Monday, October 29, 2007

The 100

Lo and behold, after many hours devoted to the development and honing of this list (hours that I should have been spending doing homework for my managerial accounting class tomorrow), I have finished my top 100 for the AAR poll. I'm exhausted! But what a trip down memory lane. I'm almost embarrassed to show my list because it's VERY heavy on historicals and seems to be very predictable. But I did try to be honest and think back over my entire history of romance reading. I guess I'm a dependable run-of-the-mill historical reader. *g* And if you're wondering what the picture has to do with my list? Absolutely nothing other than the fact that you can never have too many hot Gerard Butler pictures running around, and besides, he looks like he could be the hero in about half of the titles listed below. Also I figured that if the list bored you, at least you could come for the eye candy. Cheers!

1. Outlander - Diana Gabaldon
2. Dragonfly in Amber - Diana Gabaldon
3. Dreaming of You - Lisa Kleypas
4. The Duke - Galen Foley
5. Lover Eternal - JR Ward
6. By Posession - Madeline Hunter
7. All Through the Night - Connie Brockway
8. Into the Wilderness - Sara Donati
9. Silk and Shadows - Mary Jo Putney
10. Devil's Bride - Stephanie Laurens
11. The Secret - Julie Garwood
12. Lord of Scoundrels - Loretta Chase
13. If His Kiss Is Wicked - Jo Goodman
14. Romancing Mr. Bridgerton - Julia Quinn
15. Beast - Judith Ivory
16. The Serpent Prince - Elizabeth Hoyt
17. Shadowheart - Laura Kinsale
18. Shattered Rainbows - Mary Jo Putney
19. Perfect - Judith McNaught
20. Lover Awakened - JR Ward
21. Moonrise - Anne Stuart
22. The Bridal Season - Connie Brockway
23. The Black Angel - Barbara Samuel
24. Iron Rose - Marsha Canham
25. Then Came You - Lisa Kleypas
26. A Secret Love - Stephanie Laurens
27. By Design - Madeline Hunter
28. More than a Mistress - Mary Balogh
29. Lord of the Silent - Elizabeth Peters
30. The Wedding - Julie Garwood
31. After the Kiss - Karen Ranney
32. Beyond a Wicked Kiss - Jo Goodman
33. Welcome to Temptation - Jennifer Crusie
34. Passion - Lisa Valdez
35. To Have and To Hold - Patricia Gaffney
36. Menage - Emma Holly
37. Angel Rogue - Mary Jo Putney
38. The Devil in Winter - Lisa Kleypas
39. Voyager - Diana Gabldon
40. Pale Moon Rider - Marsha Canham
41. And Then He Kissed Her - Laura Lee Guhrke
42. The Stanislaski Brothers - Nora Roberts
43. A Season to Be Sinful - Jo Goodman
44. Promises Linger - Sarah McCarty
45. Suddenly You - Lisa Kleypas
46. All About Love - Stephanie Laurens
47. The Bride - Julie Garwood
48. Dancing on the Wind - Mary Jo Putney
49. Lord of Fire - Galen Foley
50. When He Was Wicked - Julia Quinn
51. Untie My Heart - Judith Ivory
52. Thunder and Roses - Mary Jo Putney
53. The Prince - Elizabeth Minogue
54. Flowers from the Storm - Laura Kinsale
55. Night of Fire - Barbara Samuel
56. The Lady's Tutor - Robin Schone
57. The Raven Prince - Elizabeth Hoyt
58. Drums of Autumn - Diana Gabldon
59. Everything I Ever Wanted - Jo Goodman
60. It Happened One Autumn - Lisa Kleypas
61. Voices of the Night - Lydia Joyce
62. Slightly Dangerous - Mary Balogh
63. The Gift - Julie Garwood
64. To Love a Scottish Lord - Karen Ranney
65. Miss Wonderful - Loretta Chase
66. Mistress - Amanda Quick
67. My Pleasure - Connie Brockway
68. Dark Lover - JR Ward
69. By Arrangement - Madeline Hunter
70. The Proposition - Judith Ivory
71. The Leopard Prince - Elizabeth Hoyt
72. Rules of Attraction - Cristina Dodd
73. Beyond Innocence - Emma Holly
74. The Fiery Cross - Diana Gabaldon
75. No True Gentleman - Liz Carlyle
76. Someone to Watch Over Me - Lisa Kleypas
77. Let Me Be The One - Jo Goodman
78. Kingdom of Dreams - Judith McNaught
79. Wild Child - Mary Jo Putney
80. Saving Grace - Julie Garwood
81. Black Ice - Anne Stuart
82. Dance of Seduction - Sabrina Jeffries
83. Full Moon Rising - Keri Arthur
84. Secrets of a Summer Night - Lisa Kleypas
85. Pirate Prince - Galen Foley
86. Ravished - Amanda Quick
87. He Shall Thunder In the Sky - Elizabeth Peters
88. Beauty and the Spy - Julie Anne Long
89. Scandal's Bride - Stephanie Laurens
90. Mine Till Midnight - Lisa Kleypas
91. The Duke and I - Julia Quinn
92. Mischief - Amanda Quick
93. Scandal in Spring - Lisa Kleypas
94. His Every Kiss - Laura Lee Guhrke
95. When It's Perfect - Adele Ashworth
96. All About Passion - Stephanie Laurens
97. Cooking up a Storm - Emma Holly
98. The Devil Earl - Deborah Simmons
99. Slave to Sensation - Nalini Singh
100. Arousing Suspicions - Marianne Stillings

Halloween treats!

