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.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Lightning Reviews

I guess this is the follow-up post to last week's library haul. Since I'm without internet this month (except for while at work), my blogging has slowed to a crawl. Then again, that means more time to READ. hehe.

Here are my lightning reviews (actually, more like short comments) on the stack of books from last week.

The Irresistible MacRae - Karen Ranney
I got about three chapters into this book when I realized that the entire plot centered around what may be my biggest pet peeves. The big misunderstanding coupled with the martyr heroine. The heroine is lured into a compromising situation with an fortune-hunting rake. Because her sister has caught the interest of a prime marital candidate, the heroine feels forced to keep her reputation clean by becoming engaged to the rake. We must sacrifice ourselves on the altar of family, girls! A family friend (presumably the irresistible MacRae of the title) is sent to try to lend her assistance and they fall in love. But oh the horror, she must not love him nor tell him why she is determined to marry the awful bounder. Yeah, I flipped through the book and when I saw that they were still hashing out the Big Mis 3/4 of the way through, I thought to myself that I really don't have the time nor the inclination to willingly put myself through torture. So I didn't bother.

The Cobra and the Concubine - Bonnie Vanak
This book reminded me of those old blowsy adventure stories. Full of melodrama and impossible coincidences. Big Secrets abound, lots of brooding, much angst. The hero is an English nobleman raised as a Bedouin. The heroine a rescued concubine from a rival clan. Of course it is love at first sight but she feels it is necessary to push him away "for his own good" throughout pretty much the entire book. yada yada. Quite frankly, if the exotic setting hadn't kept my interest, I probably would have given this a much lower grade. As it was, I felt oddly compelled to keep reading. I think that Vanak has promise but needs to tone down the over-the-top-ness (if that's a word).

To love a Thief - Julie Anne Long
This book was absolutely delightful. A little of a Pygmalion story. The heroine is a gently-bred young lady down on her luck who has turned to pick-pocketing. Our hero is a barrister who has pulled himself up by his own boostraps, has political aspirations and a "grand plan" for his life which culminate in getting the ton's most sought-after debutante to marry him. He engages the heroine thief to act as a potential rival for his affections which should then push the debutante into his arms in a fit of jealousy. Of course, he can't see that the perfect woman is right in front of his nose. This book charmed me and I put it down with a sigh and a huge smile on my face. It probably would not pass the strictest litmus tests of historical accuracy for some, but I loved every minute of it.

Master of the Moon - Angela Knight
I liked this entry better than the last Knight book I read. King Llyr was a pretty darn sexy hero and matching him up with a werewolf was a nice touch. Oddly enough though, as much as I like love scenes, there were almost too many in here and they started to get repetitive and didn't tell me much I didn't know about the characters. Overall, an entertaining little piece of escapism, but I don't think I'd spend hard-earned money on it.

Kiss and Makeup - Allison Kent (Harlequin Blaze)
This little book was short and sweet. Or actually more like short and spicy. My main complaint is that I was a little skeptical about the HEA given that the heroine spent most of the story convincing me that she didn't want to give up her dreams of making it as an industry makeup artist to move down to Texas with her rich lover (big-time music producer guy). Still, all in all, a good little book and I'd look for more HQs by Kent.

Bluestocking Bride - Elizabeth Thornton
I just finished it this morning over breakfast. I felt a little like the victim of false advertising. The cover and blurb made this look like a historical. But in fact it read like a Regency. By that I mean, slow, proper, boring and old-fashioned. It started off somewhat interesting through the courtship period of the hero and heroine, but after the marriage takes place, we get the good old BIG MIS plot on both sides. The heroine is supposed to be intelligent (after all, she reads and understand Greek!) but she is forehead-slappingly stupid in how she jumps to conclusions about the hero's motivations and then instead of TALKING with him, she gives him the cold shoulder and pushes him away. blah blah blah. The heroine and hero spend the last 2/3 of the book being verbally and emotionally mean to one another and then in the last 2 pages it is all cleared up. hooray. And that will be my last Thornton book.

The Star King - Susan Grant
I'll admit that I'm not a huge sci-fi person, although I do have a soft spot for reruns of Andromeda and the Star Trek series with Scott Bakula (I don't even try to keep all the STs straight). So in some ways, this book felt like one of those Saturday afternoon adventures. I liked that the heroine was middle-aged and divorced with grown-up kids. Why should us young gals have all the love? *g* And the story of how she explores the universe with our fair hero is pretty interesting. I'm a traveler myself, so details about new languages and cultures is right up my alley. Stuff that I could have lived without included all of the political machinations and the dumb blonde moment which allowed the heroine to get kidnapped by the bad guys. But I understand that conflict makes for plot, so I'll get over it. This book definitely ranks higher on my list than my last Susan Grant book. In fact, I think I'll keep my eyes open for the newer one with the long title (how to lose an extraterrestrial in 10 days? or something like that).


