Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Saga of the Forsytes

This will be a short post because I'm tired and need sleep. My brother, boyfriend and I spent the entire day watching the whole Forsyte Saga set of DVDs. I think there are like 10 episodes. It really did take all day. lol.

I would try to explain the plot but it would go something like, there's this family, and one of the guys runs away with his daughter's nanny and then his cousin marries this woman who never loves him and then the first guy's daughter's fiance falls in love with the cousin's wife and then they try to run away together but that doesn't work out and then she leaves her husband and eventually marries the FIRST guy and would you believe that her son and her ex-husband's daughter end up falling for each other? And it actually gets even longer, more twisted around and complicated. But oh what fun! The sets are lovely, the costumes gorgeous. And what could be better than watching beautiful British-speaking people emoting on camera? I ask you.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Book Binge Christmas Meme

Ok, I may just be the last blogger in romance-land who is doing this but better late than never, right? The nice ladies at Book Binge are running a fantastic holiday contest and the prize? An e-book reader! In my dreams would I have one of these. So what have you got to lose? Besides making my odds of winning even more slim. Go over there and check it out!

Christmas Meme:

1. What is your favorite Christmas romance to re-read each year?
I don't actually have one. In fact, this may be the first year that I have read any Christmas-themed romances during the holiday season. I do recall reading an anthology that included a McNaught story featuring a character I liked (Nicky, I think his name was).

2. What is your favorite Christmas movie/show?
Oh, this is a toss-up but I think I will give the edge to "It's a Wonderful Life." Honorable mention to "A Charlie Brown Christmas". We watched IAWL pretty much every year when I was a kid and I find that I still get more out of it as an adult. This year I got to show it to my BF for the first time.

3. What is your favorite Christmas cookie?
My great-grandmother's traditional recipe - Fruitcake Cookies. Candied pineapple, cherries, dates, pecans all mixed up with a luscious soft cookie mm!

4. When do you start Christmas shopping?
Usually at the last minute. This year I think I did it all within the last two days before Christmas.

5. Do you re-gift?
Sure, why not? I've been poor for most of my life, so I'm frugal. I don't mind receiving re-gifts and if I have an item that I think someone would appreciate better than me, I'm happy to pass it along.

6. What is your favorite Christmas song?
I lurve Christmas music, so this is tough. Possibly the First Noel for sacred music and The Christmas Song (y'know....chestnuts roasting on an open fiiiiire) for secular music. Nat King Cole does a great version.

7. When do you get your Christmas tree?
I don't have one. Living with four other grad students in a shared just isn't practical.

8. Wrapping presents: Love it or hate it?
Love it! It's almost theraputic. Put on some Xmas tunes, get out the tape, scissors and paper and go to town. I look at it as a challenge to try to make each one pretty.

9. Who is the hardest person to buy for?
Probably my brother. He is very eclectic so I can't just get him typical "guy" stuff. This year apparently I did pretty good. Got him a model ship and a whisky flask. lol.

10. Christmas tree: Real or artificial?
See number 7. But if I did have one I think I'd like a real one cuz they small purty.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

this and that

With all of the Christmas busy-ness and what with the parents, younger brother and cousin visiting, I haven't had much time to blog. However, I have been reading in the evenings when I finally get home and curled up in my bed.

Thanks to the awesomeness of lisabea, I have been immersed in the gay space Regency world of My Fair Captain. VERY entertaining and touching story, and I would highly recommend it. More on my reactions to this book will follow to be sure. It was very interesting to read this in the midst of my listening to the Gabaldon "Lord John" audiobook every evening. In the latter, Lord John is living in a repressive society where sodomy is punishable by courtmartial and death. This complex and honorable man has to balance the demands on his profession (soldier), his family and his natural desire to love and be loved all the while guarding every word and every action. It was so fascinating to compare this with the openly gay but still formal and patriarchical society in My Fair Captain. I'm not explaining this very well, but anyways, it got me to thinking about culture and identity and our assumptions about what is normal and expected. All kinds of interesting stuff.

I'm also just finishing Beyond Paradise by Elizabeth Doyle. It's an entertaining pirate romp recommended to me by my blogging buddy Kristie(J). I'll probably write up a short capsule review later but for now let me just say that you have to admire an author who writes a story set not only in Martinique with an all-French cast but also has a deaf sailor (who is not even the captain) in the role as hero.

In other news, I successfully got my family to watch North and South! My mother, younger brother and I watched half last night and half this afternoon. They totally enjoyed it and were very impressed with the story, the quality of the acting and the entire production. Then my dad was looking for a DVD to use as a "test" for his new laptop and I handed it to him. A few hours later he came downstairs looking for disc 2. woot! So yeah, am I good or what?

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Calorie free candy

Happy Holidays and pass the fat-free eye candy bucket around! Check out my guest post over at The Good, The Bad, and the Unread today and see my picks (and pics) for 12 Men I'd Choose to Star in a Romance Novel. If you can't guess who makes the number 1 spot, you haven't been paying attention. ;-)

Friday, December 21, 2007

late lightning

Well well, another week has gone by and it looks like I am way behind on blogging. My parents arrived on Monday night and will be here until right before New Years. I have been rather busy shuttling them around town to go shopping and whatnot. So far, so good. I realize that I owe some more "lightning" reviews from last weekend's housesitting gig. The more I try to write these short things, the more I realize that I'm kind of verbose and not very good at condensing ideas into readable short bites. So forgive me if these are more thundering than lightning.