I got this cute little treat from dev.

Awww, so adorable, no? :)

And now I get to pass the treat along to....

Kat O+

Go forth and spook your friends! (Although honestly, this little guy is more cutey than spooky. lol)

Sunday, October 28, 2007

romance, how do i love thee...let me count the ways

So I have been putting off the creation of my top 100 list for the AAR poll, but time is a ticking. I've been working on it tonite and wow, it's like a walk down memory lane. I started by listing authors in a spreadsheet and then adding another column for book titles and a column for little notes to remind me of the story/plot/characters. So far I have 66 and I'm not done fleshing out all of my fav authors' backlists, so I don't think 100 will be a problem. Putting them in that's another story. still, the whole exercise is interesting. I can see how I've definitely tended towards historical romance until more recently. Some authors that I don't read much now, but who will be on my list include Garwood, McNaught, Laurens, Quick, and Putney. Their work made up the core of my reading during my undergrad years and I consider a lot of it to be classic (at least for me). More recent (to me) authors include Kinsale, Ivory, and Quinn as well as Loretta Chase, Madeline Hunter, Karen Ranney, and Jo Goodman. Then there are the much newer ones like JR Ward, Elizabeth Hoyt, Galen Foley, Emma Holly, Sarah McCarty. Of course the top of the list is reserved for my all-time-all-time-ALL-TIME favorite, Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. We'll see how the rest of them shake out.

I started a book last night and finished it this morning, and I think it will be on the top 100 because I was highly entertained and want to read more of the series. Full Moon Rising by Keri Arthur. Not sure if it qualifies as a romance, but it's going on my list anyways.

Anyways, that's enough of me talking...Go vote!

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Billionaire Next Door by Jessica Bird

I can barely remember the last time I sat down and read a Harlequin, or really any short series books really. But I've been curious about this one, and as it happened to be available on paperbackswap, I swapped in a credit and it arrived on my doorstep last night.

The reason for my interest was because the author Jessica Bird also writes under the name JR Ward, and unless you've been hiding under a rock, you're probably aware that Ward is the author of the very successful Black Dagger Brotherhood books. I've read all of the BDB and enjoyed them (although to varying extents), so I was curious to see what her writing would be like outside of that particular world. I'm happy to report that it's quite good.

Sean O'Banyon has risen far above his humble working class Boston roots to become a powerful Wall Street financier. He's successful, gorgeous, filthy rich and trusting of no one, least of all women. Back in Boston, nurse Lizzie Bond mourns the death of her landlord and crusty old neighbor, Eddie O'Banyon. When she notifies Mr. O'Banyon's next-of-kin about his death, she has no idea that the man she's talking to on the phone is a famous corporate baron. When he comes down to Boston to pack up his father's belongings, they find themselves drawn to each other. Sean is wary of women lusting after his money, but Lizzie only knows him as the son of her neighbor. This anonymity allows him to be himself around her and they spend time getting to know each other and gradually falling in love.

Of course the road to the HEA can't be totally smooth. Sean is hiding some major emotional issues from Lizzie, primarily the truth about his father. Although Lizzie knew him as a kind old neighbor - a sort of surrogate father figure - to Sean and his brothers, Eddie O'Banyon was the nightmare who destroyed their childhoods with alcohol-fueled physical abuse. The after-effects of this upbringing haunt them all still. Sean makes mistakes on more than one occasion because of his tendency to view all potential emotional entanglements through a lens of suspicion and mistrust. But Lizzie is a refreshingly open person who doesn't put up with crap and doesn't play the martyr.

I really liked this book. It was an easy quick read and it pushed none of my major hot-buttons. Misunderstandings were cleared up without taking pages and pages of angst. I particularly liked that Lizzie made it a condition of their relationship that Sean begin to see a therapist. I've read too many books in which the hero's serious emotional issues are swept aside as if a declaration of love is going to make it all go away and that the heroine can somehow "fix" him. This felt way more realistic.

As for the Bird/Ward thing, I will say that I noticed a few similarities in the writing styles. A little name-brand dropping (although way WAY less than in BDB), a few times where Sean uses that pattern of speech "..and um, yeah..." which makes him sound like one of the Brothers having a heart to heart, and the mention of Sean's childhood friend one Butch O'Neal. But no extraneous h's, so s'all good, you feel me?


