters Clay and Tally fall breathlessly in love, while the Psy continue to use children as guinea pigs for developing a hive mind. While this is paranormal romance at its best, newcomers are advised to check out the earlier adventures first.

THOUGHTS/OPINION:

This book captured my attention from the very first page. In all the other Psy/Changling books, the h/h were either Psy or Changling. In MtP the hero, Clay, is a changling leopard and incredibly yummy. But the heroine, Tally, is just a plain ordinary human so I was a bit leery about how strong a character she would be matched with such an alpha male. The previous heroines in this series have been matched with alpha males and have been very strong and alpha in their own right. But I had no reason to worry. Tally was a good mate for Clay.

Clay and Tally were childhood friends who became separated after an extremely traumatic event. Tally was an abused child and when Clay finds out, he mauls and kills her abuser right in front of her. Tally associates Clay with fear and blood and death and when he tries to find her after the incident Tally has her guardians tell him that she is dead. This was the only instance in the book where I wasn't sure if I would like Tally. But she was just a child when this happened and I think her reaction was understandable after such a traumatic event.

It is now 20 years later and Tally works with street kids. When several missing kids turn up dead, she knows she needs Clays help and goes looking for him. Clay has never forgotten Tally and is haunted by his memories of her. When he finds out she is alive he is understandably angry and one particular scene was incredibly intense and emotional. But he is also very loyal and protective of Tally so they pair up and discover some very sinister motives by a group of Psy. While they work together along with the Changling packs to rescue the children, Tally and Clay must face their past and confront their feelings for one another. Tally must learn to overcome her fear and trust Clay. And Clay must learn to forgive her for her deception and her sexual past.

This is another highly emotional, sexy, and fascinating addition to this series. Singh writes the best alpha males... and really, who would not love a leopard for a mate! They are highly possessive and protective without being overbearing. Tender, sweet, sensual and just plain sexy. OK, I'll stop now. I'm looking forward to Hostage to Pleasure (love this title) due out in September 2008.

GRADE: A-

Friday, April 11, 2008

My shopping day

I had a great day today. Took the day off of work to go shopping for a MOB dress. I started the day by weighing in at Weight Watchers. I'm down 20.8 lbs. and have reached my goal. So I set off for Nordstrom in Bellevue Square Mall (which is enormous) and started in the Special Occasion dresses section and wandered all over until I reached the designer dresses in the back corner. The sales lady tries to help me out and she is coming up with zip that appealed to me.

Then she pulled out this dress that was exactly the style and fabric I wanted but the color was all wrong (swirls of pink and purple ... ). But I thought, what the hey.

So she looks me up and down and says "Size 6?"

I'm thinking "WTF, no way" but I say "uhhhhh, no, maybe 8 or 10"

She says "No, you're a size 6."

How do sales ladies do that? I think there is some serious size inflation going on with today's dress makers. Anyway, I try the dress on (it fits perfectly and I look pretty good) but the color is still wrong. I look at the price tag. $895 !!!! Uh, no. N.O. No, no, no. The most expensive dress I have ever tried on. Well, that was fun. Needless to say I didn't buy it and I didn't find anything else in the store I liked. But that's OK. It was fun shopping. I will buy something online.

I also stopped at the used bookstore but I didn't buy any books. Go figure :) I did buy some used DVDs though. Since it was a beautiful sunny warm day, I bought an ice cream and sat and read in the little outdoor courtyard.

I also stopped at Seattle Lighting and looked at light fixtures. Nothing appealed to me.

Bob has been wanting a hot air popcorn popper so on a whim I stopped at Fred Meyer and bought him one.

I did order something online...new Levolor Wood Blinds for our bedroom window. They were 25% off so I was happy.

Reading now
: An oldie I heard about somewhere (probably AAR RtR board)... The Same Last Name by Kathleen Gilles Seidel (copyright 1983)
I love the heroine who is a forest ranger but hero is kinda an idiot. I like Seidel's writing style though. Almost to the end (on page 177 of 255 pages) so we'll see if the hero redeems himself.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

REVIEW: Creation in Death by J. D. Robb

COPYRIGHT: 2007
PAGES: 352
SETTING: Futuristic NYC (2060)
TYPE: Mystery/Romantic Suspense
SERIES: #26 (of full length books) in the In Death series
SENSUALITY: Warm

SUMMARY: [from the publisher]
NYPD Lieutenant Eve Dallas keeps the streets of a near-future New York City safe in this extraordinary series. But even she makes mistakes, and is haunted by those she couldn't save-and the killers she couldn't capture. When the body of a young brunette is found in East River Park, artfully positioned and marked by signs of prolonged and painful torture, Eve is catapulted back to a case nine years earlier. The city was on edge from a killing spree that took the lives of four women in fifteen days, courtesy of a man the media tagged "The Groom"-because he put silver rings on the fingers of his victims.

When it turns out that the young brunette was employed by Eve's billionaire husband, Roarke, she brings him in on the case-a move that proves fitting when it becomes chillingly clear that the killer has made his attack personal. The victim was washed in products from a store Roarke owns, and laid out on a sheet his company manufactures.

With the Groom's monstrous return, Eve is determined to finish him once and for all. Familiar with his methods, Eve knows that he has already grabbed his next victim. Time is running out on another woman's life.

And chances are he's working up to the biggest challenge of his illustrious career-abducting a woman who will test his skills and who promises to give him days and days of pleasure before she dies: Eve.
THOUGHTS / OPINION:
CiD is another excellent book in this series and probably one of the better ones in my opinion. I read this a few months ago and I've had to think about it a while before I could figure out why I liked it so much

My favorite part about this series has been the development of the relationship between Eve and Roarke. In each book they seem to grow and evolve and their marriage gets stronger in little tiny ways as they learn more about each other. But in CiD no further insight into their relationship is revealed. Again Roarke gets involved in the murder investigation as usual, this time because the murder victim was one of his employees and he insists on being involved.

The other reason I love this series so much is the wonderful characters. In previous books Eve's team of detectives works tirelessly to solve the crime while everyone else provide some lighter moments. But in CiD, every character has an integral role in finding out the identity of the serial killer before he selects his next victim. Trina helps with her knowledge of personal skin care products, Somerset provides clues due to his knowledge of the Urban Wars, etc. And of course, Peabody, McNab, Feeney, Mira, Baxter, et al, do what they do best. A true team effort and everyone had a hand in it. The tension builds higher and higher as they get close to finding the killer (spoiler: and his latest victim who is still alive) and I was on the edge of my seat and biting my nails. And the ending did not disappoint. I loved it. Eve kicks ass. Love, love, loved it. I had to skip a bit of the gruesome details but that didn't stop me from enjoying the rest of the book. I don't know how Roberts never fails to entertain me with this series, but really she must be a goddess.

MISCELLANEOUS:
If you haven't read Marianne Stillings' Epilogue in Death, go over to AAR right now and read. It's hysterically funny.

GRADE: A-