Saturday, May 31, 2008

A Weather Note

I feel compelled to say that it's been very pleasant weather - not too hot (yet). The overnight temps have been very cool (50s/60s) and the daytime temps seem to be holding their own. I've only had to run the swamp cooler after about 2 pm til we start the movie!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Loving Evangeline by Linda Howard ****

I have some thoughts today - first about my own personal ratings system. I'm just not consistent, really. Maybe I should switch to 10 stars. Or 100. Right now, 5 stars means I truly loved it and want to read it again and again. 4 stars - I did love it, but not quite as much as the 5 star read.

Then I'll look at some things I rated 4, and think - no, 5. Or 3. Ok - what is 3? Medium? Mediocre? Average? I don't really rate on a "curve" - I don't look at all of them as starting out as a 3 then earning their way up to a 5, or losing points down to a 2. If I liked it, enough, it's a 3. I mean, I have to NOT like it to give it a 2, and really hate it to give it a 1.

That leads me to Loving Evangeline. It's short - it's an "Intimate Moments" by Silhouette - not sure exactly what Intimate Moments means but I'm guessing it's a "category" - a certain # of words, and a certain theme.

I like Linda Howard - I think I've pretty much liked all I've read so far, anyway. I have the first 3 of MacKenzie's books on audio; the first one is abridged, and not quite as satisfying. The second one (Joe) is terrific; the third one (Zane I think) is a little unbelievable, but after 2-3 listens, it grew on me. OK, I really have a hard time thinking a SEAL could justify what happened after he freed the ambassador's daughter from a terrorist kidnapping (yeah, she WANTED to be boffed after being tied up nude for a couple of days, and of course, he ALLOWED her this privilege...). But what the heck, it's fiction, right?

And Mr. Perfect is truly one of my all-time favorites - funny, intriguing, sexy. So - what's not to like about Linda Howard?

Loving Evangeline is ... in a word, intense. Short and intense, and not the least bit funny or heartwarming. Not at all. Her hero Robert is a man who keeps himself tightly leashed so that he doesn't let his inner panther out to - what? kill? rape? plunder? Whatever, he's a manipulative, controlling sonuvabitch. Poor Evangeline doesn't stand a chance - and when you get her backstory - well, jesus, I teared up even though it was told in flashback, having happened a dozen years before the story starts. I mean, she really had a hard time and should have been on major doses anti-depressants. And Robert manipulates her until she's nothing but a spineless blob of jelly - although, ok, she does hang onto a teensy piece of herself, the part that doesn't tell him about her financial troubles. All caused by him, I might add, the sucking bastard.

I didn't exactly hate Robert. I mean, really, I didn't hate him but I did want to bitch slap him a few times.

The storyline is this: Robert, fabulously successful and wealthy business man, learns there is espionage going on in one of his company's holdings. A top employee in his computer software company appears to be selling national secrets. His flunky who discovers the traitor puts a tail on the guy and decides Evangeline, owner of a marina in Alabama where the traitor goes boating, is involved in the take. Robert, big macho man - chest thumping Tarzan - tightly controlled panther of a man's man - decides to go to Alabama and catch the 2 of them and put them away forever.

Ooops. He sees Evie and unfortunately for him, her inner beast calls to his inner beast and makes it sit up and roar. Now he has 2 missions: boff her blind AND catch her selling national secrets, hopefully in that order. Evie takes one look at him and sees the one man who can finally breach the emotional wall she has developed since her husband died the day after their wedding 12 years ago. But she has a secret weapon: she can read him like a book. Not that it keeps her from tumbling into the sack with him, but at least she has an idea what she's getting into.

Robert breaks down Evie so much that if it were up to me, I'd have sued his ass to kingdom come and back twice if I were her. He all but ruins her financially, to see if she'll make another traitorous maneuver to pay off the debts. He never doubts for a moment she's guilty but maybe, sweet guy that he is, he can save her - after she's arrested and tried. It never seems to cross his mind that maybe, uh, she's innocent and he's an asshole. Reading the AAR review wrapped it up quite nicely for me: "such a hurtful betrayal by the man I loved would be awfully hard to get past, when all's said and done." Yeah, what she said.

Howard does sexual tension well, and she does manage to build it up - but really, I kept wishing Evie would hold out a little more because she did know what was going on but gave in anyway. Robert was a mean, manipulative bastard that ending up realizing he loved Evie with a fierceness that by all rights shoulda killed her (literally). Hence the title Loving Evangeline. I mean, we knew that because it's a romance and there's always a HEA.

So what did I rate this when I clicked on the stars at PBS? 4 stars. See what I mean? I didn't LOVE it. I liked it ok. But more than 3 stars. (AAR gave it a B, and I felt the same as that reviewer.) I almost feel like 3 stars is for those that I teetered on not liking - like, the story was ok, the characters didn't make me toooo mad, and the editor wasn't as good at his job as he should have been - that is 3 stars. It almost makes me want to go back over every rating I've done (PBS and Netflix cuz I do the same thing with movies) and start over.

BBC Series: Foyle's War

We finished episode 2 of Foyle's War last night - I believe there are about 10 episodes total. It takes place in southern England during World War II, but it's the story of a detective fighting crime (murders really) in this small town, using WWII as a backdrop. The 2 episodes both had war-related issues, one about interning Germans, and the 2nd about a group of pro-Nazi supporters. The acting and the production values are top notch, as to be expected from BBC. The main character, Foyle, is disappointed that he cannot go into the armed forces, but is forced to stay behind and be a detective instead. But he perseveres - and because he doesn't drive, is given a driver, Samantha, to drive him around to all the crime scenes and suspect interviews. She is Robin to his Batman - she's a wonderful character who, although he tells her over and over again not to pry into the cases, takes an active part. Instead of being annoyed, Foyle recognizes her as almost a partner. She's really my favorite character.

He has another assistant, a fellow (name?) who has lost a foot in the war, and has gotten a prosthetic but has to use a crutch. This fellow is having trouble at home, though, with his wife Jane who cannot see past the injury. Jane even asks him to leave the prosthetic out of the bedroom and never let her see it - she's pretty cruel and in denial. That was a big part of the story in Episode 2. He's allowing it to affect his self-esteem, so he shows a lot of angst - well, that's relative, since it is British - they don't show a lot of emotion in this series, but he frowns and sometimes brings his eyebrows together, which is more than many others do...!!

The murder solving is reminiscent of Murder She Wrote or Agatha Christy - we get introduced to several suspects, and learn why each one of them could have done it, then Foyle finds the one and tells us all how and why it was done. Still, it's fun to try to figure out which one had the motive and how they pulled it off. 4 stars.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

A Knight In Shining Armor by Jude Deveraux ***

A Knight in Shining Armor by Jude Deveraux is an AAR Top 100 Romance novel, first released in 1988 and apparently re-written and re-released in 2002. I read the 1988 version.

I have only read 1 other Deveraux, a paranormal about the Devil, which I like pretty well. AKISA is a time-travel novel, written before Outlander, that has time travel in 2 directions: the hero travels from the 16th c to the present and back, and then the heroine travels to the 16th c and back.

One thing I liked about The Time Traveler's Wife and Outlander was how time travel was handled, and what happened when you change history. Actually, in both, history is never changed: it is as it was - in other words, what happened in the past always did happen. Claire was always in the past with Jamie - he didn't have 2 pasts, one where there was no Claire and then another where she existed. And Henry's time travel was the same: it was as it happened, he didn't go back and change history.

Deveraux takes a different tack: history changes from as it was 2 times, so we have at least 3 different results. However - she never explores how much changing the past might change the future (or the present) in untold other ways. In fact - when the heroine is put back into the present, although the hero's 16th c death date has changed - and all his houses are now standing and owned by present descendants, nothing else has changed. Her life is no different; her boyfriend has had a change of heart but nothing else. She has the same parents, the same siblings, all doing exactly what they were doing before she went back in time and changed history. When she returns, the travel books now have different information; the tour guide now lauds the hero's past life instead of laughing at his rakishness. But life as we know it has not changed one iota.

Wouldn't changing the past have many more repercussions? Not in Deveraux's world.

Ok, the plot: heroine Dougless has a surgeon boyfriend that she is desperate to marry to prove her worth in life. Her backstory: her family is wealthy but doesn't let the kids inherit til age 35, and they must make it on their own before that. He apparently strings her along but we learn at the end how he has resented her wealth and her "playing" at being poor. Basically, we learn that he and she have not been communicating at all, and she is portrayed as pretty pathetic.

She certainly cries a lot.

When the boyfriend ditches her, without money, passport, plane ticket or clothes, in England on a vacation, she conjures up her Knight - the hero, Nicholas, born in the 16th c, wearing full armor. Why sometimes he is called Colin and sometimes Nicholas really never makes any sense, although there is a mention at the end that makes you think, Oh, this is why, but not really.

He adapts pretty quickly to 20th c life, all things considered, and lucky for him, he arrived with money which needless to say was incredibly valuable. They were able to sell it to a rare coin dealer and live quite well for the few days he was around (or was it weeks? I never got a true sense of time passing.) They decide he has been called to her for a Reason other than love - when he arrives and they do some checking, he died the day he left, slumped over a letter he is writing to his mother, 3 days before his scheduled execution for treason. They deduce that he needs to find out who betrayed him, since he says what he did wasn't treason at all.

I guess he couldn't have been called forward for love, then. She and he dance around their attraction, but he's a ladies' man and proceeds to flirt with and neck with anything in skirts, which irked me - wasn't he the hero?? It's sorta explained why he gets so cozy with Arabella, a descendant of a woman he dallied with in his own time: he thinks she will reveal what is written in his mother's diaries, just discovered in Arabella's home. yeah right.

The betrayer IS revealed, but Nicholas doesn't just magically go back, and so they continue on their journey - and finally DO IT at which point, whoosh, he gets swept back to his time. Hello?