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Saharan chic

Today was international day at school. Since I have spent most of my life trotting about the globe, I have plenty of interesting clothing to pull out for occasions like these. Today I decided to wear one of my favorite outfits from Mali. I got it in Timbuktu, so in fact it is a better example of the northern, desert tribes than of typical Malian clothing. At the event, they needed extra people to carry flags, so I volunteered to carry Mauritania's since what I was wearing is pretty much standard everyday dress. And I am probably the only person on the campus that actually knows where Mauritania is let alone has spent time there. lol. Annnnyways, it was fun. You can't help but turn a few heads when sashaying across campus in an electric blue gauzy robe that flutters in the breeze. I hunted through my old photos and found one taken of this outfit when I was visiting my parents in England a few years ago. Man, I wish I still could get braids like that done.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Rumble in the jungle

Well, in case you didn't know...there's a blog rumble goin' on! On this side is Kleypas hero Derek Craven with support from a team headed up by Kristie(J) and on the other side is Kleypas hero Sebastian St. Vincent with support from the team headed up by sybil. Let the games begin!!!

Although I've made my feelings known on other parts of the blogosphere, I figured it was only fair to mention it here on my little corner of the world. So here's my vote for the sexy, passionate, rough-around-the-edges, gotta-love-him Derek Craven. In my personal version of heaven, he's played by Richard Armitage ala John Thornton (North and South). I leave it to others to hash out the niceties of dialogue and plot. Me, I'm a simple gal. Call it animal instinct. I knows what I likes and what I like looks something like this.

Oh and check out the way his accent gets rougher and less posh when he's emotionally engaged. Yep, that's our Derek all the way! (must-hear parts include 1:33, 1:40, 2:02, and 2:14)

All of the dark romantic angsty fantasy a gal could wish for. Go team Cravenator!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Elizabeth - A golden age that's lost its lustre

I have a very clear memory of watching Elizabeth back in my college days. I was the editor of the arts and entertainment section of our school newspaper and I got to see many a film as part of my job. This particular movie made quite an impression on me. From the first gritty moments of a heretic burning at the stake to the final fade-out to the Virgin Queen's mask-like pale face, I was engrossed and quite taken with this realistic, in-your-face version of history. Cate Blanchett was absolutely luminous, and even to this day, I truly feel that it was a role she was born to play.

Tonight, I saw the follow-up film, Elizabeth - The Golden Age. While I'm not in the mood to critique and write up a real "review" (too lazy, see post number 1 on this blog), I will say that it sadly does not live up to its predecessor. Still visually striking, what is missing is the heart and soul and sheer passion that made the first film work. It feels like a series of vignettes, stylish but ultimately lacking in substance. We see Elizabeth in all her glory, bedecked and bejeweled. We see her in more reflective moments, stripped of her adornments, with shorn hair and pale features which are beginning to show the fine lines of age. Here comes Sir Walter Raleigh (Clive Owen, looking as handsome as ever) to play some sort of a hero, but his simultaneous wooing of both Elizabeth and her closest lady-in-waiting rings hollow and makes him quite a lot less than heroic. There is gore and blood, torture and grimy prison scenes that seem more calculated to shock than to drive the plot. The film climaxes in the destruction of the Spanish Armada and Elizabeth's triumph as the leader of her people. Through it all, the filmmakers seem to have fallen prey to the temptation to rely on lavish costuming, sets and visual techniques at the expense of the characters and the plot. While Blanchett is still perfectly cast as the iron-hearted heroine with razor-sharp intelligence and not just a hint of vantiy, even she can't save the film.

My verdict: If you loved the first film, then you should probably see this one if only for the pleasure of seeing Blanchett reprise such a powerful role as well as lots of pretty (and overdone) period costumes. But $8.50 is a lot to pay for this pleasure; I would save it for the netflix queue. C+

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Library love

I've been having a string of success with my library lately. Often when I'm reading threads at AAR or reviews on blogs, I do a quick search at my library's online catalogue to see if I can snag the books under discussion. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, I can place a hold from the comfort of my own home and waltz in to pick it up once said book is available. Last week they had that Crusie book that Sandy had recommended to me. Then this week I picked up She's No Faerie Princess by Christine Warren...I have no idea who recommended it to me, but I must have read about it somewhere. So that's on my bedside table. And I just got an email that Full Moon Rising by Keri Arthur is waiting for me to pick it up. This is the one that Laurie recommended a few weeks ago in her ATBF column.

So yay for new free books! While I was at the library, I also picked up Suddenly You by Lisa Kleypas because even though I've read it, it's been a long time and a discussion on The Good, the Bad and the Unread made me remember how much I liked it the first time. Gonna see if it's as good the second time around.

So many books, so little time...

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Blood Ties returns!

It's baaaaack! My favorite TV show returns with another season; let's just hope it gets extended even longer. This little gem is so much fun.