I started with Julia London’s The Perils of Pursuing a Prince. In this novel our intrepid heroine Greer Fairchild has ventured into the wilds of Wales to track down a long-lost relation who may be the key to her inheritance. Although she had begun the journey as the companion to an elderly woman, they had been joined by a very accommodating young man who ingratiates himself to the point that he convinces Greer to keep traveling with him even after her elderly companion passes away. So from the beginning I am thinking, ok, this girl is not the sharpest stick in the shed. Then we meet the putative prince of the title. He is something of a hermit on his land in Wales. Mr. Owen (the aforementioned young man) has a grudge with Rhodrick Glendower, Earl of Radnor and “Prince of Powys, based on a long history between the two. Ms. Fairchild ends up caught in the middle, but I kept wishing that she would be just a little more astute about the obviously nefarious Mr. Owen. Once he fled the coop and left her in the somewhat gothic tender care of the Prince, things did get more interesting. I vacillated between being entertained by the battle of the wills between Rhodrick and Greer, boredom that it was taking them so long to do something about their obvious attraction and frustration at Greer for her apparent insistence on being a stubborn eejit. I did like Rhodrick as a character. He was prickly and rude and adorably self-conscious about his less-than-handsome looks. Greer on the other hand is something of a whiny needy chit who can't see past the nose on her face. I was never quite sure what an intelligent man like Rhodrick saw in her. Oh well. There are worse ways to spend a few hours, and I do like Wales as a setting. C+

Dark Seduction by Brenda Joyce
I almost did not finish this book. As it was it gave me constant fits of laughter and snorts of “omg, I can’t believe I just read that!” Let’s just start with the accents. DROVE ME BATTY! And I like a Scottish accent if it’s done well. By the end of this book, I was walking around the house saying things like “I be hungry. Where be food?” What are they, pirates? I be tired of this talk. Then to make matters worse, the author has the audacity to name the heroine of a time-traveling story set in Scotland, Claire. Hello? Has no one heard of the book Outlander? Beyond that, the story just didn’t work for me on most levels. Our hero brings Claire back to his time and immediately upon arrival, does not even wait for her to recover from the aftereffects of the time-travel, but just hoists her up and mounts her. Woot! Hot sexxoring and we’re only into chapter 2! Hmph. I like hot stuff as much as the next girl, but this just struck me as unbelievable and not even real heroic. Oh, you wanted to know about the plot? Hmm, ok, let me try to sum it up. Our hero is a newly turned Master of Time. Which means, among other things that he has the ability to time travel, that his mother was a goddess (no really, a GODDESS!), and that he can do the nasty without ever tiring. Apparently, these masters of time have some masterful bits, if you know what I mean. What else? Oh yeah, there be evil. EEEEVIL. As in the fruits of the devilll…. *rolleyes* Um, anyways, there is some more stuff about the devil incarnate and a battle for the soul of our hero in which he has to try NOT to have sex with the heroine. Anyways, as you can tell, this book just didn’t cut it for me. Nice cover tho, I will give you that. D+

I’ve heard of Marjorie M. Liu for quite some time, but Shadow Touch is the first book of hers that I’ve read. It won’t be the last. This was well-written, imaginative and suspenseful. I assume that there is a lot more to the story of the Dirk and Steele detective agency, but I found that I could follow this story as a stand-alone pretty well. Artur Loginov has a gift. He can sense the emotions and thoughts of people from the objects they've touched. While that may sound kind of nifty, it can also be a terrible curse as it's not like he has a choice as to what kinds of thoughts and emotions he picks up. He's learned to protect his skin and his emotions with protective layers. Elena Baxter has the gift of healing. She's never gone to med school but volunteers at a hospital where she quietly heals the sick. One day, both of these extraordinary individuals are kidnapped and imprisoned in a hellish experimental facility that reminded me of something out of the X-men. Through circumstance, they meet and establish an amazing psychic and emotional connection, due to the combination of their unique extrasensory abilities. Even though they spend a good deal of the middle of the book physically apart, the link established between their minds permits them to communicate and continue to develop a growing relationship. One thing that I really appreciated about this story was how both of them had to rely upon the other. I never felt that either one was clearly dominant or superior to the other. Their gifts complimented each other and they felt like a true team. My only complaint, such as it is, would be that I like my romances to be a little spicier and there was a distinct lack of love scenes between the h/h. Of course, given the fact that they're locked up in a facility for half of the book and then on the lam for the other half, that's not a total surprise, but still. I'm shallow that way. *g* However, that's just a minor complaint. Overall, I was really impressed with Ms. Liu's skill as a writer and world-building abilities. I'm definitely going to look for more books in this series. B+

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

speaking of man-titty covers

I realized after getting through about 40 of the posts over at DA on the topic of man-titty covers that although I don't pick up clinch covered books, I am a total hypocrite because I am about to post a hot guy photo and that's pretty much the entire blog entry for today. Oh the cognative dissonance! Oh the horror, oh the...oh what the hell!

Thanks to Kristie(J) I am even more obsessed. lol. This picture joins the ranks of other classics like "train scene" or "Chest" and will be known from this day forward as "white shirt". Simple, clean, elegant and to the point. Just like the photo itself and more importantly, just like the man himself. Yeah, it's late and I'm tired and I just want to share the Richard Armitage goodness because things like this should be shared and not hoarded. So enjoy.

pssst, North and need to see it!

Monday, December 17, 2007

before and after

Wow. So I just got an email from a friend and he sent pictures that were taken this weekend at a holiday party. I've been on this Weight Watcher's journey since March of this year and have had tremendous success, but it wasn't until I was staring back and forth between pictures from last year and from now that it really sunk in. Wow. Um, ch-ch-ch-changes!



If I needed an extra kick in the pants to be good this holiday season, I think I just found it. lol.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

the joys of shared living space

This will be a quick little post as I'm heading out the door to an internet-less weekend. Yesterday evening I agreed to dogsit from this afternoon until Monday morning back at the house in the country where I was housesitting all November. Great house, very cozy. But yeah, no internet. meh. I am bringing 6 new books and 2 that I need to review. Maybe I'll just curl up with some popcorn and hot cocoa and read for two days non-stop.

All of my roommates except one have cleared out for the holidays. The one who's staying is gone for the weekend. My house is empty. Of course, they were nice enough to leave both sides of the kitchen sink chucked full of dirty dishes, the dishwasher full and un-run, and the stove covered in dirty pots and pans. yay! Merry Christmas to me! And of course this weekend my big plan was to do a major cleaning of the house since my parents are coming to stay starting Monday night. arg! I am really annoyed.