Of course, she is grief-stricken and bereaved - alone again, no man, wah wah wah. What a cry baby. Then she discovers more information that Nicholas needs and Whoosh - she gets swept back to HIS time. But - oops - it's before he went to her, and he doesn't recognize her.

She somehow manages to charm everyone but him into letting her stick around, and she spends a lot of time trying to figure out how to revive his memories of her. He shows 1 sign of remembering, and she then works on him until he relents. He doesn't really remember but he has these feelings or something. He feels her soul calling to him, both in the past and the future. He feels what she is feeling, and can find her wherever she is. She has this connection as well, but only in the past, apparently.

When I finished reading this book, I thought maybe I'd give it 4 stars. But as I write this review, it's slipped to 3 stars and is just barely hanging in there. She was a whiny crybaby who just couldn't stand up for herself - and I didn't really see that much growth in her, even after her sojourn to the past. The whole plot device of her trying to stop his marriage to Lettice is incredible. First, in the future, he realizes that if she falls in love with him, she will grieve when he returns. He decides to lie to her, telling her he is in love with his wife (Lettice) in the past so she will not fall for him. Of course she does anyway, but it does color her feelings - he is, after all, a married man. (but he doesn't love Lettice one teeny bit.)

SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER ALERT - I've already revealed a lot, but from this point on I actually let the cat out of the bag, feed it and change its litter - exposing the ending. So if you don't want to know, click the close or back button on your browser or step away from the computer NOW.

Then, in the past, she tries to stop the marriage because she learns that Lettice is actually the betrayer that causes his death (that was change of history #1 - after he goes back, he no longer dies before the execution, but is actually executed). But she was so inconsistent - she didn't want to leave him, but she couldn't imagine staying, letting him marry Lettice and sticking around anyway. She has decided (not "figured out" because she isn't sure) that if she has sex with him in his time, she will be catapulted back into the future, so she plans to never have sex with him, just follow him around like a puppy. He actually asks her if he is supposed to remain celibate because of all this. I mean - come on!

Plus she just cannot grasp the fact that he is marrying Lettice out of duty and honor to his family and that what he is doing is morally the right thing to do, especially for his time. She's like a dog with a bone and just won't let it go. Hello, Dougless? Are you really just going to stay in the past, celibate, and watch him?

No she isn't: he leaves Lettice at the altar, rushes back and they do it like bunnies until sunrise when WHOOSH she is back in the future. And in the future, it's only a couple of minutes later. All signs of him are gone - everything that was in her tote that she used in the past is still there. But now - his tomb has a death date much later. He has lived into his 60s. But, she learns, he never remarried. What a fucking waste! He lived another 30+ years, making architectural and health history, but alone. His son - who died in the first iteration of history - lived and went on to prosper and now they're a wealthy family with several holdings.

So - she gave him up for that? So his family could be wealthy? But then, in a way, she had to give him up, or live in the 16th c, celibate. Assuming that is really what sent her back...

She then flies back to the States and meets a fellow on the plane that we are lead to believe contains Nicholas' soul, maybe by reincarnation, and that's the end. ??? So she might get her HEA (we aren't told), but Nicholas sure didn't. He got to boff her a couple of times, and then he just held out to the end, for all we know hoping she'd return. (Well, he probably got some but never married.) A lot of reviewers found that disappointing, but somehow this book still made it to the AAR Top 100, in 32nd place. In fact, there are 2 reviews at AAR, both A reviews.

I didn't hate it, so I'll stick with 3 stars. Maybe I should re-read it to see if I feel differently at some point.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

All Shook Up by Susan Andersen *****

First I have to say I think Susan Andersen is now my favorite author. Or maybe it's just because I just read another book I loved!!

Next I have to say, thank you John Lippincott for suggesting I blog, because now that I have a place to write down my book thoughts, maybe I'll remember them a little bit longer. I just browsed a PBS member's book list, and she had several LaVyrle Spencer books on it. I couldn't remember whether or not I already had them, and had to look at my Spencer book list. Not only did I already order them, I'd already READ them and couldn't even remember the plot.

Maybe I should update my word doc lists with plot synopses as well to jog my memory...

OK - now to All Shook Up. The heroine Dru is an orphan, raised by her aunt and uncle, and she's also a single mother as the result of a love affair in college. The boy's father split when he found out she was pregnant, and has never been heard from again. Now - on a side bar here - I wondered if in the whole year they were lovers, did she never meet his family?? Or what? But never mind that, he's out of the picture completely.

Her aunt and uncle own half of a thriving resort in East Washington state - the other owner was her great aunt, now deceased, who willed it to a former foster child, the hero J.D. Our hero is one of those bad boys, moved from foster home to foster home, rough life, bad friends - but his encounter with the great aunt, while brief, brought him two things: self respect BUT instilled in him a great distrust of do-gooders - due to a Big Misunderstanding. The great aunt apparently accused him of stealing something from her while he was living there, and he ran off and never had contact with her again. She wrote him letters that he never opened but that he carried with him. Of course, the item was found, not stolen, and she apologized but he never knew. And now he has the guilt of her giving him this half ownership, but the mistrust of the other owners.

Plus, he needs mothering - and when he first meets Dru and her boy, he sees a life he never had, the kind of mothering he wished for. Not to mention apparently she's easy on the eyes, and he develops an attraction for her even though she's not His Type.

As I write this, the characters sound oh-so-familiar. But as always with romance novels, it's the journey, not the formula, that makes it. And I loved this journey!

Dru is also attracted to him, and it frankly makes her edgy. Ok, it makes her downright bitchy to him - but she's not so stubborn that she can't back off and be polite. That makes him even more distrustful - what's up with that, he thinks! But pretty quickly she realizes that his behavior is covering up his true feelings - not just of the attraction, but his feelings about friendship, family, love - the things he hasn't had a good role model for and doesn't know how to develop and keep. This all seemed very real to me.

There's another misunderstanding: JD's friend from Seattle who has a secret that he thinks JD knows about. And he's out to keep JD from ever telling the secret - or anything else ever again.

There's a secondary romance - the aunt and uncle, who are still hot for each other, although the aunt is now going through menopause and having all the bad symptoms - mood swings, hot flashes. Oh and a third, not well developed romance between Dru's 2 best friends. I think the best friends are just an excuse to get JD's hackles up, though, although it's nice to have the heroine have other friends...

Of course there's a totally satisfying HEA - and when the kid asks JD if he can call him Dad after they're married, well, I for one found it very heart warming (and so did JD). Five stars!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Small Town Girl by LaVyrle Spencer ****

At last, a Spencer book that didn't tear my heart to shreds while reading it!

Small Town Girl is about Tess McPhail, a famous country western star (think Reba McIntire), returning to her small town at the insistence of her 2 sisters - Mother McPhail is having hip surgery, and the sisters need Tess to help mom out. She has been gone 18 years, since she graduated from high school and left home to make it in the country music business. And boy oh boy did she ever make it - she's a shrewd business woman in addition to a major singing talent, so she's a multi-millionaire now. She has to interrupt an album release and several appearances to come home, and she's not too happy about it either.

She hasn't been home for more than a brief visit or three in years and years, and staying with her widowed mother is not easy. Mom is pretty set in her ways, and in spite of the financial help Tess has sent home over the years, nothing has changed much at mom's house. In fact, the same Boy Next Door still lives across the alley - geeky Kenny who had a crush on Tess in high school. Well, he did move out, married, had a daughter, and then his wife left him and the kid, so he and the kid moved back home with his mom, who has since passed on.

Tess's life in the small town wasn't bad, she wasn't seriously deprived - her father died when she was young but all in all you get the feeling she had a good childhood. But what she wanted from the minute she could talk was to be a big-time country singer, so as soon as she graduated, she boogied - no hard feelings, no wayward childhood - just an itching for bigger and better. And she got it.

Kenny's life is pretty much as you'd expect for a Small Town Boy – boring - he's a self-employed CPA, living in his mom's house with his 17-yr-old daughter, dating the same woman for 8 years. He and Faith have a nice routine - for the past 8 years on Thursday's it's bridge night; she irons his shirts; he mows her lawn. But it's a small town, and they won't live together without marriage, and neither one is moved to make the commitment. The excuse is that she's Catholic and it would be a sin to marry a divorced man. The real reason is a little deeper - there's not really anything more than convenience and comfort between the two. Basically, Faith is a very nice woman that everyone respects, but frankly, she doesn't like getting messed up, and well, sex is messy. She never spends the night at his place; he never spends the night at hers. Oh, yeah, she puts out "on occasion" but no fireworks or even a spark there.

Tess remembers Kenny as the geeky boy who tried to kiss her on the school bus; he remembers her too (of course, she's extremely famous, so how could he not?) but his feelings for her are a lot more complex. First, he's still mad and embarrassed about how she treated him in high school. Second, he did have a crush on her and he's been fascinated by her ever since. Third - well, he does need to keep in mind Thursday is bridge night with his nice girlfriend Faith. And fourth - he has this daughter, Casey…

As it turns out, Casey is a big fan of Tess's - and she's a great singer too. Casey hears Tess writing a new song ("Small Town Girl") and gives her a couple of lines she thinks up, and later another verse. Tess figures out pretty quickly that Casey has some major, undeveloped talent, and takes her under her wing. This forces more contact between Kenny and Tess - and lo and behold, the geeky boy next door has evolved into someone a little more interesting to Tess after all. They sense the attraction, and dance around it - not really fighting it but not really exploring it either. See - there's that Thursday night bridge with Faith thing, and well, Tess is a famous singer who lives 250 miles away and performs 120 concerts a year, and, it just doesn't seem like their attraction could lead anywhere either of them is prepared to go.