If you weren't lucky enough to catch the first season, allow me to summarize. The stories center around Vicki Nelson, kick-ass private detective, formerly a member of the Toronto police. After a brush with the paranormal, Vicki ends up solving cases that the police won't touch. Zombies, elves, demons, and other monster thangs that you've never heard of...apparently Toronto is a much more dangerous place than it seemed when I was up there last month. Vicki finds help and an unlikely friendship with 450 year old vampire Henry Fitzroy. Henry's inside knowledge of the world beyond our own combined with Vicki's tenacity and no-nonsense investigative style adds up to quite a team. Oh and then there is Mike Celucci, Vicki's former partner on the police force (and one gets the impression...former partner in other areas of her life as well). Classic love triangle.

Each episode features some sort of mystery dealing with the supernatural and as the story progresses, so do the relationships. Vicki is obviously attracted to the sexy mysteriousness that is Henry but she also has a history with the solid stability that is Mike. Watching her struggle to figure out how to balance the two relationships is one of the things that makes the show so entertaining. Vicki embodies those strong female qualities that a lot of romance novelists try to get right with their heroines and so often fail. She's smart, hard core, unafraid to battle demons, but still heartbreakingly vulnerable and guarded when it comes to her heart. Henry is something of a playboy who has a sensitive and artistic side. The fact that Vicki doesn't fall into his arms seems to confuse and intrigue him. His youthful face masks a very old soul, and actor Kyle Schmid does an excellent job in balancing this dichotomy. Mike cares for Vicki; that much is obvious. His jealousy of Henry combined with his fear that Henry is a bad and even dangerous influence on Vicki leads him to do some stupid stuff in season one.

One of the things that keeps me coming back to this show is the dialogue. Funny, often tongue in cheek, and always entertaining, the verbal exchanges between all of the characters sparkle. In last night's episode for example, Vicki's assistant Corrine finds Henry looking at some of her research materials:

Corrine: "You're a vampire reading a book on vampirism?"
Henry: "Like you've never read a self help book."

Or earlier in the episode:
Vicki: "It's a biker bar..."
Henry: "I know it. I don't always hunt in the opera circuit. One has to vary one's diet."
Vicki: "Well, everybody enjoys a little fast food now and then."

It's little one-offs like this that make it seem like the show doesn't take itself too seriously. Oh, but besides the characters and dialogue and all that stuff...did I mention that there are hot guys? Oh yeah. Minor detail. (*ahem*)

*edited to add...And apparently, Lifetime has all of the episodes available to watch on their website. Go forth and enjoy!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Welcome to Temptation by Jennifer Crusie

Ahhh Friday night! Other people are out partying, drinking, and having hot sex. Me? I'm sitting at home watching reruns of What Not to Wear, waiting for the new season of Blood Ties to come on in a couple of hours, listening to Andrea Bocelli, catching up with some internet reading, and trying to think of a good way to encapsulate my reading experience of the most excellent Welcome to Temptation.

As I said in previous entries, I've never been much of a contemp reader. Or comedy for that matter. I tend towards the long angsty historicals. But I like to think of myself of at least open-minded and ready to try new things if given enough reasons. So on the strength of some very strong recommendations, I picked this one up at my library last week.

First off, I will say that the beginning chapters were a little shaky for me. And that may have more to do with my inexperience with this author's style of writing. I felt a little bit like I was coming into a story that was already in full swing and I was missing some things. Who are these two girls and what's going on? Then all of the sudden more characters keep popping up. ack! Am I slow on the uptake? Oh wait, no, it just takes me a few pages to get things straight. Cool. Alright, I think I'm tracking now...

Do I need to do a plot synopsis thingy? Everyone else in the romance reading universe but me seems to have read this book already. Basic premise: Sophie Dempsey and her sister Amy have a little video business where they tape weddings and somehow they get this gig doing a video for a one-hit wonder "movie star" in said star's podunk hometown. Then there's the local mayor, Phineas Tucker. Yeah, that's right, his name is Phineas. *snort* I know I certainly was skeptical about the romantic hero potential of a character with such a name. But there's something mysteriously sexy about the nickname Phin. Oh and talk about sexy. *fans self* Phin has this very casual, elegant and self-assured manner that borders on flippant at times but ultimately just seems very...what's the word...effortless? Oh and he's freakin' FUNNY!

Sophie jerked her head around to look at him. He had stretched out on the dock with his hands behind his head, and he was looking at the stars, too, pretty much ignoring her.
"She fell in love with a bear?"
"No, a bear ate her." Phin rolled his head to look at her. "Appalachia is not big on silly love songs."
"A bear ate her," Sophie shook her head. "Leave it to you to think that's romantic."
"The song's beautiful," Phin looked back at the stars. "It ends with her ghost wearing a crown of sorrow. Very romantic."
"Dead women are not romantic," Sophie said flatly.
"Okay, she's not dead," Phin said. "The bear ate her, and she came her brains out."
Sophie felt her laugh spurt before she could stop herself. "Oh, very nice. That's not romantic either."
"It is if you do it right."
Sophie thought about it. "I must not be doing it right."
"It wouldn't be you that isn't doing it right," Phin said. "It'd be the bear."