So I've spent the last four hours in domestic bliss. Loading and unloading dishwasher, washing pots and pans, scrubbing grime off the stove, wiping down all counters, sweeping, scouring and mopping the linoleum floor. The fun just never ends. I intended to wash out the fridge too, but that's just going to have to wait. Vacuumed the living room and dining area and realized that I will have to go buy some sort of carpet shampoo because it is atrociously dirty. wahhhh!

Anyways, the sky is threatening and the forecast calls for snow. So I'm off to the other house before I get caught in inclement weather. They do have satellite and BBC America which means Robin Hood and RICHard! Here's hoping I can come back here on Monday morning and finish all of the other cleaning items before picking up the parents at the airport.

There's a whole 'nother level of foreboding at having two weeks of my parents here but that's for another post. I'll leave it with a simple equation. Conservative Christian missionary parents + Muslim African boyfriend = good times fun.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

lazy thursday night

It's a quiet evening here at the ranch. I'm catching up on the last three episodes of Project Runway. Now that Blood Ties is over, I guess this is the only show that I actually bother to follow. The nice part is that I don't have to worry about missing an episode, they're always showing them over and over again. I think that so far this season, no one is really standing out to me. I know that Jeffrey was a bit of an ass last season, but I never saw him turn in a crap design. And adorable was he and how cute were his clothes? It seems like this season's designers aren't quite as polished...or something. I dunno. Anyways, it's still entertaining.

Speaking of entertaining television, can I just go off on a mini-rant about how angry I am at stupid Lifetime television right now? Ok, so they bought the first set of 23 episodes and then instead of showing them all in one normal season, they cut them in half and split it into two seasons. So that of course makes it harder for people who might have gotten into the show to stay hooked. They promised us a marathon repeat of season 1 before starting season 2, but that never happened. Then for season 2, they moved the timeslot to 11pm on freaking Friday night! To top it all off, they decided at the last minute that in fact the final two episodes would not be shown on television after all...they would only air on their website (which is not available to viewers outside the US). WTF? Not to mention their complete lack of promotional support for the show. And there is still no word on whether or not they will renew the show and have another season filmed. But considering the shitty way they've been treating it, I don't hold out much hope. Why oh why? This show was actually fun to watch, had two cute guys, a kick-ass heroine, paranormal elements, vampires, clever dialogue and romantic tension. How many idiotic "America's Top Psychic" shows can say that? AARRRRGGGG! /end rant

Moving on to happier topics...I'm loving my reread of TSP. I think I might even write up a review. Depends on how ambitious I feel this weekend, I guess. Thanks to one of my AAR friends, GailK, I am crushing on Paul Bettany as my mental image of Simon. I can totally see him nailing that rapier-like witty dialogue, pulling off the red heeled shoes, and also giving that angsty deep dark layer that makes Simon who he is.

I also am really enjoying the Lord John audiobook. I got through a few chapters last night before nodding off to sleep. Mm, the sexual tension between LJ and his new "step-brother" it!

On the North and South crusade front...welcome to the ranks new recruit devon who wrote a really nice review. For any of you reading this blog, if you haven't watched the film, what are you waiting for?!?!? Look into this man's eyes and see if you can resist?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

hi ho, it's off to the library we go

Tests and papers in the rearview mirror, it seemed like a good time to make a visit to the library. Besides, my BF wanted to go get some DVDs to watch now that he is free from homework and school. So while he perused the DVD wall, I wandered around the paperback shelves. As always, I forgot to bring a list, but I ended up with a mix of books. Actually, now that I look at it, I guess each of them is from a different genre. History, paranormal, paranormal suspense, and contemporary. To use the newly crowned Merriam-Webster word of the year...w00t!

The Perils of Pursuing a Prince - Julia London

Dark Seduction - Brenda Joyce

Shadow Touch - Marjorie M. Liu

Faking It - Jennifer Crusie

And the most exciting thing of all, I found in the audiobook department. An unabridged copy of Diana Gabaldon's new(ish) book Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade! I love audiobooks. I love Gabaldon. Two of my favorite things combined. Very excited to start this. *g*
But before any of these new books will be opened, I must complete my reread nirvana. The Serpent Prince. *sigh*

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

mixing business with pleasure

As anyone who has visited my blog in recent times may have noticed, I have this little "thing" for the amazing BBC miniseries North and South. (um, also just a tiny "thing" for star of aforementioned series, Mr. Richard Armitage...ahem). So I was only a little surprised when I found myself working the movie into a final reflection paper I had to write for one of my MBA classes. The subject? Organizational Structure and Behavior. Basically, we learned a bunch of metaphors which help one describe an organization. And I used some of them to evaluate what I saw in North and South. Hey, who says you can't mix schoolwork with fun?

...In many ways, I feel as though that since I’ve had these metaphors pointed out to me, they are head-smackingly obvious. I see them everywhere now. For example, last week I was watching a BBC miniseries called North and South which is set in the British industrial revolution. As I enjoyed the film and reacted to the characters and plot, my thought processes of evaluating it included bits and pieces of the metaphors. I could see the cotton mills with their endless rows of looms and factory drudgery work – Organization as a Machine. Then there were the inevitable clashes between the fledgling unions and the factory bosses – Organization as a Political System. We see workers suffering from lung disease developed by the cotton fluff in the factory air – Organization as Instruments of Domination. The film also allowed the audience to see some of the complexity that went into the management of the factory as the boss tried to decide whether or not to risk the future of his organization on a speculative financial investment or hope that the downward trend of the market would reverse itself. His decision had ramifications for the continued existence of the company – Organization as Organism. Although we don’t think of industrial era bosses as particularly enlightened or values-led, this particular owner had his own sense of justice and fairness. You could obviously see how his internal moral values had a direct impact on his leadership style and on the entire company – Organization as Culture. These are just the metaphors that came to mind easily. I’m quite sure that one could find parallels to all of them. ...