You know, I did try to feel bad for Faith. Everyone really does like her, a lot, and she is nice to everyone. But sheesh - the whole thing with her ironing for him and going over there every night to make them dinner, then going home alone after dinner - it was sorta creepy really, since they don't show any overt signs of affection in front of anyone, ever. Tess even thinks how much she seems to be taking the place of his mother. All that almost completely emasculated Kenny for me - I mean, he wasn't the shy beta hero with a past, like in Morning Glory. He seemed to have no desires until he starts to show signs of attraction to Tess, though he doesn't really act on them. Even his backstory with his ex-wife (which I kept trying to fit into the timeline - if Tess left town 18 years ago, and the daughter is 17, he must have knocked up his wife about the same time Tess left?? so much for carrying a torch) didn't explain his lack of sexual desire (like, was he was so put off by women he won't have another?). It's not like he pressed Faith for anything more in this story. Maybe we're supposed to conclude that he did, once, and gave up, resigned to his fate of having to raise his daughter and having a nice almost-platonic relationship with Faith. Maybe if I read it again, it will be clearer to me.

He goes ahead and confesses to Tess his attraction – in fact, he really did carry the torch for her, as we learn towards the end. In this way, it's almost a First Love story. Tess has a harder time coming to terms with her own feelings – after all, she has this incredibly successful career that really doesn't leave time for a family, and I think she feels a little bad about stealing him away from Faith. She makes it pretty clear that he has to give up Faith for them to continue. But, it is a romance, and in the end they reconcile all the that in a nice, satisfying way for the two of them. Really, Faith is the only one left sort of undone, but frankly I think she had it coming. Well, no, actually, she deserved better – she deserved her own single Catholic fellow that would marry her, and she should have given up Kenny a long time ago if she wasn't willing to take him as he was. Or maybe the relationship she had with Kenny was all she wanted, in which case, good riddance for Faith.

Too bad Spencer retired – maybe she could have written a sequel for Faith. After all, she spent a lot of time convincing us that Faith was truly a nice, nice person that everyone respected and loved, and then BAM she gets dumped, pretty much on her ass, with not much explanation. And dang it all if she didn't come to their wedding at the end and make nice. She needs a spine and probably doesn't deserve her own book anyway!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Three movies

we've watched 3 netflix movies:
Lucky Numbers with John Travolta and Lisa Kudrow. It was fairly amusing (gave it 3 stars) - John Travolta is an almost-down-on-his-luck weatherman, trying to get a break. It's dead of the mildest winter for years, and he's just invested in snowmobiles. He wants to audition for a game show host position, but his agent won't return his calls (ok, the agent's been dead for months but he doesn't even know). He's got some shady friends who convince him to do some dishonest things to pay his debts, like faking a burglary of his snowmobile store which fails, and throwing the lotto, which succeeds in part.

Heartburn with Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep is supposedly biographical about Nora or Delia Ephron, who wrote/directed. Nora I think. They meet, get married, have kids, he sleeps around. We only watched a little of it (1 kid born, she looked like she was pregnant with another), and got bored and turned it off. Would that be 1 or 2 stars?

Don't Drink The Water, Woody Allen - a family vacationing in Eastern Europe accidentally takes a photo of something sensitive and hides in the American Embassy while the ambassador's son (Michael J Fox) tries to figure out how to get them back to the States. Pretty silly all around, I gave it 2 stars.

Bygones by LaVyrle Spencer ***

You'd think by now I'd have read every Spencer book there is. Nope - there's plenty more that I haven't even gotten yet!

When I first started this journey, my first 2 books were That Camden Summer and Morning Glory. Both of them were 20th century American - 1917 and 1941 - and both I consider "sweet" romance: sexual tension yes, actual graphically described sex, not much, if any. Both wait til after marriage to consummate - in fact, in Morning Glory it's well after, since she's a pregnant widow. So I had this notion of her writing that isn't exactly correct, not having read more. She writes a completely new and different story every time - she uses different times, different regions, completely different situations and backstories. Now I have read 2 "family" stories, where a couple is already married, with older children - both completely different (Bygones and Family Blessings). She doesn't only write "sweet" romances or historical romances either.

Bygones is a family story - and also a "first love" story. Bess and Michael married young, had 2 kids, and went through some rough times, ending in Michael having an affair, divorcing Bess and marrying the Other Woman. It's 6 years later - Michael's second marriage is now ending in divorce and Bess and Michael's daughter brings them together to announce her pregnancy and marriage. The daughter harbors a fantasy that Bess and Michael will get back together, and she does everything in her power to get them to do just that.

Their son Randy, on the other hand, has never really recuperated from the bitter divorce. Bess admittedly kept the kids away from their father, and it was no secret from the kids how bitter her feelings were for Michael, enough to poison Randy against his father.

Because they have to see each other during all the wedding festivities, Bess and Michael are forced to act civilly and even face some of the truths about themselves. Many reviewers of this book feel that Bess ended up taking the blame for Michael's affair that broke up their marriage. Although she does realize that she shared in the breakdown of their relationship, she doesn't really take the blame for the affair. Michael as much as admits the second marriage was a mistake - but it's true that neither of them come out against his adultery as much as they could have. Adultery is a major hot button amongst romance readers, so if this book were ever re-written, maybe that could be dealt with differently.

Their attraction grows throughout the book, although once again, Spencer writes a stubborn heroine who almost ruins her chance at love because she can't voice her feelings. Michael tries to give her an ultimatum, but - lucky for us readers - he gives in and forces the issue another way, since Bess just cannot seem to be the one to give in and admit she wants to resume the relationship. And we have another hero, like in The Hellion, who undertakes some changes to win back his girl.

I just can't say I dislike any of the Spencer books I've read so far, but I didn't love this one either, so I'm going with 3 stars.

Forgiving by LaVyrle Spencer ****

Forgiving is another of LaVyrle Spencer's Americana series - set in the 1870s in the Dakota territory. And it's another one where Spencer creates characters that grabbed my heart and squeezed until I was sure there would never be anyone happy ever again. Arg, why does she do that??

The heroine is Sarah, a 25-year-old spinster coming to Deadwood by train to find her sister Addie who ran away from home 5 years earlier at the age of 16. She, like some of Spencer's other heroines, has been with her widowed father and hasn't had a real chance for love. Bookish, plain and independent, she's been assisting her father in the printing business, and now that he's dead, she's brought her printing press to Deadwood to start a newspaper.

She finds Addie working in a brothel; Addie doesn't want to see her or have anything to do with her.

Enter the hero: Marshal Noah Campbell. They meet at the brothel where Sarah learns he's been a customer of the sister. He's supposed to uphold the law in this newly created city, and Sarah manages to break a couple right off the bat. And there starts their relationship - as adversaries.

The secondary romance is the sister, Addie, and her beau from before, Robert. After Sarah lets Robert know Addie is there, working in a brothel, and that she doesn't want to see him, Robert comes to Deadwood as well, to start a business and work on winning back Addie.

There are several complications, and one is that Sarah has carried a secret torch for Robert all along. Another is the dearth of eligible females in the area, making Sarah attractive to several men, including the hero's younger brother. But somehow Noah comes around to realizing his own attraction to Sarah, and doesn't waste much time sparking and courting - he just flat out asks her to marry him.

And there is the mystery of why Addie ran away and became a whore - one that I guessed early on, but was still shocked when it was revealed. In fact, shocked both times it's revealed because first she tells only Robert. Robert assumes she has told Sarah and brings it up in front of Sarah and Noah after they have set a wedding date. It's shocking enough to Sarah that she sinks into a depression, and the wedding is called off.

Spencer often manages to make her heroines way too stubborn for their own good, and although I understood how Sarah could undergo a change of mind, it was still heart breaking to read and suffer through. In fact, the secret seems to affect Sarah even more than Addie in the end. Well, not really, I guess, since Addie was a whore for 5 years because of it - but she manages to heal and recognize her love for Robert anyway, while Sarah doesn't seem to be able to shake it off until the very, bitter end. Whew. I knew there had to be a HEA, but it was slow and long in coming, and heart wrenching all at once.

Twice Loved by LaVyrle Spencer ****

Continuing on with my Glom of LaVyrle Spencer, I am almost finished reading the Big Box of Hardcovers. Twice Loved was one that pretty much squeezed my heart until I thought I couldn't take it any more, and I don't know if I'll be able to read it and go through this again. It was so heart-wrenching and never really uplifting, like Morning Glory was, even the ending, because frankly there was no way to have a completely happy ending, even though the hero and heroine do get together.

The plot: it's about 1837, and a sailor returns to Nantucket where he left his bride 5 years earlier.

The backstory: 3 children are close playmates, best friends, 2 boys - Dan and Rye - and a girl Laura, all through their childhood - but Laura only has eyes for Rye as they mature. Laura and Rye marry, and Rye goes to sea to make his fortune. He doesn't know that Laura is pregnant - and that his ship has gone down with all hands aboard after he is left in a foreign port with the smallpox.

The news of the ship's demise gets back to Nantucket, and since he is assumed dead with everyone else on board, Dan convinces Laura to marry him so that he can take care of her and her son. He's always carried a torch for her, and he raises Rye's son Josh as his own.

The son is only 4 when Rye returns - he has no idea that Dan isn't his father. In fact, it was heartbreaking to me that Rye's parents were never even acknowledged as the grandparents, and Rye's mother also dies while he is away. When Rye returns, his best friend now has his wife, his son, his house - everything except his dog, who left Laura to live with Rye's father after she remarried.

I spent the whole book in such agony - the law was on Dan's side, and his marriage to Laura the legal one. He's so desperately in love with Laura but can feel that she is still in love with Rye. However - she stays with Dan while trying to decide what she wants - a decision that may have made sense but still was agonizing to read. Dan starts drinking and staying away from her; Rye stays in town, giving Laura time to come to some kind of decision, which she drags on and on and on until I thought I would die from it as well.

Rye gets a chance to leave Nantucket and go to Michigan - and he finally forces Laura to choose. Of course, the whole town is in on the entire sordid affair, and the son learns that Rye is his real father through a friend. Needless to say, a 4 yr-old can't really understand. I went back and forth over this in my own mind - should she have had her son keep his real father's name? Should she have told him? But can a 4 year old understand something like this? And since it's 1837, and truly everyone believed him dead, how could it make any difference?