I really did laugh out loud when I read that scene. One thing that Crusie obviously does well is humor. But it doesn't feel forced (*cough*Evanovich*cough*) or wander toooo far into schtick. Yeah, I guess the word I was looking for is effortless.

Ok, so certain town folk are convinced that the video Sophie and Amy are making is actually porn. Phin is being leaned on by some in the city council to shut the production down; in the meantime he and Sophie are getting into a relationship. It starts off as just sex, no strings attached. This was actually pretty refreshing to me. They're two adults, indulging themselves without loads of guilt. It's interesting to see how their sexual chemistry turns to affection which turns to a deeper connection which ultimately leads to love. I felt that despite all the zany goings-on and wacky characters wandering in and out of the plot (did I mention we get a murder mystery thrown in to boot?), there is still a pretty consistent focus on Phin and Sophie and what's going on in both their heads.

I have one (minor) complaint and that has to do with the random movie quotations that Sophie likes to throw in. I found it odd that this would bother me because in real life, I myself like to quote movies. So call me a hypocrite. But half of the references went straight over my head (my fault for having been brought up outside the US) and the others weren't all that hilarious. Not to mention I didn't always see the extra "" marks and just read them as dialogue and then got confused. But this is a minor thing and didn't detract too much from my overall positive experience.

I really enjoyed this book. It was easy to read and made me laugh. The dialogue was witty and the characters were interesting. The only real question I had upon finishing it was....does smooth-lovin'-criminal Davy Dempsey get his own book?

Grade: A-

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Tag, you're it

Wow, my first week on the blogosphere and I've been tagged with one of these things. lol. The hardest part is going to be coming up with five people who have blogs who actually know me and will accept the tag. hmmm. Well anyways, here's the deal. You get tagged and you make an alt+printscreen of your desktop and then post it and tag some more people. So here goes...

Soooo boring compared to others. *sigh* This is a new workstation so I haven't had a chance to clutter it up with a lot of icons (yet). I need to get a new pic of me and the DBF because that one is about 20 pounds ago and I am vain. He's always hot though, so I don't mind seeing this photo on a daily basis. lol

K, I'll be back later with my list of peeps.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Tempted into reading Crusie

Remember how I said I didn't read contemps? Hmm. Well, on the strength of recommendations from two very nice friends from AAR whose opinions I trust, I am dipping my toe into the water that is Jennifer Crusie. I picked up Welcome to Temptation this evening at the library and am halfway through it now. Unfortunately, I do have to sleep (*grumble grumble*) or I would finish it right this minute! It's very entertaining, and I'm so in love with Phin! *sigh* Insert gushing and squeeing right here. K, this is one that I will be back to talk more about. Just had to get that off my chest. Perhaps I CAN read contemporaries after all!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Ice Blue by Anne Stuart

I have a confession to make. I don't really read contemporary or romantic suspense. Yes, I said it. I've never touched Linda Howard and I rarely read la Nora; I wouldn't know a Brockman SEAL from the kind that flops around in the water. For some odd reason, I tend to stick to my historicals. But I do have a soft spot in my heart for Anne Stuart. I picked up one of her books while in Africa (you may get sick of hearing this, but it was a great way to introduce me to authors I might not have otherwise read). It was called Moonlight and the combination of suspense, sexual tension, dangerous bad-boy hero and on-the-run plot managed to really get my attention. I made a mental note to check out more by this author when I made it back to the States, the land of endless books.

Funny thing is, I've read Stuart books since Moonlight and as of yet, none of them have quite measured up to that initial experience. I'm not sure if it's them or me. In any event, I am sad to say that the trend holds true for Ice Blue.

I was jazzed to find that the hero of the book was not Caucasian, or at least not totally white. Takashi O'Brien by name, he's half-Japanese, and all lethal weapon. Like all Stuart heros, he is silent, taciturn and deadly and knows that he "ought" to be fulfilling his mission and taking care of the heroine (in a permanent manner) but for some odd reason, he just can't go through with it. Hmm, where have I read this before?

Summer Hawthorne is a museum curator who owns an old Japanese ceramic dish that some psycho cult leader really wants. Really, really wants. So much so that he's willing to have her off'ed in order to get it. Takashi saves her from one off'ing attempt and then we're off on the run. Will he kill her himself and thus keep the secret location of the ceramic dish safe for all eternity? Or will he be unable to resist her spunky innocence and surrender to the inevitable? Most importantly, will they save the world from apocalyptic doom as meted out by the psycho cult leader?

Well of course, I cannot tell because that would constitute spoilers. *cough cough* But I think you might be able to guess.

I dunno. I'm starting to think that maybe I really am not cut out for romantic suspense. Because this probably was a good book. I just felt, so....bored. And that's too bad because I wanted to like it. Dammit, I really wanted to fall for the half-Asian hero because Lord knows, we get so few of them. Oh well. Better luck next time. I give this one a C, although it gets an A in the cover art department.