Now I'm tired. And it's time to start the workday. I hope I get a chance to hit up my library again before the long holiday weekend. Also, I have Shana Abe's The Smoke Thief at the top of my TBR pile which I am very much looking forward to.

And now for a little gratuitous Richard Armitage photo posting just to make me smile. Have a good day, kiddies!

Monday, November 12, 2007

library haul

So after the amazing high I got from reading Caine's Reckoning, I suppose I should not be surprised that the next few books I tried to read were just...uninspiring. *sigh*

I got about halfway through Susan Krinard's Lord of the Beasts before I realized that I just didn't care. The hero with his fey abilities to talk to the animal kingdom was just a wee bit too precious for my tastes and the heroine was a self-righteous prig. At the halfway mark a secondary character who was also pursuing the heroine turned into a stereotypical eeeeevil bad guy. So I skimmed through the last half to make sure everything turned out as I knew it would and called it quits. Then I read a few chapters of Beverly Jenkins Wild Sweet Love which also failed to engage my interest (much to my chagrin because the cover was smokin' hot). I also got two chapters into The Affair by Sandy Hingston and had to restrain myself from throwing it against the wall. I don't consider myself a stickler for "historical accuracy", but the attitudes and dialogue were absolutely jarring even to my lax sensibilities.

I decided that a trip to the library might be in order and since the place I'm staying is close to a different branch of my library system, I had the chance to look over a new-to-me collection. After perusing the shelves, I picked a variety of books from different genres. Some of the authors I've read before, others I haven't.

Here's my stack:

Why I grabbed these?

The Irresistible MacRae - Karen Ranney
I totally loved Ranney's After the Kiss and also enjoyed To love a Scottish Lord. Although I've also read some clunkers (exhibit A: An Unlikely Governess), I wanted to see how this installment went. And it's been a while since I've read a good ol' hero-in-a-kilt tale. *g*

The Cobra and the Concubine - Bonnie Vanak
I've never read Vanak, but I do have a soft spot for stories set in Egypt. Also, I seem to recall Kristie(J) having some positive things to say about this author. So it's time I tried a book by her.

To love a Thief - Julie Anne Long
Read one of her spy books a while back, and while it wasn't without its flaws, I remembered it as being something of a fun caper. Can't hurt to try another one.

Master of the Moon - Angela Knight
I bought Master of the Night a few months ago after picking it up randomly and purchasing it at Borders. It's pretty rare for me to spend money impulsively on authors I don't know, but I was in one of those moods, so I indulged. The book was ok and relatively entertaining, but I swapped it out as soon as I finished it. When I read the back of Master of the Moon and realized it was King Llyr's story (he was a strong secondary character in MOTN), I snatched it up.

Kiss and Makeup - Allison Kent (Harlequin Blaze)
No real reason for getting this one, only that I'm trying to include more category books in my diet. Blaze seemed like a line that might work for me, the cover was neutral (no secret babies or sheiks) and a quick flip through convinced me that the author's writing was strong.

Bluestocking Bride - Elizabeth Thornton
Thornton's name shows up now and again in discussions over and AAR, so I picked this up on that basis. I'm a little leary because I did try one other book by her that was a DNF, but I'm willing to give her another try.

The Star King - Susan Grant
As I blogged about last week, I read my first book by Grant and wasn't all that impressed. But I promised her to give her work another shot. This book was on the library shelf, so now it's on my bedside table. After getting halfway through it last night, I am happy to report that it's very entertaining and definitely working much better for me than my previous foray. Here's hoping it finishes as strongly. *g*

So there's my reading list for the next week. If anyone has further suggestions, I'm always happy to hear them. One never knows what treasure lurk within the local library. :-)

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Caine's Reckoning by Sarah McCarty

When I was younger, I used to create stories in my mind as I tried to fall asleep at night. The tales in my head featured heroines who were vulnerable yet strong, heros who were tender yet forceful and love scenes that were lush and unhurried (and quite explicit). While my hazy fairytales had a larger plot to give the love story a context, the focus was always on the relationship and how that relationship developed through physical and emotional intimacy.

I think that in many ways, my romance reading has always been something of a quest to find those inner stories reflected on paper. To have those vague plots and emotions come to life through the talent of someone who has the gift of storytelling more than I can ever hope to. While I've read many romance novels, it's been the rare case that I've run across one that really matches my expectations, allows me to relax into the story and to surrender myself to the journey that the author is creating for the central characters. Sarah McCarty's Caine's Reckoning is one of those rare books.