I dashed off the final paragraph and emailed the finished paper to my professor before I could lose my nerve. So what say you? Crazy or what? lol. Anyways, after that horrid Accounting exam which I finished tonight, my finals are done. I'm celebrating with an extra large bottle of Corona. I only wish I didn't have to work tomorrow or one bottle might be two.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Final examination consternation

Yet another of the "you gotta love Africa" photo collection. I am currently attempting to study for my final exam in Accounting for Decision Making and Control as well as complete two papers for Organizational Structure and Behavior. Oh yeah, it's just as fun as it sounds. So the blog is kinda not operational for the time being. Wish me luck in MBA round one and I'll see you on the other side.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Holiday Inn Bed by Jacquie D'Alessandro

This is a quickie post about a quickie book. In my little shopping spree at harlequin the other night, one of the e-books I downloaded was an anthology. So that meant that a short book became even shorter because it was divided into three short stories. Perfect for a half-hour read.

I read the first entry by Jacquie D'Allesandro. Previously on this blog, I praised Ms. D'Allesandro for her authentic characters and normal-sounding dialogue. I gotta say, this little story was no different. In fact, one thing I really liked about it was that our h/h are already together at the beginning of the story.

Eric and Jessica are living their HEA. Indeed the story picks up about where most romance novels end. They're engaged and now begin the grueling work of planning a wedding and referreeing between the families of the bride and groom. Eric's sister is a professional wedding planner, so she's taken charge of the event. Jessica's mom never got the big frou-frou wedding she wanted for herself so she's determined to force one off on her daughter. Eric and Jessica's relationship is starting to fray under the strain of trying to please everyone and being torn between family loyalty and a simple desire to just get over the 'wedding' part and on to the 'married' part.

They decide to get away for a romantic weekend to rekindle the romance and get the hell away from the pesky family. We get some spicy scenes and one of the things I loved is that these two already know each other and have that sense of long-time intimacy where they're really seeking to give and receive pleasure. Unfortunately, real life intrudes as the wedding-planner sister and Bridezilla mother drive up to the lodge and insist that they make these so-called 'critical' wedding decisions RIGHT NOW! Eric and Jess have to learn how to be firm with their relatives, stick TOGETHER as a couple and finally to follow their own hearts.

I have to say, this was a very satisfying little read. It ran like a little microcosm of life that I could definitely relate to. So often we don't get to see how the everyday little stresses that make up the HEA can have on a living breathing relationship. I felt happy and empowered at the end.

Oh and there were some really nice love scenes between our h/h, did I mention that? *g*


Wednesday, December 5, 2007

cold nights, warm books

It snowed.

Not in time to save me from going to work of course. But it did snow. And now it's freezing cold in my little basement room. I curled up with my new book and read it straight through in one sitting. I think I should save my proper review for a later time, once I've had a chance to reflect. But my initial impressions are that Campbell has a very good way with words and her characters are multi-faceted. I loved Matthew. Just loved him. How often do you get to read about a sexy, intelligent virgin hero? Yeah, about that often. 'Nuff said. I liked the love scenes...particularly the first one. There was an earthiness and 'real'-ness to it in which everything does not go magically right and the heroine lies there underneath the crushing weight of the hero and just wishes he'd get off and let her breathe. Again, not your typical "first time" scene. The tone of the story is very dark, almost gothic. The villains are Evil with a capital E. Overall though, I was pretty pleased with the book until the big climax. After all kinds of death and destruction and separation, our hero and heroine are finally back together and she pulls the old martyr "I'm only doing what's best for you by leaving you" routine that MAKES ME INSANE!!! Have I mentioned how much I abhor this device? Ok, yeah. That makes me want to throw the book very hard against the nearest wall. Had it not been for this, I probably would have given the book something like an A-, but at the moment I'm feeling more like a straight B. But like I said...I'll wait until I cool off to review it properly. lol. When I get angry at a character, it colors my view of the entire book which is probably unfair.

*deep calming breath*

So in other news, I have found a fun internet radio station that streams good old-fashioned Christmas classics for my listening pleasure. Ahhh, Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Vince Guaraldi Trio...take me away!

And thanks to a timely post at Dear Author, I bought five e-Harlequins at the bargain price of $11 as they were running a half-off sale today. As I've mentioned before, I'm trying to add shorter series books to my reading diet to mix things up a little and this seemed like too good of an opportunity to pass up. My haul:

  • Strokes of Midnight - Hope Tarr
  • A Blazing Little Christmas - Jacquie D'Allesandro, Joanne Rock, Kathleen O'Reilly
  • The Roman's Virgin Mistress - Michelle Styles
  • What She Really Wants for Christmas - Debbi Rawlins
  • Beyond Breathless - Kathleen O'Reilly

And now for a random funny picture from Africa to make me smile. I think I've taken that bus before!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Let it snow (please?)

I'm back to my own house after a month of internet-less house sitting. And of course I'm finding this endless access to the time-suck known as the world wide web to be as addictive as ever. I haven't read more than one book since I got home and that's been all of four days...I should have finished at least four or five! lol.

Actually, what I really should be doing is paying attention to my two MBA courses that are about to finish up next week. Finals and all that. hmm. I feel like I've been skating by, paying just enough attention in class to keep my good grades but not going above and beyond to really dig in and get a lot out of it. Which is silly really because the whole point of getting the damn degree is to learn something. Gotta do better on this next semester. hmmm, mumble mumble.

The forecast is calling for an 80% chance of snow late tonite and tomorrow. Since this is Virginia and people don't know how to drive on one centimeter of snow, there would be a good probability that school (and therefore work, for me) might be cancelled or delayed. So I am rooting for the snow. C'mon...bring it on!
In anticipation of being snowed in, I went to Borders tonite and used my $5 in Borders Bucks towards the purchase of Anna Campbell's new book Untouched. Granted, I didn't read Claiming the Courtesan, but Sybil had some previews up for this book on her blog a while back, and I was intrigued. Also, it seems to be getting pretty good reviews, so I'm looking forward to trying a new author. And hey, with my discount, I paid all of $2 so even if I hate it, it won't be a total loss.