When Rye tries to form another relationship, Laura is desperately jealous. That was incredibly two-faced of her, in my own mind - if she felt she had any claim to Rye, she should have at least stopped sleeping with Dan while she decided which one she wanted! And once she decides it will be Rye and she promises to tell Dan, she commits adultery with Rye - and then doesn't tell Dan she wants a divorce! Arrrrgggg - I was so anguished for Rye, every minute while reading this story.

In the end, Dan basically lets Laura go by initiating divorce proceedings himself - Laura, in my own mind, never has the courage to tell Dan what her decision is. So while Rye and Laura do get together and take Josh to Michigan, of course Dan and Josh are both devastated by their separation - Josh, from the only father he has known up to this point, and Dan from his love Laura, his best friend Rye and the boy he has raised.

Even a "happily ever after" ending couldn't bring my spirits up for this book, because all of them suffered so much. Still - 4 stars. Just thinking about it again has me filled with the anguish - Spencer can really make you feel what each character is feeling.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Hummingbird by LaVyrle Spencer ***

This is the 3rd story in the 3-story book: Hummingbird. It's also a full novel, not a short story. I had already read the 2nd story, Separate Beds.

This review contains spoilers, as in the secret identity and the resolutions. If you don't wanna know, don't read.

Hummingbird is a historical novel that takes place in Colorado, but I can't recall the year exactly - 1870s sometime. After The War. Before electricity and cars. During trains being built across the nation - and the story is that there's a train robbery, and a passenger stops the robber by shooting him, and gets shot in the process. So now we have 2 men shot - the passenger in the big toe and the robber through the upper thigh. The passenger is awake and aware; the robber is unconscious.

The heroine is an uptight spinster of 33 - her backstory is that she had a fiance at 20, but he jilted her, supposedly because she had to take care of her invalid father. Her mother, already dead at that point, was the one who drummed Puritanical ideals into her, and we learn that the real reason she was jilted was because the hero decided she was too much of a prude, and the father/invalid was the only excuse she could admit to herself. The father is now dead - the spinster holds herself a leeetle above everyone else now, and the town respects her but doesn't exactly consider her friendly or approachable. Oh - she's now out of money and needs a job.

So she is pressed into the long-term care of both the patients because the doctor is overwhelmed with work, and no one else will care for a Bad Guy. The passenger is considered a hero (not The Hero of course) for shooting the robber; the robber stays unconscious for several more days while she tends to him, doing her best to keep him alive in spite of his alleged sordid deed.

Spencer builds a believable story around her relationship with the passenger - he's gentle, kind, appreciative and the heroine believes she could have a second chance at love with him. Then he sees her in bed with the robber - well, she was did crawl into the bed and fall asleep, but it was in the line of duty, trying to keep his wound from bleeding or something - and he leaves, mad, accusing them of consorting. So now we concentrate on her relationship with the robber, who is now awake and aware but surly and rude and all things bad. Plus now he's saying he wasn't a robber at all - but he doesn't elaborate or try to convince her of his name and status. And I think his manhandling her, with her being truly shocked and not submitting - bordered on assault, not "forced seduction". It started with a couple of kisses but went past that pretty quickly, although not yet All The Way.

Of course - the Big Misunderstanding is: he's the train's owner - he's rich and he's also a photographer, and he was never robbing the train (the passenger's mistake). He does understand that he messed up her chance at love with the passenger, so when the passenger sues the train for his disability, the Hero (aka the robber aka the owner of the train) pays him off enough with stipulations that he remain in the town. He knows that will mean the heroine has another chance at love with the passenger - which she takes.

Except. Well, she didn't realize any of this (his being the owner, the passenger returning to town), and insists on losing her virginity to the Hero - ooops - and he does try to convince her it's the wrong thing, but he doesn't exactly own up to the reasons. It Happens, then she learns The Truth, and the Hero is well now and leaves. Wham Bam Thank You Ma'am.

The passenger and the Heroine do some courting, and the town accepts him and her and all is peachy except she keeps thinking he isn't making her feel the way the Hero did - he won't even really kiss her. But hey, she's ok with all that, thinking this is really her last and only chance. Plus it's nice to have the town folk being so nice to her. And she has goals and aspirations now - the shoe store, a life.

They set a wedding date; it's now the day before the wedding - enter The Hero, who just can't stay away - he seduces her, and ooops the fiance walks in on them going at it. That's ok, the Hero just grabs her and they take His Train and leave town forever. The End.

I dunno, this story just didn't 100% work for me, even though maybe it's sorta credible for the time period? Still, with Spencer's story telling and prose, I had to give it 3 stars - I didn't hate it, but really - he did physically overwhelm her waaay against her will, the way I read it, several times. Not in a "I'm so attracted to you I can't help it" way, but in a "I can do it so I will" way - I just wasn't convinced he was attracted to her. And she seemed sort of fascinated by him, but not really attracted to him, enough to give in, on those first few times. She really does just seduce him in an attempt to learn what it would be like, thinking she'll never have another chance and knowing he was well and leaving, and NOT knowing the passenger was coming back to her.

I dunno. Not heart-wrenching, and plus I still feel she did the fiance wrong.

The Hellion by LaVyrle Spencer ***

I'm glomming Spencer's books, and I got a PBS deal on 7 hardcovers, of which 1 has 3 stories, and of which I have read 2 already - so that is 9 stories, 7 new to me.

The first one I picked up was the 3 story book, and the first story (it's a complete novel, not a short story or novella) is The Hellion. It's a first-love story - the hero and heroine were always next door neighbors, grew up, fell in love - and she got pregnant at 17. The heroine's parents decide the best thing is to send her away to another state to a home for pregnant teens, give the baby up for adoption and keep her out of town for her senior high year. The incident also causes the parents of the kids to cease their close friendship, since they don't agree on how it was handled, and the hero also stops communicating with his parents after a few years as well.

That's the backstory - now it's 24 years later, and the hero is The Hellion - fast living, fast cars, fast women, 3 failed marriages, 3 troubled kids. He drinks too much, drives too fast, has a beer belly - but he's a successful businessman, still living in the same small town with the heroine and all the parents. The heroine is now, just, a widow - she nursed her husband through 2 years of cancer, and as the story opens, she is burying him. Hero and heroine have successfully avoided each other all these years - but he attends the funeral and the story begins.

A lot of this story is dated, firmly set in the 1980s, like some of her other books of this era. Maybe in several more years it will work as a period piece, but right now the decorating and dressing details just seem dated. The big conflict really is that he has such a reputation now that she finds it hard to overcome What People Will Say, especially her father. Frankly it took her a while to just tell her father to go to hell - he's really the villain in this piece, for strong-arming her all along, including into the marriage with the husband who just died. He tries to strong arm her into into another relationship, with the man who was there for her during the husband's illness, and she even gives that a shot.

Well, there is one more issue: the hero's 14-yr-old daughter is rebellious and comes to live with him after she fights with her mother. The hero now has an obstacle - how to break it to a teen who holds a fantasy that her parents might get back together that he has another, true love. This is actually a stickier proposition than dealing the hero's father - after all, the father is an adult who actually did the kids wrong all those years ago, and deserves to be put in his place. The daughter has a lot more to overcome, and had no part in the original situation - and she is just a child.

Three stars for good story telling and prose. It didn't grab me and squeeze my heart, and I don't have a great need to read it again like Morning Glory or That Camden Summer.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Movie: Shopgirl

Shopgirl was based on a novella written by Steve Martin, who also stars in the movie as Ray Porter, an older gentleman who woos the heroine, Mirabelle. It's a sort of character study, I guess, less than a romance.

It starts with Mirabelle in her job as glove sales clerk at Saks Fifth Avenue in Los Angeles. We learn she is from Vermont and she aspires to be an artist. She meets Jeremy at the laundromat - he's an artist (of fonts and silk screen logos) as well, and I guess he's attracted to her although he's so clumsy about it, it's hard to say. He takes her out; they go to her apartment and again clumsily make love. Not "again make love" but "again clumsy". Then he gets an offer to travel with a band - and pretty abruptly leaves town. He does call Mirabelle to see if she'll go out with him one last time but by this time, she's met Ray and turns Jeremy down.

Ray is - according to Netflix revues - 35 years older than Mirabelle. He wines, dines and beds her - he buys her expensive clothes - he even pays off her college loans. But he keeps emotional and physical distance - he actually lives mostly in Seattle, flying in to LA from time to time. We learn through his discussion with someone else - perhaps a psychiatrist? or friend? - that he has made it clear to her that he only wants her companionship, at dinner and in bed mainly. I think he might have said that - in the dialog - but then we hear her tell her friends pretty much the opposite. So she didn't get it.

While on the road, Jeremy listens to self-help audio, which apparently helps him figure out what he wants from Mirabelle and from life. Meanwhile, Ray pretty much lets Mirabelle know the truth: he will buy her things, and sleep with her, but nothing more. It's hard for her to grasp because in so many ways he shows her he does love her, and he does go out of his way to spend time with her. But then he sleeps with someone else, writes a letter about it and gives it to her to read in front of him. He mentions getting an apartment in NYC so that he doesn't need to get a hotel for trips there; then he says he plans to get a 3-bedroom in case he meets someone he wants to settle down with and have kids with. I thought maybe he was making a joke, but apparently he wasn't - he meant it, and now I think he meant it to hurt or distance himself from Mirabelle even more. These things seem to have been done on purpose because he realizes she's getting under his skin and he needs to push her away. So she ends it right then, deciding to hurt now rather than later.