Monday, October 8, 2007

I have become a (fairy) godmother

As some of you may know, I met my boyfriend in West Africa while I was a volunteer. We've been together for almost four years and have been in the States for almost two years. It's difficult for him to be away from his family, but in particular it's hard to be separated from his little brother and his older sister. It's hard to even explain what it's like living between such disparate worlds. His country is one of the poorest in the world. Infant mortality is rampant, FGM is practiced, women do all of the back-breaking labour and polygamy is legal. The women I knew there were so strong and yet so marginalized at every turn. My boyfriend was lucky enough to have a mother who worked very hard to give him what little she could, and he has a deep and abiding respect for women, something that's very unusual for men in his culture. Since his mother's death, he has served as something of the de facto head of the household even though he is not the oldest. Being here in the States has made things more complicated as he's not physically there to help out and there is the expectation from some in the extended family that he should be financially supporting everyone now that he's in the rich part of the world. Anyways, that's all just background...

He received a phone call this weekend from his sister back home telling him that she had just had a baby girl. omg! We didn't even know she was pregnant! Of everyone in his family, she is the one that I know the best and am closest to, so I was very excited for her. And then today, he came in and told me that she wants me to be the baby's godmother. *blush* I've never BEEN a godmother. What do I do? Well, if I recall correctly from my Disney days, (fairy) godmothers get to make wishes for their godchildren. So, baby Aminata, here is my wish(s) for you:

May you be blessed with self-confidence and the assurance of your family's love;
May you have the chance for an education that gives you access to the life you want;
May you never believe the lies you'll be told about "a woman's place";
May you realize that strength comes from within and that no one can ever control your mind;
May you grow up healthy and happy, protected from disease and illness;
And may your uncle and I always be there to support you and to give you the opportunities that your mother didn't have.

Allah k’à bε d'i ma. Ala k’à dugaw minε.

The Prince by Elizabeth Minogue

I picked this book up on the recommendation of some of my AAR friends. I think it came up during a discussion of pirate romances. Now let me just say that I'm a total sucker for romance on the high seas. I still remember being about nine and watching Errol Flynn swing onto the deck of his ship and fight off the bad guys with his fancy sword work. *sigh* And let's not even start with my eternal crush on Wesley from The Princess Bride.

Lucky for me, my library system happened to have The Prince in their collection (they are SO random about the romance books they have), so I put a hold on it and got it in time to take it with me on a one-week work trip to Canada. Usually, I'm the kind of reader who plows right through a book, averaging about a page or more per minute and finishing it in one sitting. Not so with this book. Partly because of travel and partly because of short attention span, I found that I picked this up and put it down so much that it took me a whole week to finish. In retrospect, I think this is because it took a while for the world the author was creating to make sense to me and become comfortable. But when it did...look out!

The plot, the plot...let's see. In essence, there is a kingdom called Venya which was overthrown by an evil usurper, King Richard. Florian, the rightful prince of said kingdom, has lived in exile since he was a child and has grown up being groomed for a return to his kingdom in which he is expected to be the long-lost saviour and free the land. This is the putative Prince of the title. Then there is our heroine Rose of Valinor who is related to King Richard and who has played a part in the ongoing rebellion in Venya. Rose runs away from Richard and throws herself on the mercy of Florian. She ends up with him and his crew on his ship. And we have the makings of a road romance, or a shipboard romance as the case may be.

Florian is one of the most interesting characters I think I've read in quite some time. He has a lot of layers and they're not all apparent from the outset. He carries a lot of weight on his shoulders, the fate of his country and the destinies of his subjects, and he is both immature in some things and very wise in others. His fame as the Prince of Venya is sung far and wide and he has learned how to keep that mask firmly over his true self. He's absolutely not above manipulating anyone if he feels it will help him in his quest to win back Venya. Florian decides to marry Rose based on how their union will help unite different factions as well as bring more support to his cause. In one passage, he calculates how best to seduce Rose, and I found this passage both really illuminating regarding his internal dialogue with himself as well as really quite funny as it skewers a lot of typical romance hero cliches:

But what was Princess Rosamund's fantasy?
Surely not the bold pirate - always a favorite - who would accept nothing less than complete surrender from his captive. He was glad of that, for it made his head ache to imagine another night of feigned shrieks and faux struggles...Then there was the world-weary rake disarmed by the sweet innocence of the woman in his bed. Many women liked that one. Too many, really; he was bored with it...The callow youth, all wet kisses and eager, fumbling hands? No, at twenty-five, he suspected he'd at last outgrown that role...Yet this was no joking matter. He had no time to waste upon deciding his approach. The thing must be done, and quickly, before she realized what he was about.

Rose is a lot smarter than she's given credit for initially. While she finds herself attracted to Florian, she doesn't fall for his smooth seduction. When she actually does agree to marry him it is because she too wants the return of peace to Venya and not because she believes that they love each other. But something funny happens on the way to the forum, so to speak, and Florian and Rose find themselves drawing increasingly closer together. They learn to see behind each other's masks and to let their guards down. And I found it achingly romantic.