In other reading-related news, I recently came across my audio-book versions of Outlander, Dragonfly in Amber and Drums of Autumn. Granted, they are the abridged versions but I bought them for a steal at B&N years and years ago and they've been sitting in the boxes I left in storage when I went into Peace Corps. Fun to run across them now and give them a whirl. I love listening to audiobooks, especially at night in the dark when I'm trying to fall asleep. It's like having someone tell you a story at bedtime. Only problem of course is when the story is too engaging and you stay awake because you don't want to miss anything. Tonight I am going to be listening to Hidden Riches by Nora Roberts. My library just started having audiobook downloads (for free!) but their selection of romance audiobooks is pretty pathetic. Lots of Delinsky, Coulter and Macomber. I'm hoping that by checking out the few that are actually good, they will get good stats as to popularity and maybe they will add more to the catalogue. Go check out the selection and give me any recommendations that you might have.

If I could only get an audiobook read by Richard Armitage, I think my life would be complete. Can you imagine falling asleep to that sexy voice? Guaranteed good dreams!

I hope to awake to a winter wonderland...wish me luck!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

North and South Week - Wrap-up

It's been quite a week! Kristie, Kate and I had so much fun planning and posting about North and South. Flurries of emails, AIM chats to iron out the details, bouts of squeeing over Richard Armitage, hunting down photos to match posts, editing out the more salacious elements of our PJ party (oh wait...we left most of those in, for our sins...) And how cool was Lisa Kleypas' interview? I am not really sure how to follow that. (how bout with a picture of Richard Armitage?)

I moved back to my house a few days ago and am basking in the boundless capacity to surf and post and just dawdle on the internet. Saturday evening I curled up in bed with my laptop and rewatched the entire North and South miniseries in one go. It's actually been quite some time since I've watched it, as I'd lent it out to a friend. I fell in love with it all over again and realized that as much as I've enjoyed posting and sharing and talking about it, I'd almost forgot how genuinely awesome it was. There were so many little nuances and details that I have overlooked the previous times I'd seen it. Details that I now noticed because of something Lisa mentioned in her interview or that Kristie and Kate talked about in our chats.

A good film like a good book is something that you can go back to more than once. That's why we call those books "keepers", and I suppose I would call those films personal classics. No matter how many times you've seen them, they can always bear repeat viewing. And like a good book, you can get even more out of them or see things in a different light because of a discussion with a friend. This open exchange of ideas and enriching debate is something that I love about the internet and the blogosphere in particular. I feel really lucky to have found such a neat community of people around the world with whom I have some things in common and whom are also very different from me in other ways. Without them, I might have never even known about this movie and I definitely would not have had such fun talking about it and obsessing over it.

So if I have any final thoughts it is that I'm really grateful that I had the good luck to be introduced to this film and that I hope that all of you out there who haven't yet seen it get the chance to do so in the near future. And that we continue the discussions!! :)

And now for Kristie's final thoughts:
First off, hopefully anyone who is at all intrigued by this awesome series, I urge you to try and track down a copy and watch it. It isn’t often something blows me away as much as North and South has. It’s the kind of thing that gives you shivers, like an extra special song or a really good book, the kind you will remember forever. We did go a bit goofy, devoting an entire week to it, but if you’ve seen in, I think you might know why and if you are planning on it, hopefully you will see why.

It’s not just that Richard Armitage is so devastatingly attractive, although he is. When you are watching, it’s like you’ve been transported into the time and are an observer of a slice of history we don’t always see. The acting is incredible. We feel John Thornton’s pain and anguish again and again, as he is dealt blow after blow, first of all being rejected by Margaret when he declares his love to her and then again when he thinks there is someone else in her life. From the first time we see him as he is beating on an employee, we slowly see beneath the surface to a man who hides his pain and his passion behind layers of gentility. We see his own self doubts, his loneliness. We see that although he is a master, he does genuinely care about his employees. And finally we see his triumph when he finally sees that Margaret does love him.

But something else I’d really like to mention is the fun this has been for me working with Sula and Katiebabs. All the emails we’ve exchanged and the chats – once we finally figured out how it works :). I know I’ve made two really great friends and that is a wonderful thing. We’ve had a riot, sighing and ooing and awing over some of the great clips on YouTube. We hope to keep this going – although not a whole weeks worth, but we do still have plans up our sleeves. Thanks to Sula and Katiebabs for joining in and promoting something we’ve all come to love!!

And finally, Katiebabs shares her parting comments:
So what can I say about North and South that hasn't been already mentioned? Well I have found a new appreciation for a classic and now I want to read the actual book and experience the passion, romance, and social issues that are brought up in the movie. If a movie adaptation is so good, that means the book must be even better. I've always been a big fan of BBC productions along with Masterpiece Theater and North and South must be one of the best productions I have ever seen. Almost tied with Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth.

We have gone on and on about Richard Armitage's portrayal of John but we also have failed to mention the actress Daniela Denby-Ashe who played Margaret. She was perfect and so lovely looking. These two actors played these two wonderful characters to perfection. Each look, touch and word spoken that came out of their mouths were scripted perfectly. Their chemistry was incredible and I truly believed they were John and Margaret.

There are two scenes that come to mind that made a big impression on me. I could say it was the swoon-worthy final train scene or when John watches Margaret leave him and says the simple statement, "look back", but there are two other scenes that are also as good and stick with me.

The first time Margaret enters John's mill and as she looks through the flowing white flakes that looks like snow, she spies John and my heart went thump. All is silent and both are shown as quiet and stoic.

The other scene was the party scene. John is making his rounds with his guests and when he meets a female guest, he grasps her gloved hand for only a moment. But when he goes to Margaret, he holds her un-gloved hand for a full minute before he releases it. That is just as sexy as a passionate kiss!

This whole experience has been incredible. From wonderful conversations with Kristie and Sula who are very intelligent women to getting the word out about works of art that are not usually discussed, I thank you for welcoming to be a part of this!

And every time I see a train, I will think of John as he smiles and gives his one love a simple yellow flower that means so much to her. Not one word of love has been spoken, but there it is in a simple gesture, look and of course a kiss.


And we leave you with the climactic "train scene" to bring some serious romance to your day. (if you haven't seen the film, this would constitute a spoiler...but oh WHAT a delicious spoiler!!)