Jeremy runs into Mirabelle when he gets back - he's sorta cleaned up and he isn't quite as clumsy -well, he is but whatever. So hey, she gets back with Jeremy. There is a scene early on where Mirabelle listens to a late night talk show radio program where the woman describes "afterglow" for women and what positions the man and woman take after making love, and how they are interpreted. After Jeremy returns and they make love again - for the 2nd time - the narrative lets us know that Jeremy manages to give Mirabelle what she is looking for, and they show them asleep, after making love, lying entwined on the bed in one of the positions that manages to convey tenderness - a sort of spoon position, with his arm across her body, their hands touching.

Somehow - describing it - and reading reviews, it didn't sound that great. But I was touched, and saddened, by the ending when Ray admits to her he did love her after all, in his own way, and we are led to believe that she is still happier with Jeremy even knowing that Ray loves her. and Ray is left alone, bereft, because he is unable to show love. So there's a HEA for Jeremy and Mirabelle, and Ray is left behind. It was sad, and maybe I'd give it 4 stars but I don't want to see it again.

I read that same 1st page in MacBeth The King again today, several times, and then listened to DIA some more while making cookies and rescuing baby owls.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Movie: Melinda and Melinda

Melinda and Melinda was directed by Woody Allen. The premise: 4 Hollywood types at dinner, discussing whether comedy or tragedy is more popular and why. They start talking about a scenario - a woman interrupts a dinner party, and there are 2 plotlines - 1 tragedy and 1 comedy, each being described by a different person. Except the tragedy wasn't really that tragic, and I never once felt like laughing at the comedy. Will Farrell was Woody Allen incarnate in this movie as the husband of the couple giving the dinner party comedy-style - everything he did and said was Woody Allen except he didn't use the NY accent, and of course he's taller, and younger. Still, I felt Woody's voice in everything Farrell did. I liked him better in Elf.

Melinda is the female protanist in both stories, played by the same actor. Each story has her disrupting a dinner party, but with different relationships to the guests and with a different backstory. She's a mess in both. In both, she's the catalyst that breaks up the marriage of the primary couple hosting the dinner party. Yeah, funny, huh? Not. The stories happen simultaneously, jumping from one set of actors to the other. I kept thinking maybe they would all meet before it was all over. The acting was wooden, and I never exactly got interested in what happened to anyone. I did read Roger Ebert's review (he loved it) in which he basically says the point wasn't to actually present a full story, but to explore the idea of tragedy v comedy or something. See, not only did I not pay attention to the movie, I didn't pay attention to the reviews either. There ya go. I also think his point was, it's just a movie and it doesn't matter what happens to anyone at the end. Is that a point?

I read the same 1st page of Nigel Tranter's MacBeth The King 2 or 3 times today but made no other reading progress. I did spend a lot of time looking for good deals at PBS, entering DVDS at Swapadvd and sending 5 DVDs out. I think I might have about 15 books coming! That will last about 1/2 a month... We couldn't agree on any DVDs to get from Swapadvd so we have 7 credits just waiting, and 4 items on the wish list.

Monday, May 19, 2008

tonight's movie: The World is Not Enough

We did a re-watch of James Bond The World Is Not Enough. Well, PD did a re-watch - I read Shadow Dance, and looked up from time to time to catch pieces of it. I do like Pierce Brosnan as Bond. The plot was something about a woman who had been a kidnap victim, and some plutonium and a bomb. The kidnap-victim-woman ends up being the bad guy (Bond boffed her anyway). The opening credits show over some very 60s looking dancing girls with what looks like mud running all over them - ? not sure what that was about, except maybe to recall early Bond films from the 60s. Anyway, I was too involved in my book to keep track of the plot - there was gambling, and a sexy young scientist (Bond boffs her too). Oh, and Q and some new inventions, as well as a Q backup; M and Miss Moneypenny; and some other villains thrown in to confuse the issue, you know, the villains who aren't really as bad as The Villain.

At some point Bond does say the title line in response to something, which is where it comes from, I'm sure. Of course, I thought "world enough and time" and mourned for The Time Traveler's Wife.... sigh.

today's book: Shadow Dance by Susan Andersen *****

Shadow Dance by Susan Andersen.

Wow. After all the mediocre to bad reviews I read, I sorta wasn't looking forward to reading this. Wow. I have to say, I loved this book. I wonder if reading bad reviews set me up to expect it would be awful, making me think it was actually BETTER than it really is?? You know, how you're expecting bad so when it's not bad, you think it's great? I got myself to like yogurt that way - I just kept telling myself it would taste awful, then I'd take a taste and it wasn't too bad.

The reviews said: no chemistry between the protagonists; slow to start.

I say: the chemistry was there for me from the get-go, and each thought about the other practically all the time, to the point of distraction. She wondered about the true man behind the cop mask he put up; he wondered about the true woman behind the rich-girl-good-manners mask she wore. A lot. Constantly. Now, a lot of this was told from each character's POV as what they were thinking, and not in dialog. And sometimes a page or two of Thinking would be between lines of dialog - to be honest, a couple of times I had to go back to see what the previous line was, because by the time we got to the reply I'd forgotten.

More than one review remarked about his Scots accent, asking how he could be American and have that, what was his backstory, they didn't get to know him.

I say: did they read the same book?? Sheesh - it was said several times he was originally from Glasgow (which is in Scotland) and raised in an orphanage. And that he didn't bother to try to Americanize his speech. I didn't need a guidebook to figure out he had moved to the US as an adult and become a citizen, since he did say several times he was American. There was a lot about his being raised in an orphanage, trotted out for families to see, but then being too old to be adopted. Again, didn't need a guidebook to figure out - uh, his parents were dead, apparently no other family. We learned he was shy and found it hard to talk to women, that he found it hard to make friends. I feel like we learned a lot about him. And hey - I love a Scots accent!!

The AAR review has the heroine's name wrong, and details about the story wrong - really, can't they read the book before they post a review? Another review puts the story in Las Vegas - uh, it was Reno. Another mentions that the romance doesn't even happen until the end - hmmm, the first kiss happens about half-way through, not uncommon at all, in my experience. And he moves in with her about 2/3 of the way into the book. Moves in meaning Sleeping Together.

Another reviewer commented she couldn't figure out what the hero looked like - well, he was tall (over 6' 4", it said), wore glasses, had a great butt, looked like a Soloflex ad in jeans, sandy brown hair, gray eyes, white crooked teeth - I'm not sure what else she needed to know - birth marks?

Well, I don't know why I'm going on and on about it - it's ok for me to like a book that a lot of other people don't. Unless I'm only liking it in reaction to their not liking it? And yet, all those glowing reviews for Lisa Kleypas - my god, Dreaming of You came in 2nd in the Top 100 - and I thought it was mediocre and boring! Is it me??

I guess I'll have to do a re-read on Shadow Dance to see if I still think it's good.

Oh - the story: show girl dancer Amanda comes from an upper class family that she ran away from after high school - she lived in NY, making it on her own until she came into her trust fund at age 25 (she's now 28); she moved to Reno and now has a permanent position dancing 6 days a week. She owns a triplex, and the 2 other tenants are her co-workers - that is, until a serial killer murders 1 of them. Tristan MacLaughlin (bio above) is a Seattle cop brought in to run the task force to track down the killer - he has the background and experience no one on the Reno department has.

Their first meeting is when Tristan arrives in town and Amanda is at the morgue to identify the body. Personally, I thought the attraction started right then, and given their personalities each has a reason to sublimate the attraction (well, in my mind anyway).

Because Amanda now has an empty apartment, the other tenant Rhonda suggests Tristan live there, so he's now around a lot in addition to working on the case. Well - the suspense part is finding the serial killer and putting him out of commission. The romance part is Amanda and Tristan giving in to their mutual attraction and getting over the obstacles, mostly in their own personalities, thrown up that keep them apart. Basically each of them has an ingrained ability to freeze everyone else out - breaking down the ice shields is what finally brings them together. Even though she breaks down first, after the killer attacks her, her shield goes back up in a big way - and Tristan goes back to Seattle and has to wait her out. I thought Andersen did a terrific job of showing Tristan's vulnerabilities and insecurities about being rejected.

Some of the reviewers remarked about the plot - serial killer stalking the heroine (which isn't exactly true since he doesn't really target her til close to the end) - is cliched and over-used. Hmmmm, I actually can't say I've seen this plot used that much, although every romance I've read has the plot where there's a hero and a heroine who have to overcome some obstacle or 2 before they can get together romantically and live Happily Ever After. After all, that is what makes it a Romance... All these plots are the same - it's the journey - how the author gets them over the obstacle - that makes the book for me.

Oh I don't know why I'm letting this bother me so!! I wish I could be more eloquent, could write coherent and insightful reviews so I could post one that rebuts all the others!! It's almost as if I feel the need to, what? show my opinion matters? Yeah in a way, it's like there's something wrong with me that I like this book where so many others didn't - I'm not really standing up for the author, but for myself.

jeez I'm chewing on this like a dog on a bone. I gotta give it up. and go to bed. 5 stars.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Sunday Night at the Movies: Heart Like a Wheel

I got a Wish List movie from Swap-a-DVD - Heart Like a Wheel. This is a favorite, and PD was pretty pumped about getting our own copy. It's the story of race-car-driver Shirley Muldowney, starring Bonnie Bedelia. It's a 5 star watch and hey, now we own it! There were a lot of scenes neither of us remember seeing, but I have 2 theories about that. 1, when we watched it on TV, we never managed to start at the beginning, and 2, I think they probably cut some scenes when they show it on TV. Then there's that issue where someone whose name will not be mentioned but the initials are PD would change channels during commercials, then if we ever got back to the movie, we inevitably missed something.

I sure don't miss channel surfing.

Be My Baby by Susan Andersen *****

Be My Baby, Susan Andersen.

I'm on a Susan Andersen kick, and I think Be My Baby is my favorite so far. For one thing, it takes place in New Orleans (pre-Katrina). And Andersen pretty much got it right - the accents, Irish Channel and Yat, and how they ate and generally the mood of the city. She got the French Quarter pretty much right - well, Bourbon Street anyway. Ok there were a couple of things I thought didn't fit (for one thing, the 11 o'clock news? Who has 11 o'clock news - maybe the East coast? For another, there are no tomatoes in jambalaya, really!) Her characters were fun, even the villain(s) had me laughing. I mean, the Panty Snatcher, really! And as usual, her love scenes are hot.