My main complaint with this book has to do with the world-building. It took a little while to build up steam and for the complex mix of countries, ethnicities, loyalties, magic powers, etc. to make any sense to me. I felt a little like I was walking into the middle of something and missing key pieces of information. As much as I like to make fun of glossaries, it actually would have been very helpful to have one. Still, once I got into the story, I found myself really intrigued and eager to know what was going to happen next. Particularly, I liked how trust and intimacy was explored in the relationship between Florian and Rose. I would give this book a solid B, and I'd like to read more by this author.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Fantasy Lover by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Ok, well since I cannot concentrate on my accounting homework to save my life, I might as well take a study break and talk about the book that I finished this morning. Yes, I know I said I finished Mine Till Midnight this morning, and I did. That happened in the early morning. This was the book I had started and put down so that I could read MTM and then subsequently picked back up and finished. K, so that said, how was it?

Mphm, to copy a Jamie-ism. And I'm not even sure if that is a good noise or bad noise. Let's just say that it was my first Kenyon, and while I don't think it will be my last, I was not bowled over. Again, the short plot is basically that there is this Greek (no, make that Spartan) love slave named Julian who is trapped in this book and unleashed by a modern woman named Grace who lives in New Orleans and is a virgin (practically anyways) sex therapist. Uh huh. Well, the sex slave thing has promise, but then they go through the entire book without having sex. whaaa? To be fair, the author throws in some sort of supernatural curse reversal to explain the no-sex storyline. Something about Julian not having sex for the month and then having a lot of it right at the end means that he will be free of his curse...but honestly, that felt just a tad manipulative. Toss in a wacky tarot card reading sidekick friend and it all adds up to a whole lotta cliches.

That said, there were things about the book that worked for me. I liked Julian. Although he was pretty angsty and emotive, he was also funny and thoughtful and sweet. I could understand how he would find it attractive for a woman to see him as something other than a piece of meat. As for Grace, she was a lot harder for me to get behind. Yes, I understand that she was treated like crap by her first boyfriend, but is she really going to be a frigid ice-queen for the rest of eternity? I mean, really. I don't buy the whole my-heart-was-broken-and-therefore-I-shall-remain-in-solitary-misery-for-the-rest-of-my-life thang. Yeah, you go girl, that'll really show 'em!

Greek gods and goddesses pop in and out of the story and throw around phrases like "he's going to kick your ass!" which I'm pretty sure I don't remember reading in Plato. But by this point, I had started to look at the whole thing like an episode of Hercules or Xena. And that is probably what actually saved the book for me. Once I started reading it as a light-hearted comedy based in fantasy, it became more entertaining. So overall, my final grade for this book comes out to a solid C. I still think I am going to check out the Dark Hunter books just 'cuz. Hopefully they're a little lighter on the comedy and heavier on the "dark" aspect.

Mine Till Midnight by Lisa Kleypas

I've read a lot of Kleypas books although rarely in order and always on loan from my local library. Thinking back, I believe the first book of hers that I read was Lady Sophia's Lover which I picked up from the Peace Corps hostel book shelf. As I've often said, during my time in Africa I read a lot of books that I may not have otherwise done, simply because of the lack of choice. However, I remember really enjoying this one and making a mental note to check out more of the author's backlist when I got back to the States.

The Wallflower series I read in a mixed up order. My first book of the group was Sebastian and Evie's story, so I have always had a soft spot in my heart for them. Unlike others, I didn't have to get over the "bad guy" image of Sebastian since I didn't know about his shenanigans in the previous book when I read his story. Still, after reading the whole series, I like him. Something about that smooth bad-boy image...I don't know. Anyways, I digress. What I'm getting to is that I was very much looking forward to the story of Cam Rohan, the half-Gyspy factotum of Jenner's gambling club. I was disappointed at first when Daisy ended up with another guy, but now after reading Mine Till Midnight I think I can forgive Kleypas. Amelia and Cam fit together in a way that I don't think he would have with Daisy. And besides, he gets to play the hero and use his not-looked-for fortune to help her and her family.

As I said when I started this little blog, I can't do reviews all that well. I'll try to get a quick sketch of the storyline and then explain what worked and didn't work for me. In brief, Amelia is the oldest sister in a family that seems to be lower upper class. Sister Win has recently recovered from scarlet fever but is still an invalid. Younger sisters Poppy and Beatrix are in the mid and upper teens. The family also has a Gypsy connection (how convenient since Amelia is fated to fall in love with one!) in a young man named Merripen who has lived as a sort of servant/adjunt half-brother in their household for years. Amelia's brother just inherited a title which was unexpected given the fact that he wasn't in direct line. There is some mention about ill luck to the holder of said title, but this isn't really explored. The brother, Leo, is constantly getting himself into trouble, gambling, wenching, etc. generally being the stereotypical romance novel heroine's brother. This gives us the setup for Amelia and Cam to meet while she and Merripen search for her brother in the gaming hells. While I don't mind at all the coincidence of their meeting, what did irk me just a tiny bit was the instant connection that Cam makes to Amelia. It's as if in the moment he lays eyes on her, he lusts after her, knows there is something special about her, feels that he has some sort of a claim to her. Not that there's anything wrong with this; again it's a pretty standard romance novel device. But maybe I was just hoping for something a little less usual.