Friday, November 30, 2007

Exclusive Lisa Kleypas interview!

I can't believe I forgot to post about this, but then again I HAVE been internet-less (outside of work) for the past month. If you have not already been over to Kristie(J)'s blog to read the awesome interview with Lisa Kleypas, then hie thee forthwith!

Lisa talks about North and South, why Richard Armitage would make the ideal Derek Craven, and also answers a burning question regarding another one of her sexy heros and raspberries. *g* You don't want to miss it.

Monday, November 26, 2007

North and South Week!! - Day 2

Well as you will have seen from Kristie(J)'s blog post of yesterday, this week we are celebrating the greatness that is the BBC mini-series North and South. I can't talk about this amazing film without first thanking all of the nice people over at AAR who recommended the movie and mentioned it enough times to get the title lodged into my thick brain. I've never been quite so glad that I took advice from strangers. lol.

Like Kristie, sometimes when I get stuck on something, I really get stuck. Downright addicted. After watching this movie, I couldn't stop thinking about it. And yes, of course Richard Armitage's hotness factor may have something to do with it, but I like to think that it was more than just that. The whole story and the way the characters grow and change over the course of the film really stayed in my mind. It's not often that you get to watch a fair visual representation of the kind of novels you read on a regular basis, but that's exactly how I found North and South. Sure, the book isn't a classic romance novel per se, but the emphasis of the film is squarely on the developing relationship between mill owner John Thornton and bluestocking social justice heroine Margaret Hale. And rather than descend into schlocky Lifetime-movie-of-the-week cheesiness, this movie respects both the source material and the audience. Richard Armitage in particular does a fantastic job of showing Mr. Thornton's inner struggle between his responsibilities to his workers and to his company and his desire for Margaret. You can see it in his eyes, the way he holds his shoulders, the twist of his mouth. I'm completely bowled over (obviously) and I can't help but take any opportunity to help other lucky souls get a chance to watch this movie.

Anyways, enough of my rambling...without further ado, here is the second part of our girly pajama party. Be forewarned, it really was a pajama party and all of the silly squeeing one might expect from such a gathering is definitely present. Hey, we're all professional women but sometimes it's fun to kick back with the gals and go a little crazy. *g* Enjoy...

KatieBabs: So, yellow flowers?
Kristie(J): and what do they signify
KatieBabs: friendship
Sula: Remember at the beginning?
Kristie(J): Henry gave her one and it meant nothing. But John had to SEARCH to find the one he gave her
KatieBabs: Good catch!
Sula: Yeah, and those were flowers from HER house
KatieBabs: and Margaret kissed the hand that gave her the flower which is John just like he had to search his heart to let Margaret in
Sula: Part of what she missed (I think) was the countryside ‘cause the city they moved flowers
Sula: oooh

Kristie(J): I like that!
Sula: that's deep, katiebabs
Kristie(J): You rock
KatieBabs: Deep thoughts...
Sula: You know...everyone was telling me in the thread at AAR how much I was going to melt when I saw the last scene (this as I had only seen the first disc)... but I didn't really believe it until I watched the train station scene...omg

Kristie(J): The train scenes where she is looking out the window. The movie starts with that and ends with it
KatieBabs: But what does the train rides mean?
Kristie(J): A journey to a new life
KatieBabs: The train scene is one of the most romantic I have ever watched in movies or TV
Sula: Yes exactly, Katiebabs
Kristie(J): It is isn't it!
Sula: It was like..."this is IT!" This is what romance is all about! This is why I read this stuff!
Kristie(J): Yep! A visual of what we read and why we love it so
Sula: Exactly! And the actors played it so well
KatieBabs: When Margaret kisses his hands and then he grabs her face and they kiss like no tomorrow and her poor sad sap neighbor is watching, I started clapping.
Kristie(J): He doesn't grab her face. *g* He gently touches it
Sula: I was squeeing...quite literally tenderly holds it. I think the word caress would work
KatieBabs: He touches her face so sexily. If I was him I would have found a train outhouse for an hour *g*
Kristie(J): Although I think it was out of character for the times - that scene made the movie
Sula: Well, they DID have a private compartment in the train
KatieBabs: I was wondering why no one noticed them smooching?
Kristie(J): Can you imagine all that passion of his released
Sula: I agree Kristie, and I didn't mind one bit if that was a little historically inaccurate
Kristie(J): *shiver*
Sula: *thud*
KatieBabs: After the credits rolled, they pulled down the train screen and had a nice ride
Sula: bwaha!
Kristie(J): But waited until they were married *g*
KatieBabs: sure sure. The wedding night! Need a fan!
Sula: omg, I loved "are you coming home with me?"
Kristie(J): Ah yes!
Sula: Home!
Kristie(J): And his smile
KatieBabs: All the sexual tension between them! And their smiles between them
Kristie(J): So - the casting - what did you think?
Sula: Well, um, Richard Armitage. Nuff said. Where the HELL has this man been all my life?!?
Kristie(J): How about Margaret?
Sula: She was well-cast too, I think. She's strong but she also manages to be vulnerable, wise and naive at the same time
KatieBabs: Great casting! Loved the girl who played Margaret
Sula: Yeah, I love me some Gerry Butler, but Richard Armitage... Wow