The heroine is Juliet, a blue blood Bostonian, in New Orleans to open an exclusive hotel in what was formerly a Garden District mansion. Her family owns the hotel along with a string of other high class hotels, and this is her first chance to show what she can do in the family business. The hero is Beau Dupree, a Yat cop, assigned to be her body guard after she receives a threatening letter about the hotel. Ok, it's more of a warning than a threat, from someone interested in keeping the mansion historically preserved and not made into a hotel. But her Daddy has some leverage because of his wealth, and the police department has a politically aware Acting Chief who makes Beau do it even though it seems ridiculous.

Beau had to raise his sisters after their parents' deaths - this is a scenario I've seen before (SEP's First Lady, anyone?) - so he's had his fill of family life and is looking forward to some bachelor fantasy life that doesn't include an uptight society Yankee. Juliet gets a whiff of life without Daddy and Grandmother telling her what to do, and loses some of her stiffness, but still doesn't fit the fantasies Beau has, or does she?

Beau spends some time trying to get Juliet to have him removed from the job - until someone shoots at her (or him?) and he decides it is a credible threat after all. Now he's on her like white on rice. Well, once they're living in each other's pockets, what else can you expect to happen? Immediate attraction.

I did have to laugh at myself (well, I laughed a lot during this book - she used some great lines that had me howling out loud - like Beau's t-shirt with the slogan Call 911 and Make a Cop Come) when suddenly I was aware that during their first, uh, intimate encounter, no mention was made of any kind of birth control - and then the hero is going, uh-oh, no condom... I've gotten so used to that being an issue in contemporary romance, I guess, that I raised an eyebrow, thinking "how irresponsible was that?" And hey, I was right.

There were lots of happily-ever-afters in this story, for Juliet and Beau, for Beau's sisters and his partner, even for Juliet's assistant - that was fun too. (sure beats killing off the secondary characters, like Marsha Canham did in Blood of Roses! What a shock.)

I kept being reminded of my own grandmother when she described hers - well, not exactly the same, but yeah - she corrected our pronunciations (elocution, anyone?) from "git" to "g-eh -t" and "pin" to "p-eh-n", and tried to make us be ladies with better posture and manners and all that crap. I guess since we did have parents who weren't quite as adamant about it, her lessons didn't have the same impact. Plus we weren't blue blood anyway.

well, as for Be My Baby - definitely 5 stars and a keeper.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Baby Don't Go by Susan Andersen ****

Baby, Don't Go by Susan Andersen. Romance, some funny moments, a bit of suspense.

Andersen has a tendency, apparently, to write cop books - in this one, the heroine is the (ex) cop Daisy who is now a Security Specialist aka bodyguard. The hero is her former step-brother Nick who also took her virginity 9 years earlier, and is now a photographer who captured something he shouldn't in a photo, and needs security to keep him safe while he deals with the hired goons trying to get the negatives.

It really isn't that squicky that he was her step-brother (former); their parents had already divorced and she was of age when The Deflowering happened 9 years before. Her memory: it was a passionate but Wham Bam Thank You Ma'am moment that broke her heart; his memory: he felt too much, told her he loved her in the heat of the moment, panicked and ran.

This is my 2nd Andersen book - the first 1 I read was Baby, I'm Yours, which was lots of fun and I even read it twice. I'm glomming her backlist now. She writes fairly implausible scenarios that you go with because they're a romp, and to be honest, her love scenes are Hot, which makes you keep reading. Who can resist a hero that decides he's in love with the heroine and keeps telling her over and over?? 4 stars, not 5, because frankly towards the end, it got a little tooooo implausible and I was thinking: The whole I'll-do-anything-even-sell-my-soul-to-the-devil-for-my-sister thing went a little too far. I mean, what she did was really wrong, and, well, slightly contrived.

By the by, my lips are feeling a little virtually bruised from all the lips slamming together - I seem to be reading a lot of lip-slamming scenes in several books. Sigh.

today's movie: Dear Wendy

Dear Wendy. Sucked. Really. I think it was some kind of metaphor for something but I couldn't figure it out. I'm pretty sure PD and I agree it's the weirdest movie we've seen, although we did actually watch it (ok, he watched it - I read).


another day, another movie: The Island

Last night we watched our latest Netflix arrival, The Island. It probably was not a coincidence that it starred Ewan MacGregor, since we just watched The Long Way Round. I figure this movie probably popped up when I put Long Way Round on the queue and I grabbed it.

I wish I could put a note by each movie as I add it, saying why the hell I added it, because some of these movies come up, and PD and I glare at each other accusingly, wondering who wasted our Netflix credit on this movie! I also would like this note thing for PBS, so I could put why I put a book on my reminder or wish list.

I think PD liked The Island. I did not - waaay too much gratuitous violence, car chases/crashes and I was confused about 50% of the time about what was happening. OK, after a few minutes I did start surfing the net during the movie, which may be part of why I was confused. But it wasn't very good. It brought to mind the movie/book Coma, kudos to PD for remembering this title, which I read first then saw the movie some mumbly-odd years ago (surely more than 20). The Island is a non-existing place the inhabitants of this "world" are promised by lottery, when in fact - major spoiler alert - instead of being sent to the island when they win, they are being harvested for organs. The inhabitants are told the world was contaminated, and they are being kept in an underground world for their safety. In reality - yes, spoiler because the first 45 minutes or so of the movie you believe along with the inhabitants - the world is just fine, and rich people pay to have a clone made so they can have a liver or skin or whatever, that matches their own DNA exactly. The clones are not supposed to be mentally capable of making decisions, etc., although the Bad Guy does mention they are taught to the level of the average 15-yr-old, and also implies they do not have sexual urges or knowledge. Hello - by age 15, surely.... Anyway, they are pure as the driven snow and everyone always wears white too.

Well, Ewan is from a batch of clones who develop their originators' (aka Sponsor) memories - ooops. So they know stuff. And they can put ideas together. And it doesn't take long for Ewan to Want More and Ask Questions (it's as though he's the only one, although later they decide it was everyone in his batch).

Or something. So we escape out in the world by following a MOTH, a lot of cars are crashed horribly violently and people are smashed to bits left and right, and we find Ewan's Sponsor (who is, uh, Ewan with a Scots accent - the clone has an American accent) and then there's some more violence and stuff and there's a standoff while we decide which is the clone (the one more banged up, we know - but the clone is smart and starts talking with a Scots accent) and there's a defection of one of the guys who was chasing them to now aiding them, and then it ends but I was reading someone's blog when that happened so all I remember is, Sponsor Ewan is shot dead by Clone Ewan, and, hmmm not sure what happens to the heroine (clone heroine OR sponsor heroine). Or what about the President's clone?

I'd give it 2 stars, not sure about PD, maybe he'd give it 3 or even 4. He likes car chases and sci-fi better than I do.

finished a book last night

just a note to say, I've finished The Blood of Roses, the sequel to The Pride of Lions by Marsha Canham. Very moving, and damn if she didn't kill off a bunch of my favorite characters!! But not the hero or heroine, although I was worried. She does manage to throw some brain twisters in - scenes that lead you to believe one thing happened, but later you discover that you made assumptions that weren't true. Even though she did it several times, I fell for it every time (although at least once I thought, no, surely there is another explanation - and there was but it surprised me nonetheless.)

Book 3 in the trilogy (Midnight Honor, I think) is about 3 of the characters in the first books, not Alex and Catherine, and apparently happens at the same time. Several reviewers remarked on this, and it sounds as though even from a different POV, it's the same actions so not as interesting. Maybe I'll read it later.

Interestingly, doing a search on the author's last name at the Compuserve book forum where so many Gabaldon fans post, I did not find any references to her. I was sure someone would recommend these books to Gabaldon fans. I googled one blogger who read them just last month, who is also a Gabaldon fan. Her impression of Pride was that it reminded her of Gone With The Wind (?? because the hero had black hair - uh, hmmmm...) but she loved Blood. She noted how some things were similar in the Outlander series but that Canham published before Outlander. I guess they were similar, writing about the same time frame and location.

I have found other sites recommending Canham's books to Gabaldon fans. Funny how I like to read other reviewers' viewpoints to see if they put into words how I felt, since I don't seem to have the ability to do that myself.

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Pride of Lions and Blood of Roses, Marsha Canham *****

I finished Marsha Canham's The Pride of Lions yesterday and immediately started in on the sequel, Blood of Roses. It reminded me of Outlander, and I noted the books were published before Outlander. No, it isn't time travel - but it is about a Jacobite Scot married unwillingly to an Englishwoman referred to as a Sassenach, and it does take place in the time leading up to Culloden. And he does have a price on his head for murder and has been abroad to avoid getting caught or assassinated.

It's obvious Canham has done a fair amount of research about that time period, with all the details she provides, so it does kinda get me that she keeps having the hero strike matches to light his cigars when matches were not invented until the early 19th century, some 80 years after this book starts. I only knew that detail from the Outlander series, where Bree tries to invent matches about 1770... So I wikipediad it to get the details.

Both books are about the same hero (Alexander Cameron) and heroine (Catherine Ashbrooke), following their first meeting, when Catherine comes across Alex taking a bath on her property and threatens to have him arrested as a poacher, to their first social meeting, where she discovers he is a friend of her brother. She flirts with him to make her boyfriend jealous, it goes a little teensy bit further than she anticipated (no, she isn't compromised but I think she gets a hint that maybe she's a little more interested in him than she realized, and he in her) and in a twist of fate so often found in romances, next thing you know, there's a minister and a forced wedding on the spot after the hero bests the boyfriend in a dual.