Caine Allen is a hard man who has seen a lot of death and destruction. Desi is a woman who has been to hell and come through with her spirit intact. In order to rescue her from her enemies, a hasty marriage is arranged. These two relative strangers are now put in the position of living together and learning how to trust one another. Sure, this marriage-to-save-the-heroine plot has been done before, but in McCarty's hands, the promise of the unique opportunity for relationship building in intimate ways is actually realized. Caine is a persistent man and remarkably astute about Desi's emotional and physical scars. He helps her work through her inner demons and never lets her hide her reactions. Although he's dominant and possessive, he's not aggressive or arrogant. Desi too is a strong personality, but she's also very vulnerable. Her past experiences with men have taught her only to mistrust and fear them. But even through her fear, she stands up for herself and shows amazing courage. Part of her journey of learning to trust her husband involves her learning to love herself and to trust her own emotions.

McCarty does an excellent job in drawing not only the inner motivations of both Caine and Desi, but also in using sexual intimacy between them to show the internal growth they are both taking towards each other. The love scenes in this book are blistering, make no mistake, but they never feel gratuitous. I've said before and will repeat here, what I've always enjoyed about McCarty's writing is that she manages to strike that fine balance between erotic romance and romantic erotica. For my money, she's one of the best out there writing these kinds of books and Caine's Reckoning is her best yet. I can't wait to reread this book and to take the journey again.


Monday, November 5, 2007

Music, movies and more

Checking in after a weekend that was both very busy and yet very slow in some ways. I have the good fortune to work at a university that has a large performing arts community and I have a lot of friends both in the faculty and student body. On Friday night, I attended the Fall Dance Concert which was fab. One of my friends was premiering some of her new choreography, and it was powerful and expressive (as always). I'm always in awe of people who can use their bodies to express emotions and interpret music. We have some seriously talented students. After getting home I managed to stay awake to watch this week's episode of Blood Ties. Always love me some Henry action. *g*

Saturday morning was the usual WW meeting thing. I have two more weeks of maintaining until I am awarded "lifetime" status. Which is pretty cool. I've lost 58 pounds since I started on March 1 and gone from a size 16/18 to an 8. And I have to say that the changes I've made do feel like a part of my life and not some sort of short-term "diet". yay for fitting into sizes that I've never in my life been able to wear. Then it was back to the ranch, where I spent a lazy Saturday afternoon watching TV, drinking herbal tea, and curling up in the sun with a few books.

I read another Jessica Bird category His Comfort and Joy which, although not as good as the Billionaire book, was short and entertaining. Then I started my first Susan Grant book Your Planet or Mine. I'm not sure what grade I'd give it because it was kind of all over the map. I liked the characters and the premise was interesting but overall, I didn't "believe". The h/h fall in love way too quickly but then spend half of the book not having sex for reasons which felt manufactured. Also, the whole alien-but-yet-not thing as well as people's quick acceptance of Cavin's story just felt a little glib. Meh. Anyways, chalk that up to trying another genre and not having it work out so much. I'm now reading Emma Holly's Fairyville and totally enjoying it.

Sunday I got my chance at moviestardom. A friend of mine is a director and producer, and she had called me last week to ask if I could be an extra in a short film she was putting together for a class. So I spent most of the day on set, waiting around and then walking from my mark to another point on the ground and saying my one line multiple times. It was fun to see how this stuff works behind the scenes, even on such a small production. Sunday evening I attended the recital of a string quartet. Two of the students are friends of mine and the professors who are their music teachers had invited me to their house after the recital for a little party. It's always kind of fun to hobnob with musicians even if I'm not one myself. I'm so impressed by the amount of time and discipline they put into their craft.

So despite the lack of internet availability, I am managing to keep myself busy. I now have to quickly visit everyone's blogs to catch up on anything I've missed. Oh and I gotta get Lover Eternal in the mail so that GailK can read it and (hopefully) love it as much as I do. *g*

Thursday, November 1, 2007

slowing down for a while

Well, for every good thing there is a slight downside. My bf and I are housesitting for some good friends during the entire month of November. The good thing is that the house is a fantastic place - an old historic schoolhouse converted into a rambling comfy home. It's out in the countryside, and I can curl up in a chaise lounge with a good romance novel and gaze out over the fields towards the mountains. That's good. The downside internet. So I expect that my blogging and visiting everyone else's blogs and whatnot is going to slow down this month. *grumble*

I'll still be around now and then, but for now, I leave you with this interesting little music video. Amadou and Mariam are a married couple from Mali. They're both blind and have been making music together for quite some time. A few years ago they had a breakout hit album in which they collaborated with Manu Chao. When I was living in Mali, I heard the tail end of this song one time on the BBC and was instantly hooked. Unfortunately, I didn't catch the name of the song or the artist, so it took me a long time to track down. Once I got back to the States and found the album, I bought it and still enjoy being transported back to Africa whenever I listen to it. Anyways, enjoy! Nath can translate the French, and I can translate the Bambara. :)

Despite the upbeat music, the story behind the song is quite serious, which I think you'll surmise from the video.