One thing leads to another and Cam and Amelia share a passionate kiss. (Thinking back to Cam's encounter with Daisy, I think he has a thing for sharing kisses with beautiful strangers and then disappearing from their lives. Capitalizing on his mysterious Gypsy reputation? hmm.) I will say that Kleypas knows how to write about kissing. She makes you feel the romance and the tenderness that can be evoked in something as simple as a kiss. Come to think of it, Cam and Amelia don't move on to second base for quite some time in the book and it still feels very hot and passionate. So she gets kudos from me for that aspect of the writing.

Oh yeah, the plot. Where was I? Amelia and family move out to the country estate that came along with Leo's new title. It's falling down all over the place and there is an interesting scene in which an entire wall has a huge bee hive inside it. Amelia's terror of bees resonated with me because I share the same unreasoning petrification at the sight of one. I wish I had had a big handsome Gypsy come upon me in my fright and comfort me in his arms. *sigh* Oh well, it does make for a nice fantasy. Why is Cam suddenly out there in the country? Well, this is a romance novel so it just so happens that the estate of Lord Westcliff (from previous Wallflower fame) is adjacent. Cam and Sebastian are visiting, so it all works out very well. Cam and Amelia get to know each other better. They share more secret kisses. Romance ensues. Still, Cam feels that he needs to get back to his Gyspy roots and give up living in society while Amelia feels that she can never trust another man with her heart (there is a little back story about her and some other guy who dumped her for a more advantageous match.) Cam has all this money; Amelia has a poor family with a wastrel brother and an estate that needs money. And they're dynamite together. Really, what are they waiting for?

Ok, so everyone knows what happens in the end. Cam decides he doesn't need his freedom all that much and he seduces Amelia. More hotness ensues and they move from kissing all the way to love-making in the moonlight in the space of an evening. I found Cam to be a very romantic hero. He falls for Amelia much quicker than she for him and he doesn't seem all to nervous about showing his affection for her. I found that refreshing. While I could understand Amelia's initial reluctance to accept his offer of marriage, after a while, I found her stubbornness just a little annoying. Ok, ok, I get it. She had a bad experience with love and she likes her independence, but come on! Hot gypsy lover boy with money to burn who loves you to bits and you don't want him just so you can prove a personal point to yourself? whatever. Anyways, last bits of the book are where it fumbles around a little. There is a random mystery bad guy plot that feels a little thrown in as well as a hint of the paranormal which just felt out of place. But the emotions between Cam and Amelia were what worked well and the setup for Merripen and Amelia's sister Win were very compelling. Also, as a bonus, you get to spend more time with Westcliff, St. Ives, Evie and Lillian but they don't feel like they're intruding TOO much on the main character's story. Sebastian, in particular, has such a delicious sense of humor and wit that I wanted him around more.

In summary, it's a good book written by an author who clearly knows her craft. Despite the slight missteps with the ending, it was a very emotionally satisfying read that left a smile on my face. So I give it a B+.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Meet and greet

Today I had my first experience meeting AAR folks live and in person. I've met lots and lots of people through my other online community, but this was a first. It was interesting and a lot of fun. A little strange to be able to talk about romance novels with other people face to face. I don't think I've ever done that. In many ways, my romance reading feels like my little secret. I get books from the library, buy them at Borders or online and read them alone in my room. I don't have any friends or family that read romance, so no one to discuss with. Just my online peeps. Anyways, they were all very nice and we had a good time over lunch. GailK and I took a quick spin through Borders before meeting the rest. Fun to cruise the shelves and poke fun at some of the covers. A little like doing it on the forum but in real time. *g*

It took me about two hours to drive back home. Part of why my bf and I bought a second car was so that we could drive further than to work/school and home. The other car has 200k miles on it and just isn't reliable enough to take far. This new one is an 01 Honda Civic with 100k. It's still a stick shift which is somewhat new to me. I only learned when we moved to Virginia a year and a half ago. Occasionally, it still freaks me out to be driving on big roads with fast cars and know that if I accidentally pop the clutch or something I could grind to a halt. lol. So far so good though and this car gets great gas mileage. 36 mpg in the city.

Now I am curled up on the couch upstairs transferring season 1 of Bloodties to VHS. Yeah, I know...VHS is ancient technology but I don't know how (nor have the hardwear) to get things from my DVR to anything else. I need to create some space on the DVR for new seasons of upcoming shows, so I gotta save the keepers. Besides, it is always nice to sit and watch Henry. *sigh*