He's 32 - she's 18 - wow, even for the time, that is a big age difference. And over the course of the next 3 weeks while he sort of kidnaps her and takes her to Scotland, they develop a relationship (but do not consummate the marriage, with the intention of annulment) and she completely changes from spoiled and pampered to feisty and independent. And yet - in spite of how that sounds - I bought the premise and loved it. Actually, she was spoiled and pampered but also feisty and independent all along - so maybe it wasn't so hard for her to realize there was more to life than balls and gowns, once she'd had a taste of it. After all, her parents were indifferent to her, so she doesn't feel much of a compulsion to return to them - and that was another motivation for getting out on her own. Still, at 18, well...

The two of them do realize their attraction, and with not too much haste, consummate after all (quite thoroughly, and more than once) - and in that, decide they are indeed soulmates and cannot live without each other. Well, except for that silly Jacobite rising thing, and the fact that she's not a Jacobite and the fact that he has that price on his head for something that happened 15 years ago so he's in constant danger anyway. So he ships her back to England - end of book 1.

What? End of Book? What about their happy ending?? Well, it is a happy ending in that they do fall in love, but of course, there's book 2 - where Bonnie Prince Charlie comes to reclaim the throne for his father, and Alex - brother to Young Locheil - goes to war with his clan. And Catherine discovers her brother is also a Jacobite - and her parents split up - and she manages to join her husband when the Jacobites come to her town. I'm about half way through - this is a keeper although, ok, I'm skimming the war details because, yawn, it isn't as interesting as the love details!!

Really, I'm such a sucker for a well-described love scene where the hero is totally smitten with the heroine...

some movies!

Maybe I should be tracking my movies here too! We Netflix. Last night we finished up The Long Way Round, which was described as a sort of Motorcycle Diaries of the Hollywood set. Well, sorta, but not - Motorcycle Diaries is not a documentary, but a movie based on the trip Che Guevara and a buddy take around South America in the 1950s before he developed his political aspirations - I believe we see him actually in the process of developing this attitude because of what he encounters on the trip. In contrast, The Long Way Round is about 2 guys with plenty of money (actors Ewan MacGregor and Charley Boorman) who decide to ride from London to New York - eastbound - on motorcycles. They manage to get lots of freebies/sponsors, and they even have a crew and an office for several weeks to manage the details. In spite of that, it was an enjoyable "ride" - of the 7 episodes, most were spent on the Asian continent trying to get those big ol' motorcycles across non-existent roads and fast moving rivers. They do encounter real obstacles that even money won't overcome, only their own physical and mental abilities - and they manage. 4 stars.

The Hollywood writers' strike ended a while back, and we had 3 episodes of Grey's Anatomy to catch up on, and did. Of course, I'm excited to see McDreamy is still thinking of Meredith, so we will have that conflict continue. If he ever truly gives up on her (or she on him) the magic could be sucked out of the series - well, they'll have to find other magic I guess. It didn't kill ER to lose George McClooney, although they did prolong it by having his love (the nurse) continue on with his kids for a while. But then they developed other relationships in it - Grey's hasn't quite got the same size of Important Cast (yet?).

Also, because of the writers' strike, Apple/iTunes gave us 2 free video downloads, so I downloaded the pilot episode of New Amsterdam. I did it for 2 reasons - I located it via an online forum touting the good looks of the hero (can't recall his name) but I wanted to see it based on the storyline: hero arrives in New York in the 18th-century (or 17th?), is given immortality until he finds his one true love, and now it's Contemporary, he's a cop and we take it from there (oh yeah, his One True Love shows up right away but she's like Kryptonite so he dies when she's there - eeek - but when she leaves, he's alive again - I think maybe he got shot and wouldn't have died except she was there - well, I'm not sure now.....).

This is almost word-for-word the plot of Peter Hamill's Forever, a book I read last year that I really liked! Of course, most of the book follows the hero from his birth in Ireland to his journey to New York and the early history of New York. Hamill is known for his knowledge of history and especially of New York, so it makes it very interesting. In the book, he is given immortality with one caveat - he cannot leave the island of Manhattan. And he is not a policeman. He creates a corporation that handily helps him avoid "existing" - no social security number or other identification for himself personally, but his money and existence is all in his corporation. Every couple of decades or so he sorta disappears and re-creates himself to avoid anyone noticing he doesn't grow older.

On surfing the net for info about this show, I learned that the creator of the series is saying he Had No Idea that the book Forever even existed, and that he completely made up his idea. WHAT???? WTF?? Who is he kidding? I guess Hamill is just laughing it off, from what I've read - maybe it's not worth the hassle or money to try to sue for an idea. Some of the comments on one blog even suggest "there are no new ideas" - uh, DUH, how many "came to New York in the 18th-century and became immortal" books/movies/tv shows are there? One. ok, now there's 2 but even though the creator doesn't realize it, somehow he had to have gotten the idea from Forever - maybe someone else read it or even just a review and mentioned it to him. It's way too coincidental. OK, 2 things are different - the Forever hero got his immortality from an African/Caribbean person, and New Amsterdam from a Native American, and the cop thing.

Ok, now my review. PD liked it. I liked it ok but I was annoyed at some things:
(1) the number of times he HINTS at his loooong past - like being familiar with people and styles of the past, and such. Uh, won't he give himself away?? And bringing in an old girlfriend (now elderly and with dementia) who painted his likeness in a mural... hmmm.... (oh, in episode 2, a Big Secret is revealed! duh, maybe if he'd stop hinting!)
(2) if his One True Love is also his kryptonite, uh, how's he ever gonna meet her?
(3) the New Cute female partner - too new, too cute - I dunno, she bothered me

However, I do realize that sometimes shows get better, so I just spent our next free credit on episode 2 and will give it another shot. When we rented Northern Exposure, after Season 1 I was thinking - we liked this?? - but after Season 2 I was hooked again and really loved it. So maybe New Amsterdam will grow on me too, but that guy needs to stop hinting about his past, ok?

We had 2 documentaries in a row about kids - one was Spellbound, following 8 kids to the National Spelling Bee; the other was Mad Hot Ballroom, following 2 or was it 3 inner-city schools with ballroom dancing programs to the dancing finals. Both with a similar theme - watching kids tackle a project and do well, and how that enriches their lives. Of course, since both were competition-based, we see the agony of defeat as well. Spellbound was not based (solely) on disadvantaged kids, and Ballroom was. Another thing about Spellbound was that it is a very individual thing, no team work, so the kids are isolated. Misspell one word - bam, you are out. Ballroom was definitely team-oriented - after the dancing couples were chosen for each school, each couple had one dance style and were given points, but the prize went to the team - so if your Merengue couple wasn't as good but your Tango couple was the tops, your team could still win.

I think I was rooting more for the Ballroom kids than the Spelling kids - but I do know that every kid needs to find his strength and reach for a goal, and those Spelling kids were just as motivated and had the same opportunity to find self-esteem. However, there was a lot more Stage Parenting in Spelling, I'm afraid - and not just because of their backgrounds. I cringed to see the kid who had to spell several thousand words every day with his father, for instance. And ultimately, in Spellbound, only 1 kid wins, so you go in knowing the odds are not good. We both agreed the movies were pretty good, and we were spellbound a little by both. But we also agreed the violin kids (based on the woman teaching violin to inner-city kids) movie was better - after all, there was no competition amongst the kids - they played together and they put on a concert. Can't recall the title - based on a true story, but it was a movie with some famous actress.... there goes my memory again.

Before that, we watched the TV series Firefly and its movie Serenity. We both really liked Firefly a lot - too bad Fox didn't, and cancelled. PD liked the movie more than I did. Although it did wrap up a lot of loose ends from the series, I felt like it was too much about River, and it was "grittier" than Firefly, something I didn't like, a change in focus I guess that sorta bothered me. 5 stars from me for the tv series, and maybe 4 for the movie.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

gotta lotta reading to review

Wow - I have some reviewing to do. Finished Baby, I'm Yours by Susan Andersen for the 2nd read. I picked up 2 books from my seriously-old physical TBR pile next to the bed - Nan Ryan's You Belong to My Heart and Jude Deveraux's Wild Orchids, both purchased months ago at the Portal library book sale.

I had been avoiding Wild Orchids because the reviews indicated it was a paranormal, and not a Romance. Wrong! Well - there is a paranormal element, but it's not vampires or some weird alternate reality. And it's a Romance through and through. I really enjoyed the writing - this was my first Deveraux - and the book was written from the hero's and heroine's first person POV, each chapter from 1, back and forth. The story is about a best-selling author, our hero, after his wife died, trying to get back his writing mojo and deciding to write a book about ghost stories, and a young researcher (our heroine) - engaged to be married but jilting her fiance at the altar to join the hero as his assistant. She has a devil story from her youth that interests the hero, and he takes them both to the story's town of origin to research the story.

The book had me crying twice in the first 26 pages as the hero talks about his now-deceased wife and her family - I knew from those first pages I would love this book. Then as we get closer and closer to the devil story, it picks up pace. The actual solving of the town's problem was almost a let-down for me, but then when the Real Reason the Devil is there comes to light, it becomes tense as the hero fights his own devils and of course, being a Romance novel, he wins. Think The Devil Went Down to Georgia.

You Belong to My Heart was another good book. It takes place in Memphis before and during the Civil War, and involves our wrong-side-of-the-tracks hero and plantation belle heroine as they grow up as best friends then young lovers, thwarted by her parents who think he's not good enough for her. Years go by, there's that Big Misunderstanding thing between them, the Civil War starts and they meet again - and must overcome the wrong done to them by someone else and not, as they each think, by the other one. The actual unveiling of the Big Mis was a little too pat, and made me wonder what made the fellow admit the truth and since he did, why did he wait so long?? But I still loved the story enough to give it 4 stars.