Kristie(J): And Higgins! I loved him. Although just a worker, he showed such intelligence and kindness. I loved the scene where he said he would have to leave his brains at home
Sula: yeah, that was funny
KatieBabs: I really like how N&S portrayed the different types of families.
Sula: I think it is interesting how all of these characters who shouldn't be friends manage to build relationships with each other over the course of the film
KatieBabs: Father and daughters, mother and sons...
Kristie(J): bosses and employees
KatieBabs: good catch Kristie!
Sula: Also, I think that Margaret's family was much more dysfunctional than Thornton's. At least in Thornton's family, they TALKED. Even the silly sister, she was upfront with what she felt. But in Margaret's family, it was all hidden
Kristie(J): I do too. It wasn't in the original, but in the cut, it was Margaret who had to tell her mother they were moving to Milton because her father was too weak too
KatieBabs: But even though the Thornton's had money they weren't snobs or spent crazy
Sula: Hell, Margaret's father moved them up to a strange city without telling them why he quit his job
Kristie(J): I think the mother was a bit of a snob
KatieBabs: the mother was weak. Such the opposite from John's mother
Kristie(J): And Margaret’s mother was very weak
Sula: I think Thornton's mom was proud of her son and if she was a snob it was because she had been treated like crap when she was poor and now she's on top
KatieBabs: How was Margaret so strong with weak parents?
Kristie(J): She had to be because the weren't. And her brother was gone.
Sula: Someone had to be strong in the family and he wasn't strong either when you see him come home
KatieBabs: Both John and Margaret were well spoken and intelligent. John escaped by taking walks
Kristie(J): Yes - that was a scene that played quite often - both of them walking up the hill alone
Sula: Now they can walk together
KatieBabs: They can walk hand in hand and pick flowers
Sula: hey speaking of walking up and down that hill...I thought the BBC did a great job with the sets
Kristie(J): and then have hot heavy sex
Sula: lol
KatieBabs: and take train rides with the shade down
Kristie(J): after they are married
KatieBabs: sex among the yellow flowers
Sula: of course
Sula: sex on a train

KatieBabs: of course after they are married
Sula: sex against a tree
Kristie(J): with John unleashing all his passion
KatieBabs: I wonder how many children they would have?
KatieBabs: ACK trees!
Kristie(J): against a tree
Sula: Oh i think Margaret would be a little firecracker in bed too
Kristie(J): Don't know but it would be fun making 'em
Sula: They have that big house to fill
KatieBabs: let me take a minute to visualize John and Margaret up against a tree...
Sula: *takes a moment*
Sula: shiver

Kristie(J): better yet - John and one of us
Kristie(J): pause

Sula: memememememeeee!
Sula: pick me!

Kristie(J): no me!

...and we'll pick up again tomorrow back at Kristie(J)'s! Hope you enjoyed your time with us and if you still haven't seen this movie...well, what are you waiting for?!?!?!

More "lightning" reviews

On my way home for the long holiday weekend, I thought I would drop by the library and get a fresh new haul to last me for the four luxurious no-work days ahead. I picked up six books and got started on them that very night. By the next evening, I had finished four and was working on the fifth. Needless to say, my book haul did not last the weekend. *gulp* Ok, what can I say? I read too damn fast. Anyways, here’s what my Thanksgiving weekend reading consisted of in the order I read them.

Why Not Tonight? - Jacquie D’Alessandro (HQ Blaze)

I’ve never read anything by this author before, although I have seen her name pop up from time to time on review lists. I’ve been making an effort to grab a few series books each time I go to the library because they’re short and bite-sized. Kind of like an appetizer. Anyways, this was a nice little book about two normal, relatively well-adjusted people getting back together after ten years apart. The real plot of the book happened within a twenty four hour period during a blackout. Since the h/h had already known each other previously and had developed a relationship in their past (albeit their young college-aged selves), this 24 hour thing didn’t feel like too much of a stretch. The love scenes were passionate and inventive even though there were quite a few packed into that one night. What I really liked about the book was that the characters talked and thought like normal people. One of the things that keeps me away from contemps is that at least in historicals I can suspend my disbelief if people act odd or in a way that I might not. Hey, maybe that’s the way people did it back in [insert date]. But when I read contemps in which the putative hero or heroine act like they’re characters in a cheesy novel and not actual people I might meet and know…it pulls me out of the story quicker than any “wallpaper historical”. All that to say, this particular book didn’t suffer from that at all. The only minor thing that pulled me out of the story was whenever the hero’s complete name would be referenced. As a huge U2 fan, the name “Adam Clayton” is synonymous with the chilled out bassist of that band and every time I read it, I pictured him and giggled. But that’s just me. Lol.

Kiss of the Highlander – Karen Marie Moning

I’ve read one other Moning book, and it was the sequel to this one. I remember finding it over-the-top and laugh-out-loud funny because I just couldn’t take it seriously. An ancient Druid time-travelling and strutting around the twentieth century bellowing “och” and “doona” and “lass” just wasn’t happening for me. In retrospect, I would have done better to read this book first as much of what happened in the next book is set up by the events in Kiss. In this outing, Drustan MacKeltar is awakened after a five-hundred year enchanted sleep by geeky former scientist Gwen Cassidy. Of course, he finds himself instantly attracted to her. Of course, she is a virrrrgin (although this is unbeknownst to him). They spend a few days traipsing around the modern day Highlands as he tries to convince Gwen that he’s from the 1000s and she tries to figure out why this good-looking hottie is missing a few screws. At the ruins of his family castle, he uses his Druid magic to return them both to his time but miscalculates and lands Gwen in a past in which his past self has no knowledge of her or the future they just shared. Hijinks ensue…I feel like I’ve read this before, wasn’t it called A Knight in Shining Armor? Oh yeah, but in that one we had to settle for some watered down reincarnated version of the hero. Not in this book! I have to admit; Moning skates a very fine line between a rollicking good yarn and a howlingly funny parody of a romance novel. I wasn’t always sure which side of the line the story fell upon, but overall I was much more entertained by this book than by the sequel. (Disclaimer: my favorite books in the universe are Gabaldon’s Outlander series, so obviously I’m not opposed to time-travel and tartans in principle.)