I happened across 2 LaVyrle Spencer books at the Rodeo book exchange in the cafe: Family Blessings and A Heart Speaks. My previous Spencer reads have me glomming her backlist - although I was surprised how much I liked her writing style, since the 2 I read were both "sweet" romances. Turns out she did write some steamier and more graphic stuff, and contemporaries at that (well, in the 80s - so contemporary to that). Family Blessings concerns an older heroine/younger hero - he's the roommate of her son who is killed at the beginning of the story. They turn to each other for support, one thing leads to another - and the big conflict is of course how her family feels about their age difference, and how they deal with that. Yeah, lotsa tearing up at the beginning as the death happens, and they deal with the grief. Since he's 30 (to her son's 25) and she's 45, it's a credible plot but they still overcome. He's something like the hero in Morning Glory - really bad upbringing, and somewhat needing mothering as well as loving from the heroine, although he's made a much better life for himself on his own.

A Heart Speaks is actually 2 short novels, Forsaking All Others and A Promise To Cherish. Forsaking All Others has our photographer heroine not yet over being dumped and screwed by a former boyfriend/male model, meeting the hero - guess what, he's a male model she's hired to pose for a Romance novel cover she's doing. A Promise To Cherish has a Native American heroine trying to make it in a man's world and trying to get over her divorce, from which she loses custody of her kids to the ex-husband (something we don't learn the details of till the end, really). The hero is the owner of a rival firm, who hires her when she quits her job. The Big Secret here is, she has a chip on her shoulder about being part Cherokee - she thinks it's why the kids were taken away - and she learns the hero's mother is also part Cherokee. Of course, there's the conflict of her being the employee and not wanting to sleep with the boss - but it's very 80s and that conflict isn't really dealt with much. The biggest conflict is her not telling him about having children because of her shame of losing custody. Three stars for Promise, and 4 for Forsaking. Neither one was as compelling a story as Morning Glory or That Camden Summer, but I still like her prose.

From PBS, I got Spencer's Separate Beds. Now I'm starting to think maybe her earlier stuff isn't really as good as the later stuff, or I just lucked out by reading her best stuff first. I enjoyed Separate Beds (ok, 4 stars) but it's very dated with 80s styles and such. I have to agree with an Amazon reviewer who mentions how it pulled her out of the story to read about how they dressed and how they decorated. I guess someday it could be a period piece. We have a rich law-school student hero, who has a fight with his rich girlfriend, and for revenge goes on a date with our wrong-side-of-the-tracks college student heroine during which she gets pregnant. That's backstory - we start with the heroine's alcoholic father going to the rich kid's parents to see if he can profit from this.

The protagonists choose a marriage of convenience (I guess it's 80s that they didn't even talk about prenups, even though the father is a big lawyer, and hero a law student??) that only they know will end after he finishes law school, within the year. She's so completely screwed up by her upbringing that she cannot allow herself to ever be nice to the hero - even though she decided early on she loved him. That was frustrating. Bring in the Rich Girlfriend to complicate matters - it's intimated the hero kept up the relationship during the marriage, although he denies it. Then - lo and behold, he does go back to the Rich GF and actually moves in with her for several months, which - yeah - I found that squicky. I mean, he knows RGF lied to the heroine. Then - this is kinda messed up - he just leaves RGF one day and calls heroine, and they get back together. I wondered (1) why he didn't visit the baby more and (2) why she didn't take the baby to his parent's more. And she saved the get-back-together scene for the very last page, so... well, I still liked it ok, but again, comparing it to Morning Glory and That Camden Summer, it just didn't live up to the promise of those 2 wonderful books.

Did I mention I did listen to David Dukes' narration of That Camden Summer? And I'm still working on the audio of DIA - we've just fought Prestonpans, so it isn't long now til Culloden. Which leads nicely into the next 2 books I have from PBS by Marsha Canham, which take place during the '45.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Where's My Hero? an anthology, Julia Quinn, Lisa Kleypas and Kinley MacGregor

I finished Where's My Hero (3 stars), a 3 novella/short story anthology, and started a re-read of Susan Andersen's Baby, I'm Yours.

The premise of Where's My Hero is taking secondary characters from other novels and writing his/her story. Julia Quinn did a story for Belle's (Dancing At Midnight, which I had just re-read, coincidentally!) brother Ned who is getting married - not a love match until he meets the betrothed's sister, and finds his love match in her instead.

Lisa Kleypas's story is about Derek Craven's daughter Lydia and her love match, Dr Lindale. However, although the back cover blurb leads you to believe we are following the Dr Lindale from Someone To Watch Over Me, anyone who has ever studied any MATH at all could tell you that, since it's Craven's daughter (not yet born in STWOM), surely she wouldn't be in love with the doctor from that story who would easily be 30+ years older than she is. Nope, it's his son, who is also a doctor now - 20 years or so later. So Kleypas's story doesn't exactly follow the formula...

The 3rd story is a followup on Kinley MacGregor's MacAllister trilogy, which - also coincidentally - I had read. I didn't remember that when I got the book. I got it mainly for the Kleypas title, while I was getting her backlist, before I realized I didn't like her writing enough to bother. I didn't like MacGregor's all that much either, although I did remember, vaguely, the characters. I believe they're medieval - the writing for them was a little awkward.

I'm so tired of authors not knowing to say "between you and ME" instead of "between you and I".

Anyway, the anthology gets 3 stars from me. Not awful, just not great - and all 3 were about a couple getting ready to marry, and in all 3 cases the planned marriage had to be halted and changed around a little, which, uh, was a sort of awkward premise and one I don't think I've seen in a novel-length romance.

I can't recall if I gave Baby, I'm Yours 4 or 5 stars the first time around - it wasn't perfect, but it was a lot of fun. I realized after my 3rd re-listen to all the SEP books that even when they weren't perfect and one or both of the characters (or their actions) drove me nutz, they were so much fun that I now consider them favorites anyway, which surely must make them 5 stars.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

quick book note

Re-reads: finished Julia Quinn's Splendid and the sequel Dancing at Midnight. I have a note in my acct at PBS that I didn't like the last of the trilogy, Minx, so I don't plan a re-read. Not sure what my next book will be - maybe I'll go get mail and have a book waiting!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

book a day

I finished the last 2 Kleypas - Lady Sophia's Lover and Worth Any Price. three stars. I think I'm done with Kleypas - her writing just doesn't do it for me.

I did a re-read (actually have a few pages left) of Julia Quinn's Splendid. I gave up temporarily on Jamie-and-Claire and went to LaVyrle Spencer's That Camden Summer on audio - loved it! The narrator is David Dukes - actor, deceased. He's pretty good - unfortunately the sound quality isn't great, but still, I loved it anyway. I love the hero's "ayup" and Dukes does it well. did a tempting sale today: purchase extra credits. So, what the heck, I bought 2 more credits, and now I have 4. I went into the wish list to see what tempted me and got bogged down. I wish I could add personal notes to wish list items to remind me why I put them on there!! I ended up not spending my credits there.

I had several PBS credits, and now have 4 books on the way - one LaVyrle Spencer, and 3 Susan Andersen (contemporary, Baby, I'm Yours is the one I've already read). I managed to find these all in Buddy lists which is good. So much for my plan to read all the AAR Top 100 - the next one on the list is Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, and I just can't seem to get interested.

I opened an account in Shelfari - another book organizing website. I'm not 100% sure of the advantages except AAR has a group there, so I figured what the heck. Also I added my shelfari page to my Facebook page. Ah, what the heck is Facebook anyway, I'm still wondering. Back to Shelfari, you can see other's book lists (which you cannot at PBS) so that is why I did it. My thinking is, if I can see what other people have read, if their tastes are similar to mine, maybe I'll find something new to read. (as if I don't have a huge TBR/reminder list already going at PBS)

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

more reading: Kleypas

I got 2 more Kleypas books - the remainder of the Bow Street Runners series, Lady Sophia's Lover and Worth Any Price.

OK, these were marginally better than the other Kleypas books I read, with Someone to Watch Over Me (the 1st of the Bow St Runners) being the worst. Still, her writing just leaves me cold. I didn't get that interested in the characters, and even her well-crafted love scenes didn't save the story for me. (I think that might have been my first soixante-neuf scene I've read in a romance!) In Worth Any Price, in fact, I rolled my eyes more than a couple of times - for instance, let's see, the evil Lord Radnor and the heroine's misguided (ok, evil) parents. Hmmmmm, the mother says something about how Lord Radnor is going to take his payment from them, and am I the only one who immediately figured out he was going to take the younger sister??? I guess so, since later when - aha! he comes to get the younger sister! - the heroine thinks that she had no idea this would happen. Why not, since it was so obvious? What else could the mother have meant by her comment, especially after rubbing our noses in Younger Sister Existence for a few paragraphs.

I still give them 3 stars out of 5 - even though I liked them marginally better, I wouldn't call them 4 stars, and yet I wouldn't reduce the others to 2 stars (didn't like). Maybe on a scale of 1-10, where 5 is "I liked them ok" I would call the first one a 4, the next few 5, and maybe a 6 for these last 2. On that scale, I would have to really like a book to give it anything 7 or higher. And maybe 8-10 would be potential keepers/re-reads.

I did a re-read of The Lion's Daughter by Loretta Chase. I managed to re-read that series out of order, first Lord of Scoundrels, then Captives of the Night, and then Lion's Daughter. Now there's some books with some finely written characters whose motives fit the plot! I haven't yet gotten the last one in the series; guess I should! I guess re-reading them out of order is ok, since I already know all the characters and such from the first reading. I just had a hankering for Lord of Scoundrels, then when I went through my keeper box for something to read, Captives was on top.

I'm still muddling through the audio of DIA, and I'm on part 3 of 6. I am enjoying listening to it, but not compelled and consumed like I have been in the past, both by the series and by audio books in general. I've been tempted to switch to something else, but then I may not get back to it. I'm up to the part where Jamie comes to find Claire at Fountainebleau with Louise, after his release from the Bastille and return from Spain. They're just getting ready to go on their walk, or picnic, or whatever, where he reveals he knows about her tryst with the king.