By Arrangement – Madeline Hunter

I initially read this book (it was my first novel by Hunter) last Christmas while house-sitting in the same location where I’m at now. I had such fond memories of being cozily curled up with these amazing medieval stories and being completely “swept away” to another time and place. As I stared at the library shelves and thought about a long weekend, I couldn’t resist picking this one back up to see if it would work as well the second time around. *sigh* Oh yeah. It definitely did. I love this book. Ms. Hunter does such a fantastic job of weaving the historical details into the story that you never feel hit over the head with her obvious knowledge or completely alienated by the strange world in which you find yourself. David de Abyndon is a unique and memorable hero. He’s not a knight, a lord or a duke but a cloth merchant. Although beneath the nobility in terms of his social class, he holds himself with a poise and calm self-assurance that I found meltingly sexy. Still waters run deep indeed.
Christiana Fitzwarren is the ward of the king. Although at eighteen she’s older than most courtly brides, she is both na├»ve and self-centered. Convinced that she is in love with a chivalrous young knight (obvious to David and to the reader immediately as a total bounder), she tries to get out of the betrothal to David which the king has arranged for her. David’s quiet determination to carry out their engagement as planned and refusal to let Christiana deceive herself into romanticizing her knight force her to face reality and to grow up. Although something of a spoiled young girl in the beginning of the book, Christiana matures and shows an inner strength and intelligence over the course of the story. For his part, David finds himself and his orderly world increasingly disrupted by his deepening feelings for his wife. Watching these two people come to know each other and learn to love despite the differences in their social class, ages and worldviews is what makes this book such a pleasure. After putting it down, I wanted to reread it immediately, and to me that is the sign of a true keeper. I have since read most of Ms. Hunter’s catalogue, but I have to say that none have quite measured up to this book and that her move to historical Regencies was a huge loss for those of us who love medievals.

Night Watch – Suzanne Brockmann (HQ Silhouette)

I think this is my first Brockmann. I say “think” because I may have read something by her eons ago (for some reason the name sounds familiar) but I can’t remember enough to say definitively that I have. I know she has quite a following, but I didn’t know which book would be the first in what seems to be a series. And frankly, I’m not a rom-suspense kind of gal, nor do I swoon over the thought of SEALs. That said, I figured a nice short HQ might be just the ticket for a little escapism and something outside my usual historical genre. And that’s exactly what it was. I liked that our hero is short and not the huge hulking specimen of Fabio man-meat that one might expect of a SEAL starring in a romance novel. He’s suffering from unrequited love and a hopeless crush on a fellow SEAL’s wife. And our heroine seems pretty normal (see above rant on contemps) which is always nice. She has a nineteen year-old adopted son who is in college on a baseball scholarship. Two relatively normal adults indulging in a consensual sexual relationship. How refreshing. Indeed, the side-plot involving a crazy stalker intruded on the story and I could have totally done without it.

Not Quite Married – Betina Krahn

According to the inside cover, this is a re-release of an earlier work by the author. I remember reading quite a few Krahn books back in college but haven’t really picked up anything by her since then. When I flipped through this one, it looked like it was set at least partially in the colonial United States which seems rare in these days of Regency drawing rooms. Little did I know that most of the book does take place in merry old England with only an interlude in Boston. It would take too long to try to summarize the plot, but in brief, our heroine is an independent free-thinking young girl (shock!) whose father decides that he’s given her too much liberty and now she must settle down to wife and motherhood. Seeking to get out of the marriage he has arranged for her (to a loathsome Frenchman! What is it about the French that fates them to always play the bad guys anyways?) she sneaks away and pays another guy to marry her and then take a hike. The “other guy” is actually a nobleman’s son on the run from his father trying to marry HIM off when all he really wants to do is build boats. So yeah, they marry and go their separate ways. She still is forced to marry the eeevil Frenchy because Daddy can’t find legal proof of her other wedding. The evil French dude locks her up and threatens torture but ends up dying in a house fire (how convenient) and our heroine emerges from the experience as an older, wiser widow. “I shall never marry again!” Oh silly girl, you KNOW that when you say such things in a romance novel, you’re just setting yourself up. Tsk tsk. When she travels to America to manage some of the family business, guess who is the captain of the ship? Yep! They indulge in some of the happier aspects allowed them as a “married” couple but she refuses to acknowledge him as her husband. But he really loves her. And so on. I’m making it sound more tedious than it actually was. In fact, until about the last 1/5 the book was pretty good. But then, we had to have evil French redux in which the father of the dead man kidnaps our heroine and forces her (again!) to marry the cousin of the first evil Frenchman. *groan* Thankfully, THIS time around, the hero manages to show up in the nick of time with (finally!) documented proof that he has already married the heroine. Hah! So much for being brief about the plot, huh? So how was the book? Overall, pretty decent writing and good use of historical details. My main complaints are with the coincidences that are far too convenient and with the overly evil bad guys. Oh and the love scenes were too tame for my tastes.

In the Prince’s Bed – Sabrina Jeffries

It’s probably a bad thing when you can’t remember much about the book you read two days ago. Well, what I do recall about this one was that the hero is the illegitimate son of Prinny and the heroine thinks she is in love with a gay poet who doesn’t know he’s gay. Alec (the hero) needs to marry a rich heiress. Our heroine (see, I’ve already forgotten her name!) is poor for now but will inherit a crap-load of money when she gets married. Supposedly this inheritance is a secret, but Alec knows about it. Thus his initial interest in her as a marriage candidate. Of course when he lays eyes (and lips) upon her, it is true love. But what will happen when she finds out that her ardent pursuer started his pursuit because of her money and not her lovely charms? That’s pretty much the plot of the book. I actually felt sorry for the heroine’s poet friend because he was in the closet even to himself, although it was a nice touch that the author gave him a love interest and the courage to move away to another country and pursue the relationship. Yay for happy endings! I think this is the first of a series about illegitimate sons of Prinny. Seems to me I skimmed another of them but didn’t find it interesting enough to actually READ. While Jeffries is a decent writer, I just never emotionally connected with either character.

The Smoke Thief – Shana Abe

Thank goodness for! I had received this book a few months ago and was saving it (in its mailing wrapper no less) for a rainy day. As it happens, I finished all my library books way before the end of the weekend and this book stepped into the gap to keep me from boredom. Abe’s quasi mystical world of drakons was really quite enchanting. I loved the world she built and the details of the Turn from human into smoke into dragon. Christoff is a manipulative bastard, true. But then again, Rue is arguably just as manipulative and mistrustful. So they’re probably well-matched. I’m still working out how I feel about this book, actually. High marks for world-building, slightly lower ones for likable characters or the lack thereof. Check back with me once I’ve read the sequel.

Stay tuned for tomorrow's special edition of "North and South" week celebration! See Kristie(J)'s blog for details.